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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 66
Año: 1999
Autor: Christopher R. Thomas
Título: The Organization of American States in its 50th Year: Overview of a Regional Commitment

II. The New Vision

Fifty years of interaction have resulted in both growth and maturity of the membership. The regional awareness and consciousness, which have been synergised through the conjoint actions of the membership, have strengthened the regional focus and generated a propulsion for concerted hemispheric action through the formulation of a new vision for the Organization.  This new vision finds expression in the Declaration of Montrouis, which was endorsed by member states in Haiti, in 1995, at the twenty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization.

The Declaration of Montrouis set the tone and framework for conceptual and practical directions of the Organization for engagement with the twenty-first century. Consequent on earlier decisions of the Organization, the Declaration of Montrouis furthered the centralization of the development question and established regional parameters of action through which aspects of that general objective might be pursued. These include: sustainable development, promotion of communication and information, the fight against public and private corruption, the intensification of cooperation among member states in confronting the drug problem, condemnation of all forms of terrorism, the development of hemispheric cooperation in respect of environmental conservation, the main streaming of women in the development of the region, the involvement of youth in socio-economic advancement, the equitable design of a free trade agreement, promotion of collaboration and complementarity with the other organs, agencies, and entities of the inter-American system, ensuring the utmost objectivity, effectiveness, and efficiency in the fellowships and training program, the institution of adequate confidence-building measures, among and within states to address the security concerns of the states of the region, particularly the smaller states of the region, the protection of the rights of indigenous people, the furtherance of the pursuit of human rights, the effective promotion of technical cooperation and the vehement repudiation of illicit arms trafficking.

In relation to the overall question of integral development, member states through the Declaration of Montrouis undertook to pursue their commitment:
To full implementation of the resolutions adopted at the twentieth special session of the General Assembly to make partnership for development a reality and, especially, to help to overcome poverty, which affects a large percentage of the Hemisphere’s population, in view of the need to initiate a far-reaching dialogue on bilateral and multilateral financial cooperation, investment and debt, expansion and liberalization of trade within the region, and cooperation in the technical, scientific, and technological areas. 1
Succeeding assembly declarations and conferences of the Organization have focused and expanded on the priorities recorded in the Declaration of Montrouis. Implementation of these priorities has already begun. Perhaps the most recent development in this regard is the Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Fire Arms, Ammunition, explosives, and Other Related Materials to which the Organization subscribed in 1997. The Convention, which was elaborated and negotiated under the leadership of Mexico, constitutes an important social and political contribution in respect of the overall security concerns of the Hemisphere on which the peace, development and economic advancement will ultimately turn.

   The initial elaboration of a new vision for the Organization was first introduced by Secretary General Gaviria in the latter part of 1994.  It preceded in some respects, a most significant political development within the region—the celebration of the Summit of Heads of State and Governments in Miami in December 1994.  The New Vision and the Summit of Miami are significant developments in the evolution of a hemispheric development agenda.  As mentioned earlier the first meeting of Heads of State was convened in Panama City, Panama, in 1956.  That meeting is credited with the consolidation of the institutionalization of technical cooperation and its associated fellowship program that had been earlier introduced into the Organization’s activities in the early 1950s.  The spirit of Panama has also been generally credited for the subsequent establishment of the Inter-American Development Bank in 1960.  The second meeting of Heads of State was convened in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 1967. On that occasion, the Heads of State issued a Declaration of Presidents of America. That Declaration espoused the objective of the economic integration of the region through the merging of the sub-regional groups of the time. Most CARICOM member states were not then members of the Organization.  The Summit of Miami also espoused the economic integration of the Hemisphere, primarily through the vehicle of a hemispheric free trade enterprise.

The themes of Panama and more so of Punta del Este, Miami, and Montrouis are neither incompatible nor disparate. Indeed, they are essentially mutually reinforcing. Panama introduced the questions of technical cooperation and fellowships as instruments of national and regional socio-economic development. Punta del Este established a broad regional objective for hemispheric development through the incremental economic integration of the region; Miami elaborated an action plan for essentially that broad objective; and Montrouis prescribed parameters of action through which the same objective might be pursued. From this perspective one might identify an early action-oriented endeavor from 1956 (Panama) unfolding in 1967 (Uruguay) and evolving through a history of regional socio-economic endeavors generated by membership interaction as described earlier into the 1990s.  That regional endeavor would seem to have coalesced through collective political decisions in changing circumstances in Managua, (1993) and Mexico, (1994) and to have finally blossomed in December 1994 through the Miami Action Plan of Heads of State and Government.  The telescoping of this question in 1994 constitutes a historical lesson - that organizations like living organisms undergo periods of growth and evolution and that those processes are conditioned and informed by progressive interaction.

The transitioning of the determination of the membership for regional integration has now firmly evolved into a commitment. The Plan of Action of Miami, (1994) and the Declaration of Montrouis, (1995) have generated a momentum to that regional commitment, which has been further sustained by the Declaration of Santiago, (1998). Moreover, a strengthening democratic culture provides the opportunity for the seizure and securement of that commitment. The presence of the English-speaking Caribbean as members of the Organization constitutes a timely juncture in this opportunity. There would therefore seem to be a convergence of circumstances for the Organization to take the membership through that quantum leap into the age of globalization. Conditions are also appropriate as the Organization finds itself in the closing years of the twentieth century with a comprehensive hemispheric agenda, which enjoys membership consensus and general regional agreements. As Secretary General Gaviria so aptly observed:
All the nations of the Hemisphere are working together to meet the great challenge that we face. Confrontation and mutual distrust have been replaced by dialogue and common interests.  2
The customizing of the Organization’s structure and its machinery and the configuration or reconfiguration of its focus must therefore be critical prerequisites for conclusive regional action. In this regard, integrated political direction, the creation of effective organic linkages, and structural outreach will be essential requirements in the creation of optimum conditions to secure the goal of regional integration. The relevance of these questions is clearly stated in Article 35 of the Declaration of Montrouis, which reads as follows:
The need to strengthen the Organization and adapt its internal operations so that it may discharge the responsibilities assigned to it. In this connection, they (member states) request the Permanent Council and the Secretary General, within their respective purviews and in a coordinated fashion, to effect such changes as may be necessary to ensure efficacy, and transparency in the internal operations of the General Secretariat, promoting greater collaboration and complementarity with the other organs, agencies, and entities of the inter-American system.  Moreover, they instruct the Secretary General to secure the technical support and resources required by the Councils, the Inter-American Juridical Committee, and their subsidiary bodies.3