Mr. President, first of all let me thank you for those gracious words.
Mr. Secretary General and distinguished Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen:
I speak to you today for the fifth time in an important forum in this hall and, despite considerable efforts to the contrary, I'm afraid, also for the last time as President of the United States. I want to say how grateful I am for the privilege of working with all of you and the leaders of your nations, and I want to take a few minutes to assess what we have done together and to describe my own hopes for the future.
On my first visit to the Organization of American States in April of 1977, I said that no single policy, no single slogan could encompass a region as diverse as ours. I spoke instead of certain principles—a belief in nonintervention and in the sovereignty of nations, a determination to work for human rights and for democracy, a common commitment to deal with global economic issues and to resolve regional political disputes. These principles have helped the United States make its contribution to the new and more balanced relationships that are emerging in our hemisphere.
After 4 years of practical experience, I'm more convinced than ever that the future we desire lies in recognizing yearnings that are common to individuals and to nations alike. As individuals the peoples of the Americas yearn for basic human rights; they desire personal liberty, to be free from torture and arbitrary arrest, to participate in making the basic decisions that shape their own future, to have adequate food, health care, and education. And as part of the global community, every nation of the Americas has a desire and a right to help shape the future, not only of our own hemisphere but indeed the entire world.
Some would ignore or resist these treasured rights, the rights of individuals and the rights of nations, but the future lies with those who cherish them and who are willing to defend them.
Let me speak briefly of the last 4 years.
Many here assisted in the negotiation and the ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. These treaties and their farreaching impact will endure. They will endure because they are based on the mutual trust and the mutual respect that have been carefully and sometimes painfully forged by the people of a small nation and the people of a large nation. They will endure because they serve the interests of all who rely on the Panama Canal. They will endure because they epitomize the broadest possible commitment of my country to a new and a better relationship with the developing nations of the world. They will endure because the treaties serve the cause of peace.
Last month El Salvador and Honduras served the cause of harmony and progress, resolving their decades-old border dispute. These two countries, working with former President Bustamante of Peru and with their own Secretary-General, have earned the admiration and respect of all those who love peace.
The treaty of Tlatelolco, when completed, will forever ban nuclear weapons from Latin America. I'm proud to have signed protocol I of this treaty on behalf of the United States of America. It's imperative that the remaining nations of our hemisphere put aside their hesitation and join in this vital commitment to ban the spread of nuclear weapons and to set an example for other nations in other regions of the world.
In Nicaragua many of us have been working together to help that country heal its wounds. It's in the interest of all who care about freedom to help the Nicaraguan people chart a pluralistic course that ends bloodshed, respects human rights, and furthers democracy.
El Salvador continues to struggle against terrorists on the right who seek to restore an old tyranny and terrorists on the left who seek to create a new one. That struggle of theirs is ours as well. Their path, the peaceful path of stability and moderation, is precarious, but it's the only path that can lead to both liberty and justice.
We must insist upon a strict policy of nonintervention as the people of these two nations design their own future.
For too long, the United States seemed wedded to the status quo, even when that meant a continuation of poverty, social injustice, and even political repression. That attitude betrayed my Nation's dynamism and our faith and confidence in the future. And that, thank God, has now been changed. We understand and support the necessity of peaceful and moderate political progress in Central America and elsewhere in this hemisphere.
Your governments throughout the hemisphere have also worked to improve the prospects for economic development. We've strengthened the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. We've reduced trade barriers by expanding generalized tariff preferences and eliminating the discriminatory provision against Venezuela and Ecuador. We've worked to stabilize commodity prices by a common fund and individual commodity agreements on sugar and coffee and cocoa. Regional cooperation has been invigorated, in the Andean Pact, with the Caribbean group, and most dramatically with Venezuelan-Mexican assistance for the Caribbean basin.
Through my own personal participation and through the influence of my country, we have worked to strengthen and to expand the beneficial influence of this Organization of American States.
As all of you know, the cause that has been closest to my own heart is the cause of human rights. I'm convinced that a new conscience has been awakened. That conscience serves a concept of human rights that is not unique to any country nor even just to this hemisphere, but is universal. In this hemisphere, since 1977 13 countries have ratified the embodiment of that concept, the American Convention of Human Rights. This has brought the convention into force and has created an inter-American court to judge human rights violations. In addition, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is more effective today than it was 4 years ago. It deserves our strongest continuing moral and financial support.
Today no government in this hemisphere can expect silent assent from its neighbors if it tramples the rights of its own citizens. The costs of repression have increased, but so have the benefits of respecting human rights. I pray that this progress will continue, although I know from experience that progress is not always easy as we defend human rights.
Some claim, as the President has mentioned, that Jimmy Carter elevated human rights and democracy on the inter-American agenda and that the agenda will change when I leave my office. They are wrong. Hemispheric support for human rights is a historic movement, a movement that has been recognized this year in the Nobel Peace Prize. I take pride in being part of that movement.
The cause of human rights will be all the stronger if it remains at the service of humanity, rather than at the service of ideological or partisan ends, and if it condemns both terrorism and repression. In the phrase "human rights," the "rights" are important; the "human" is very important.
As a citizen of the Americas, I'm deeply encouraged by the trend toward greater democratization. I'm heartened that in many countries thousands of people who were political prisoners just 4 years ago are now free. Those who see a contradiction between our security and our humanitarian interests forget that the basis for a secure and a stable society is the bond of trust between a government and its own people.
The future of our hemisphere is not to be found in authoritarianism that wears the mask of common consent, nor totalitarianism that wears the mask of justice. Instead, let us find our future in the human face of democracy, the human voice of individual liberty, and the human hand of economic development. If we build on the best of what we have begun, we can see a better time at the end of this decade.
We can see a time when longstanding disputes like Belize, Bolivian access to the sea, and the Beagle Channel dispute between Argentina and Chile have been settled in a spirit of cooperation and justice. We can see a time when the treaty of Tlatelolco has come into force and other regions have followed the lead of Latin America in banning nuclear weapons.
We can see a time when human rights are no longer threatened by the violence of either governments or terrorists and when every government responds to the will of its people expressed through democratic institutions. We can see a time when nations have cooperated, in the OAS and elsewhere, to develop just and fair ways of dealing with the migration of people, a time when no nation disregards the immigration laws of its neighbor and many nations offer a haven to the few who still need such a place to dwell.
And we can see a time when today's aspirations for greater economic development and cooperation have become living realities through common action inspired by this body and its experts.
Let me conclude on a personal note. My interest in Latin America and the Caribbean and in human rights and in democracy did not begin 4 years ago, and my interest will not end on January the 20th, next year. I will continue to speak out for the universal ideals which are embodied in our hearts and in the American Convention on Human Rights. I will continue to work with you, my friends, to make this hemisphere and the world more just, more secure, and more free.
Thank you very much.