MITCHELL OAS — STATEMENT
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shop times;”>BAHAMAS MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IMMIGRATION
2015 OAS REGULAR SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HALL OF THE AMERICAS, OAS MAIN BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
PRESENT AND FUTURE OF THE OAS
JUNE 15, 2015
At the outset I wish to extend thanks, on behalf of the Government and People of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, for the stalwart leadership of immediate past Secretary General Insulza and outgoing Assistant Secretary General Ramdin over the past decade. We thank you for your stewardship which helped to ensure the OAS weathered the many economic and political storms that have characterized the last ten years.
I also wish to formally extend my congratulations to the Secretary General Almagro and incoming Assistant Secretary General Mendez and reiterate my country’s firm commitment to work constructively with you and your Executive Management team in order to continue transforming the OAS into the Organization that we all want.
IMPORTANCE OF FAIR, EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OAS FOR ALL MEMBER STATES
Mr. President, For my nation, The Bahamas, we have a vision of an OAS where once again all 35 sovereign States in the hemisphere will be seated around the table. We applaud the recent rapprochement by Cuba and the United States, which finally helps the hemisphere turn the page on an era of mistrust and hostility and will lend our support to the future work to enable Cuba to become fully integrated into the OAS.
One of the fundamental assets of the Organization of American States (OAS) is its design, which facilitates equitable political access for all Member States, large or small, developed or developing. We have to work to ensure that this Organization’s legitimacy as a political forum is maintained and that it continues to function as a place where each Member State’s issues can be brought to the table and every country’s vote and voice carry equal weight. In some ways we do this by taking seriously our role as the Board of Governors of the Organization and our responsibility for general oversight, accountability for fiduciary duties and the provision of the general direction for the Organization.
Ensuring equitable access is also necessary in terms of the composition of the General Secretariat. We know that there is a significant imbalance in the Organization with respect to regional representation, particularly for the CARICOM region. The status quo with regard to that should not continue.
Indeed one of the reasons we supported the candidacy of the new Secretary General was precisely to address this question of rebalancing in the personnel allocations of the Secretariat staff and more generally the services offered to the sub region by this body. We believe that this was a solemn promise and our folk at home will be looking toward its compliance.
One day it is our hope that a CARICOM national will in fact ascend to the highest post in the Organization and we will work as a country to accomplish that objective.
We are concerned that the proposed rebalancing that is now being circulated does not adequately reflect the requirements for change and in particular our concern is that the role of the Assistant Secretary General should not be diminished but rather enhanced.
The human resources of an Organization are the most valuable asset for productive and effective attainment of vision and mandates, and, as further evidence of the democratic and inclusive nature of the Organization, the OAS Secretariat should adequately reflect the rich diversity of the Americas. The Organization should continue to work at perfecting a merit-based transparent, nondiscriminatory and equitable human resources policy so that equity is consistently reflected in the geographic make up of professional positions. We anticipate innovation and creativity in human resources approaches which could include Member State partnerships through structured staff secondments and other integrated human resource options.
The Secretariat should provide more timely reporting on the geographic construction of the Secretariat and any assessment or reporting on geographic representation should focus on professional and executive staff representation. Allowing flexibility in language requirements for skilled persons upon initial hiring, with the condition that second language competency would be acquired within a reasonable period, as agreed in recent general standards reform, is a mechanism to address the representation imbalance.
THE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF MEMBERSHIP
Mr. President, The Bahamas wishes to register its concern about the resources available to the OAS to carry out its programmes. This requires everyone to pay a fair share. We ask all nations to do the best they can to comply with the financial requirements of membership.
DEFINING COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE
Mr. President, We want an OAS that equitably meets the needs of all Member States while paying attention to the peculiar needs of small and vulnerable Members.
As the Organization undergoes this period of introspection, where we pursue the important process of mandate classification and prioritization, we have to be cautious about ensuring we balance fiscal and practical considerations. While the cost-benefit of administration for implementing a project has to be considered we have to also balance this with an understanding that many of the smaller projects facilitated by the OAS prove catalytic for broader reform and development
The administrative introspection while useful should not, however, be the pretext though for eliminating or lessening the mission of the OAS which actually delivers good to the people around the hemisphere. That would be a great pity.
In the area of development, an important pillar for my Country and region and where we expect sustained and equitable focus by the Secretariat, we reject the premise that much of the activities of the Secretariat might best be facilitated by other Inter-American entities. We will press for the integration of Small Island Developing States and Low Lying Coastal States into the Development Agenda and to this end we welcome early reform proposals from the new administration which include Caribbean Interconnectivity as a focus of a strengthened and enhanced Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI). We further welcome the proposal to focus on efforts to combat the smuggling of migrants in the Secretariat dedicated to multidimensional security, an intractable problem for my country and region, and one which has multidimensional causes and necessitates concerted hemispheric and regional action. We support efforts to focus on disaster risk management and encourage the Organization to take a more dynamic stance in international climate change dialogue, given the general susceptibility of the Americas and particular vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Low Lying Coastal States, my country being one of the former, to the impacts of Climate Change.
We appreciate the OAS’s role as a vanguard for protection and enhancement of human rights within the hemisphere; we continue however to press for human rights approaches which are positive as opposed to punitive and which are grounded in an equitable and fair-minded understanding of rights and responsibilities within societies and between sovereign Member States.
The OAS works best, however, when it focuses on helping Member State governments create the enabling environment for delivering the equitable, prosperous and safe societies that citizen’s demand. The foundation of this enabling environment is the four pillars of the OAS – democracy, security, human rights and integral development.
Our National Offices, though small in cost are large in impact for our respective economies, and provide a cost effective and visible presence for the OAS in respective Member States. The OAS Human development initiatives through the grant of scholarships are an important hallmark of the Organization and also represent a tangible deliverable by the OAS for citizenry, which has the further impact of strengthening institutions and enhancing the human capital and capacities of our respective Countries and the expansion of cultural and social linkages across the hemisphere.
The scholarship programme should be expanded.
ENHANCED TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY FOR MEMBER STATES AND CITIZENRY
Mr. President, We want the OAS to adhere to international best practices and one area where this is critical and that will boost accountability for Member States and citizenry will be a movement towards International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) compliant reporting and the implementation of an appropriate enterprise resource planning system.
We see the formalization of the regional coordinators body as an effective mechanism for strengthening channels of communication between the executive and Member States, particularly on sensitive matters and as we embark on a consultative process of reform. We look forward to a Secretariat where there is a constructive and equitable relationship between the Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General, and where the Assistant Secretary General is endowed with more political and administrative influence within the Organization. We support the Administration’s call for the creation of a body of experts to aid the Organizations fiscal examination and Budgetary Committee (CAAP) and Permanent Council deliberations. We endorse the continued progress towards more results based budgeting and management. Reforming the Office of the Inspector General to facilitate greater autonomy and independence and the creation of an Office of the Ombudsperson to ameliorate relations amongst Secretariat staff must be key priorities of the Organization over the short term. Strengthening the checks and balances on reporting and use of discretionary authority are again key adjustments that will help to enable a culture of trust between all of Organization’s stakeholders.
Mr. President, Ultimately, the Organization belongs to Member States and to our citizens. That’s who we are accountable to once all is said and done. What drives me every day must be the same thing that animates the work of the Secretariat; what can we do to improve the lives of all of our citizens?
The OAS remains indispensable to the equitable and sustainable progress of the Americas. It must continue, therefore, to be the forum par excellence to resolve hemispheric political tensions, it has to remain the mechanism for Member States to hold each other accountable for the values we have jointly espoused, it must carry on as the instrument through which we create a constructive hemispheric agenda and it has to endure as the multilateral vehicle to pool our resources, financial and human, to facilitate our cooperation towards the vision of a stronger, safer, more united and prosperous Americas. This is the OAS that we all want. The Bahamas is committed to working with the Member States and General Secretariat towards this end.
I thank you.