The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) today adopted a Declaration calling on the three branches of government of Haiti to comply with the agreement knows as El Rancho and to call legislative and municipal elections by the end of 2014, and also convened a Special General Assembly on the Strategic Vision for the Organization to be held on Friday, September 12.
The Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Lucia, Ambassador Sonia Johnny, said the Declaration on Haiti supports “the efforts of a member state to be able to hold elections in accordance with the terms of its constitution and with other agreements."
Introducing the resolution, the Permanent Representative of Haiti, Edmond Bocchit, recalled the support given by the Council to the El Rancho Accord which provided for the holding of elections on October 26 and which he described as "a step in the right direction." "Unfortunately this agreement is now facing great difficulties; you supported us, encouraged all actors to respect their commitments, and today I come to seek the solidarity of the OAS and its member states regarding a situation facing our nation, because we know that the well-being of Haiti's democracy must be a priority for the region," said Ambassador Bocchit.
The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, explained the scope and impact of the situation in Haiti and said that if the elections are held as scheduled in the agreement, “on the first of January if there are no elections Haiti will be left without a Senate, therefore we’ll be left without a constitutional institution. “ He said that the OAS “is prepared to support the democratic process in Haiti, especially the elections, in accordance to the Constitution and the laws of the country,” and assured the Council that the OAS will continue to accompany the political process through high level visits, the presence of an office in Haiti, and the work of the Group of Friends of Haiti in Washington DC.
The leader of the hemispheric Organization added that “the international community, including the OAS, can only assist in this process of democratic consolidation and then only upon the request of the legitimately elected Government of Haiti. From this perspective we hope that all stakeholders in the political process continue to work together to create the best circumstances for stability and growth and security.” He insisted that the Organization “hopes that the dialogue that started at the beginning of the year will continue and that all those who are not part of this process should be encouraged to take part,” as this is the best channel to voice all their concerns and needs.
The adopted resolution states that all parties fully honor “their political commitments as well as the legal and constitutional obligations to facilitate the speedy organization of elections necessary for the renewal of the mandates of legislative and municipal authorities"; and urges all state powers "to continue the dialogue in order to fulfill, as a matter of urgency, their obligations under the Constitution and the El Rancho Accord for the purpose of ensuring the holding of elections in 2014."
On this, the Secretary General Insulza noted that Article 3 to the El Rancho clearly speaks of the Constitution, "and this is a wider approach that takes us in the direction of Article 156 of the Constitution which relates to the responsibility of the President regarding governance and the functioning of the democratic institutions.”
On another agenda item, the Council agreed to convene a Special General Assembly on September 12 to advance the debate on the Strategic Vision. The original initiative was proposed two years ago by Secretary General Insulza and aims to adapt the mandates of the Organization to the reality of the twenty-first century, in order to rationalize and leverage the financial resources of the hemispheric institution in line with its objectives.
The Permanent Representative of Mexico and Chair of the Working Group of the Permanent Council on the Strategic Vision, Emilio Rabasa, clarified that the meeting is not "the end of a process that will conclude with the upcoming Assembly, rather it is a step, but a very important step in the long process of modernization, upgrading and updating of the structure and practice of our Organization to meet the new international context."
For his part, Secretary General Insulza recalled that convening the Special General Assembly to discuss the issue was mandated by the last OAS General Assembly that took place in June in Paraguay. The OAS leader also said that although he believes that the Special General Assembly will be an important milestone in the discussion of the Strategic Vision, it will not conclude the debate on this issue. The meeting, in which the guidelines and strategic objectives of the Strategic Vision of the OAS will be considered, will take place at the headquarters of the institution in Washington DC.
ELECTION OF THE NEXT SECRETARY GENERAL
On another issue, the Council took note of the request of Secretary General Insulza to add to the agenda of the next meeting the process of election of the next OAS Secretary General. Secretary General Insulza suggested convening a Special General Assembly 60 to 90 days before May 26, 2015, when his term ends, "so that the person elected has enough time to make a proper transition." He also said that according to a mandate from the General Assembly, "it is necessary to invite the candidates to make a presentation before the Permanent Council, which will have to set the corresponding dates."
During the meeting, the delegations of Mexico, Ecuador, the United States, Canada, Paraguay, Guatemala, Peru, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras, Bolivia, El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and the Permanent Observers of Italy and Spain took the floor.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.