Assistant Secretary General Speech


September 12, 2016 - Bridgetown, Barbados

Senator Dr. the Honourable Esther R. Byer Suckoo
Minister of Labour and Social Security

Ms Silvia Kofler, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the EU Delegation to Barbados
Secretary for Strengthening Democracy, Mr Francis Guerrero

Mr Stefan Unseld, Team Leader, Global Crisis Response Support Programme

Mr Chris Pallaris, Facilitator
Representatives of OAS National Offices
Members of the OAS and EU teams which coordinated the planning of this seminar
Ladies and gentlemen

It is my pleasure to participate in this morning’s opening ceremony which is the precursor to an important transfer of knowledge over the course of this week, setting the stage for networking and the exchange of ideas and best practices from the field which will inspire the use of newly acquired tools and practical guides for enhanced efficiencies and output in the national offices.

The Americas, and certainly the world, is today a far different place to July 1953, when the establishment of OAS Offices in Member States was first authorized by a sitting of the Permanent Council. Notwithstanding the political and technological changes which have impacted this hemisphere, the salient and guiding rationale for their establishment remains as relevant today as it was then, as enshrined in Article 30 of the OAS Charter which states that:
“member States, inspired by the principles of Inter-American solidarity and cooperation, pledge themselves to a united effort to ensure international social justice in their relations and integral development for their peoples, as conditions essential to peace and security. Integral development encompasses the economic, social, educational, cultural, scientific and technological fields through which the goals that each country sets for accomplishing it should be achieved.”

Central to the realization of these goals, the OAS Secretariat set about elevating its profile, and visibility, as well as improving its engagement with host countries through national offices which represented then, and which continue to symbolize, direct access and connection to the General Secretariat and to the pivotal work of the organization in advocating for and advancing policy and practical support along its core pillars of Democracy, Development, Human Rights, and Security.

As the organization confronts today’s global realities and the challenges wrought by fiscal imbalances and the diminishing space occupied by longstanding and emerging hemispheric organizations, the primary role of the national offices remains that of maintaining the distinction which our premier political hemispheric organization is singularly positioned to occupy as the pre-eminent arbiter of political dialogue in the Americas, and as an agent for economic cooperation to the benefit of our peoples.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary General, under whose remit the national offices fall, has sought to reposition the national offices as the focal point of the OAS presence in the member states, recognizing that the changing times demand new mechanisms for a comprehensive, integrated, results oriented formula that drives broad based collaboration between the national offices and the General Secretariat and its dependencies at Headquarters. This, I envisage, as an approach that will optimize the use of limited resources, incorporate the national offices in the shared responsibility of achieving success in the execution of projects and programmes, and bridge the communication divide which is a costly factor that is the basis of duplication of effort, time, and other resources.

As an outcome of the consultations last year between my office and organizational stakeholders and national representatives past and present, Executive Order No. 16-06 on the Offices of the General Secretariat in the Member States was issued by the Secretary General in August of this year. I am aware that Representatives have been urged to familiarize themselves with the document, and I hope that you are struck by the cogency of the prescriptions it outlines for engagement and collaboration and for leveraging synergies between the national offices and the General Secretariat and its dependencies. Without replicating its seminal highlights here, I am confident that this ought not to become a latent example of prescriptive rhetoric, but activated for maximum effect in your jurisdictions and at Headquarters. As Representatives, you are at the vanguard of effecting these policy changes on your end, and you have my commitment that the Office of the Assistant Secretary General will work with you to ensure that its mandates are given life at Headquarters.

I recognize and applaud the commitment and the tenacity of our national representatives for the most pivotal executive, political and technical role they must play in representation of the Secretary General even in these trying times. You are required to be a networker par excellence, a facilitator for synergistic collaboration with national authorities and with regional and international agencies in the jurisdiction, and the consummate embodiment of active diplomacy in your interactions with the host government and national authorities, as well as with civil society. It is your role to be fully engaged on the ground, positioned to advise and to guide the leadership of the Organization in assessing opportunities for technical collaboration and the sharing of best practices, and to maintain vigilance about how the OAS can continue to enhance its value added in the jurisdiction.

Thanks to the generous funding provided by the European Union through the Global Crisis Response Support Programme, OAS representatives will this week benefit from the cross-fertilization of knowledge and ideas through peer to peer training by colleagues from Headquarters, and the facilitation of Chris Pallaris who has already transferred new skills and techniques to them. Adaptation to the use of innovative and practical technologies which facilitate data gathering and access to statistical information and emerging trends will boost the capacity of our offices to provide relevant, useful, and timely reports in positioning the OAS to best serve the needs of its member states in honouring the mandate that guides our presence on the ground.

I congratulate organizers for the depth of the programmed training on issues which run the gamut from routine operational issues, to coordination mechanisms for natural disasters, to the strengthening of techniques for enhancing professional and executive competencies. In a world where we must refrain from operating in silos, our institutions are learning the value of community and partnership, and our hemisphere is benefitting from the deliverables amassed when we combine our technical expertise and our institutional strengths.

The labour of the OAS in building pathways to democracy, development, security and the protection and promotion of human rights is ongoing. Much progress has been made toward bringing the hemisphere closer to the ideal of collective action, and there is much more to be accomplished. I am proud that the OAS has and continues to play a central role in the advancement of so many important causes in our hemisphere while remaining committed to the ongoing and sustainable success of each and every one of them. As the needs of our citizens evolve, so will the role of the Organization and its hemispheric agenda, and as these economic, social and political permutations reveal themselves, so too must the national offices be positioned to support the building of appropriate and responsive mechanisms in the member states by the OAS in forging a path towards a more equitable, secure, and prosperous hemisphere.

I am confident that this seminar will play a central role in recalibrating us all to expect more and inspire renewed commitment to this meaningful service to the Americas in which we are engaged. In closing, I thank the Honourable Minister for her presence and participation in today’s brief ceremony, and I reiterate to the European Union expressions of appreciation for this partnership, and for the incalculable worth of knowledge exchange, empowerment and collegial interaction to the deserving OAS Representatives and to the institutional benefit of the OAS.

Thank you.