SPEECH BY AMBASSADOR ALBERT R. RAMDIN, CARICOM CANDIDATE FOR THE POSITION OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES, TO THE PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE OAS
May 25, 2005 - Washington, D.C. – USA


THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP:
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES


Mr. Chairman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Alberto Borea of Peru,
Distinguished Permanent Representatives,
Acting Secretary General Ambassador Luigi Einaudi,
Distinguished Permanent Observers,
Distinguished Alternate Representatives,
Staff of the OAS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am indeed honored and privileged to have been afforded the opportunity today to address this important organ of the Organization of American States in connection with my nomination for the position of Assistant Secretary General.

It is my distinct pleasure to convey to you the greetings of the President of the Republic of Suriname, H.E. Ronald Runaldo Venetiaan, who had the honor of addressing this august body last year on September 24th.

I also have the pleasure to convey the best wishes of Her Excellency Maria Elizabeth Levens, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Suriname, who had wanted to be here, but could not attend due to the fact that at this very moment the People of Suriname are executing their franchise of voting in the fifth consecutive general elections since democracy was restored in 1987.

Suriname and the OAS have a long-standing and special relationship. The Government and People of Suriname are forever indebted to the OAS for its valuable assistance in strengthening the democratic process in our country, through the Special Mission of the OAS from 1990 to 2000.

This relationship continues even today. An OAS electoral mission is currently in Suriname to monitor the elections, led by the distinguished diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, Ambassador Corinne McKnight. Suriname’s engagement with this distinguished institution reflects the value and high confidence placed in the OAS process.


Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Representatives,

Although a national from the Republic of Suriname, today, I am privileged to address you, as the candidate from the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, the 32-year-old Caribbean integration system, of which my country has been a Member since 1995.

CARICOM Heads of Government unanimously endorsed my nomination on July 7, 2004 in Grenada. Subsequently their support has been reaffirmed at the Conferences of Heads of Government in November 2004 in Trinidad and Tobago and in February this year in Suriname, and in the recent statement by CARICOM of May 18, 2005. In addition, other Member States of the OAS have pledged their fullest support for my nomination. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the overwhelming support, and confidence.

I am of the view that CARICOM, which is an integral and increasingly important part of the Western Hemisphere, with strengthened relations with other sub-regions in Latin America will bode well for the deepening of the integration movements through stronger partnerships. CARICOM Members share many similarities, challenges and threats with the countries of Central America, not least the vulnerability of our small economies and the recurring onslaught of natural disasters, and the search for sustained economic and social progress and development.

The Role of the Assistant Secretary-General

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Representatives,

The position of Assistant Secretary General of the OAS is undoubtedly an important one. The person who occupies the position needs to undertake responsibilities in consonance with the political wishes of all the Member States and with the full confidence of the Secretary-General.

With this in mind, I would therefore like to share with you my thoughts and ideas on the role of the OAS, in large part determined and shaped by my experience in this Organization, as Suriname’s Permanent Representative and Chairman of the Permanent Council and Chairman of Permanent Executive Committee of the Council for Integral Development (CEPCIDI), and as Adviser to former Secretary-General César Gaviria.

The Organization of American States

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that the OAS is the premier forum in the Western Hemisphere for political dialogue and cooperation, out of which comes collective action.

The OAS needs to underline its relevance by developing a vision that takes account of the changed and changing realities in the world, the Western Hemisphere and in various sub-regions. This vision must be holistic and multidimensional in scope and purpose, not only to reaffirm the goals and functions of the OAS, as enshrined in the Charter, but also to redefine its agenda and design, and if so determined by Member States, through a new action plan for our Organization.

The OAS will only fulfill its hemispheric role with the active involvement of all members. This role would begin with a firm commitment to helping states maintain democracy and good governance, uphold human rights, promote social justice and equality and reduction of poverty.

In my view, every effort must be made to leave no state behind; therefore we need an inclusive approach that will create the necessary support through stronger partnerships.

We will need to continue to improve the delivery capacity and effectiveness of the OAS, its Councils, Committees and General Secretariat. This needs to be an ongoing effort, so as to make the best use of available funds and expertise. I believe that we have to improve efficiency and streamline operations, taking into account the observations from and comments on the analysis of Deloitte and Touche and the organizational restructuring, which has been put in place.

Modernization, restructuring and revitalization should be part of the highest priorities for the short, medium and long term. This will require creativity, political judgment and managerial skills on the part of the new administrative leadership.

Most importantly, building on existing foundations and developing this hemispheric Organization will require greater unity and heightened political commitment. The OAS will only fulfill its hemispheric role with the active involvement of all members. An inclusive approach will create the necessary support base and ownership. It is only when countries can find themselves in a collective and constructive engagement on topics of common interest, that the Organization can flourish and demonstrate its relevance and effectiveness in the service of its members.

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Permanent Representatives,

The OAS must remain the premier political body, the multilateral platform for dialogue, consultation and consensus building on issues of critical importance to its members.

We must always remember that the OAS is a government driven body and that the General Secretariat depends on the political mandates and initiatives of the Member States. It is certainly the Governments through their Ministers of Foreign Affairs and their Permanent Representatives in the Permanent Council, who make the decisions and determine the policies, initiatives and mandates, in short the “agenda” of the OAS.

As a former Permanent Representative and as a former OAS staff member, I fully understand the importance of an effective relationship between the political and administrative sides of this Organization. Especially in times of great political demands and financial constraints, it is important to nurture this relationship and create an atmosphere of collective action, because put simply, the one cannot function effectively without the other.

Developing the efficiency of an organization that works on the basis of policy briefs derived from the political debate in the Permanent Council, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development and in the Permanent Committees, guarantees a more trustworthy and consistent environment. I believe that we also have to examine the relationship between the Permanent Council and the Committees, especially with the Committee on Budgetary and Administrative Affairs, in light of the current challenges to carry out mandates with a limited budget.

Building a culture of cooperation and communication, using the existing institutional organs and expertise to their fullest capacity, will create ownership at all levels in the OAS, the fundamental requirement for an organization to perform at the highest level, taking into account expertise from all geographic regions.

Improving efficiency by avoiding duplication, reducing the “red tape”, and improving internal coordination will definitely lead to a more results-oriented approach and a higher output. We will have to take a serious look at the functions and responsibilities of the different positions and organizational structures so as to streamline and transform the Organization into a more effective functioning body, and where possible and necessary make financial savings.

Financial position of the OAS

The financial difficulties the OAS encounters require urgent and special attention and deserve a permanent and satisfactory solution, sooner rather than later. In this regard, several options can be presented and discussed, from a “correction” of the existing quota system, through reform and implementation of a new system, to sourcing more funds from other participants in the OAS towards Special or dedicated Funds, and from those countries and organizations willing to finance the implementation of shared principles and objectives. Creativity and bold decisions will be required to achieve success.

Both the General Secretariat and the Member States have a role and responsibility in this regard. The General Secretariat has to prove its ability to improve efficiency and delivery, while Member States will have to determine the most appropriate and realistic levels of funding in relation to the mandates given to the General Secretariat. Policy and budget are linked in terms of priority and needs. This is an exercise that rests strongly in the purview of the political directorate.

National Offices

I believe that the Offices of the General Secretariat in the OAS Member States perform an important role. In many countries these National Offices do not only have representational functions, their presence is also politically important, while they also contribute to capacity building in particularly the small states. I believe that in the context of creating a more efficient and effective Organization we have to analyze the role and scope of work of these entities. New functions can be added to their portfolio making them more useful in carrying out the tasks assigned to the OAS.

Legal Instruments

The OAS has developed over the past decades many hemispheric legal instruments. It is important in my view to review the effectiveness of these instruments and to determine the level of implementation, and if so required, take the necessary steps to complete their execution, so as to serve better the needs and demands of the members of the OAS.

Multilateralism

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,

Many believe that the world is characterized by division, instability, uncertainty and intolerance. The Americas is not free from some of these characteristics. Through the political function and activities of the OAS multilateralism is promoted and used as a vehicle for resolving differences and setting common goals. The call for social and economic policies that promote fairness and that reduce inequality is increasing and cannot be ignored.

The political crises in many countries in the region need to be addressed both domestically and regionally, within the framework of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

An important challenge for the new leadership of the OAS will be the facilitation of the resolution of conflicts, within and between States, if so invited by the Member States involved. Although, given the specific circumstances of the origins and political context of any conflict, it will be difficult to apply a generic approach to conflict prevention and peace building, I believe the OAS has many instruments to engage in this process, the foremost being the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

While we recognize that the OAS cannot be a panacea for all problems, challenges and demands, the hemispheric body can be the vehicle for providing political recognition and momentum to particular threats and needs that stand in the way of development and building stable, just and prosperous societies. But we have to be realistic and know our political and financial limitations, and so make choices accordingly. Our expectations should be high, but reasonable.

Democracy and Development

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Permanent Representatives,

The Peoples of the Americas, the Governments of the Americas need a strong and effective Organization of American States to strengthen democratic values and institutions, to promote human and other fundamental rights, to facilitate good governance and build sustainable economies.

I am looking forward to the debate on the theme for the upcoming 35th Regular General Assembly, “Delivering the Benefits of Democracy”, most timely and rightly put forward by the United States of America, as well as to the one for the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on “Creating Jobs to Confront Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance”.

The relationship between democracy, development and security is a critical one.
As the Democratic Charter states, democracy and social and economic development are interdependent and are mutually reinforcing.

It is clear that strengthening and establishing democratic institutions and values alone is not enough to achieve social and economic development. It is important to recognize the multidimensional nature of democracy, development and security, the need to attach significant importance in promoting education and generating employment. A much more holistic and integrated development strategy is required.

In this regard, I believe that the role of the Inter-American Agency of Cooperation and Development, as the development arm of the OAS, needs to be strengthened, while there may be need to revisit the scope, priorities and strategic plan of the IACD and its supporting political structures, in light of its ability to operate in an effective manner and source the required funds.

The OAS has made impressive progress in many areas and in this respect, the Organization should continue to combat illegal drug trafficking and transnational crime, promote transparency and continue the fight against corruption, deal with the effects of HIV/Aids in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization, as well as promote pre-emptive action to mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

One area that attracts my particular interest is the area of gender policies. Having served as the Secretary-General’s representative in the OAS Gender Mainstreaming Committee, I underscore the strategic importance of dealing with the difficulties encountered by women and men in having equal access to development opportunities.

Another policy area that has great relevancy is the engagement of civil society in the work of the OAS. I believe that it is important to hear from civil society organizations to get a complete and diverse perspective on developments nationally and regionally. This exercise, to which certain rules should apply in terms of the purpose and scope of the engagement, should be taking place on a continuous basis, not only when crises occur and/or specific activities are being undertaken.

Inter-Institutional Cooperation

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Ambassadors,

All these challenges and intentions cannot be achieved through the OAS alone, for the responsibility and demands exceed far beyond our financial and institutional means. One area in which I am particularly interested is the strengthening of the relations among the inter-American institutions.

I believe that under the leadership of the OAS a meeting of coordination and consultation between institutions, sub-regional organizations and specialized agencies, including the sub-regional development banks, should be convened on a regular basis. This will provide, for example, an important platform to execute mandates of the Summit of the Americas, in a much more coordinated manner.

International Reach

The OAS should not only be seen as a regional or hemispheric body. It is also an international organization and as such needs to engage with similar organizations worldwide. I propose the further strengthening of existing relations with the United Nations System, other regional integration systems and international financial institutions, that can provide new opportunities and financial resources to implement the mandates of the OAS, while also providing an avenue for exchange of information, joint efforts and coordination.

Public Relations

The OAS has carried out and is implementing several important initiatives, programs and projects in many countries. To improve the image of our Organization we need to develop a concrete program to expose our initiatives, achievements and to demonstrate the impact these activities have had on our communities. More effective public information and public outreach is required to give this Organization its rightful place in the inter-American system.

Improving our public outreach is not only for demonstrating the good work this Organization is doing, it also provides the opportunity to create understanding among the different cultures, to share the uniqueness and experiences of our Peoples and with that, to bring closer the different members of the Family of the Americas and to further the process of hemispheric integration.

Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Delegates,

The OAS has a Secretary-General elect, who will assume office tomorrow. I believe that the real challenge starts now, one in which I wish to play my part in a joint effort with Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, whose vision and program I share.

Mr. Chairman,

Allow me to put on record my admiration for the Acting Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi Einaudi for his sterling leadership in the past months. I have been privileged to work with him in a previous incarnation and from that experience I know first hand his dedication to this Organization and the Peoples of the Americas and his determination to deliver the very best. I have learned much from working with you.

My objectives are clearly to contribute to the modernization and revitalization of the Organization by improving the internal functioning, through efficiency, results-oriented output, an effective relationship with the political directorate, strengthened international relations and public outreach, while simultaneously working on short term challenges to redress the financial difficulties and the political challenge of facilitating conflict resolution in the Hemisphere.

CARICOM’s aspiration to occupy one of the two elected positions is based on the sub-region’s commitment to the many inter-American initiatives, the role of the OAS and the conviction that united and in solidarity we can build a better future for the peoples of the Americas.

I look forward to be elected the next Assistant Secretary General with your support and I stand ready and pledge to serve the Hemisphere and the entire OAS membership to the best of my abilities.

I thank you kindly for your attention.

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