Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


May 9, 2018 - Washington, DC

Thank you, Ambassador Gonzalez, Chair of the Permanent Council and Ambassador Calles, chair of the Council for Integral Development, for convening this joint session of your respective Councils to address this very important subject.

There can be no denying the intrinsic value and contribution of the natural capital of the Americas to our region’s economic and social development.

In the book being launched today, celebrating 50 years of water diplomacy in the Americas, we have clear evidence of the good that can result when we work together with a clear vision and with determination to build a better Americas.

There are two main sources of wealth in the Americas:

one lies in the resourcefulness, innovation and resilience of its people;

the other is its abundant natural, but finite resources that lie above and beneath the earth, the oceans and the seas.

The challenge for Governments, corporations and peoples in the Americas is whether we can use this natural capital in an efficient and sustainable manner that recognizes its finite nature and ensures that the benefits from its use are equitably shared.

Of course, the question is not whether we are capable of using our natural capital in the best way possible for the widest possible good. We know that with the right temperament, with well-designed and integrated development policies and programs, with inclusive governance provided through well-managed institutions and with determined cooperation and collaboration between countries and among development partners, nationally, regionally and internationally, we can attain sustainable development.

The question is whether we will do what is necessary to move away from our current path of unsustainable use of our natural capital and devote ourselves to moving toward sustainable development.

Addressing the environmental degradation caused by our neglect and overexploitation of natural capital is more urgent with every passing day. We are well aware of the contamination of water basins and aquatic habitats due to urban, industrial and agricultural wastes, over-exploitation of our forests and marine resources, and pollution of groundwater aquifers. We know too how extreme weather is exacerbating the impact of these unsustainable practices and is creating disasters that overwhelm the capacity of our countries and people to cope.

We know of the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to climate change that poses the greatest existential threat to our world and our livelihoods.

In a nutshell, we know what we must do and why. We know what will happen if we fail to do what we know we must. But we also know what can happen if we take the actions we must take.

With nearly half of the world’s water, the Americas have made a significant contribution to economic and social development, not only to the quality of life of its citizens but also to the citizens of the world. This contribution is evident in areas such as hydroelectric, regional and inter-oceanic transport, and irrigation for agricultural productivity, ecologic and landscape tourism among other uses and benefits.

Imagine what the fate of our planet would be if the Amazon did not exist. Imagine how much worse global warming would be if our oceans did not act like sinks for greenhouse gases.

Despite being a hemisphere with abundant water resources, we must take into account the growing challenges facing our planet and how this can affect the well-being of the people of the Americas.

I congratulate the authors and all who are associated with the publication of this informative book that we are launching today. The book is a testament to the inestimable value of the OAS, as a vehicle for cooperation and collaboration within and among Member States and regional and international institutions to promote the peaceful, sustainable and integrated use of water resources.

I believe sometimes we underestimate the value of the cooperation and cooperation that the OAS makes possible. Much of the natural capital in our hemisphere found in the Amazon, the La Plata Basin, Gran Chaco Americano, Trifinio, San Franscisco the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean among others is naturally shared among multiple countries.

We know that the absence of collaboration encourages conflict. But as this publication shows, collaboration is not automatic. It requires goodwill and sustained effort. But in the context of the shared management of our natural capital, it requires factual scientific data and information. This is where science and diplomacy meet. Diplomacy cannot be effective without science.

Among the more informative features of this book “50 Years of Water Diplomacy in the Americas” is the way in which the OAS has adjusted to meet the challenges of the times. Importantly, the projects implemented in various countries over this time have mirrored the experiences and approaches of our Organization, allowing for the formulation of interventions that have been pertinent, timely, equitable and people-centred.

With this book, it is clear that the OAS’s contribution to integrated water resources management in the Americas is profound. It is important to note that our work in this area was done in full and sustained partnership with Governments and development partners at the national, regional and international level. Going forward we intend to strengthen our partnerships in that regard for the benefit of the people we serve.

I thank You!