Hemispheric Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Distinguished Heads of delegations, Representatives of Permanent and Observer States of the OAS, invited agencies;
Permit me to extend profound gratitude to the Government and people of the Dominican Republic for the warm welcome to your beautiful nation and historic city of Santo Domingo. My delegation also commends you for organizing an efficient General Assembly.
I start by expressing my government’s profound sorrow and regret over the senseless loss of life in the tragic events that occurred on early Monday morning in Orlando, Florida. St Kitts and Nevis stands firmly with our dear friend, the United States of America in this time of national mourning. We pray that from this tragedy, all nations will find the resolve to take deliberate steps to eliminate terrorism and violence in all its manifestations. We in this Hemisphere want and must insist upon peace not war, tolerance not intolerance, love not hate. We must send a clear and unequivocal signal that violence in any form against any person or group is unacceptable and has no place in our world. May these tragic events harden our collective resolve to fight for societies based on respect all persons and the inherent dignity of our humanity.
Mr. Chairman, sustainability stands as the critical lifeblood for the survival of our economies. My government is committed to dialogue to configure a solid solution-focused and measurable route to securing sustainable development in St Kitts and Nevis and the wider Americas.
“Institutional Strengthening for Sustainable Development in the Americas,” is a theme quite wisely chosen by our host nation, in that it is most relevant and timely as our nations grapple to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – an ambitious plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. At the core of this plan of action is the eradication of poverty, which is fundamental for sustainable development.
My friends, the process of constructing sustainable economies will undoubtedly present monumental and daunting challenges but within such challenges are boundless opportunities for us to learn from each other, share our experiences and aspire to secure the present and future for our people and planet.
Peering through the lenses of time, our theme forces us to confront the question of how we as sovereign nations in this our Americas create and maintain sustainable economies in light of the pressures both internally and externally that we face?
The discussions at this Assembly serve as a nucleus for intense engagement to unravel complex questions and devise workable and pragmatic strategies which are centered around the empowerment of our people.
But as we grapple with the divers and complex issues impacting our Hemisphere, I suggest that at the core, our institutions need strengthening.
When we cast a critical eye to our societies, we result discern that many of our governments and economic structures are hampered by inflexible architecture that creates inherent barriers that cripple our responsiveness and the seamless and efficient integration of all segments of our societies. Private sector participation in shaping direction is minimal and requires transformation. The journey must be a collective one and we must renew our social contract with all actors. Governments cannot be expected to act alone independent of non-State actors. Any approach other than a united one will result in failure.
In this very spirit, my country has been refining and upgrading our model by harmonizing our social, cultural, environmental and economic facets to create a sustainable island state. We believe that in advancing to broad inclusiveness leadership must emanate from the private and civil sectors for this vision to be achieved, and that it is of paramount importance for every sector of society to be fully incentivized and educated throughout the process of building for sustainability.
Not only do we need to integrate across all sectors but within our government, recognizing that we should not operate in a silo. The planning, policy making and implementation must synthesize across all functional areas to design balanced policies.
As we continue to scrutinize our institutions and considering that the SDGs are detailed and extensive, prioritization is vital. We must accept and understand the connectivity of the goals adumbrated in the SDG’s.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, we have been placing high emphasis on generating sustainable energy solutions through solid advancements in geothermal, wind, solar and waste to energy technologies. Our partnership with the OAS established the springboard that catapulted us to the point where now, through our Energy Partners, Nevis can be a global model for sustainable green energy development by the end of 2017 with the planned geothermal plant coming on stream. The cost savings from geothermal energy are estimated between 40-50 percent, significantly reducing the high energy import bill. Beyond that, my country seeks through renewable energy efforts to reduce its carbon footprint to nearly zero and to ultimately generate fully 100% of its electricity from renewables.
Mr. Chairman, we are confident that feverishly pursuing these solutions will result in energy efficiencies that make energy affordable and accessible to all of our people, while generating employment, business opportunities and economic advancement – a great stride to breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion. Moreover, these efforts will insulate our economy from the exogenous and unpredictable shocks caused by fluctuating world oil prices which even now show signs of creeping back up.
As nations in the Americas not only do we battle with the magnitude of the SDGs but also with its universal application that doesn’t factor the characteristically different economies. Inherent in our disposition as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), is the paucity of resources. We are therefore acutely aware of the necessity to partner with other countries and international organizations to succeed in this undertaking.
Climate change for instance is of utmost importance to us, as exemplified by our recent signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement. It is not just climate change adaptation and mitigation but also disaster response, recovery and insurance as many acts of nature have the capacity to undermine our economic growth, threaten our food security, and our vital tourism industry resulting in hardship to our people. I underscore the financial burden on our national budgets to build resilience. Access to global funding mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is critical to St. Kitts and Nevis as a SIDS and for these mechanisms to be meaningful to us; they must be simplified and made to fit their purpose. There is absolutely no value to large countries pledging funds if those whom those funds should benefit are locked out of accessing them due to arcane and complex rules and requirements.
Mr. Chair, too often as a family we stagnate because of our inability to formulate measurement facets through our planning and implementation. How can we measure growth if there is no baseline? This is a critical weakness that too many of us share. Upon this voyage of sustainability on which we must embark, monitoring and tracking mechanisms that facilitate measurable results must be our touchstone.
St. Kitts and Nevis acknowledges this severe shortcoming and is committed to introducing systematic and effective monitoring and review processes throughout our government and projects. We understand that the fiber of productivity is our people and in that vein we have initiated plans to measure this productivity by establishing benchmarks and measurement metrics to fuel our growth plans.
Now my friends how does the OAS fall into this equation of institutional strengthening? My country views this institution as the core agency for our hemisphere to synchronize the necessary strategies to attain the SDGs and to unravel the divers complications to achieve success. Our OAS provides a ground zero where we seek hemispheric common ground. It is here, as nations that we can debate and resolve issues that confront us as one family.
Precisely because of its critical relevance to the Americas, St. Kitts and Nevis understands that the OAS desperately needs to reconfigure itself to fortify its ability to continue leading the conversation on sustainability and coordinating efforts that strengthen our region’s capacity to become sustainable. Mr. Chair, we call on the Secretary General and his team to move with alacrity to mainstream the SDGs throughout the General Secretariat of this Institution in order to better position the OAS to assist Member States across all areas. I take this opportunity to congratulate the OAS for its timely approval of the PIDS (the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development) that sets out the priorities and policy guidelines of the OAS in this area.
My delegation also cautions that this is not a time for competition amongst international organizations. It is a time for partnership! Our people and planet cannot afford the sometimes territorial institutional fights that leave the things that matter most at a disadvantage.
My dear friends, our organization, our OAS
needs critical attention if it is to survive and continue to carry out its mandate for the benefit of its members. We cannot arrive at a sustainable space if we ignore the obvious deficiencies of this important organization.
The effects of diminishing financial resources to implement the OAS’ programs, to support education and training, to create avenues for research and to partner and support hemispheric endeavors towards sustainable development are severe.’
However as Member States we have all heard these sentiments before. Year after year, we engage in this same conversation and we fail miserably to ensure accountable management, buckle down to keener management of funds, and to more cost effective spending approaches, including implementing austerity measures along all levels. Delinquencies in prompt payment of quotas run deep and we need to exercise strict measures to correct this pattern that paralyzes our cash flow and ability to function and deliver the critical benefits of the OAS to its members.
Mr. Chairman, the OAS faces a monumental budget crisis. The proposed solutions will not solve the difficulties. The organization effectively serves as a middleman or conduit. It receives quota assessments and donations in one hand and dispenses these benefits from the other ostensibly to provide assistance to those in need under its “Placing People First” Mission Objectives. Personnel costs constitute the lion’s share, that is 66% of the OAS budget. A combined 4 percent of the budget is allocated to Scholarship programs and the National Offices. Imposing reductions in these areas, which are highly valued by St. Kitts and Nevis and other Caricom states, will
have minuscule effect on reducing overall budget costs. The optics of the agency erecting a protective wall around 66% of the budget, while denying support to many brilliant students who often have no place else to turn is not acceptable. If we are to reform then no aspect of our OAS should be off the table.
My friends, let us remember our purpose – democracy, development, human rights and security for the citizens of the Americas. We need to ensure hawkishly that in word and in deed, we are delivering on our mandate. The health, security and wellbeing of this and future generations depends on us applying our collective wisdom to ensure that we get it right.
Mr. Chairman, let me express my country’s concerns about the electoral process in Haiti and our desire to see a legal and democratic resolution to governance issues there. In a similar vein, the continued border dispute between Belize and Guatemala is of concern to my delegation. We continue to call for dialogue, respect for the rule of law and the tenets of democracy and for a peaceful resolution of differences in our Hemisphere.
On the vexed issue of Dominicanos of Haitian descent who found themselves threatened with Statelessness by rulings of the Dominican courts, my delegation is pleased to note that our brothers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic continue to discuss these issues and we thank the European Union for its substantial injection of funds to aid this process of fashioning solutions to this problem.
A word on our dear friend the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. In the past several years, no other country has been as critical to the development of St Kitts and Nevis as Venezuela. I am well aware that their hand of friendship has extended across the Caribbean Sea and deep into the Americas. We have watched with concern the difficulties being experienced inside this great Nation. Let the record show that my Government supports unconditionally the people of Venezuela and we call on all actors to respect the rule of law, the constitution and the democratic norms of Venezuela. We in this Hemisphere hold dear our aspiration to our hemisphere being a zone of peace. We therefore expect that any and all difficulties in any member State will be resolved peacefully through dialogue with all stakeholders both from the body political and civil society. Our dear friend Venezuela and her people can count on the full support Not St Kitts Nevis and her people. We are a single family in this our Americas and we must act in unison and with alacrity to fashion peaceful solutions to differences and conflicts which can and will sometimes arise.
Friends, St. Kitts and Nevis believes in the OAS as the single most important vehicle for inclusive, integrated, multidimensional dialogue on countless issues that confront our States, as well as for negotiation, consultations and the strengthening of our bonds of friendship and partnership. We need to fix it! We must acknowledge our strengths and at the same time our weaknesses. Re-assess and Re-position for a modern, effective, efficient and streamlined institution to deliver its mandate and be buoyant to respond to the demands and needs of its member states.
As hemispheric neighbors, we must share a joint focus in the thrust for sustainable economies. Our family of 34 nations represents tenacity – an oasis of possibilities for cementing development partnerships and for collaboration and the sharing of best practices and experiences. Together let us re-tool and strengthen our OAS to be nimble and sustainable as through that the citizens of our nations can realize prosperity as we proceed on the voyage of sustainability.