OAS modernization takes center stage at meeting

 October 21, 1998

A former secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Joao Clemente Baena Soares, and former United States envoy Luigi Einaudi today outlined a set of proposals they said could boost efforts to strengthen and modernize the hemispheric organization.

Mr. Baena Soares, a Brazilian who headed the Washington-based organization for two terms ending in 1994, told a meeting of the special working group to strengthen and modernize the OAS, that it had the power to renew itself, in tune with the times. "The essence of the OAS is its status as a political, decision-making body, it is the center of the inter-American system and as such should be modernized in keeping with the other organs of the system."

In his presentation before the meeting--presided over by the Ambassador Antonio Mercader of Uruguay, chairman of the Special Joint Working Group on Strengthening and Modernization of the OAS--Mr. Baena Soares said he favored reaffirming the basic principles enshrined in the Charter, over amending them: "Those principles are still the foundation of the organization."

Turning to issues such as hemispheric security, human rights, partnership for development and enhancing the legal system, the Brazilian diplomat suggested that the countries put the OAS charter principles in practice in a comprehensive way rather than selectively, and urged them to pay their quotas to the organization. "In sum, I see the OAS as the product of dialogue and solidarity among our peoples."

Mr. Einaudi, meanwhile, declared at the meeting that the Organization derived its strength from the fact that all the states of the Western hemisphere had joined it. He conceded, however, that "that strength could be weakened unless a way is found for the government of Cuba to be a participant once again."

Automatic re-admission of Cuba to the OAS was not the issue, nor should the commitment to democracy be sacrificed, but rather, unless "we embody our universalism," we would be hindered by an inability to do so, he stated.

Ambassador Einaudi also shared his views on the role of the OAS and its future as the premier hemispheric political forum. He stressed that, unlike the United Nations, the regional body had no veto arrangement but instead had created a climate for pursuing consensus. He offered some suggestions on how to strengthen the organization, highlighting the need for better coordination among the member states, more funding, and that the OAS operations should be modernized.

When the presenters were through, several ambassadors from the member countries took the floor to thank them, offering some of their own thoughts on the issues broached during the meeting.