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March 6, 1998

St. Lucia's Governor General, Pearlette Louisy, this morning told a hemispheric conference in Washington that the Caribbean region had made a significant contribution to the development of education in the region, and should take credit for its education initiatives that offer innovative approaches to tertiary education development.

Delivering the keynote address at a breakfast session of the Conference of the Americas at the Organization of American States, the St. Lucian Governor General highlighted three main strategy initiatives developed in the Caribbean to deliver better and relevant tertiary education to the region's population.

These strategies formed the cornerstone of what the St. Lucian head of state, an educator herself, referred to as mechanisms to develop the tertiary education capabilities of the islands of the Caribbean. They are the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Education Reform Strategy, a regional network called The Association of Caribbean Tertiary Institutions (ACTI), and centers of specialization which perform regional roles from different territories.

Diversifying the non-university sector while investing more in human resource development Dr. Louisy explained to be focusses the Caribbean is exploring in order to address major challenges to expansion of the Caribbean countries' tertiary education sector.

As a multinational body, the OAS is ideally placed to help promote "this new pattern of regionalism that is emerging in the Caribbean," the Governor General stressed. This, as the hemispheric body, through its Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), emphasizes cooperation and coordination, the very elements that underlie the three initiatives she outlined.

Ambassador Albert Ramdin, Permanent Representative of Suriname who is also chairman of the ranking Permanent Council of the OAS opened the morning session, hailing the milestone of the OAS anniversary as an opportunity to look ahead and to become more action- and development-oriented in its approach.

"We already have established policy and legal frameworks," he said, "...and what we need now are concrete programs and projects...."

On the focus topic for the breakfast session, the Surinamese diplomat asserted that "educating people, improving their skills and knowledge is only the first step in lifting the standards of the people of the Americas." He went on to reiterate the point that merely providing education for people does not always lead to social and economic development and prosperity, but rather, commitments on education as a means to furthering development must be accompanied by parallel commitments to creating other conditions for peace, stability and social and economic well-being in the region.

OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, St. Lucia's envoy to the OAS, Ambassador Sonia Johnny and the Governor General of the Bahamas, Sir Orville Turnquest, were among the audience of diplomats and top officials and experts from all across the Western Hemisphere who attended the breakfast meeting.

At a luncheon Friday, the Bahamian chief of state will deliver the keynote address.

The two-day Conference, which opened yesterday, is one of the activities designated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the hemispheric OAS, which now has a significant Caribbean presence among its 34 member states. Next April 30 will be exactly fifty years since the Charter was signed in Bogota, Colombia.

At sessions yesterday, US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright spoke, and so did the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes at a luncheon. Thursday's program ended with an Encounter of Nobel Laureates of the Americas, which brought together former Honduran president Oscar Arias, Venezuelan Baruj Benacerraf, Argentina's Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Mario Molina of Mexico, Derek Walcott of St. Lucia, John Polanyi of Canada and Joy Williams, of the United States, who is the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The conference ends this evening.

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