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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. Review of the Organizational/Administrative Structure

I. The Political Function

In the context of the above questions, certain aspects of the political/administrative structure of the Organization might be reviewed.

Throughout the history of the Organization political direction has been exercised by the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Specialized conferences and the Permanent Council, a body comprising all member states which meets regularly throughout the year. The Assembly meets once a year except in special circumstances and the meeting of consultation is convened in situations of political crisis. In the fifty years of the Organization’s history, the Meeting of Consultation has been convened on eighteen occasions.  In addition, there have been three ad hoc meetings of the Meeting of Consultation.  The Specialized Conferences have served as very useful mechanisms for complementing and advancing the regional agenda.  They are, however, thematic in nature and specifically subject-oriented. The Permanent Council therefore, essentially exercises the function of the daily political direction of the Organization. The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs of the Permanent Council recommends on political and juridical matters to the Council and the Council recommends to the General Assembly.

The Permanent Council also oversees the general mandates of the Organization, through other committees, commissions, and working groups and therefore relies on its Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs for substantive advice and recommendations on political questions. There is no single unit or office, within the Secretariat, that serves the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs in the area of political questions.  The Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, which came into being in 1990 has focussed on democracy and a number of related subjects. Beyond the work of the Unit, the wider political function of the Organization is not substantially engaged as an institutional secretariat program. The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs accordingly relies on the collective wisdom of its members in its political advice to the Council. The New Vision of the Organization cannot effectively address the comprehensive hemispheric agenda for the new millennium without the substantial and sustained services of an institutional secretariat support.

The objectives stated above might be achieved in two ways, though not mutually exclusive ones. The first would be a division of the Committee on Juridical  and Political Affairs into two committees: a committee on political questions and a committee on juridical questions. The circumstances of the past, which resulted in the grouping of the Political and Juridical affairs, have changed substantially in modern times. The Committee on Political Questions would consider and treat all political questions of the Hemisphere including the priority issues of the security of small states, confidence building measures and other regional political questions. In such circumstances the political concerns of the membership and groups of the membership can continue to be given the requisite focus within a wider and interrelated political context. Specific topical questions, requiring special focus, could be addressed by subcommittees or working groups as priorities arise or are replaced. This would provide the Organization with the required flexibility to profile important questions without establishing more committees for that purpose, which then become difficult or inconvenient to displace.

One of the most important results of the division proposed above would be the creation of much needed space for the development of the Juridical questions of the Organization, which in the evolving circumstances of the Hemisphere, must assume and be accorded priority of attention in the elaboration and construction of a new and strengthened Juridical framework for the region. This would include the elaboration of dispute-settlement mechanisms consequent upon the adoption of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. This would be necessary in order to reconcile the applicability/compatibility of World Trade Organization (WTO) principles with hemispheric principles in the context of the new regime. Also, the ratification of existing treaties and conventions has been outstanding for some time. Considerable work in this area must be done for the furtherance and harmonization of international law throughout the Hemisphere and in a number of related juridical areas.

A second measure to meet the objectives outlined above would be the creation of a department for political questions within the Secretariat. The department would provide services to the Committee on Political Questions in areas of policy research and analysis and in the development of position papers on impact, assessments and evaluation of political questions and situations within and in relation to the Hemisphere. The coming into being of a free trade area would involve a number of political issues in addition to those which necessarily will derive from the summit decisions of Heads of State and Government.  There would, accordingly, be need for adequate secretariat support in the implementation of an evolving political agenda. The creation of such a department, would be a logical follow through of the extended role given to the Secretary General by the Charter reform of Cartagena de Indias, (1985); which provides for the Secretary General to bring to the attention of the Permanent Council any matter which, in his opinion, might threaten the peace and security of the continent or the development of the member states. This is a broad and enlightened function.  The timely and effective discharge of this function requires that the Secretary General be kept continuously informed and advised. The political department would serve both the Secretary General and particularly the Permanent Council, through its Committee on Political Questions. The cost of this measure could be managed through an internal restructuring of the present Unit of Democracy. Additional resources for the proposed Department of Political Affairs could be made available from the savings that are likely to result from the anticipated consolidation of the sectoral units and offices and the merger of their functional activities within a restructured SEDI as discussed subsequently.

As democracy is further entrenched and consolidated throughout our hemisphere, the basic role of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy would necessarily widen and be integrated into a larger and more general socio-political function. Democratic vigilance will always be a priority of the Organization.  Electoral observation/monitoring will, however, ultimately yield to progressive engagement by the Organization with the consequential and larger socio-political requirements of the membership. It appears very timely, therefore, to transform the Unit into a broader and post-modern political function of which the strengthening and consolidation of democracy becomes a specific focus. The cost effect of such a transformation could be further managed by the mechanism of outreach by the new department to the larger community of academia, research institutions, and consultants.

ii. The Technical Cooperation Function

The larger hemispheric developmental agenda goes beyond the juridical and political and covers a wide field of interrelated socio-economic, trade, and cultural questions. This is described in the concept of integral development as introduced by the reform of the Charter in the Protocol of Managua, (1993) and subsequently mandated by the Declaration of Montrouis in Haiti, in 1995. As described earlier, the concept of Integral Development, from the perspective of the Organization, involves the cohering of developmental parameters in a broad composite endeavor on the basis of which the regional body would serve as catalyst and facilitator, in collaboration with other development institutions, in promoting and consolidating the technical cooperation thrust. The Organization would therefore not be a multifaceted technical assistance agency but would rather be the core agent of wider and structural multilateral actions within and beyond the inter-American system. The design of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development and its related organizational and administrative machinery were expected to carry out these objectives.

The  Council for Integral Development (CIDI), as conceived, is a ministerial body that meets annually and establishes broad policy guidelines. The Council pursues its work through a series of meetings and sectoral plans. Its functions are supplemented by several permanent committees and subsidiary bodies as well as a number of nonpermanent specialized committees. Its policy action programs are pursued throughout the year by a Permanent Executive Committee CEPCIDI, a subcommittee of CEPCIDI on project evaluation and budgetary matters, and a subcommittee on partnership for development policies. The Council discharges its functions through a core budget of the OAS regular budget in support of regular staffing, a voluntary multilateral fund (FEMCIDI), and a number of special voluntary funds from national and non-governmental organizations and international bodies for the implementation of development programs. As described above, the Council is serviced at the Administrative level by an executive secretariat, (SEDI). As also described above a number of sectoral units provide services to the Council in project areas. These units comprise:
  • The Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment.
  • The Unit for Social Development and Education.
  • The Inter-Sectoral Unit on Tourism.
  • The Office of Science and Technology.
  • The Office of Cultural Affairs.
The units and offices are envisaged as entities responsible for developing position papers that will serve the countries in formulating policies, in defining needs and in identifying and establishing areas for technical cooperation. Under the purview of CEPCIDI, the units and offices would also seek outside funding and partnerships, review projects, respond to requests from institutions of member states, and assist them in the design and preparation of projects.

The units operate under the supervision of the Office of the Secretary General and not the Executive Secretariat (SEDI). This results in a situation where sectoral policies in support of the Council are managed and developed apart from the Executive Secretariat. In addition, in the new configuration, primary responsibility for execution of projects lies with the executing agencies in member states and not in the Executive Secretariat. Article 20 of the Statutes of CIDI states, however, that “the Executive Secretariat shall be accountable to CIDI for the execution and coordination of cooperation activities supported by the OAS within the framework of the Council, for the use of resources allocated by member states for their execution, and for their progress and results.” In the circumstances, therefore, the Executive Secretariat has become mainly a program overseeing executing agency of the Council (CIDI). The Executive Secretariat is not involved when the units undertake their own projects.

The practical results of the above stated arrangements are that units develop their own programs for the Council, source their own external funding and engage the execution of their own projects with little relation to the Executive Secretariat. There is little coordination, therefore, between the Executive Secretariat and the units. In practice, therefore, the introduction of integral development, within the Organization, has not been fully structured and continues to be somewhat disperse and disjointed in implementation. This early experimental configuration should now be revised.

Since its creation the Inter-American Council for Integral Development has, as one of its primary objectives, the enhancement of the delivery of technical cooperation. A revision of the existing structure might be undertaken in the context of four basic considerations and realities:
  • That the redesigning of the implementation of technical cooperation by the member states through the mechanism of partnership for development constitutes an institutional commitment to that area of the Organization’s work;
  • That the Charter of the Organization and the most recent action plans of the Hemisphere have established political undertakings at the highest governmental level for regional integration and that this objective will be further reinforced by continuing political agreements;
  • That regional integration cannot be achieved outside the framework of effective and concrete mechanisms of technical cooperation; and
  • That the Organization of American States, as the central policy forum within the Hemisphere by design and purpose, is the agency best positioned to pursue these objectives.
One of the imperatives that derive from the above stated premises is the effective design and management of a machinery for technical cooperation. The creation of the Council for Integral Development (CIDI) is a direct response of the membership to that imperative. There is need, however, as has been stated earlier, for the Council and its related bodies to be more adequately configured. Circumstances and conditions within the region are both timely and cogent for such a review. The primary focus of this review should be the process. A tracing of the traditional process from dialogue to action within the Organization reveals an established cycle of functions for hemispheric policy direction, regional consideration and review and regional or national action. In this regional schemata member states assume responsibility for direction, consideration and review and the framework for implementation. This is a fairly standard feature for most organizations. At the collective level, implementation generally takes the form of a high level meeting or summit, out of which an action plan generally emerges. The high level meeting serves to satisfy the political dialogue. This constitutes an important phase in the process of continuing implementation. It is at best, however, a first level implementation.

The above-mentioned process therefore unfolds or develops as follows: Pursuant to a legislative mandate, a hemispheric political dialogue generates an action plan or program on the basis of which a series of concrete programs are identified for what might be described as the second level of implementation. At this stage the process could become somewhat diffuse, deficient, and vulnerable if it lacks effective follow-through in the form of resource mobilization for effective project implementation. This is one of the areas that CIDI was intended to fill, particularly so in respect of the smaller member states for whom a regional catalyst is an essential partner in their project implementation. This critical function has not been effectively assumed by the Council.

In the present circumstances of the continuing asymmetries of the region, many member states of the Organization require negotiated and customized actions and programs for every hemispheric priority. In relation to the socio-economic questions, this should be the first level of engagement for the machinery of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development once the political dialogue is satisfied. The second level of engagement of the Council should be the conversion of the action programs into concrete projects for implementation on the ground. A third, but not necessarily sequential, level of engagement by the Council should be the coordination of its policy and action programs with related agencies of the inter-American system, non-governmental agencies, and civil society. This would necessarily involve outreach and coordination in resource mobilization, coordinated execution, and optimum resource utilization for practical implementation. The Council Secretariat’s structure and functions should be accordingly designed to support and service the range of the Council’s activities.

In relation to an overall machinery, one might therefore conceive of a Council (CIDI) for broad legislative and directional functions; a CEPCIDI with executive functions of program and project development and approval; and a SEDI - Executive Secretariat- for policy development support, program support services and project (oversight) execution. In this configuration SEDI, as the Executive Secretariat, would coordinate the entire technical cooperation function. At the policy level, the Council would continue to engage and outreach the wider system. Outreach, however, would also be undertaken at the level of the Secretariat sectorally and collectively with the wider inter-American system, nongovernmental organizations, permanent observers, and civil society in its services to CEPCIDI and member states.

The execution of concrete programs of technical cooperation could conceivably create a practical division between policy formulation, program development, and operationality. Some organizations have handled this question by the establishment of a separate operational entity with varying degrees of political success. The present circumstances of the region’s finances and the increasing resource demands for parallel priority activities might discourage this course of action at the present time. Historically this has always been a delicate political question, particularly so, as the importance of a functional and coordinated relationship linkage between policy and operation cannot be overemphasized in the context of the larger political perspective of development. Indeed, as early as 1956, a study on the basis for technical cooperation within the Organization emphasized the need to conceive the technical assistance (cooperation) function as “a continuing activity of the Organization”4 and described its purposes as “the encouragement and promotion of such activities as will directly and effectively aid in the economic and social development of the member states of the Organization for the greatest possible good of all.”5 Today, the concentrated thrust for regional integration underscores the political focus of the above policy pronouncements.

In the overall context of the functions described above—Council and Secretaria—the process would become cyclical and not linear, and might be engaged and accessed at any point. The process would also become multipartite involving the other actors of the region within an appropriate regional framework for coordination. In such a process, cooperation and particularly technical cooperation would be functionally integrated within the overall regional priorities dictated by the political imperatives of hemispheric development in the spirit and purpose of the Protocol of Managua.

iii. Fellowships and Training

The Organization’s Fellowships and Training Program is, and must continue to be, of particular significance to the furtherance of the work of the Council for Integral Development. Fellowships and Training were essential development features from the earliest introduction of the Technical Cooperation Assistance and Fellowship requirements. This is clearly established in all earlier related reports of the Organization. In later reports on the technical cooperation of the Organization (1962) while the value of individual fellowships continued to be recognized, there are explicit pronouncements on the need to establish a coordination and connectedness between technical assistance and the priorities of the region and individual member states. The overall development function of technical assistance/cooperation, to which reference has been made earlier, is particularly relevant to training in the context of integral development. The Heads of Government of CARICOM member states and other governments of the region have established the question of training and human capital stock development as critical elements in regional development, and the follow-up Summit of the Americas also established the theme of education and training as a priority regional question.

In 1996, the Department of Fellowships was substantially restructured and refocused. The linkage of the department’s program to the overall development objectives has not, however, been fully functionally established. The evolving agenda of the new millennium, driven by the demands of technology will require radical changes in the educational direction and requirements of member states. There must, therefore, be a more functional relationship between the thrust and perspective of fellowship and training and the strategic development planning of the Organization and its evolving requirements. Support for the continued development of traditional training should undoubtedly be maintained. Greater emphasis, however, should be placed on training and development of teachers, post-modern technical skills, and tertiary education that will ultimately drive the development momentum in the new millennium. In this regard the composite strategic planning of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development and the Fellowship and training functions should be seen as complementary and supplementary. This is fundamental for the democracies of the region and has been fully identified in the decisions of the Santiago Summit (1998). It is to this priority relationship that Douglas W.Payne partly refers in his policy paper on Democracy in the Western Hemisphere when he says:
Even if major disorder (in the democratic political culture) is averted in the short run, the long-term prospects for democracy are threatened by the collapse nearly everywhere of public education systems. Teachers are in the front lines of preparing the new competition. Yet in most of Latin America they are badly trained and paid so poorly that they must work two or three jobs merely to subsist. Classrooms lack even the most rudimentary supplies and the family of a majority of students cannot afford to provide them, as is required in many countries. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more that three-quarters of Latin America’s poor are children.6
Training is neither independent nor unrelated to community or regional environments. It must further the cause of development and be a promotional agent of that objective. This requires also that training be sometimes conducted within the local environment, be integrated with national, sub-regional and regional interests, and conjointly, as appropriate, with other interested and interrelated sectors. The Department of Fellowships and Training must therefore be fully redesigned as an associate agent in the reinforcement of the strategic, technical, technological, juridical, political, and social complementation of our progressive and evolving hemispheric design. The basis of this strategic complementation should, of necessity, involve the private sector and civil society as an integrated societal goal.

iv. Public Relations

The broad administrative adjustments referred to earlier and the specific restructuring and refocusing outlined above will help to equip the Organization and its Secretariat in their wider services to the region and the membership. They will not, however, accomplish effectively the goals of the Charter in the absence of a dynamic and vigorous public information program, a progressive and enlightened human resource policy, and an effective geographic staff representation within the General Secretariat.

The Public Information Program within the Organization has concentrated almost exclusively on information. The present activities of the department comprise a television series, Americas Live, which focuses on current OAS activities. The program is broadcast on a growing number of stations in member countries. The department also produces daily radio programs and special radio programs have also been produced for breaking news events. A bimonthly newsletter, New Vision, covers OAS news on a range of topics that include political developments, cultural events, and technical programs. It is published in four languages and distributed through the national offices to decision-makers across the Hemisphere.

Public information is, however, much more than accounts of meetings and activities. There is need, therefore, to expand the present practice of information to cover public relations and public interrelations. One might therefore conceive of a direct relationship between information, relations, and publicity programs in a wider and more effective public engagement through the further utilization of modernization of communication technology involving all aspects of media coverage. Such a program would comprise taking the Organization to the public in Washington and member states, establishing the relevance of the activities of the Organization in interaction with civil society at headquarters and abroad and in functional relations with relevant information agencies. In this way the organization will establish visibility, be informed of its worth to the public and enhance its relevance. The recently created Office of External Relations is expected to undertake some of these functions. There is need however for an integration of the wider perspective. Information is integrative in function and requires action, purpose, and interplay for full effectiveness.

v. Human Resources

The proper and sustained discharge of the activities and purposes of any enterprise ultimately depends on the quality and efficiency of its human resource even with the most advanced and self-sustaining technology. Quality and efficiency are products of training, motivation, identity, and opportunity. The Organization has, as most enterprises, undergone very drastic downsizing with adverse career and morale consequences to its human resource. The impact of this is felt everywhere throughout the Secretariat. The Organization is most fortunate however in having a very dedicated core of personnel whose attachment to duty is beyond reproach. This is a tremendous asset that must be cultivated and enhanced. This is particularly necessary in view of the wider functions that the Organization has begun to assume.

In order that the Organization might continue to count on an effective cadre of personnel, a comprehensive staff management program must be put in place. This program might include training, career advancement mechanisms, opportunities and facilities for career improvement and for wider recruitment of women and young people. The existing programs should therefore be expanded and improved to meet these basic requirements as staff conditions and relations constitute the fundament of an organization’s effectiveness. The quality of success of a collective objective is intrinsically related to a healthy staff environment.  The Organization would also benefit from a revised and more structured internship program geared to attracting young qualified persons. A well structured and sustained internship program, would serve to introduce a new generation to the work of the regional body in ways that will further energize its activities and provide an additional channel for enriching its future human resource.

An important dimension of the staffing of a regional or international body is its geographic distribution. Regional organizations are by nature multi cultural and this feature is a most desirable aspect of their staffing. It is important that this be so for many reasons. Members identify priorities and provide direction and focus on the issues of the region. An important aspect of program development and implementation is carried out by staff. There is, therefore, in many cases a certain cultural nexus between priority identification and program implementation. Situations and circumstances vary and local awareness of causes and issues is at times basic to successful execution and follow-up. The multi cultural mix in staffing can therefore provide a critical component between the theory and practice of implementation.

The staffing pattern of the Secretariat of the Organization does not reflect this desirable and important feature. Out of a total of approximately six hundred staff members from the nationalities of the regional membership, approximately 20.1 percent comes from Central America and the Caribbean whose sub-regions accounts for twenty-one of the thirty-five member states. At the professional level, out of a total of 354 staff members, five percent is from Central America, and the Caribbean, with a membership of fifteen, has ten percent. At the upper echelons of the Secretariat staffing, D1 and above, of a total of 38, Central America has one D1 and the Caribbean one D2. The Organization’s recruitment standards preclude staffing from nationals of nonmember states. Explicit to this practice is that the Secretariat of the Organization should be staffed by nationals of member states. The staffing situation in relation to the fifteen member states of the Caribbean and the six from Central America would seem therefore to implicitly negate this practice. The recognition and acceptance of the need to address the questions of small states, through the appreciation and design of programs, which meet their particularities, requires early and practical attention to this question.  This attention would need to be directed across the entire Secretariat from Democracy to Integral Development, to Human Rights, to Legal Affairs, to Public Information, to General Administration, and to all common services.

vi. Management Structure

The putting in place of the structures and functions outlined would provide the Organization and the Secretariat with the human and operational framework to address the challenges of the expanded agenda of the Organization into the new millennium. Structures must be rational and their components must have meaningful relationship with the overall configuration. The present structure of the Secretariat with offices, secretariats, departments, and units, which do not relate to a standard management pattern, should be reviewed. The purpose of the review will be to establish and adopt standardized nomenclature within the Secretariat for supervisors, coordinators, secretaries, and directors and the entities through which they relate. This is largely consonant with the direction of progressive management.

The standardization of the Secretariat’s nomenclature should also involve the title of the Assistant Secretary General. The title Assistant Secretary General varies in rank and relation among other organizations. In the case of the Organization of American States, it bears no relationship to the United Nations. It bears no relationship to the Economic System of Latin America or to the CARICOM Secretariat. The title should therefore be harmonized with other organizations, and more particularly with the United Nations of which the OAS is a regional agency. The larger question should also be addressed. By the Charter provision in Article 115 the Assistant Secretary General is Secretary of the Permanent Council. This is a very important and substantive function. The Charter also designates the Assistant Secretary General as principal advisor to the Secretary General and provides for other delegated functions to the holder of that office by the Secretary General. Successive administrative reform adjustments have maintained the configuration of that office. Its functional relationship with mainstream political action and direction of the Organization has, however, been largely circumvented. This situation should be addressed. As one of the two elected officials of the Organization who assumes the direction of the Secretariat in the absence or disability of the Secretary General, the Assistant Secretary General should be institutionally involved in the overall activities of the Organization. The expanding hemispheric agenda of the Organization as it retools itself after its first fifty years should constitute the basis for a consideration of this question.