Media Center



April 17, 1995 - New York City, New York

"We have worked together, united by the aims that inspired this undertaking, respecting the identities of the two organizations, in harmony in terms of both operations and programs."

On behalf of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States and the representatives of other inter-American organizations here today, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Honorable Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), and his staff for generously welcoming us to the headquarters of the world organization, for their diligent preparations for this third work session, and for their gracious hospitality.
If anything has characterized the UN Secretary General’s leadership, it has been his genuine interest in promoting cooperation with regional organizations. In his "Agenda for Peace," he pointed to the enormous potential of joint action by global and regional organizations in addressing the challenges of a world that is changing at a constant and swift pace. He also indicated the necessity of pooling efforts which individually may be insufficient to bring about any progress, but which together can make a significant contribution to solving the problems confronting us. The Secretary General’s interest in such cooperation has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, such as when he convened the first meeting with directors of regional organizations. His commitment has also been obvious in his dealings with the OAS.
There are some concrete examples of this cooperation. It is fitting on this occasion to recognize the key role of the UN Secretary General in supporting the restoration of democracy in Haiti. The international community, especially in the Americas, deeply appreciates his dedication to the cause of democracy and his valuable initiatives to help consolidate the framework of freedom, respect for human rights, rebuilding of institutions, and development in Haiti. We, the citizens of the Americas who are in our own hearts also citizens of Haiti, truly appreciate the fellowship of those like you who join us in solidarity with the Haitian people.
The International Civilian Mission in Haiti is an outstanding example of the kind of collaboration that must exist between our two organizations. Our joint effort in Haiti should serve as a model as we meet to strengthen cooperation between the OAS and the United Nations and to seek ways to make it more flexible and effective. Together we have alleviated the abuse inflicted by the dictatorship and offered hope to a people subjected, for a long time, to arbitrary rule and injustice. Now that the constitutional government has been restored, the International Civilian Mission will continue to monitor the observance of human rights and support the rebuilding of the nation’s institutions and development programs.
I think this has been a unique experience. I know of no similar case of UN cooperation with a regional organization. We have worked together, united by the aims that inspired this undertaking, respecting the identities of the two organizations, in harmony in terms of both operations and programs. Cooperation in Haiti is an example of what the United Nations and the Organization of American States could accomplish together throughout the Americas, should our countries require the specific and distinct contribution each of our institutions can offer to foster the rule of democratic principles and the exercise of democracy. The path laid down by our mission in Haiti will provide the best model for future cooperation.
By meeting today we are fulfilling the mandates issued by the General Assemblies of the two organizations, which, in 1988, recommended that a meeting be held between OAS and UN representatives for consultation on policy, measures, and procedures to facilitate and broaden cooperation between the organizations. Since then, two work sessions like the one starting today have been held, one at each headquarters.
In the context of that meeting, this morning we will sign a cooperation agreement, also recommended by the General Assemblies, which will formalize our tradition of cooperation and provide a general frame of reference for specific future joint efforts. I see it as a symbolic instrument whose true effect will depend upon how well it is implemented.
The greatest benefit of the previous meetings, in my view, has been the opportunity for a direct exchange of experiences and initiatives among staff who work in similar areas. More intensive and fruitful OAS-UN cooperation has clearly resulted from the interpersonal contacts fostered by the 1991 and 1993 meetings. Together with their UN counterparts, many OAS officials have identified programs and projects that would lend themselves to combined efforts in various ways, and this has already enhanced several areas of endeavor. I want to acknowledge the role the OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Christopher Thomas, has played in this process of approach and cooperation.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge and recognize the helpful contributions of the United Nations and a number of its agencies to the departments of the OAS General Secretariat, to the inter-American commissions, and to the specialized organizations of the inter-American system. This meeting will certainly continue to strengthen the excellent working relations already existing in many areas. I am convinced of the importance of maintaining the coordination and cooperation that exist between us and many UN agencies in areas in which the OAS will continue to work, but I also hope our meeting will lead to new concrete opportunities for collaboration. These need not be limited to technical cooperation projects and programs, or even to mutual assistance in the fields of anti-drug campaigns, defense of human rights, environmental protection, promotion of the rights of women and children, anti-corruption efforts, or the eradication of terrorism.
Ten days ago I presented to the Permanent Council a working document in which I envision a new OAS—an effective mechanism at the service of the member states. In that document I place the highest priority on lending more depth and flexibility to cooperative relations with other organizations—especially the United Nations with whose Secretary General I share a conviction that the individual efforts of multilateral organizations are in no way sufficient to address all the problems we face or to seize all the opportunities we are afforded.
I am also convinced that present circumstances in the Hemisphere and the world provide fertile ground for multilateral action. If we pool our resources and coordinate our objectives without prejudice to the autonomy and identity of each institution, we will be better able to help create a democratic, free, just, and prosperous world.
The OAS has received from the General Assembly and the Summit of the Americas, inter alia, a mandate to broaden its sphere of action in connection with free trade in the Americas and regional integration. To that end, we have established a new Trade Unit in the Office of the Secretary General. I feel it is essential to restore the standing of the Organization as a genuine participant in the move toward integration and trade liberalization now under way in the Hemisphere. I want the new unit to establish ongoing and effective working relations with UNCTAD, and to seek smoother interaction between the OAS and ECLAC. A first step in this direction has been taken with the reinstatement of the joint OAS/IDB/ECLAC group. ECLAC is one of the natural partners of the OAS within the United Nations system; it would be good to reestablish the links that existed between the two organizations in the past, thereby renewing their ability to generate dynamic ideas that foster development in the Hemisphere.
I have also proposed an in-depth revamping of the instruments and mechanisms of OAS technical cooperation. I have suggested that those developing countries whose economies are relatively more advanced become net donors while they contribute to and benefit from horizontal cooperation activities. I have indicated the necessity of reducing the number of priority action areas and projects, so as to have more substantia, focused and effective programs. I have asked that we leave behind the notion that the Organization is self-sufficient in the cooperation area in order to open the door for joint efforts with other international institutions and with the countries. In this respect, I am seeking recognition of the special value of horizontal cooperation. Finally, I have recommended that countries receiving technical assistance play a greater role in the execution of projects. They should also share in the cost of cooperation.
As our technical cooperation systems change, links with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) should go beyond its current status so that we may take advantage of experiences with UNDP operational approaches that will surely aid in technical cooperation reform at the OAS.
Furthermore, I find that in the area of management, each of us has much to learn from the other. For instance, we are preparing to move to parity with the United Nations in terms of staff salaries and benefits. This demonstrates the advisability of greater coordination between the two management teams.
Ultimately, today’s meeting should be an opportunity not only to reflect on the past, but also to assess the future. The best outcome of these two days of work would be a portfolio of specific initiatives which, once approved by each organization, would serve as working guidelines for those charged with implementing them.
I would venture to say, paradoxically, that the success of these meetings, the aim of which is to facilitate cooperation, is directly related to how quickly they become unnecessary. They have been constructive forums for convergence and communication which will have served their purpose once solid working relations have been forged. The ideal climate for cooperation is one in which, once the willingness has been expressed, specific initiatives arise from spontaneous contact among colleagues, inspired by a commonality of interest, familiarity, and mutual respect.