The new Secretary General of UNASUR, or the Union of South American Nations, Ernesto Samper has said that he will help to consolidate the region as a "peace zone" at a time when conflicts are raging across the globe.
The former Colombian President stated that Latin America was increasingly establishing itself as a model for the rest of the world due to its recently created regional integration bodies such as UNASUR. He explained that the organizations had allowed the continent to "take democratic decisions" to advance its interests as a whole, in spite of ideological differences" between governments. Samper made particular reference to the role that such organisations had played in the peace talks currently being carried out in his home country of Colombia, in an historic attempt to bring an end to the region's longest running armed conflict.
"I have to thank UNASUR for the accompaniment that it has given us during these difficult processes which we have had to live through over the last 18 months… as well as the firm support which it has given," said Samper.
Once leader of Colombia's Liberal Party, Samper made the comments at his inauguration ceremony in Caracas, which saw him officially assume the role of Secretary General. Over the next two years he will work closely alongside the government of Suriname, which currently holds the Pro-Tempore Presidency of the organisation. He said he hoped to continue the legacy of outgoing Secretary General, Venezuelan politician Ali Rodriguez Araque, by continuing to reduce inequality, and particularly gender and racial inequality.
"UNASUR has been making progress which we must now consolidate, but as you were saying President (Nicolas Maduro), we must go to the facts. We have to demonstrate real deeds and results in integration," he said.
As Secretary General, Samper said he would attempt to develop "three agendas" over the next 2 years, including the social, the economic and the political. Improving citizen safety, as well as tackling food insecurity and the region's high rates of violent crime, were some of the principal areas that Samper said he hoped to make a difference.