Media Center

Press Release


  April 1, 2003

Ambassador Odeen Ishmael, Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), today assumed the chair of the Permanent Council and said over the next three months he intends to focus on democracy as well as the situation in Haiti—on the latter issue, “to see what we can do to move the process forward in Haiti.”

Ambassador Ishmael succeeded his counterpart from Guatemala, Ambassador Víctor Hugo Godoy Morales, in the rotating chair. This is Ambassador Ishmael’s second time leading the Organization’s second highest decision-making body. The previous occasion was in 1994.

The Guyanese diplomat explained that with democracy and democratic governance proposed by Chile as the main theme of the upcoming OAS General Assembly there in June, the issue would be an important priority for the Permanent Council. “Democracy is under very severe threat in many countries,” he stressed, adding that in many countries of the Hemisphere, democracy “remains a fresh idea in the minds not only of governments but also of the people because the experience of democracy has not really taken on deep roots.”

Ambassador Ishmael also spoke about the need to “see how we can work together to develop and deepen democracy within our countries and at the same time to protect whatever democracy—or levels of democracy—we have achieved, and therefore the General Assembly would be a very opportune time to highlight this issue and to make it very clear to all the peoples of our Hemisphere that we as representatives of governments, and governments for that matter, are very serious in moving this process of democracy forward.”

He noted as well his intention to follow up on an initiative begun last year, to promote greater collaboration with the African countries, through their representatives in Washington, as there were a number of areas such as democratic development and managing the HIV/AIDS crisis on which African and Hemispheric diplomats and experts could exchange experience.

The outgoing Permanent Council Chair expressed appreciation for the assistance he received during his tenure, and pledged his collaboration with his successor.

Reference: E-O73/03