Orginization of American States 2008 Meeting
Basseterre, Saint Kitts – Nevis
June 03, 2008 (CUOPM)
The peoples of the Americas have a right to expect a deeper engagement and a heightened leadership role from the Organisation of American States (OAS) with regard to crime and violence, their number one social challenge.
This is the view of St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Foreign Affiars, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris.
Addressing the 38th Regular Meeting of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Medellin, Colombia, which has as its theme, “Youth and Democratic values,” Minister Harris challenged the Western Hemispheric body to intensify its efforts to work with and support member states in their elaboration of sound policies and focused programming an issue “of such burning hemispheric concern.”
Minister Harris made reference to the efforts being made by the Governments of St. Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean countries including a special Summit on crime and violence which was held in Trinidad in early April.
He referred to the work of the Caribbean Civil Society Organizations and to the Meeting of Health Ministers of the Hemisphere in Mexico in March 2008, where the Declaration on Violence and Injury Prevention was adopted.
But, Minister Harris said: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to expect that the OAS, working in unison with Inter-American partners, with other regional and international agencies, and with member and observer states, would intensify its efforts to work with and support member states in their elaboration of sound policies and focused programming on an issue of such burning hemispheric concern.”
He said that he was aware that Secretary General Insulza, has convoked a meeting of Hemispheric Ministers with Responsibility for Public Security to be held in Mexico this coming October, and that violence prevention will be foremost on the agenda.
Dr. Harris noted that it will be the first such Hemispheric meeting of highest level authorities on Public Security and congratulated The Secretary General on this initiative.
“However, although I do not mean to be pre-emptive, I am obliged to sound a note of caution. High level meetings with impressive presentations merely acknowledge that we are seized with the gravity of an issue; resolutions and declarations express our commitment to address the issue; what seems to have been lacking, and what we must have the courage to bring fruition as a hemisphere are solution-focused violence prevention action plans that have relevance to our respective jurisdictions, that are informed by reliable data and prioritized for implementation. In short, Mr. Chairman there has been enough talk and not commensurate action. Let’s do something about it,” said Mr. Harris.
He said governments yearn for cooperation on this issue.
“Our communities demand it. Our youths deserve it. We must for their sake adopt the comprehensive, action-oriented, violence prevention recommendations which have been outlined for us by the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the plethora of best practices which exist in the Hemisphere. We must immediately embrace these guidelines and adapt the known best practices to our respective circumstances,” said Minister Harris.
He said that in considering that the phenomenon of crime and violence affects societies as a whole, it is an excellent opportunity to forge a new social contract between civil society, governments, business, and the OAS and a unique opportunity for this organization to promote and to influence good governance, in the Americas.”
Minister Harris also took the opportunity while at the General Assembly to engage in bilateral meeting with several countries including Iceland, Venezuela and Morocco as well as with other interest groups and individuals.
The Minister was accompanied at the General Assembly by St. Kitts and Nevis Permanent Representative to the OAS, His Excellency Ambassador Dr. Izben Williams.