Barbados is committed to building a strong and effective Organisation of American States (OAS), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr Jerome Walcott said.
Walcott made these remarks recently at the opening of an exhibition and reception to celebrate the OAS’ 70th anniversary, at the Inter-American Development Bank in Christ Church.
He said the event’s theme: OAS: 70 years working for the citizens of the Americas. Peace, Democracy, Development and Rights for all, speaks to the core values of the organisation, its raison d’etre, and largely its achievements.
“It’s guiding four principles or pillars remain its commitment to the preservation of democracy, human rights, security and development, which stand in alignment with the remit of the foreign policy of the Barbados Government. This organisation is one of the unique regional spaces where countries, regardless of size or GDP, can come together to work to overcome regional and global challenges,” he said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister observed that the world in which the OAS was conceptualized 70 years ago is a “far different” world today, yet the principles remain relevant.
“What has not been altered and in fact has become even more critical is the need to work together to accomplish the aims established under the aforementioned four pillars . . . There are new and emerging forces at play that linger forebodingly.
Forces that threaten to undermine much of the gains made by member states. These existential challenges, which include climate change, disaster mitigation to transnational crime and corruption to name a few, demand creative and dynamic solutions at the multilateral level,” he said.
Minister Walcott said that Barbados recognized the need for “sober reflection on the way forward”, and noted that the anniversary celebrations provided the opportunity for “recommendations that speak to bold reform that will make the OAS fit for purpose”.
“Member states together can build a more effective OAS, an OAS that makes tangible concrete difference to the lives of the people of our hemisphere and achieves the commitment made to our people… Creating a more effective OAS requires effort, sacrifice and commitment – both financial and political – from all OAS states, big and small, rich and poor. The OAS as an organisation cannot be separated from its membership,” he said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister continued, “It is from its membership that it receives strengths as well as its shortcomings. Member states share in its successes as well as its challenges. At this defining juncture in the history of this organization, Barbados is committed to building a strong effective OAS recognizing the need for creative and decisive solutions.”
The Minister also praised the OAS for facilitating technical cooperation and collaboration in Barbados over the years, and highlighted the work of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission, which has made a significant difference in the island’s national efforts to develop sound evidence-based drug policies and reduce the demand for drugs, and that of the Drug Treatment Court, calling it a “remarkable success and serves as a regional best practice”.
Barbadians have also benefited from OAS academic scholarships and professional development awards. The current OAS portfolio includes culture, tourism, social development and small business development.
OAS Representative in Barbados, Francis McBarnette, said the theme of the yearlong celebrations “speaks to what the organisation in various ways has aspired to do over the 70-year period”.
“We know only too well our hemisphere is not without its challenges, nevertheless there is more that binds us together than separate us. Today the event that we are happy to coordinate is apolitical in nature and its focus is to showcase the positives of our hemispheric experiment.”
The event featured exhibits from resident OAS member states, the Barbados Office, institutions of the Inter-American system, and regional organizations, as well as a tango dancing display by staff of the Embassy of Argentina and wine tasting by Stansfeld Scott Ltd. (BGIS)