Senator The Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
In 1969, Jamaica became a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Half a century later, we are proud to commemorate the golden anniversary of our membership and to celebrate the very active role we have played in ensuring that the pillars on which this dynamic and unique hemispheric forum were founded are honoured and preserved.
We are all too aware that this commemoration is taking place at a time of great challenge and change. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, the stark reality of the region and indeed the world’s interconnectedness and the need to respond collectively to its effects. We applaud the proactive approach adopted by the OAS, led by Secretary General Almagro, in assisting Member States to address many challenges stemming from this pandemic. We believe the OAS continues to be well-placed to provide the level of engagement essential to our efforts to constrain the virus and rebound with greater resilience.
Jamaica has remained keenly engaged in the work of the Organisation, and has also sought to operate within the Organisation’s mandate of maintaining regional peace and stability, the preservation and consolidation of democracy, the protection of human rights and the promotion of economic and social development. We participate actively in the various Committees and fora held in the ambit of the OAS, thereby ensuring that our voice, as a small island developing state, is heard on issues of common interest, including hemispheric security, sustainable development, climate and disaster mitigation, human rights, governance and the rule of law.
Multi-dimensional programmes and projects of the OAS have impacted every sector of the Jamaican landscape, including in agriculture, education, culture, security, public sector reform, labour, tourism, gender, health and environment, as well as strengthening the functions of our judiciary system. We have also hosted workshops and high-level meetings, the most recent being the Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnerships of the Americas (ECPA) in February 2020. This has served to forge critical partnership initiatives which have been beneficial to our national development agenda, while also supporting development initiatives in the wider hemisphere.
Our commitment to regional peace and stability, undergirded by continued dialogue and mutual respect, has contributed to the hemisphere being known as a “Zone of Peace”. Indeed, we laud the significant role the OAS has played in achieving this reality.
Jamaica has also demonstrated its steadfast commitment to the preservation of democracy in the region through ongoing support of and participation in OAS Electoral Observer Missions. Most recently, in 2020, Jamaica’s former Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Bruce Golding, led the OAS Election Observer Mission to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
As a keen supporter of human rights, in 2019, Jamaica also became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to host a Period of Session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
It is with great pride that we note that the OAS agreed to the permanent placement of a bust of our first national hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and the renaming of the Hall of Culture at OAS Headquarters in Washington, DC in his honour in October 2009. These actions demonstrate the respect and recognition accorded by the OAS membership to Jamaica’s active involvement in the work of the Organisation and, in so doing, have highlighted our place in its history.
We also recognize the many Jamaicans who have served with distinction at the OAS, whether as diplomatic representatives elected members of the various organs of the organization or as members of staff of the Secretariat. I commend and pay tribute to these Jamaicans for their invaluable contribution to strengthening and enhancing this partnership over the years.
The decision of the OAS to establish a National Office in Jamaica which has been in place since 1971, is one we continue to appreciate. This Office is doing important work and has served to extend the scope of the interaction of the OAS Secretariat with development entities in Jamaica.
As we look to the next 50 years of collaboration and joint action, Jamaica remains unwavering in its commitment to the tenets of the Organisation of American States. We will continue to work assiduously to deepen collaborative efforts and partnerships with fellow members, so as to secure and advance the welfare of the people in the Americas. We will also continue to work towards ensuring that the OAS remains a resilient, relevant and robust Organisation with the capacity to adapt to the evolving dynamism of the global community.