Promoting Democracy and Human Rights
Latin American nations have made notable advances over the last several years, with the restoration of democratic institutions in old democracies like Chile and Uruguay, the consolidation of democratic practices in countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala, and the move to a competitive democratic system in Mexico where the freest and most transparent presidential and general elections in the country’s history were held in July 2000. Of particular significance has been the growing hemispheric consensus on the importance of defending democracy when threatened. Through the OAS, the nations of the Hemisphere have stood firm in support of constitutionally-elected governments under stress, as in the cases of Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In Peru, the OAS is playing a critical role in facilitating democratic reforms that are expected to lead to free and fair elections in April 2001. We are committed to working with our partners in the region to further consolidate democratic governance and guard against democratic reversals.
But our ability to sustain the hemispheric agenda crafted through the Summit of the Americas process and the OAS depends in part on meeting the challenges posed by weak democratic institutions, persistently high unemployment and crime rates, and serious income disparities. In some Latin American countries, citizens will not fully realize the benefits of political liberalization and economic growth without regulatory, judicial, law enforcement, and educational reforms, as well as increased efforts to integrate all members of society into the formal economy.
The hemisphere’s leaders are committed to strengthening democracy, justice, and human rights. They have pledged to intensify efforts to promote democratic reforms at the regional and local level, protect the rights of migrant workers and their families, improve the capabilities and competence of civil and criminal justice systems, and encourage a strong and active civil society. Specific initiatives have included: ratification of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption to strengthen the integrity of governmental institutions; creation of a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression as part of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights; and establishment of an Inter-American Justice Studies Center to facilitate training personnel and exchanging information, and other forms of technical cooperation to improve judicial systems.
Education is at the centerpiece of reforms aimed at making democracy work for all the people of the Americas. The Summit Action Plan adopted at Santiago in 1998 seeks to ensure by the year 2010 primary education for 100% of children and access to quality secondary education for at least 75% of young people.
We are also seeking to strengthen norms for defense establishments that are supportive of democracy, transparency, respect for human rights, and civilian control in defense matters. Through continued engagement with regional security forces and civilian personnel, facilitated by establishment of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, our own modest military activities, and presence in the region, we are helping to increase civilian expertise in defense affairs and reinforce the positive trend in civilian control.
The United States supports the full implementation of enduring political, economic, security, and judicial reforms in Haiti. Recognizing the severe challenges that confront the Haitian people, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance directly to those in need through non-governmental organizations, while working with civil society and Haitian authorities to encourage development of sustainable democratic institutions. In cooperation with the OAS and international financial institutions, we will maintain pressure on the Haitian regime to adopt credible, free, and fair electoral processes and to privatize state-owned industries as an incentive to foreign investment. Concerned by the continued use of Haiti as a transshipment point for illegal drugs entering the United States, we support the further development of the counterdrug capabilities by the Haitian National Police as well as modernization and reform of judicial institutions.
The United States remains committed to promoting a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba and forestalling a mass exodus that would endanger the lives of migrants and the security of our borders. While maintaining pressure on the regime to make political and economic reforms, we continue to encourage the emergence of a civil society to assist the transition to democracy when the change comes. As the Cuban people feel greater incentives to take charge of their own future, they are more likely to stay at home and build the informal and formal structures that will make transition easier. Meanwhile, we remain firmly committed to bilateral migration accords that ensure migration in a safe, legal, and orderly manner.
The Middle East, North Africa, Southwest, and South Asia
The United States has enduring interests in pursuing a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace, ensuring the security and well-being of Israel, helping our Arab partners provide for their security, and maintaining worldwide access to a critical energy source. Our strategy reflects those interests and the unique characteristics of the region as we work to strengthen peace and stability.
The Middle East Peace Process
A historic transformation has taken place in the political landscape of the Middle East over the last five years. Peace agreements have been reached requiring concerted implementation efforts, and new agreements are possible which hold out the hope of ending the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The United States — a key sponsor of the peace process — has a clear national interest in seeing the process deepen and widen. We will continue our steady, determined leadership; standing with those who take risks for peace, standing against those who would destroy it, lending our good offices where we can make a difference, and helping bring the concrete benefits of peace to people’s daily lives.
Before the death of Syrian President Assad, Israel and Syria had narrowed their differences to a remarkable degree. Key differences remained, but the broad features of an agreement — and many of its details — were well established. The United States remains determined to continue to assist the two sides to find a way to overcome their final differences and hopeful that we will be able to do so. We also continue to believe that progress in Israeli-Syrian negotiations will allow progress on negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, and we will continue to press forward toward that goal.
On the Palestinian front, Israelis and Palestinians are confronting core issues that have defined their conflict for the past fifty years, seeking to build a lasting peace based on partnership and cooperation. Although the July 2000 summit at Camp David failed to achieve a permanent status agreement and violence has recently erupted in the West Bank and Gaza, the United States will continue its efforts to assist both sides in their search for a lasting and just peace. Our goal remains the normalization of relations between Israel and all Arab states. Through the multilateral working groups on security, refugees, water, and the environment, we are seeking to promote regional cooperation to address transboundary environmental issues that affect all parties.