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Candidates for Assistant Secretary General of the OAS Present Proposals to the Member States of the Organization

  March 4, 2015

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today received presentations by the two candidates proposed by the member states for the position of Assistant Secretary General – the current Permanent Representatives of Guyana, Bayney Karran, and of Belize, Nestor Mendez-, in a special meeting that took place in Washington, DC.

The election of the Assistant Secretary General is scheduled for March 18, the same date on which the next Secretary General of the Organization will be elected. According to the rules, new candidates can be presented until the same day of the election. The order of the presentations was determined by lottery.

Permanent Representative of Guyana

In his presentation the Representative of Guyana referred to the basic pillars of the Organization-democracy, human rights, security and development- and how he would seek to strengthen the role of the OAS in each of these areas. On the issue of democracy he stated that the capacity of the General Secretariat must be enhanced to monitor, anticipate and head off potential threats to constitutional order in member states, by refining early warning systems. “We need to support efforts aimed at campaign finance reform, constitutional reform and institutional strengthening while at the same time increasing our assistance for election processes and for the promotion of good governance,” he said. Moreover, he added that in the future political environment of the region “member states should be prepared to welcome the participation of the Government of Cuba in the councils of the hemisphere,” and commented that the initiative by the United States and Cuba to normalize relations “has the potential to significantly improve the tenor of future political discourse in the region.”

The candidate for the post of Assistant Secretary General also said that on the issue of combating inequality and promoting integral development “the OAS has a fundamental obligation to assist member states to overcome the scourges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.” “Our smaller and more vulnerable States, which comprise a substantial component of our membership, are not satisfied with our level of accomplishment in this area in spite of some significant successes,” he noted and highlighted the need to be more proactive in addressing these challenges. “If elected as Assistant Secretary General, I would work closely with member states to find ways to raise more resources and to channel them into low-cost, high-impact development programs, with emphasis on education,” he asserted.

Speaking of the pillar of multidimensional security, the Guyanese diplomat encouraged extending the Organization’s work to ensure that public security is addressed more comprehensively. “The OAS must continue to build hemispheric networks of cooperation, sharing of experiences and capacity building in order to combat the scourge of transnational criminal organizations,” he said, and added that the OAS can play a central role in moving the Hemisphere closer to consensus in the war on drugs and on immigration issues.

Ambassador Karran also referred to the strengthening of the Inter-American human rights system and highlighted that the General Secretariat should exert efforts to ensure that the system is improved and strengthened. “This can commence with a renewed dialogue under the new administration starting with the human rights institutions and the member states,” he said, and expressed his intention to formulate proposals to ease the friction between member states and the system.

On the issue of the relationship between the Secretary General and the Assistant Secretary General, the Ambassador from Guyana said that they “must have an intimate working relationship based on mutual trust, mutual cooperation and mutual respect.” “They must be at one with regard to the mission and strategic objectives,” he said, and added that it would benefit the Organization for the Assistant Secretary General to play a strong and well-defined political role.

The Ambassador of Guyana’s vision for the future of the OAS includes strengthening dialogue and collaboration with member states and greater synergies with financial institutions and with subregional groups. He also proposed creating a program of dialogue and consultation between the various subregional groupings to promote understanding and consensus on issues of common interest. “Member states would like the next administration breathe new life into the Organization and they are concerned that the influence and authority of the OAS would diminish unless it is given a fresh impetus," he said.

The presentation of the candidate proposed by Guyana also included specific initiatives related to the modernization and management of the OAS, including increased mobilization and efficiency of resources; strategies for increased effectiveness and coordination in monitoring the implementation of mandates emerged from the Summits of the Americas; the establishment of the Office of an Ombudsman; a re-evaluation and re-articulation of the role of the OAS national offices; promoting an initiative to create a more dynamic relationship with Permanent Observers; addressing issues of representativeness, transparency and trust in the field of human resources; and institutionalizing the mechanism of regional coordinators, which “has been considered a valuable tool to manage negotiations and to facilitate consensus building.”

Following the initial presentation of the candidate of Guyana, the representatives of Ecuador, Venezuela, El Salvador, Chile, Brazil, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Mexico, Suriname, Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominica, Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Peru, Barbados, the United States and Bolivia took the floor during the exchange with Ambassador Karran.

Permanent Representative of Belize

For his part the Permanent Representative of Belize to the OAS, Nestor Mendez, highlighted that “The Organization of American States is today faced with a golden opportunity, a unique moment, one that comes only once every decade. A moment when we will be ushering in a new leadership, when we will be finishing a strategic plan, when we will be transitioning to a new administration. It is a moment, an opportunity for change. I want to invite you to seize the moment.”

To transform the Organization and build on the basis of the consensus around the Strategic Vision, said Ambassador Mendez, the input of everyone will be needed. “This joint undertaking approach, this collective ownership of the Inter-American System cannot be overemphasized. We are here, all member states because we want to be here, because we see value in this Organization which binds our membership and anchors our relations on the founding principles and purposes of the OAS,” he added.

Speaking specifically of the position of Assistant Secretary General, the diplomat from Belize emphasized that “It is an office filled with serious responsibilities and you need somebody in that post who can communicate effectively and generate the dynamics to create trust and to move the Organization forward.” The new Assistant Secretary General, continued Ambassador Mendez, “must be somebody who knows the Organization intimately and who can generate that trust and confidence in the Permanent Council and in the staff of the Secretariat,” said Ambassador Mendez, who has represented his country for 15 years at the hemispheric institution, the first nine as Alternate Representative and the last six as Permanent Representative Ambassador.

“What this Organization needs above all at this moment is a dynamic leadership that inspires confidence and that inspires pride in the personnel. We have to change the institutional culture. Our staff works for the oldest multilateral organization in the world that touches the lives of people on a daily basis. And they should be proud of this, and this pride starts with the leadership and the instilment of confidence,” said Mendez.

If elected, the Ambassador of Belize said he would propose the institution of “a coordinating structure that would bring together all the secretariats in a periodic fashion at least once every two weeks and once every month we would convene an expanded cabinet where we have not only the secretaries, but also the heads of departments and any technical staff that needs to be there.” In that way, he said the Organization could respond in an integral way to the cross-cutting challenges that face the region, and cited as examples migration, the challenges facing young people, poverty, and climate change, among others.

The presentation of the candidate proposed by Belize also included concrete proposals related to the modernization and administration of the OAS; the introduction of the figure of the “ombudsman;” a “zero tolerance policy” regarding harassment in the workplace; the initiation of elections for the position of Inspector General; the need to provide specific responsibilities for the national offices of the OAS; promote “intelligent cooperation;” and explore new approaches to public-private partnerships, among others.

After presenting his ideas and proposals for the four pillars of the OAS, Permanent Representative Mendez highlighted the importance of “positioning our Organization at the center of the big discussions of our time; issues like energy security, energy integration, migration, and interconnectivity; and the best news is we have the institutional infrastructure to make it happen.” In his conclusion, Ambassador Mendez emphasized that “we need to focus on what we agree on and what unites us, instead of what does not unite us. Here in this room today we have everything we need to transform our Organization and to convert it into the OAS that we need, that we want and that our people deserve.”

Upon the conclusion of the presentation of Ambassador Mendez, the representatives of El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Dominica, Paraguay, the United States Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Barbados and Suriname took the floor in the question and answer session.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video news of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-065/15