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Modernization in the OAS
Speech delivered in the Second Plenary Session of the Forty-fifth Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly

  June 15, 2015

Thank you, Mr. President. As you all know, in the nine months in which we worked on the possibility of taking up this office, we engaged in constant consultations and inquiries to enrich our work plan. They led us to the inexorable conclusion that this Organization needs to be revamped and modernized.

For us it is vital to seize this moment of truth and therefore to set clear and concrete objectives for this Organization, bringing its organizational structure and modus operandi fully into line with the pillars of the strategic vision you adopted.

It is also essential that this structure and modus operandi accord special attention to the working conditions and motivation of the staff of the Organization, so as to enhance their capabilities, respect their rights, fulfill their career expectations, and give a fresh impetus to their work.

For the OAS to be agile, for it to be able to assist in problem solving at the hemispheric level, between countries, and at the national level, and also for it to be able to contribute its experience at global forums, its mission and the four pillars must be aligned with a structure that takes us from the OAS’s traditional command and control toward an organization that operates like a matrix geared to results, in which the hemispheric and national dimensions feed into and enrich each other.

This process, which has already begun within the Organization’s Permanent Council, has been received with optimism by the members of the OAS staff, with whom we recently held an open forum to hear all their opinions and at which we were truly impressed by their level of commitment and passion toward the mission of the Organization of American States.

What cannot be measured cannot easily be managed. For that reason, with your help, we want to instill a culture of results whereby the institution, its Secretary General, and its staff are evaluated on the basis of what they do, not what they say. We need to be more cost-effective and thereby achieve better results.

In parallel to the two dimensions of action – hemispheric and national – that I referred to in my initial address, I believe there is room to improve the coordination of the inter-American system and thereby achieve efficiencies that will benefit everyone.

We have embarked on a dialogue with the Inter-American Development Bank along those lines, and we will be establishing working groups in several areas to avoid duplication and to leverage our respective comparative advantages. We also want to identify synergies and achieve efficiencies with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and other institutions of the system while, at the same time, forging closer cooperation with other institutions at the global level, such as the World Bank.

There are also as yet untapped opportunities for cooperation with UNASUR, CELAC, SICA, CARICOM, MERCOSUR, and other regional forums that we will explore to strengthen hemispheric actions.

We have detected, in interactions with the staff and the Permanent Council, that there are areas where closer alignments could be made and greater efficiencies obtained. For example:

• Between the strategic vision, the four 4 pillars, and the current organization of the OAS.
• Clear opportunities to better align the services that the countries demand from the OAS with what the Organization can really offer.
• Improved interactions and cohesion among the three core parts the OAS: its staff, its owners – that is, the governments you represent – and the General Secretariat. We have already taken some steps in that direction.
• In the area of organizational, financial, and administrative management, it is vital that we reorient our processes toward tangible results.

It is essential to structure this Organization’s administrative procedures based on new technological and enhanced management concepts.

Those opportunities for improvement in the Organization, to better align the strategic vision and the four pillars, may perhaps require the elimination, review, and creation of certain secretariats.

That is a discussion we wish to have with the countries as we prepare the next budget and so today we have put forward a draft resolution for the General Assembly to authorize the Permanent Council to adopt the changes necessary for us to build an organization that is results-based and in alignment with its vision.

We have begun that exchange and we believe that the adoption of that resolution will allow rapid progress to be made with the Permanent Council on the above-mentioned changes. We have opened up the General Secretariat to dialogue, in the hope that such dialogue will yield constructive ideas and fresh opportunities to work together in a spirit of mutual support, while, at the same time, achieving better conditions for managing this Organization.

We also believe that the economic plight of the OAS and its gradual and cumulative deterioration must be addressed. However, we do not want the discussion about restructuring to get mixed up with that financial debate.

We therefore propose processing the changes in the Organization without altering the approved budget ceiling. And that is a commitment.

Nevertheless, we must be aware that the OAS’s current funding system and the current system of adjustments in its income and expenditure need to be discussed in depth in order to tackle the Organization’s economic and financial vulnerabilities.

On these matters we welcome your ideas, notwithstanding the studies we have already embarked on with a view to rationalizing our expenditures and making them most cost-effective.

We cannot have a strong Organization if it is economically and financially vulnerable. This is a discussion about policy, not resources, and one which we need to tackle in the coming months.


I believe that in these past months – first, during the election process, and then in responding to the generous support that you gave me – I have disclosed my vision, the work plan, and the willingness for us to implement it together.

We have here a unique opportunity to hold a frank and open dialogue so that, with your guidance, we can align the strategic vision of the OAS and its pillars with a more rational and more streamlined structure that will enable us to take the first steps toward bringing the OAS ever closer to the citizens of the Hemisphere.

It is a time of change and, together, we have the opportunity to place the OAS at the service of all the citizens of the Americas.

Thank you very much.

Reference: S-023/15