Statement to the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG),
George Haynal, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas,
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada

[At the opening session of the XVII SIRG, November 19, 1999, OAS Headquarters, Washington D.C.]

 

It is a great honour for me to be here today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, to assume the role of Chair of the Summit Implementation Review Group. This is a responsibility on which my country places great importance, and I look forward to working with all of the members of this body in carrying out this role.

I would like to open my remarks by commending both Chile and the USA for the fine leadership they have demonstrated as hosts of the First and Second Summits of the Americas. Your nations have provided important guidance in charting the course of the hemisphere through the Summit process. I would like to, in particular, commend the work of Ambassador Carlos Portales, who has served most admirably over the past 18 months in his capacity of Chair of the SIRG.

Canada takes on this new role one and a half years prior to the next Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Quebec City, Canada. The transfer of the Chair of the SIRG. from the most recent host of the Summit to the host of the next Summit signals the introduction of a new dynamic into this forum. While we must continue to implement and review our leaders’ commitments in the Santiago Action Plan, we will need to begin soon to think more strategically and concretely in terms of what leaders might wish to achieve at the 2001 Summit of the Americas. These tasks are not mutually exclusive. Indeed it is through the implementation, monitoring, reporting and analysis of past commitments, that we will construct a clearer understanding of our present context of opportunities and challenges which will help determine our future goals.

As this group is well aware, there has been good progress to date in the implementation of our collective commitments in Santiago, though, of course, this does not mean that we can become complacent. Through dialogue and collective action, the Summits of the Americas have expanded the breadth and depth of our hemispheric linkages. The collaboration offered by our hemispheric institutions and organizations has been and must continue to be an instrumental part of this equation. Past experience has shown that there will be demonstrable benefits from even closer cooperation among inter-American institutions. As a member of the Troika, Canada has, and will continue to attach importance to strengthening this cooperation.

There is reason to feel a sense of accomplishment for the road we have travelled since Santiago. The Summit of the Americas process has engaged governments across the board. Meetings of Education, Transport, Energy, Finance, Justice, and Labour ministers have, for example, supported work on seeking solutions to hemispheric problems and enhanced cooperative engagement on regional issues. As a more recent example, in Toronto earlier this month, during the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of Trade Ministers, Ministers agreed to pursue the FTAA negotiations with intensity and also adopted a comprehensive business facilitation package. Demonstrating the merits of hemispheric dialogue initiated by the Summit process, Ministers also agreed to a common approach on agricultural export subsidies for the WTO negotiations in Seattle this December. Reflecting a commitment to transparency and openness, and to engaging our citizens, 22 of the Ministers and Vice-Ministers at the FTAA meeting met with representatives from organizations representing a cross-section of civil society from across the Americas.

As you know, Canada has been promoting the incorporation of a human security perspective in the inter-American agenda. This people-centred approach to the issues has elicited a positive response from our hemispheric partners, in the Summit context and in other areas, notably the OAS. To name a few examples, this has been demonstrated by the entry into force of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, the adoption of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism on Drugs, the hemispheric leadership during the Ottawa Process to ban anti-personnel landmines, the convening of the Second Inter-American Conference on Terrorism and the subsequent establishment of the Inter-American Committee on Terrorism. Canada is also pleased that issues related to child soldiers and war-affected children are being considered in hemispheric fora.

There has also been impressive progress in other areas of the Santiago Action Plan. We will have an opportunity to consider today developments on six of the Santiago action items: strengthening municipal and regional administrations; building confidence and security among states; science and technology; regional energy cooperation; fostering the development of micro, small and medium size enterprises; and women. These items represent elements fundamental to fostering further democratic development, encouraging equity, and developing more the infrastructure and security in the hemisphere.

The Summit of the Americas is not a discrete event, but part of an ongoing process of consultation, negotiation, implementation and monitoring. Canada looks forward to continuing this process and working with all hemispheric partners to promote cooperation and progress on those themes of hemispheric importance, both as we continue to implement and monitor our commitments laid out in Santiago, and as we begin to look toward Quebec City in 2001.

In so doing, we will need to continue our own critical analysis of the Summit process, with a view to improving the forums and tools we already have at our disposal. We must collectively assume responsibility for ensuring that the SIRG. is a strategic, forward-looking, and results-oriented body.

Continuing in the tradition set by Chile, Canada will work with the OAS Office of Summits Follow Up to ensure a high level of transparency and information flow with SIRG. members. Under the leadership of Dr. Jaime Aparicio, this office has established a high quality web site with a rich set of documents for the use of SIRG. members with password protection to ensure security. For example, the implementation reports from Responsible Coordinators have been placed on the web to allow members to prepare and consult in advance of this meeting. This is a particularly useful mechanism which will provide SIRG members with the opportunity to review documents well in advance of the meeting, thus focussing our discussion here on more strategic issues of process and substance.

The Summit of the Americas process has had and will continue to have important outcomes for the citizens of the hemisphere. As stewards of this process, we must ensure that the credibility of the process does not even enter into question. Some basic principles that we can use to ensure continued efficacy of the Summit process include setting a focussed plan for action for the hemisphere which is supported by a healthy partnership with international financial institutions and regional organizations, and coupled with effective implementation, monitoring and reporting systems. Canada will with to continue to encourage appropriate engagement of civil society in this process.

Looking ahead, it is clear that the hemisphere will look different in 2001 than it did in 1994 at the time of the First Summit, and even in 1998 in Santiago. The Summit of the Americas has been based on the premise of advancing economic integration and strengthening democracy. We will need to continue to pursue these goals in a context of growing convergence between social, economic and political agendas. As we move this process forward, we must work to strengthen principles of inclusion, and the recognition that the global economy has a human finality. The challenge for this forum will be to work together to identify those goals that the hemisphere must collectively work towards in order to improve the current situation of and realize the potential of the citizens of the hemisphere.

I would appreciate hearing your views on these and other issues today as we move through agenda and during the lunch break.

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