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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Deputy Secretary of State > Former Deputy Secretaries of State > Former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick > Remarks > 2006

Remarks to General Assembly of the Organization of American States

Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
Remarks to General Assembly of the Organization of American States
As Prepared for Delivery
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
June 5, 2006

  • I want to thank the people of the Dominican Republic for being such warm hosts – it is a pleasure to be back.
  • I would also like to thank President Fernandez, Minister Morales, and their colleagues for the excellent arrangements.
  • We appreciate the leadership of Secretary General Insulza, whose intelligence, experience, and commitment to service has already infused the OAS with a new energy and capability.
  • I’m delighted that Secretary General Insulza has assumed office about the same time as President Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
  • These are two important institutions for our Hemisphere – the OAS and the IDB – as we work to advance the two vital companions of democracy and development.
  • One of our common challenges is to strengthen these institutions – and interconnect them effectively with other regional partnerships, such as CARICOM.
  • Each of us is well aware that the Americas – for all its size and diversity – is part of an even vaster global network.
  • We face that reality through energy prices, trade competition, interest rates and capital flows, terrorism, and environmental and other challenges.
  • So we, as representatives of the American states, need to consider how we can help the peoples and countries of our lands and islands to gain from the opportunities of globalization while adapting to address the challenges of globalization.
  • We know that to succeed we must broaden the base of opportunity.
  • For too long, too many people in the Americas faced closed doors: to education, property, housing, health care, financing, political participation – even to respect.
  • It is particularly sad that the indigenous peoples of the Americas have been in the shadows of economic empowerment.
  • When societies limit the opportunities of their people – whether because of race, sex, ethnicity, family origin, place of birth, religion, or a host of other false barriers – those societies stunt their own potential. They fail to draw out the best from all their people.
  • My country was founded on political and economic principles that encouraged representative government, opportunity, openness, and dynamism.
  • But of course we have learned the harsh lessons of our own mistakes, including through a bloody Civil War to overcome the stain of slavery that defaced our new experiment in democratic government.
  • Yet we have seen that an ongoing commitment to democracy, to creating opportunity is the best corrective action for the errors of men and women.
  • Democracy is not just a system of elections to award public power.
  • It requires institutions and a civic culture that puts limits on power, respects individual rights and property, safeguards political minorities, abides by the rule of law, and esteems a free press.
  • Democracy, we know well, is a constant endeavor, not an end state.
    • It is both resilient and fragile.
    • It is only as strong – and as effective – as the people who participate.
  • It is a great development of recent years that the Americas has turned to democracy as its aspiration and its model.
  • And we know it has not always been so in our hemisphere, where the sensitivities of non-interference and non-intervention, born of earlier conflicts, blocked a common effort to extend and strengthen democracy.
  • So it is sensible that we turn to a multilateral organization, the OAS, in which we are each and all represented, to encourage the institutions of democracy in the Americas.
  • It is also wise to support the OAS’s efforts for development with the work of the IDB.
  • As Secretary Rice stated at the OAS, the divide we now face is not between left and right, but between democrats and authoritarians, whether or not elected.
  • The pied pipers of populism will only lead people backwards, while globalization and the rest of the world looks ahead.
  • It is encouraging for the Americas that governments of both left and right are committed to development and democracy.
    • Indeed, the United States is pleased to enjoy close working partnerships – from Colombia to Chile, from Brazil to Guatemala, from Jamaica to Trinidad – even though the leaders of these nations come from very different backgrounds and political perspectives.
  • The United States will work with any government that is truly committed to development and democracy.
  • Free elections are vital, and the OAS now plays a vital role in monitoring them. Yet free elections are not enough. We must work together to strengthen the institutions and processes of democracy.
  • We can learn from and benchmark against our common experience:
    • Institutions such as police forces and independent judiciaries must be free of taint or corruption.
    • Political parties should be servants of the electorate, not tools for domination.
    • People should have free access to information, including through the information technologies that are the theme of this conference. Indeed, it is worth noting that the non-democratic country in our hemisphere – Cuba – has the tightest controls on the Internet.
    • And we should encourage democratic governments to invest in their people.
  • Even as democratic institutions are strengthened, governments must also show the way towards development and hope. We need to complement progress on macroeconomic reforms with microeconomic reforms and broaden development opportunities.
    • The first responsibility is for governments to create the conditions for private sector growth and investment for all their people.
    • Yet we can help one another through trade. We must continue on our project to open markets and expand trade in our Hemisphere. Under President Bush’s leadership, the free trade agreements the United States has signed now cover two-thirds of this Hemisphere’s population and two-thirds of the economy, not counting the United States. A successful Doha agreement in the WTO would help link our hemisphere to stronger global growth.
    • We must help developing nations and small, vulnerable countries to build the capacity to adjust to the global economy. The United States is contributing through innovative mechanisms such as the Millennium Challenge Account, debt relief programs, and trade capacity-building assistance. Under President Bush, our overall assistance to this Hemisphere has doubled, to nearly $1.6 billion annually.
    • We have also discussed with President Moreno how we can work with the IDB to draw in communities – such as indigenous people, who need a right to entrepreneurship.
  • Our development also depends on energy security. We need to develop supplies other than oil and gas. Brazil has been a pacesetter with ethanol. We need to diversify, and increase oil and gas production. Policies in many countries have locked out investment, technology, and opportunity. And we need to lessen demand through increased efficiency and conservation. Mexico’s Meso-American initiative is a fine example of how larger countries can assist their neighbors.
  • Last year’s General Assembly gave the OAS a mandate – the Declaration of Florida – to develop new tools to safeguard democracy and cast a spotlight on governments retreating from democratic commitments.
  • That mandate will be tested this year:
    • In Haiti, we must help build democratic structures, in concert with the Préval administration, that deliver on the long-postponed promise of democracy and economic opportunity for that country’s people. The United States, which has provided Haiti more than $530m over last two years, will remain fully committed.
    • In Nicaragua, we have seen new democratic leaders of the left and right, but old caudillos of corruption and communism want to hang on to power. We need an OAS observation mission in Nicaragua soon, so that it can be active throughout the election process. We need fairness, transparency, and forthright reporting. The interest and support of fellow Central American democracies has been helpful. And we support President Insulza’s excellent suggestion for a group of international notables to visit regularly to assess conditions.
    • In Peru, the elected government has had to complain at the Permanent Council of the OAS about foreign interference. We should stand with democratic governments who point to this danger.
    • In Bolivia, the government has invited the OAS to assist a fair and transparent Constituent Assembly process. I hope the OAS can deploy by mid-June to support the work leading to the July election.
  • Through support for democracy, free-trade initiatives, the Millennium Challenge Account, debt relief, and other aid and capacity-building, the United States will work with those in this region – from all points of the political spectrum – who believe in development and democracy.
  • I believe the OAS can play an increasingly important role in this work – through strengthening civil society, helping build the institutions of democracy, mediating tensions, helping disseminate "best practices," supporting fair election processes, monitoring elections, and advocating higher standards.
  • For just as the Americas were once seen as a "New World" of "discovery" for Europeans from the "Old World", we can offer a new vision: a Hemisphere of democracy and development for all our peoples, old and new.

Released on June 5, 2006

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