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The strengthening of the UNASUR

Marcelo Rech 

On May 23 of 2008, in Brasilia, there was signed the Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), during Extraordinary Meeting of Chiefs of State and of Government of the region.

According to the standard, the Treaty will come into force 30 days after the date of reception of the ninth instrument of ratification.

Up to the moment, only six of the 12 member-countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Venezuela and Peru – completed the process of ratification.

In Brazil, the text of the Treaty transacts in the Chamber of the Deputies.

In at least 13 opportunities it was withdrawn of the voting agenda.

Approved in the Chamber, the project of legislative decree follows to the Commission of Foreign Relations of the Senate.

The Itamaraty secures that the government is committed in obtaining the ratification of the Treaty still in 2010.

However, because of the electoral process, the Ministry of Foreign Relations doesn´t discard the approval of the Treaty of the UNASUR by the National Congress only in 2011.

On the other hand, Brazil considers the election of Nestor Kirchner as Secretary-General like one more step in the institutional strengthening of the UNASUR.

The Constitutive Treaty says that the attributions of the Secretary-General include: to propose initiatives and to follow up on the directives of the organs of the UNASUR; to prepare the project of annual budget for the consideration of the Delegates´ Council and to adopt the measures necessary to its good management and execution; to be coordinated with other Latin-American and Caribbean entities of integration and cooperation for the development of the activities that the organs of the UNASUR demand.

The Secretary-General has mandate of two years, renewable only once, and he can’t be succeeded by a person of the same nationality.

This week, the work of Kirchner deserved praises of several member-countries and of the governments of the United States and of European countries.

The UNASUR was active in the resolution of the diplomatic crisis between Colombia and Venezuela, by removing the Organization of the American States and the United States of the question.

Apparently, it begins to gain “musculature” and visibility.

In this moment, it suits to mention some advancement conquered by the block.

In the context of the South American Council of Defense (CDS), for example, there was created the Center of Strategic Studies, which will have its headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Also, there was approved the Plan of Action 2010-2011, which contemplates a advanced course in the sector of defense to enable human resources of the region in this topic.

In August of last year, four Ministerial Councils were created, in the areas of Social Development; Combat to the drug traffic; Infrastructure and Planning; and Education, Culture, Science, Technology and Innovation.

With the Councils of Defense and Health, created in 2008, and the Energetic Council, the UNASUR disposes, at present, of seven Sector Ministerial Councils, besides the four political and administrative organs that compose its basic structure: the Council of Chiefs of State and Government, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Relations, the Delegates’ Council and the General Secretariat.

Besides, several important initiatives were implemented in the context of the UNASUR.

In the health area, it was created the “South American Institute of Government in Health” (ISAGS), which will use the experience of national institutions – like the Fiocruz, the National Institute of the Cancer, the Institute Butantã and several public universities – to develop activities of investigation, information and development of human resources in the area.

The headquarters of the ISAGS will be in Rio de Janeiro.

Until now, initiatives like the ISAGS, in the context of the Council of Health, have been financed by the proponent country, at least until the Constitutive Treaty comes into force.

The Delegates´ Council of the UNASUL, in meeting carried out in July, approved an institutional statute that predicts that the recommendations of creation of institutions, organizations and common programs must include an estimation of costs for their appreciation by the political organs of the UNASUR.

The goal, according to the Itamaraty, is to promote the transparency about the future financial implications of the compromises assumed by the Member-States.

Brazil understands that, once the Constitutive Treaty of the UNASUR comes into force, will be necessary to negotiate and to approve annually a general budget to fund the meetings and the common initiatives of the block.

One of the difficulties faced by the UNASUR, currently, concerns to its Permanent Technical Secretariat, which demands specialized human resources and physical infrastructure.

However, it is still not known where it will be hosted.

To advance in this discussion it is necessary that the Treaty comes into force.

Besides, most of the member-countries are worried with the continuity of the work.

Soon, Ecuador transfers the presidency pro tempore to Guyana, country that has participated very little of the process.

The UNASUR also included in its agenda the humanitarian help to Haiti, the political situation in Honduras, the perspectives of a political debate with the United States, the regional financial architecture and the convenience of promoting the harmonization of criteria of university accreditation, among other topics.

Marcelo Rech is a journalist, editor of the InfoRel and specialist in International Relations, Strategies & Policies of Defense and Terrorism & Counter-Insurgency. E-mail:

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