Ambassador Mahinda Samarasinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States, concurrently accredited to Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago, met with Ambassador Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Oraganization of American States (OAS) on Friday (28) at the Organization’s Headquarters in Washington DC. He presented letters of credence as a permanent observer to the Organization, one of 71 countries with this status. During the interaction with the Secretary-General (a former Ambassador, Foreign Minister and Senator from Uruguay), the Sri Lankan Ambassador briefed him on the steps being taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to overcome the present economic challenges and the progress achieved to date.
The Ambassador adverted to Sri Lanka’s relative lack of resident diplomatic representation in OAS countries with only four Missions operating in the 35 member states (United States, Canada, Brazil and Cuba). He inquired of the Secretary-General if Sri Lanka could use the good offices of the OAS to expand and strengthen ties with the other states, to which the response was encouraging and positive.
The potential for further enhancing trade with OAS countries was also mentioned during the discussion. The Secretary-General welcomed such initiatives. Ambassador Almagro was also invited to visit Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General responded positively to the proposal.
Permanent Observers attend the public meetings of the OAS General Assembly and the Permanent Council and of their principal committees and, when invited by the relevant presiding officer, the closed meetings of those bodies. They also receive the documents and publications of the Organization and are invited to attend specialized conferences and other meetings convoked by the OAS. The Permanent Observers provide cooperation, in the form of training opportunities, expert services, equipment, and cash contributions for various OAS programs. OAS cooperation with Permanent Observers includes: financial contributions dedicated to particular projects and priority areas; technical assistance, professional training opportunities, and sharing of best practices; as well as academic scholarships.
Among the main benefits accruing from Permanent Observer status are: The OAS offers a unique forum to strengthen relations with all Member States in one place and can serve as an effective cooperation facilitator, in particular for Permanent Observers that do not have a presence in all countries of the Western Hemisphere. As the main political forum for the convening of government authorities and stakeholders at the Inter-American level, Permanent Observers benefit from a more effective direct engagement and visibility among OAS Member States. In-depth knowledge of country needs, in particular of smaller countries and regions at the sub-national level where Permanent Observers may not have a direct diplomatic relationship or presence. The OAS presence with national offices in the entire Hemisphere allows Permanent Observers to interact at the local level through their Embassies.
Officers of the OAS Headquarters and diplomatic staff of the Embassy of Sri Lanka also were associated in the meeting.