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Permanent Council Holds Special Meeting to Debate “Diplomacy, Development and Governance”

  November 12, 2014

The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) met today in the framework of a special meeting to hear presentations from experts in international relations and telecommunications on the topic of “Diplomacy, development, and governance,” which were followed by deliberations by the representatives of the member countries on the importance of these issues in the context of the work being done to formulate and structure a new Strategic Vision for the OAS.

The Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS, La Celia Prince, opened the meeting by setting out her intention that the discussion “should serve to reinforce and promote the opportunity for this Organization to be a pioneer of a new diplomacy that champions sustainable economic development through strengthened governance and fueled by the capacity afforded us by technological advancement.” She added that “today´s discussions may even be more important in light of the current elaboration of the United Nations post-2015 development agenda and a growing acceptance that sustainable development considerations will be fundamental for advancing social inclusion, economic growth, and governability.”

The Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, Joseph Mifsud, delivered a presentation on the relationship between diplomacy and development in a complex global environment, noting that “the diplomatic environment of the twenty first century is marked by change and uncertainty. There is an expansion in the number and variety of international actors, empowered by Information and Communication Technologies and social media.” He said that states continue to be important actors in international affairs and therefore “government diplomacy remains a significant factor in protecting national interests developing global governance and also the promotion of international peace and security.”

Director Mifsud explained that the concept of diplomacy includes “a set of processes for the management of an environment” and “a set of structures through which these processes operate.” In an increasingly complex environment, he added, diplomacy “is experiencing an existential crisis. There is uncertainty. Political agendas are completely changing. And also norms, rules and roles associated with diplomacy seem to be changing all the time,” he added.

In the process of analyzing the consequences of this scenario, said the Ambassador, there are three key steps. “First, to be clear as to the assumptions on which differing images of diplomacy and the diplomatic profession are based,” he said. In second place, he noted the importance of identifying the parameters of the challenges that exist in the current policy environment, and the requirements these impose on diplomatic institutions. “Third,” concluded the Director, “is the need to locate the ways in which the functions of contemporary diplomacy are adapting or need to adapt to changes that transcend traditional conceptions of the international and domestic policy domains.”

Building resilience for sustainable growth in developing states was the focus of the presentation from the Deputy Chief of Cabinet in the Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (68th Session) and Former Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations, Noel Sinclair, who said that “at its heart this special session of the Council is about the OAS strengthening its engagement with the question of change. Change in the planet, change in the relations between states, between states and people, between regions, between people and the planet.”

During the most recent debate of the UN General Assembly, said Ambassador Sinclair, the idea emerged that “it was not enough to tinker with the international status quo, but that what was needed was a revolution – a fundamental change in the structure of international economic life, a new system of relations among us all that was more consistent with the ethos of community and which would deal with the basic fundamental question of poverty and the need for its eradication.”

This new vision led to the concept of sustainable development, said Sinclair, and the elaboration of 17 sustainable development goals. On the path to these goals, Ambassador Sinclair expresses his hope that “as we unite our emotional and intellectual energies in pursuit of the vision of the planet as one single community, we also not simply strengthen but give greater substance to the vision of this region Latin America and the Caribbean as a single community. This effort needs to go beyond symbolism.”

For his part, the President of the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (INDOTEL), and current Chair of Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL) of the OAS, Gedeon Santos, explained how technology should be promoted as a tool for fighting poverty and promoting effective public governance. In that sense, he said that although the region has made significant progress in the fight against poverty, "the technological development has created a new form of poverty and exclusion, resulting from the inability of a person to enter, dominate and enjoy information and communication technologies (ICT)"

ICT "are the expression of a deep and powerful convergence process that has changed the way we live, and relate," said Santos, adding that part of this transformation affects the management of public institutions. As an example he mentioned the potential that ICTs have generated to raise the level of interaction between people and governments, which has allowed a better and broader citizen participation and has made accountability and transparency more effective.

"The power of ICT as a tool for economic and social development has led governments to undertake programs aimed at bridging the digital divide, which is a pressing need in Latin America," stressed the President of CITEL, citing figures from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) that indicate that the highest income quintile of the region has a rate of internet access up to five times that of the lowest income quintile. Challenges such as reduced infrastructure, education level, issues of security and universalization, continued Santos “are the biggest challenges to access broadband”. The Dominican official closed his presentation by noting that CITEL should be promoted as a hemispheric forum to promote the issue of telecommunications, and to expand the hemispheric dialogue among countries on this issue.

Ambassador Hugo de Zela, Chief of Staff of the Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, congratulated the President of the Council for the initiative to bring the issue for debate at the Council. "This initiative is particularly useful at a time when we are in the process of building a Strategic Vision of the Organization for the twenty-first century," he said, arguing that "perspectives as the ones we received today can be very useful to enrich the debate that still lie ahead for us."

The OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Sherry Tross, summarized the exchange referring to the interdependence between the issues of diplomacy, development, governance and international cooperation. She recalled that international affairs are going through a process of adaptation and evolution with particular emphasis on the south-south and horizontal cooperation efforts that have been launched in various parts of the world and highlighted the nature of participation and inclusiveness in which governments have embarked to discuss new policies at the national and hemispheric levels.

In today's session the representatives of Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, United States, Mexico and Saint Lucia took the floor.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-490/14