SPECIAL JOINT WORKING GROUP OF THE PERMANENT COUNCIL AND THE INTER-AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE STRENGTHENING AND MODERNIZATION OF THE OAS
REPORT OF THE SPECIAL JOINT WORKING GROUP OF THE PERMANENT COUNCIL AND THE INTER-AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT
REPORT OF THE SPECIAL JOINT WORKING GROUP OF THE PERMANENT COUNCIL AND THE INTER-AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT
1.a Scope of this Report
Presentation of this document fulfills the mandate given by the General Assembly in resolution AG/RES. 1603 (XXVIII-O/98) to the Special Joint Working Group (GETC) to submit to the Permanent Council and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) a report on the strengthening and modernization of the OAS before the twenty-fifth special session of the General Assembly.
This document summarizes the views and ideas expressed by the member States and the Secretary General, especially those on which consensus is widest, and identifies the proposals that emerged and the measures and actions that were recommended, if any. It also includes a brief summary of the presentations by the special guests to the Group.
1.b Structure of the Report
Firstly, the Report reviews the background to the creation of the Group and the mandate given it, and then states the agenda adopted and the meetings held to discuss it.
There follow the names of the special guests who made presentations to the Group, and their thoughts regarding the prospects of the Organization, the Permanent Council, CIDI, and the General Secretariat.
The documents registered by the end of the first stage of the Groups proceedings are listed in the Annex. Those documents present the suggestions of the countries, the reports of the General Secretariat on the different subjects, the Groups agenda and timetable, and summaries of the meetings held.
2. Background and mandates
At its XXVIII Regular Session in Caracas, Venezuela, the General Assembly decided "to establish a Special Joint Working Group of the Permanent Council and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), the chair of which will be determined by the Permanent Council, for the purpose of identifying the aspects with regard to which it is necessary to foster and intensify the process of strengthening and modernizing the OAS by defining strategies, procedures, and concrete actions with a view to promoting a comprehensive renewal of the inter-American system, on the basis of the dialogue of foreign ministers and heads of delegation of the General Assembly." [Operative item 1 of Resolution AG/RES. 1603 (XXVIII-O/98)].
On July 22, 1998, the Permanent Council elected Ambassador Antonio Mercader, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the Organization, as Chairman of the GETC, and Alfonso Quiñones, Ambassador of Guatemala, as Vice Chair. It also set up a group consisting of Barbados, Canada and the United States to advise the Chair.
3. Agenda and Work Schedule
In its first meetings the Group drew up a work plan identifying the matters it would consider and outlined a schedule of meetings to deal with them. The Group divided consideration of the agenda into two stages, one in relation to the holding of the XXV Special Session of the General Assembly and the other in relation to its next regular session. The first phase considered the Organizations prospects and aspects bearing on the Councils and the General Secretariat, and a number of special guests were received. In the second stage the Group will continue its consideration of all items on the agenda. These items include the role of the Permanent Observers, international organizations and civil society; the functioning of the General Assembly; the strategies, procedures and measures for the strengthening of the Organization and the integral renewal of the inter-American system; new guests will be received; and it will also deal with any matters that the delegations suggest be placed on the Groups agenda.
4. The Organizations prospects
At the beginning of the deliberations the Group decided to examine the Organizations prospects and the mandates received by the OAS (from the General Assembly and the Summits of Heads of State and Government) in order to establish a conceptual framework on which to base its subsequent initiatives. The Group devoted two sessions to this subject, but it was understood that this analysis would be present, either explicitly or implicitly, in all its meetings.
The delegations noted that the purposes and principles of the Organization as well as its specific goals have been reinforced by the Summits of the Americas process, especially by the mandates entrusted to the Organization by the second Summit of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile, in April of this year. They recalled the Organizations core functions, such as the promotion of democracy, the defense of human rights, cooperation, human resources development and the promotion of education, science and technology; social development and the environment; and advancement toward the free-trade agreement of the Americas. Once again the role of the OAS as the political forum of the inter-American system was underscored, a role which the Heads of State and Government of the Americas agreed to strengthen and modernize in the Declaration of Santiago.
Renewal processes were described as an ongoing necessity in the Organization to respond to new conditions in the world. Interdependence has become so great that it involves a web of activities and operations in which inaction would have unfavorable consequences for the OAS. But it was emphasized that this new view of international relations is also an invitation to intensify the processes of political coordination, for which the only enduring instrument is our Organization.
Therefore, it was asserted, the OAS must consolidate its role as the institution in which the emergence of critical situations in the Hemisphere and their possible solutions are discussed and studied and global political and economic trends analyzed. The agenda of the principal organs of the OAS should reflect the Organizations commitment to address matters in response to the needs of the member States. In relation to these considerations there was emphasis on the need for the OAS to occupy a position in public opinion such that society will be kept informed of its possibilities, activities and accomplishments.
5. Presentations by guests
Several delegations proposed the invitation of prominent persons knowledgeable in fields bearing on those of interest to the Reform Group. On September 30, 1998, the Group received Dr. Louise Frechette, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and on October 21, 1998, Ambassadors João Baena Soares, ex-Secretary General of the Organization, and Luigi Einaudi, ex-Permanent Representative of the United States to the OAS.
5.a Presentation by Ambassador Louise Frechette
Ambassador Frechette focused in her presentation on the reforms in progress in the United Nations. She said that the reform proposals had been presented by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly, and explained that they conform to the mandates of the member States. Dr. Frechette cited issues of administrative structure, the improvement of management, coordination among the different areas, and personnel policy. She also explained the mechanisms devised to carry the reforms forward and control their results, and the role of the Office she heads in the supervision of management analysis and control. She said a system had been established for the ongoing verification of initiatives, and that it is evaluated in periodic meetings among directors and unit heads, in which the UN uses advanced methods of communication.
5.b Presentations by Ambassadors João Clemente Baena Soares and Luigi Einaudi
Ambassador Baena Soares, who had been Secretary General of the OAS for ten years, defined the Organization as an essential political agency of the inter-American system. Because of this, he said, any change in the OAS should be carried out in harmony with the other components of the system.
In referring to the position of the Secretary General, he said that, while it does involve managerial functions that are found to be important for the Organizations administration, these are not the most important functions, and that its central role is that of a political agent elected by the member States and indispensable in relation to initiatives and to solution of the problems addressed by the Organization.
In regard to the agenda of the Hemisphere he said the OAS cannot be relegated to an auxiliary or secondary role, and that efforts must be made to involve it in the development of the subjects considered in the Hemispheric Summits.
In the institutional field he advocated a review of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which, he said, had become obsolete, and the need to give the Inter-American Defense Board new mandates that are clear and specific.
In the area of the work done by the Organization in the protection of human rights, he distinguished between what he called the rhetorical aspects, or the support that the countries give in this subject, and what he identified as the real aspects, which are reflected in the failures to sign and ratify the Conventions and protocols.
He also asked for attention to and support for the legal tasks being performed by the Organization and for the support due to the Inter-American Juridical Committee.
He cited as constructive the work being done for the promotion of democracy, and noted that the OAS needed to be endowed with means that would enable it to support all assistance that the countries might request in this field.
Regarding the functioning of the Organization, Ambassador Baena Soares asserted the need to solve its financial problems and to safeguard and foster career service for its personnel, especially by means of incentives and job security.
He said that his immediate conclusions would be to reaffirm the commitment to full compliance with the Organizations Charter and to the payment of the quota contributions in a setting of solidarity and dialogue.
Ambassador Luigi Einaudi agreed with Baena Soares in his description of the Organization as an essentially political agency.
He praised the performance of the IACHR, the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, the Trade Unit, CICAD and other entities of the General Secretariat which he cited as structures capable of addressing complex matters with efficiency.
He mentioned the Pan American Foundation as a good potential yet unrealized source of support in which the States are indirectly reflected and in which the private sector is able to participate in projects of benefit to the countries.
In addressing the hemispheric agenda, he concurred with Ambassador Baena Soares in that the Organization should coordinate the activities of all the entities of the inter-American system, including the IDB, and should play a central part in the SIRG process. The Organization should have a central role in integration and cooperation efforts that must be channeled through the OAS.
Among the Organizations failures he cited ignorance on the part of the member states of the advantages offered by the Organization and their inability on some occasions to exploit those advantages or to express their views and needs properly; the lack of means and human resources, which prevents the Organization from mounting a consistent long-term program; and the fact that, while the OAS is indeed universal in its coverage, that strength is weakened when no way is found for Cuba to participate in it, though he did not refer to the immediate readmission of the Government of Cuba at the expense of the Organizations commitment to democracy, but was merely highlighting a limitation deriving from an inability to give full effect to the universality of the OAS.
Ambassador Einaudi ended his intervention reminding that in his new position in the Foundation for Inter-American Dialogue he will continue to work on these matters and in that regard he indicated his hope to continue to collaborate with member states.
6. The Permanent Council
The Group took up the matters relating to the organization and methods of work of the Permanent Council in the meetings on August 27 and September 16, 1998.
As a result of these deliberations, the GETC adopted the following decisions: (i) To make available to delegations the Weekly Schedule of Meetings at Headquarters on the Wednesday preceding the meetings to which it refers; (ii) to hold regular meetings of the Permanent Council to address an item on the inter-American agenda; (iii) to reduce to one-third of the Member States the quorum required to initiate meetings of the Permanent Council; and (iv) to distribute the draft minutes of the meetings of the Permanent Council at the next following meeting of that body
In addition, the Permanent Council made the following recommendations: (i) Inclusion of the Weekly Schedule of Meetings on the OAS web-page; (ii) construction of annotated agendas, especially when items are included that relate to draft resolutions; (iii) distribution of the agenda of each meeting to all missions at least one week ahead of its scheduled date; (iv) increased use of E-mail to send the agenda and related information; (v) provision for presence in the Council of guests and guest speakers, with the Permanent Observers included among the guests (vi) use of the latest communications technologies; (vii) employment in formal meetings of interpretation services in all four official languages, and avoidance of their use in informal meetings whenever possible, and when absolutely necessary, restriction to the English and Spanish languages; (viii) provision in the sessions of the Council and its permanent committees of interpretation and translation services in the Organizations four languages, and for the Working Groups interpretation and translation services in Spanish and English;/ (ix) periodic meetings to be held between the Council and its committees, on the one hand, and the units of the General Secretariat, on the other hand, in order to review work in progress, improve services, and avoid duplication of efforts; (x) the scheduling of meetings at Headquarters at least seven days in advance, except in unusual circumstances; (xi) the activities of the Permanent Council to be scheduled evenly throughout the year to avoid excessive clustering of activities; (xii) the committees and working groups of the Permanent Council to draw up at the beginning of each period a work schedule stating the dates for consideration of each item with a view to spreading its attention to the different mandates evenly throughout the year which would enable it to prepare the draft resolutions for the General Assembly with the requisite time and care; (xiii) a schedule of the meetings to be held at and away from headquarters to be made available as soon as the General Assembly closes, integrated with those of other organizations whose activities could involve duplication of activities of the Missions, and periodic updating of this schedule; (xiv) whenever possible, and in due coordination with the units of the General Secretariat, the scheduling of meetings in sessions of six hours a day; (xv) discontinuation of publication of the summary of the Council, and maintenance by the General Secretariat of a Register of the Permanent Councils decisions; (xvi) distribution of the supporting documents for a meeting to all missions at least one week before the date of the meeting; (xvii) the working documents to be on hand in the room when a meeting opens, in at least English and Spanish; (xviii) preparation of the drafts that emerge from informal and working-group meetings only in English and Spanish, and their translation into the four languages when ready to be presented for formal consideration;/ (xix) that in meetings for the drafting of text two screens be used so that the drafts in English and Spanish can be revised simultaneously; (xx) temporary subcommittees and working groups to be given specific mandates, and the Committees that create them to report thereon to the Permanent Council; (xxi) mandates to be transmitted to the Committees in a simple and expeditious manner; (xxii) officers of the committees to continue to be elected in the manner prescribed in the rules of procedure, and each committee to have at least a second vice chair to ensure that its work proceeds without interruption; (xxiii) simplification of the procedure for the election of officers when there already is a consensus on the choice among the member countries; (xxiv) restriction of collective tributes and transfer of this function to the Chairman of the Permanent Council, as prescribed in its Rules of Procedure (elimination of farewells for alternate representatives), with exception from this provision of protocolary sessions in which the Council celebrates and commemorates certain anniversaries; and, though the practice of presenting diplomas to departing alternate representatives is to continue, the presentation is not to be made during meetings of the Permanent Council; (xxv) limitation of the number of sessions and acts of a protocolary nature and their restriction to visits of Heads of State and Government and of ministers; (xxvi) ceilings on expenditures for meetings at and away from headquarters to be strictly adhered to, as stated in CAAP resolutions; (xxvii) elimination of the General Committee, and performance of its functions by the Permanent Council.
7. The Inter-American Council for Integral Development
In this area the Group centered its discussion on the concept of partnership for development; on analysis of the results already obtained with the new cooperation system (CIDI); on the role of the different organs involved in the cooperation process and their specific functions; on the management of programs; on fund-raising issues; and on the accounting and administrative procedures for program funds.
7.a The Partnership for Development Concept. Criteria for its application
The Group recalled that in its Twentieth Special Session, convened to revise all aspects of inter-American cooperation, the General Assembly approved Resolution AG/RES. 1 (XX-E/94) "General Policy Framework and Priorities: Partnership for Development." That resolution introduced a new concept of cooperation./ At the same time, the Group recalled concepts of the "Strategic Plan for Partnership 1997-2001"./
7.b The present state of cooperation. Results obtained with the new cooperation system (CIDI
The Group noted that with implementation of the new structure in the Organization many aspects of cooperation have improved, and that effort has been made to preserve consistency among the guidelines issued by the presidential summits, ministerial meetings and the inter-American programs.
Under the new system there is a visible trend to prioritize multilateral projects, understood to be those that guarantee the participation of States capable of offering cooperation and that take into account the requirements of the most needy countries. Notable here was the intention of the participants to share their knowledge and experience and the purpose of fostering the design and consolidation of local development infrastructures. This modality is part of the general guidelines that the countries themselves adopt, consistent with a universalizing and integrating process, and is part of an active and complex system. Also apparent is a significant increase in the average size of projects in comparison with the past, as an indication of a greater impact of cooperation.
The cooperative operations of the OAS should be directed at meeting the more urgent needs of its members, and most especially those of the smaller or relatively less developed economies, and the system should ensure their full participation in the design and execution of projects. The countries have acquired the notion that it is urgently necessary to find mechanisms that will upgrade the technical and institutional capacity of the economically relatively less developed countries so that they, too, may benefit from cooperation. These technical capacities could be upgraded by setting up a mechanism to train personnel charged with the design and execution of projects in the smaller countries, covering the aspects of project design, presentation and execution, or other measures that accomplish that result, through concrete and explicit mechanisms to implement the preferential treatment that the countries of smaller and relatively less developed economies should receive, as established in the Strategic Plan. One delegation suggested that a special fund be established for this purpose for developing countries.
7.c Technical aspect of project management. Role in Partnership for Development of the political organs and the Secretariat, and their specific tasks
A sizable number of countries referred to the lack of definition, initiative and independence of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) in the coordination and management of cooperation. As the discussions proceeded in the Working Group and proposals to strengthen the Organizations technical cooperation program were put forward by several delegations, it became apparent that it was necessary to redefine and strengthen the functions of the SEDI in the partnership area.
Proposals for the centralization of cooperation projects were heard. Some delegations proposed that all the Organizations cooperation projects and activities, whatever the source of their financing (both those financed from FEMCIDI and those financed from external sources), be coordinated by the SEDI. The idea here is that all cooperation projects executed by the Organization shall be conducted through one single channel and be in accordance with the Strategic Plan. In this topic attention was drawn to the risk that the external funding that some units of the General Secretariat have been able to obtain with the knowledge and capabilities they have acquired over time in the execution of cooperation projects, may fail to materialize. In some cases these projects can require technical expertise that the SEDI may not possess. One solution in this situation could be to allow the Secretary General to decide, in very specific cases, which projects are to be executed and coordinated outside the purview of the SEDI.
Another object of this centralizing proposal is to consolidate the management of all activities regarded as part of cooperation, such as fellowships. On this point many delegations insisted that any formula for change must guarantee the present levels of performance and fellowships and not compromise the prestige that the program enjoys in the member countries.
It was also indicated that the existing structure of the country offices should be used to fit those activities fully into the cooperation programs.
Some member States suggested separating the technical aspects of cooperation from the policy aspects. It was asserted that the Organizations policy-making level is heavily involved in the approval of cooperation projects. The proposals indicated that the member States should concentrate on framing policy guidelines, strategies and general priorities for cooperation programs, and leave the SEDI freer to manage the work of identification, formulation, programming, approval and monitoring of cooperation activities so that they may conform better the established policy guidelines.
The Group also received a proposal for the creation of a new integral development entity that would be part of the Organization and function as a separate subsidiary organ.
7.d Administration and execution of programs and projects. Consistency and compatibility of the program and its priority areas with projects in terms of their evaluation, selection, execution and financial control
As an unsatisfactory aspect of this activity some delegations cited the dispersal of cooperation over a wide range of topics; they proposed that cooperation should be concentrated, and that the limits and scope of the Organization's operations in the eight established priority areas should be more precisely defined.
It was proposed that the purposes and expected results of inter-American programs be better defined, and that some countries would also like to see greater consistency between those programs and the Summits of the Americas mandates.
Most of the delegations were of the view that the procedures in the existing process of programming, presentation, evaluation, approval, execution and control of cooperation activities are in need of in-depth revision.
Lack of information was another shortcoming cited by several delegations. The member countries receive incomplete financial information on projects and almost none on their results. To solve the problem it was proposed that an integrated information system be set up, though it was recognized that success would greatly depend on the ability of the SEDI to obtain the data from national executing institutions.
7.e Acquisition of funds. Establishment of a coordinated mechanism for this purpose.
Noting that the traditional sources of funds cannot meet the needs that arise in this area, a substantial number of member States have asked for the development and implementation of a consistent, coordinated and centralized fund-raising strategy to replace the existing arrangement in the General Secretariat. This structure to raise funds for the cooperation system should have a flexible negotiating capacity, present an internally consistent program, and have a transparent administration.
7.f Procedures for accounting and administration of funds. Advisability of setting up a system of separate accounts
The delegations were agreed on the advisability that the funds for cooperation should be held in separate deposits with their own accounts. The conviction was expressed that in this way the Organization would be better able to maintain an up-to-date, transparent financial register that would make its administration and accounting more efficient and is essential to inspire in prospective new donors the confidence they naturally require.
The different funds could become as separate as the countries themselves decide. Suggestions ranged from changes in the accounting and administration procedures to the setting up of a trust fund for administration by an entity separate from the Organization but subject to supervision and control by the member States.
7.g Summary of proposals
The proposals received could be summarized as follows: (i) that a study be carried out of the possibility of setting up a special fund that would reduce differences among the Member States with regard to their institutional and technical capacities to participate in the cooperation system; (ii) that horizontal cooperation mechanisms be promoted to contribute to the actions indicated in the preceding item; (iii) that concrete mechanisms be established to put into effect the concept of Partnership for Development as defined in CIDIs Strategic Plan that will allow resources to be allocated to the urgent needs of Member States, especially those with smaller economies and less relative development; (iv) that SEDI be authorized to coordinate projects financed by FEMCIDI as well as those financed by external funds; (v) that the management, execution and coordination of external financing for technical cooperation programs be improved; (vi) that the technical aspects of cooperation implementation be separated from those of cooperation policy; (vii) that cooperation be focussed on fewer subject areas; (viii) that a review be made of the mechanisms and procedures used at each stage of the present cycle of projects and that the number of projects be limited to those for which funds are available; (ix) that an integrated information system be set up for project financing and execution; (x) that an internally consistent, coordinated and centralized strategy be devised for the raising of external resources; and, (xi) that the administration and accounting of the FEMCIDI funds be separated from the Regular Fund.
8. The General Secretariat
The item on the organization and working methods of the General Secretariat was also considered by the Group. The General Secretariat presented three documents: Reforms in Personnel Policy, with commentary by the Staff Association (GETC/FORMOEA-29/98), Budgetary Reform (GETC/FORMOEA-32/98), and Financial Situation of the Organization (GETC/FORMOEA-39/98).
In the first of these documents (Reforms in Personnel Policy) the General Secretariat presented a series of "suggestions for modification of the Organizations hiring procedures, including support personnel away from headquarters; information on implementation of the performance evaluation system; notes on a study of a new career service; ideas for a permanent early retirement plan, and other initiatives." As a result of the General Secretariats input and the discussion among the delegations, a draft resolution embodying the proposed changes was submitted to the Special Session of the General Assembly through the Permanent Council.
In the second of the three documents (Budgetary Reform) the Secretariat gave the Group basic information on the Organizations budgetary structure and the applicable standards, and offered a critical analysis of the process and a proposal for reform.
In the third document (Financial Situation of the Organization) the Administration presented to the Group several observations on financial trends in the Organization and projections to identify their consequences and examine a number of options in face of them. The General Secretariat recommended that the Regular Fund budget be based only on the quota contributions; that budget execution be based on current cash balances, that the quotas be adjusted annually for inflation, and that, when the quotas are not adjusted, the Organizations policy-making bodies identify the program adjustments needed to close the gap between income and expenditure.
It was also suggested that a specialized private business be contracted to carry out an integral study of OAS working methods and make recommendations. In this regard, several delegations agreed that this alternative could be effected pursuant to lines of action proposed by this Joint Group.
The General Assembly has endowed the Group with broad powers for analysis and decision-making: It is constituted at an extraordinarily high level, being made up of the Permanent Council and CIDI; its area of competence is extensive, for it has been entrusted with the performance of a comprehensive, integrated critical analysis; its method of work has the requisite flexibility, because it has the legal status of a working group, and the results of its proceedings are likely to be quickly acted upon, for Councils can adopt the immediately relevant decisions subject to approval by the General Assembly. In addition, the interest and participation with which the Group addressed all the subjects proposed attest to the need for and importance of the work being done.
There was not enough time to hear more speakers, but interest has already been expressed in the continuation of this practice, which has proven its usefulness, and many delegations have put forward the names of persons who can make contributions to our work.
The results of the study of the organization and methods of work of the Councils and the General Secretariat have been summarized in this report, and are made up of the interventions of the delegations, both in the course of the meetings and in writing, the inputs of the guests, and the work and participation of the General Secretariat. The fact that many of our decisions have related to simple issues reveals to us the absence in the day-to-day running of these affairs of a body with the competence and will to adopt them, a gap filled by this Group. The need for these decisions was obvious to all, and it had become urgent to take them. We hope this opportunity will be seized to implement them without delay so that they may have the desired effect. In other aspects the Group made it possible to discuss complex issues that have not yet been resolved, for the member States have not yet reached sufficient consensus on them. In the second stage of its proceedingsin addition to completing the coverage of its agendathe Group will have to resume the consideration of some matters already discussed.
The Group acknowledges the Secretary Generals discharge of his responsibilities in relation to our proceedings, and thanks him for his participation in the meetings, for his analyses and proposals on the needs of the administration he heads, and for the support we have had from the General Secretariat.
Anexo: Lista de documentos distribuidos en el GETC durante la primera etapa de sus labores