Media Center



March 3, 1995 - Belize City, Belize

"The truest validation of a country’s progress is when it can begin to help others in their own efforts on the road to prosperity and self-sufficiency."

On behalf of the Organization of American States, I want to express our heartfelt appreciation to the honorable Manuel Esquivel, Prime Minister of Belize, his cabinet and the people of Belize for their generosity and hospitality in hosting this 8th Joint CIES/CIECC Policy, Programming and Coordination Meeting for the Caribbean Subregion.
To Belize’s distinguished remarkable Permanent Representative, Ambassador Dean R. Lindo, your Chairmanship has been remarkable. The very positive outcome of this meeting is entirely due to his unflagging commitment.
As I said to you at the onset of this meeting, it is very fitting that Belize be the venue for this joint programming exercise. Your beautiful country is a meeting point of the Caribbean and the continent. Different cultures that have forged the identity of the Americas merge herein a tangible, dynamic way. Belize’s accession to membership in the OAS, together with Guyana’s, gave our Organization the all-embracing character it has as the regional organization of all sovereign states in the Hemisphere. Belize is thus both a symbol as well as an example of what the Americas mean.
I am delighted to have with us the representatives of the constitutional and democratic Government of Haiti. The Organization of American States was the first international body to offer full support of the efforts to restore the legitimate government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. We were also able to respond immediately to the need to provide support for building the conditions necessary to restore Haitian democracy. In agreement with the government, the OAS is contributing to strengthen democratic institutions. Also, the Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture, at its recent meeting in Buenos Aires, approved the use of $750,000 of its reserve sub-fund to provide technical assistance to Haiti.
I attach a lot of importance to the fact that the first significant meeting of the OAS held here since Belize’s independence should be about a subject so important to the nations in this region. To varying degrees, technical assistance is a priority for every country in our Hemisphere. In the Caribbean, however, technical assistance is an issue of critical importance.
Frankly, our performance as a technical cooperation agency is far below what it could be. My initial review of the Organization’s activities in this area has already provided sufficient foundation to draw some basic conclusions.
First, we should no longer try to be all things to all people. Today, our programs lack focus and try to cover too many issues. This kind of indiscriminate outreach will ultimately fail because it spreads our limited resources too thinly. It is unlikely that projects with budgets of less than $30,000 will have any significant impact. The reality of an annual budget of only $40 million demands greater selection in the projects we will support in the future.
Second, technical assistance should go to the neediest first. The OAS currently has activities in every country of the Organization, with the exception of the United States and Canada. There is no way we can continue to justify such an approach. Besides ignoring the fact that many countries in South America no longer need this kind of support, the current direction of OAS assistance programs does not even give priority to those countries who have the greatest demonstrable need. If nothing else, this must change.
I have no doubt that we would achieve quick results if we concentrate our efforts in fewer areas and we limit the access to OAS technical assistance on the basis of need and benefit. Any strategy to revamp our programs must ultimately be more responsive to the needs of the people we seek to serve, by doing what we can within the budgetary realities. To continue with the status quo will only serve to impede the development policies of member states.
However, by proposing to limit the scope of OAS technical assistance to specific activities in these countries with the greatest need, I am also suggesting that the time has come for a number of countries currently receiving assistance to become themselves donor countries who recognize they no longer need this kind of technical support. They should waive their traditional claim to OAS technical assistance and become net contributors to our common development effort. Such an initiative will dramatically enhance inter-American solidarity especially as greater horizontal cooperation begins to take shape in the Americas.
The truest validation of a country’s progress is when it can begin to help others in their own efforts on the road to prosperity and self-sufficiency. Today in the Americas, there is not only a need but also the will to strengthen horizontal cooperation among our developing countries. The initiatives taken in this respect by several member states is a welcome sign of the changing times in which we live. At the OAS, we stand ready to do whatever is called for to facilitate this new kind of technical cooperation between a growing number of countries in the Americas. We appreciate the programs undertaken by several member states. Mexico has enhanced our meeting by presenting its experiences in this field. That, together with the Argentinean Fund of Horizontal Cooperation, the first one established at the OAS, are pioneering efforts in this area. The recent meeting hosted by Chile with Caribbean countries is another example of this positive trend.
Greater horizontal cooperation is also a realistic way to increase available resources for OAS technical assistance as we intensify our efforts to increase outside funding. In this respect, we look forward to collaborating with other regional, sub-regional, and global institutions that share our commitment to foster progress and well-being in our nations.
As you well know, these ideas are not entirely new ones. The General Assembly, in its special session held in Mexico City in February, 1994, adopted new priorities to guide the course of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, once the Protocol of Managua is ratified.
Moreover, last December in Miami, as the Prime Minister of Belize clearly stated at the opening session of this meeting, the summit of the Americas agreed on a number of concrete actions in the areas of democracy, trade, human rights, and environmental protection, and the 34 democratically elected heads of states forged a new agenda and assigned challenging responsibilities to the OAS.
Taken together with the recommendations of this meeting, we have the elements necessary to elaborate a well-defined set of priorities as the framework for future technical cooperation. For instance, demonstrable need, expected impact and effectiveness of proposed activities should constitute a minimum threshold.
Furthermore, we must also seek the participation of highly qualified experts or external consultants from throughout the Hemisphere to bolster the efforts of our technical staff in implementing future projects.
We should also rely on greater participation by recipient countries, both in terms of domestic technical expertise and financial contributions, in order to guarantee a more effective partnership in programs and projects that respond to national priorities. Until now, as was noted by Ambassador Layne, Permanent Representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS, the design of technical cooperation has been overly influenced by the Secretariat. This is primarily due to attempts by the Secretariat to adjust country programming to available staff expertise, and not to the real needs and requests of the member countries. This is another factor that justifies an increased utilization of external consultants.
Fellowships are also an important component of technical cooperation, and the OAS has a fruitful tradition in this area. I know the significance your countries attach to human resources development. That is why we will strive to link our fellowship programs to the new priorities and criteria that will guide OAS technical cooperation, look for a more transparent way of taking decisions in this matter, and ensure that the scholarships allow access to education of the highest quality.
Finally, allow me to focus my comments on the strongly felt need of your governments to improve communication and coordination with the General Secretariat. We share your feelings. We are convinced that interaction between the Secretariat and the member states is a two-way process that requires mutual attention and understanding.
Currently, the offices of the General Secretariat have three main stated functions: to serve as diplomatic representatives of the Secretariat; to provide a channel of communication between the country and OAS headquarters; and to support technical cooperation programs.
The first task constitutes a duplicity of functions, since diplomatic links to the OAS are properly and ably performed through the Permanent Missions accredited by member countries.
With respect to the second role of the national offices, the extraordinary advances in communications, which are a hallmark of the times in which we live, means that the Secretariat no longer, or at least not always, needs a local presence to communicate with the governments.
The question of national offices, however, is essentially a matter of cost benefit. Their usefulness should be measured in the context of the delivery of technical assistance. If our ultimate objective is, as it should be, to identify the most effective way to use our existing resources to increase actual technical services delivered, then we must be willing to look at the cost effectiveness of relying on national offices to manage this process. Currently, the cost of the national offices drains in some cases up to 50% of the funds earmarked for technical cooperation. I find it hard to justify such a high overhead when every additional dollar invested directly can have a greater impact, especially in smaller countries.
We should recognize, anyhow, that the existence of offices in Caribbean states, particularly the smaller ones, may be more justified than in other places.
I am committed to work closely with you to arrive at the correct formula that will guarantee more assistance in an efficient and timely manner.
The OAS is undertaking a process of reform and modernization to better serve its member states. The reform of the Organization, and cost rationalization in the OAS, to which I am committed, are geared toward increasing the amount of resources and the quality of services to the countries that need them the most, and especially the smaller countries of the Caribbean. That is what we call increasing the solidarity of the system.
The conclusions and recommendations reached at this meeting will be invaluable in our efforts to enable the OAS to face the challenges and to capitalize on the opportunities offered by a Hemisphere committed to democracy, respect of human rights, equitable progress and economic and trade reform.
I look forward to continue working with you toward our shared goals and ideals: to offer the peoples of every corner of the Americas a promising and rewarding future.