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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

The Future of Inter-American Relations

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
George Washington University
Washington, DC
June 8, 2009


ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Good morning. It’s a real pleasure to be here today, and especially to be on a panel with Albert Ramdin, who’s done such a great job as the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS and has been so helpful in creating a framework or a base upon which inter-American relations can be built as we look towards the future.

I’d also like to recognize Ambassador Hector Morales who is here with us today. For those of you who don’t know Hector, he is our Permanent Representative, the United States Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States but also our National Summit Coordinator. He played a central role in what we consider to be a very successful summit in Trinidad and Tobago, and also what we consider to be an important and successful OAS General Assembly, which we just left in San Pedro Sula. We’ll have plenty of chance to talk about all of these things.

I just wanted to make a few brief comments to start with, and then turn this over to Albert, and then obviously get to the meat of today, which will be our dialogue with all of you as we listen to your comments and respond to your questions.

I just wanted to start by making a few quick points. First, the subject is the future of inter-American relations and that obviously implies that we’re talking about relations between states and societies in the Americas. This is obviously an important issue and one that is a large focus of our multilateral diplomacy.

But I would argue that we actually need to look beyond the future of inter-American relations and understand how the inter-American relations facilitate the relationship between the Americas and the rest of the world. Because I would argue that despite the economic crisis, despite the financial problems we face, despite the challenges that all of the countries in this hemisphere are facing right now, this is a hemisphere that is uniquely poised to play an important, if not a vital, role in a world that rethinks globalization, reengages globally, and tries to build a new economic architecture, a new multilateral architecture, a new political architecture, that is able to first take the democratic values that are essential to the Americas and show that they can meaningfully address the big social and economic challenges that the rest of the world faces, especially those parts of the world, whether they be in South Central Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, that are struggling with issues of democratization, are struggling with issues of centralized economies and closed economies trying to connect to global economies in ways that protect the core interests of their peoples. But also build a level of dialogue, cooperation, and understanding internationally that will allow us to really begin to address some of the profound challenges we’re going to face in this world as we go forward.

I believe that the display of multilateralism that we’ve seen recently, both in Trinidad and Tobago and in San Pedro Sula are going to position us as a hemisphere to play a much more important role.

It’s not going to be a role in which the United States is a dominant player or determinant of how the rest of the hemisphere engages, because what we’re seeing in developments in Brazil, in Mexico, in the Pacific Rim countries, are a series of Latin American, both Central American and South American countries, that have a capability of being effective, successful players in an international environment, that have an interest in engaging in that international environment, and have been devising the tools both bilaterally and in larger subregional groupings to play effectively. And this is something we should be supporting. Because at the end of the day, these are countries that are taking into the international arena the democratic values, a broad commitment to market based economies, and a commitment to ensuring that our societies are open and tolerant. In other words, they’re bringing the practices and the purposes and the values that we hold dear into a globalized world.

This is very important, and it’s worthwhile noting also that this is not the first time that the Americas has played an important role in shaping international economic and political and multilateral architecture. It did so in the early 20th Century, in the Hague when Elihu Root brought the American republics into the larger Hague dialogue that eventually led to the creation of the International Court; and it did so also in the formation of the League of Nations; and most importantly the American republics played a key role in the fashioning of the United Nations, and especially the human rights structures of the United Nations.

So this is a region and a series of countries that have had I think broad impact historically in the world, but I think are uniquely poised now to do something important. And we need to be working with them as partners in this project.

Now referring back to Trinidad and to the OAS General Assembly, it’s important to remember that when we went to Trinidad it came on the immediate aftermath of the London Summit in which the leaders of the G-20 countries met to address the economic crisis. And five of those G-20 countries were countries from this hemisphere. Those five countries went from London to Trinidad and effectively attempted to take the results of London and make them real in Trinidad.

I think with the help of some very important partners who weren’t from the G-20, but nevertheless were key players in Trinidad, we were able to fashion a response coming out of Trinidad that shows that we understand the impact and the depth of the economic crisis, working through the Inter-American Development Bank and the subregional banks, we are capable of identifying the monies and the capital necessary to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the region, make sure they have the resources available to address the public sector budget crunch that they will be facing, and especially to try to protect that aspect of their public sector budget that focuses on social programs, especially the fight against poverty and the effort to address income inequalities.

I think we were able through our commitment to a climate and energy partnership with the Americas to show that even in this moment of economic crisis we were able to focus on key factors in our long term economic and social development and begin to build partnerships in a way that is variable.

What I mean by that is that the United States and our partners in the region went into Trinidad with an idea that we had to move away from one-size-fits-all initiatives. But instead create initiatives that had menus or options that countries could plug into as best fits their needs, and work with the partners that they want to work with.

On June 15, in Lima, we’ll be doing the first follow-up on the energy and climate partnership when representatives of energy ministries from around the hemisphere to begin to shape and fashion the concrete portions of the energy partnership.

I think this is going to be a new step forward in multilateral diplomacy in the region, and I think a very effective one and one that we’re looking forward to.

Also at the Trinidad Summit, we committed to an inter-American social protection network in which for the first time the countries of the Americas will be meeting, probably in New York City, later this summer to begin to share best practices on what works in terms of addressing poverty and income inequality and begin exchanging information and results and experiences in a way that I think will be helpful for all of us. It will allow us to highlight what works and what doesn’t work, and begin to share information in ways that we really haven’t done previously.

The United States also committed itself to a micro-finance initiative, working with several partners -- Inter-American Development Bank; Inter-American Investment Corporation; and our Overseas Private Investment Corporation -- in order to ensure again that in the midst of this economic downturn that small and medium sized enterprises have access to the kind of financing they’re going to need in order to continue to build jobs.

Also more broadly in the area of citizen safety and security, we committed ourselves first to a meeting of public security ministers that will be taking place in the Dominican Republic I October which will allow public security ministers to begin fashioning a broader hemispheric agenda, to promote the development of civil security institutions -- police, judicial systems, penal systems -- that will allow us to effectively address a problem or organized crime and trafficking that is significant in large parts of this hemisphere. But also the United States and our Caribbean partners agreed to begin a series of talks aimed at creating a larger Caribbean Security Cooperation program. We held our first technical talks in Suriname last month, and Secretary Clinton met with her Caribbean counterparts in San Pedro Sula to evaluate those talks and look towards the next round of talks which will be taking place in the near future.

So I think that coming out of Trinidad, I think we showed clearly that even in a period of economic distress, we were first able to have a coordinated response to that economic crisis, even though we are countries with distinct and asymmetrical economic differences and development differences. That we were able to show that in the midst of responding to the crisis that we weren’t walking away from our social agenda. Quite the contrary, we were going to be focusing even more intently on it. And also in the course of addressing these problems, we also weren’t walking away from the world but that we were committed more broadly to a global agenda.

Of course, when leaders meet, what they do is they set direction. They identify programs, they identify funding, but then it’s up to the other component parts of government to make that direction real.

The first big challenge we faced was in San Pedro Sula at the OAS General Assembly. There was real worry going into the OAS General Assembly that the issue of Cuba was going to crash the OAS General Assembly, the OAS, and multilateralism more broadly in the hemisphere, and that the United States and our partners were going to be faced with a question, which is what to do with a country like Cuba, which is not a democracy, which is not an open society, which is not committed to market based economies, in a community like the OAS, which is a community of democratic nations, it is a community of open societies, it is a community of countries committed to market based economies in one form or another. And the real worry was, how do you address a profound movement and desire within the larger inter-American community to lift the 1962 suspension on Cuba while not at the same time sacrificing the OAS’ broad commitment to democracy, its commitment to human rights, and to a structure and process of dialogue that we thought was going to be absolutely necessary if Cuba were to hope to incorporate itself back into the OAS at some future time.

This was not an easy issue to deal with. There were a variety of proposals that were circulating in the months leading up to the OAS General Assembly, and that continued to be worked with great interest and vigor during that Assembly. And ultimately as in all things multilateral, in order to shape a resolution that wins consensus, everybody has to give something. Not everybody is completely satisfied with what emerges from that process.

But I think what emerged from the process in San Pedro Sula was important for a couple of reasons. First, it allowed us to acknowledge what was almost unanimous around the room which was a desire to lift the 1962 suspension, to remove what many countries considered to be a Cold War relic. And instead, try to build a discussion around Cuba that was focused on the reality of the moment.

And in doing so we were able first of all to ensure that lifting of the suspension did not create an automatic return of Cuba to the OAS. Instead there would be a process that would be created. The process would be started by a request by the government of Cuba itself. But on top of that, that this process was going to require a dialogue with the pertinent organs and instruments of the OAS, and that dialogue was going to be guided by the practices, purposes, and principals of the OAS.

What that means, of course, is the broad commitment of the OAS to democracy, to human rights, to self determination, non-intervention, security and development. And all of the instruments in the OAS that address those specific themes and issues.

In the process we were going to be able to examine what this meant and actually have a vigorous discussion inside the OAS about what Cuba’s readmission means.

At the end of the day, I think we emerged from San Pedro Sula with an important advance, in terms of moving a dialogue about Cuba from 1962 to 2009. Secondly, to indicating very clearly that the OAS was going to move at a careful and deliberate pace on this. But finally, putting the burden of this issue back on Cuba itself. In other words, requiring Cuba to determine whether or not it wants to return to the OAS, and if so, asking it to request the beginning of this process.

Again, we’ll see what the ultimate results of this are, but more broadly, and I’ll close with this. More broadly I think what happened is that the United States showed clearly as President Obama had said in Trinidad and Tobago, that we were going to construct a new kind of relationship with the hemisphere based on dialogue and collaborative action. This required us not only to listen closely to what was being said in the hemisphere but also to work in the hemisphere in a way that was designed to foster consensus and not division. I think we showed that clearly.

I also think we were able to show that despite the divisions that exist within the Americas, that these divisions, although they’re sometimes portrayed as ideological and hard, actually have a softness to them and can be bridged with the right kind of statesmanship. And the right kind of hard work by diplomats. I think we did bridge those divides. There was real concern going into this OAS that when it was all over with the OAS was going to be a broken instrument. That a significant group of countries might actually leave the OAS or just cease to participate in any meaningful way.

I think we as a partnership, as a collective, the OAS showed that we were greater than that fear. That we were able to build a consensus that broadly met the concerns of all the parties, and required all the parties once again to commit themselves to fundamental instruments and documents of the OAS. I think again that was an important step forward for the hemisphere, considering the kinds of challenges we have in front of us.

But in this regard I would like to acknowledge that as Secretary Clinton worked in San Pedro Sula, her ability to meet with the CARICOM foreign ministers and have an important conversation with them; her ability to meet with Minister Celso Amorim of Brazil; her ability to meet with Patricia Espinosa of Mexico; her ability within the working group that was created of foreign ministers to meet and talk with all of the foreign ministers that she was dealing with showed, I think, in very real terms, that we were committed to this kind of multilateralism. That we were intent on shaping an effective multilateralism that recognized our interest not only in the particular and the peculiar, but also more broadly in the collective, in the communal. I think that’s what we accomplished in San Pedro Sula.

Thank you very much.


Voice: Thank you very much Assistant Secretary Shannon for your very candid, honest and forward looking words.

Ambassador Albert Ramdin, please.

Ambassador Ramdin: Good morning, and thank you very much, Inez.

Let me begin by thanking the Center for Latin American Initiatives, George Washington University for inviting the OAS to be part of this kind of debrief analysis of where we are today after these two very important meetings.

I want to salute, of course, the diplomatic corps present. I’m not going to name them all by name, but it’s good to see all of you here. And my colleagues from the OAS. And it’s always good to be with Tom Shannon in a panel. A couple of weeks ago we were at another panel together. That was post-summit, post [inaudible], it should not become a habit, but it’s good to be here.

The topic is indeed important, the future of inter-American relations. Because there is seemingly something developing which possibly will lead into a new future. I believe that in some ways we do have the future here already. But recognizing the importance of this topic I want to say a couple of things about the lead-up to this new environment which we have today, both in the context of the Summit of the Americas and the OAS General Assembly. And then speak a little bit to what transpired a little bit at the General Assembly itself. But also in the context of the General Assembly was not only about Cuba. It was mostly about Cuba. It was not only about Cuba, and I want to highlight some of the other issues which were discussed there. Also very important, and some going into the issues Tom Shannon raised.

Then I want to say something specific about Cuba and close up with some six or seven points which I believe will become key elements of a future foreign policy in the inter-American system and hopefully in the same spirit as we all came from, the Summit of the Americas, to be executed.

Let me start by saying that when we speak about the future inter-American relation situation we are not starting from scratch to build peace and stability and to create prosperity in the Americas. I think there is something here already. Many achievements already over the past 30 years. And we have to recognize that. Every country, every active member state of the OAS has regular elections, free, fair, credible most of the times. Some still need help. But at least it is a direction which everybody recognizes as that we have a democratic framework in the 34 member states. That’s a major achievement if you compare it with 30 years, 35 years ago. So we should not forget that achievement.

And we have to recognize also something which we sometimes tend to forget, the enormous diversity which is there in the Western hemisphere. Within the subregions, within the Americas as a whole. Very small economies, very big economies, population, size, opportunities, political history, language. In this diversity it’s very difficult to reach consensus on many issues. And if we reach consensus is one of the greatest assets I believe the OAS can bring as an institution to this grouping of countries.

We have to recognize also that because of this diversity the interest, the objectives of every country, every subregion is different from each other. The Caribbean has different objectives of being part of this inter-American system. As a settled democracy their focus is on development. Central America, transforming into very strongly democracies, security is an issue there. In South America, we speak much more about how to consolidate and strengthen the democratic framework. So every region has different interests and objectives and we cannot have one size fits all approach, so we will need to focus on a much more different shape, multilateral diplomatic framework in the Americas. I think that is where those issues which were discussed in the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, that’s how it should play out. Whether it’s on energy, on migration, on all the key issues which were identified and which were listed by Tom Shannon a while ago, we’ll have to put this in that context of a different shaded multilateral approach.

I think it’s also to recognize, and you will not be surprised to hear it from me, that the OAS is the only institution which can provide this kind of consensus building. Thirty-four member states. There is no other institution in the Americas which can bring 34 member states together around one table. They may differ from opinion. We have strong discussions as we have seen in the Summit of the Americas as well as in San Pedro Sula, but the only place where you can reach this political consensus, this concerted action, this collective action, is in the OAS. And we welcome, we have stated that often, we welcome subregional bodies because that helps building that consensus. So that’s a good thing.

But I think any idea of other kinds of arrangements is not going to be all inclusive in the Western Hemisphere.

While these are positives in the reality in which we live, there are some challenges which we indeed face. I think we live in a time where we face the highest levels of tension in the Western Hemisphere. We have not spoken about that so much in San Pedro Sula, but they have not ceased to exist. Problems between countries in South America. Ecuador and Colombia still have difficulties in terms of building a relationship. We have many difficulties within South America as well as in Central America as well as in the Caribbean on border issues. Something like 200 outstanding disputes in the Americas. Without resolving these disputes the integration process is going to be very difficult. So we have to recognize that beyond all the other political issues we have real issues between countries which are not visible at this point in time. So let’s not forget that. I don’t want to go into mentioning all these difficulties. As I mentioned, there are more than 200 of these. But it goes in every region. No region is exempted from these tensions, the potential tension.

Challenges remain in terms of the traditional issues. Illegal drug trafficking, HIV/AIDS, illegal trafficking in firearms, poverty, social exclusion, discrimination. All of these are put on the heading of traditional. We should not forget that it is a problem with full security in the Americas. There is a problem with energy sustainability. We have difficulties with security and the challenges which are being faced by countries. So these are key issues which need to be addressed in whatever future inter-American relation is being built. And what I’m saying here is that nobody alone can solve this problem because it is cross-border. Almost three-quarters of the problems we mentioned here are multilateral in nature, cross-border in nature, transnational. So the only way to deal with them will be in a multilateral approach. You need an institution to put these on the agenda and to deal with them because collectively only we will be able to solve these problems, not in isolation. And no country can do that in isolation.

Tom mentioned something which I fully share at this point, the role of the international system. The OAS has been very much inward oriented for a long time. And we have been starting a process of opening up the OAS to become part of the world. I think we’re getting there. The OAS has been able to strengthen relations with the United Nations system to strengthen relations with other regional organizations worldwide, especially the African Union, for instance, where we have participation in each other’s observation missions, for instance, and strengthening and exchanging views on democracies. Strengthening relations with [inaudible] like in China, India and others.

So I think it’s a useful exercise when we look towards the future to see how this inter-American system will fit within the global context and the global architecture of international relations. I think it’s something which has been not taken on board as yet but I thin it is quite necessary because the impact of the engagement of other countries like China, India, and the other ones in the inter-American system, will be felt and is being felt in many other regions. And the diplomatic demarche are clearly stated, especially when it comes to the middle section of the Americas, the Caribbean and Central America.

So this is the reality at this point in our hemisphere. On the one hand positives, on the other hand clearly challenges. And we have to recognize that.

What has changed then? And when we went into the Summit of the Americas there was an atmosphere of a divisive nature. It was not clear if all the leaders would be attending. It wasn’t clear what message they would be giving, whether it would be a positive agenda or a negative agenda. In the end what happened, everybody went into the Summit of Americas and agreed the same spirit continued in San Pedro Sula with a very positive, constructive attitude. I think there are three or four reasons for that.

One is, I think, that we have to recognize that over the past years the leadership style of newly elected political leaders in Latin America emerged with their own view, independent views, if you wish, on development, on security, on foreign policy. For a long time it was seen as something temporary, but I think it is here to stay. That you have that kind of leadership. Democratically elected, which have different views on how to organize the societies. That is not going to go away.

So it was not surprising for all of us to see this momentum building with regard, for instance in this case, on the issue of Cuba. It’s readmission, reinsertion into the American system. That was one of the issues which went into the summit as almost a consensus of all to be at least discussed.

The other issue which went as a consensus into the summit which was not part of the negotiating process for a document, was the issue of the financial crisis. And so what you saw developing is a common agenda to be discussed at a summit which did not exist before.

This would not have been possible, that kind of atmosphere, if one other thing did not happen, I believe. Because a year ago nobody thought a summit would be such of a critical nature. Nobody thought a year ago that a San Pedro Sula summit, general assembly, would be a historical one. But I think the tone which we saw, the cordial but frank discussions which took place in the Summit of the Americas was based also on something which happened here in the United States was the election of President Barack Obama which created a different environment, a different reality compared to eight years before. A willingness as a consequence to listen, to dialogue, to have an understanding, to understand others, and not only to direct. I think that is the environment.

So basically all the stars were aligned. There were practical issues to be dealt with, the financial crisis, the food crisis, the environmental issues, the security problems. These are concrete items on the agenda of every leader. They have to deal with it daily. That went into the summit. Then the atmosphere created by willingness to discuss, to have different opinions, but at least to listen to each other.

I think this resulted in what I said a couple of weeks ago is what was there before T&T and what is there after T&T. And T&T is Trinidad and Tobago. Nothing else. [Laughter]. Somebody thought of something more complicated.

I think the atmosphere, the environment, the political environment in the Western Hemisphere before T&T was quite different from the atmosphere which we find today. That’s why I say before and after T&T. In that sense maybe in 20 years we’ll speak about a watershed moment in 2009.

I think we can already say that 2009 is a historical year for the inter-American system with two key meetings taking place, with key developments, key results coming from these meetings, is really remarkable.

I think we should highlight also, and I speak about the Caribbean here. But by having the summit in the Caribbean, I think something happened which I really liked is that it was a reaffirmation of the Caribbean to be part of this hemisphere. It’s something which we should not underestimate. We’re speaking about 45.3 percent of the membership of the OAS with strong relations overseas. By having this summit in the Caribbean, playing a critical role in managing this process, continuing the debate on the critical issue to the San Pedro Sula General Assembly for me reaffirmed that the Caribbean community clearly wants to be part of this hemisphere and is able to bring efforts and to contribute to this discussion in the inter-American system. We can discuss this in the question and answer section.

As we already stated, I think, the U.S. commitment to reconstructing, redevising a new relationship with new parameters of dialogue and new engagement on a more continuous basis, almost a new type of diplomacy, is very useful in this environment. Without that, it would not have been possible, I believe.

While we recognize that of course this is a relationship between member states, it’s bilateral, but there are two things I need to say in terms of the multilateral element of it. The two institutions which need to translate this new environment in a more positive one, in a more engaging one, and maybe revisit some of its key objectives, I think is the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank. And when it comes to the OAS I think it really needs to look at fostering this new political momentum. How do you continue this political momentum in such a way that it’s beneficial to the political process, but also what needs to be done in terms of the development needs, and that’s where the IDB comes in. We speak about recapitalization of the IDB and the subregional banks and so on, but beyond that, looking at the future role of these two key inter-American institutions together with other key inter-American intuitions like [inaudible], needs to be looked at. I think that’s something which we should not forget in whatever design there is for the future of Inter-American relations.

Now what happened in San Pedro Sula? As I said, not only about Cuba. Mostly about Cuba. But not only. I think two things I’d like to highlight there. One is we discussed the theme which was chosen by the host country towards a culture of non-violence which clearly stated in no uncertain terms the priority of Central America in the context of the security challenges they face. Lucky enough, this declaration of San Pedro Sula was already discussed in Washington, D.C., and adopted so not much discussion. But what I was very pleased about is that almost 29 member states took the floor to express their views on, independent of the fact that the discussions on Cuba were ongoing, that it took the time to substantively respond to this issue which indicated to me, and this has not happened before. This was one of the more substantive presentations by member states on why this is so important to them. Both from the short term perspective in terms of how you deal with the criminal activities, crime and violence in society, how you build peace, dialogue and so on. But also from the structural perspective in terms of why employment is so important, why education is so important, and those are the underlying issues which need to be addressed.

I was very pleased to see that member states paid a lot of attention not only, and even after the adoption of the resolution on Cuba, something like 12, 13 member states still wanted to take the opportunity in the last hours of the 3rd of June to focus on these issues. I think that’s a very positive sign.

So the declaration of San Pedro Sula, for those interested, you should read it. It’s a very extensive document. It contains a lot of information on aspirations, but I think it will be our guiding document for how to follow up on this. And of course the public security meeting which is scheduled for Dominican Republic later this year will take account of that also.

The second important element which I like to underscore is the active participation of civil society, the private sector, and the trade unions in the assembly. It was for the first year that nobody left the general assembly disappointed or upset or went to the media complaining about not having enough time. We gave everybody enough time to have an exchange which was very useful, very engaging. Also with the member states. Again, while other things were happening. This was not put on the side. This was an important engagement between civil society at large and heads of delegations of the OAS. I must mention, of course, equivalent of [inaudible] who supported so much in the work in many countries. That engagement was very useful also.

In some ways we should recognize because often we speak about summits taking place and nothing is happening and what is the meaning of it, all the questions about it’s a talk shop and nothing is happening. Basically what happened at San Pedro Sula within the six weeks after the Summit of the Americas, one of the key mandates coming from the summit was achieved, that’s a resolution on Cuba. And we should not forget it. This was basically one of the political mandates coming from the summit to continue the discussion, maybe not anticipated a full resolution at the San Pedro Sula general assembly, but at least this was completed.

So I think this is very important to note.

Let me say something about Cuba quickly. Ambassador Shannon already went into this, but let me give our perspective. I think there was always three issues. There was always the notion that any expectation for overnight readmission would be unrealistic. I think that was clearly understood. Maybe not completely accepted, but understood by all, that it would not happen overnight. And for that too many things have happened in the past, too many things were developed since 1962, so it would be a step by step approach, it will be a process.

The second element was that it would be a principled approach. The principles adopted since 1962 could not be ignored in reality at all. That would be kind of a strange thing with 34 member states, adopt a document and then decide to put it aside for a while discussing another issue. That would not happen. So I think that was something which was also understood.

And of course the most important factor is the voice of Cuba needed to be heard. I think if you read the resolution, and this is a very simple resolution. It’s one of the most simplest resolutions I ever seen in the OAS in my career. It’s called simply Resolution 2438, Resolution on Cuba. You can’t have it simpler than that. But the best way to get consensus also.

Contains all these three elements basically which I earlier mentioned. It has four preamble paragraphs and two operative paragraphs. And it goes into that the revocation of 1962. It speaks about the principles. It speaks about the initiative of Cuba. Those are basically the three elements. That will direct the process whenever the request comes in.

I think the resolution is almost like a win/win for everybody. Everybody can go home and say this is what I read in it and it will satisfy the demands.

I think it’s too fresh to go into too much detail about how this came to be and all the several meetings taking place. It was a very symbolic, in my view, very historical. A lot of energy in the room. I want to share that with you. But also in the small meetings on how that came to be. We got a standing ovation for the resolution to be adopted every time [inaudible] is being read, that creates a certain dynamic in the room.

I think this goes into the historical records in that sense.

I think the resolution on Cuba can be categorized as an act of political pragmatism to be able to move forward in consensus. I think that’s the safest way to describe it. That’s the only way to be able to put this aside and move on and decide on how the process will be.

Let me give you in conclusion, five or six issues which I believe will become critical in the future setting of an inter-American foreign policy or inter-American relationship.

First of all I think structural peace building needs to continue. With more energy, with much more structural in the sense that we have to look also in a more holistic way at peace building in terms not only of resolving the political issues, but looking at the economic opportunities and the social potential of people. It needs to become much more holistic.

Secondly, we need to address the hemispheric security challenges. In that regard I think while we don’t have a comprehensive hemispheric security arrangement it may be time to start thinking about something like that in the Americas.

I spoke earlier about that we have democracy established. There is a framework for it. We have parliaments, we have democratic institutions, we have elections. But I think we need to move from that generation, that first generation efforts to the second generation efforts in terms of see how democracy can really deliver the socio and economic goods for which the people elected the government. So we have to speak about efficiency of the state apparatus. We have to speak about accountability transparency, public policies. That is the next generation of measures which need to be taken to support democracy in the Americas. Otherwise it will remain very feeble and artificial.

We need to build, to strengthen partnerships for shared responsibility which means basically an inclusive process I society. As the OAS is consulting on a regular basis with civil society, with the private sector, with trade unions, I think that should become norm in countries. I don’t believe we can hold governments alone responsible for the level of security, stability and prosperity in societies. I think it’s a shared responsibility of everybody in society. So we need to have an inclusive approach, dialogue mechanism established with these groupings.

We need what I call real integral development which is more holistic, much more centering the people rather than focusing on only trade and economics. We can talk about this a little bit more if you wish.

And then fourth, the hemispheric solidarity and commitment. I relate here to speak to the case of Haiti. I don’t think the hemisphere can tolerate a situation as it exists in Haiti and not help. That is kind of anachronistic in the context of the hemisphere. A lot of progress is being made, but you have one country not able to lift itself out of the misery it has at this point in time.

A lot of attention needs to be given to education for peace and development. Addressing issues of the youth. Sixty-eight percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean is younger than 35 years of age. That’s a group that cannot be ignored and they do have real problems at this point in time.

All of this is aimed at possible, in my view, you won’t be surprised to hear this from me, to strengthen multilateralism. So member states, please support the OAS, reconfirm your commitment to the OAS, provide the resources because without the resources it will not take place.

Let me say in closing that for me these two events, the Summit of the Americas and the OAS General Assembly clearly demonstrated that the OAS is not only relevant but also necessary. That it is capable of making decisions if there is a political will within the member states to come to consensus. And as such I think further strengthening this institution will be key in implementing some of the mandates coming from the Summit of the Americas but also strengthening the inter-American system as a whole by collaborating much more cohesively with the inter-American institutions -- IDB, [Paho, ICA] and others.

Thank you very much.


QUESTION: I’d like to ask two brief questions and make a comment.

The first question is, who had the brilliant idea to introduce the words “at the request of Cuba” in the resolution, and to throw the ball into Cuba’s camp?

Secondly, Evo Morales, just before the Trinidad summit stated that he was a Marxist-Leninist-Communist and challenged the OAS to throw him out as it had Cuba. This was in the ALBA meeting in Caracas. Was there any reaction to that with regard to this approach on Cuba?

The comment is primarily to Mr. Shannon, with regard to Russia’s introduction into the Council of Europe, similar institution to the OAS, Russia accepted about 2.5 pages of single-spaced human rights commitments when it was admitted to the Council of Europe, the most important being the acceptance of the European Convention on Human Rights. And the acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court.

The Inter-American Human Rights System has become very much a Latin American institution, and especially since 1979 when the American Convention entered into force and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights was created. It was easier, I would suggest, to introduce Russia and the Central and Eastern European countries, making them accept human rights commitments because all of the member states that existed in the Council of Europe at that time had accepted the European Convention.

Does this new change with regard to the United States to the Inter-American system indicate that the U.S. is perhaps in the future willing to accept the American Convention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights?

I guess it was three questions.

Ambassador Ramdin: I have only two questions. The issue about at the request of Cuba, I’m not sure who suggested that so I don’t know. But I think these things will come up. Somebody’s going to write a book at some point and all the features will be put in it and so on. I don’t know at this point. But I think it was a collective effort to foster language.

I must say one of the elements which possibly helped very much in fostering consensus is that the discussion was elevated at some point to ministers. A ministerial working group dealt with coming to this point of the resolution. I think at that point I’m sure the issue about what is then Cuba’s input in this, where is the voice of Cuba in this, may have led to this phrase which I think is quite correct also.

In terms of the expressions by President Morales, I would not be able to respond. We have not responded to that. In general, let me say this. We have had some inter-American democratic chatter which does not have real mechanisms for exclusion or suspension, as such. So in that sense little can happen.

But I think when it comes to the OAS there are two presidents present at various parts of the meeting in San Pedro Sula -- President Zelaya and President Ortega. I got a lot of questions about how we considered that. And others had promised to be there also. In my view having presidents is not a common thing to have, first of all. But having presidents present at the OAS General Assembly, I don’t think you can get a stronger signal from the commitment to the oarganization. So for us that was a good thing.

So I believe both are very committed to the OAS and for us that’s the best thing what can happen at this point. But I have not heard about any comments made with regard to the other statements.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: In regard to the “at the request” phrase, obviously this reflects I think a broad understanding and desire that with the lifting of the suspension there would be no automaticity then. That Cuba would not automatically return to its chair at the OAS. That we needed to have a process and the process had to be initiated by Cuba itself.

This language was collected in a draft resolution that was presented by Secretary Clinton, built off draft resolutions from the ALADI countries and from the Caribbean countries that we synthesized and that Secretary Clinton presented in a working group that Albert referred to. It was that resolution that became the basis for the resolution that was finally accepted by all of the foreign ministers.

There was no discussion of Marxism-Leninism in the course of the OAS General Assembly.

And in regard to the Inter-American Convention itself, you should ask the person sitting next to you. [Laughter]. Who’s just been elected to the Commission. Congratulations! It was a great win for the commission and I think for the Americas.

Obviously the convention itself still poses some challenges for us in regards to our federal system and our judicial decision-making structure. But the United States is very, very committed to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. It’s very committed to the broader effort of securing and promoting human rights in the hemisphere. This is evident by the participation of U.S. experts in the commission over time. It’s shown by the resources we dedicate to the commission and to the other human rights activities of the OAS.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Congratulations to the organizers, and to the OAS for its outstanding results.

Two questions. One, you’ve touched on the issue of security, particularly in Central America. What more can be said about what is the organization and the membership of the OAS doing to provide further support to ensure that these fragile democracies will be able to get through this very difficult period, particularly with the initiatives that are taking place in Mexico?

And secondly, Ambassador Shannon some time ago started a dialogue with China on behalf of the United States, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been more said about the role of China as a significant trading partner and player in the region. Could you perhaps comment, both of you, in terms of how the People’s Republic, the role it may play in the organization going forward. Thank you.

Ambassador Ramdin: Not only in Central America but also in part of the Caribbean, the issue of crime and violence and the threat to stability and economy in those societies is critically important.

The OAS is very much engaged with providing assistance to member states in terms of short term approach to the problem. It could be information exchange, it could be strengthening police forces, supporting member states and social dialogue in communities, especially when it comes to the youth gangs. I visited some in El Salvador and there are ways where you can re-socialize them so that you don’t get the same problem again.

It’s a very complex problem. I think our view is that apart from what we can do on the short term, strengthening the judicial system, police force, information exchange and so on, we need to focus on the structure. How do you prepare young people to enter into these situations?

Rural development, employment opportunities in the rural areas, as well as in the urban areas. The issue of education in general. These are huge investments to be made by countries. Not always possible. But I think that’s the only way forward. Claim that opportunity for young people not to end up in a cycle of crime and violence and organized crime and [inaudible] drug trafficking.

It is a very complex issue which needs to be addressed both on the short term and the long term. I believe those efforts are being made. The critical issue is how fast can you find the resolution. That’s the thing like in the Caribbean, if one murder takes place in a small community which is completely dependent on tourism, it has a severe impact on the in-flow of tourists.

So avoiding those things to happen will be enormously important. But it is both short term and long term and the OAS has been assisting Central America and the Caribbean with security arrangements. I’m’ sure it’s not enough, and I’m sure it will come back in the public security meeting in Dominican Republic. One needs to be doing much more.

On China, I think we already indicated that the relations between China and this hemisphere are increasing. I think we can’t just ignore that. It is important in the context of where the Americas, where the Inter-American System over the Western Hemisphere spends in the world to take account of that. To relate to that.

It’s got to be a bilateral issue, but given the fact that China is a permanent observer, one of the active permanent observers in the OAS we already have [inaudible] relationship with China. And we see much more support coming to the OAS than before. So it is an issue which needs to be looked at much more in detail. But in the first place it’s a bilateral issue. The bilateral relationship is developing between OAS member states and China and others like India and the rest.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: In regard to the security question, we through our Merida Initiative and now through the Caribbean Security Dialogue that we’re building, are trying to create a more coordinated sub-regional approach to security that connects the source countries, transit countries, and the major market for drugs and then also those countries that received the bulk of laundered currency coming out of the U.S. and weapons coming out of the United States. So we’re working hard to construct a sub-regional and multilateral approach. Which still hasn’t connected more broadly to the OAS, or to the institutions of the OAS, whether they be CICAD (Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission), or CITCE (Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism) or the others that deal with drug and terrorism and illegal trafficking.

But we hope to do so and involve the OAS more broadly, in at least understanding what it is we’re accomplishing and how the OAS might be able to play a role in this process.

In regard to China, China’s resource diplomacy is not new. And it’s something that has been practiced in Southeast Asia and in Africa. But it’s finding in the Americas that it’s conducting its resource diplomacy in a different kind of environment. Part of our bilateral outreach to China, our bilateral consultations on the hemisphere is to ensure that as we and China kind of move through the region, that we aren’t causing problems in our larger bilateral relationship because of it. In other words we understand clearly what each other’s interests and values are.

But also it’s part of a larger effort to build a global relationship, to understand our relationship with China in global terms.

But that said, the fact that China is an observer of the OAS is an important reality, an important fact, because it allows China to develop a broader political dialogue in the hemisphere, and especially with the OAS. Because ultimately, the success of China’s diplomacy is not going to depend so much on the contracts that it lets regarding resources. It’s going to depend on the kinds of relationships it’s able to establish with countries and societies. That’s something that it’s still struggling to do.

QUESTION: Good morning. Before June 3 we have the reform members, the OAS and one suspended member. Then we have the reform members and one non-suspended member. [Laughter]. If I understand correctly.

Is there anything in the chart of OAS that can help you to manage the process ahead if Cuba expressed a desire to rejoin fully the organization? How do you imagine the process will be if this happens? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR RAMDIN: The way I describe it is we always have 35 members. Cuba was never not a member. Now we have 34 active members and one non-active member. To become active, the process will have to start.

Now the resolution is very clear about it. The process of dialogue on the practice of, in accordance with the practices, purposes and principles of OAS will be at the request of the government of Cuba. So that’s where it will start.

I suppose this will take some time to digest. I spoke a couple of days ago with a former Cuban Ambassador in another country and asked him what he thought would happen. He gave two points which I think I can repeat here.

He said in his opinion the Cuba leadership still thinks about the OAS in the same terms as in 1962. So it will take time for them to adjust to the new realities of an OAS which is quite different from 1962. Secondly, it would take time for them to understand the benefits they can gain from being part of the OAS. And depending on how much time that takes to realize that there is a new environment in the Western Hemisphere, that will determine when a request possibly will come.

I think from our perspective it will be nice at some point in time to be able to visit Cuba with consent of the government. It will be nice for the OAS to be able to establish an office with the consent of the government. But that won’t happen on our initiative. It will be part of a conversation which will start at some point in time. I can’t give you the time.

QUESTION: I just wanted to know which is [inaudible] of the OAS is going to take up if there is a dialogue with Cuba? Is it going to be the Security Council, is it going to be the General Assembly [inaudible]? I know there was a discussion that the United States wanted [inaudible] General Assembly would decide the process. But it’s not clear to me what happened [inaudible]. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR RAMDIN: Shall I try again? We are looking into the future here. So it’s very difficult. But I think the way normally -- Suppose this was not Cuba but something else. The way it would work in terms of implantation is that, there are two ways. One, a letter is written to the Secretary General referring to this resolution and say I want to start talking to you. Through the institution. It is wise of the Secretary General to inform the permanent council as a day to day political organ about this, and that’s where it will start. No decisions. Just a discussion. Rather than the permanent council and the permanent reps are in contact with headquarters, decide to bring it to a higher level or not, that’s something I don’t know. It may not happen. There are different phases in this. The government of Cuba can also write to the chair of the Permanent Council directly if it so wishes, and it would follow the same routine. It comes on the agenda of the Permanent Council and then member states will decide how they want to approach this, whether they should make a small committee or a visit, or just very open ended in that sense. That’s the best way forward, I think.

I said earlier that Tom Shannon has been, and somebody announced that Tom is going to leave us at some point in time to do another job.

I wanted to thank him very much on behalf of the OAS for the contribution you have made in your last job in terms of supporting inter-Americanism in the Americas. I think the applause with which those who were not present in San Pedro Sula, the applause which Tom received after the adoption of the resolution on Cuba and the statement he made, I have not heard for a long time the United States get such an applause for so long. That was critically the expression of all in the room, how much they value not so much maybe the position, maybe that also, but also the approach of high level diplomacy, not conflictive, very cooperative, and I think this is something which is very helpful to the Organization of American States to have diplomats as yourself performing in that style.

One of the things [inaudible] very bad is reaching out. We don’t tell the audience in the Americas what kind of work we do and how much is being done to support countries. So we need advocates. That’s why I wanted to ask Tom to wear this when he is in Brazil. [Laughter]. So that it shows the OAS [inaudible]. [Laughter].


MODERATOR: With that I think we have to thank our two speakers for their great presentations and looking into the future and helping us imagine a better future in inter-American relations and a better future in the Western Hemisphere. With that, --


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