Assistant Secretary General Speech


October 13, 2016 - Washington D.C.

**** Check against delivery ****

Chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Audrey Marks
Distinguished Delegates,

  • I want to thank the Chair for including this important item in today’s agenda. Our thoughts are with all the victims of this natural disaster.
  • As you are all aware, we have not seen a hurricane this strong in almost a decade. Hurricane Mathew made landfall last week and caused widespread infrastructural damage in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and led to loss of lives in the United States.
  • However, this hurricane has had the greatest impact in our sister country, Haiti, which has sustained the greatest loss of lives and is now facing a serious cholera crisis.
  • In response to this urgent situation, the OAS and the international community mobilized quickly to coordinate assistance and respond to the needs of the affected member states.
  • On October 5, when the storm had just passed Haiti and Jamaica and was heading to the Bahamas, I convened the first meeting of the Inter-American Emergency Aid Committee.
  • As you know, this is a disaster-response mechanism of the Organization that brings together representatives from the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Defense Board, and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), as well other pertinent agencies of the Inter-American System to inform of post-disaster relief needs and coordinate relief efforts.
  • Since this first meeting, two other meetings of the Committee have been convened, the most recent was held yesterday. The Committee has been working assiduously along with the Permanent Mission of Haiti to help coordinate the relief efforts.

Let me share with you some of the work of the Committee so far:

  • The Inter-American Defense Board has established a “Situation Room” to coordinate the responses of the various agencies in the immediate to short-term period.
  • As the post-disaster situation continues to evolve in all affected Member States, and in particular in Haiti, we continue to ascertain the most up to date information on the immediate needs of those Member States.
  • Earlier this week, my Office circulated a list of urgent needs of Haiti, as well as information on how to best channel financial assistance to the country.
  • Yesterday I convened a meeting with Permanent Observer Missions to the OAS, the Permanent Representatives of Haiti, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, the United States of America; as well as representatives from PAHO, PADF, the Inter-American Defense Board, and the White Helmets to receive the most recent damage assessment reports in each affected country and to hear of the assistance being given to Haiti.
  • The OAS Representative in Haiti, Mr. Frederic Bolduc, also joined the meeting via teleconference to provide updates on efforts being carried out on the ground.
  • I was very pleased by the overwhelming expressions of support and solidarity from Permanent Observers. Over 20 countries, as well as the representative from the European Union, were present at the meeting.
  • The OAS stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Caribbean and the United States and we are committed to redouble our efforts to cooperate with the Government and people of Haiti during this time of need.
  • I would like to take this opportunity to thank our strategic partners, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Defense Board, the Pan American Development Fund (PADF) and the White helmets for their continued support to member states in times of natural disasters.