OAS com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ment goals

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Nestor Men­dez Am­bas­sador Nestor Men­dez is as­sis­tant sec­re­tary gen­eral of the OAS. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com.

IN 2015, world lead­ers adopted global tar­gets as part of a new, am­bi­tious, and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda to mean­ing­fully re­duce poverty, pro­tect the planet, and bring pros­per­ity to more of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

To­day, the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals present us with an ex­tra­or­di­nary, yet chal­leng­ing op­por­tu­nity to im­prove peo­ple’s lives through­out the Americas over the next decade and be­yond.

The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) has re­dou­bled its ef­fort in pursuit of a more en­ergy-se­cure, pros­per­ous, and eq­ui­table fu­ture for the hemi­sphere. There is no ques­tion that the OAS touches the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple and de­liv­ers tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits. Yet the chal­lenges posed by the new 2030 Agenda, which in­cludes 17 goals cov­er­ing wide-rang­ing ar­eas and spe­cific tar­gets to meet them, will re­quire bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion and a stronger, united re­gional ap­proach for their suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion.

In our re­gion, the strength­en­ing of democ­racy is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the un­der­pin­ning of gains in so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. There­fore, the most cru­cial chal­lenges re­late to poverty re­duc­tion; ed­u­ca­tional im­prove­ments; ad­vance­ments in health and nu­tri­tion; uni­ver­sal ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices such as wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and af­ford­able en­ergy; cli­mate change; and the over­all re­duc­tion of in­equal­ity.

Among these, ad­dress­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change is para­mount. Last year, we ex­pe­ri­enced the hottest year on record. In­deed, over the past 50 years, the av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture has in­creased at the fastest rate in recorded his­tory, and ris­ing sea lev­els now threaten the very ex­is­tence of many Caribbean na­tions.

As a na­tive of both the Caribbean and Cen­tral Amer­ica, I have seen first-hand the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of cli­mate change on small states and low-ly­ing coastal ar­eas. Cli­mate change is also a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to ex­treme weather events and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as heat waves, dam­ag­ing storms, coastal flood­ing and droughts, which ex­ac­er­bate poverty and threaten sta­ble long-term eco­nomic growth.

On a slightly more pos­i­tive note, over­all poverty lev­els in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean have de­clined no­tably over the last decade. While this is a step in the right di­rec­tion, the coun­tries of our hemi­sphere still face the most un­equal dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth, leav­ing ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices lim­ited to a priv­i­leged few.

PANGS OF POVERTY

To­day, one in five per­sons in the de­vel­op­ing re­gions of the Americas still lives on less than USD$1.25 a day. Poverty also man­i­fests it­self in hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion, lim­ited ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion and so­cial ex­clu­sion.

Tied to the is­sues of cli­mate change and poverty, ac­cess to en­ergy has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant. En­ergy is es­sen­tial for jobs, se­cu­rity, man­ag­ing cli­mate change, food pro­duc­tion and for re­spond­ing to prac­ti­cally all other ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing our na­tions. The re­gion’s lead­ers have recog­nised that re­new­able en­ergy can pro­vide key en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic ben­e­fits and is fun­da­men­tal to the hemi­sphere’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

An in­te­grated ap­proach is, there­fore, es­sen­tial for over­com­ing these ob­sta­cles. Through its proven four-pil­lar agenda of democ­racy, hu­man rights, se­cu­rity, and de­vel­op­ment, the OAS con­tin­ues to play a

Is­trate­gic role in sup­port­ing mem­ber states in achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has made great strides in im­prov­ing the lives of the peo­ples of the Americas. Still, greater ef­forts must be un­der­taken. Cit­i­zens from across the re­gion ex­pect ef­fec­tive ac­tion from their elected lead­ers.

This month, the OAS will gather of­fi­cials from its 34 mem­ber states at its Gen­eral As­sem­bly in Can­cun, Mex­ico, to fo­cus their at­ten­tion on a holis­tic ap­proach to ad­dress so­cial, eco­nomic, and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues in the Americas.

In this fo­rum, of­fi­cials will hold dis­cus­sions on ‘In­te­gral De­vel­op­ment and Pros­per­ity in the Hemi­sphere; Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Chal­lenges for Women’s Lead­er­ship in the Americas; The Rule of Law, Hu­man Rights, and Democ­racy; and Mul­tidi­men­sional Se­cu­rity’. This mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach al­lows the OAS to bet­ter as­sist mem­ber states in their ef­forts to ad­dress the over­ar­ch­ing is­sues of the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment agenda.

Ul­ti­mately, the in­di­vid­ual suc­cess of each mem­ber state in ben­e­fit­ing from the ful­fil­ment of the ob­jec­tives of this am­bi­tious agenda de­pends on their abil­ity to work in con­cert with part­ners across the en­tire hemi­sphere. It de­pends on their abil­ity to lever­age their shared pur­pose to at­tain what no sin­gle na­tion can on its own.

The OAS will con­tinue to bring to­gether the ideas, re­sources, and ded­i­ca­tion of proac­tive na­tions to trans­form the en­ergy and am­bi­tion of our peo­ples into mea­sur­able and sus­tain­able re­sults. There is no greater cat­a­lyst for pos­i­tive change in shap­ing the des­tiny of our coun­tries than the shared spirit, com­mit­ment, and de­ter­mi­na­tion of our hemi­sphere.

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/ PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Paul Henry pushes Al­jay Howitt in an old re­frig­er­a­tor in Corn­piece, Hayes, Claren­don, on Satur­day, June 17. Heavy rains have dec­i­mated south-cen­tral Ja­maica over sev­eral weeks, in­flu­enc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists to ar­gue that cli­mate change might be a causative fac­tor.

GUEST COLUM­NIST

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