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La Educación
Número: (118) II
Año: 1994


Reorganization has become almost a religion in Washington...
For the true believer, reorganization can produce miracles...
The devils to be exorcised are overlapping and duplication,
and confused or broken lines of authority and responsibility...Too
often reorganization and procedural reform are employed to create
the illusion of progress where none exists.1
Reformers need periodically to recall that incremental, experimental
change has usually proved to be the way institutional reforms
become simultaneously feasible, constructive and enduring.2
There is reason for optimism regarding recent approaches to the reorganization of the technical cooperation services at the OAS. The guidelines issued by the General Assembly (Mexico, February 17-18, 1994) and by the Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture, CIECC (Colombia, February 21-23, 1994) contain the necessary ingredients for the implementation of the administrative modernization project in the areas of the CIECC and the Inter-American Economic and Social Council, CIES.

Doubts and pessimism concerning the probable results of the reform are gradually dissipating. The measures adopted during the Mexican and Colombian meetings will surely help to minimize the adverse effects inherent in any process of organizational intervention. Such a process tends to produce unexpected consequences which can thwart its initial objectives and purposes. As the well-known public administration specialist Enrique Saravia observed, many reform projects fail because their objectives are not well defined, the real demand for the services is unknown, and the users’ desires and priorities are not heeded. Saravia’s experience in this field has led him to teach and research in such diverse countries as Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and the United States. According to Saravia, the eagerness to alter structures and present to the public the image of change causes many executives to admit later that they have lived through what he calls the Goya cycle; that is, their projects for reorganization, dictated by Caprices, are headed for Disasters and, under the best of circumstances, end in Follies.

In establishing the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) to promote technical cooperation services, the OAS General Assembly envisaged an opportunity for new public and private sector entities to join the OAS in the planning and execution of collaborative actions. In addition to envisioning other forms of cooperation, the General Assembly wisely retained the Specialized Conferences and the Forums of Ministers, which have made OAS cooperation programs financially feasible for over two decades.

It should be recalled that in the late 1980s the OAS Regular Fund had to be temporarily supplemented by Voluntary Funds for cooperation. Without this transfer of resources, the financial crisis that placed the survival of the OAS at risk would have been worse or even fatal. Despite that circumstance, the Organization was later surprised by proposals to do away with technical cooperation, which was supposedly incompatible with the proper operation of diplomatic or political programs. These proposals were incongruous for three reasons. First, they ignored the fact that more complex organizations tend to survive better than the specialized ones. Secondly, they coincided with the termination of the Cold War, the end of relatively simple bipolar approaches, and the advent of more complex international situations which require that nuances be taken more into account when dealing with political issues. Finally, these proposals took a partial view of international affairs and the multidisciplinary content of modern diplomacy. As a matter of fact, at the present time, the main political issues are primarily transnational, increasingly encompassing  such  themes  as  international trade,  sustainable  development and environmental degradation, development of scientific knowledge and technology transfer, drug trafficking, illiteracy and poverty, and internal conflicts and diaspora. Traditional state diplomacy is yielding ground to issue diplomacy, as indicated by the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in its publication The Foreign Services in 2001, of August 1992. Increasingly, such topics will be the subject of specialized treatment and multinational cooperation.

In her remarks to the Permanent Commission of the CIECC (Washington, D.C., December 15, 1993), the Chairman of the Inter-American Committee on Education, Professor Eloísa de Lorenzo, stressed the prudence that characterized the recent reform proposals. By preserving the Forum of Ministers of Education, Science and Culture—the only one of its kind in the Hemisphere—the OAS retains the role it has been playing since the establishment of its regional programs in these fields. This action also guarantees the flow of resources for such programs, in addition to providing specialized guidance for activities that are correctly associated with the aspirations of regional integration, development and modernization. The possible abolition of the Forum of Ministers of Education, Science and Culture, resulting from the elimination of CIECC, would surely be one of the Goya disasters referred to by Enrique Saravia in his inspired allegory.

Revitalization of the Forums of Ministers, with their recognized political representation and proper operation of the Nonpermanent Specialized Commissions—the technical bodies necessary for competent decision-making—are essential for successful reform in the fields of education, science and culture.3 However, these steps do not exhaust the possibilities for growth in technical cooperation. Systematic inventory of the demand for cooperation services by the Member States, prioritizing such demands according to their regional importance, and wise recruitment, selection and development of OAS General Secretariat human resources are required for any attempt at structural change and program revisions.

Michael Barzelay’s analysis of the bureaucratic paradigm, with its emphasis on such categories as functions, hierarchical systems of authority and structural schemes, could also be applied to the OAS. For Barzelay, as well as those concerned with the impact of technology on organizational behavior, “the focus on formal structure puts the cart of organizational means before the horse of organizational  purpose  and  strategy.”4  Redefining  objectives  together  with the users of the Organization’s services and replacing the traditional bureaucratic paradigm with one oriented toward results, missions and responsibilities goes far beyond anything that mechanistic models of reorganization could envisage.5

As stated initially, however, there is reason for hope. For example, the CIECC initiative announcing a minimum programming agenda for the next six years (1996-2000) is promising.6 The General Assembly shows renewed vitality in its “Framework for Policy and Priorities for Solidary Cooperation for Development,” which promotes the mobilization of resources to supplement the policies and programs of the Organization’s Member States.7 Even more encouraging is the commitment assumed by the General Assembly to address extreme poverty in the Hemisphere through joint cooperation programs, an initiative which presupposes greater awareness of the needs, interests and strategies for change in the OAS member countries.8

There are many challenges that the Organization will have to face in order to stay in the vanguard of cooperation, both in its regional activities and in its multinational projects, which undoubtedly constitute strategies for dialogue and integration. A steadfast commitment to higher standards of quality in its services, an ongoing review of systems, methods and work procedures, and the conviction that cooperation is only complementary to national priorities would result in a more fruitful relationship between the OAS and the governments that support it.  

Getúlio P. Carvalho

1.  Harold Seidman, and Robert Gilmour, Politics, Position and Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 3, 4, and 330.
2.  John J. DiIulio, Jr., Gerald Garvey, and Donald F. Kettl, Improving Government Performance (Washington, D.C.: The Bookings Institution, 1993) 3.
3.  In this connection, see the important resolution “Participation of CIECC in the Reform of Cooperation for Development,” which envisaged the contribution of the OAS InterAmerican Committees, the precursors of the Nonpermanent Specialized Commissions to the strategic plan of cooperation. CIECC/doc.1454/94, rev.2.
4.  Breaking Through Bureaucracy: A New Vision for Managing in Government (Los Angeles: University of California, 1992) 127-28.
5.  On models or “metaphors” of reforms, see John J. DiIulio, Jr., Gerald Garvey, and Donald F. Kettl, Improving Government Performance, 1-2.
6. “Proposed Regional Educational Activities Related to the Solution of Global Problems in the Twenty-First Century: Minimum Agenda,” CIECC/doc.1462/94, rev.2.
7.  This healthy concern for the priorities of the users of its services is also reflected in the proposal of the Statute of the Inter-American Council on Integral Development. Regarding the “Framework,” see AG/doc.16(XX-E/94).
8.  “Commitment to a Partnership for Development and Struggle to Overcome Extreme Poverty,” AG/doc.12(XX-E/94), rev.1.