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Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas

CIVIL SOCIETY 
Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities The Inter-American Strategy for Participation by Civil Society in Decision-Making on Sustainable Development (ISP) Citizen Participation for the Summit of the Americas

In the Santiago Plan of Action, governments decided to:

The Inter-American Strategy for Participation by Civil Society in Decision-Making on Sustainable Development (ISP)

The OAS' Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment is the coordinating body for the ISP.  Its major activities include holding the first meeting of the project advisory committee in Antigua, Guatemala -- where the Implementation Plans for each of the ISP components were presented;  programming specific activities under demonstration projects in Peru, Guatemala and Jamaica; developing a work plan and beginning an inventory and analysis of environmental legislation, as part of the Legal and Institutional Frameworks; finalizing the Implementation Plan and detailing the activities of the project and their timing; and, holding of a seminar on strengthening National Sustainable Development Councils in Central America and Mexico in San José, Costa Rica. With the experience and contribution of each of the project components in hand, UDSMA designed the ISP framework, which included recommendations on ways to strengthen public participation in decision-making in the area of sustainable development and environment.

On February 11-12, 1999, the third meeting of the ISP Project Advisory Committee was held in Lima, Peru. Coordinated by the OAS, this meeting brought together government officials, representatives of different sectors of civil society, and international organizations. The aim of the meeting was to decide on recommendations for a technical strategy proposal which, within the framework of the mandate of the Santiago Action Plan and the Santa Cruz Summit for Sustainable Development, could be used as a model for public participation in sustainable development projects. These recommendations were based on successful projects in the Caribbean, Central America, and Peru.

As part of the process of developing the ISP, USDE held three subregional seminars to encourage and study models of public participation in specific key technical areas. These seminars brought officials from governments and from civil society organizations together to discuss methods and practices used in their countries to enhance the effectiveness of public participation in decision-making.  The seminars in question were:

At the most recent meeting of the ISP, held in Mexico City, September 10, 1999, Secretary General delivered some remarks.

At this meeting, the National Focal Points, PAC members, and other interested civil society organizations met to discuss the ISP documents in light of the feedback received during national and sectorial consultation processes. 

Civil Society in the Free Trade Area of the Americas

There is a newly created Government Consultative Committee on Civil Society, within the framework of the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This Committee, which met for the first time in October, 1998, has opened itself up to contributions from civil society organizations. They will have until May of 1999 to submit information and opinions to the Committee (please see invitation for further details).

Democracy and Civil Society

The UPD/OAS sponsored and participated in the workshop on Effective Youth Participation in Civil Society held by the CARICOM Secretariat in The Bahamas on September 28-29, 1998. Opportunities for collaboration in shared program areas were identified, including the promotion of democratic practices and values (training for youth leadership) and youth participation within local government and the community.

The Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities

At the OAS' XXIX General Assembly, held in Guatemala in June, 1999, member States approved two important resolutions on civil society.  The first, entitled "Civil Society and the OAS" establishes a new Committee of the Permanent Council for civil society issues, the "Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities".  The second resolution, "Strengthening Cooperation Between Governments and Civil Society", among other things, requests the member States and the OAS General Secretariat to establish "means of cooperation between governments and civil society organizations at the state, provincial, and municipal levels", and instructs the General Secretariat to facilitate exchanges between government and civil society.  A number of civil society organizations attended the General Assembly as special guests.

The Committee on Civil Society Participation received instructions from the Permanent Council to implement the provisions of two General Assembly resolutions. The first mandate, as the name of the Committee implies, was to establish a set of guidelines for regulating civil society participation in OAS activities. These guidelines build on the work of the OAS' Special Joint Working Group on Reform, which spent several months in 1998 and the first quarter of 1999 negotiating a set of rules.  In late August 1999, the Chairman of the new Committee requested that a new set of guidelines, building on those previously proposed, be drafted.  The Guidelines were approved by the member States on December 15, 1999.

In order open the work of the Committee to civil society organizations throughout the hemisphere, many of which are separated from Washington DC. by large distances and costly airfares, the Chairman of the Committee requested the General Secretariat build an Internet site for the Committee.  This site is now on-line at http://www.civil-society.oas.org 

Special Commission on Inter-American Summits Management

On February 18, 2000, the OAS Special Commission on Inter-American Summits Management (CGCI) met to assess follow-up on issues from the agenda of the Summit of the Americas, with participation by representatives of various organizations of civil society and international agencies (OAS, IDB, PAHO, ECLAC). The meeting reviewed progress on five topics in the Plan of Action from the Second Summit of the Americas: Democracy and Human Rights, Migrant Workers, Indigenous Peoples, Property Registration and Financial Markets. These topics will be discussed at the next meeting of the Summit Review and Implementation Group (GRIC) to be held on April 7, 2000, at OAS headquarters in Washington D.C.

This exchange of ideas and experience among government representatives and members of civil society represents a new approach for channeling constructive contributions by various nongovernmental stakeholders in terms of monitoring the mandates from the summits and designing the agenda that governments will adopt for the next Summit of Heads of State and Government in Québec City, Canada, in April of next year.

Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs

The Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs met to continue its dialogue on the inter-American system for the protection and promotion human rights. The Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and various organizations of civil society, such as CEJIL, the International Human Rights Law Group and Human Rights Watch, participated in the session and expressed their viewpoints on reforming and strengthening the inter-American system for the protection human rights.

Training workshop: "National Consultation Processes for the Canada Summit"

To encourage citizen participation in the Summit process, the PARTICIPA Foundation of Chile sponsored a training workshop on "National Consultation Processes for the Canada Summit", on January 31 in Guatemala City. This workshop involved 43 representatives of civil society from 17 countries of the Americas belonging to the Inter-American Democracy Network.

The consultation process consists of holding national meetings, on as broad and representative a basis as possible, followed by a hemispheric meeting at which citizens can present recommendations on agenda topics for the next Summit. The Ford Foundation is providing support for conducting this National Consultation Process in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Mexico.

During the workshop, the OAS Office of Summit Follow-up gave a presentation on the Summit process and the various mechanisms available for discussing issues, such as the GRIC (Summit Review and Implementation Group) and the Special Commission on Inter-American Summits. As well, representatives of PARTICIPA reported on the civil society web site that is now being developed as part of this initiative, with support from USAID. The purposes of this web page are to publicize the Summit process among members of civil society and to promote constructive dialogue among organizations of civil society and through existing networks, with a view to developing proposals and recommendations. The web page is intended to serve as a regional forum for submitting proposals on issues relating to civil society, women, sustainable development, education, human rights, corruption, indigenous peoples and micro-enterprise.

XXX OAS General Assembly

At the OAS' XXX General Assembly, held in Windsor, Canada, in June 2000, member States adopted a resolution on civil society which approves the Guidelines for Participation of Civil Society organizations in OAS activities and instructs the OAS General Secretariat to implement and disseminate the Guidelines.

The Office of Summit Follow-Up

At the XXX General Assembly, it was decided that the Office of Summit Follow-Up (OSFU) would be in charge of registering civil society organizations, as instructed by the Guidelines for the participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities, and take the necessary steps to implement and disseminate these Guidelines.  As a result, fifteen organizations have been accredited.  In order to publicize the accreditation process, the OSFU has contacted national offices, civil society networks, and units and offices in the General Secretariat.  The Follow-Up Office has also coordinated efforts within the OAS.  It has met with the Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment (ISP) and the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) with the intention of working with them to develop projects in compliance with Resolution 1668, which mandates the strengthening of public participation mechanisms.  The Office has participated extensively with the Esquel Civil Society Task Force and has contacted  international organizations, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to create similar initiatives with them.

The mandates and initiatives for civil society were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas.  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in the area of civil society, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001

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