November 18, 2013
The Organization of American States (OAS) today received the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, who spoke in favor of cooperation among the countries of the Western Hemisphere based on a relationship between equals, with the aim of strengthening democracy, investing in education, and combating climate change.
The event, co-organized by the OAS and the Inter-American Dialogue, was opened by the Secretary General of the hemispheric Organization, José Miguel Insulza, who recalled the positive changes that have taken place in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last decade, both in economic and political terms, and urged the government of President Barack Obama and the other OAS member states to continue working to advance key issues on the hemispheric agenda. “This is certainly the best place to discuss the common challenges our region faces today and in the near future,” he said.
In his address, entitled “The United States and Latin America: The Power of Partnership,” the Secretary of State expressly rejected the policies pursued by his country in the past in Latin America and the Caribbean through the “Monroe Doctrine,” and opened the door to a relationship of equals between Washington and the other countries of the Hemisphere. “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.”
Secretary Kerry called on the countries of the Americas to work toward the same goals because, “as the old proverb says, La union hace la fuerza. The union – in unity, there is strength.” In this regard, he raised three questions crucial to the future of the region. The first question, he said, is whether the countries of the Hemisphere are able to work together “in the promotion and protection of democracy, security and peace that all the peoples of the Americas deserve.” The second question raised by the chief U.S. diplomat referred to whether “we will be able to advance prosperity in the Western Hemisphere and educate our youth to lead the economies of the future.” And the third question was whether together we will be able “to address the threat posed by climate change?”
Achieving positive responses to these questions, he continued, will mark the future of the Hemisphere. “The real challenge of the 21st century in the Americas will be how we use our democratic governments to deliver development, overcome poverty, and improve social inclusion,” said Secretary Kerry, who recalled that 50 years ago, then-President John F. Kennedy called for a similar vision in the region, in which each country is secure and acts independently and freely.
Regarding the protection of democracy, Secretary Kerry said, “we can be immensely proud, I think, of this hemisphere’s democratic trajectory and of the institutions that we built in order to hold ourselves to the future and to be accountable.” “Successful democracies depend on all citizens having a voice and on respecting those voices, and all governments having the courage and the capacity to listen to those voices,” the U.S. diplomat stressed, who noted the importance of members holding themselves to the mandates of OAS Charter.
In terms of education, Secretary Kerry argued that investment in the area must be a priority in order to advance the economic development of the Hemisphere. “To start with, educational opportunity, above all, must be a priority. It is only with widely available, high-quality education that our workforce, the workforce of the hemisphere, will be equipped for the jobs of the future. Education, as we all know, opens up other doors as well,” he said.
Efforts to improve education, however, must be accompanied by other measures to provide the desired benefits. “Education, as we know, is only the first step. We must also press even harder to help create jobs and economic opportunity for our young people,” he said.
On climate change, Kerry indicated that the region must join together to address climate change warming, which, he said, is the “the challenge of life itself on the planet.” “The Americas have become the new center of our global energy map. Our hemisphere supplies now one-fourth of the world’s crude oil and nearly one-fourth of its coal. We support over a third of global electricity. And what that means is that we have the ability and the great responsibility to influence the way that the entire world is powered.” During his presentation he highlighted the work of other nations in the Western Hemisphere that are working hard to do their part in climate change mitigation efforts. He highlighted the efforts that the Obama administration has made under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) mentioning that “I’m proud to say that as part of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, the United States has collaborated with more than two dozen countries, Latin America, and the Caribbean in order to support effective programs to address the reality of this grave threat.”
“We know what the alternatives are. We know the advantage of the enormous breakthroughs that are happening in clean energy. And if we share expertise and deploy new technologies throughout the region, if we connect the electrical grids throughout the Americas, then we can share and sell power to each other at different points of time in different ways with a more vibrant marketplace. If we harness the power of the wind in Mexico and the biomass in Brazil, the sunshine in Chile and Peru, the natural gas in the United States and Argentina, then the enormous benefits for local economies, public health, and of course climate change mitigation could reach every corner of the Americas and beyond.” This is what a new inter-American partnership is really all about. The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, one of the most widely read authors in the world, wrote “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” So the question for all of us is: Will we have the courage to make the tough choices and the willingness to change?