Media Center



October 25, 1995 - Washington, DC

"Your visit today, Mr. Primer Minister, strengthens the growing relationship between OAS/CARICOM member states and the wider membership of our Organization. This past year has witnessed a dramatic increase in the dialogue which has taken place at all levels of the OAS."

It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome to the Headquarters of the Organization of American States the Honorable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and Minister of National Security, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Planning and Information.

We receive Prime Minister Douglas today on his first visit to the Organization since his inauguration last July. Mr. Prime Minister, your presence here among us, at the headquarters of the Organization of American States is a welcome sign of the important relationship that exists between the nations of the Caribbean and the Organization of American States.

Mr. Prime Minister, your election, as other recent electoral processes in your region and other OAS member states, is a fitting testimony to the commitment to democracy of the peoples of the Caribbean. It is also a powerful reminder that the peaceful transfer of power has not only become the norm in the Americas, but is also an essential foundation for democratic consolidation in our hemisphere.

Your visit today, Mr. Primer Minister, strengthens the growing relationship between OAS/CARICOM member states and the wider membership of our Organization. This past year has witnessed a dramatic increase in the dialogue which has taken place at all levels of the OAS.

First, our member states attended critical meetings in the Caribbean region. In addition to the biennial Policy, Programming and Coordination Meeting of the Caribbean sub-region held in Belize in March, our member states also participated in the Twenty-ninth Annual Meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council, (CIES) held in Antigua and Barbuda. The OAS was again present in the Caribbean for the Twenty-fifth Regular Session of the General Assembly in Haiti, which though not part of the English-speaking Caribbean, has close ties with the CARICOM member states.

The visit in August by the Assistant Secretary General to St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as to Dominica and Grenada, was also an important opportunity to deepen our dialogue with the region and those countries in particular.

In addition, the OAS worked closely with CARICOM in holding the first general meeting of our two Secretariats in March at the CARICOM Secretariat. Under the wise leadership of the Secretary General of CARICOM, Dr. Edwin Carrington, participants reviewed the present scope of cooperation between the two organizations and made proposals for coordinated and joint action. These iniciatives are currently being implemented by the relevant departments of CARICOM and the OAS. I am pleased to note that the Twenty-fifth Regular Session of the General Assembly received a report on the meeting, and endorsed holding of a second meeting.

In this same spirit of cooperation, the Organization of American States is committed to working with CARICOM, SICA and other sub-regional organizations in implementing programs and activities of member states, and in providing support to furthering the integration process.

I believe these meetings and exchanges serve to promote a useful dialogue, increase flows of information and foster understanding between sub-regions, and in the Organization as a whole. In short, they have contributed to the collective aims of the new OAS, following the Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action of the Summit of the Americas held in Miami in December 1994.

The OAS is committed to develop deeper collaboration with its member states and their representative institutions. That is why we will also look forward to working with the Association of Caribbean States which was formally established in August in Trinidad and Tobago. The ACS, an initiative of the CARICOM states, brings together states bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Despite historical constraints from early incorporation into the Inter-American system, the CARICOM states have nevertheless provided a very active contribution to the Organization's work from the moment they joined. With different historical experience and traditions, new expectations and ideas, and a special appreciation for the role for smalll states, they have brought fresh perspectives to the OAS. The Caribbean contributes extensively to the effort of member states to shape the OAS to meet changing needs and new development challenges; to redefine concepts such as hemispheric security; and, to find solutions to pressing issues.

Mr. Prime Minister, the Caribbean region is an active player in another way. While the diversity of cultures, peoples, and traditions which comprise this Organization constitute a great strength, it is also true that diversity presents very real challengues. A particular challenge lies in the area of economic integration, one of the cornerstones of the Charter of the OAS, and a priority to which the Summit of the Americas gave renewed commitment.

In this respect, sub-regional organizations such as the OECS, CARICOM, SICA the Andean Pact, MERCOSUR, among others, have an important role. By promoting integration at the sub-regional level, they define action required at the regional level. It is my view that regional and sub-regional action are complementary processes. Through on-going internal and external dialogue, through cooperation, and coordination of action, each gives clearer direction and definition to the other.

Small developing island states, such as St. Kitts and Nevis, the smallest member of this Organization in terms of land mass and population, illustrate some of the challengues which several the member states face, especially in the area of trade and economic integration. As you know, this Hemisphere is comprised of states that vary dramatically in terms of size of territory, population, per-capita income and other general economic indicators. As we proceed toward a Free Trade Zone in the Americas by 2005, there is one issue that will engage the attention of several member states, including those of the Caribbean. I am speaking of the integration of smaller or more fragile economies into this free trade area. The OAS is ready to provide support in addressing the particular needs of small market economies.

The special characteristics of small developing states, such as their narrow resource and tax bases, limited economies of scale, fragile eco-systems and small open economies, have been recognized by this Organization. Such characteristics increase the vulnerability of their economies and can easily frustrate development efforts. Sadly, this has been illustrated only too well this year by the devastating impact on several Caribbean member states of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

We deeply regret, Primer Minister the severe damage to St. Kitts and Nevis caused by the passage just a few months ago of two hurricanes, Luis and Marilyn. Damage to property and vital national infrastructure such as that of the health, tourism and education and other sectors was swift and extensive, and its effects on development are likely to be evident for some time.

Reflecting the solidarity expressed by the member states, the OAS readily responded, within the limits of its resources, to the request for assistance made by St. Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean member states suffering the effects of these hurricanes. As I have stated on another occasion, the OAS can play a more vital role in mobilizing external resources on behalf of the countries in need of disaster relief. Another effective activity, in which the General Secretariat is already involved, and in which its efforts can be intensified, is disaster prevention, utilizing available resources and technological advances to anticipate and prevent the effects of natural disasters.

Mr. Prime Minister, the OAS is giving new priority to technical cooperation to support integral development and as a pillar for sustaining democracy. The preparatory work underway for the establishment of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, CIDI, and its administrative support, has been engaging the concerted efforts of the member states. The objective is to forge an instrument for more effective and efficient delivery of technical cooperation, as envisaged by the Protocol of Managua, and within the framework established by the Special General Assembly on Cooperation for Integral Development held in Mexico City. St. Kitts and Nevis is among the member states which have actively contributed to the intensive and ongoing discussions among the membership of the Organization on the establishment of CIDI.

In support of the efforts of the member states, I have presented to the Permanent Council some preliminary ideas on updating the concept of technical cooperation, and on possible mechanisms and modalities for its delivery. The General Secretariat will continue to provide support in this regard, in the priority areas defined. To this end, I will submit additional ideas for consideration by the members states.

It is my view that careful study should be given to specific mechanisms, as central tenets for reshaping the technical cooperation program. Examples of these would include: expansion of horizontal cooperation programs such as those offered by Argentina, Brazil and Mexico; the use of national and sub-regional expertise in program execution; the use of the Organization as a catalyst to provide impetus to national programs designed to be self-sustaining through generation of national institutional expertise. In my submissions to the member states, I have also proposed that the internal organization of the General Secretariat place greater emphasis on organization along geographical lines. This approach would permit accumulation of a greater volume of knowledge about our sub-regions, and further facilitate support to the integration process.

The general thrust underlying my proposals is that the General Secretariat demonstrate a capacity for change and revitalization, if it is to be more responsive to the evolving needs, policy decisions and the mandates of the member states. This greater flexibility will also be seen in the presentation of appropriate and creative proposals in support of the efforts of the member states to meet the challenges of the hemisphere. I take this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the General Secretariat to collaboration with the member states on the means to deal with our complex hemispheric agenda.

Mr. Prime Minister, we are indeed pleased to receive you at this Protocolary Session of the Permanent Council. I see your presence here as a testimony to the will of St. Kitts and Nevis to participate fully to the tasks facing the Organization on the threshold of the twenty-first century. Again, I bid you a warm welcome to this House of the Americas.