LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Panama 2016 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), on the role of Panama in facilitating regional diplomacy, taking advantage of institutional support, and supporting development programs in the country.

Luis Almagro
BIOGRAPHY
Luis Almagro was elected Secretary General of the Organization of American States in March 2015. A career diplomat, Almagro was Foreign Minister of Uruguay from 2010 until March 2015 and has extensive regional and international experience. He was elected Senator in the October 2014 national elections of Uruguay. While Foreign Minister for President José Mujíca, his efforts led to the decision by the UN to include Uruguay as a member of the UN Security Council. In 2014, Foreign Policy magazine named him a Leading Global Thinker; one of only 10 decision-makers in the region granted this international distinction. Almagro is a lawyer by profession, and speaks Spanish, English, and French.

Panama's membership in the OAS has resulted in many significant contributions to the country's development in several areas including political, economic, and social, from the observation of nine electoral processes since 1972 to the support given by the OAS to the advancement of trade negotiations with other countries of the region. In 1977, the OAS was the host of one of the most significant events in the country's history when the governments of Panama and the US signed the treaties for the progressive transfer of sovereignty of the Panama Canal to the people of Panama, an event still remembered as an example of goodwill and cooperation between the two countries. It was no coincidence that the Organization of American States was selected as home and headquarters for the signing of those treaties. In recent decades, Panama has participated actively in the efforts promoted by the OAS. It has twice hosted the OAS General Assembly on two opportunities, in 1996 and 2007, and also played host to other high-level hemispheric meetings of the OAS that have shown the country's leadership in the region and positioned it as a valuable promoter of issues of the highest concern for the region.

Panamanians have actively participated in the scholarship programs offered by the OAS and in other training programs that range from port security to international law. Being a member of the OAS represents a unique value to a country like Panama in the context of globalization, where it is part of a community of nations that act together on issues of common interest and cooperate among themselves, regardless of their size or economic growth rates. Panama has also benefited from the participation of key stakeholders in their innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) on innovation and entrepreneurship and the Group of Experts of Subnational Competitiveness (GTECS) with the support of the OAS.

In 2013, Panama hosted the VII Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF), working closely with the OAS Technical Secretariat to share public policy experiences on infrastructure and innovation. Since then, projects like the expansion of the Panama Canal and the new metro of Panama, as well as programs aimed at promoting innovation, talent, and connectivity in Panama such as Infoplazas to facilitate Internet access, Pista to develop academics and young scientists, and the innovation and logistics center and the urban redevelopment of Curundú, are all part of the experiences shared by Panama through the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC). In Panama, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States has also worked closely with AMPYME, the country's SME support institution, in order to organize training programs for the use of information and communication technologies as a means of improving the business management of micro and small businesses. These programs have placed an emphasis on women entrepreneurs, so that they can take advantage of expanded domestic and international markets.