Assistant Secretary General Speech


January 28, 2019 - Kingston, Jamaica

Senator the Honorable Pearnel Charles Jr., Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

Honourable Alando Terrelonge, MP, Minister of State, in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport

Beverley Lashley, National Librarian and CEO of the National Library of Jamaica

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Representatives of International Organizations

Special invited guests, members of the media, Friends of the OAS

A pleasant good morning to all,

It is my distinct pleasure to offer remarks at the launch of this traveling exhibition to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Organization of American States. I must commend the National Library of Jamaica for bringing this enlightening exhibit to fruition.

The concept of a unified hemisphere was first expressed by Simon Bolivar when he lived in exile right here in Kingston over 200 years ago and from where he wrote his famous letter from Jamaica. The Organization of American States, in its present incarnation, was founded in April 1948 during a time when the atrocities of the last World War prompted the countries in this hemisphere to come together to seek solutions to the challenges faced and to create a system to protect the inherent rights of human beings, regardless of their nationality or any other status.

The OAS’ membership grew from 21 signatory states to all 35 independent countries in the Western Hemisphere with 34 being active members today. The work of the OAS is based on 4 main pillars: that is, protecting human rights, maintaining peace and security, defending democracy, and promoting integral development among its Member States. Needless to say, this is quite a feat to accomplish in a region with the highest level of income inequality and the highest murder rates in the world. Yet, the OAS remains the main political forum for dialogue, consensus building, and collective action in this hemisphere.

The OAS is the world’s oldest regional organization having evolved and adapted throughout the years to address the evolving needs of its Member States.

Among other critical changes, the founding of the Inter-American Development Bank in April 1959 under the aegis of the OAS and the inclusion of the Caribbean as the OAS’ newest members in the 1960s and 70s contributed to a greater focus on development issues.

As the OAS commemorates its 70th Anniversary, it celebrates the many achievements of the Organization. At the same time, we realize that the work continues towards building the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous hemisphere. Considering the many challenges facing our region today, it is an opportune time to reflect on the importance of strengthening our bonds of friendship and unity. It is our goal to engage more effectively with the peoples of the Americas in our efforts to address the problems that plague the region and bring harm to communities. One way this is being done is through our Country Offices who serve as our principal liaisons in the Member States. Activities like these also help to promote our work and spread our message of peace and solidarity in the Americas. In that connection, I wish to acknowledge the work of the National Library of Jamaica through its CEO, Ms. Beverley Lashley, for mounting this historic exhibition that we hope will edify and inspire those who view it. I also take this opportunity to express heartfelt thanks to Ms. Jeanelle van GlaanenWeygel, our Country Office Representative here in Jamaica, for partnering with the Library in creating this Exhibit and all of her hard work throughout the years.

I also wish to congratulate the Government of Jamaica as it commemorates 50 years as a valued member of the OAS. This Exhibit not only takes into account the history of the OAS, but also the pivotal role Jamaica has played in the Organization’s evolution. It will also display some of our projects here. The Exhibit will be made available for viewing in all Public Libraries throughout Jamaica over the coming months. We hope that you enjoy this bird’s eye view of the OAS’ work in Jamaica, which reflects our strong bond with the Government and the people of Jamaica.