|July 12, 2000
OAS ASSISTANT SECRETARY GENERAL
Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, the Trinidad and Tobago-born Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) ended his term of office Tuesday with an emotional hemispheric send-off from the members countries' ambassadors.
Speaking at a Permanent Council meeting after farewell presentations from the forum of ambassadors, Ambassador Thomas cited entrenchment of democracy as one of the major victories the Organization had helped spearhead during the time he spent as its second highest official. "The war for democracy has been won. This is our most historic achievement."
He pointed to the "spontaneous hemispheric response" to even the slightest departure from democracy as the most palpable evidence of this. Urging ongoing collective vigil, however, he warned that while the war has been won, "the battle continues."
In that regard, the out-going Assistant Secretary General suggested revisiting the question of the OAS' role in consolidating democracy. He said that "if the democracy agenda is essentially a human rights agenda," then the issue of state sovereignty must ultimately be understood in the context of human rights.
He also highlighted structural changes within the Organization, in keeping with the changing realities, and said he was particularly gratified to have witnessed the Organization's evolution and to have contributed to the ongoing changes.
OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria hailed Ambassador Thomas' ten-year tenure, which he said had brought the OAS vision, leadership, dedication and an exceptional representation on its issues. "Over the years, we worked as a team with Ambassador Thomas, tackling difficult circumstances, working to uphold the principles of democracy in the Americas and working for peace and security in this Hemisphere," said Gaviria.
A number of the member state ambassadors added their praise for Ambassador Thomas' leadership. Said Trinidad and Tobago's Ambassador, Michael Arneaud: "He fulfilled the functions of his office with great dedication and performed the tasks assigned to him in an efficient and exemplary manner." Arneaud also praised the out-going OAS deputy chief's "depth of intellect and resourcefulness," citing Thomas' contribution to the existing body of work on the inter-American system.
Ambassador Thomas said he would now go on extended leave and will also consider options, including an offer from the Inter-American Economic Council to be its Executive Chairman.