Media Center

Press Release


  September 15, 2008

The Organization of American States kicked off Green Week with a series of activities organized by the Permanent Council to raise awareness about climate change. The program inaugurating Green Week also included a panel discussion on “Sustainable Development in the Americas: Accomplishments and Lessons Learnt.”

Experts from the OAS Department of Sustainable Development during Monday’s inauguration shared a wide range of information on projects and other endeavors being pursued by the hemispheric organization to support Member States. Those initiatives include strategic programs implemented in the areas of water, land, energy, and natural disaster risk management in the Americas.

Member country representatives praised the OAS initiatives while underscoring the urgent need for regional and institutional action to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation. As well, delegates shared about their respective countries’ environmental and sustainable development best practices.

Lauding the Green Week initiative, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin told the Member State representatives that the organization does have the capacity to address the their needs through such sustainable development services as watershed management. He noted that for decades the OAS has been at the forefront of the discourse on innovative sustainable development projects and activities that have had a positive impact on citizens in member countries. Ramdin also noted that the OAS enjoys worldwide recognition for its work in the area of sustainable development and environment, and urged Member States to provide more funding for the Department of Sustainable Development.

Ramdin repeated a statement made by Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Permanent Council Chairman Ambassador Nestor Mendez of Belize in the Green Week invitation letter, noting the urgent need to “unite efforts” on a variety of fronts and to complement efforts in the countries with ongoing activities “in our own house.” Insulza and Mendez explained that Green Week activities were intended to “raise awareness among the OAS staff about the adverse effects that our current internal, institutional practices are having on the environment.”

Green Week is an important first step, said Ramdin as he noted that a year ago the organization adopted a “green policy” whereby its facilities are retrofitted to change the work style and conserve energy. He said the Organization remains fully committed to those objectives and would be doing whatever it can to that end.

In his inauguration remarks, the Permanent Council’s Chairman spoke about unprecedented human and technological progress that is, however, accompanied by growing concern over the future of the planet.

Highlighting fresh concerns over the fate of the most vulnerable, Ambassador Mendez lamented how our rural areas and green spaces are being converted into cities ringed by ghettos of hopelessness. “Our forests that are so central to the quality of the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the medicines that help us recover from illness are under sustained assault from suppliers of wood and paper products,” he added. “Even as more food is being produced, more people—especially women and children—are starving,” the Belizean diplomat declared.

All this has led to growing concern about the sustainability of our development models, said Mendez, who observed that these development models are overly focused on extravagance, consumerism and the unlimited use of nonrenewable resources and the underutilization of renewable resources. He said that, furthermore, the global ecosystem is increasingly under a dual threat of excessive pressure from consumption in the North and excessive pressure from population and basic needs in the South.

“As citizens of our planet, we must more than ever before anticipate what the consequences of our activities will be on the environment,” said Mendez, stressing how the activities marking the launch of Green Week “is our own small attempt at the OAS to contribute to global sustainable development by taking account of the environment in the way we conduct our business.”

Cletus Springer, Director of the Department of Sustainable Development, moderated the panel discussion by the Experts as they shared about their respective departmental programs and their positive impact on the Member States. Springer also addressed the challenge of trying to accomplish more with diminished resources.

The panel discussion on “Sustainable Development in the Americas: Accomplishments and lessons Learned” included the following experts from the Department of Sustainable Development: Mark Lambrides, Chief of Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Mitigation Program; Richard Huber, Chief of the Land Resources Program; and Enrique Bello, Deputy Chief of the Integrated Water Resources Management Program.

Reference: E-347/08