Media Center



  June 6, 2006

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic—The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today urged the member countries to find mechanisms that allow the OAS to meet its financial obligations and effectively fulfill the mandates they have assigned to the Organization.

Speaking to the General Assembly, Insulza said the OAS is not in a crisis, since in the past year important steps have been taken to improve its financial situation and since all the member states have made their 2005 quota payments. However, he added, “there is still much to be done.”

Insulza explained that the budget of the General Secretariat had been going through a gradual deterioration due to several factors, including the freezing of dues for a number of years; automatic salary adjustments for staff, required under UN norms; and the assignment of new responsibilities and projects to the Organization. One consequence, he stressed, is that the General Secretariat in many cases depends on specific contributions from outside donors to fund many of its basic tasks, such as electoral observations, the protection of human rights, and efforts to combat terrorism, corruption and illegal drugs. Some observer countries contribute generously to such efforts, he said, “but these contributions are voluntary and have defined time limits.”

He explained that the General Secretariat has a legal obligation to follow guidelines established by the United Nations on cost-of-living adjustments for its personnel. That has created a structural problem, because the member states’ quotas do not have that same automatic adjustment.

“It is necessary to resolve the contradiction that exists today between a virtually indexed structure of expenses and an income budget that does not take that indexation into account,” Insulza said. He assured the member states that the OAS is increasing—not decreasing—the resources designated for cooperation in the region’s poorest countries, adding that the necessary budget reductions to meet shortfalls have come through a gradual reduction in the staff of the General Secretariat. “This option has already reached its limit,” he added.

On the positive side, the Secretary General noted that the member states took steps in January so that this General Assembly will be able to approve a 3% increase in country quotas beginning next year. However, he said, “we must resolve the underlying problems.” In that regard, he proposed that the countries establish a committee of experts to examine the situation in depth during the coming months and find solutions that could be adopted in 2008 to meet the long-term financial challenges.

The OAS financial situation was included on the agenda of the General Assembly at the request of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In introducing the topic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Knowlson Gift, called for a “holistic assessment” of the situation that takes into account the Organization’s capacity to fulfill its mandates and that establishes clear priorities. Gift stressed that for the smallest OAS member states, a central issue is the urgent need to promote integral development and combat poverty.

The heads of delegation expressed their support for initiatives developed by the Secretary General to undertake an in-depth study of the situation and find lasting solutions to the Organization’s financial problems. They were unanimous in underscoring Insulza’s political leadership, noting in particular his willingness to respond rapidly when governments have requested OAS support in mediating internal political conflicts. The delegations also were appreciative of his management during the past year and his transparent approach to discussing OAS administrative and financial issues.

Reference: E-008AG36