ST JOHNS, Antigua – Antigua and Barbuda is deeply concerned that the long-established process of building consensus in the decision-making of the Organisation of American States (OAS) is now being severely eroded. In its place is developing a trend by which a few powerful countries coerce 18 votes in a non-transparent technique, and then impose their will on all.
This has created a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration among other member states, thereby weakening the Organisation and undermining the value of membership of it. This latest trend has come in the tide of usurpation of the organs of authority, established by the Charter and long respected by member states.
For some time now, the authority of the permanent council, as the representative body of member states in between meetings of this general assembly, has been subverted by unauthorised statements and actions by the secretary-general.
The role of the permanent council has been further undercut by the secretary-general’s disregard for it. More than often, the permanent council learns of the secretary-general’s actions and statements by his tweets and media statements.
The secretary-general does not represent himself, nor does he represent any one member-state or group of member-states; he was elected to represent the collective view of all our member-states.
The practice of the secretary-general to make and implement policy decisions, as he deems fit, has corroded confidence in the OAS and deprived it of its good office’s role in resolving conflicts.
The OAS is now being regarded as a punitive organisation, not a healing one. It is becoming an organisation that pours oil on troubled water.
If this broken system and disregard for consensus-building continues; if a crippled OAS limps along as a house divided against itself, it will collapse.
Something might emerge in its place. But, it will not be an organisation in which all the countries of the Americas meet in furtherance of their collective interest.
Antigua and Barbuda joined this organisation because it comprises the member states of the Americas; each with an equal voice and with equal rights in determining matters affecting our hemisphere.
We want this organisation to succeed not for the few, not even for the many, but for all without exception. Therefore, we urge that this downward spiral be arrested and that we all commit to arresting it now.
Antigua and Barbuda believe that the OAS urgently needs reform to make it more relevant to the present times and more capable of dealing with the current challenges that confront us.
The disastrous effects of climate change is one such urgent challenge.
It affects us all in this hemisphere, but none more so than the small island-states whose very existence it threatens. The OAS fails in its responsibility when it neglects to deal with this deadly danger.
It is not sufficient to suggest that the UN committee on climate change handles the issue. Matters of this magnitude merit the attention of the OAS because they are material to the welfare of all of us.
We should no longer hide from it. It is here and it is now.
A further threat to the welfare of member states is the phenomena of de-risking and withdrawal of Correspondent Banking Relations (CBRs) from many of our countries.
The rights of people to pursue their economic development have been recognised and codified since 1966 as a fundamental human right by the United Nations.
In this connection, deprivation of CBRs is deprivation of a fundamental human right.
Without CBRs, the global financial and trading system would come to a halt, and affected countries will drop into poverty from which recovery will be costly both in time and money, but more importantly in human life.
This grave threat has been hanging over the Caribbean now for almost half a decade, and it shows no sign of abating.
Right now, in many parts of the Caribbean, the majority of banks are reduced to only one correspondent bank, and at an extremely high cost.
Consequently, the cost of doing business is escalating, even as we try to cope with high debt, incurred largely to recover our countries from disasters.
Whenever this issue of de-risking and CBRs have been raised in the OAS, some countries have shunted it aside, claiming that it should be handled in financial institutions.
But, the problem is not simply financial; it is also about the rights of states not to collapse into poverty; not to fall into unemployment; not to descend into overwhelming crime.
It is about the right to survive and to prosper and not to wash-up on the shores of the rich, begging for a living if not for life itself.
This OAS must tackle these challenges in our hemisphere because it represents our hemisphere.
The OAS would be far more relevant to the times in which we live and to the people it serves if we give these pressing needs our urgent attention.