Inaugural Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Henry L. Illes,
Chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States,
Washington DC,
July 12, 2006

Mr. Secretary General, H.E. Jose Miguel Insulza,
Mr. Assistant Secretary General, H.E. Ambassador Albert Ramdin,
Colleagues, Permanent Representatives,
Alternate Representatives,
Permanent Observers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. The principle I would like to adhere to in my inaugural address today is the so-called “KISS Principle”. KISS stands for KEEP It SHORT AND SIMPLE. I shall endeavor to adhere to this principle throughout my tenure. I would also like to encourage my colleagues to follow the same principle as we work together to carry out our service to the people of the Americas in an effective and efficient manner.

2. Delivering a speech in this House of the Americas is like delivering a speech for members of an extended family. The famous writer Leo Tolstoy once said that: “happy families are all alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The same might be said about the different member states present in this Organization.

3. While all member states struggle with a range of issues such as corruption, transnational organized crime, terrorism, gang violence, illegal drug trafficking and HIV AIDS, we are aware that member states differ significantly in their capacity to respond to these issues systematically and effectively.

4. The Organization of American States is an amazing institution which fulfills an important need in bringing together the richest and the poorest states in the Western Hemisphere to negotiate solutions and craft plans of action to confront major challenges and arrive at workable solutions.

6. Our Charter clearly stipulates in paragraph 29 that: “The Member States, inspired by the principles of the Inter-American solidarity and cooperation, pledge themselves to a united effort to ensure social justice in the Hemisphere and balanced economic development for their peoples, as conditions essential to peace and security”.

7. This means that development cooperation should always be a prime priority of this organization. This is a difficult mission -- but it is not an impossible mission.

8. It is for mainly this reason that I will carry on in the footsteps of my three magnificent CARICOM predecessors -- Ambassadors Williams, Johnny and John -- to promote, emphasize and, where possible, expand the development agenda of this Organization.

Dear Friends,

9. In my first address to this Organization, in this very room almost 5 years ago, I made some remarks that I feel compelled to repeat today.

10. I quoted the late Jamaican Reggae star Bob Marley who in one of his songs stated: “A Hungry Man is an Angry Man”. I stressed that the need to eliminate hunger must remain a principal focus.

11. I also expressed nearly 5 years ago that “we all have a duty not to allow those who will come after us to question or to doubt our courage to address and tackle the critical issue of extreme poverty”.

12. Moving beyond idealism, it is clear that individuals and societies cannot fully enjoy democracy while facing very real threats to mere survival.

13. As of today, I will be at the steering wheel of this Organization for the next three months. I am confident that by strictly devoting ourselves to our responsibilities, we will continue to streamline the work of this body to function efficiently and effectively in addressing the needs of all the member states, and especially the developing needs of the least fortunate among us.

15. I look forward with optimism to working with you on the various issues which will be brought to the attention of this Council during my stint.

Thank you very much.

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