Address by Minister of State Ablonczy to 42nd General Assembly of Organization of American States

June 5, 2012 - Cochabamba, Bolivia

Check Against Delivery

It’s a pleasure for me to join you in discussing some of the opportunities and challenges facing our region.

I am pleased that Bolivia has chosen “food security” as a theme for this year’s General Assembly.

Increasing people’s access to food is a critical global issue.

Experts are forecasting that the world will have to double its food production by 2050 to meet the demands of global population growth.

In addition, the forecasted effects of climate change and a projected lack of new arable land will combine to present an enormous and complex challenge.

It’s a challenge Canada believes can best be met by going forward together, following three principles:

First: encourage sustainable agricultural production activities based on increasing innovation, using biotechnology to enhance productivity and adaptability, and reducing the need for non-renewable inputs such as water.

Second: encourage agri-food trade that is open, predictable and regulated by standards based on science. This will help farmers reach more markets and earn better incomes, and will help reduce excessive price volatility.

Third: improve access to food and nutrition for vulnerable populations in the Americas, in particular children under the age of five. This complements the major international initiative to improve maternal, newborn and child health, which was championed by Canada in 2011.

These three principles will continue to guide Canada’s engagement around the world on this issue. Over the last three years alone, Canada has invested more than $1 billion in food security in developing countries.

We are also working with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and other multilateral forums.

Our aim is to work with our partners to develop agricultural research projects, apply science-based standards and help smallholder farmers improve their production.

We are also working with our partners to increase market opportunities and foster greater, open intra-regional trade in agricultural products.

Canada is also among the top donors to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and the World Bank-hosted Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme.

We are doing our part to support food security, including in the Americas, with major projects working with our partners in Haiti and Honduras, among others.

We look forward to working with you to identify ways in which the Organization of American States [OAS] may help support and invigorate existing efforts regarding access to food.

Canada’s commitment to increasing food security in the Americas is just one part of our continued engagement in this, our home region.

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the Americas a foreign policy priority for Canada, a commitment he reaffirmed earlier this year.

Our vision for the region remains to work with our partners in the Americas to build a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere.

We pursue that vision in part through our participation in the OAS.

That is why it is so vital for us, as members, to protect and strengthen the organization as a key platform for discussion and collaboration in addressing the region’s problems.

Canada is concerned, however, that all too often we seem to use this multilateral organization and its meetings to dwell on bilateral issues, and on those very few matters that divide us.

Instead, we would like to be rolling up our sleeves to focus on issues of collective concern.

So we very much want to see us make the most of the opportunities that this organization and these general assemblies present—and not let them slip away by focusing only on differences.

I’d like to touch on Canada’s key priorities at the OAS.

Security, stability and the rule of law are, of course, essential if prosperity, democracy and human rights in the region are to flourish.

These all remain key areas of engagement for Canada at the OAS and throughout the Americas.

Canada is keen to strengthen cooperation and increase effectiveness in fighting transnational organized crime and other security threats. This includes measures to reinforce justice and security institutions and to protect the rights of vulnerable groups.

To this end, I am very pleased to announce that the Government of Canada will contribute an additional $600,000 in funding to support the important efforts of the OAS to enhance security in the hemisphere.

Through the Specialized OAS Capacity Building Project on Border Controls, the OAS is delivering training on border controls in a number of member states for officials responsible for detecting, preventing and combatting criminal activity in airports, seaports and land border points of entry.

I am also very pleased to announce that, through the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program and in partnership with the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation, the Government of Canada will contribute $1.5 million toward specialized training for authorities from SICA, the Central American Integration System.

Participants will be trained in methods of collecting, analyzing and disseminating crime data.

They will also develop expertise in investigating security incidents, crime and violence.

These financial contributions to the OAS are another indication that Canada strongly believes in the organization and in its efforts to enhance security in member states.

At the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena [Colombia], Canada was pleased that leaders asked the OAS to conduct an examination of the violent crime that has generated insecurity throughout the region.

Over the coming year, member states will identify options to address transnational organized crime.

A good starting point would be implementing the Hemispheric Drug Strategy and its Plan of Action. But this is not enough to eliminate the organized criminal groups involved in many areas of criminal activity.

As you know, Canadian Lieutenant-General Guy Thibault was elected by the members of the Inter-American Defense Board to a second year as chairman.

Canada fully supports his efforts to modernize the Board and increase its contribution to multi-dimensional security in the region. I call on all member states to do the same.

Last fall, I attended the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in Valparaiso [Chile].

While I was there, I had the chance to exchange views with some of you on how to breathe life into the principles of democratic governance and human rights enshrined in this landmark document.

Canada is working to strengthen democracy in the region by, among other things, contributing to OAS electoral observation and to the organization’s work to strengthen electoral management bodies in the region.

We would also like to build on the discussions held in Valparaiso to strengthen implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We continue to hope that such discussion will lay the groundwork for a regional compendium of best practices.

But if strengthening democratic governance in the region is a key to achieving our vision for the hemisphere, another is bolstering the inter-American human rights architecture.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are flagship institutions. Their work in defence of human rights in the region must be protected and promoted.

To safeguard that work, and to maintain their integrity and their credibility, these institutions must be independent and financially sustainable.

For that, they can count on Canada’s continued support.

Finally, Canada sees institutional reform of the OAS as essential to the organization’s long-term health.

We strongly support the various processes under way in this regard, including the vision paper recently circulated by the OAS Secretary-General.

We hope the paper will serve to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the OAS in the months ahead.

Canada has been contributing through its development agency to several initiatives to improve the organization’s business processes.

Canada has also led a multi-year program review and priority-setting exercise since the review’s inception in 2009.

We hope this will help transform the OAS into a body that is as results-oriented, accountable, transparent and effective as possible.

There is no doubt we have some difficult decisions ahead if we are going to put the OAS on a long-term, sustainable financial footing.

But I believe we will get there with some good faith, hard work and a positive, constructive approach.

Measures to strengthen security and justice institutions, to enhance respect for democracy and human rights, to increase the effectiveness of this organization—these are Canadian priorities.

We look forward to working with the Secretary General, the Secretariat and our fellow members to achieve these ends.

Thank you.