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Canada Marks 20 Years’ Membership in Organization of American States

Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper

Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper

Ottawa, January 8, 2010The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas), today marked the 20th anniversary of Canada’s membership in the Organization of American States (OAS). 

 “As we celebrate Canada’s 20 years of membership in the Organization of American States, our commitment to the organization and its principles and values remains steadfast and purposeful,” said Minister Cannon. “Our membership gives us the ongoing opportunity to advance our priorities for the Americas in a forum that seeks to address regional challenges by fostering dialogue among its member countries.”

Canada joined the OAS as a permanent observer in 1972 and became a full member in 1990. Canada strongly supports and actively participates in the work of the various OAS bodies.

Since becoming a full member 20 years ago, Canada has made important contributions to the OAS’s collective achievements. Highlights include the establishment of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which makes democracy an explicit condition of OAS membership, and the Declaration on Security in the Americas, which creates a multi-dimensional security framework for the region.

“The Organization of American States is the key hemispheric forum promoting democracy, human rights and good governance, public security, prosperity and sustainable development,” said Minister of State Kent. “These are the very values Canada seeks to promote in the Americas.”

Canada is the second‑largest contributor to the OAS, providing 13.7 percent of the Organization’s regular budget in 2010. Additional Canadian voluntary contributions are allocated to support specific projects, including electoral observation missions, crisis prevention and resolution, judicial reform, mine action programs, counter-narcotics activities and the advancement of gender equality. Canada is also the single largest contributor to OAS counterterrorism capacity building.

The OAS is the world’s oldest regional organization. It originated in 1890 as the International Union of American Republics. In 1910, the organization became the Pan American Union. Nearly forty years later, in April 1948, 21 countries joined together to establish the Organization of American States.

A series of events throughout the year, in Canada and at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Canada’s OAS membership.

Canada views the OAS as the key hemispheric forum to promote Canadian interests in the Americas (democracy, human rights and good governance, public security, prosperity and sustainable development) and address regional challenges. Canada strongly supports and actively participates in the work of the various OAS bodies, and has signed and ratified a number of treaties that reflect its commitment to the Inter-American system and the promotion of Canada’s key foreign policy objectives. 

Recently the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Calgary will host the 2011 meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank.  It is the first time since 1990 that a Canadian city has been chosen to host the prestigious international forum.

The Inter-American Development Bank is a primary source of lending for regional development projects in the Western Hemisphere.  During the 2009 Summit of the Americas, the Prime Minister announced that Canada would provide temporary additional support to the Bank so that it could increase its lending capacity and provide additional assistance to developing countries struggling with the global recession.

The Prime Minister also highlighted his Government’s success in expanding free and open trade throughout the Americas.  The Harper Government has signed free trade agreements with Peru and Colombia, and recently concluded free trade negotiations with Panama.

“Our government will continue to fight protectionism and push for free and open trade throughout the Americas and around the world,” said the Prime Minister.  “Expanded trade helps create jobs, improve living standards and ensure greater political and economic stability throughout our entire hemisphere.  Those who are pushing for improved ties of investment and trade throughout the Americas can count on a strong and steadfast partner in Canada.”

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