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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

III. Programs of the General Secretariat on Integral Development Through Cooperation

i. The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI)

The establishment of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) led to a new administrative structure within the Secretariat. Beginning 1996, the Executive Secretariats of Economic and Social Affairs and of Culture, Science, and Technology, which served the former councils of those secretariats, were abolished and a single Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) was established under an executive secretary. The functions performed by the former Executive Secretariats were regrouped and a number of sectoral and intersectoral units and offices established outside of CIDI with direct responsibility to the Secretary General’s Chief of Staff. The units and bodies comprise Sustainable Development and Environment, Tourism, Social Development and Education, Science and Technology, and Cultural Affairs.

A primary intent of the establishment of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development, and the reconfiguration of the sectoral and intersectoral units and offices was the modernization and enhancement of the technical cooperation function of the Organization through a restructured and redesigned administrative machinery. The new machinery was intended to establish conceptual linkages between the political priorities of the Organization and the technical cooperation activities. Technical cooperation would therefore not be an end in itself but a function of the broader regional political agenda. The new machinery would also manage and administer the totality of voluntary funds and provide technical services in the formulation, development, and execution of national and multinational projects and programs. Sectoral and intersectoral strategic planning has been developed to underpin that overall function. The basic structure of the refocused technical cooperation machinery has not, however, been finally configured, particularly in the interrelationship between the units, other offices and the Executive Secretariat. The program cycle formulation and project implementation have also been somewhat inexpeditious and disjointed.

The approved statutes of CIDI entrusted the execution and coordination (as appropriate) of approved technical cooperation projects to the Executive Secretariat (SEDI). Operationally, however, SEDI’s new mechanism has not met the full expectations of all the member states given the primacy of its intended function, in respect of technical cooperation. The question of technical cooperation is a complex and sensitive one within the Organization. As mentioned earlier, the historic debate on this subject began as early as 1956 and continued, through the convocation of a special session of the General Assembly in 1976 1 and through numerous subsequent resolutions in the late 1970s and the mid-1980s, into the early 1990s. Although CIDI has finally accorded a central priority status to technical cooperation within the activities of the Organization, this has not yet been secured in practice. Nonetheless, for many states of the Organization, Technical Cooperation is an area of great priority and an essential one in regional political development. The Organization’s ability to collaborate effectively with its member states through CIDI’s infrastructure and the Units is a subject that requires serious review from the perspectives of architecture, design, and execution. This question will be further addressed in the final section of this overview.

ii. The Trade Unit

A most recent development in the structure of the Secretariat was the unit for the questions of trade. As has been discussed earlier, the question of trade was an early priority of the Organization and formed the basis of several reform efforts of the membership. The earliest discussions of the membership had all underscored the critical function of trade in regional economic integration. The Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, launched by President George Bush of the United States in 1990, was one of the more recent concrete measures that envisaged an entire trade area from Alaska to Patagonia. Many regional studies and reports resulted from that initiative.  In many respects, it precursed the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by President Clinton in the Summit of Heads of State and Government in Miami, in 1994. The Miami Summit in 1994 served to target this critical function in hemispheric development through the projected launch of a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2005. The central position accorded the Organization of American States, in this area in the context of the tripartite arrangement, necessitated a focal and substantive location of the trade function within the Organization. The Trade Unit was accordingly established in early 1995.

Within the short time of its establishment, The Trade Unit has developed an impressive record of collaborative activities through research, analysis, dissemination, and technical support to member states over a comprehensive area of trade questions. It has been particularly useful in its services to the Special Committee on Trade, the meetings of the Ministers of Trade and the mechanism of Vice Ministers of Trade, and the several working groups in the development and advancement of the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The Unit has been especially valuable in its seminars, trade orientations, and information services to the smaller states of the region in their preparations for the larger trade negotiations for the year 2005. The Unit’s work has been very ably complemented by SICE—a most sophisticated system of trade data and information of the Organization. SICE, by objective international standards, is one of the most comprehensive and inclusive trade data information systems in the entire hemisphere.

iii. Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment

The Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment has been recently redesigned consequent on the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development, which was held in Bolivia in 1996. In addition to its general mandates, the following are specific areas of focus of the Unit’s activities:
  • The Inter-American Water Resources Network to build and strengthen water resources partnerships in the Western Hemisphere that address issues of public health, sanitation, ecosystem protection, and the management of water resources in the context of sustainable development.
  • The formulation of an Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation in Environment and Sustainable Development Decision-making in the Americas (ISP), in direct response to the Plan of Action of the Bolivia Summit on Sustainable Development.
  • A Caribbean-wide natural disaster mitigation program with funding support from USAID, supporting governments, communities, and the private sector in implementing cost-effective preparedness and loss reduction measures.
  • A Global Environment Facility (GEF) financed program providing for project assistance to twelve CARICOM member states in adapting to the impacts of global climate change by strengthening the sea-level and climate monitoring capability, and capacity building in regional and national institutions in the areas of coastal vulnerability assessment, coral reef monitoring, integrated coastal zone management and coastal and marine resource information use.
The question of energy, and more particularly Renewable Energy, is and must be of prime concern to the member states of the region. Yet the resource reduction program of the Organization had the effect of removing the program from the Secretariat’s activities. In 1998 it was revived by an initiative of the United States Energy Council for Renewable Energy (US-ECRE) through its program for Renewable Energy in the Americas (REIA). Through an agreement between the Secretariat of the Organization of American States and the US-ECRE, an energy program has been introduced within the Secretariat and will be pursued subject to the availability of continuing resources.

iv. The Intersectoral Unit on Tourism

Tourism has been a central feature of most of the economies of the region and the Organization has, at the national as well as regional level, provided technical support for the design, formulation, and execution of many projects within the region, particularly among the smaller member states. At the macro level, the Organization, through the Tourism Unit, in collaboration with academic centers of excellence within the Hemisphere, has undertaken research and carried out trend analysis of the rapidly changing tourism industry to facilitate more rapid adoption of national policies. Through the formulation of an integrated strategic plan, the Intersectoral Unit for Tourism has been collaborating with public, private, regional, and international bodies in assisting member states in the enhancement and extension of their tourist services. The plan will serve to underpin the Inter-American Work Plan for the Sustainable Development of Tourism agreed to by Ministers of Tourism in the Declaration of San Jose (1997).

v. The Unit for Social Development and Education

In the area of Education and Social Matters, the Organization’s activities comprised curriculum design and training, generating employment, increasing literacy, and the lessening of social inequities. More recently, these activities have been regrouped and refocused in the Unit for Social Development and Education, which serves as a focal point in the Organization for inter-American political and policy dialogue and technical cooperation to combat poverty, increase employment opportunities, and improve education. The Unit acts as a catalyst for consensus and development in these areas. During the last two years, the Unit has been responsible for the preparation of a draft agenda for action in education for the Second Summit of the Americas, technical cooperation with the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor in the creation of an inter-American labor market information system, the development of the network of social investment funds in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the establishment of a “Young Americas Business Network and Trust Fund” in cooperation with the private sector.  The Unit has also increased the breadth of cooperative relationships with a number of other international agencies and private sector organizations.

vi. Office of Science and Technology

The area of Science and Technology has been central to many activities of the Organization in basic and applied research and in the popularization of science.  Over the last few years the Unit for Science and Technology has organized databases on the basis of which science and technology activities can be planned at the national and regional levels. Also the Specialized Information System, SIMBIOSIS, has been installed and serves to disseminate project results and experiences regarding industry, biotechnology, and food technologies.  Following the Summit of the Americas in 1994, the Unit established the OAS Hemisphere Wide Inter-University Scientific and Technological Information Network and the Inter-American System of Metrology Standardization Accreditation and Quality.  The Unit has also been working very closely with governments in the development of clear technologies in a number of fields including textiles, leather, and energy.

vii. The Office of Cultural Affairs

The preservation and promotion of the culture of the region’s member states have been fundamental objectives of the Organization. These objectives have been pursued throughout the years with varied success. In more recent times, the Organization adopted an Inter-American Program of Culture that will set the framework for initiatives by the OAS in the field of cultural development. The four main areas of action are cultural diversity, dissemination and protection of cultural heritage, training of human resources and encouragement of creativity in the promotion of cultural tourism. The Office of Cultural Affairs has the principal responsibility for implementation of this program in coordination with member states. One of the activities in execution is the three-year CARICULT Program designed to reduce the shortage of qualified artists, educators and community leaders, as well as to disseminate and improve the quality of artistic expression in the region through a training program for practitioners, scholars and teachers in the performing arts, the use of art in education and methods of research, conservation and dissemination of Caribbean art and folk forms. The Edna Manley School for the Performing Arts in Jamaica, which is the executing agency, has a solid history in the execution of training activities on behalf of the Organization of American States.

In the area of Culture, the Organization is well served by the Columbus Memorial Library and the Art Museum of the Americas. The Columbus Memorial Library was established by the First International Conference of the American Republics in 1889-1890. Since then, its collections have grown to millions including books, serials, technical reports, documents, microfilms, archives and manuscripts, theses, maps, phone-discs, audio and video tapes, photographs and electronic records. Today the library functions as a modern information and documentation center. The Library holds unique material about the OAS dating back to the 1800’s and earliernot found in any other library in the world. In addition to the library materials, it is the single largest repository of papers documenting the history and programs of the OAS and its predecessor bodies, and holds the complete collection of the printed documentation of the OAS and its predecessor bodies.

The Art Museum of the Americas was established in 1976. The permanent collection is the foundation and principal asset of the museum. Its history, like most of the present-day programs of the museum, has roots in the former Visual Arts Unit of the Organization of American States. When the museum opened in 1976, the collection numbered two hundred and fifty works. Today the collection has grown to close to two thousand objects in varying media including paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. The museum’s permanent collection is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the United States. It preserves a unique visual record of the artistic achievements of artists of the Americas and their contributions to world art. Exhibitions from the collection are regularly presented in the museum and organized for travel to other art institutions.

viii. The Department of Fellowships

The Fellowships and Training Program has served the member states in four specific areas— a Regular Training Program (PRA); a Special Caribbean Fellowship Program (SPECAF); a Training Program among Developing Countries (ADPD); and a Special Fellowship Program (PEC). As has been stated earlier in this document, fellowship and training has been one of the earliest regional programs of the Organization in the field of cooperation. The program has been revised and reformed over the years in an effort to adjust to the changing needs of the membership. During the period 1990-1996 the program provided an annual average of three hundred and seventy-five (375) fellowships through PRA, fifty-five (55) through SPECAF, four hundred and fifty (450) through ADPD and one hundred and fifty (150) through PEC. The program has lived up to the expectation of member states. In the context of the early experience of the integral development perspective of the Organization, additional review of the program might now become necessary. Suggestions in this respect are made later in the text.

ix. CITEL and the CITEL Secretariat

The establishment of the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL), in 1993, also led to the creation of an executive secretariat of CITEL under an executive secretary. The Executive Secretariat integrates the functions of regional technical assistance, regional outreach, and regional training in the context of the overall sectoral thrust of the Secretariat. Its functional linkages in the larger context of technical cooperation, on behalf of member states, in spite of its financial constraints, have served member states well in their preparation for the globalization process in trade and services for which progressive and effective telecommunications is a fundamental requirement. CITEL is so far unique among the organs of the Organization as a result of its success in integrating the participation of the private sector into its activities by way of its permanent consultative committees.