Media Center



January 30, 2006 - Washington, DC

Ministers, Vice Ministers, and Representatives of the Member States of the Organization:

I welcome you all to this special session of our General Assembly.

This assembly has a very precise purpose, which was ratified unanimously at the last General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale.

“To instruct the Permanent Council to:

a. Finalize, with the assistance of the General Secretariat, a draft proposal for a revised scale of Regular Fund quota assessments for 2007, based on Article 55 of the Charter and taking note of the most recent scale of assessments approved by the United Nations, as well as the proposals prepared by the General Secretariat for this purpose.

b. Convene a special session of the OAS General Assembly for no later than January 31, 2006, for the purpose of:

i. Considering the proposal for a revised scale of quota assessments, which, in accordance with Article 55 of the Charter, takes into account “the ability to pay of the respective countries and their determination to contribute in an equitable manner”;

ii. Establishing the ceiling of the 2007 budget; and

iii. Considering any other matter that might improve the financial situation of the Organization.”

The clarity of this mandate that you yourselves formulated allows me to be very brief in greeting you and presenting my initial comments.

I think that it is now possible to reach an outcome. You have a mandate to do so and the prior negotiations have been ample and productive. Now it is no longer a question of debating technicalities but rather a matter of political negotiations. The Organization of American States has been broadening its mandates at all of its assemblies. At each one, and in each of the areas in which the Organization works, our own governments are asking it to take on increased responsibilities. However, attention is not being paid to the resources required for that to come about. On the contrary, the tendency has been to cut the Organization’s budget, not only by letting fixed contributions devalue naturally over time, but also by taking quite precise decisions to reduce quotas. One such decision was made in 1992 when Canada joined the Organization and its generous and important contribution was used to cut the quota assessments of the other members.

Consequently, the OAS has many more tasks to fulfill with a budget estimated at 40 percent less, in real terms, than the budget it had 15 years ago.

Let us look at some examples of this contradiction, in relation to areas that constitute the very pillars of our mission: democracy and human rights, integral development, and multidimensional security.

In the political sphere, the adoption of the Inter-American Democratic Charter entailed a de facto expansion of our responsibilities. In addition to conflict resolution and electoral observation, we became involved in key issues related to transparency (especially since adoption of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption), programs to support political parties, and everything to do with good governance.

In the area of human rights, the volume of petitions received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has increased 177 percent since 1997. In the 10 years between 1993 and 2003, the IACHR published 533 reports, compared with only 247 in the previous decade.

In the area of integral development, the increase in our cooperation activities, especially in the poorest and smallest countries, has combined with a surge in the technical tasks we perform in support of ministerial meetings on education, labor, culture, science and technology, social development, tourism, and sustainable development, to which we must add the meeting of ministers convened by the Inter-American Commission of Women, all of which derive the bulk of their mandates from the Summits process – a process for which the Organization is becoming increasingly responsible. Keeping or possibly expanding current levels of cooperation, as well as the responsibility we have to increase our scholarships and fellowships programs, are also matters to which we need to pay more attention.

As for multidimensional security, our Conference in Mexico and the work triggered by it have also extended our obligations. In addition to the excellent work done by the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), as well as our demining program, we must perform tasks related to the growth of organized crime and gangs, containment and proliferation of light weapons trafficking and trafficking in persons, as well as our joint efforts with other institutions in the fields of natural disasters and pandemics.

We are trying to accomplish all this, but with very scant resources. In recent years, we have had the generous support of some member states and some observers, which have contributed to many of these programs and enabled them to carry on and expand. Let us not deceive ourselves: Almost all CICTE, mine-clearing, and much of CICAD; many of the activities of the IACHR; all our electoral observation missions; our special missions in Haiti or Colombia; our Fund for Peace, which is essential for managing territorial conflicts between member states that entrust the OAS with that task; the Summits-related activities, and many other areas are all financed with specific funds.

This situation will not end with this Assembly. However, increasing our Regular Fund will make it possible to maintain the activities it finances and to take on some that, in all fairness and rightly speaking, should not be financed with special contributions, such as the regular meetings or sessions of certain organs, as has recently been the case. At the same time, increasing the Regular Fund, by altering the downward trend of the past two decades, will send a signal of commitment to the Organization on the part of its member states – a signal that will not escape those who contribute to it on a voluntary basis.

I ask you for two very simple things: The OAS Regular Fund should finance the core components of the Organization and guarantee at least minimal performance of all its tasks. Currently this is not the case. For that, it is essential to increase quota assessments by revising the current scale. This will entail a moderate increase for some. For the others, it should not mean reducing the amount of their current contributions. We ask for a commitment to a higher quota assessment for some, so that the total amount increases. To ensure that, it is essential that no member lowers the monetary amount of its contribution.

We also request authorization to raise the budget ceiling to make room for the new resources. I wish also to point out that we are asking the CAAP to increase that ceiling for 2006. On the one hand, that is necessary because actual expenditure is several million dollars more than programmed, as has been the case in recent fiscal years. On the other hand, it is possible, given that some savings and the fact that some member quota payments have been brought up to date provide us with a small surplus, which allows us to begin with the budget ceiling we are asking for as of 2006 rather than 2007, without quota assessments increasing until one year later. This is good news, because in 2005 all member countries paid their annual quota and some even lowered their arrears. If we manage to achieve payment of what is still owing, which amounts to approximately one quarter of an annual budget, we can guarantee a smooth transition to a new scale of quota assessments, without causing problems for any of our member countries.

For our part, I wish to assure you that the Secretariat is making every effort to increase efficiency and transparency in the handling of the Organization’s resources. Efficiency and accountability are fundamental if our Organization is to perform its role in this new stage and to reassure all its member states that the priorities they have set and the material efforts they make to ensure they are implemented will be fully respected.

If we want the OAS to play a more relevant and pervasive part in the major issues of development, peace, democracy, and human rights in Latin American and the Caribbean, this is the time to make a joint effort to demonstrate that determination.