Minister of Foreign Affairs to Address OAS

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Hon. Brent Symonette 

By: Lindsay Thompson

NASSAU, Bahamas
– Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon Brent Symonette will address the 38th Regular Session of the Organisation of American States (OAS) to be held June 1-4 in Medellin, Columbia under the theme, “Youth and Democratic Values”.

Mr. Symonette will discuss with delegates from the OAS’ 34 Member States issues of concern for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) including security, migration, trans-national organised crime, natural disasters, illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons, alternative energy, and petroleum costs.

The Deputy Prime Minister will be accompanied by His Excellency the Hon C. A. Smith, Ambassador to Washington and Permanent Representative to the OAS, His Excellency Joshua Sears, Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chet Neymour, Counsellor (Economic and Commerce), Permanent Mission to the OAS; and John Darville, CARICOM Youth Ambassador, Ministry of Youth.

The summit will also commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the OAS Charter, which was signed in Bogota, Columbia, in 1948.

Mr Symonette will engage in discussions concerning the private sector, which “plays a key role in creating jobs and prosperity” in Member States, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The OAS affords The Bahamas the opportunity to engage all the countries of the Americas and its key partner, the Inter-American Development Bank, in the process of overall economic advancement,” the Ministry said.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will discuss the food crisis in Haiti. CARICOM donated approximately $10 million to assist Haiti in this regard.

The OAS led a mission to Haiti February 14-17 and compiled a report on the situation there. The document, coupled with the return of “normal governance” to Haiti, will be discussed at the Columbia summit, the Ministry said.

“The OAS plays a critical role in Haiti in terms of capacity building and strengthening the democratic process,” the Ministry said. “The Bahamas is a member of the group of friends for Haiti and we made contributions to the OAS office in Haiti over the many years to ensuring that stability, good governance is maintained.”

“The Bahamas has made “a special request” to the head of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to discuss the issue of food security in the Americas,” the Ministry said. This is in keeping with talks held in The Bahamas in March during the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) meeting of CARICOM trade ministers.

A “traditional meeting” will be held between CARICOM Foreign Ministers and the OAS Secretary-General Josè Miguel Insulza, with a view to the OAS “focusing more” on economic development, the Ministry said.

“The OAS is regarded as a political organisation and CARICOM as a group of States is always pushing this issue of economic development,” the Ministry said. “We will also be discussing Haiti, OAS budget, hemispheric concerns, crime and violence, and climate change.”

Of particular importance to The Bahamas, the Ministry said, are the issues of good governance in the Americas, freedom of the press and border disputes among other issues.

The OAS was formed when 21 nations of the hemisphere met in Bogotá on April 30, 1948, and signed a Charter affirming their commitment to common goals and respect for each nation’s sovereignty.  Its membership stands at 35. Cuba has been suspended from the OAS since 1962.