Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


April 14, 2021 - Washington, DC

Dear Friends, good morning

We are deeply saddened by the tragedy unfolding in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. I begin by offering heartfelt sympathy to the government and people of the country at this difficult time, as well as nearby Barbados and Saint Lucia, other countries affected, that are now also suffering from the effects of the recent eruption of the La Soufrière Volcan.

Fortunately during times like this, it often brings out our true humanity and an enhanced display of unity.

The La Soufrière eruption has resulted in the displacement of approximately 20,000 people; nearly one-fifth of the island's residents. Many have already lost their homes. While early reports suggest that infrastructure damage may be limited, the country is expected to face significant impacts on its agricultural sector.

This crisis, coming amid a pandemic, poses an even more significant challenge for this small, highly vulnerable island nation. As it positions itself to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of its displaced citizens, it must also continue taking measures to curb the pandemic's spread.

In the medium to long-term, the negative impacts of COVID19 on crucial economic sectors such as travel tourism are likely to be even further exacerbated by this volcanic eruption. The country must also prepare for what is predicted to be another highly active hurricane season, which commences in a mere six weeks.

As the people and government of St Vincent and the Grenadines work to manage this complex crisis and plan for the country’s recovery I applaud the adoption of the resolution on "Solidarity with and Support for the People and Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines" in today's meeting of the Permanent Council which will expand access to the critical financial and other resources they will need.

I take this opportunity to recognize and commend our member states that have taken action to support their neighbor. I also welcome the broader regional effort led by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) through its institutions such as the Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which are working with the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Regional Security System (RSS). The challenges posed by this crisis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines would overwhelm the capacity of any government acting alone, as such; this is a moment which requires the collective action of the entire Inter-American family as well as multi-sectoral partners.

The OAS has historically placed a strong emphasis on building the resilience of our member states. However, as these crises highlight, there is much more work that needs to be done. In keeping with our commitment to this ongoing effort, I am pleased to inform you that the General Secretariat will mobilize usual resources from the FONDEM in relief aid that will be immediately made available. We will also strengthen the internal coordination of mechanisms within the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development on disaster response and examine how we may best utilize existing initiatives to support the resilience of critical sectors such as tourism as well as micro small and medium enterprises.

As we work diligently to address the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and natural disasters such as this volcanic eruption which threaten our sister nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and strive to deliver inclusive and sustainable development for the citizens of our region, we must hold fast to our founding principle of cooperación solidaria; recognizing our shared responsibility for the development and security of each member state. As a hemispheric body, we stand in solidarity with the government and people of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines and ready to facilitate any action needed to aid its recovery from this most devastating event.

Definitivamente nos vamos a ocupar y nos comprometemos a trabajar con donantes potenciales sean del sector privado como del sector público con las instituciones financieras internacionales para que los recursos nuevos y adicionales financieros estén disponibles para San Vincent y las Granadinas, para que definitivamente las mejores capacidades tecnológicas estén a su disposición para que este tema sea un tema que pase pronto y que las soluciones alcancen a todas y a todos los que han sufrido con esta situación.