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Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1987

It is a great honour to receive the Prince of Asturias Award for Latin American Cooperation from Your Highness in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain and of outstanding figures from the world made up of Spain, Portugal and the countries of Latin America. I think that I should express my gratitude to the Prince of Asturias Foundation and its distinguished Jury members, who have been so generous as to bestow such a highly-considered award on me, not only personally but also on behalf of the organisation that I represent; this organisation's profession of faith lays great emphasis on the concept of international cooperation as a means to achieve economic and social progress for all the world's peoples. I would like to invite you all, here in this land of Iberia, in this magnificent Spain that pulses with such force through my veins, in this city of Oviedo - so replete in history, culture and beauty - to meditate with me on what happened nigh on five centuries ago when faith, bravery and hope set sail from the Andalusian coasts for unknown worlds, to discover what we now call America, to mingle with its peoples, to breathe life into the continent, and to produce the buds from which today's Latin America was to blossom. Nor can one forget the gallant Portuguese who, inspired by Henry the Navigator, discovered the beautiful Brazilian coast, roamed the world's seas and actually sailed around the world.

Please allow me now to mention, by way of contrast, the seafarers who are supposed to have reached the coasts of North America, who observed, and who quickly left, and whom some would wish to compare with our Iberian forefathers, who transported and sowed the seeds of a new culture, and who settled. Because of this, it has always surprised me that only the discovery of America is commemorated on 12th October, rather than celebrating the essential point, the beginning of an extraordinary mingling of races and of cultures to the benefit of discoverers and discovered alike, as well as to the benefit of the world, who only then discovered how immense and multifarious it was.

A three-century long symbiosis began in this way, only to come to a halt over 150 years ago, when twenty offspring broke away from the Iberian Peninsula, like twenty rivers branching off from the main course, and our twenty republics were spawned. I evoke this historic event, not to undertake any miserly analysis of successes and mistakes, of its pros and cons, but rather as a way of looking towards the future, with the fervent desire to rekindle this symbiosis against the new backcloth that history is weaving.

Making this symbiosis free-flowing and long-lasting once more, transforming it into effective Latin American cooperation is not solely an issue of a political nature; the longstanding, dense web of problems - I would almost call it a trap - that grips and paralyses many of our countries is also of an economic and social nature. Many decades of government irresponsibility and social injustice have not only put a halt to any progress but have also caused an accretion of frustration, bitterness and rebellion. Our corner of the world needs a revolution; but not a revolution of demagogy and bloodshed, but rather of profound economic, social, cultural and humanitarian change within a genuinely democratic framework.

The entrenched Latin American crisis will not be solved within an exclusively national framework. Close cooperation between our twenty countries and effective coordination with the many countries in other areas of the globe facing similar difficulties will be needed. It will be necessary, indeed essential, for the two great mother nations, Spain and Portugal, who well understand that what is at stake is not only the material welfare of Latin Americans but also our joint spiritual heritage, to lend their support more in a spirit of solidarity that of cooperation. The timely incorporation of both nations into the European Community will mean that they can pursue their historic role with newfound vigour, and act as a bridge between Latin America and the western world, helping them to understand its problems and to contribute to solving them.

The point here is that nobody any longer doubts that the world is becoming ever more interdependent and that only the well being of the whole world's peoples can guarantee real world peace. Do we not, therefore, have a right to expect and even to demand the contribution of the world's countries to the full development of those of our countries that are most underdeveloped? I am, of course, well aware that my pro-Latin American approach does not suffice to commit powerful countries from other areas to the development of our region; it is only natural for them to pursue other interests. For this reason, our governments must inspire respect; they should deserve the aid they request; they should show that they are not like the vessel of the Danaïds(*) . In other words, our subcontinent, which is neither willing nor capable of begging, should make a great national effort, just as so many other member countries have already done, to consolidate democracy - true democracy that strengthens its economy with wise, honest management of its taxes and improves social conditions by respecting the rights of the vast gamut of men and women. We should never ever forget that development is not just material progress.

Our beloved Latin America faces many problems, but I will refer briefly to just two of them: the situation in Central America and the issue of foreign debt, in both of which Latin American cooperation should become fully involved in the search for solutions. Ten months ago, as I recall, I returned disheartened from a visit to Central America, and felt it was my duty to make this public knowledge and declare that I had observed no political will to move towards an independent, negotiated, democratic solution to its problems, that there was an irritating influence of outside forces, and that there was a risk of the situation being pigeon-holed as another of the old ideological confrontations. I reasserted my conviction that there was an urgent need for the five governments of the isthmus to launch a major drive towards a peaceful, freely negotiated solution without outside interference, under the auspices and with the untiring support of the Contadora and Apoyo Groups.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and on 7th August the five Central American Presidents, prompted by President Arias, who was deservedly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, hammered out their own original plan for a solution that we all have the obligation to support because it constitutes the road towards peace. The United Nations' General Assembly has just unanimously endorsed this admirable effort, which I have the honour and satisfaction of having participated in.

Latin America's foreign debt, where there is three-way responsibility shared between countries in debt, commercial banks and central banks, is the disastrous outcome of the irresponsibility of certain leaders and the greed of public and private moneylenders: It weighs cruelly upon our people.

Such a serious problem can only be solved if it is handled with fairness, pragmatism and clear-sightedness, so that responsibilities are shared.

The truth of the matter is that interest repayment on Latin American foreign debt is incompatible with sustained development, as debtors are asked to channel trade surpluses towards servicing their debt; generating future resources is being seriously jeopardised by them being made to apply renewable resources to debt servicing. It should be stressed that the persistence of this problem affects not only the stability of democracy and the welfare of millions of human beings but also the stability of the international banking system as a whole. The developing world's foreign debt is a problem with political and socio-economic repercussions that must be solved at a worldwide level.
Clearly, there are many ways to alleviate the problem of debt, and I believe that states should not get locked into formulas based on dogma. Nevertheless, we are all well aware of the fact that the debt problem is inseparable from the issue of international trade, which is why there can be no long-term solution without the political cooperation of all states. This leads me to insist on what I have declared so many times: the urgent need to further strengthen the multilateral system that the United Nations is a perfect symbol of.

Your Majesties, Your Highness, Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, these have been some of the reflections that this Award, bestowed upon me by this illustrious Foundation, has sparked off. As a Latin American from Peru and representative of an organisation for cooperation towards progress, I wish to express my desire to see a solution to my region's problems and to serve as a catalyst for its full development, and for Spain and Portugal, like the flying buttresses of Oviedo Cathedral, to be a permanent support for cooperation between Latin America and Europe, the two worlds that both countries belong to.
I am sincerely grateful to Your Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias - who is chairing this grand ceremony alongside Your Majesties with such dignity, and who, I am sure, looks towards the future with hope, as is only befitting of radiant youth - for presenting me an award that is named after you and that includes, unquestionably, a fervent commitment to the Latin America that we both share.

Thank you.

(*) Reference to the fifty daughters of Danaus, who killed their husbands at their father's behest and were condemned for their crime to the endless task of filling a bottomless vessel with water.

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