Permanent council of the Organization of American
Meeting of the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management
Summary by the Chair
On February 18, 2000, the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management of the OAS met for the second time to review progress in fulfilling the mandates conferred at the Summit of the Americas. Also taking part in the meeting were representatives of several nongovernmental organizations and of international organizations (OAS, IDB, PAHO, and ECLAC). The meeting reviewed progress in five areas of the Santiago Plan of Action: Democracy and Human Rights, Migrant Workers, Indigenous Populations, Property Registration, and Financial Markets. These topics will also be addressed during the next meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) to be held on April 7, 2000 at OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
This exchange of ideas and sharing of experience among governmental representatives and members of civil society represents a new approach, which is aimed at tapping the constructive contributions of various nongovernmental social players in the follow-up to the Summit mandates and in designing the agenda that the governments will set for the next Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Quebec, Canada, in April next year.
The Special Committee meetings have thus become a forum for debate between governments and civil society, with the idea of enriching government follow-up meetings on the same topic in the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG). In practice, the meetings of the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management are already preparatory meetings for the SIRG, a development that enhances the whole process and ensures consistency.
.It is true that OAS overtures to civil society are still in their infancy and that so far few organizations in Latin American and the Caribbean are responding. While transmission of the Committee’s meetings on the Internet is intended to reach the countries of the region, there is an urgent need to devise new ways in which civil society throughout the Americas can participate.
The common denominator in the discussion of such diverse topics was the perceived need to share experience acquired in each country’s implementation of the mandates contained in the Plan of Action. For their part, civil society representatives said it was important to approach the next Summit with more specific mandates in mind.
The Director of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, Elizabeth Spehar, described the main activities carried out by the UPD in this area in the past few months. She mentioned the electoral observation missions, the strengthening of electoral systems and of democratic institutions, and the promotion of democratic values and practices through courses for young leaders. Ms. Spehar said that one of the aims of electoral observation missions was to boost public confidence in elections and to ensure transparency throughout the process. Which is why the UPD is also carrying out projects to strengthen and improve those electoral systems and processes in the region. Another UPD program is Support for Processes of Decentralization, Local Government, and Citizen Participation, aimed at increasing the flow of information among central governments as a way to boost their ability to implement those decentralization and participatory processes.
Matt Dippell of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) gave a presentation on the role of civil society and political parties in democracy. In his judgment, political parties help to develop compromise and consensus on national policies and legislation and they help form governments and legislatures. Mr. Dippell maintained, however, that in many countries citizens were dissatisfied with the lack of "modernization" and transparency of their political parties. He said that political parties had closed decision-making structures, excluding such sectors of society as women, youth, and the indigenous community. With the mandates of the Summit in Santiago and the upcoming Summit in Canada in mind, Mr. Dippell made six recommendations:
Chris Sabatini of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) recommended that the summit process include discussion of political crises involving not just political parties but civil society as well. Mr. Sabatini also described the NED’s activities in support of democratic institutions and said it was important to be informed about the summit process. He added that it should be more of a grassroots process and provide greater opportunities for civil society participation.
Later on, there was an exchange of ideas between governments and the representatives of civil society. The Ambassador of Guyana pointed out that governments need to accept the contributions made by civil society in order make progress in strengthening democracy. The Ambassador of Chile spoke about the importance that the Plan of Action of Santiago attached to the subject of the strengthening of democracy. The Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda touched on the topic of election campaign contributions and, in response, Mr. Dippell and Mr. Sabatini spoke about the need for transparency and anti-corruption programs. The Ambassador of Paraguay underscored the importance of civil society participation, not only in that meeting, but also in democratic processes in general, because it enriches and enhances the quality of debate. He said that very little thought had been given to the lack of civil society participation as one of the causes of disruptions of democracy in the region. He said that there were institutional development problems associated with allowing civil society participation.
In conclusion, both governments and the representatives of civil society pointed to the need to include the subject of political parties in discussions on the strengthening of democracy. As for the meeting as a whole, both groups of participants–governments and civil society–concurred that it had afforded an excellent opportunity for the exchange of ideas. The governments said they were interested in seeing this kind of participation by civil society at other meetings, such as the seminars for reflection on representative democracy.
2. Human Rights
The Ambassador of Mexico and Chair of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, Claude Heller, gave a presentation on the activities of the Committee with respect to fulfillment of the 12 human rights-related resolutions adopted by the OAS General Assembly. Ambassador Heller mentioned that the concerns that had arisen in this area had to do with the following: lack of universality of the instruments, establishment of an atmosphere of trust vis-à-vis civil society, financing, and the search for the right political atmosphere in which to enact reforms.
The Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Jorge Taiana, summarized the principal activities carried out by the Commission and the current state of human rights. He mentioned the strengthening of the inter-American system of human rights, the ratification of inter-American instruments, acceptance of the jurisdiction of the inter-American Court of Human Rights, the strengthening of freedom of expression, the proposed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations, and activities for the observance and promotion of human rights.
Mr. Javier Mariezcurrena, the representative of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights spoke about the work of the Institute in connection with the mandates of the Plan of Action of Santiago and stressed the need to strengthen the institution.
The Regional Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross gave a presentation highlighting the committee’s work on behalf of victims of conflicts and in promoting knowledge of international humanitarian law. He also recommended the following three priority courses of action to foster respect for international humanitarian law: development and implementation of preventive strategies; enhancing protection for victims during the active phase of conflicts; and establishing accountability mechanisms to put an end to the impunity of those responsible for grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law.
Ariel Dulitzky, the representative of International Human Rights Law Group, put forward a series of recommendations regarding the mandate of the Plan of Action of Santiago on strengthening and perfecting the inter-American human rights system. He proposed including civil society in efforts to strengthen the inter-American human rights system; analyzing the human rights situation in each country; maintaining the current structure of the Commission and the Court and having them work full time; endowing the system with sufficient human and financial resources; improving the processing and hearing of cases by the Commission and the Court; making sure that independent, properly qualified, and competent people are elected members of the Commission and judges of the Court; improving the links between the inter-American system and national systems; boosting the Commission’s and the Court’s power to supervise fulfillment of their decisions and judgments; and clarifying the criteria used when deciding to send cases to the Court. A second focus of the presentation was on efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination. Mr. Dulitzky pointed to shortcomings in the legislation on this topic and to the need to guarantee equal access to justice and protection by courts. He proposed, in that regard, the creation of an inter-American unit to examine and determine the effectiveness of the legal, political, and educational measures adopted by countries to combat racism, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance. He also proposed that the Plan of Action of the next Summit mandate the Inter-American Development Bank to carry out a comprehensive study of communities of African descent in the Americas.
María Claudia Pulido of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) stated that effectiveness and credibility were impaired by the contradiction between agreements enshrined in international instruments and what states were actually prepared to do. If they wanted to fulfill their international commitments, steps would have to be taken under domestic law to permit effective protection of the rights contemplated in international instruments. In that connection, Ms. Pulido said that there should be links between international and national systems, so that rulings by the Commission and the Court had legal force under domestic law. She also suggested a three-point plan for strengthening the inter-American system of human rights: 1) strengthening of national systems; 2) strengthening of the Commission and the Court; and 2) reinforcement of the part played by states in enforcement of judgments
Finally, José Miguel Vivanco, of Human Rights Watch, added that the human rights cause should be depoliticized. He also referred to the importance of the administration of justice, and, in particular, to the improvement of law enforcement agencies, such as the police. Mr. Vivanco said that prison conditions should be improved and further discussion was needed on humanitarian law topics, child soldiers, and antipersonnel mines. He added that ways to improve discussion on enhancement of the system should be examined, and the Commission and Court procedures should be streamlined. The American Convention on Human Rights should not be a topic for discussion, but the importance of its universality was recognized.
The Ambassador of Peru then stated that these topics were related to others, such as development, violence, and poverty, and that the topic was part of a much wider context. She said it involved a long and extensive process. She also mentioned that the Government of Peru was committed to promoting and protecting human rights, and that Peru was continuing the process of strengthening and improving the system. Governments were in the process of identifying problems in instruments that are not international and do not include civil society.
In short, the presentations referred to the need to improve and strengthen the inter-American human rights system based on its current structure. They stressed the importance of the universality of the international instruments and of the application at the national level of the treaties signed.
3. Property registration
Two presentations were made by governments representatives on this topic: first, Dr. Jolyne Sanjak of USAID, and then Mr. Felix Garrid Safie, Executive Director of the Centro Nacional de Registros of El Salvador. Dr. Sanjak described the activities that USAID had been carrying out in fulfillment of the mandates of the Summit. She referred mainly to a project, conducted jointly with the Office of Summit Management of the OAS, on a Virtual Office for the Inter-Summit Property System Initiative. More details on this project were available at the Web site: www.landnetamericas.org. Mr. Garrid Safie then presented the activities that his organization is carrying out in this area.
The two presentations were very informative and demonstrated that a great deal of information is available on the topic via the Internet. However, there were no civil society organizations interested in involvement in this topic.
4. Indigenous populations
The Ambassador of Mexico, Claude Heller, Chair of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs, explained the process of negotiating the proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations, whose working group he chaired. In his address, Ambassador Heller underscored that the Working Group meeting was the first occasion, since the OAS decided in 1989 to take up this topic, that the member states, with the participation of representatives of indigenous populations, had had a full and frank exchange of views on the preferred content of such an instrument. The exchange of views on the content of the sections on definitions, human rights, cultural development, political rights and economic, social, and property rights was characterized by its breadth and depth. However, there were still substantive differences of opinion among the member states, as well as among the representatives of indigenous communities themselves. Ambassador Heller stated that the participation of representatives of indigenous populations in the work of the Group was indispensable if this instrument was to enjoy legitimacy and consensus. However, there was a problem of geographic representation of the organizations representing indigenous communities from throughout the Hemisphere, which was due to financial constraints. The Declaration would constitute a document that established a framework of reference for legal developments taking place in each state that enabled the international community to assess the commitment of the countries of the Americas to promoting the human rights of indigenous populations. However, the Declaration did not provide solutions, given the diversity of national situations. Such solutions might only be found within the countries.
Mr. Dean Janvier, of the organization Assembly of First Nations, mentioned that his organization represented 633 indigenous communities in Canada. There was a regular process of consultation between the Government of Canada and the indigenous populations on national and international issues affecting indigenous communities. Mr. Janvier said that when the next Summit of the Americas was held in Canada, there would be many opportunities and responsibilities for the indigenous populations of Canada, and that his organization, together with the Government of Canada, would like to play a leadership role in coordination to enable the indigenous populations of the Americas to make a constructive contribution to the Summits process. This organization had participated in the Working Group to Prepare the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations, and considered that its work had proceeded in a constructive manner, and that the discussion process should continue. Mr. Janvier said that the revitalization of the Inter-American Indian Institute and the adoption of the aforementioned Declaration would constitute an important contribution to the Third Summit of the Americas. This organization was developing other initiatives to facilitate the participation of indigenous peoples in the next Summit. He concluded by stating that the interests and needs of the indigenous communities were part of the various topics that might be discussed in Quebec and that this had to be reflected in the document issued by that meeting.
Mr. Armstrong Wiggins of the Indian Law Resource Center referred to topics that he believed should be considered at the next Summit and the importance of not segregating the indigenous rights as a single agenda item. Indigenous rights should form part of discussion of all agenda items. With respect to the topic and democracy and human rights, he stressed the need for a new type of relationship between government officials and indigenous peoples which guaranteed and respected democratic values. He also stated that the Summit to be held in Canada should strengthen the guarantee of observance of the human rights of indigenous peoples through the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations. The OAS process of drafting and approving this Declaration should be closely linked to the United Nations process. With respect to property registration, Mr. Wiggins said that this was one of the main problems of indigenous peoples, especially as regards their lands and resources, as well as their right to intellectual property. Many migrant workers were indigenous and were displaced due to lack of opportunity and living conditions. He also stressed that governments, instead of analyzing the day-to-day problems of migrant workers, should focus on the causes of their displacement. He added that the views of indigenous peoples on financial markets should be taken into account as these peoples also suffered the consequences of globalization. In conclusion, Mr. Wiggins stressed the importance of the OAS Working Group to Prepare the Proposed American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations having a clear mandate and that it continued the process, with full and fair indigenous participation.
All presentations referred to the participation of indigenous populations in all discussions on the Summit agenda and to the importance of taking account of the opinions of this sector of society on all topics. Civil society representatives stressed the importance of the work of the Working Group to Prepare the Proposed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Populations and insisted on continuing the process established, which enabled indigenous representatives to participate in the discussions on the aforementioned Declaration.
5. Migrant workers
The Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Jorge Taiana, made a presentation on the Commission’s activities in this area and announced that a symposium, co-sponsored by the OAS, ECLAC, and the WTO, would be held on migrant workers in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Costa Rica, in September.
Mr. Peter Bakvis of ORIT/CIOSL (Inter-American Regional Organisation of Workers of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions) referred to the political, social, and economic causes of streams of migrations. He also mentioned lack of awareness of the contribution of migrant workers to the host country and the scant comprehension by the countries of origin of the contribution that migrant workers made thereto as citizens. He also mentioned that migration was a natural consequence of the globalization of the world economy. As part of support for free trade in products and capital, the benefits of movements of labor should also be taken into account. The ORIT/CIOSL representative recommended that governments enter into a serious and frank discussion of the role of migrant workers and the disadvantaged position in which they are placed not only by practice, but also by dynamics, and legislation.
During the ensuing discussion, the Ambassador of Mexico stated that the Government of Mexico had donated US$50,000 for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on Migrant Workers .
6. Financial markets
The Director of the Trade Unit of the OAS, José Manuel Salazar, presented a report on the Third Meeting of Ministers of Finance of the Western Hemisphere, held in Cancún, Mexico, on February 3, 2000. At that meeting, the ministers of finance agreed to pursue a series of initiatives related to the promotion and establishment of financial stability, training of bank supervisors, payments and securities clearance and settlement systems, combating financial crime, financial services in the FTAA, and credit to microenterpreneurs and small businessmen. The governments discussed six new initiatives that might contribute to achieving solid financial policies at the national level. These initiatives related to the following topics: money laundering, corruption, tax evasion, corporate governance, evaluation of the financial sector, management of the debt, and fiscal policy. The ministers also agreed that most economies of the region could expect, in 2000, moderate to strong growth and falling rates of inflation. In conclusion, the ministers agreed to hold the next meeting of the Committee on Hemispheric Financial Issues (CAFH) in Canada, in 2001, and to report there on progress made with the new initiatives.
The representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Pietro Masci, made a presentation on the financial market strategy adopted by the IDB’s Board of Governors whose objective was to assist the governments in achieving complete, harmonized, and integrated financial markets. This strategy was based on two points: building upon existing reforms and consolidating them; and developing new instruments, institutions, and markets needed for savings and investment. The strategy proposed that emphasis continue to be placed on the banking system. Due to its critical role in facilitating payments, providing liquidity and credit, and in the transmission of monetary policy, the banking system would continue to be the backbone of the financial sector.
The representative of ECLAC and the Ambassador of Chile then referred to the Meeting of Ministers of Finance, held in Mexico, and the availability of documentation on the Internet.