The new chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) Sir Ronald Sanders says the institution is now facing a “serious existential threat”, with its coffers virtually empty. OAS currently has Uruguay's Luis Almagro as Secretary General.
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 organization” 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 the OAS headquarters in Washington DC that the organization began this year with a deficit of almost US$19.7 million.
“Additionally, the organization has no reserve funds. The reserve fund was fully utilized to keep the organization functioning, and then only barely,” Sir Ronald disclosed.
Sir Ronald 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 cautioned.
OAS Secretary for Administration and Finance, Jay Anania, in a presentation on the financial state of affairs, called the situation “dire” and said it required urgent action.
Drawing on the interventions of member states in the Permanent Council meeting, Sir Ronald 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 OAS; 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 organization. Based on those reports, the Council will make firm decisions which the chairman said “can no longer be delayed”.
Sir Ronald said he was very pleased with the constructive position of all Ambassadors at the meeting and the declared willingness to cure the problems.