Assistant Secretary General Speech


September 21, 2018 - Washington, DC

Jesús Sierra Victoria, Vice Chair of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) and Permanent Representative of Panama to the OAS;

Ambassador Agustín García-López Executive Director of the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID);

Jesús Schucry Giacoman Zapata, Director of American Regional Organizations and Mechanisms, Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE), and Chair of the Management Board of the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICD);

Kim Osborne, OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development

Ladies and gentlemen,


Good morning,

It is a pleasure for me to offer opening remarks this morning on this second day of the Specialized CIDI Meeting of High-Level Cooperation Authorities. I am cognizant of your demanding agenda and work ahead as you begin your deliberations on the issue of “strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships and for building resilience to disasters.”  Coming myself from a region of significant vulnerability to natural disasters, one which has with increasing frequency felt their devastating impact,  I value your presence here today, and I welcome the opportunity to share some thoughts on the important work of the Organization of American States in this field.

Promoting sustainable development has long been an area of focus for the OAS, and the issue of disaster risk management and building resilience to disasters is becoming even more critical for the countries of the Americas.    

The OAS has provided technical cooperation in this area since the early 1980s with the launch of the Secretariat’s Natural Hazard Project.  Since then, the objectives of disaster risk management, such as prevention and mitigation, as well as vulnerability reduction, have slowly but surely been integrated not only into national programs but also within all regional development programs and projects of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI).

In 2016, the Secretary General established this area of cooperation as one of the five strategic initiatives of the General Secretariat.  Secretary General Luis Almagro issued an Executive Order to establish an institutional policy that mainstreams disaster risk management across all secretariats and dependencies of the General Secretariat. Since then, SEDI and its Department of Sustainable Development has worked diligently to support other secretariats and dependencies of the General Secretariat in integrating the objectives of disaster risk management into their programs and projects, across the Organization’s other pillars, Democracy, Human Rights and Security.

The OAS has also played an important role in strengthening the Inter-American System’s capacity to respond to natural disasters. We supported an Inter-American policy Dialogue that led to the establishment of relevant instruments designed to support cooperation among Member States and Permanent Observers, as well as collaboration with pertinent agencies of the Inter-American and UN Systems, international cooperation agencies and organizations, IFIs and other partners.

Some worthy examples include for instance The Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance; the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction; the Inter-American Network for Disaster Mitigation (INDM); and the Inter-American Emergency Aid Fund (FONDEM). This dialogue also led to two Inter-American Plans, the most recent being the Inter-American Plan for Disaster Prevention and Response and the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance endorsed by the OAS General Assembly in 2012.

The increasing frequency and devastating impact of natural disasters, along with the constantly evolving international humanitarian assistance and disaster response scenarios led to new mandates and rising concern and demand from Member States to embark on a revision of these instruments. 

In the past few years, the General Assembly has adopted resolutions that instruct our General Secretariat to support the efforts of the Member States in advancing a more robust and coordinated multilateral cooperation for international disaster assistance.  More particularly, resolution 2916 adopted at the 48th Regular Session of the General Assembly last June, instructs SEDI, to present for the consideration of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development a proposal to facilitate a response to disasters, which should incorporate avenues to strengthen collaboration of Member States, Permanent Observers and other strategic partners.  Such a response is mandated to align with and optimize all instruments and mechanisms of the OAS, the Inter-American system, and those of the sub-region, and to function in coordination with the United Nations System and those of other international agencies.  ,

At its regular meeting last year, the General Assembly had already called for raising awareness of the Inter-American Convention to Facilitate Disaster Assistance. In doing so, it instructed the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) to conduct a table-top simulation exercise that tests processes and procedures of the Inter-American System, making use of the Inter-American Committee and all other instruments available to the Member States for a collaborative effort in responding to disasters.

I am happy to inform you that SEDI, as the leading technical dependency of the General Secretariat in matters of Disaster Risk Management and technical cooperation for integral development, working closely with the IADB in that effort. The natural disaster table exercise, scheduled for October 23, 2018, seeks to strengthen capacities, means and coordination among and within disaster response agencies in the hemisphere.

I am also pleased to report on an important initiative that we have embarked upon, aimed at strengthening our response and preparedness mechanisms as we face ever-growing numbers of natural disasters.  Responding to the Member States’ requests mandated by the General Assembly resolution, I have called for a comprehensive review of existing mandates and various instruments of the Inter-American System at our disposal, with a view to identifying weaknesses and strengths.  It is our hope that this will lead to enhanced effectiveness and provide a renewed appreciation of the services that we are able to render to Member States. 

We are working with the technical leadership of SEDI and its Department of Sustainable Development to present to Member States a proposal for a new framework capable of facilitating collaboration among Member States, Permanent Observers, agencies of the Inter-American and UN Systems, sub-regional specialized organizations and instruments, as well as other relevant humanitarian actors.

This new framework will seek to capitalize on the existing capacities in our Member States, under the premise that there is no country too small not to have capacities to offer, and no country too large that it may not need assistance. The new framework will build upon the UN Disaster Response System, also seeking to fill gaps and supplement the efforts of the UN System, international partners and bilateral assistance provided by OAS Member States and Permanent Observers.

In closing, allow me to assure you that the OAS is well positioned to continue supporting the efforts of the region in building capacities for disaster response and mitigation as part of hemispheric efforts to combat these challenges.  We will continue to facilitate multilateral cooperation capable of maximizing the work of our Member States cooperation agencies with the goals of building strong and resilient communities in the Americas.

We look forward to the positive outcomes of this important meeting to further support the efforts of our Member States to expand cooperation in the hemisphere.