Presentation by
Jean Ricot Dormeus
OAS Representative to Guyana
At the Inter-Religious Organization (IRO)
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
The OAS stands for the finest expression of unity in the Americas
Pastor McGarrell, Chairman of the Inter-Religious Organization
Sisters and brothers,
Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a real delight to join in your monthly session, not only to explore common interests between the OAS and the IRO, but also to enjoy your fellowship and your vibrant dedication. Two reasons bring much satisfaction on this occasion. Firstly, I am a Christian myself, so even though today is the first time that I have met most of you, it feels like I have known you for a thousand years. Secondly, I am the Representative of the OAS, the oldest International organization on Earth and the premier forum in the Americas for the promotion and advancement of peace, security, democracy and development. Therefore, I know the value of coming together to foster unity and social harmony.

I would like to thank the IRO, in particular Pastor McGarrell, for this opportunity to address you and also for your interest in the OAS activities. Further, I wish to thank Ms. Jennifer Dewar for corresponding with me in preparation for this session. It was only a few weeks ago that the IRO actively participated in launching the theme of the 8th Summit of the Americas. Several Guyanese organizations of civil society gathered at the OAS Office to interact virtually with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru and OAS officials, along with organizations all over the Americas.

You may know by now that the Summit will take place in Peru, April 13-14, 2018 under the theme “Democratic governance against corruption”.

Today let me tell you that the OAS relates to the IRO in many ways. As the IRO strives for unity and social harmony in Guyana, the OAS stands for the finest expression of unity in the Americas. In a sense, just as the Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River flows into the Essequibo and contributes with other waterways to make Guyana the Land of many waters, the IRO and many other civil society organizations share in the OAS mission to make the Americas a Zone of Peace.

When Pastor McGarrell told me about the IRO and sent documents about its mission and activities, I could not help thinking about the four cardinal points, as four main markers define the values and strategies both organizations use to pursue their mission.

Firstly, acceptance. The OAS integrates all 35 independent states in the Americas. No one is left out, even though a government may be suspended for a number of reasons outlined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in particular the alteration of the constitutional order. Likewise, the IRO encompasses all religions in Guyana. So we embrace and hug, we do not reject or marginalize. Interestingly, the most powerful nation on Earth sits with tiniest islands in the Caribbean, each provided through the OAS with an equal voice at the hemispheric table to cooperate for the promotion of peace, security, democracy, integral development, and for human rights for all.

This is a great expression of the belief of our societies that all men are created equal and endowed with the same rights and duties. From the source of this principle flow the rivers of brotherhood, respect, mutual appreciation. We do not close the door to the living room of our societies and services to some people, just because they are different from us.

The second marker that our organizations share is dialogue. At the OAS, we understand that no interstate or intrastate issue is likely to resist the fresh breeze of dialogue. When a member state goes through some political turbulence, we stop the clock and dialogue as a family to find common denominators, as when the OAS was supporting Honduras to get through the crisis which followed the coup d’état. Without the spoon of dialogue, how can we drink the soup of mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence? I believe the IRO prides itself on the fostering of dialogue among religions in Guyana.

Thirdly, the OAS privileges consensus as the ideal tool for decision-making, and resorts to voting only when consensus is out of reach. It means that we value the ideas of everyone, as we walk in unity. Sometimes, we have to bite the bullet and just live with some issues, because member states would have not arrived at a decision, as was the case last June in Cancun, Mexico, when the OAS once again sought to consider pathways which would support a resolution to the crisis in Venezuela. As you would realize at the IRO, our communities need a significant level of consensus to keep moving forward, at all times mindful that it is incumbent on us to create and to preserve an environment which is conducive to fairness and in which there is no room for divisiveness and rancor. We always need to remember that we cannot fish the trout of consensus in the trench of greed, prejudice or power hunger.

Finally, the OAS understands that we create value by sharing. When we make our knowledge, skills and resources available to others, we cooperate and get amazing results. You may now have an idea why the OAS has become a pioneer in dealing with many issues, such as in the prevention, punishment, and eradication of violence against women, or in the fight against corruption. Incidentally, an OAS team will be in Guyana during the month of September to support the fight against corruption. Likewise, the Americas have made strides in the area of Security as a result of the Organization’s persistent contribution to hemispheric action to counter the drug scourge, using creative tools, such as drug treatment courts.

The OAS offers the right space for the states of the Americas to receive and to share best practices and technical cooperation. Illustrative of the OAS calling for sharing is the regional meeting on tourism that will take place next year right here in Guyana.

I am sure that sharing is also a value dear to the IRO, because sharing creates the ideal setting for unity to thrive.

Again, the concept of unity comes back. I am glad that the pursuit of unity prevails in Guyana, as evidenced in the theme of your Jubilee celebration last year. We need to erect and maintain seawalls of unity to contain the high tide of hatred, anger, and violence. We have to build dams of unity to water the fertile soil of peace, security, democracy and sustainable development. The OAS was born in unity and, as the world’s oldest international organization, stands for the finest expression of unity in the Americas. I am not saying that the OAS is flawless, I am saying it is very useful as a forum for the nations in the Americas and as an instrument to spread, timeless principles and values, as well as best practices.

You have heard me speaking about the Organization of American States for a while. Some of you may wonder how come they were unaware of this important Inter-American institution. I believe you know more about the OAS than you think. Last year, I was privileged to answer the University of Guyana’s invitation to participate in a session of “Tukeyen and Tain Talks”. A professor approached me and said: “You know, I am grateful to the OAS for the scholarship to complete my graduate studies”. In fact, many Guyanese have enjoyed the same benefit and many of them teach your children, they make invaluable contributions in your public administration and private sector.

The OAS is very much present in your life. If you still do not see it, let me tell you that the garlic flavored cassava bread from Takapuma in the Essequibo you buy from your stores in Georgetown was made thanks to the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), a creation of the OAS. The same goes for the cocunut oil from the Pomeroon or the peanut butter from the Rupununi, or the crabwood oil, the soap or the cream from Waini.

Likewise, the vaccine that your child has received or the effective management of the health care facilities that have treated you or your loved ones might have been facilitated by the Pan-American Health Organization, a specialized organization of the OAS.

Finally, the road or the bridge you use regularly might have been funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, an institution created by the OAS.

These few examples show just how deep, though subtle, the OAS impacts your daily life, not to mention other activities such as the OAS Electoral Observation Missions, the electoral cooperation processes which help to monitor voting systems and procedures, and to make appropriate recommendations to governments, as well as OAS initiatives towards safer borders and effective e-government systems, among others.

Now, at the level of the IRO, is there anything the OAS can do to support your activities? You bet. I mentioned earlier that Pastor McGarrell participated in a consultation at the OAS Office in the context of the preparatory process for the 8th Summit of the Americas. That means the IRO has access to officials representing Governments in the region, it can make contributions to the documents to be negotiated, it can build network with other non-governmental organizations all over the region, and once the procedural registrations are effected, it can even participate in dialogue between the Secretary General of the OAS and representatives of civil society in the margins of the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the OAS.

You now know that civil society organizations registered with the OAS are entitled to participating in consultations and debates, bring to bear their views and spread their influence. Perhaps you are wondering how you can support the OAS activities. I will tell you right away that you can do so through your active participation, sharing your experience with your membership, and embracing the agenda agreed upon by the organization.

In closing, I would like to thank you for this great opportunity to interact with you and get to know you better. We live in a world that always requires our vigilance and actions for the triumph of the good. Uncertainty puts many on edge fueling fear for the future. In unity there is strength. Unity helps us to strive less for the fireworks of power, fame and wealth, and more for the sunshine of love, faith and hope. When this sunshine illuminates us, the darkness of suicide, violence and hatred must dissipate.

As long as we are united for the triumph of the good over the bad, organizations such as the OAS and the IRO will “build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear”, as said Martin Luther King Jr.

Thank you for your attention and God bless you!

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