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Statement from the OAS Secretary General on the Passing of former Secretary General Baena Soares

  June 7, 2023

“It is with great sadness that we receive the news of the passing of former OAS Secretary General Joao Clemente Baena Soares. Our condolences go first to his family and many friends and admirers, including many of us at the OAS, and to the people and government of Brazil, because Ambassador Baena Soares was a treasure of great value for Brazil and Brazilians.

Baena Soares' legacy at the OAS is invaluable. There is a before and after Baena Soares in the OAS. The Organization as we know it today owes much to his work as a committed multilateralist, to his knowledge as a renowned jurist, and to his skill as a veteran diplomat.

Shortly after taking office, Baena Soares promoted the changes that culminated in the approval in 1985 of the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, which contained a package of amendments to the OAS Charter to provide the Organization with greater political scope and more effective mechanisms and tools to combat crises in the Hemisphere.

At the end of the Cold War, Baena Soares led the redirection of the Organization towards the defense and promotion of democracy. In 1991 the Santiago Declaration reaffirmed this idea and laid the foundations for Resolution 1080 on "Representative Democracy," one of the seeds of the Inter-American Democratic Charter approved in 2001, considered the "Constitution of the Americas."

During his tenure (1984-1994), Baena Soares greatly enhanced the Organization's task of electoral observation, and led efforts to manage various crises in the region. As a result, for example, the creation of the Inter-American Fund for Priority Assistance to Haiti and the International Support and Verification Commission (CIAV) for Central America, which contributed to the pacification of the subregion after the civil wars of the 1980s. With his guidance, finally, the OAS truly became the Organization of all the American States, with the incorporation of Canada, Belize and Guyana.

The two periods in which he commanded the General Secretariat were full of challenges and difficulties. Baena Soares negotiated them as the best of statesmen. He left an OAS with strengthened capacities, with a fundamental role to play in conflict resolution, in strengthening democracy, and in the implementation and verification of agreements.

Of course, Baena Soares was more than a great Secretary General of the OAS. Before that, he was an excellent diplomat representing his beloved Brazil at the UN, at the OAS, in Paraguay, Portugal, Guatemala, Italy, Belgium and occupying different positions of reference within the Itamaraty structure. After his time at the OAS, among other activities, he founded the Brazilian Center for International Relations, today one of the main think tanks in Brazil; he was a member of the UN International Law Commission; was a member and president of the Inter-American Juridical Committee and was one of the 15 members of the High Level Panel created by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to analyze the threats, challenges and changes in the post-9/11 world, which produced the report "A Safer World" in 2004.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting Ambassador Baena Soares on several occasions. Talking with him was always a pleasure. In the world, and in particular the Americas, today we suffered a great loss. May he rest in peace."

Reference: E-026/23