OAS Secretary General Highlights Importance of More Inclusive Societies in Visit to Canada
The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, travelled today to Ottawa to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, John Baird, with whom he discussed the regional situation and the central theme of the upcoming OAS General Assembly in Paraguay, “Development with Social Inclusion.”
During the meeting this morning at the headquarters of the Canadian Foreign Ministry, Minister Baird emphasized the importance of the OAS as the main hemispheric political forum and made particular reference to the leadership of Insulza during his term at the head of the General Secretariat. The top Canadian diplomat committed to attend the meeting in Paraguay and expressed his interest in the current political context in the region.
Before his meeting with Foreign Minister Baird, Insulza delivered a keynote address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which he highlighted the importance of achieving more inclusive societies in the region. In his words, Secretary General Insulza emphasized that “the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have a historic opportunity to embrace economic transformation, achieve sustainable development, promote equality of opportunity, end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods.” But to do so, said the OAS leader, Latin America “has to grapple with the issue of how to achieve more inclusive societies. These times of challenge are also times of opportunity.”
The leader of the hemispheric institution also stressed the economic and social challenges that face the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean now that many analysts predict slower growth than during the last ten years. In terms of the economies, said the Secretary General, the main challenge “is to find ways to build economies that allow the region to maintain high growth rates on its own without relying on erratic commodity prices in global markets,” which points to the need to increase the competitiveness and stability of the economies of the region, and adopt policies to increase internal revenues.
On the social front, said Secretary General Insulza, there are also many pending reforms. “One of the major challenges still facing Latin America is how to bring down its high levels of income distribution inequality,” he said and pointed to the importance of education in achieving this goal. “Education is key to social progress in the 21st century, but the latest global survey of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that every Latin American country’s school system is in the bottom third. Schools and universities are not providing graduates with the skills employers demand. The disconnect between the supply and demand of skills is a drag on the region’s emerging markets,” he added.
These tendencies, said the Secretary General, are challenges to the democracies of Latin America and the Caribbean which, in many cases, are still being consolidated. “We have democratic governments but weak states and institutions, which are experiencing demands to better the living conditions of their citizens, but often lack the capacity to do so.” “The main risk for democracy today in our Hemisphere is that the people democratically choose their leaders and grant them legitimacy, strength and will, but who face problems of poverty, inequality, illnesses and injustice with weak institutions to support them,” concluded Secretary General Insulza, who warned that “the combination of weak institutions and strong leaders is never a stable combination.”
During the afternoon, Secretary General Insulza, who was accompanied by Ambassador Hugo de Zela, his Chief of Staff, met with the Member of Parliament Randy Hoback, Chair of ParlAmericas, and its Director General, Alisha Todd. The issues discussed in the meeting focused on how to deepen cooperation between the OAS and ParlAmericas, on the basis of the existing Memorandum of Understanding.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.