A Little Country Raises The Bar For Others To Follow
You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life. -Les Brown
Which Head of Nation will be willing to raise hands, in the portended and actual hard economic times, to burden their country with the hosting of the next summit?
Three years ago, when Mr. Manning committed Trinidad and Tobago to host the summit we were experiencing unprecedented growth of the energy sector. Money was no problem. Mr. Manning knew that David can serve Goliath despite our Third World status. There were visions of 20/20 where we will be on par with developed nations.
Since then, the global financial crisis is common knowledge and even in Trinidad, there were appeals from various sectors to abandon the summit. That was not possible.
Yet recently, Mr. Manning made a public appeal for citizens to “tighten their belts”, while unrestricted spending continued for the preparation for the summit. There was no turning back. We continued to see the need for two hundred luxury cars ordered directly from the manufacturer to transport the 34 Heads of States for the three days. Everything was possible.
For Trinidad and Tobago it was not only the cost of hosting 34 Heads of States and their entourages but as a nation with a culture that’s steeped in outward appearances, the cost of hosting the summit went way beyond what is required of any country.
The sad fact is that Trinidad and Tobago is setting a precedent that most other nations are unwilling or unable to follow. Well, maybe Chavez will raise his hand on this one because it will be an opportunity to set the agenda of the next summit. One good benefit now is that Trinidad and Tobago cannot do it again.
According to the existing arrangements, the host country assumes the responsibility for setting the agenda for the meeting, forging hemispheric consensus, convening ministerial meetings, consulting with civil society and the private sector as well as all logistical details. This is a burden that the current Summit coordinator for Trinidad and Tobago has described as "difficult, sub-optimal and something not to be undertaken again". If the Summit is to continue, then correcting this situation must be the first priority.
While the OAS does have a Summit Coordinating Office, it has neither the mandate nor the resources to carry a significant share of the organizing burden. An agreement and Summit mandate at the April meeting in Port of Spain to strengthen the OAS Summit office would go a long way to addressing these shortcomings.
It will be interesting to see which nation decides to host the next summit especially since there is no direct financial incentive to do so. Let’s wait and see.
Stay tuned and as always be well.