FULL SPEECH: VIII SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS LIMA, PERU By PM HOLNESS
It is my distinct privilege to address this gathering, in this historic and beautiful city of Lima. President Vizcarra, allow me to express my sincere gratitude to you, as well as to the rest of the Government and people of Peru, for the very warm and gracious hospitality extended to me and to my delegation since our arrival.
We recognize and commend the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) in faithfully promoting and defending democracy and development in the Hemisphere. In that context, I am pleased that the Summit of the Americas continues to play a crucial role in the sustained development efforts of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Given its focus on the promotion of meaningful dialogue on social and political issues affecting the region, this year’s theme: “Democratic Governance against Corruption”, is well placed, especially considering the challenges that confront our countries in this regard.
The imperative of addressing the prevalence of corruption in our Hemisphere arises from increasing recognition that corruption poses a serious threat to the rule of law and our social order. As leaders, we are well aware that the scourge of corruption can negatively impact not only our ability to effectively discharge our respective governmental responsibilities and obligations; but also the economic and social advancement of the entire region, particularly in light of the inherent link to crime and violence. If we are serious about strong inclusive and sustainable growth, if we are serious about safe, secure and prosperous societies, in which our people thrive, we will be even more concerted in our efforts to fight corruption and to strengthen democracy.
Jamaica is pleased therefore to support the Lima Commitment on Democratic Governance against Corruption, which underscores the importance to all of us, of the fight against all forms of corruption. In that regard, international legal cooperation and the strengthening of the Inter American Anti-Corruption Mechanisms will be important elements in that fight taking account of the need to reinforce our longstanding democratic values.
Mr. President, I thank the Government of Peru for its generosity in facilitating the participation of CARICOM Member States in the process.
I also commend you and your Government for the work that you have undertaken in your capacity as Chair of the Summit Implementation Review Group in leading a broad process of consultations with State and Non-State actors.
The work accomplished by all the groups is of great interest to Jamaica, as well as to other countries across the Greater Caribbean which are grappling with the matter of institutionalized corruption.
It is certainly timely that the consultations undertaken in drafting the Commitment focused on specific sub-themes, including that of Corruption and Sustainable Development. The Government of Jamaica is fully aware of the strong inverse relationship which exists between these two elements. Undoubtedly, where there are high levels of corruption, sustainable development cannot thrive.
We therefore welcome the emphasis placed on the reduction of corruption for the attainment of sustainable development in the Americas, in line with Goal 16 of the United Nation’s Agenda 2030, which seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
For our part, my administration continues to take bold steps to address the issue of corruption in our society, and has enacted and implemented various laws, initiatives and mechanisms geared at eliminating corruption in several areas. These various administrative and legal reforms include an Integrity Commission Act, the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency Act and a Public Procurement Act, all designed to improve transparency and accountability in the fight to reduce corruption.
Jamaica has also supported the establishment and implementation of regional anti-corruption conventions and mechanisms, all of which have been beneficial to Jamaica and other countries in the hemisphere.
I am pleased to report substantial progress in Jamaica’s fight against corruption as highlighted in the findings of the 2017 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. The 2017 ranking represented the best ranking and score achieved by us in the last decade, and signifies that Jamaica is now comparable to that of the Americas in this regard.
The improvement is as a result of a committed series of strategic actions by our government, to reduce corruption and put Jamaica on a path of true development and prosperity.
Democracy, as a system of Government, has been instrumental in the maintenance of the rule of law in the Hemisphere, and has facilitated access to higher and more meaningful social freedoms by the people of the Americas. However those freedoms also come with responsibility including those relating to transparency and accountability in the management of our governance functions. In this regard, my Government is committed to the promotion of transparency and freedom of information, as a safeguard against corruption. In fact, Jamaica implemented an Access to Information Act, years ago, thereby creating a structure which places an obligation on the government to provide information requested by the ordinary citizen and the press. Freedom of the press is a fundamental pillar of democracy therefore in the context of our meeting here today I express Jamaica´s solidarity and sympathies to the media community, people and Government of Ecuador on the tragic murder of three Ecuadorian journalists recently.
Jamaica remains committed to cooperating with international bodies and other Member States to combat corruption in the forms of bribery, international graft, and organized crime. Organized crime affects us all and Jamaica is currently engaged at the domestic and international levels to find meaningful solutions to these issues.
Considering that the majority of those engaged in organised crime are typically young people it is imperative that leaders not only consider the role of law enforcement and justice systems but also social and educational programmes which target unattached youth and promote opportunity, inclusion and empowerment. We have a responsibility, to ensure that we create a social environment that is conducive to the adherence to the rule of law, inclusion, fairness and prosperity. Inherent in this responsibility, is the recognition of the role of partnerships as the catalyst to achieve the goals that we have set.
Our deliberations today and the attendant commitment to work collectively and collaboratively towards attaining constructive and practical solutions to the challenge of corruption, have set a firm and positive foundation for further sustained economic growth and sustainable development in our Hemisphere.
We owe it to our men, our women and to our children to ensure that we fully honour that commitment.
I thank you.