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April 30 marks OAS Day-63 years in the hemisphere, 32 years in Saint Lucia

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Tuesday 3 May 2011  April 30, 2011 marks 63 years’ presence by the Organization of American States in the Hemisphere.  April 30 is OAS Day when the Charter establishing the Organization was signed.


Saint Lucia and the OAS have collaborated for 32 years, since the country joined the Organization on May 22, 1979. Saint Lucia hosted the General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the OAS in 1981.  Supported by the local representative of the OAS General Secretariat, Saint Lucia participates in numerous OAS activities and programs:


**Fellowships at graduate and undergraduate level.   

In 2010 five fellowships were awarded to Saint Lucians, similar to the number awarded in prior years.  Also offered annually are short-term professional development fellowships and subsidized on-line courses.


**High level networking and technical fora.

In 2010 the OAS offered participation to senior officials in fora on energy efficiency, sustainable development, climate change, electoral administration, labour relations, south-south cooperation, social protection, tourism, cruise destination branding, counter-terrorism, aviation security, communication in emergencies and E-Government.


**Development Projects

National Project activities in 2010–2011, through grants of the OAS Special Multilateral Fund for Integral Development (FEMCIDI) are:


*Community After-School Programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Transformation, Youth and Sports.  The project offers activities to keep youth 8-16 productively engaged in a safe environment outside of school hours.


*Skills Training for marginalized youth, implemented with CARE Ltd. (Center for Adolescent Renewal and Education).  The project trains young adults who have fallen outside the school system, offering skills for remunerated employment.


*Orchestra Training for Youth at Risk, implemented by the Ministry of Social Transformation, Youth and Sports and the St. Lucia School of Music, to promote educational achievement of youth at risk and contribute to social transformation.  


*Capacity Building and Creation of an Enabling Environment for Delivery of National Environmental Education and Public Awareness Programmes, implemented with the Ministry of Physical Development and the Environment.


*Saint Lucia participates in several OAS multinational projects, and coordinates the multinational project “Development of Regulations and Legislation for Select Services Sectors in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Saint Lucia”.


Workshops and Capacity-Building

** The local OAS representative collaborates with local agencies in organizing national and regional workshops.  In 2010, for example, there were eight workshops, each with an average of forty participants, on issues as diverse as: drug abuse control; education for democracy; emergency legislation; satellite accounting in marine management; trafficking in human persons; conflict resolution; corporate social responsibility in small and medium hotels; energy auditing.


The local OAS representation hosts the office of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Programme (CSEP) a regional environmental programme with funding from the European Union for activities to promote use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in OECS States and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.


A glance over the past decade highlights OAS collaboration with Saint Lucia to implement a range of activities, including but not limited to:

*Youth entrepreneurship and empowerment.

*Employment opportunities for the disadvantaged - The POETA Programme (Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas).

*Support to Small Tourism Enterprises.

*Caribbean Knowledge & Learning Network (CKLN).

*Book mobile Service to Rural and Remote Communities

*Work place Interventions to Increase the Productivity of Workers Living with HIV/AIDS

*A wide range of environmental projects and Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change (CPACC).


The Hemispheric Agenda


On joining the OAS in 1979, Saint Lucia joined the world’s oldest regional organization, with origins which can be traced to the early 1800s.  With the First International Conference of American States in Washington, D.C. (October 1889 to April 1890) the International Union of American Republics was established, setting the framework for the institutions of the Inter-American system, the oldest international institutional system.  Specialized organizations from that time are incorporated into the OAS Charter, work with the OAS as autonomous agencies and submit annual reports to its General Assembly. They include:


*Pan American Health Organization, headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1902)

*Inter-American Children’s Institute, headquarters in Montevideo, Uruguay (1927)

*Pan American Institute of Geography and History, headquarters, Mexico (1928)

*Inter-American Commission of Women, headquarters in Washington. D.C. (1928).

*The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, headquarters in Costa Rica (1942)

The OAS, evolving from a predecessor organization the Pan American Union, was created on April 30, 1948, in order to achieve among its member states“…an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.”  (Article I of the Charter).  OAS membership consists of 35 states.  Observer status has been granted to 65 Permanent Observers which participate in and contribute to activities.  The Organization’s policies are determined by its member states, which each appoint a Permanent Representative to OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The General Secretariat provides support to the member states, led by Secretary General His Excellency Jose Miguel Insulza and Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Albert Ramdin, both officials elected by the member states.

The OAS promotes

**Democracy:  The Organization has several instruments; its compass is the Inter-American Democratic Charter adopted in 2001, which describes the conditions that define democratic governance and hemispheric instruments for its defense and strengthening.  The introduction to the Democratic Charter highlights that it is the first regional instrument that provides an integrated vision on this subject.

**Human Rights: The American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights are among instruments of the OAS to promote human rights.

**A Multi-dimensional approach to Security:  Member states recognize that certain threats undermine stability:  drug trafficking, transnational crime, gang violence, human trafficking, cyber crime, terrorism, illegal trafficking in arms, HIV/AIDS and other health pandemics, natural disasters. The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), and the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE) are just two of the instruments to support member states in dealing with such challenges.

Integral Development: encompasses policies working in tandem to foster sustainable development.  Article 11 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter states that “Democracy and social and economic development are interdependent and are mutually reinforcing”. .

Inter-American Legal Cooperation: The OAS is a rich repository of legal conventions adopted by member states as the legal underpinning for action.

These five pillars of OAS action are closely related.  The Organization’s purposes are achieved through political dialogue, cooperation, follow-up mechanisms and legal collaboration. It's programmes incorporate cross-cutting issues such as gender focus, youth empowerment, rights of indigenous peoples.  The situation of women across the hemisphere is addressed by the ongoing work of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM).  Saint Lucia was President of the CIM from 1996 to 1997.  Indeed several Saint Lucians have contributed, and continue to contribute to the Organization’s work, in areas such as sustainable development, auditing and the local OAS representation. 

Using its convening power, the OAS promotes consensus-building to define hemispheric policies through Ministerial Meetings on Culture, Education, Justice, Labour, Science and Technology, Social Development, Tourism, Sustainable Development.  The OAS also serves as Secretariat for the Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Hemisphere (Summit of the Americas).  The Ministerial Meetings feed into and inform the Summit Process.

The OAS collaborates with Member States to support democracy building and peace processes when requested by its member states. For example, Colombia sought establishment of a Mission (known as MAPPS from its Spanish acronym) to support its Peace Process. The Organization has deployed several diplomatic efforts to restore democracy and the rule of law in Honduras.  OAS has long supported Haiti, where most recently, it collaborated with Haitian authorities to support rebuilding process following the 2010 earthquake and to support the 2011 electoral process.

The OAS addresses issues of concern to member states. At the June 2011 General Assembly, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the hemisphere will analyze the issue of “Citizen Security in the Hemisphere” proposed by the host country El Salvador.  A report by the OAS Secretariat indicates that some 130,000 homicides were recorded across the hemisphere in 2010.  The Assembly will analyze this issue and decide on measures.


The Americas is a region of rich cultural diversity, The General Assembly last year designated 2011 the Inter-American Year of Culture.   The different cultures of the hemisphere will showcase and celebrate their diversity, while examining the role of culture in socio-economic development.


The OAS uses various outreach mechanisms, such as the award-winning publication Americas Magazine, to disseminate information on official activities.   The OAS also has a forum to dialogue with civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders.  Reflection on key issues is promoted through Internet broadcasts of policy round tables, and the monthly Lecture Series of the Americas featuring leading hemispheric and international personalities:  the Honourable Derek Walcott was by invitation among the first lecturers (2004). 


It may not be well known that OAS Headquarters also houses the Columbus Memorial Library – which recently hosted a book presentation by a Saint Lucian author - as well as the Art Museum of the Americas with its permanent collection of contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art.


On OAS Day, this article provides a glimpse at the work of a long standing Organization which continues to evolve in the service of its member states. For more information on the OAS please visit its Web page at


Anne-Marie Blackman

OAS Representative Saint Lucia

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