Foreign Minister Hails OAS

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, has hailed the Organization of American States (OAS) for its role in aiding Jamaica’s social development and that of other nations in the Caribbean region.

Speaking at the opening of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the OAS, at the Regional Headquarters of the Mona Campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI), on March 5, Mrs. Johnson Smith informed that Jamaica and its people have had multiple “high impact” benefits from the organisation, which has been in existence in Jamaica since 1969.

“At the community level, the Peckham Bamboo Pre-Processing Project, for example, has assisted in capacity building in the area of agro-processing and has generated significant employment opportunities,” she said.

Mrs. Johnson Smith added that the OAS has also been responsible for “providing institutional strengthening for courts for drug-related offences, the Project for Rapid Situation Assessment on Drug and Alcohol Use in Jamaica and other projects on security, corruption prevention and money laundering investigations.”

“Our juvenile offenders have also benefitted significantly from meaningful rehabilitation programmes, such as the New Path Project as well as the Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA) Lab Project,” she informed.

The DIA Lab Project equips urban youth to be innovators by training them in cutting-edge technologies and giving them the tools necessary to transform their communities.

On a broader level, Mrs. Johnson Smith noted that the OAS has been responsible for establishing “effective regional and international partnerships.”

“The General Assembly represents a major multilateral forum for political dialogue that has assisted in finding solutions to various regional issues; for example the mediation role played by the OAS in facilitating dialogue on border conflicts between Belize and Guatemala, Guyana and Venezuela and Belize and Honduras, among others,” she said.

Mrs. Johnson Smith used the opportunity to affirm Jamaica’s appreciation of the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), one of the most well-known institutions of the OAS.

Meanwhile, in his remarks, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Nestor Mendez, charted the role and critical areas of involvement of the OAS within the region.

Among them is the work to strengthen democracy among governments, political parties, as well as academic institutions.

In Guatemala, the OAS and the United States Department of State have been working to train all judges, magistrates and prosecutors of Mexico, Dominican Republic and other Central American countries in fighting cybercrimes and strengthening cyber- security.

Charting the way forward for the OAS, Mr. Mendez noted that the organisation’s future will rely on the optimisation of technology to meet its operational needs to the benefit of its member states and towards cost efficiencies, procedural expediency and the management of resources.

“There will also be an increased focus on the empowerment of youth of the Americas and women of our continent towards a transformative agenda for balance and equity,” he said.

In the commemorative booklet to celebrate the OAS’ 70th anniversary, OAS Representative in Jamaica, Jeanelle van Glaanen Weygel, affirmed her organisation’s continued support to Jamaica and its people.

The opening ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on: ‘The Contribution of the OAS to the hemisphere and the OAS’ impact on the Peoples of the Americas’.

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