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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

IV. Modernization  of the Administrative Function and its Processes

i. Administrative Modernization

The impact of the revised structure of the Secretariat brought about an overall review of its organic interrelations. A number of internal adjustments and realignments necessarily followed in all areas and particularly in the service area of conference activities, public information, and the administrative support functions. The sustaining and consolidation of any modernization program requires dynamic and progressive administrative services. Modernization is a process with which the administrative services must be continually engaged. This is particularly so in the light of rapidly changing technology. In addition therefore to a realignment of its structural administrative services the Secretariat embarked, in 1994, upon a comprehensive administrative program designed to equip staff for an ongoing efficient discharge of the requirements of the membership. The focus of the modernized administrative program is the integration of management through the introduction of a client/server system. The modernization process is intended to ensure timely information, internal communications strengthening, and availability of information to external users through a reengineering and streamlining of the business processes of the different departments. The major objective of this approach is to enhance efficiency, relevance, and integrated services.

ii. Elimination of Inter-American Centers

The restructuring of the machinery for the processing and delivery of technical cooperation also has affected the functions of the offices of the Secretariat in member states, and the inter-American centers in those member countries. The role of the offices and centers had been under consideration for many years as member states continually sought to address their utility and cost benefits as complementary vehicles in the field of technical cooperation and instruments of economic and social assistance. In the nineties, a review by the membership of the cost/benefit functions of these offices was fully undertaken. As a result of that review it was agreed, as stated earlier, that the inter-American centers would be phased out and the offices of the Secretariat in member states restructured.

iii. Reorganization of Offices of the General Secretariat in member states

The restructuring of the offices addressed three basic questions: - The utility of their representational functions; their cost effectiveness as external instruments in the area of technical cooperation; and their overall value as focal points within the member states for the dissemination of information, monitoring of projects and physical interfacing with the local authorities. All member states recognized the utility function of the offices in the field of technical cooperation. A few members, however, in the interest of cost constraints in respect of the Organization’s budget, agreed, in principle, to close their offices. The majority of the member states decided to maintain the offices in their respective countries. This was the predominant position of the smaller member states. Several member states further agreed to collaborate in the cost of maintaining their offices. CARICOM member states were absolutely insistent on retaining the offices and repeatedly represented this position at all phases of the consideration of this question.

The question of the closure of the offices became a serious issue. From the ensuing debate, it became evident that for the smaller member states the presence of the offices was more than a requirement for the function of technical cooperation. It involved the larger question of the interaction of the Organization with its smaller members and the political dimension of its presence in the member states. The offices, therefore, involve a related political perspective to which the larger membership has begun to be sensitized. In this respect, refinement and advancement in technology and communication as effective means of engaging and processing technical cooperation might not remove the importance of this political dimension for many years. The reality of that perspective was fully and firmly represented. The financial situation of the Organization required, nonetheless a serious review of the effectiveness of the offices and the membership decided to establish a reduced staffing with a primary, though not exclusive, focus on the question of technical cooperation.

The question of the offices of the General Secretariat in member states has not been entirely settled. Debate on this question will continue in respect of the relative merits of the overall value of their political presence as against their specific utility function. The question will also be revisited particularly in the context of the still unsettled restructuring of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) and the functional relationship of the offices in relation to SEDI in the context of technical cooperation. The question however is only partly economic. In a political environment where sister agencies are consolidating their presence in member states, the utility of the Offices cannot be measured solely in economic terms. The absence through withdrawal of the OAS presence from member states, even where practical functional linkages are maintained, cannot replace the intrinsic value of presence, contact and effective physical representation. These are vital human functions which technology will ultimately override but should not do so too abruptly or too peremptorily.