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Summit Promotes Security, Prosperity, Democracy

Thomas A. Shannon, Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs
Ambassador Hector Morales, U.S. Summit of the Americas Coordinator
The Miami Herald
August 20, 2008

Atlanta successfully hosted the second annual Americas Competitiveness Forum this week, bringing together public and private sector leaders, academia and nongovernmental organizations from the Americas to discuss how to make our hemisphere more prosperous and competitive.

This forum is one of the most positive accomplishments of the Summit of the Americas. The summit is the only regularly scheduled gathering for all 34 democratically elected heads of state, and it offers a unique opportunity for dialogue and accomplishment. The summit has enjoyed unbroken, bipartisan support within the United States since its creation in 1994. President Bush has attended three summits -- in Canada in 2001, in Mexico in 2004 and in Argentina in 2005 -- playing a special role in shaping the hemisphere's multilateral agenda. He has aligned our own hemispheric policy to reflect the consensus reached within the Americas on the priorities of consolidating democratic institutions, promoting prosperity and economic opportunity, investing in people and protecting the security of the democratic state.

The summit process has reduced the cost of remittances, provided medicines to people living with HIV/AIDS and denied safe havens to corrupt officials.

At the third summit in Quebec City in 2001, the leaders of the hemisphere approved the Declaration on Security in the Americas, enabling them to take a regional approach to security challenges such as terrorism, drugs, natural disasters and human trafficking, and to implement broader and more-comprehensive countermeasures than any single country could achieve.

Sustaining and increasing prosperity requires governments to address not only areas of crises, but also their most fundamental responsibilities. For example, the last summit produced the Infrastructure Development Program of the Americas, which will leverage $2.6 billion in private investment to improve access to basic services for the people of the Americas.

Perhaps most important, these summits have helped to reinforce the Americas' understanding that sustainable development requires a commitment to democratic governance, enfranchising all sectors of the population and eradicating the pernicious problem of corruption. These principles of democratic governance and fundamental freedoms are enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which unites the hemisphere's governments in a series of unprecedented obligations to defend these basic rights.

The United States will work closely with the other 33 democracies of the hemisphere participating in the next summit to build on the numerous accomplishments of past meetings. At the upcoming Fifth Summit of the Americas, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009, we hope to see further advances in regional prosperity, energy security, environmental sustainability, public security and observance of the rule of law. Each summit has served as a milestone to successive U.S. administrations as they have worked toward the betterment of the region. Because the summit will take place less than four months after the inauguration, it offers the next U.S. president a golden opportunity to demonstrate the unwavering and bipartisan commitment that our country has to security, prosperity and democracy in the Americas.

We have much progress to build on and more challenges to face, but the process is in place. The United States looks forward to continuing to work with our hemispheric neighbors as we prepare for the Fifth Summit of the Americas.

Released on August 20, 2008

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