Media Center



July 6, 2000 - Washington, DC

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here this morning for this special event, celebrating Ron Scheman’s “return” to our Organization as the first Director General of the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development.

It is entirely fitting that we should be here in this Hall of the Americas. It is no exaggeration to say that Ron Scheman has dedicated most of his entire professional life to the promotion of the ideals incorporated in the OAS Charter and the building of a community of the Americas.

He began his career at the OAS Secretariat as a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the Legal Department. He later moved to become a Planning Officer in the OAS Economic and Social Affairs Secretariat, and then was appointed in 1975 as our Assistant Secretariat for Management, responsible for all financial, administrative and personnel questions in the OAS.

During his eight year tenure in the latter position, among his principal accomplishments was overseeing the successful construction of the General Service Building on F Street which is one of the three main facilities of our Headquarters.

In the early 1970s, he became one of the founders of the Pan-American Development Foundation, under the auspices of the OAS. With the Foundation, he helped pioneer some of the first private sector and micro enterprise development programs in the Americas.

In his career, he has served some years in private law practice, during which, he authored two seminal books on Inter-American relations: The Alliance for Progress: a Retrospective; and The inter-American Dilemma: The Search for Inter-American Cooperation at the Centennial of the Inter-American System.

In December 1993, he was appointed by President Clinton to serve as US Executive Director on the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank. A position he occupied until April 1998. During this five year period, while representing his country as the largest shareholder of the Bank, he played an instrumental role in the historic negotiations of its Eighth Capital Replenishment which raised the Bank’s capital base to over $100 billion, thus ensuring its long-term self-sufficiency. During his time as IDB Executive Director, he was simultaneously on the Board of the Bank’s Inter-American Investment Corporation.

Let me, before finishing this list of accomplishments, make reference to one other very important role Ron Scheman has been playing in the last couple of years – that of leadership in establishing a new Museum of the Americas. No other location for such an entity is as appropriate as that of the OAS Headquarters which symbolically provides the political space of the hemisphere .

He has spent numerous hours, in a voluntary capacity as chairman of the Foundation of the Museum, working with the Smithsonian, the Inter-American Development Bank, Microsoft Corporation and other private sector sponsors, to plan a state-of -the-art building where its core function would be a “virtual” museum of art, artifacts, visual and performing arts linking all the major cultural institutions in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

While it is appropriate to recall Ron Scheman’s life-long commitment to the betterment of the Americas, I also want to reflect briefly on the future challenges which I foresee in his new position as Director General of the Inter-American Agency.

Nowhere in the world is the process of change making itself felt more significantly than in this hemisphere. The rules of the game are changing radically almost as we speak. The priorities and challenges facing our governments are quite different from what they were only a few short years ago. And the OAS itself is playing a much more central role helping to formulate and carry forward the new hemispheric agenda.

In helping the OAS and specifically its Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) in meeting these challenges, I believe the Agency and its activities must combine two characteristics. It must retain a “big picture” vision but also a practical, “how-to” do it with efficiency .

Several specific areas come to mind in which this approach will be important.

The Agency, as part of the OAS, works within an inter-governmental forum and must respond to the many commitments made by the Presidents and Heads of Government of the hemisphere in their recent Summits. In pursuing these goals, the OAS has a number of comparative advantages. The Agency, with its specific mandate in the area of technical cooperation, will need to make use of those comparative advantages the OAS enjoys, by working together more effectively with the other international and bilateral organizations whose goals are similar to it and to focus assistance on those countries most in need and where the assistance is more relevant This Secretariat would like once again to call the attention to its proposal that more countries should become net donors of resources. In so doing we would magnify the sense of hemispheric partnership in these efforts and give the OAS a greater political equilibrium.

The Director of the Agency now has more defined mandates and broader authority to negotiate cooperation agreements with member countries or permanent observers and to promote the best use of the resources .As we mention in the assembly it is a matter of adapting to the recent trend, which has revenues from member states’ assessed quotas on the decline and the specific funds associated with actual projects or activities carried out by the OAS on the rise. We look to the Agency to provide fresh ideas and renewed momentum that, as the Director has proposed, modernize the organizational structure, as well as the methods for deciding on, financing, and executing projects.

Ron Scheman is particularly well suited to promote partnerships for development between governments and other outside actors, especially the private sector In the few weeks Ron Scheman has been on the job, he has already been developing a number of exciting new approaches in these two areas which will, I am sure, provide evidence in the months ahead as to the wise decision of our countries in selecting him as first Director General of the Agency last April.

I would like to finish these remarks by wishing him every success in this latest challenge in his impressive career, to reassure him of my full support to the work of the Agency, and to extend best wishes to his family on this memorable occasion.

Thank you