(L-R) Nestor Mendez, OAS Assistant Secretary General; and Sir Ronald Sanders, Chair of the OAS Permanent Council and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the OAS. Photo: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
WASHINGTON, USA -- Chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders, said on Thursday that the organisation is now facing a “serious existential threat”.
The Antigua and Barbuda ambassador, who was chairing the first meeting of the Permanent Council for 2016, said that he was “deeply concerned about the financial health of the Organisation” and “profoundly anxious about its capacity to continue to operate and to serve the interests of the people of its 34 member states”.
He told ambassadors at OAS Headquarters in Washington DC that “the organisation starts this year with a deficit of almost US$19.7 million. Additionally, the Organisation has no reserve funds. The reserve fund was fully utilised to keep the Organisation functioning, and then only barely.”
Sanders invited the Organisation’s secretary for administration and finance, Jay Anania, to elaborate the critical financial situation of the Organisation. A lively discussion of all representatives of all the member countries followed in which there were repeated declarations of the great value of the Organisation and the importance of remaining committed to it.
Sanders pointed out that while non-payment of dues by a few member states contributes gravely to the virtual bankruptcy of the OAS, failure to deal with systemic problems over the last seven years is the primary cause of the present crisis.
“This is not a can that can be kicked down the road,” he said.
Anania in his presentation called the situation “dire” and requiring “urgent action”.
Drawing on the interventions of member states in the Permanent Council meeting, Sanders proposed “a holistic” approach to dealing with the situation. He has appointed three Committees of the Council, one of which he will chair himself to deal with arrears of membership dues, a second to be chaired by the ambassador of Canada, Jennifer Lowten on the management and financial future of the Organization, and a third chaired by the ambassador of Barbados, John Beale, to produce a realistic budget for the institution.
The committees are to report to the Permanent Council, the oversight body for governance of the Organisation. Based on these reports, the Council will make firm decision, which Sanders said “can no longer be delayed”.
He said he was “very pleased with the constructive position of all ambassadors at the meeting and the declared willingness to cure the problems”.