Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


June 16, 2015 - Washington, DC

Today, my friend Sergio Jellinek, whom you will all soon get to know, showed me some recent headlines. Some of them read like this “"OAS heads off institutional breakdown in Guatemala"; "The OAS gives Almagro the green light to embark on reforms"; "Dominican Republic offers to host the next OAS Assembly"; "Brazil wants to resuscitate the OAS"; "OAS member states instruct Almagro to carry out reforms"; "United States welcomes the idea of a renovated OAS."

My friends:

These are just a few of the large number of headlines in the media of our Hemisphere. They do not give the impression that the OAS is irrelevant. Before the forty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly began, many people asked me what expectations I had, what "success" would mean at the end of it, and I answered that for me it would be successful if, in the dialogue with the ministers of foreign affairs, we could agree on a roadmap for modernizing the OAS, for bringing about the changes needed to bring it closer to the people of the Hemisphere and their needs. I think we achieved and surpassed that objective and I congratulate you on your work.

I am convinced that the outcome is as important as the process, because we achieved it together, in a constructive dialogue that demonstrates the political will of all the member states to inject a new impetus into the Organization so that it can work in sync with the needs of the Hemisphere.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution that authorizes the General Secretariat, with you and the Permanent Council, to make the organizational adjustments needed to ensure that the vision of the OAS and its four pillars (Democracy, Human Rights, Security, and Integral Development) are reflected in a flexible and functional organizational structure, without unnecessary duplication.

We conceive of an OAS that operates in three dimensions: the national sphere, in which it provides services to the member states, such as electoral observation or judicial facilitators, in the area of public policies; the hemispheric dimension, in which it engages in political dialogue and hemispheric initiatives, such as citizen security, and schools of governance; and the global dimension, in which it contributes solutions to global issues, ranging from climate change to religious intolerance, or terrorism.

As regards our work in the hemispheric dimension, I fully espouse the recommendations made by the member states to strengthen coordination and synergies in the inter-American system, while, at the same time, seeking out areas where we can complement the work of other bodies, such as UNASUR and CELAC.

To that end, we will appoint a focal point to concentrate exclusively on the task of achieving such coordination.

Thus our notion of the OAS is of an Organization that generates public goods at both the hemispheric and national levels, whereby what matters most is that the member states actually use those goods. This will mean executing fewer projects, but those that we do commit to must have the hallmark of excellence.

The resolution also authorizes us to work on forging a culture oriented, both in-house and externally, toward results. That will enable us to reinforce the legitimacy of the Organization in the eyes of the public.

Internally, we will continue to build a firm partnership with the Permanent Council and OAS staff, without whose vital support no transformation will be possible.

However, that internal transformation is geared to achieving a more dynamic and active external role for the OAS.

So I would like to congratulate you also on the resolutions adopted during this Assembly, particularly those that support the democratic institutional system in Guatemala and electoral observation in Haiti; the convention on the rights of older persons, and the plan of action in support of social inclusion, to name but a few.

My friends:

I wish to thank all of you for your support during the transition period and during this Assembly and I commit to preserving a substantive dialogue with you to ensure that the process initiated today continues moving forward, and that, as the reforms are implemented, we gradually show results and achievements pointing to a road all of us want to embark on. Toward an OAS that all recognize as theirs because it stands at the very heart of the concerns of the citizens of the Hemisphere.

Step by step, by promising less and doing more, we can achieve that goal.

Thank you very much.