Organization of American States Holds 41st General Assembly in El Salvador

Posted by Lisa M. Petzold
June 10, 2011
41st OAS General Assembly in San Salvador

Under Secretary for Political Affairs William J. Burns led the U.S. Delegation to the 41st Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly. Thirty-four member states from across the Americas gathered in San Salvador from June 5-7 for this annual three-day meeting, which focused on the theme of "Citizen Security in the Americas" this year.

The General Assembly took place just a few days after the OAS voted to lift the suspension of Honduras, and at his breakfast meeting with the Central American foreign ministers, Under Secretary Burns welcomed the reintegration of Honduras in the OAS. The first plenary session of the General Assembly followed the breakfast. The plenary room was charged with energy, and buzzed from multiple background conversations and side meetings as delegations took advantage of this time with their counterparts from the region to confer on multilateral and bilateral issues. In his opening remarks, Under Secretary Burns focused on the importance of democracy and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and he called attention to the security challenges throughout the region that require an integral and coordinated response.

For a first-tour officer, this was a great opportunity to learn more about the role the Department of State plays in multilateral gatherings. It was a complex event that involved VIPs from 34 different member states with a wide array of bilateral and multilateral interests and priorities. As I watched the hours of work and behind-the-scenes preliminary chaos translate into the smooth running of the program for the U.S. delegation, I was very impressed to see how the individual parts came together to shape the meeting.

Taking notes for the Under Secretary's bilateral meetings, I realized how involved the United States is with every pressing topic of concern to the region, as well as other developments around the world. I was impressed by the range of issues under discussion and the ability of both sides to talk openly about their positions. It was also striking to see the logistical maneuvers that went into making all of this happen.

Staffing the U.S. delegation to the OAS General Assembly was an exciting opportunity to view diplomacy in action. At the Embassy, I often see the gradual progress of building and maintaining a relationship at a bilateral level. This was a chance to watch the more immediate process of dialogue between regional decision makers.

You can view photographs of the OAS General Assembly on U.S. Embassy in El Salvador's Flickr site.

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