Assistant Secretary General Speech


March 23, 2017 - Washington D.C.

“Strengthening the security of Small Island States through Vulnerability Reduction and Building Resilience”

H.E. Ambassador Diego Pary Rodriguez, Permanent Representative of Bolivia and Chair of the Committee on Hemispheric Security
H.E. Riyad Insanally, Permanent Representative of Guyana and Chair of the CARICOM Caucus
Distinguished invited speakers
Distinguished Permanent Representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

It is an honor for me to be here this morning at this important session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security on the special security concerns of Small Island States. This year’s session focuses on strengthening the security of Small Island States through Vulnerability Reduction and Building Resilience. Like the others before it, this session will no doubt be informative and thought provoking, and most importantly, it will present us with an opportunity for dialogue regarding the way forward.

Challenges facing the Caribbean

Ladies and Gentlemen, that the CARICOM caucus has chosen to bring this matter to the attention of the Committee on Hemispheric Security speaks to the gravity of these issues. We therefore thank them for their openness, and for the opportunity to better understand how these social, economic, and environmental forces can generate non-traditional threats to security and stability of our fellow member states.

Every country in the world faces challenges such as those brought about by climate change or transnational organized crime or economic volatility; however, it is very clear that their impact is magnified in small island states, which have resource limitations that undermine their resilience. In the Caribbean, many of our national industries are at risk of being wiped out by a single hurricane, or a change in international trade regulations. Our small island states also stand to be disproportionally affected by climate change induced land loss due to rising sea levels or coastal erosion. If left unchecked, climate change can be the greatest threat multiplier to peace and security in our region, and the world.

Existe una perspectiva de que la vulnerabilidad de los pequeños estados insulares continúa aumentando con la subida de los precios de energía al reducir o no poder reducir con mayor prontitud su dependencia en los combustibles fósiles. Es un hecho que aunque han existido esfuerzos, las opciones de energía sostenible y en particular las opciones de energía renovable, como lo son la energía solar y la energía eólica, no han sido lo suficientemente exploradas por estos pequeños países.

This situation is changing and I am pleased to note that the OAS with support from the US Department of State is assisting with the implementation of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS).

It is also true that small island states are not doing as much as they should to build their resilience to natural hazards. Cost is often cited as the main reason for this omission. But there are many low-cost, technologies and measures that could significantly reduce loss of life and property from natural disasters, which are not being employed. This is not to say that financial constraints do not severely affect the speed and effectiveness of even the soundest resilience building measures in small island states.

También reconocemos que la resiliencia y reducción de vulnerabilidad no se limita al entorno físico y la construcción de infraestructura adecuada. Es por esta razón que la OEA presta considerable atención y recursos hacia programas que puedan ayudar a la modernización del estado y a crear condiciones, incluyendo la toma de buenas decisiones, tendientes a mejorar la economía, la sociedad y el entorno físico en todos los niveles de nuestros estados miembros. También ponemos énfasis en apoyar al desarrollo social de nuestros estados miembros ya que consideramos este como un requerimiento crítico para el fortalecimiento de la cohesión social, la cual es una precondición para obtener resiliencia económica.

En este contexto los programas que están siendo implementados en el Caribe por la Secretaría Ejecutiva para el Desarrollo Integral son particularmente importantes, en especial aquellos que se enfocan en ayudar a los países de la región en la transición de vulnerabilidad económica, social y ambiental hacia mejor resiliencia en los Estados.

I refer to programs that aim at enhancing the capacity of institutions in Caribbean States to design and implement policies and programs that encourage productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation and internationalization of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), as well as cooperatives and other production units that foster the generation of sustainable economic activities in the tourism and culture sectors.

I refer also to the programs of the Department of Sustainable Development aimed at strengthening the implementation of sustainable development goals in accordance with the 2016-2021 Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development (PIDS). Here, the support being provided to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) with the implementation of its Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) framework and to the Caribbean Secretariat with the implementation of the C-SERMS program, are noteworthy.

These are only a few of our efforts aimed at strengthening the security of small island states through vulnerability reduction and building resilience. However, I must stress that success can only be achieved if the communities and our brothers and sisters in these small island states are directly involved in all phases of the planning and resilience efforts. After all, they will be the ones directly affected and will be responsible for implementing these measures.

Our small economies and low populations are also seriously and disproportionately affected by policy decisions such as de-risking and deportation, which are examples of how security measures and policies implemented in one member state can produce unintended but dire consequences in another. Issues such as these truly underscore the need for more dialogue to promote better understanding.

The Role of the OAS:

These issues are as complex as they are perilous, and to bring a discussion of this nature to the Committee on Hemispheric Security is to use this Committee for exactly the purpose it was created.

At the OAS we take great pride in maintaining a permanent forum dedicated to the consideration and discussion of matters of grave and even urgent security concern for the hemisphere, and where member states can seek to address those security challenges that are best resolved through international cooperation and dialogue. This Committee is one of the most important resources in our organization for maintaining and strengthening the peace and security of the Americas and we are very pleased to place this forum at the disposal of small island states as they seek cooperation to overcome the challenges before them.

Looking ahead: the way forward

Ladies and Gentlemen, during this very important special session of the Committee on Hemispheric Security, we anticipate that the distinguished presenters will no doubt increase our awareness of the daunting challenges faced by Small Island Developing States, and so I take this opportunity now to reaffirm the OAS Secretariat’s unwavering commitment to supporting its member states in the face of these complex challenges. Today, let us take full advantage of the collective wisdom of this Committee as we focus our minds on the way forward, choosing always the path of dialogue and cooperation because we are convinced that it is the surest route to a more secure and prosperous tomorrow for all the peoples of the hemisphere.

Thank you