World Social Forum - Porto Alegre, Brazil, 25-30 January, 2001


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POLITICS-LATAM: Rio Group Advocates Cooperation, Solidarity

By Tadeo Martínez

CARTAGENA, Colombia, Jun 16 (IPS) - Latin American and Caribbean leaders, meeting in this Colombian resort city, spoke out in favour of more fair and equitable international relations, based on cooperation and solidarity with the poorest countries.
At the 14th summit of the Rio Group, the region's highest-level forum for political consultation and coordination, created in 1986, the heads of state and government are discussing the viewpoints and priorities that the region will promote at the September United Nations general assembly -- also known as the Millenium summit -- in New York.

The heads of state and government of Latin America and the Caribbean see the UN general assembly as a historic opportunity to adopt mechanisms that would contribute to the construction of a more just, equitable and safer international system for all countries.

Colombian foreign minister Guillermo Fernández de Soto said the draft declaration that the leaders are discussing Friday underlines the region's commitment to strengthening representative democracy.

It also stresses the need to consolidate the multilateral system, which helps to overcome the assymetries in international relations and contributes to transparency, and to set fair playing rules, in order to enable global issues to be tackled with greater timeliness and in a more effective manner.

The declaration also reasserts the region's commitment to respecting international law and the principles and objectives set forth in the UN charter.

In the document the leaders call for a world free of arms. Towards that end, they point to the inter-American convention against the production and trafficking of firearms, ammunition and explosives, and urge all states to ratify the Ottawa ban on land- mines.

The 29-point draft declaration mentions the need for an integral focus on human rights encompassing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, based on respect for the dignity of people and protection of fundamental liberties.

Fernández de Soto told reporters that the Rio Group had reached political maturity in its role of political coordination, and that it was an ''authorised'' interlocutor for the region and would present a strong consensus position at the Millenium summit.

In the declaration, ''A Commitment for the Millenium'', the leaders reiterate the principles that have motivated the existence of the Rio Group and their aim to continue their ''high-level efforts of political consultation and coordination.''

The ideals underlying those efforts remain ''the preservation of peace, the strengthening of democracy and the sustainable development of our region,'' states the text.

The document also calls for an orderly, predictable and stable international financial system.

While the heads of state and government of the Rio Group believe financial globalisation offers benefits in terms of higher levels of investment, economic growth and a better standard of living for countries in the region, they say they are also aware of the challenges and risks it implies.

The extraordinary growth of international financial markets, as well as the volatility of short-term capital flows, make necessary measures to prevent external crises and reduce vulnerability, which must be the crux of the Rio Group's efforts, on the national as well as regional and global levels, the document adds.

It also cites the need to ''democratise'' the UN system.

But it fails to mention the situation in Peru arising from the recent widely-questioned reelection of President Alberto Fujimori for a third consecutive term. (END/IPS/tra-so/tm/dm-mj/sw/00)

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