Last week OAS Secretary General César Gaviria and Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur inaugurated the 32nd regular session of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States. Foreign Ministers from throughout the hemisphere gathered in Bridgetown, Barbados for the annual Assembly, held June 2-4.
The General Assembly, the Organisation’s highest political body, focussed on a number of critical current issues in the region, including the adoption of rigorous new measures to prevent, punish and eliminate terrorism.
Thirty Heads of Delegation signed the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, a comprehensive treaty arrived at through a consensus of all member states, which seeks to prevent the financing of terrorism, strengthen border controls and increase cooperation among law enforcement authorities in different countries, among other measures. The hemisphere’s foreign ministers had called for such a pact at their Meeting of Consultation in Washington last September, days after the terrorist attacks against the United States. The Convention recognises the threat that terrorism poses to democratic values and international peace and security, and that it is a source of profound concern to all member states. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the thirty signatories, praised the hemispheric Organisation for coming up with the first international treaty since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
One of the essential purposes of the Organisation is to strengthen the peace and security of the continent, and in addition to the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, participants signed a Declaration of Bridgetown on a multidimensional approach to hemispheric security.
Other resolutions and agreements coming out of the Assembly included (a) the Inter-American Program for the Development of International Law, in line with its commitment to continue promoting the progressive development and codification of inter-american international law in the framework of the OAS; and (b) strong support for and follow-up to the Summit of the Americas process. On the latter, there is a Special Committee of the Permanent Council on Inter-American Summits Management, open to all member states, to ensure effective, timely, and appropriate follow-up to the activities assigned to the Organisation by the Summit of the Americas, and to coordinate OAS preparation, participation, and follow-up with regard to future Summits.
The OAS maintains that the creation and consolidation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) will lead to substantive progress in trade liberalisation, and that the direct results of this action will benefit the economic development of the member states. Secretary Powell said that free trade will *”strengthen our democracies, the rule of law, and market-led economic growth for all the peoples of the region. Free trade and its benefits are goals we will pursue with determination.”*
The General Assembly also pledged continued support for the work done in the context of the Meetings of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General of the Americas, and the implementation of their conclusions and recommendations.
The Bahamas was represented at the forum by the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Minister of Financial Services and Investments, who had the opportunity to address the General Assembly. She informed delegates that the new Prime Minister of The Bahamas has pledged to work closely with the country’s *”international partners and friends, particularly our CARICOM sisters, in advancing the interests of the region.”* The Minister also took the opportunity to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards with the international financial services industry and foreign investors.