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PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES 
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON INTER-AMERICAN SUMMITS MANAGEMENT
OEA/Ser.G   CE/GCI-170/00
18 August 2000
Original: English

2001 SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS:  THEMES

(Discussion Paper submitted by the Chair)

Introduction

On April 20 - 22, 2001 hemispheric Presidents and Prime Ministers will meet in Quebec City, Canada at the Summit of the Americas. This will be the third occasion on which the leaders of the hemisphere’s 34 democratic nations will come together to consider the most important issues affecting the region. Strengthening of democracy and economic integration have come to be identified as the twin pillars of the Summit process, as was reflected at the First and Second Summits of the Americas in Miami, USA (1994) and Santiago, Chile (1998). It is important that the 2001 Summit build on these accomplishments while looking toward a focussed, results-oriented and relevant agenda.

This paper has been prepared as a background document for the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management. It attempts to reflect the tone and content of discussions at many levels in the hemisphere at this stage of Summit preparations and, in this respect, is intended to nourish discussion on the next Summit. Miami and Santiago have established a solid basis for cooperation in the hemisphere and it should not be necessary simply to repeat or re-package existing commitments. The 2001 Summit of the Americas should reflect the results of an increasingly intense level of hemispheric consultation and cooperation at many levels and across many sectors. It is key to turn to the development of a focussed agenda, which addresses our collective challenges as a hemispheric community through achieving agreement on practical, results-oriented objectives.

Context

As the Americas enter a new century, the hemispheric ledger for the preceding decade shows more assets than liabilities. There is, however, no room to be complacent: progress in many areas must be matched against poor or uneven performance in others. While there has been an almost complete transition to democracy, there have been occasional setbacks, some recent, and there is still work to do to consolidate national and hemispheric institutions to provide a sustainable basis for good governance. Human rights abuses have declined, but there remain serious human rights concerns in the region and the inter-American human rights system continues to face serious challenges. A common commitment to the rule of law has been reinforced, but citizens feel increasingly insecure in city streets and even in their homes. Spending on social services has gone up throughout the hemisphere, but improvements in the quality of health care and education systems seem not to have kept pace in all cases. Economic growth rates have recovered from the "lost decade" of the 1980's, inflation has declined markedly and the hemisphere, pursuing market based economies, has embarked upon free trade negotiations as part of an overall effort to promote sustainable growth. At the same time, persistent and in some cases growing inequality threatens to undermine our ability to construct a more prosperous and secure future.

As the third in the series of meetings that began with a commitment to collective action in Miami in 1994 and continued with the deepening of hemispheric cooperation in Santiago in 1998, the process leading to the 2001 Summit of the Americas will be an appropriate point both for an assessment of what has gone before and for setting new directions. A principal objective must be to further the development of a coherent process, one in which the lessons of experience and a careful evaluation of current conditions and trends converge to inform forward-looking decisions.

Focus on People

The Summits of the Americas process must remain and be seen to be relevant and responsive to the real concerns of the citizens of the hemisphere. To this end, the 2001 Summit should have a clear focus on people and define priorities within a coherent political, economic and social agenda. This agenda should be articulated in a Declaration and Plan of Action that are mutually supportive and set out a vision and mandates for practical initiatives that will strengthen national and hemispheric institutions in support of shared values and collective undertakings. They should make explicit a fundamental commitment to creating conditions to sustain democracy and promote prosperity and social equity to the benefit of all citizens of the Americas.

Plan of Action: Three Baskets

Hemispheric Foreign Ministers met in Windsor, Canada on the margins of the OAS General Assembly to consider themes (or "baskets") for the 2001 Summit. They agreed on a three-part framework for the Plan of Action. Titles for the three baskets reflect both continuity of commitment as well as an approach that recognizes challenges and opportunities: Strengthening Democracy; Creating Prosperity; and Realizing Human Potential. The first two baskets - with their focus on democracy and economic integration - have been central to the process since Miami. The third ‘basket’ will principally address social issues and reflects a commitment to inclusion and greater equity. The 2001 Summit must also respond to the challenge posed by the increasing degree of inter-dependence among the issues that confront governments and the inter-American system. To this end, there is a recognized need for greater coordination and engagement, both with the IFIs and other regional multilateral organizations and for this reason representatives of these institutions also participated in the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Windsor. In this context, it is also important to recognize the transformative impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and how "connectivity" can assist in closing the "digital divides" that exist in the hemisphere and support the creation of prosperity, enhance cultural diversity, generate greater understanding and give more people more equitable access to public goods and services.

Governments will begin discussion on a Declaration and Plan of Action at the next meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) in Quebec City (October 1-3). Views expressed at the September and subsequent meetings of the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management will help to inform this discussion.

Strengthening Democracy

A commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law is central to the Summit process and to efforts to provide a durable foundation for hemispheric integration. Initiatives to strengthen democratic governance and further cooperation to make institutions more transparent in their dealings with citizens will be developed. Engagement with civil society could create greater space within democratic systems for informed debate and the development of understanding. The OAS is an appropriate forum for the promotion of such exchanges which are an essential element in strengthening democracy.

Continued and increased cooperation on human rights in the Hemisphere will help provide the environment in which democracy can be strengthened and sustained. Effective human rights institutions and institutional frameworks can help promote this environment. Further practical initiatives to implement commitments to equality between men and women and recognition of the rights of children should be considered. Cooperation to improve the promotion of the rights, civil, cultural, economic, political and social, of indigenous people should remain a hemispheric priority.

One area for potential cooperation is in the administration of justice. Universal access to impartial, independent judicial systems will promote confidence in hemispheric and national institutions charged with upholding the rule of law and will promote the justice system as means for resolving conflict.

Growing concern about criminality and demands for increased security need to be addressed in the context of a strong collective commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Hemispheric cooperation to deal with transnational criminal activity, notably the drug trade, has progressed and further cooperation between judicial authorities and between police forces would be useful.

Creating Prosperity

A commitment to inclusion and equity must inform our efforts to further economic integration and promote free trade. The FTAA remains the leading element in the collective effort to promote economic growth and expand prosperity in the Americas. Useful work is also being done in the development of cooperative strategies for improving hemispheric transportation systems and developing common approaches to energy issues Given its central importance in the development of increased information and communications technology capacity in the hemisphere, cooperation in the telecommunications sector could be supported through inclusion of new initiatives in the Plan of Action. New infrastructure undertakings in any or all of these sectors will require resources and there is a continuing need for the involvement of the IFIs in support of agreed priorities.

With globalization, more attention is being directed to the impact -- positive and negative -- of private corporate behaviour. Governments could consider initiatives to engage the private sector, the IFIs and civil society in a dialogue directed toward practical outcomes in support of the principles of good corporate governance and social responsibility.

To create and sustain prosperity, issues that affect economic performance such as working conditions, labour standards and cooperation on migration issues could be considered. Cooperation through the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour is underway. In the context of inclusion, actions to empower traditionally marginalized groups and expand their participation in the economic life of our societies must be considered.

Environmental initiatives appear to be an area in which the Summit could provide impetus to greater hemispheric cooperation recognizing that increasing levels of pollution, especially in urban settings, is becoming a matter of growing concern. Cooperative action on clean air and water resources could add value. Practical environmental initiatives could be reinforced by endorsement of the principles of sustainable development.

There could be scope for new initiatives in the area of financial regulation that would contribute to the overall objective of increasing prosperity in the hemisphere.

Despite the prospect of benefits from economic integration, income disparities and the absolute numbers of those living in poverty in the Americas have increased. The alleviation of poverty and cooperative action designed to raise living standards must remain a priority. Initiatives in this area could support the expansion of access to employment and support expansion of access to opportunities to develop the skills necessary to participate in knowledge-based economies.

Realizing Human Potential

In developing the social agenda for the 2001 Summit, the principal challenge will be to focus on the most pressing priorities and produce practical proposals for action to meet real needs. In a global knowledge-based economy it is essential that people have the skills to compete. Information technology opens the prospect of extending quality education into all parts of our societies. To advance greater participation in the political, economic and social mainstream by women, youth and indigenous people, partnerships, inter-action and networking among these groups could be supported. In this regard, emphasis should be placed on gender mainstreaming as a cross-cutting theme in all three baskets.

Efforts to promote the creation of conditions in which all citizens of the hemisphere may realize their full potential require support both for the expansion of opportunities and a commitment to equity. The fundamental issue is quality of life. The most effective means of reducing inequalities is by expanding access to and enhancing the quality of education. Education was recognized as "the key to progress" at Santiago. Experience since has shown, however, that we need to consider how to generate the resources that investment in education requires.

Resources are also an issue in health care in all parts of the hemisphere. The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) has and should continue to play a leading role in developing hemispheric initiatives. Information/communications technology offers new scope for increasing access to quality care. It is demonstrable that emphasis on the prevention of disease (e.g. HIV/AIDS), especially among adolescents, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices, can produce significant long-term social benefits. Access to reliable sources of clean air and water is fundamental to good health. Support to programs to improve the health of women and children must remain a priority, as should efforts to combat diseases and conditions that could be controlled or eradicated.

Cooperative action is necessary to protect and enhance diversity, especially cultural diversity. The development of the region’s potential depends on ensuring that all people are given the opportunity to contribute to the political, social and economic life of their societies. Efforts to eliminate discrimination could be complemented by expansion of opportunities for sharing our diverse cultural, racial and linguistic heritages and perspectives. Goals should be practical and transparent: to promote models for inclusion based on respect for the individual that recognize the degree to which identity is defined by elements we may share with groups within society.

Connectivity for Community

Our world is being transformed by information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the rapid pace of innovation and change. This information revolution is stimulating dramatic changes in our democratic, economic and social institutions. New technologies are breaking down barriers, expanding dialogues and altering the nature of the relationships between government, the private sector and civil society. Digital opportunities have set the stage for new forms of engagement that will require government to reorganize to respond to the needs of empowered users/citizens and communities.

Connectivity is a means not an end, a tool for human development, but not the solution to all human problems. Support for a connectivity agenda does not imply the abandonment of more fundamental development objectives nor a failure to recognize that those who struggle to provide themselves and their families with the necessities of life must be helped to meet their most urgent needs first. At the same time, the governments and citizens of the Americas are not confronted with a simple either/or situation. A comprehensive commitment to development can and should encompass not only efforts to meet basic needs, but to ensure that the benefits of new and emerging technologies are more broadly shared and that opportunities to participate in knowledge-based economies are expanded. Following a narrower vision could ultimately risk denying those now on the margins of our communities their chance to be brought into the mainstream and to share fully in the benefits of technological progress.

The rapid development and spread of information technology and connectivity holds out the promise of unprecedented opportunities for political, economic and social development in the Americas. The challenge is to ensure that the enormous potential benefits are maximized and shared . The benefits will be most fully realized where there is the highest degree of penetration by technology and where users are equipped to exploit its advantages. In this context, concerns have been expressed about the consequences of failing to close "digital divides" within and between countries. Initiatives to promote more equitable access to and distribution of the benefits of technology in the interest of enhancing prosperity, reducing insecurity and strengthening the hemispheric community must be considered. New approaches to partnerships that build on successful models should involve governments, the private sector and civil society and promote the development of new content and new connections both horizontally and vertically. Within each basket consideration should be given as to how information and communications technology can assist in advancing initiatives.

In focussing on the development of connectivity in the Americas, the principal underlying objective must be the creation of new instruments and linkages to sustain diversity, enhance understanding, extend the ability of governments to provide services, empower citizens to improve their lives and bring new knowledge and skills to those who need them. The objective should be to create connections that promote positive change and the development of a community that embraces and enhances the collective strength of the hemisphere.

Conclusion

It bears repeating that the central challenge in preparing for the 2001 Summit will be identifying concrete, achievable new initiatives to advance the commitments to common values and collective action made by leaders at Miami and Santiago. The views of citizens from throughout the Americas have been heard at meetings of the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management as well as at a series of events and consultations including forums organized by civil society in parallel with Ministerial meetings over the past several years, including on the margins of the OAS General Assembly. This paper takes into account a range of views that have been expressed to date. The next step is to build consensus on the practical means to achieve the objectives identified.


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