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
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
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
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.
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
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
The Organization of American States
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.