Address by President Jimmy Carter to the UN General Assembly

June 21, 1978

Organization of American States Remarks at the Opening Session of the Eighth General Assembly

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, distinguished Foreign Ministers—I believe with 100-percent attendance—Ambassadors, delegates and observers to this General Assembly, and friends:

In the brief time that I have been President of our country, I have enjoyed a very close relationship with the Organization of American States. Historic events have occurred here in this building, and some have even suggested that I move my office over here because I visit so often. But the importance of your deliberations and the past actions that have occurred here are recognized throughout our own country.

I want to welcome you here to open the Eighth General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

Five days ago, I went to Panama. I went there to celebrate new treaties which permit the United States of America and the Republic of Panama to operate and to defend the canal on the basis of partnership and not paternalism. I went there to fulfill a pledge that I made before you in this Hall of the Americas a little more than a year ago. I went there to explain what the treaties mean to me and to other North Americans. More than simply a fulfillment of a pledge, they are the beginning of a new era of inter-American understanding, reflecting a new spirit of commitment and cooperation.

In the process of reaching agreement, our two nations—and the many others of you who supported us—breathed new life into some old principles: principles of nonintervention, mutual respect, partnership, and multilateral cooperation. What we have accomplished together will make it easier to apply these same principles to the overriding concern of our hemisphere: peace, human fights and dignity, and economic development.

Last year on Pan American Day, I outlined the approach which my own administration would take towards Latin America and the Caribbean. Slogans would no longer suffice to describe the diversity of the Americas, nor would a single formula be helpful when our individual and our common interests are so clearly global in scope. The problems of the world require that we in the Western Hemisphere think and act more broadly.

That is what I pledged to you last year on Pan American Day. That's what I committed our Nation to do. Our goals still remain the same: to promote world peace, to discourage international intervention and aggression, to foster an international environment in which human rights and dignity are respected by all, and to end repression and terrorism, and, finally, to move toward a more just and equitable international economic system.

These are the most basic goals of the community of nations throughout the world—and therefore of our hemisphere as well. No one nation can do this job alone—not the United States, nor any other. Only by cooperation among the nations of this hemisphere and throughout the world will we have a chance to see these goals fulfilled.

We can advance toward peace with many small steps, as we remove the causes of dispute which have plagued our hemisphere in the past.

The resolution of the Panama Canal issue should be a good omen that other disputes in our hemisphere can also be settled peacefully. Let us approach other problems, such as Bolivian access to the sea, the Honduras-El Salvador border dispute, the future of Belize, in the same spirit of accommodation and friendship.

Just as the nations of this hemisphere offered support to Panama and the United States during the canal negotiations, I pledge today my Government's willingness to join in the effort to find peaceful and just solutions to other problems.

In I year's time, it will be a century since the War of the Pacific. We should view this anniversary, this occasion, as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to harmony in this hemisphere and to avoid conflict.

The difficult decisions in their region can only be made by Bolivia, Peru, Chile. But we stand ready with the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and other countries to help find a solution to Bolivia's land-locked status that will be acceptable to all parties and will contribute to the permanent peace and development of the area.

In this same spirit, we should work together to bring into effect the farsighted Treaty of Tlatelolco, which bans nuclear weapons from Latin America. It was in this hall last year that I pledged to do my utmost to bring this treaty into effect and to sign Protocol I of that treaty. And on May 26 last year I signed it. Since then, due to the encouragement of the countries that pioneered the treaty, the Soviet Union has ratified Protocol II, and Argentina has now agreed to ratify the treaty.

All but one of the countries in the hemisphere eligible to sign have now signed the Treaty of Tlatelolco. This precedent-setting treaty represents a dramatic advance for the cause of nuclear nonproliferation, and we should not rest until it is complete. I also support the efforts of those who want to extend the spirit of Tlatelolco to other areas of the world and to conventional arms sales, as well.

I believe that restraint in conventional arms sales is also central to the cause of peace. The United States has adopted a policy, unilaterally, which seeks to reduce the overall sale of weapons each year, especially the most sophisticated, lethal, and expensive weapons. We will not introduce an advanced weapons system into a region. And we are encouraging the Soviet Union, the French, and others to join with us in a multinational control of the sale of conventional weapons throughout the world.

As a major arms salesman, the United States bears and accepts a heavy responsibility for limiting this trade, but we cannot succeed alone. Our efforts will depend upon the active participation of other arms sellers and, obviously, on the participation of those who buy weapons.

I might point out that we have a better record in this hemisphere than is generally recognized. Four other nations of the world sell more weapons in Latin America than does the United States. And we need your help and the help of other countries to continue this progress toward another example of hemispheric peace and the control of weapons of destruction that might be observed and emulated by other regions of the world.

Discussions among supplier nations and providing nations have already begun. As we make our efforts, we draw inspiration from the truly historic initiative that Venezuela and the other signatories of Ayacucho are making to remove the causes of insecurity from their region and thereby to reduce the pressures that make nations buy weapons, because they fear their neighbors.

As the Ayacucho nations prepare for another meeting this week, I reaffirm my own country's conviction that their work is bringing us closer to lasting peace, and I express my hope that their efforts can be expanded to other weapons, both purchasers and suppliers.

We can also reduce the pressure for armaments and for regional violence by ensuring that all nations respect the territorial integrity of others. The intrusion of foreign military forces into local disputes can only undermine this cause. We support improvements in the peacekeeping and dispute-settling machinery of the Organization of American States and the United Nations.

I'd like to say just a word about human rights. The fights and dignity of human beings concerns us all and must be defended and enhanced. I'm convinced that the peoples of the Americas want a world in which citizens of every country are free from torture, from arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention without trial, free to speak and to think as they please, free to participate in the determination of their own destiny.

My Government will not be deterred from our open and enthusiastic policy of promoting human rights, including economic and social rights, in whatever ways we can. We prefer to take actions that are positive, but where nations persist in serious violations of human rights, we will continue to demonstrate that there are costs to the flagrant disregard of international standards.

Above and beyond any actions we take ourselves, we believe multilateral action can be the most effective means of encouraging the protection of human rights. Last year's Organization of American States General Assembly demonstrated our common interest in this important commitment. It set the stage for this year's events.

During the past year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, one of our region's most important instruments, has grown stronger. Its budget was tripled, and it was invited by more Governments to investigate and report on conditions. We consider this not an intrusion into the internal affairs of countries, but a mechanism by which those countries that stand condemned, perhaps erroneously, by the rest of the world, might clear their good name and prove to us and to the rest of the world that human rights indeed are not being violated.

This is a very good encouragement for us in the United States to set a good example, and I hope we'll retain our commitment to this principle so vividly that every day, every head of state in the whole world has before his or her consciousness a concern about "How are we doing to enhance human rights in our own country?"

We have had, I believe, good progress so far, and I commend the reports that have been submitted to this General Assembly and urge that their recommendations be fulfilled.

In the past year, six countries have joined Costa Rica and Colombia in ratifying the American Convention on Human Rights. Three more countries must ratify it for it to come into force. I signed the convention on June 1, a long overdue action on the part of the United States. I signed this while my wife was in San Jose, and I pledged my own efforts to bring about the United States ratification as soon as possible.

I hope that every nation represented around this table will make every effort expeditiously to sign and to ratify this American Convention on Human Rights without delay.

We should use this General Assembly to plan for the moment when the convention enters into force. We share the view that the present Commission will continue to carry out its mandate until a new Commission is functioning.

The governments whose leaders visited Panama for the ceremonies this past weekend have been at the forefront of the movement for human rights and democracy. A few weeks ago, several of our countries spoke out in support of the democratic election process in a neighboring country.

Now, we realize that the path from authoritarian rule to democratic rule can be difficult and demanding. During such a transition, and in the midst of the electoral process, my Government pledges not to intervene nor to show favoritism toward particular individuals or particular parties. But we will continually support and encourage political systems that allow their people to participate freely and democratically in the decisions that affect their lives.

This past year has seen a measure of progress. In many countries, political prisoners have been released, states of siege have been lifted, or constraints on freedom of the press have been loosened. In the coming year, we hope for more progress. For many in Latin America, the struggle has just begun. But the direction of history toward the expansion of human rights is clear. Where basic human rights are concerned, all of our governments must be accountable not only to our own citizens but to the conscience of the world.

The economic system: We must also devote our common energies to economic development and the cause of social justice. Benefits of the world's economy must be more fairly shared, but the responsibilities must be shared as well.

In many ways, economic issues will be our most important foreign policy concerns in the coming year. We plan to give increased emphasis, much more than we have in the past, to those economic issues which most directly affect the developing countries, particularly trade and aid.

We have not moved far enough or fast enough in the United States Government in the past. Many of you have not been aggressive enough in alleviating economic disparities and abuses in the system which we help to control. We've not spoken often enough nor candidly enough with each other. We must take every opportunity to work with all nations on these fundamental issues, and we must find new ways to discuss them, not through public confrontation, through the news media, but through quiet, substantive, determined negotiation to bring about steady progress designed to reach common goals.

Trade policy will become more and more important as your economies continue their transformation, which is inevitable, with manufactured goods making up a larger and larger proportion of your production and exports.

I have fought hard to resist protectionism, a subject which the President mentioned a few minutes ago, and I will continue to do so. Within the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, we've urged the healthier economies to grow faster so as to expand markets for your exports. In the multilateral trade negotiations, we seek to reduce barriers to those exports. In return, we ask you to join with us in negotiating a reduction of tariff and nontariff barriers.

Many of your countries whose voices could be heard and could be of great influence do not play an active role in negotiating the reduction of those very tariffs which work against the best interests of the people whom you represent. We ask you to join with us in negotiating a reduction in tariffs and nontariff barriers.

The middle-income developing countries, some of you, have a special responsibility, along with us, a very powerful, economically developed country, to help widen world trade by opening your markets to exports from other developing and industrial countries.

Some of your economies are now large and dynamic enough to provide for both domestic consumption and exports at the same time. By giving priority to creating jobs, you can alleviate poverty while stimulating your own economies.

The industrial countries should help to stimulate this growth. As one step to this end, we propose to create a foundation for technological collaboration, which will help to develop and share the skills which are needed for economic and social growth. The challenge of economic development is to help the world's poor lift themselves out of misery. We need to assist governments which find themselves in financial crisis, if and when they are willing to make sound measures of self-help.

We need to support regional and subregional cooperation and integration through such organizations as the Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development, which is meeting this week in Washington—I think 30 countries.

The recent decision by several Andean countries to establish a balance-of-payments support fund is a welcome contribution to regional financial stability. The little-noticed increase in interregional trade credits and cooperation among central banks testifies to the maturity and the integration of Latin America.

Finally, let me say this: We set for ourselves an ambitious program last year. Much has been accomplished, but much more remains to be done.

The Organization of American States can play an important role in addressing and solving our common problems. It's become particularly effective in the areas of human rights and the keeping of the peace. It can and must become still more effective as its internal administrative and financial structure comes to reflect the greater equality in our relationships.

I believe that the mutual respect which characterized the negotiations, debate, and conclusion of the Panama Canal treaties can become the basis for new relations in this hemisphere and the world. With trust and cooperation, even the most difficult and serious disputes can be settled.

The other nations in this hemisphere, all of you, are increasingly important to my country and to the world. I do not expect that our views will always coincide, but I know that we do share the same basic values. Working together in a spirit of mutual respect and trust, we can achieve our common goals: a more just economic system, enhanced human rights and dignity, and permanent peace for us all. Thank you very much.