Media Center



January 29, 2020 - Washington, DC

It has been a rather unusual start to my chairmanship, as we have had two Special Meetings and one Protocolary Meeting of the Permanent Council before this first Ordinary Meeting. I hope that this does not mean that this will be an unusual period for the Chair.

In all seriousness, Guyana’s assumption of the Chair comes at an important juncture in our history. We became, on December 20 last, a petroleum producing nation. We celebrate 50 years as a Republic, on February 23, 2020, and with the country on the verge of a massive economic and social transformation, and as we approach general elections on March 2, 2020, this is a time of reflection nationwide on the renewal of efforts to build a more prosperous and equitable country. We also see our role here as part of our ongoing commitment to playing our part as a responsible member of the hemispheric community.
Permit me to say a few more introductory words, even if I run the risk of repeating some of what I said when I formally assumed the chairmanship, on January 3, especially as many of you were still on vacation.

I wish to reiterate my sincere appreciation for the work of the outgoing Chair, Ambassador Rita Claverie de Sciolli, Permanent Representative of Guatemala, and the outgoing Vice Chair, Ambassador Fernando Simas, Permanent Representative of Brazil.

I welcome Ambassador Jamie Aparicio, Permanent Representative of Bolivia, as Vice Chair, since his presentation of credentials, and I thank Ambassador Daniel Gutierez, Permanent Representative of Belize, for filling in for a short period. I note, Ambassador Gutierez, that you do not appear to be too disappointed.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Whilst I have almost completed one month of my chairmanship, I am under no illusions regarding the challenges of the next two months. Several member states continue to be roiled by political, social and economic instability. Climate change is an ever clearer and more present danger than ever before, and the small island and low-lying coastal states in our hemisphere are particularly vulnerable. The threats to democracy, development, security and human rights – the four pillars on which this edifice stands – are very real and we all know this.

We also know that we cannot simply wish these problems away nor can we necessarily resolve them satisfactorily during this or any other three-month period. The challenges we face are part of a continuum and our efforts to address them require patience, a process of ongoing consultation, consensus and collective action.

As I stated when we were honoured by the presence of the US Secretary of State, the Honourable Michael Pompeo, on January 17, dialogue and multilateral diplomacy are the methods that the OAS uses to address issues of common interest, within the framework of international law and the rules that govern the Organization. It is from that perspective that this Permanent Council addresses the most pressing issues of our Hemisphere.

And it is from that perspective that I intend to exercise my chairmanship, in a spirit of engagement that privileges dialogue and consultation above all else, as befits a forum for multilateral diplomacy, on any matter and in the face of any situation, particularly a crisis. For, if the OAS is to play a meaningful part in helping to resolve the challenges of inter-American relations, then our Organization must be ready to facilitate reason and rapprochement among and within Member States when they are experiencing difficult times.

I know that some are impatient with what might be considered the arcane ways of multilateral diplomacy but I am mindful that the art that we practise is, of necessity, an incremental process, rooted in a commitment to engagement, mutual understanding and mutual respect, and based on finding common ground. It is better than the alternative and it works. And we must continue to strive to make it work.

Distinguished Colleagues,

Many of you will recall that I had the honour of chairing the Working Group to Prepare an Institutional Strengthening Proposal for the OAS, over a period of 13 months, in 2017-2018. I am therefore well aware of the importance of the role of the Permanent Council and the necessity of strengthening its capacity to enhance the Organization's ability to respond to all its members’ needs. In this respect, I hope that progress will be made, during my term in office, towards having the General Committee address the various recommendations made by the Working Group, with a view to achieving institutional coherence, greater coordination and better internal and external communication, across the Organization.

I pledge to do my utmost to uphold the institutional integrity of the Permanent Council even as I give you my commitment to endeavour to foster an inclusive approach to the challenges before us. For this, I will, obviously, need your support and cooperation, of which many of you have already assured me. I look forward to working closely with you all during the rest of my chairmanship.

Thank you.