The OAS has traditionally espoused four pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development. But presently, the OAS is overextended and underfunded. With this in mind, the Secretary General called on the OAS to measure current efforts against the four pillars – and to reprioritize, as needed:
“If we return to giving strict priority to the core OAS missions, that would lead us to concrete measures that we could carry out efficiently and achieve the objectives that the member states have set. Today we have clear budgetary restrictions .… The assumption is that by concentrating on fundamentals, not only can we overcome the short-term situation, but also dispel many doubts about what role the OAS is destined to play in the hemispheric context.”
While the document itself is titled “A Strategic Vision of the OAS”, it’s really more of a call for a strategic vision. Much of the proposal deals with internal personnel matters, but it also recommends the decentralization of programs, to be determined by regional priority and strategic outlook, and instituting financial quotas, which would spread OAS budgetary dependency more evenly among member nations.
In response to the Secretary General’s challenge, as reported by Caracas-based newspaper El Nacional, Venezuelan ambassador Carmen Velásquez recommended a one-year break after the 2012 General Assembly – scheduled for June in Cochabamba, Bolivia – to “concentrate on discussing the strategic vision of the organization.”
The ambassador did not specify whether she was advocating a complete cessation of operations or merely a cancellation of the 2013 General Assembly. This suggestion came two months after the inaugural meeting of the Community of Latin and Caribbean States (CELAC), which some hope will replace the OAS. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez made crystal clear his feelings about the OAS – considered by many to be dominated by the US – during the CELAC summit in early December:
“The CELAC is being born with a new spirit …. As the years pass, the CELAC will leave behind the old and worn out OAS.”
The ambassadors of Nicaragua and Uruguay were quick to support the Venezuelan suggestion, but it seems unlikely that the OAS General Assembly will take a sabbatical. Guatemala has already offered to host the 2013 General Assembly. It remains to be seen whether the Western Hemisphere is large enough for so many regional organizations competing for the limited time and resources of the region’s leaders.
The OAS is not the only international organization currently seeking revitalization. In discussing UN Security Council reform, Qatari Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser stated:
“There is no shame in recognizing that after six decades our organization needs reform. To remain relevant and legitimate, the UN must adapt itself to meet current global challenges.”
There is no shame in the OAS seeking a revised strategic vision, to include reevaluation of priorities and reallocation of resources. In fact, establishing this strategic vision is vital to the future of the organization. But it will only be possible through collaboration and consensus.
By guest contributor, Jackie M. Briski, of Cuando asi no sea.