Assistant Secretary General Speech


November 14, 2017 - Washington, DC

Mr. Luis Ubiñas, President;
Ms. Alexandra Valderrama, 2nd Vice President;
Ms. Kathleen Barclay, Treasurer;
Ms. Alexandra Aguirre, Secretary;
Ms. Katie Taylor, PADF Executive Director;
PADF Board Trustees;
Management and Staff;

• On behalf of the Organization of American States, and as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees, it is my great pleasure to welcome all of you this morning to the Annual Meeting of the Pan American Development Foundation.

• I want to extend a special welcome to Katie Taylor, PADF Executive Director, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week. I wish you great success in your new role and look forward to working closely with you.

• For over fifty-five years, the Foundation has been a leader in creating economic opportunities for the least fortunate, promoting social progress, strengthening communities and civil society, and responding to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

• Undoubtedly, PADF has been a valuable partner of the OAS and has contributed immensely to the broad offerings of the Inter-American system. I take this opportunity to reiterate the OAS’ support of PADF and its programs in the hemisphere.

• I am very proud of PADF’s work in rendering assistance during times of natural disasters. Coming from Belize, a country susceptible to floods, hurricanes, and other climatic conditions, I understand the vulnerability to natural disasters of countries, particularly small island developing states, and the grave impact which these pose to their socio-economic development.

• As you are aware, this year was particularly devastating on this front. Hurricanes Irma and Maria were the most powerful ever recorded in the Atlantic, and in their wake they left widespread infrastructural damage and loss of life in several of our sister countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the United States.

• For the first time in its history, the island of Barbuda was forced to evacuate its entire population. The people of Dominica and Puerto Rico suffered tremendous loss, and months after the disasters, the situation in these islands remains particularly dire. I urge all of you to expand your support. The international community and the private sector must continue to be fully engaged in the immediate and long-term reconstruction of these societies.
• The PADF remains one of the most important partners of the OAS in the area of disaster management, and its work has been well recognized throughout the Hemisphere. Since the passage of the hurricanes, the PADF, in partnership with local agencies, has been providing on-site technical support to the affected Member States in their efforts to ‘build back better’ and to create more resilient communities.

• We must recognize that climate change is an existential threat, and one of the greatest challenges of our time. Given the increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters in the hemisphere, we must work together to ensure that countries embrace the strategic imperative of building resiliency into all national plans, including for infrastructure and all sectors which impact the growth and sustainable development of states.

There is an undeniable link between political stability and inclusive development. We need to find innovative ways to reduce inequality, improve nutrition and access to clean water, provide access to education and jobs, enhance peace and security, and strengthen democracy and good governance.

We acknowledge that these challenges are daunting for all of the countries of the region, and appreciate how much more they stand to undermine the viability of small economies in the more vulnerable countries of the Caribbean and Central America which face the threat of devastating natural phenomena every single year.

• Addressing these challenges will require an integrated and multilateral approach, which underscores the importance of strategic alliances among international, regional and sub-regional organizations to add value to development initiatives that support social and economic progress. In developing these strategic partnerships, we at the OAS are fully aware that any strategy that focuses only on financial policies to the exclusion of sustainable and economic development initiatives will likely prove inadequate.

• Next year, the OAS will celebrate 70 years since its founding. The PADF along with other partner organizations have played an instrumental role in supporting our work in the region. This is will be an opportune juncture to promote our success stories and find other areas of collaboration.

• In the areas of education and technology, for instance, STEM programs are tools for empowering our youth, especially girls and young women. I recently learned about PADF’s important work to support vulnerable communities in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and, soon to be, Colombia

• I commend these initiatives towards developing the potential of our youth, a demographic which not only represents the majority of our population, but also the future of our nations. As such, they are, in my view, fundamental to the advancement of our countries, and as the holders of the future, should be the beneficiaries of strategic investment which will propel our states to broad-based, people-centered growth which will be reflected across all sectors.

• I highlight once again the PADF program in Central America to strengthen democracy and advance human rights in the countries of the Northern Triangle. The OAS is particularly grateful that PADF is partnering with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to implement this program and provide support to the Commission.

• This is another example of how the OAS-PADF partnership is advancing our common agenda in the region.

• In Haiti, since 1981, PADF has worked closely with our OAS Mission, the Haitian Government, other international organizations, and the private sector to promote integral development, advance social inclusion, strengthen civil society, and render aid to victims of natural disasters.

• PADF is also implementing successful initiatives in other Caribbean states in the areas of citizen security, youth, and community resilience. We should all be very proud of the work that the Foundation has carried out, to improve the lives of the peoples of the Americas, and to help to bring peace and prosperity to the region.

• I congratulate PADF’s Trustees and staff for your commitment to the OAS and its principles. You and the companies that you represent reflect the great spirit of solidarity that characterizes our Inter-American system.

• As we look to the future, our organizations will continue to make important contributions towards attaining more sustainable and inclusive societies. I am a firm advocate for working together, uniting efforts that will prove more significant in their reach and impact.

As the Vice Chairman of the PADF, I remain committed to supporting our common goals as we strive to uplift the people of the Americas and to create for them a secure future and the pathway to a better quality of life.

Thank you.