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CARICOM Must Unify to Resist Imposition of OAS Boss | Sir Ronald Sanders

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OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro

By Sir Ronald
Sanders

WASHINGTON, United
States, Monday May 20, 2019
– Readers of this commentary, particularly those in small
countries, might wonder why they should be concerned about who is the Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) of any multilateral or international organization. It
could be claimed that the disposition of the person, holding such an office, is
far removed from the existence of people who are focussed on the necessities of
living and improving their lives.

They would be wrong to dismiss interest in the
holders of these positions.

Caribbean small states are already marginalised
in the world with little account being taken of the significant threats posed
to their well-being. Among those threats are climate change, global warming,
exclusion from access to concessional funds for development, very poor terms of
trade, increasing erosion of their sovereign rights over matters such as the
rate of taxes they charge and the incentives they offer to businesses so as to
remain globally competitive in the industries that provide employment and the
opportunity for ownership.

In this context, it is vitally important to
people in small and vulnerable countries that the CEO’s of inter-governmental
organizations are persons with a commitment to reducing poverty, advancing
economic development, improving access to education and training, and promoting
international arrangements that allow developing countries to compete in the
global community. It is also important that such CEO’s be genuinely interested
in safeguarding human rights, protecting citizens from abuse by governments,
and upholding democracy and freedom of expression.

These are the qualities that heads of
multilateral and international organizations should possess if they are to
serve the interests of the global community, particularly the people of small
and vulnerable nations.

Inevitably, however, governments of larger and
more powerful countries dictate the persons who end-up in these positions. These
governments select candidates, who serve their interests, and using their
greater financial resources and capacity to pressure others, they ensure their
appointments. 

In the cases of the International Monetary Fund
and the World Bank, the European Union and the US have long since arrogated the
posts of heads of these organizations to themselves through an understanding
between them that the US will hold the headship of the Bank and the Europeans
the headship of the Fund. Invariably, the holders of these posts are then in
thrall to their patrons and, over the decades of the existence of the two
organizations, few of them have strayed far from the positions of their
sponsors.

There are only a few organizations in which
Caribbean countries have a genuine opportunity to influence who is elected as
their chief executive. The Organization of American States (OAS) is one of
them.

Repeatedly, I have called for the 14 member
states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), that are also members of the OAS,
to nominate one suitably qualified Caribbean candidate for the post of
Secretary-General or to agree on a non-Caribbean person who would be mindful of
the importance of Caribbean interests.

It is alarming that, counter to all electoral
arrangements that have ever been instituted for the election of the OAS
Secretary-General, certain governments are busy promoting the idea that, at the
OAS General Assembly in Colombia in June, 18 countries should force through the
re-election of the incumbent, Luis Almagro, for a second term – one year before
such an election is due, and for which no proper arrangements have been made. This
process is usually called “rigging”.

Such an action would be as unprecedented as it
would be wrong. A forced re-election of Mr Almagro, one year before an election
is due, would be highly improper. But, it could be done. The rules allow for
the nomination of a candidate up to the morning of the day an election is held.
And, if, as has been the recent experience, 18 countries vote to hold such an
election at the General Assembly in June, it can be done.

In this way, any possibility of an unprepared
CARICOM nominating a single Caribbean candidate or coalescing behind an
approved non-Caribbean candidate would be scuttled. The decision of the 18
would prevail, and the interests of the Caribbean and the Caribbean people
would be swept aside.

That is why Caribbean people should be
interested in this matter, and in the position that their governments take.

The behaviour of Mr Almagro as Secretary-General
of the OAS has left much to be desired. He is a very bright and clever man, and
with a different attitude, he might have served well the OAS and all its
member-states. But, instead of ending divisions by building bridges between
states and working to garner consensus within the organization, Mr Almagro has
become a divisive figure.

Further, his disregard for the Permanent
Council, which is comprised of the representatives of governments, and his
readiness to pronounce his own strongly-held views in the name of the OAS, have
compromised the organization, depriving it of a role in resolving conflicts
within member states of the organization and between them. Additionally, the
Caribbean has suffered under his stewardship through the absence of any
advocacy on his part to maintain funding for Caribbean programmes.

Beyond the necessity for a challenge to him,
given his record, his forced re-election by any foisted process would leave the
OAS in tatters. It may even cause some member states to reassess the value of
their continued membership of an organization which is ruled by the will of a
simple majority and the officers they impose.

For previous elections of a Secretary-General,
including Mr Almagro’s own election, the Permanent Council of the OAS put rules
and procedures in place. Amongst those rules were that a date for elections
would be set by the Permanent Council and member states would nominate
candidates who would make public presentations to the Organization on their
proposals and initiatives prior to the elections.

It has never been envisaged, as is being done
now by some governments, that the preparation for elections of the
Secretary-General would not follow established rules and that a fully democratic
process would not be adopted.

CARICOM states will have to assert themselves immediately in the OAS in nothing short of full regional solidarity and unity to insist on a Permanent Council meeting that sets the rules for the elections on a democratic and consensus basis. Anything less than full CARICOM unity will hurt the region’s interests.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.

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PAHO Warns of Complex Dengue Situation in the Caribbean

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WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday August 20, 2019 – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned of the complex situation of dengue in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is currently experiencing a new epidemic cycle of the disease after two years of low incidence.

According to
the latest PAHO epidemiological update, during the first seven months of 2019,
more than two million people contracted the disease and 723 died. The number of
cases exceeds the total number of cases reported in 2017 and 2018, although so
far, it remains lower than the number recorded in 2015-2016.

“The region
is experiencing a new epidemic cycle of dengue, with a notable increase in
cases,” said Dr Marcos Espinal, Director of PAHO’s Department of Communicable
Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health. The climate, environmental
management and the mosquito’s capacity to adapt may have caused the situation
to increase in complexity.

Another
characteristic of the current epidemic is that children under the age of 15
appear to be among the most affected. In Guatemala, they represent 52 per cent
of total cases of severe dengue, while in Honduras, they constitute 66 per cent
of all confirmed deaths. According to Dr Espinal, this may be due to the fact
that their age means they have been less exposed to the virus in the past and
may therefore lack immunity.

Dengue is
caused by a virus that has four different, but closely related, serotypes:
DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4, all of which circulate in the Americas. When a
person recovers from the infection, he acquires lifelong immunity against that
particular serotype. However, subsequent infections caused by other serotypes
increase the risk of acquiring more severe forms of dengue. Serotype 2 is one
of the deadliest and is the one currently affecting children and adolescents.

The ten
countries currently most affected by dengue, in terms of new cases per 100,000
inhabitants, are Nicaragua, Brazil, Honduras, Belize, Colombia, El Salvador,
Paraguay, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela. Honduras and Nicaragua have already
declared national-level epidemiological alerts this year to expedite the
response.

A call to eliminate mosquito breeding
sites in and around houses

Given the
situation, PAHO has already urged the entire community and all sectors of
society to work together to eliminate mosquito breeding sites, particularly
those around the home.

“Dengue is a
domestic and community sanitation problem,” said José Luis San Martin, PAHO’s
Regional Advisor on Dengue. “The most effective way to combat it is to
eliminate its breeding sites in order to prevent the mosquito from reproducing
because without mosquitoes there would be no transmission of dengue.”

According to
San Martin the community as a whole must get rid of all unused objects where
water can accumulate, such as drums, old tires, cans, bottles and vases.
Domestic water tanks must be hermetically sealed to avoid them becoming
hatcheries.

“Eliminating
hatcheries would hit the mosquito hard by interrupting its breeding cycle,
therefore reducing the mosquito population,” he said.

Priority: saving lives

PAHO has
also called for health professionals to be trained to diagnose and adequately
manage patients with dengue and other arboviruses such as Zika and Chikungunya.

“The proper
management of patients is a priority that can save lives,” said San
Martin, urging the population to avoid self-medicating and to instead visit a
health system early when experiencing symptoms of the disease.

The most
common symptoms are high fever (40 °C), severe headache, pain behind the
eyeballs, and joint and muscle aches. Warning signs of dengue that require urgent
medical attention include severe abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, rapid
breathing, bleeding from the mucous membranes, fatigue, irritability and presence
of blood in the vomit.

There is no specific treatment for dengue (or severe dengue), but timely detection, access to medical care and proper management of the patient can reduce complications and disease progression. Death from dengue is almost always avoidable.

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Guyanese Teachers to be Trained to teach Venezuelan Migrant Children

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Tuesday August 20,
2019 –
Nineteen
teachers will soon begin training which will equip them with the necessary
skills to teach English as a second language to children of Venezuelan migrants
who’ve travelled to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to escape
hardship in the Spanish-speaking nation.

The
Government through the Ministry of Education said it has been working with the
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop
educational interventions, which will improve the learning and communication
skills of these children. Eight communities in Region One are expected to
benefit from this initiative.

UNHCR
representative on the Multi-Stakeholder Committee, Cecilie Guerrero made this
announcement at yesterday’s stakeholder meeting, which was held at the
Department of Citizenship. The Committee is tasked with monitoring the arrival
of Venezuelan migrants into Guyana.

Guerrero
informed the Committee that 17 teachers from Region One and two from Georgetown
will gather in Mabaruma later this week for the training, which will last until
the end of the month. The two Georgetown-based teachers, she said, will be
trained to be trainers. These teachers will be tasked with training their
colleagues when and wherever the need arises.

The
Committee was informed too that the Canadian based facilitator, who will be
conducting the training, arrived in Guyana earlier in the day.

So far, in
excess of 800 Venezuelan children are enrolled in schools.

Meanwhile,
the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working along with the Guyana
Water Incorporated (GWI) to implement a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
project, which focuses on the provision and storage of water, sanitation and
hygiene promotion interventions in six communities in Region One.

As part of
this project, a 100-metre well will be drilled at Whitewater, Region One, to
provide water on a consistent basis to residents. This will complement the rain
water harvesting tanks, water storage facilities and portable water filters,
which have already been handed over to the communities.

Given the positive impacts made in Barima-Waini through the pilot project, the two entities are now looking to roll out the project in Cuyuni – Mazaruni (Region Seven). It will target three communities in its initial phase: Eteringbang, Arrau and Kurutuku.

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Humanitarian Assistance to be Scaled-up for Millions of Venezuelans in Need

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Venezuelans waiting for food distribution. (Photo credit: NRC/Ingebjørg Kårstad)

CARACAS, Venezuela, Tuesday August 20,
2019 –
The United
Nations humanitarian wing launched a new Response Plan (HRP) on Wednesday, that
aims to help around 2.6 million people in Venezuela through to the end of the
year, almost half of whom are youth.

Noting that
the plan “only represents a limited number of all people in need”, the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that US$223
million was required from donors, to achieve this goal. 

A collective
effort to coordinate and intensify the ongoing humanitarian response, the plan
aims to significantly mitigate the impact of the crisis on the country’s most
vulnerable populations.

“The HRP
includes 1.2 million girls and boys, in the areas of health, water, sanitation
and hygiene, food security, nutrition, protection, shelter and non-food items
and education,” Peter Grohmann, Humanitarian Coordinator for Venezuela, said in
the strategy’s foreword.

During the
first half of 2019, the UN set up a coordination system to increase
humanitarian response capacities that included national and international
non-governmental humanitarian organizations (NGOs) and the International Red
Cross and Red Crescent Movement as an observer, with OCHA lending overarching
support.

“This HRP
provides an internationally recognized framework for a principled, transparent,
well-coordinated and effective response, targeting the most vulnerable people,”
said the newly designated Humanitarian Coordinator, who leads the humanitarian
country team. “I urgently call on donors to support this plan.” 

At the same
time, Grohmann also called on the Venezuelan Government, society and the
international community “to work together and jointly commit to helping
Venezuelans in need of assistance, including by creating consensus on ways to
finance the plan”. 

By
strengthening the capacity of humanitarian organizations and further opening
the operational space in country, the HRP lays the foundation to enlarge its
response next year to reach a larger portion of the population.

While its operational capacities are on target to deliver, the HRP is “modest in terms of responding to the scale of needs”, Grohmann maintained, adding that the plan would be revised and expanded next year, “based on new available information on needs and capacities”.

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