Remarks by Interim U.S. Permanent Representative Michael J. Fitzpatrick on Social Charter Presentation

Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, November 24, 2015.
Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, November 24, 2015.

On November 24, 2015, Interim U.S. Permanent Representative Michael J. Fitzpatrick addressed the OAS Permanent Council following a presentation by the Venezuelan government’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Jorge Valero.

Mr. Chairman,

Secretary General Almagro,

Assistant Secretary General Mendez,

Ambassador Valero,

Secretary Salvatti,

Our dear colleague, Ambassador Lira of Chile, Chair of CIDI, Permanent Representatives Ladies and Gentleman,

Muy buenos dias a todos.

The United States was pleased to join consensus on the 2004 resolution that called for the negotiation of a Social Charter.  Indeed, the mandate for a Plan of Action to implement the Social Charter was added to the resolution as a U.S. initiative.  We wanted to make sure that the Charter would have an implementation mechanism, to ensure its continued relevance.  And to ensure concrete results for our publics. We maintain that desire today.

You know, some initially sought the Social Charter as some sort of counter-balance to the Democratic Charter; as a vehicle to change the subject.  We get that.  But the complementarity of the Social Charter with the Inter-American Democratic Charter is plain for all to see today.  Both documents underscore that democracy and economic and social development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.

And we very much appreciate hearing from Ambassador Valero today — of his clear support of the Democratic Charter, the Social Charter, and the OAS, as essential to advancing human rights for all the citizens of our hemisphere; not just those who happen to share the political views of a particular government in office, in a particular country, at a particular point in time.

Mr. Chairman, the United States has a range of domestic programs that implement the aims of this Action Plan:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance, Workmen’s Compensation, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Food Stamps and other programs to ensure appropriate nutrition for families as well as free or low cost school breakfasts and lunches for students in need.

The United States provides free public schools until the last year of high school for all school age children and adolescents, including those that are not citizens.

The United States also has public housing for families in need.

We continue to pursue a range of efforts, in the words of Article 7 of the Social Charter, “to eliminate obstacles to development with a view to achieving full enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.”  Lord knows, this remains a work in progress in my nation.  As it forever shall be.  And most probably so in all our nations.  And I am sure that each and every delegation could provide a similar list, for each of these areas of rights.

But what we need to ask ourselves now is what is to be the value added by the OAS in the implementation of the Action Plan?  What do we need the organization to do, now, in order to facilitate exchanges of information and know-how on the various social programs that we are all implementing?

The United States financed the Inter-American Social Protection Network from its inception — even prior to its formal adoption by the 2012 Cochabamba General Assembly — until just a few months ago.  It was one of the few social development programs being implemented by the OAS and it did serve as a very useful venue for exchanges.

In fact, let me note that the United States government has been the only OAS Member State to put significant amounts of money into the Network, to put economic resources into this key vehicle of the OAS Social Charter to demonstrate financial faith behind all the wonderful words we have heard.  The only Member State.  And over a number of years.

Mr. Chairman, the successes that the Network has had will not continue if the OAS does not have the Regular Fund resources from ALL the member states or the additional specific fund contributions from a majority of the member states to develop other programs.  So we proudly echo Secretary Salvatti’s call here today for implementation of the Action Plan of the Social Charter.  And, as she said, that it be made concrete by all our nations.  Indeed, it ought not be left as just more airy — if not fiery — rhetoric in just one more Permanent Council meeting.

And just yesterday, at the Special General Assembly, member states were reminded of the simple fact that seven member states have not paid their 2015 Regular Fund quota payments.  And three countries, including that of the current Chair of the Permanent Council, are several years in arrears.  And now, another new year is fast upon us — and yet we have heard nothing here — not at any point throughout the reorganization efforts this year, not at the Special General Assembly on the budget yesterday, and certainly not today, that suggests that those members states in arrears on their payments have any intention of paying anytime soon.

We need to show the political will — not just the political theater — to deliver on the promises of the Social Charter and its Action Plan.

The United States remains committed to the principles of the Social Charter and encourages other member states to embrace it by contributing with resources and concrete steps to implement its mandates.

And this leads now to a larger point, if I may, for us to consider beyond the issue of the Social Charter — but in the context of this, the latest in a series of specially-called Permanent Council meetings called by the Chair at a time of serious fiscal constraints on the organization.

Today, for the third time in as many weeks, we are assembled here for either a Special, or an Extraordinary, Permanent Council Session.  Each time for the same reason: to listen to specially invited outside guests to speak to us on a specific subject of interest to the nation that currently chairs, on a rotating basis, the Permanent Council.

And nothing I say should be seen as detracting from the personal qualifications, merits or skills of the invited speakers, nor detracting in any way from the very important issues before us in our discussions.

But each of these times, all three times, the invited outside guest speaker has come from nations on the eve of nation-wide elections in early December.  Coincidence?  Now I am glad to see that additional speakers were added at the last minute to the agenda for today’s Special Meeting.  But no matter.  For we know what’s going on here.

And all three of these times, the invited outside speaker also comes from a nation that is behind in paying its dues to this organization.  And I don’t mean a few months behind.  Indeed, my nation pays our quota on a quarterly basis — and on occasion has slipped a few months behind.  It happens.  So I don’t mean a few months behind in upholding their fundamental financial responsibilities to this organization.  And I don’t even mean one year behind.  I mean:

Have not paid in 2015.  Not one penny.  Ni un centavo.  And did not pay in 2014.

And have not even satisfied their full dues for 2013.  And we have seen no indication that these nations intend to pay their dues for 2016, just weeks from now.

As the saying goes, I was born.  But I was not born yesterday.  Again, we all know what’s going on here.

Now, we do not shy from debate; neither my nation nor this Permanent Council.  Far from it.  But our collective courtesy, respect for dialogue and sense of fair play is being taken advantage of.  And for domestic political, if not electoral, gain.  At home.  And at the expense of this organization that belongs to ALL the member states.  But we see it.  We all see it.  For what it is.

I am sure the Budget committee will be taking up this matter of non-payments of quotas and penalties for failure to uphold fundamental financial responsibilities to this organization in the days, weeks and months to come.

Now, returning to the Social Charter, let me conclude by reiterating — con claridad:  The United States remains committed to the principles of the Social Charter and encourages other member states to embrace it by contributing with resources and concrete steps to implement its mandates.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.