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Colección: INTERAMER
Número: 66
Año: 1999
Autor: Christopher R. Thomas
Título: The Organization of American States in its 50th Year: Overview of a Regional Commitment

II. Expanding Charter Provisions (A New Optic for Development)

The priority of regional political stability did not and could not negate the importance of the economic and social questions. This is, perhaps, best evidenced by the provisions of the Protocol of Washington. For while the Protocol established prescriptive and dissuasive measures in the interest of the defense of constitutional order and governance, it explicitly recognized the cardinal role of economic development in the peace equation. The need for the eradication of extreme poverty was parallely enshrined in the amendment to the Charter. (Protocol of Washington) This was a consequential development of the earlier amendment of the Charter by the Protocol of Buenos Aires which, as previously discussed, emphasized the importance of the socio-economic function in the region’s development.

It might be instructive to highlight here the situational perspective of the political and socio-economic question within the Protocol of Washington. As mentioned earlier, the overall political provision of the Protocol—defense of democracy—derived from gestated and maturing if not matured considerations of a historic principle in changed environmental circumstances. Socio-economic disequilibrium with consequential disparities in income and wealth distribution in Latin America has been endemic to the region. The socio-economic provision of the Protocol could not therefore be intended to be a function of adjustment but a call for regional commitment to structural reform. The mutual relationship of the provisions is clear in their implicit formulation that political stability can only be predicated upon socio-economic development. The Protocol, therefore, explicitly recognized and espoused the centrality of the overall social function in sustained development, in that a persistent lag in socio-economic development will ultimately imperil the stability of the state (region). It was the recognition of this abiding reality that promoted the first economic initiatives within the region.

The first economic initiatives as outlined earlier were generally, neither successful nor effective. They did serve, however, to expose the structural weakness in the system and to establish certain general directions for future operational strategies. The Charter reform of 1967 opened the way for the development of a number of mechanisms to structure and spur economic and social development. Theoretically, the structures established through the Organs of the Organization appeared appropriate; yet important gaps resulted in their uneven functioning. The programs were simply not attaining their maximum outreach. In addition, the entire economic and social program lacked the institutional flexibility to energize the larger management of a regional system. The bureaucracy became more and more weighty with considerable frustration in regional expectation. That situation, which protracted into the 1980s, was indeed a microcosm of the wider hemispheric phenomenon that was characterized by persistent economic stagnation in the region leading regional economists to describe the decade of the eighties as the lost decade of Latin America. Continued institutional dissatisfaction with the progress of socio-economic development within the region repeatedly called into question the adequacy of the regional machinery and resulted in the convening, over time, of special meetings, the call for a special General Assembly (1976), and the establishment of consultative groups of the Hemisphere to examine and review the activities of the Organization and to recommend directional and institutional measures. Indeed recourse to consultative groups is well recorded in the Organization’s history.

The records of the Organization reveal the establishment of more than fifteen consultative groups/committees throughout its history. The Inter-American Committee (CECE) of 1957 has already been mentioned. Perhaps amongst the most prominent of other inter-American groups were: The Special Committee to study the inter-American system and to propose measures for restructuring it (CEESI, 1975); the Group of Experts on Hemispheric Cooperation and Integral Development (1981); and the Group of Wise Men on the inter-American system in 1991. The optimism of the reform of 1967 seemed to have quickly dampened requiring a review of the System in less than a decade, followed by successive reviews within six and ten years. What perhaps was even more significant was the central recurring terms of the review bodies. The purposes were essentially the same: the future of the system, the evaluation of its functioning, the adequacy of its instruments and a critical study and analysis of the philosophy of the system. Equally instructive also was the general coincidence of the recommendations of the groups.

The span of general and specific recommendations of the expert groups included the strengthening of the Organization in view of its preeminence as a political forum for dialogue and negotiation; the enhancement of the Organization as an instrument of cooperation, integration and solidarity among the countries of the Hemisphere and the general consensus that the efforts of the Organization should lead in a new, different, or more determined direction to integral development. The group of experts of CEESI was also quite specific in preparing certain Charter reform measures for the Organization and recommending two draft conventions—one on collective economic security, and the other on cooperation for Integral Development. In preparing these two draft conventions the group stated:
If America comes finally to adopt an instrument of this nature (Collective Economic Security) it is evident that a decisive step will have to be taken to change the sign of hemispheric relations.
In respect of the draft convention on Cooperation for Economic Development the group said:
An inter-American agreement on this topic based on a modern conception of the problems of development and on a renewed presentation of the standards through which cooperation should be developed also will lead us, as has been brought forward in the work of the Committee and in other important initiatives presented outside the Special Committee, to the identification of the appropriate organ for implementing the new policy of cooperation for development that is proposed. 1
America was not then ready to adopt either convention. Two decades later, however, a number of initiatives were developed by the membership in the field of economic integration, integral development, and hemispheric security (economic) reminiscent, both in thrust and direction, of the recommendations of the group of 1975. There were no immediate institutional responses to the larger recommendations of the other consultative groups. However, the early nineties witnessed a significant thrust by the Organization in its prescriptions for economic and social development. Three initiatives within the first five years might be cited here. The first of these, calling for a mobilization by member states to eradicate extreme poverty through a reform of the Charter has already been discussed (The Protocol of Washington–1992). The second of these initiatives—the Protocol of Managua (1993)—also involved a reform of the Charter. The third initiative came out of a special session of the General Assembly of the Organization held in Mexico City, in 1994. These were all very important initiatives. Their purpose was to drag the region from the stagnation and malaise of earlier years and to prescribe developmental directions for the future.

The Protocol of Managua heralded a new paradigm in the regional developmental endeavor. Basic to this new endeavor would be a radical transformation of the institutional economic and social machinery, with a refocused developmental perspective.

The Charter reform of 1967, as described earlier, had delinked the economic, social, and cultural organs from the overall purview of the single Council of the Organization and had accordingly established them as Councils for development in their own right. Thereafter, development was pursued through sectoral programs of the new Councils separately but not politically unrelated. These sectoral programs served to target specific areas over a critical period in the regional movement. They were useful and necessary over an era. Their continuation as separate promoters of development, however, ultimately inhibited the larger coordination function and perspective, which the new holistic approach to development advocated and required. The development cycle had philosophically run full circle and its utility function had, of necessity, to yield to modernization as a function of change. This was the new paradigm introduced by the Protocol of Managua. The essence of this new paradigm was the fusing of the Economic and Social Council and the Cultural Council, through a reform of the Charter, into an integral program of regional development to be administered through an Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI). Article 70 of the reformed Charter described the status of CIDI as follows:
The Permanent Council of the Organization and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development are directly responsible to the General Assembly, and each has the authority granted to it in the Charter and other inter-American instruments, as well as the functions assigned to it by the General Assembly and the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. 2
The purpose of the Council is described in Article 94:
The purpose of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development is to promote cooperation among the American States for the purpose of achieving integral development and, in particular, helping to eliminate extreme poverty, in accordance with the standards of the Charter, especially those set forth in Chapter VII with respect to the economic, social, educational, cultural, scientific, and technological fields. 3
Article 95 outlines a series of measures through which this purpose should be pursued, especially in the specific areas of technical cooperation. 4 This has been particularly significant for CARICOM member states, which exercised great leadership in bringing the CIDI into being. Indeed, CARICOM was privileged and honored by the election of the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the inaugural chairmanship of CEPCIDI, the Executive Committee of CIDI.

Although the status of CIDI is clearly described in Article 70, its organic relationship has not been resolved. The Council for Integral Development continues to report to the General Assembly through the Permanent Council. A more than notional primacy of the Permanent Council has therefore still been retained in the organic configuration of the Organization. This, undoubtedly, will be resolved as the regional dialogue develops. In accordance with the status of the Council, its functions will be discharged on the basis of an overall regional strategic plan through a number of sectoral mechanisms and entities.

The bureaucracy of the Council for Integral Development is, however, quite complex and the procedures and cycles of decisions and actions are quite protracted and involved. They bear much resemblance to the procedures of the 1960s which, as has been mentioned, resulted in much frustration. It is tempting to say that these questions would be resolved with time. The history of bureaucracy of the region, however, would serve to caution such an observation. It is therefore incumbent on member states to revisit very seriously the functionality of CIDI in the interest of its more expeditious operation.