16 de Enero de 2019
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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999

The Role of the Organization of American States

Having said this, let me just conclude with a couple of words on how the Organization of American States faces the new challenges of the summitry era. The OAS is the political club of the inter-American system. Its objectives are political in nature. Its modus operandi is political. In this context, technical cooperation plays a political role for the members of the club.

The tradition of educational cooperation in the OAS dates back to the 1960s. Its original assistance-based orientation followed the same steps adopted by other international organizations and national agencies of international development. In the early 1970s, the OAS member states established the Regional Programs of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Development, which pioneered a new multilateral orientation in the Hemisphere, later called horizontal cooperation among developing nations. For more than two decades, the OAS multinational initiatives in education were collectively formulated and collectively implemented by the Ministries of Education of the participating countries themselves, with the technical and operational support of the General Secretariat of the OAS. Such an orientation has developed large networks of national institutions and professionals dedicated to inter-American education.

What about today? In 1994 the Inter-American Council for Integral Development was established in the OAS. The Council, supported by an Executive Secretariat, is the leading agency within the OAS in the field of technical cooperation. The experience of the last five years is now being reevaluated by the member states. As a result, an internal organizational restructuring aimed at strengthening inter-American technical cooperation is now in order. It is expected that a new OAS Inter-American Development Agency will be established in the course of the year, coupled with sector advisory and policy units within the General Secretariat. The restructuring will maintain, though, the three major roles played by the Organization in the field of inter-American technical cooperation.

The first role of the OAS in the field of technical cooperation is to serve as a forum for inter-American policy dialogue in the different fields of knowledge, providing the institutional framework for inter-governmental negotiation and consensus building. Such a framework makes it possible for all member countries to sit at the same table to shape inter-American education policy agendas.

The second role of the OAS is to share information and exchange knowledge and experiences among national education, cultural and scientific institutions, using printed and electronic publications. In this sense, the General Secretariat makes every effort to maintain and consolidate its technical publications program, including its traditional inter-American journal  La Educación, being published regularly for more than four decades.

The third role of the OAS is to promote horizontal technical cooperation among the nations of the Hemisphere. As opposed to its role in previous decades, today the OAS General Secretariat plays a minor role as provider of direct services of technical assistance in education and other traditional fields of endeavor.  What the Organization does today, as a cooperating agency, is to support and monitor the multinational activities planned and carried out by national institutions under the OAS auspices. In this sense, the Organization acts as a mediator and promoter of horizontal cooperation among national education and scientific institutions.

With these general instruments, during the last year the OAS played an active role in the follow-up process of the Santiago Education Plan of Action. The fact is that today the Organization provides operational support to the summitry process, offering its inter-American policy dialogue infrastructure and its technical secretariat capabilities. The establishment of an Inter-Agency Group—composed by representatives from IDB, OAS, IBRD, ECLAC, and UNESCO, together with the Summit coordinating countries—promises to further facilitate cooperative action to support national and regional activities in the field of education.

It is important to insist, though, that international agencies are cooperating agencies that provide support to national institutions within the limits of the mandates they receive. The political responsibility for the summitry process lies with the governments. So does the policy-making process, which is, in fact, just the first step of the Summit reform agenda. Implementation still remains a major challenge to be faced by the governments, civil society, and the international development community on the occasion of the first anniversary of the II Summit of the Americas.