SECRETARY BLINKEN: Morning, everyone. Buenos dias. Wonderful to have everyone here. Apologies for the slightly late start, but it’s wonderful to be with all of you today, and I want to welcome you to the meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group Ministerial.
Before we go any further, I’d like to the secretary general, Luis Almagro. Luis, over to you.
SECRETARY GENERAL ALMAGRO: (Via interpreter) At the last General Assembly in Peru, we decided to strengthen our commitment to contribute to a democracy for all citizens in the region in keeping with the principles and values expressed in the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the human rights instrument. So, we welcome you to the first summit implementation meeting – meeting of ministers – that we do.
Along with the GA, we recognize the U.S. for chairing this Ninth Summit of the Americas – for having chaired the Ninth Summit of the Americas, and for engaging in a frank dialogue to build consensuses and to make an effort to implement the results of that summit between governments, civil society, youth groups, women’s groups, the private sector. We welcomed this initiative, the meeting we had in April in Denver, and that will leave quite a legacy to the ninth summit.
Today’s meeting is an opportunity for us to review the work done in the aftermath of the ninth summit to implement what we set up for ourselves in a – in the motto of that group and the objective of that group, together with the five political commitments that were approved, make it possible for us to act to address some of the most pressing problems faced by the hemisphere: threats to democracy, diplomatic crisis, lack of equitable access to economic and sociopolitical opportunities, and with special emphasis on the most vulnerable populations who have been historically marginalized. We reiterate the commitment to the secretariat of the OAS and its capacity, as the memory of the summit process, to continue working on following up and implementing the mandates that were adopted.
Renewing the international cooperation for development in the post-pandemic period is very important for the region, and it makes it necessary for us to address the needs of development of the countries beyond just measured by levels of income, and to include a multidimensional concept of development. And so, this is a call for all of the entities that took part in the summit for us to bring to bear the technical, financial wherewithal that will address the full breadth of the challenges we face. I underscored the role of the Pan American Health Organization in offering technical assistance to those countries that took part, and defining the roadmap to strengthen the regional capacities for preparedness and response to future pandemics and health crises, with the Plan of Action on Health and Resilience in the Americas for the consideration and adoption of – at this ministerial meeting. We established a political commitment that will make it possible for us to promote collective action, for us to tackle emerging health crises, emerging diseases, impact of climate change on health, and the need for there to be equitable access to critical inputs, especially vaccines.
The leaders of the region renewed in the ninth summit one of the fundamental aspirations of the First Summit of the Americas, which was to strengthen the rule of law, free and fair elections, human rights, and other pillars of open and free societies at the OAS, and other inter-American mechanisms. We will continue to foster political dialogue in defense of democratic institutions.
Now, to conclude, regarding fighting corruption and following up on the Lima commitment with agreement that was taken on with Peru, there was a follow-up and implementation mechanism adopted from the foreign ministry of Peru, vis-à-vis the general secretariat of the OAS, to ensure following through with those commitments. And we will thus follow through with implementing the mandates of the summit; new cycle that – the tenth summit will be held in the Dominican Republic, who we thank for hosting that meeting for us to renew our regional agenda.
The summit secretariat is committed to continue offering assistance in this process, and to continue strengthening the participation of the SIRG, the – and the social actors who are an integral part of this process. Thank you very much, Secretary of State. It’s an honor to have you here with us in the House of the Americas.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Luis, thank you very much. Muchas gracias. It’s again very good to be with all of you today. Let me just say a few things at the outset before moving on to the agenda of this meeting.
First, Luis, to you, thank you. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for the great work that your team has been doing. And to my fellow foreign ministers, to our national summit coordinators, to the OAS permanent representatives, to members of the Joint Summit Working Group: thank you, thank you, thank you for your partnership since the summit.
I’m also very glad to welcome with us today Ambassador Frank Mora for his first SIRG ministerial as our permanent representative to the OAS. Frank, welcome.
A year ago, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, our leaders made new commitments to build a more sustainable, a more resilient, and a more equitable region. Our countries pledged to invest in public health systems, to help communities adapt to the climate crisis, and accelerate the clean energy transition; to improve digital access and connectivity; to safeguard our democracies.
Over the last year, we have worked to make these shared goals a reality: meeting in Lima to set benchmarks and working procedures to guide our collaboration; convening thousands of representatives from local government, civil society, and the private sector at the Cities Summit of the Americas in Denver; participating in 11 meetings to hear from a diverse array of technical experts, business leaders, members of youth and civil society groups from all across our hemisphere.
As a result of these conversations, we developed an Action Plan on Health and Resilience. And today, I will ask this group to formally adopt that plan and chart a new course to strengthen public health in the Americas over the next seven years.
In doing so, we’ll commit to investing more resources in our health care systems and workforce, improving access to health services from primary care to mental health support, boosting our emergency preparedness measures, and fighting non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes. We’re also pledging to incorporate digital tools and new technologies – like artificial intelligence, into our health care institutions while safeguarding privacy. With this action plan, our countries will work to strengthen our public health infrastructure that’s been put under strain by COVID-19 to ensure that it’s more equitable and better prepared to detect, prevent, and to respond to future public health emergencies.
Later today, in the OAS General Assembly, we’ll have a chance to advance another one of our shared commitments: our resolve to strengthen democracy. Together, we can enable our governments to make full use of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and expand our tools to build resilient democracies, from training young leaders to ensuring that the OAS electoral observers can operate free from threats, from harassment, or any other undue pressure.
I’d also like to take a moment to share just a few ways that the United States has also made progress toward our commitments over the last year. At the Cities Summit, the United States launched our Cities Forward Initiative, which provides $5 million to help urban areas in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States advance sustainability, equity, and climate resilience together. Under the Americas Health Corps, the United States has also helped train 119,000 regional health care workers on everything from maternal health to tuberculosis prevention. And we are well on our way toward our goal of training 500,000 people over five years. We supported the clean energy transition and we supported the clean energy auction Jamaica launched last month, through which companies can submit competitive bids to produce enough energy to power 10 million lightbulbs in homes and schools and in businesses throughout their country. And as you all know, at the Second Summit for Democracy, the United States and Costa Rica gathered our countries to discuss the Inter-American system and implementation of the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance – coming together to protect human rights, the rule of law, greater social inclusion – the foundational building blocks of every democracy.
In the months to come, we will continue implementing our summit commitments alongside our partners, including by convening technology experts to discuss strategies for expanding connectivity, promising open government – promoting, excuse me, open government, strengthening cyber security, and fostering inclusive growth.
Later during this meeting today, each country will also have a chance to speak about the work that they’ve done to turn pledges into action. We are eager to hear from all of you, and as we turn our attention to the Tenth Summit of the Americas in the Dominican Republic in 2025, I’m looking forward to continuing the partnership that we’ve built. With the dedication of this group, we can address the biggest challenges facing our nations in a way that none of our countries could ever do alone. By working together, we can build a future that actually delivers concrete results for our people.
Finally, one personal note. I would like to thank Kevin O’Reilly, who today completes his service as the U.S. national coordinator for the summit. His tireless efforts, alongside your governments and so many colleagues, helped ensure the success of two major summits in the last year, and we are very glad to have him join our mission in Nicaragua as our chargé d’affaires. So, with that, I think we can move to the agenda that we have. Luis, let me just ask if there are any other initial comments you’d like to make. Otherwise, we can turn to the agenda.
All right. As I mentioned, our leaders committed to reach consensus on an Action Plan for Health and Resilience in the Americas in Los Angeles when they met last year. I think one of the things that we’ve all seen and that all of our leaders have seen are weaknesses that the experience with the pandemic revealed – in our societies, in our healthcare systems, in our ability to respond. And they recognized the need to work together to try to strengthen health systems for everyone, and prepare for future health emergencies.
In response, the SIRG and the Joint Summit Working Group worked diligently in a series of ad hoc technical group meetings to put together a concrete action plan. This effort chaired by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, supported by governments from across our hemisphere, brought us together to chart a course to invest in health systems that work for all, that leverage technology appropriately, that prepare us for the next health emergency.
To ensure that this action plan meets the needs of people in the Americas, the United States incorporated young people, the private sector, civil society in the actual drafting and negotiation process to make sure that we had their recommendations and insights on the takeoff – not just the landing, and to ensure that our level of ambition actually meets the needs of people across the hemisphere. Adopting the plan takes us one step closer to a more resilient and more equitable hemisphere.
So I would now like to put forward the Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas for your consideration and for your approval. The question before us is: Can we adopt the action plan? (Applause.) Thank you.
Thank you. So, I am pleased to confirm the foreign ministers at the Summit of the Americas hereby adopt the Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas. (Applause.) It’s always good when it takes very little work to confirm a lot of work that’s been done, so thank you, everyone.
Next, I would like to turn to another item, because in addition to chairing development of the Action Plan on Health and Resilience, we have also supported implementation of the other four political commitments that leaders adopted at the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Since chairing the Ministerial Meeting of the SIRG on the margins of the OAS General Assembly last October, the United States, as I mentioned, has convened 11 meetings of ad hoc technical groups to advance implementation of leaders’ summit commitments, and also to get feedback from our stakeholders. These included two meetings on leaders – Our Sustainable Green Future commitment and one on the Accelerating the Clean, Sustainable, Renewable, and Just Energy Transition commitment, two on the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance, and six on the Action Plan on Health and Resilience in the Americas. These in-person and virtual meetings have brought together literally hundreds of experts from more than 25 countries to strengthen production – protections, excuse me – for environmental defenders, to promote green shipping, to strengthen coastal ecosystems, to encourage conditions to attract clean energy investment, to share best practices for delivering democracy to our people and advancing their human rights.
In April the State Department and the city of Denver hosted the first city summit of the Americas following a commitment that President Biden and I made during the Ninth Summit of the Americas. And I have to say for those who were able to participate, this was – in my judgment, a remarkable and incredibly productive gathering. The summit brought together more than 2,500 people, including 250 mayors from across our hemisphere, to empower stakeholders and discuss how to best implement the commitments the leaders adopted at the ninth summit, recognizing that the greatest responsibility for action and the greatest impact on these issues typically takes place at the local level.
Working with city networks, international organizations, and other partners, we provided a platform for underrepresented voices to discuss issues like climate adaptation and, also, migration, on the same stage as prominent figures like the president of the Inter-American Development Bank and the head of the government of Mexico City – reflecting our commitments to strengthen inclusive democratic governance.
The summit allowed participants to have direct and substantive engagements with one another, and prioritize practical solutions to our shared challenges. I have to say that when you see this in action, when you see people coming together from the municipal level, from the local level, particularly mayors, who genuinely are, in all of our countries, problem-solvers – where political differences, ideology, are secondary if not irrelevant because the responsibility of these officials is to find ways to solve practical problems faced by their constituents. This is a very powerful dynamic. And the more we are engaged at these different levels across our hemisphere, the more we’re sharing experiences and best practices, I think the greater effect we’re going to have on actually making real and practical change.
Given, from our perspective, the success of the first city summit, it certainly should not be the last. And so, we encourage the sub-national conversation to continue, and we’d like to see the city summit institutionalized as part of the greater Summit of the Americas process. We had – as I said, three days or so of remarkable gathering, but what really matters is what happens in the 300 and other 62 days of the year. And my hope and expectation is that many of the contacts were made, many of the networks that were created, many of the dynamics that we helped energize at the summit, are going to continue every day – and that we will find ways to bring people back together in this format going forward.
So that’s the report on the city summit, and I think we’re now going to, first of all, turn it over to you, Brian, and also open the floor to comments from delegations.
Assistant Secretary Nichols.