Media Center



March 4, 2015 - Washington, DC

Madame Chair,
Distinguished Colleagues of the Permanent Council,
I am honored at this opportunity to make this presentation to you on the proposals and initiatives which I would undertake if I should be accorded the honour to be elected as Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the valuable inputs and successes of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin over their last two terms. Notwithstanding administrative and budgetary constraints as well as political challenges, their deep commitment and their strengths of purpose have advanced the work of the OAS in all areas.

Secondly, it gives me pride that the CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors has been able to produce not one but two worthy candidates for Assistant Secretary General. His Excellency Ambassador Nestor Mendez has always been a respected CARICOM colleague. As we commence this phase of the quest upon which our two countries have embarked, I extend to him the same collegiality, consideration and camaraderie which have characterized our relations in our numerous previous collaborations.

The OAS is indispensable to the integration process in our hemisphere. It is an institution that is vested with incomparable political, legal and moral authority. In order for this Organization to maintain its stature it has to create incentives for Member States to feel ownership, to appreciate its worth and to achieve valuable results. Otherwise, Member States will renege on their political commitments to the Organization.

In addition to these imperatives, the OAS faces challenges in the areas of management and modernization, many of which require prompt attention. Important as they are, the issues relating to budget, administration and efficiency of the Organization are not its only problem. An equally difficult challenge are political and ideological rifts within the hemisphere.

In this presentation, I will consider the main areas of activity, with a view to examining how, collectively, the Member States and the General Secretariat should respond to OAS' needs and challenges. In so doing, I shall be ever mindful of the key proposals contained in the Strategic Plan for Management Modernization which has been proposed by the Secretariat. I also wish to elaborate for your consideration a set of management proposals of my own which I believe would expand and improve on those already proposed. But, first, let us examine the condition of the four pillars of the Organization and then see what it is that Member States require the OAS to do.

The flourishing of national democracies has enabled substantial economic gains and opportunities for our countries and peoples. Democracy is indispensable for peace, social development, justice and equity. This requires perseverance in pursuing our collective commitments under the Inter American Democratic Charter. It is equally vital to safeguard and strengthen the essential components of the exercise of democracy even if significant sections of the population are disappointed that democracy has not delivered on their expectations.

I firmly believe that we must enhance the capacity of the General Secretariat to monitor, anticipate and head off potential threats to constitutional order in our Member States, by refining early warning systems and promoting dialogue mechanisms among all national stakeholders. We need to support efforts aimed at campaign finance reform, constitutional reform and institutional strengthening while at the same time increasing our assistance for elections processes and for the promotion of good governance. In short, we have to make democracy sustainable.

But whereas upholding democratic norms has earned the OAS global recognition, the same cannot be said for the Organization’s achievements when it comes to Integral Development.

The OAS has a fundamental obligation to assist Member States to overcome the scourges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. Our smaller and more vulnerable States, which comprise a substantial component of our membership, are not satisfied with our level of accomplishment in this area in spite of some significant successes. Most Member States believe that we must be more proactive in addressing these challenges. Among the many inequalities that exist, the gap in education is the one that most negatively affects the destiny of each person.

If we are to make real progress in the area of Integral Development, Member States will have to commit to invest more in that pillar, both politically and financially.

If elected as Assistant Secretary General, I would work closely with Member States to find ways to raise more resources and to channel them into low-cost, high-impact development programmes, with a particular focus on education, to complement the larger programmes of the multilateral development organizations.

Inequality, inequity, lack of economic opportunity and poverty have a direct effect on political and social stability and citizen security. In this area the OAS has made commendable strides.

The creditable performance of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, through CICAD, CICTE and the Department of Public Security, must be extended to ensure that public security is addressed more comprehensively. In the meantime the OAS must continue to build hemispheric networks of cooperation, sharing of experiences and capacity building in order to combat the scourge of trans-national criminal organizations. Moreover, the OAS can still play a central role in moving the hemisphere closer to consensus in the war on drugs and on immigration issues.

The prioritization of security issues by Member States could help lead to such consensus for action in the area of Multidimensional Security should Member States so desire.


Notwithstanding recent advances in extending the promotion and protection of human rights, greater efforts are needed to combat injustices. Many Member States wish to see far reaching changes made to the institutions of the system, something which has caused much dissatisfaction. Should Member States abandon the Human Rights System it would be a major blow to that pillar of our Organization.

The new Secretary General should exert efforts to ensure that the system is improved and strengthened. This can commence with a renewed dialogue under the new OAS administration starting with the Human Rights institutions and the Member States. If elected, I would urge the new Secretary General to formulate proposals to ease the friction between Member States and the Inter-American Human Rights System. I would work accordingly with the new Secretary General and with Member States in order to achieve this objective.

The historic initiative by the US and Cuba to normalize relations has the potential to significantly improve the tenor of future political discourse in the hemisphere. This would be a positive development, considering that lack of consensus at the OAS often stems from political differences. Member States should be prepared to welcome the participation of the Government of Cuba in the councils of the hemisphere eventually. This development could lead to a significant reduction of political tensions in future, even though Cuba has shown little interest in re-joining the OAS. Time will tell whether, going forward, greater trust would be engendered through dialogue and shared experiences. Until then, in our debates, the scars of history and differences in political perspectives will continue to converge. They will continue to produce a lack of trust and lack of consensus on political matters. I look forward, however, to positive developments from the process under way.

The year 2015 will mark a turning point for the OAS because at this point in time the Organization finds itself at several junctions simultaneously.

First of all, Member States are determined that the organization must now be re-energized, re-focused and re-launched on a new path, both strategically and operationally

Secondly, we shall soon decide on the establishment of new systems of management.
Thirdly, we are all agreed that the Organization must revise its operational and programmatic procedures in order to strengthen and improve accountability, austerity, efficiency, effectiveness, prudence and transparency.

Fourthly, we need to resolve the question of Mandate Prioritization, the inadequacy of sustainable financing and address the issues relating to human resources.

Finally, in the space of a few months we will be transitioning from an outgoing to an incoming administration.

A similar combination of factors will not occur again for a long time to come. This unique situation presents a window of opportunity for the OAS.

This opportunity must be firmly grasped otherwise, it may turn out to be irretrievably lost. Fresh winds of change are blowing over the Organization and we should take advantage of the moment and the momentum.

Over the past several months, I have had the pleasure of conducting extensive consultations with Member States. Virtually every Permanent Representative to the OAS has been a part of those discussions. I wish to thank you for sharing with me your concerns and your vision for the Organization. A clear picture about the conditions that Member States wish to see prevailing at the OAS has emerged from those consultations.

Member States would like the next OAS administration to breathe new life into the Organization. They are concerned that the influence and the authority of the OAS would diminish unless it is given a fresh impetus.

Most Member States are of the opinion that the Secretariat must strengthen collaboration with them through a more consultative and interactive relationship. In order to achieve this they would like the Organization to better rationalize its resources.

Mandate prioritization, budgetary shortfalls and management reform are the three key priorities to improve the functioning of the OAS. Moreover the recurrent problem of quota payment arrears needs to be resolved. Member States ought to engage in a full and frank discussion about quota payment arrears to improve the collection of payments.

The paradox of the OAS is that Member States insist that the General Secretariat must discharge its responsibilities more effectively but the same Member States are unwilling to raise quotas so that those responsibilities might be so discharged. How the General Secretariat and, more specifically, the new leadership of the OAS respond to this paradox could affect how firmly Member States remain committed to the Organization.

Most Member States are also quite concerned about what the nature of the relationship between the incoming Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General would be.

As has been previously noted, many countries wish to see a greater focus on development. Besides, the smaller and more vulnerable states wish to feel that they have an equal voice and an equal standing in the Americas. The OAS is the principal platform to give them that voice.

Member States also wish to see a greater synergy between the OAS and the other entities of the Inter-American System and, in particular, they would like the OAS to have a better relationship with international financial and development institutions.

Such goals would be achieved more comfortably by closing the perceived separation which Member States believe, rightly or wrongly, to exist between the Permanent Council and the General Secretariat. Should I become the next Assistant Secretary General, I will do all in my power to ensure that the Permanent Council remains the centre of gravity of the OAS and that no other agency wields influence at the expense of this Council.

Member States are convinced that in order for the OAS to be a beacon in the hemisphere for transparency and accountability in governance, then we in the OAS must first put our own house in order by improving the procedures for our internal accountability, transparency and efficiency.

Concrete initiatives aimed at modernization and management reform have already been put in motion with the tabling of the Strategic Plan. However, this plan would not necessarily be adopted in its totality.

I believe that implementing the following recommendations which are contained in that Plan could bring about better financial management, increased resource mobilization as well as increased efficiency and effectiveness, and they should be seriously considered by Member States:-

Capital Investments
Indirect Cost Recovery
Information and Records Management
The costing of Mandates
Reductions in the Cost of Ministerial Meetings
Voluntary Contributions from Permanent Observers

Taking the foregoing into account, I wish to put forward certain additional observations and recommendations for your consideration. If you consider them favourable, and if I have the honour to be elected, I would seek to work with the incoming Secretary General on the implementation of these proposals for the improvement of the Organization. Some, but not all have already been recommended in the Strategic Plan. In some cases my recommendations go beyond what has been suggested in the Strategic Plan because they are intended to give additional guarantees for improved transparency, accountability, efficiency and austerity.

My Recommendations relate to the following areas:
- The Summits Process
- Resource Mobilization
- Strengthening the Office of the Inspector General
- Establishment of the Office of an Ombudsman
- National Offices
- Promotion of Dialogue and Consultation among Sub-regional
Groups and Countries
- Institutionalizing the Regional Coordinators Mechanism
- A More Dynamic Relationship with Observer States and International Organizations
- Accountability for Travel
- Initiatives for Human Resource Management


The implementation of Summit mandates is a major area of responsibility for the OAS and one that poses challenges to the Summits Secretariat and the General Secretariat as a whole.

There is need for a greater measure of coordination to ensure the effective and uniform implementation of Summit Mandates among the agencies of the Joint Summit Working Group and within Member States. In order to improve the implementation of Summit Mandates, I propose that, as part of the Plan of Action of the Summit of the Americas, Member States should instruct the Heads of the JSWG institutions to meet in a special post-Summit meeting to (i) lay out their individual plans for fulfilling mandates and (ii) elaborate a coordinated strategy, where mandates overlap, to capitalize on existing synergies, optimize resources and reduce duplication of effort. The OAS Secretary General, as Chair of the JSWG, should be charged with convening this high-level meeting within an appropriate time period after the Summit.

In this manner the OAS would better fulfil its responsibilities by helping to ensure that decisions adopted by the hemisphere's Presidents and Prime Ministers are being handled as action priorities at all levels, with coordination, precision and commitment.

To better ensure follow-up and continuity in the Summit Implementation process, I would propose that, following the Panama Summit, each Summit host country should second a senior staffer to the Summits Secretariat for a period of two years - the year prior to the Summit and the year after the Summit. Member States which volunteer to host a Summit of the Americas would accept the secondment of a staffer to the OAS as part of their obligations as host. This would help to create a stronger Summit Secretariat without increasing the cost to the General Secretariat budget, ensure that, post-Summit, there is dedicated attention to the work of implementation and further support continuous and open communication among key stakeholders and host country planners.

In the years when Summits take place, the General Assembly usually follows soon after, resulting in an overlap of effort as well as resources. I wish to propose that in those years when a Summit of the Americas is held, the Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly should be held at OAS Headquarters. This would be an opportunity to maintain continuity around the policy dialogue and the thematic focus of the Summit, and further consolidate and emphasize Summit outcomes. It would also have the practical benefit of optimizing the personnel and financial resources of both Member States and the Secretariat.

In order to assist in bridging this revenue gap, I would propose that the Organization should reinvent the idea of embarking on a programme dedicated to increase revenue from sources additional to Member State quotas.

This programme would aim to raise specific funds from Member and Observer States, financial institutions, development agencies, private entities and other development partners. This scheme is already being practiced individually by multiple OAS departments in the case of specific projects. The Organization can consolidate these activities within a specific unit, suitably staffed, to be located within the Secretariat for External Affairs. This is a more rational approach than the current system where multiple OAS departments raise funds separately, generally from the same sources. This signals to donors and other stakeholders that we are disorganized.

By putting more effective revenue collection systems in place and setting proper targets this programme should increase OAS specific funds by several million dollars per year [in time to come, serving our revenue needs and enhancing our image and credibility in the eyes of other stakeholders.] I propose that these funds should be spent on targeted needs of the Organization which are to be decided upon by the Member States. Such an initiative, if it is to be pursued, must follow international best practices.

The mobilization of resources should not be confined only to raising cash. The political credentials of the OAS can be a useful counterpart to the technical and financial resources of other institutions in devising solutions to problems in the hemisphere, in areas such as Climate Change Initiatives, Education, developing Energy Security, improving Disaster Management and strengthening Democracy.

Member States wish that the Office of the Inspector General to be as effective as possible in terms of checks and balances, satisfactory managerial oversight and increased independence.

The IG should be accountable to a higher authority, independent from the one he is watching over in order to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. I would invite you to consider that it would be better for the IG to be accountable directly to Member States through the CAAP.

The proposal in the SPMM for the creation of the office of an Ombudsman would further enhance the Organization’s transparency and accountability as well as the security of its employees, by fostering a non-discriminatory environment. An Ombudsman's office would address complaints, solve grievances and foster better relations among Member States, the Secretariat and Staff members. An Ombudsman would reinforce rules and ethics at the workplace, provide for more checks and balances, adherence to proper rules and procedures, as well as to lend further support to the management reform exercise. I would recommend to the incoming SG to take steps expeditiously to create the office of an Ombudsman.

The SPMM envisages a reduction of expenditure on National Offices by nearly one-third and for the closure of certain National Offices in situations where the Organization's needs can be met through support from other National Offices.

Before implementing such a sweeping decision, I would recommend that there first be a re-evaluation and re-articulation of the role of these Offices in order to bring them in line with the emerging needs and practices of the Organization and of the Member States. The closure of National Offices is a matter which involves political as well as financial considerations and they both must be addressed simultaneously. The issue is of significance to too many Member States to be addressed solely from a financial perspective. Until the issue is further examined, substantial savings can be achieved through measures such as the reduction of travel from headquarters, the continued modernization of communications and the collaboration of Member States in operating National Offices in their territories.


It is the duty of the OAS to inspire greater dialogue and consultation among interested sub-regional groups and Member States. In order to better provide for such opportunities I would propose to the incoming Secretary General that a programme of dialogue and consultation among the various sub-regional groupings of the Organization be established under the aegis of the General Secretariat. Such a programme would serve to promote dialogue, understanding and consensus on issues of common interest as well to enhance intra-regional cooperation among sub-regional groups and countries of the OAS.

I would propose that consideration be given to institutionalizing the Regional Coordinators mechanism The Regional Coordinators consultative mechanism has been a valuable tool to manage negotiations and to facilitate consensus building, but often it is not fully utilized by the Permanent Council. An amendment to the rules to require the Chair to consult with the Regional Coordinators on all important matters to be brought before the Permanent Council should be considered by Member States as a mechanism to help expedite the work of the Permanent Council.


If elected as Assistant Secretary General, I would encourage the Secretary General to create an initiative aimed at obtaining more fruitful and intensive engagements with Permanent Observer States, beginning with wide ranging consultations with them all. The OAS should take advantage of the willingness of Observer States to be more engaged with the Organization. This initiative would seek to widen and deepen engagements both with active and inactive Observers, by exploring common agendas and areas of interest.

To further increase transparency and accountability, and build confidence between Member States and the office of the Assistant Secretary General, I hereby undertake that, if elected, the travel schedule of the ASG and all members of the Office of the ASG would be submitted to the CAAP voluntarily for the prior information of that body. Furthermore, the nature and purposes of all travel undertaken by the ASG for which OAS funds have been expended would be fully reported to the Member States through the Permanent Council. I would seek to persuade the incoming SG that this example of accountability should be extended to the entire Secretariat.

It is important for the incoming Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General, upon taking office, to immediately establish a positive working relationship with Secretariat staff, particularly the senior management, and to provide inspiration for the entire labour force to work with complete enthusiasm for the common cause of the Organization.

If I happen to be elected I would wish to see the incoming administration convene a meeting at the earliest opportunity after taking office between the Human Resources Department and the Staff Association, in order to familiarize itself with outstanding issues and to assist the two sides in resolving any pending issues.

I intend to recommend to the incoming Secretary General that the Organization moves as early as possible to address the question of human resources. Key objectives would be to improve perceptions (or erase misperceptions) about the fairness, transparency and integrity of the current procedures. The incoming administration could expect to receive reports about low staff morale, incidents of harassment and the fairness of performance appraisals which would need to be addressed.

Whistle-blower protection, as in the case of the appointment of an Ombudsman, promises to generate a higher level of confidence and security among employees because they would feel better protected. If I am elected, whistle-blower protection is a measure which I would wish to see established and I would take steps to ensure that it is adopted.

An important area of human resource management for any new OAS administration is to ensure that there is balance in the sub-regional and national origins of employees at the OAS. There are perceptions among some sub-regions and Member States that their nationals are under-represented in the work force of the OAS. Those perceptions affect the attitude and the commitment of Member States to the Organization. Some Member States would expect that they be addressed with urgency particularly since His Excellency candidate Luis Almagro pledged to address this issue during his campaign. I am in support of measures to have this issue addressed to the satisfaction of Member States.

The ASG must have an intimate working relationship with the SG that is based on mutual trust, mutual cooperation and mutual respect. The SG and the ASG must be at one with regard to the mission and strategic objectives of the Organization that they are elected to serve.

Many Member States are of the view that since both officials are elected as a team there should be a political role for them both. All Member States advocate a leading role for the ASG in managing the Secretariat and most of them would like the ASG to also undertake political functions to complement the functions of the Secretary General.

I am also of the view is that it would benefit the Organization for the ASG to play a strong and well-defined political role when necessary. For example, the ASG may work in tandem with the Secretary General to smooth over differences among Member States as well as to promote dialogue among different sectors within Member States. The Organization would function best if the SG and the ASG can complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Most Member States do not agree that the Secretary General should allocate responsibilities to the ASG based on his sole whim and fancy. Member States can, if they so wish, determine a role for the ASG within the policy framework of the Organization.

I am confident that the implementation of whatever Management and Modernization Plan Member States decide upon, if combined with these initiatives that I have suggested, would help transform the OAS into a more efficient, productive and dynamic entity.

I consider that the proposals which I have recommended would improve not merely the performance of the Organization but also its image and its esteem. Over time, this would translate into a more respected entity which generates deeper commitments on the part of its membership its stakeholders.

I thank you.