The OAS: Chile's Vision
The Honorable José Miguel Insulza, Minister of the Interior of Chile and candidate for secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), presented his vision for the future of the OAS by highlighting a central paradox. On the one hand, the institution appears strong: all foreign ministers attend the OAS General Assembly once a year, there are strong regional institutions such as Caricom and Mercosur, and legal, political, and economic instruments form part of a complex and important system. On the other hand, among the public at large, there is a sense that the OAS is irrelevant and that it does not do very much. According to Insulza, making the OAS responsive to the real problems of the region by addressing the concerns of its citizens is the key to restoring confidence in the institution.
Insulza identified democracy, security, and development as the three pillars of the inter-American system. He noted that the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed on September 11, 2001, after a long process of consultation, reaffirmed the Organization's commitment to democracy in the Western Hemisphere and spelled out the instruments for dealing with crises affecting the continuity of democratic rule. Insulza suggested, however, that an overemphasis on crisis resolution should give way to crisis prevention by focusing on the challenges to democratic governance. These include the malfunctioning of institutions, evidenced in corruption and a lack of transparency, endemic poverty, criminality, and drug trafficking. He cited a Latinobarómetro poll demonstrating that support for democracy has fallen in recent years, as peoples' hopes for improvements in their lives as a result of democracy have been dashed. Assisting in the building strong institutions was central to promoting democratic governance in the region.
On security matters, Insulza maintained that international terrorism was only one of the many problems faced by the hemisphere. Increases in common crime, the growth of urban gangs and transnational organized crime, epidemics such as AIDS, and natural disasters contribute to the insecurity felt by Latin Americans. While he said international cooperation on terrorism has been strong, these aspects of a multidimensional security agenda deserve greater attention and commitment.
Insulza called for more effective instruments and programs to reduce poverty, noting dramatic improvements in Chile over the last fifteen years. On other economic matters, he attributed the lack of progress in negotiating the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) to its narrow vision; he said, for example, that the failure to consider the effects of economic opening on small countries—fully half of the OAS membership—meant that some countries view the dangers of an FTAA as greater than the benefits. No one opposes globalization, he argued, but it is still not the case that every country believes its interests are considered in the negotiations. Insulza concluded by calling for OAS reforms that would make the organization more responsive, efficient, and representative. For that to happen, he said, the OAS needed to concentrate on a smaller number of core priorities and work cooperatively with other regional institutions such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pan American Health Organization.