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Sherry Tross' Opening Keynote "Hemispheric Pathways: Strategic Cooperation for Development" #HASTAC2014

Opening Keynote
Sherry Tross
Executive Secretary for Integral Development, OAS

“Hemispheric Pathways: Strategic Cooperation for Development”
delivered at the

April 24, 2014

Ministerio de Cultura, del Perú
Ministerio de Educación

Otras autoridades del gobierno del Perú
Amigos y amigas de la Universidad de Illinois, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, y los demás miembros del Comité Organizador de esta Sexta Conferencia de HASTAC
Colegas de la OEA
Distinguidos señoras y señores

En primer lugar, quisiera agradecerles a todos por esta muy amable invitación de participar en la Sexta Conferencia Internacional del HASTAC – el Colaboratorio y Alianza para las Humanidades, las Artes, la Ciencia y la Tecnología. Para mí, siempre es un placer estar de regreso en el Perú.

También, quisiera felicitar al gobierno del Perú, el país anfitrión,  por su visión. ¡Qué mejor lugar para reunir el talento, diversidad y multiplicidad de expresiones de personas dedicadas a la investigación, ciencia, humanidades, artes, y tecnología que en este país, cuna de una cultura creativa y milenaria.

Como se indica en el programa de la conferencia, esta es la primera ocasión que HASTAC viaja fuera de Norteamérica. Esperamos que no sea la última vez. Hoy más que nunca entendemos la importancia de la cooperación, y el intercambio de capacidades, conocimientos y experiencias, desde distintas disciplinas y saberes, que nos permita a generar acciones concretas para impulsar el desarrollo, la innovación y la competitividad en nuestros países.  

En este espíritu de cooperación y con su permiso, continuare mis comentarios en inglés.

This HASTAC Conference represents a great opportunity for cooperation among practitioners, and between practitioners and policy makers to share knowledge and experiences, share concerns and ideas for potential solutions that can contribute to the development of innovative and informed policies and strategies for development on the one hand and, on the other hand, can both benefit from and challenge prevailing academic thinking.  

The intellectual firepower of the distinguished scholars and researchers from world-class universities in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean; experts, artists, and educators assembled here in this room is impressive. The depth and breadth of expertise, experience and backgrounds are precisely the elements that are needed to construct or reinforce hemispheric pathways for strategic cooperation.

This is a positive step toward more integration and collaboration in the region. We all know that integration is not achieved solely by the signing of agreements, although those are important. While regional political processes follow a nuanced and often sensitive path, joint-research, entrepreneurial partnerships and university-led collaborations that develop solutions to shared challenges establish concrete forms of cooperation that can bring our societies closer in a more organic fashion.

Development is a shared responsibility. When we utilize these spaces for cooperation, we are better positioned to apply the knowledge, research capacity, experience and technology available in universities throughout the Americas to the real problems and needs of our countries, particularly the developing ones.

This is what we try to do every day in the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development at the Organization of American States (OAS), working with the United States, Canada, and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, helping to craft policies and programs that advance their development needs and priorities.

All of us recognize how much of a privilege it is to work in an environment where we can develop new ideas, implement initiatives and establish networks and communities of practice that enable us to reach and impact a wider constituency. A sense of purpose is strengthened when one begins to ask oneself the question: How is my work helping to improve my community, my city, my country, my region? Once we figure that out, then we begin to seek and identify the mechanisms that can help provide a multiplier effect.

I believe that HASTAC and the Organization of American States provide exactly that kind of facilitating framework – different but complementary – HASTAC with its broad range of expert practitioners, the OAS with policy makers from across the Americas and a growing range of partnerships with private sector, civil society, and academia.

And so I am delighted that the University of Illinois and the leadership of HASTAC, particularly Dr. Kevin Franklin, reached out to the OAS and other hemispheric partners to collaborate in this Conference. We must take advantage of this unique opportunity to build bridges and close the gap between our two worlds. We would like to bring to the attention of our multidisciplinary hemispheric authorities the resources of creative and critical thinking, science, art and technology, available in spaces like HASTAC to contribute to the design and development of better and more effective policies and programs. In essence, we are working to build hemispheric pathways to support strategic cooperation for sustainable and inclusive development in the Americas.

Why is this important now and why is this important us?

Despite the historic change that took place during the last decade in Latin America over the last decade in which the region experienced high growth and poverty reduction which helped 61 million people escape poverty, from 225 million poor in 2002 to 164 million in 2013,[1] the region remains the most unequal region in the world.

Half of those living in poverty in Latin America are minors, aged 17 or under, who make up 51% of the indigent population and 45% of the non-indigent poor.[2] Adults who completed primary but not secondary education make up the largest group among the non-indigent poor. Among the poor, the percentage of persons having completed higher education is less than 1% (ECLAC).

And yet, UNESCO/UNICEF 2012 statistics indicate that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2.24 million children are leaving school before completing primary education, creating long-term concern for the region’s development and competitiveness. A rapidly evolving global marketplace also has significant implications for long-term, permanent structural shifts in the demand for talent and labor. An OAS-commissioned study conducted by Oxford Economics, Global Talent 2021: How the New Geography of Talent will Transform Human Resource Strategies, noted that with rapid changes in technology changes, sustained investments in education and training are even more important to enable the region’s youth to become critical players in future waves of innovation. The study recommended that “the same rigor, effort and sophistication should be given to human capital planning” as is given to designing overall economic policy and business strategy if the Americas is to be globally competitive and become a center of innovation and sustainable growth.

What does this tell us?

From a multidimensional perspective, important development advances cannot be measured purely in terms of GDP growth, but also in terms of access to and quality of education, housing, water and sanitation, energy, income, social protection, the environment, and other factors. While different types of poverty are visible in each of the countries of the region, one thing is clear in all:  public policies must address all of these dimensions to offer a sustainable way out of poverty.

But the data also highlight the importance of working with academia in order to develop effective programs, policies and interventions that can address problems at the root. Education is fundamental for the growth, sustainability and inclusion.

This year, the OAS General Assembly, which will be held in Paraguay, will focus on the theme of “Development with Social Inclusion.” There is an implicit recognition that the intellectual and practical framework for analysis of development should perhaps be revisited to address economic and social development as a new, joint paradigm. The just completed 2014 World Bank/IMF spring meeting acknowledged the need for a shift in thinking about how development should be defined and measured.

The Post 2015 Development Agenda debate, currently being undertaken by global and regional organizations, also highlights the need to revisit paradigms and approaches to development. The UN High Level Panel that was commissioned with preparing recommendations on this subject even called for a data revolution, and the need for better informed policies through improved data collection and analysis. This proposal, along with their recommendation of fostering a global partnership for development further underscores the need for cross-sectorial cooperation combining different strengths and capacities. As countries are in the process of formulating the post-2015 development agenda and focus increasingly on sustainable and inclusive growth, partnerships for development will become even more important to spur innovation and help find solutions to the profound challenges being faced by countries.

The OECD, in their 2014 Economic Outlook, tells us that after a decade of relatively strong growth, the economic prospects of the region are becoming “more convoluted.”  Latin America and the Caribbean require new approaches for transformational growth. Our outreach to partners such as HASTAC recognizes that the right mix of partners can make an invaluable contribution to improving access to quality of education; diversification of the economy; moving toward more knowledge-based products and services with strong social and environmental underpinnings; supporting public-private-university collaboration to improve R&D, innovation and promote high-potential entrepreneurship, among other areas.

Our host country, Peru, has been a top performer in the region over the last decade, with an average growth rate of 6.4% between 2002 and 2012. Peru has moved from a ranking of 86th in 2007 to 61st in the 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. This is good news indeed and the Peruvian government and people should be commended. But, while Peru has been recognized as an economy with sound fundamentals and a favorable outlook, like other countries in the Americas, it is still working toward improving innovation, competitiveness and social inclusion.

The challenges facing countries are beyond the competence of even the best-resourced agency, institution or Government and require sustained dialogue and cooperation within a hemispheric strategic framework. These grand challenges on growth, social inclusion and sustainability cannot be solved in one day or in one forum. These are global issues where cooperation, mutual support, a regional vision and collective long-term action are required.

The OAS’s “all-of-government approach” reaches across sectorial and disciplinary boundaries, giving the Organization a unique ability to bring together ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labor, Education, Tourism, Culture, Social Development, Sustainable Development and Science and Technology while maintaining an ongoing dialogue with civil society and private sector. Further, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to advance strategic partnerships for cooperation, transforming policy into action in order to help build durable human and institutional capacity, and assist member states in taking advantage of emerging opportunities to reduce poverty, enhance competitiveness and provide opportunity.

A new emphasis on partnership for development represents an opportunity for the Organization to adapt to the new reality in the Americas, one in which many countries have developed the internal capacity and expertise to provide technical assistance and share experiences and best practices in mutually beneficial relationships that spur sustainable social and economic development.

In recognizing the need for new pathways, we are also optimizingPublic-Private Partnerships (PPPs) where practicable to optimize resources; generate broader citizen buy-in and support private and public sector dialogue and cooperation that sets a more sustainable and comprehensive course for investment.

And so, I am enthusiastic about exploring further the potential for collaboration with HASTAC partners. I want to mention some concrete areas of collaboration and offer some suggestions for your consideration.

  • Just last month we undertook two initiatives that illustrate the type of collaboration opportunities within our reach. The Executive Immersion Program carried out by the University of Illinois together with the OAS, brought Ministers and high level officials from Ministries of Science and Technology to showcase some of the most advanced technologies and programs available in the University to discuss how these tools could be used to spur development and to build new partnerships. The First Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship involved over 60 high-level representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean from the public and private sector visiting university-anchored innovation hubs in the medical, agro- industrial, manufacturing, and automotive industries in five cities in the States of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. This initiative supported by the OAS in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce, State Department and the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC) is part of the effort to promote new forms of collaboration among stakeholders in all countries, around STEM-based innovation and entrepreneurship as fundamental tools to transform our economies and societies.
  • Last year, over 1000 undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students benefited from OAS academic scholarships to study at universities and colleges across the hemisphere. Tens of thousands more participated in online professional and vocational training. Many of you here are from institutions that are part of the OAS Consortium of Universities. I hope that many more of you will consider joining the Consortium, helping us to transform communities through quality education.
  • Our Networks/Communities of Practicesuch as the Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN), Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC), Inter-American Teachers Education Network (ITEN) facilitate the exchange of experiences and successful practices particularly through horizontal and triangular cooperation, enabling policy makers and practitioners to maintain an ongoing dialogue to share best practices and experiences. We welcome new partners to join these networks and add to the body of knowledge, expertise and capacities.
  • I would also liketo invite you to participate in the different Inter-American policy spaces convened by the OAS, where authorities and key stakeholders discuss and develop policy priorities and plans of action at a regional level. In the coming months: Ministers of Culture will meet in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in August; Ministers of Tourism will convene in Barbados in September; the Americas Competitiveness Forum will take place in Trinidad and Tobago in October and the meeting of high-level authorities on Science and Technology in Guatemala during the first quarter of 2015. And in June, we will be back here for the XV annual Virtual Educa meeting which brings together policy makers, educators, students and technology companies for an intense week of learning, exchanges on innovation in education and opportunities for cooperation.

And so, I wish to again thank the University of Illinois, the leadership of HASTAC and particularly Dr. Kevin Franklin for reaching out to the OAS to collaborate on this conference. I look forward to an ongoing collaboration between our two organizations. Cooperation, done right, can be a powerful catalyst for positive change. The sharing of experiences and of lessons learned provide an important area of competitive advantage through cooperation, channeling time, effort and resources that would otherwise have been sacrificed on costly learning curves. 

We must take advantage of this unique opportunity to build bridges and close the gap between our two worlds. We, at the OAS can bring to the attention of our hemispheric authorities the resources of creative and critical thinking, science, art and technology, available in spaces like HASTAC that can contribute to the design and development of better and more effective policies and programs. An alliance of committed partners with a clear mission and the capacity and willingness to act can make a difference. In sum, we can build hemispheric pathways to support strategic cooperation for sustainable and inclusive development in the Americas.


[1] ECLAC: Social Panorama of Latin America, 2013

[2] ECLAC: Social Panorama of Latin America, 2012


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