Assistant Secretary General Speech


November 18, 2020 - Washington, DC

Ms. Kathy Barclay, President
PADF Board of Trustees
PADF Management and Staff

A pleasant morning is wished to all.

I am pleased to welcome you to today’s virtual Board Meeting of the Pan American Development Foundation as Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees as well as in my capacity of Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

AS the world continues to grapple with the severe challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been inspiring to see how the PADF and the OAS have adapted to the new reality and have done the hard work required to make innovative use of existing channels and to unearth technologies to continue to respond effectively to the needs of the most vulnerable communities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It has become evident that the impact of this global pandemic will have long-term consequences due to increasing unemployment and poverty rates, creating more unequal societies in a region that had already been recognized as having some of the highest socioeconomic disparities in the world.

The pandemic will result in the worst recession in our region in a century, exacerbating the immense challenges and profound inequalities already faced by these vulnerable populations. In living up to the objectives of our mutually held values, the restoration of their livelihoods must be prioritized in our individual and collective strategic planning for building back better, and be foremost in our discussions for months and years to come.

Notwithstanding the immense challenges which we have been forced to confront, this crisis provides an opportunity to teach us all invaluable lessons about our institutional shortcomings, to point out gaps in our capacity to respond with appropriate alacrity, and to address the root causes of inequalities while promoting sustainable economic recovery.

There is hardly any organization better positioned than PADF to lead such an effort, investing human and other tangible resources and deploying critical technical responses throughout the hemisphere. Your successful track record of partnerships with civil society, governments, and the private sector is poised to amplify its offerings in continued improvement to human development and security in our region.
PADF possesses the dependable, required level of professional expertise, and local networks to promote sustainable livelihoods and increase access to economic opportunities.

Your hands-on action helps to galvanize small businesses, provide 21st century skills and vocational training to youth and at-risk groups, and promote urban and rural development.

In Haiti, the PADF is working with local governments to clean and disinfect critical public infrastructure and major thoroughfares to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19.
Importantly, this resulted in basic training and the immediate creation of short-term jobs.

You are also confronting the great challenge of climate change and natural disasters. PADF supports institutional reforms that improve environmental protection, working to reduce risk, mitigate the impact of disastrous events when they occur, and the implementation of disaster recovery and reconstruction programs. As a proactive member of the Inter-American Committee for Natural Disaster Reduction (IACNDR), the PADF has been instrumental in creating effective responses to disaster events in our hemisphere.

In Honduras, PADF is working with a local network of organizations and the United Nations World Food Programme to coordinate delivery of much-needed food and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Eta.
Through the direct intervention of PADF food security is increased, and healthy behaviors and access to services for vulnerable populations throughout the hemisphere promoted.

Through partnerships with the public and private sector, PADF is strengthening the capacity of communities and local health providers and promoting the use of sustainable food sources. These are certainly contributions that have generated invaluable experience that will serve our hemisphere in the post-COVID-19 era which will be marked by issues attendant to food security.

One example of this critical work is the ongoing delivery of food kits to migrant and internally displaced families in Colombia, vulnerable families in Ecuador, and domestic workers in Mexico.

I applaud your commitment to democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, vital drivers of prosperity and human dignity.

As we know, the ability of journalists to report freely is a key indicator of democracy. PADF’s Voces del Sur Project, led by 10 civil society organizations, is monitoring and reporting alerts related to violations against freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information. These all speak to your commendable dedication to the promotion of peaceful societies, access to justice for all, strengthening law enforcement, and improving security conditions throughout the hemisphere.

Your response to the Venezuelan migration continues to be critical to the stability of millions of Venezuelans currently living outside their country. PADF is providing shelter, food, access to health care and education, and cash-based assistance to migrants in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.

I have highlighted only some examples of PADF’s admirable efforts throughout Latin America and Caribbean to make our region stronger – more healthy, peaceful, just, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable for current and future generations. As I underscored during our last meeting in May, this global pandemic is a defining moment for the OAS, and in that same vein, it is a defining moment for our PADF-OAS partnership as well.

Such unprecedented challenges make the PADF-OAS partnership ever more vital, even more essential to those who stand in need. We must therefore build on the work in which we have engaged together to deliver on our joint commitment to the OAS principles of social justice and social security, and to our mutually held goal of doing more for those who are the most vulnerable among us.

I am proud of the longstanding and productive relationship of the OAS and the PADF, and once again congratulate the PADF Trustees and staff for their passion and commitment to helping the most vulnerable communities in their hour of greatest need. As PADF’s Vice Chairman, I reaffirm my own commitment to the work in which we are all engaged, that of building a hemisphere of sustainable growth and opportunity for all.

Thank you.