Jimmy Carter photo

Organization of American States Address Before the Permanent Council.

April 14, 1977

Mr. Chairman, members of the Permanent Council, Mr. Secretary General, Permanent Observers of the OAS, Chiefs of the Specialized Organizations and Agencies, members of the press, distinguished guests:

Hace tres anos, tuve el honor y placer de hablar ante la Asemblea General de la OEA celebrada en mi estado de Georgia. Igual queen en Atlanta, hoy seguire el consejo de mis companeros, que opinan-para el beneficio de buenas relaciones-seria mejor que no hablara en espanol hoy. [Three years ago I had the honor and pleasure of speaking before the General Assembly of the OAS held in my State of Georgia. As I did then in Atlanta, I will today follow the advice of my friends, who have the opinion that, in the interest of good relations, it would be better for me not to speak in Spanish today.]

Since I can also speak English, I will shift to that language. [Laughter]

That day in Atlanta, 3 years ago, I shared with you some of the thoughts that my wife and I had brought back from our visits to several of the American States. I spoke particularly for the need for constant cooperation, consultation, and harmony among the nations of this hemisphere. I believe that just .as strongly today as President of the United States as I did 3 years ago as Governor of Georgia.

I am delighted to be with you in this beautiful House of the Americas. For nearly three decades the OAS has stood for mutual respect among sovereign nations, for peace, and the rule of law in this hemisphere. The OAS Charter pledges us to individual liberty and social justice. I come here now to restate our own commitment to these goals.

The challenge before us today, however, is not just to reaffirm those principles but to find ways to make them a reality. To do this, we must take account of the changes in our relationships that have taken place over the last 10 years, and we must candidly acknowledge the differences that exist among us. We must adapt our current policies and institutions to those changes so that we can pursue our goals more effectively.

As nations of the New World, we once believed that we could prosper in isolation from the Old World. But since the Second World War, in particular, all of us have taken such vital roles in the world community that isolation would now be harmful to our own best interests and to other countries. Our joining in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs are all signs that we understand this. So is the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which Raul Prebisch of Argentina made into an important forum of the developing world. Venezuela is now cochairing the Paris Conference on International Economic Cooperation. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America is a source of many creative ideas on development throughout the world. The leaders of many Latin American nations have been the driving force behind improving North-South negotiations.

In all these ways, the nations of Latin America were among the first in our changing world to see the importance of adapting global institutions to the new realities of our day.

The problems and the promises of our region have become as diverse as the world itself. The economies of most Latin American nations have 'been developing rapidly, although, of course, at different rates. Some have an impressive rate of growth. Some--a few are among the poorest in the developing world. Some have abundant energy resources; others are desperately short of energy. Some of our countries export primary products only. Some have become major exporters of advanced manufactured goods while others export little at all. Your problems of market access, technology transfer, and debt management sometimes defy regional solutions.

In addition to economic diversity, we have all developed widely varied forms and philosophies of government. This diversity has brought national pride and national strength. And as you've played more independent and important roles in world politics, we have all begun to construct more normal and more balanced and more equal relationships.

In the light of these changes, a single United States policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean makes little sense. What we need is a wider and a more flexible approach, worked out in close consultation with you. Together, we will develop policies more suited to each nation's variety and potential. In this process, I will be particularly concerned that we not seek to divide the nations of Latin America one from another or to set Latin America apart from the rest of the world. Our own goal is to address problems in a way which will lead to productive solutions--globally, regionally, and bilaterally.

Our new approach will be based on three basic elements:

First of all is a high regard for the individuality and the sovereignty of each Latin American and Caribbean nation. We will not act abroad in ways that we would not tolerate at home in our own country.

Second is our respect for human rights, a respect which is also so much a part of your own tradition. Our values and yours require us to combat abuses of individual freedom, including those caused by political, social, and economic injustice. Our own concern for these values will naturally influence our relations with the countries of this hemisphere and throughout the world. You will find this country, the United States of America, eager to stand 'beside those nations which respect human rights and which promote democratic ideals.

Third is our desire to press forward on the great issues which affect the relations between the developed and the developing nations. Your economic problems are also global in character and cannot be dealt with solely on regional terms.

However, some of our own global policies are of particular interest to other American States. When major decisions are made in these areas, we will consult with you.

The United States will take a positive and an open attitude toward the negotiation of agreements to stabilize commodity prices, including the establishment of a common funding arrangement for financing buffer stocks where they are a part of individual and negotiated agreements.

We will actively pursue the multilateral trade negotiations with your governments in Geneva, Switzerland. We are committed to minimize trade restrictions and to take into account the specific trade problems of developing countries and to provide special and more favorable treatment where feasible and appropriate. We believe that this is in our mutual interest and that it will create important new opportunities for Latin American trade.

Our own science and technology can be useful to many of your countries. For instance, we are ready to train your technicians to use more information gathered by our own satellites, so that you can make better judgments on management of your resources and your environment. Space communications technology can also be a creative tool in helping your national television systems to promote your educational and cultural objectives.

I have asked Congress to meet in full our pledges to the Inter-American Development Bank and the other multilateral lending institutions which loan a high proportion of their capital to the relatively advanced developing countries of Latin America.

And finally, we are directing more and more of our bilateral economic assistance to the poorer countries. We are also prepared to explore with other nations new ways of being helpful on a wide range of institutional, human development, and technological approaches which might enable them to deal more effectively with the problems of the needy. All of us have a special responsibility to help the poorest countries in the world as well as the poorest people in each of our countries.

I would like to add a word about private investment. Your governments are understandably interested in setting rules that will encourage private investors to play an important role in your development. We support your efforts and recognize that a new flexibility and adaptability are required today for foreign investment to be most useful in combining technology, capital management, and market experience to meet your development needs. We will do our part in this field to avoid differences and misunderstandings between your government and ours.

One of the most significant political trends of our time is the relationship between the developing nations of the world and the industrialized countries. We benefit from your advice and counsel, and we count on you to contribute your constructive leadership and help guide us in this North-South dialog.

We also hope to work with all nations to halt the spread of nuclear explosive capabilities. The States of Latin America took the initiative 10 years ago when you set up the first nuclear-free zone in any populated area of the world. The Treaty of Tlatelolco is a model worthy of our own admiration. For our part, the United States will sign, and I will ask the Senate to ratify, Protocol I of the treaty, prohibiting the placement of nuclear weapons in Latin America.

However, banning the spread of nuclear explosives does not require giving up the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology. We mean to work closely with all of you on new technologies to use the atom for peaceful purposes.

To slow the costly buildup of conventional arms, we are seeking global policies of restraint. We are showing restraint in our own policies around the world, and we will be talking to supplier nations and to prospective buyers about ways to work out a common approach. We also believe that regional agreements among producers and purchasers of arms can further such a global effort.

I spent most of this morning working on a new United States policy to reduce the sale of conventional arms around the world. Again, you in Latin America have taken the lead. The pledge of eight South American nations to limit the acquisition of offensive arms in their region is a striking example. If the eight nations can implement their pledge, their own people will not be the only ones to benefit. They will have set a standard for others throughout the world to follow.

These are challenges that face us in the future. There are also problems that plague us from the past. And we must work together to solve them.

One that addresses itself to us is the Panama Canal. In the first days of my own administration, just a few weeks ago, I directed a new approach to our negotiations with Panama on a new Canal treaty. In the light of the changes which I discussed before, the Treaty of 1903, which combines [defines] our relationship with Panama on the canal, is no longer appropriate or effective.

I am firmly committed to negotiating in as timely a fashion as possible a new treaty which will take into account Panama's legitimate needs as a sovereign nation and our own interests and yours in the efficient operation of a neutral canal, open on a nondiscriminatory basis to all users.

Another problem which we must in a way address together is that of Cuba. We believe that normal conduct of international affairs and particularly the negotiation of differences require communication with all countries in the world. To these ends, we are seeking to determine whether relations with Cuba can be improved on a measured and a reciprocal basis.

I am dedicated to freedom of movement between nations. I have removed restrictions on United States citizens who want to travel abroad. Today there are no restrictions imposed by our country. Today I have also removed similar travel restrictions on resident aliens in the United States.

We seek to encourage international travel, and we must take greater account of problems that transcend national borders. Drugs and international crime, including terrorism, challenge traditional concepts of diplomacy. For the well-being of our peoples, we must cooperate on these issues. With each passing year they will occupy a more and more central place in our deliberations.

I have a long-standing interest in the OAS, and I very much want to see it play an increasingly constructive role.

The General Assembly of the OAS has been an important forum for the direct exchange of views among our governments. Such ministerial consultations are extremely useful. They allow us to apply our own collective strength to political and economic problems.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has performed valuable services. It deserves increased support from all our governments. We believe deeply in the preservation and the enhancement of human rights, and the United States will work toward coordinated and multilateral action in this field. The United States will sign, and I will seek Senate approval of, the American Convention on Human Rights negotiated several years ago in Costa Rica. And we will support, in cooperation with international agencies, broadened programs for aiding political refugees. I urge this organization and all its member states to take a more active role in the care, protection, and the resettlement of political refugees.

The peacekeeping function is firmly embedded in the OAS Charter. I want to encourage the Secretary General of the OAS to continue his active and effective involvement in the search for peaceable solutions to several long-standing disputes in this hemisphere. The United States will support his efforts and initiatives.

The OAS, of course, is not the only instrument of cooperation among the nations of the Americas. The Inter-American Development Bank is among the most important multilateral mechanisms for promoting development of the world today. By bringing in nations outside the Western Hemisphere, the IDB bears testimony to Latin America's growing involvement with the rest of the world.

Within this hemisphere, many of you are working toward regional and subregional integration efforts--including those in the Caribbean, in the Central American Common Market, and the Andean Pact--and we favor such efforts. They are the first steps toward Bolivar's vision of a hemisphere united.

Let me conclude by bringing up a matter that is particularly close to me because of my long interest in inter-American affairs. My wife and I have traveled and made many friends in Mexico and Brazil, the two largest and most rapidly changing countries in Latin America. And we have traveled elsewhere and made many friends in Central and South America. My wife is presently studying Spanish, along with the wife of the Secretary of State, and I have tried to keep up with my own Spanish that I learned at school. I have seen clearly how greatly our country has been blessed and enriched by the people and cultures of the Caribbean and Latin America. And we are bound together-and I see it very clearly--in culture, history, and by common purposes and ideals.

The United States actually has the fourth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. I tried to meet many of them during my campaign the last 2 years. And they gave me their support and their encouragement and their advice. The novels we read, the music we hear, the sports that we play--all reflect a growing consciousness of each other.

These intellectual, social, cultural, and educational exchanges will continue, either with or without government help. But there are steps that governments can take to speed up and enhance this process. In the months ahead, therefore, we plan to explore with your governments--individually and here in the OAS--new people-to-people programs, an increase in professional and scientific exchanges, and other ways of strengthening the ties that already link us.

The challenge we face is to awake our institutions to a changing world. We must focus our attention on the problems which face our countries and tailor each solution to its problem.

As you know, I am a new President. I've got a lot to learn. My heart and my interest to a major degree is in Latin America. I welcome every opportunity to strengthen the ties of friendship and a sense of common purpose and close consultation with the nations and the peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America.

Many of you are leaders representing your own governments. I ask for your advice and your counsel and your support as we face problems together in the future. This means a lot to our country, and it means a lot to us also to have intimate bilateral and direct relationships with you.

We look on the OAS, headquartered thankfully here in Washington, as a channel through which we might learn more and receive advice and make plans for the future.

Simon Bolivar believed that we would reach our goals only with our peoples free and our governments working in harmony. I hope that the steps that I have outlined today and the commitments that I have made will move us toward those goals of peace and freedom.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:26 p.m. at the Pan American Union.

Jimmy Carter, Organization of American States Address Before the Permanent Council. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243298

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