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April 16, 1998

An agreement signed between the Organization of American States (OAS) and the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) on Tuesday will boost conflict resolution in the hemisphere.

Signing for the Organization, Secretary General César Gaviria asserted that conflict resolution had been a major topic on the OAS agenda. The countries of the Americas must share their experiences and develop solid and stable relations between workers and employers while fostering conflict resolution development and practice, the secretary general stressed.

Under the agreement signed at the OAS headquarters, both agencies are to focus on creating institutions and training mediators in each country, and conducting exchanges of experience in setting up information systems for administrative and educational purposes. The OAS will also promote contacts between member state governments and the FMCS, and will inform the countries of technical assistance and training programs on conflict resolution processes being organized by the US group.

Set up by the US government in 1947, the FMCS is intended to promote and preserve understanding between a country's employers and labor unions, with a view to setting labor policies that are beneficial to all parties. At present, the FMCS has pursued cooperation with institutions in 85 countries worldwide.

FMCS Director John Calhoun Wells explained as he signed the agreement that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service had been a mediator for major labor disputes over the last 50 years and had participated in very complex labor negotiations, always coming up with innovative settlements because of its longstanding interest in confronting and settling any dispute.

In her contribution Noemí Cohen, Secretary of the OAS Administrative Tribunal, said that mediation was the main vehicle through which the hemisphere's democratic institutions were strengthened to build consensus to make democracy not only a procedure but also a lifestyle.

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