Media Center



October 13, 1995 - Washington, DC

" We should explore together the appropriate means to stimulate solidarity among American countries as a basis for cooperation between them. Those countries having greater economic capability should contribute to the development of more vulnerable economies."

It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome the Honorable Edison James, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, to the headquarters of the Organization of American States. Your presence at this meeting of the Permanent Council is renewed evidence of your Government's commitment to the principles and purposes of the OAS. It is also a reaffirmation of the values the English speaking nations of the Caribbean have brought to our Organization through the last three decades.

Thirteen CARICOM States have opted for membership in the OAS since the mid nineteen sixties. They have joined the twenty one founding nations, and Canada, in an organization that reflects the rich cultural diversity of the Americas, its contrasting and complementary traditions, and the commonality of purposes and basic values to which they subscribe.

The Caribbean has actively participated in inter-American affairs since achieving independence. Caribbean representatives have been adamant defenders of the most valued heritage of the Americas. They have firmly stood for democracy, human rights, and have shown solidarity that transcends ethnic and cultural differences. Without Caribbean participation, the OAS would not be what it is today.

Caribbean countries have also contributed in a constructive manner to integration in the Hemisphere, as shown most recently by the establishment of the Association of Caribbean States, bringing together insular nations with continental countries in a design for free exchange and for sharing of cultural legacies. The OAS and CARICOM have undertaken a process of fruitful cooperation, that I am sure will be broadened and strengthened under your chairmanship of the Caribbean Community.

You visit us, Mr. Prime Minister, at a time when we share your profound concern about the devastation recent hurricanes have left in your country. Unleashed forces of nature have frustrated many years of hard work and effort of reconstructing the basis of the banana industry, the backbone of exports in Dominica. Actual production losses have been compounded by damages to economic, social and civil infrastructure that negatively affect potential future production. The transportation network has been badly impaired, and schools, hospitals, housing, and police stations have suffered serious harm. As a consequence, domestic trade has been interrupted, social services have been hampered, and citizen's security undermined. We express once more to the people and Government of Dominica our feelings of solidarity on their loss.

The magnitude of your tragedy contrasts with the meagerness of our means to respond to your needs. As we face the destruction that has visited your land, we must reflect on our restrictions to translate into material support the fraternal sentiments we have for the people of Dominica. The OAS has stood ready to assist your country within the limits imposed by available resources. We are aware, however, that our response is wanting.

There are lessons to be leaned in the aftermath of natural disasters that have affected Dominica and other island nations of the Caribbean region. First, I am convinced the main role the OAS can play in mitigating damages caused by natural disasters consists in using its political leverage to lead the international community into assisting those who are subject to their devastating effects. Second, we perhaps should put greater emphasis on preventing the effects of natural cataclysms. It seems to be more cost effective to channel available resources to disaster prevention, as tangible results can be achieved in this endeavor, rather than to mitigate their consequences, where their effect will at best be marginal.

There are other useful lessons for thefuture of the OAS, particularly in the area of technical cooperation. Allow me to give an overview of this matter, which is under consideration by the member States in the context of the renewal of the Organization, and is also of prime importance for your country.

The destructive effects of Hurricane Luis made apparent -- as your Government has expressed -- the need to respond to some priorities that differ from those traditionally included in OAS technical cooperation programs with Dominica. The immediate emergency reinforced an awareness of the need to review the objectives and instruments of OAS technical cooperation to make them more attuned to the needs of the member countries, a matter that several governments of the region, including your own, had already raised in the past.

I think, as you do, there is an urgency to bring up to date and to renovate OAS technical cooperation. I am convinced that the transition to the Inter-American Council for Integral Development offers a unique opportunity to fulfill that task. The General Assembly has provided the framework for this endeavor, through decisions adopted in Managua, as it established CIDI, in Mexico City, by issuing the general guidelines for a partnership for development, and in the Declaration of Montrouis: a new vision of the OAS.

In the spirit of engaging in a constructive dialogue on this issue, I have presented to the Permanent Council some preliminary ideas on modernizing OAS technical cooperation, and I intend to bring to the Council's attention some more detailed proposals in this respect. The priorities set by the General Assembly, as well as a number of the suggestions and recommendations submitted for consideration to the representatives of member States, coincide with concerns and initiatives that the Caribbean countries have put forward.

We assign a prominent place to free trade and integration as instruments to achieve development, and have stated the OAS willingness to pay special attention to the characteristics of small market economies in the process of establishing a free trade area in the Americas, supporting them in their trade negotiations so as to reconcile their specific interests with collectively pursued goals. We have placed emphasis on tourism as a priority sector in the development of many OAS member States, and as an area that should become a significant target for cooperation. We underline the role of sustainable development in the strategy for economic growth and social improvement. We recognize the need to achieve a balance between economic and social policies, to facilitate democratic consolidation and to abide by the principles of social justice.

We face a broad, complex agenda. We should explore together the appropriate means to stimulate solidarity among American countries as a basis for cooperation between them. Those countries having greater economic capability should contribute to the development of more vulnerable economies. We have to find ways to increase horizontal cooperation programs. There are already successful examples of OAS participation in this field in collaboration with Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, as well as valuable bilateral experiences in several other cases.

We must change our traditional views, to induce countries that are receivers of technical cooperation to share in the cost of their programs and projects, so they become true partners that enter into cooperation with an authentic spirit of shared responsibility.

It has to be accepted that national human resources should often be preferred over foreign experts for the implementation of most technical cooperation projects. The OAS has to overcome the isolation that has characterized its technical assistance programs, to join efforts and resources with other organizations, and it should also increase its drive to obtain external resources as a primary source of funding its programs.

The focus of our cooperation should be on institutional strengthening that helps modernize the State for the benefit of the individual, rather than a supposed transfer of expertise that has already in many cases outlived its usefulness.

There are certain technical cooperation instruments that are of particular interest to the Caribbean, and that will also receive our attention. For several decades, the fellowship program has been assigned high priority. It was initially limited to the continental countries of the hemisphere, but it later extended to the Caribbean. There are some flaws to be corrected in this program, to realize its full potential. The granting of fellowships should be attuned to the general priorities of the Organization, thus limiting the subject matters for which they are available, and avoiding current excessive dispersion. Also, fellowships should be granted applying precise and transparent criteria.

The analysis of the offices of the OAS General Secretariat in the member States is still pending completion. It is necessary to evaluate their cost effectiveness, through a comparison of their operational costs and their contribution to technical cooperation, that must also take into account the specific circumstances of each country in this respect. The results of that evaluation will permit allocating resources in ways that are most beneficial to the member States.

As we engage in a search for means to make the OAS a truly helpful instrument in the development of the hemisphere, the guidance and wisdom of the leaders and representatives of our countries are the most valued contribution. We also look forward to your support and advise in our bid to forge stronger links with other organizations working in the hemisphere, and particularly with regional and subregional integration institutions.

Mr. Prime Minister:

We appreciate your visit with us today. Beyond the destruction, frustration and interruption of the development process as a result of recurrent natural causes, I feel certain your young Government will lead the people of Dominica in their quest to reconstruct their installed capacity and to upkeep their unyielding hope. The resilience of your people has been well proven in the face of past emergencies. The spirit of Dominicans never falters. Your ideals, and the capability to adjust to constant changes in the world and in your country, will bring progress and well-being to all your fellow citizens under more propitious times. I wish you godspeed.