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L. Samaniego: International Cooperation for Development

Address to the Americas Summit

Washington, DC, and College Station, Texas, April 29 - May 1, 2008

In comparison with other parts of the world, Latin America seems to be one of the most peaceful regions on the planet. This perception contrasts, however, with the fact that it is one of the areas with the greatest gap in the distribution of wealth, poverty, and exclusion. The expectations generated by the democratic process that took place in the 1980s have not brought about substantial change in these situations of social exclusion and in consolidating the institutions that would allow citizens to deepen the full exercise of their rights.

Along with this, a combination of economic, social and political factors contribute to increasing the sociopolitical tensions in a context in which the institutions and political systems in themselves seem unable, in many cases, to find the best way to generate democratic governance and stability.

In this way, in Latin America the concerns about an eventual warlike confrontation among nations has been displaced by a growing attention to the increase of internal conflicts. Such a situation surrounds the danger that internal crises will result in conflicts on a regional scale. Without a doubt, a regional escalation of conflict would be a considerable backward step in the possibilities for driving economic growth and development on the American continent.

As a consequence, the region will only be able to resume the path toward peace if it is able to give its societies an economic growth accompanied by genuine human development. It is not possible to continue economic growth unless it is accompanied by a concrete improvement in the quality of life of Latin Americans. We cannot have a rich region whose citizens are poor. Inequality generates violence, and violence is the worst cancer that can afflict our societies.

In this regard, the best way to achieve sustainable development in our countries is through international cooperation. This collaboration should include the countries of Latin America themselves along with our North American neighbors and our European friends, with whom we are united by profound historical and cultural ties. Only through the joint efforts of South Americans, Central Americans, North Americans, and Europeans will the region achieve a sustainable economic growth over time.

In every case, the objective of the cooperation should be to promote human, economic, social, and political development while caring for the environment of the countries. To achieve this, our countries should establish bonds to:

  • Provide decent living conditions for all the citizens of the region by meeting the basic needs of the population.
  • Generate economic growth accompanied by genuine human development.
  • Attract foreign investment as a mechanism for long-term growth.
  • Defend and promote respect for human rights.
  • Favor equal integration of women, by defending their rights to participate in all aspects of life in the nation.
  • Defend democracy and citizen participation in politics.
  • Guarantee transparency in the institutions of government.
  • Promote education as a transcendent tool for sustainable development.
  • Stimulate scientific and technological cooperation as a strategic instrument for achieving an international position.
  • Set up dialogue as the mechanism for peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Thus, it is necessary to promote communication among governments, parliaments, and governmental and intergovernmental organizations on the national and international levels. For each of these, cooperative networks need to be built to achieve a pluralist, multi-ethnic and multicultural focus that includes women and youth in creating human development programs. The mission of these networks should be to promote both sustainable economic growth initiatives as well as programs that recognize peace as an inviolable public good.

The 21st century finds Latin America at a crossroads. The countries of the region can opt for isolationism and the quest for autocracy, seeking to protect themselves from the external world which is constantly changing. Nevertheless, such a posture will only bring increasing poverty and exclusion to nations that are already suffering from the blows of hunger and misery.

On the other hand, Latin Americans can recognize that cooperation among nations is the best way to confront uncertainties. This does not mean, as some may argue, giving up sovereignty and the disequilibriums that characterize the current phase of globalization. Union does not weaken our people but rather makes them stronger.

Nevertheless, our countries should take into account that international cooperation cannot be a product of improvisation. In order to build solid ties with other nations, our governments should acknowledge collaboration as state policy. Uncoordinated accords bring poor results. Since governments and intergovernmental organizations generally have situational, short-term vision, Latin American countries should design strategies that employ a structural approach to problems and a long-term vision.

Sustainable human development envelops the seed of peace and prosperity in Latin America. Upon its correct instrumentation depends the viable growth of our people.