Washington, D.C.

September, 10th., 99


Mexico, D.F. September 10, 1999

I would first like to offer my thanks to the Government of Mexico for hosting this Consultative Meeting which marks the culmination of the formulation process of the Inter-American Strategy for the Promotion of Public Participation in Decision-Making for Sustainable Development.

I would also like to give my regards to the representatives of governments and civil society of the Americas that have come from all corners of our continent bringing the ideas, visions and opinions of their people and their governments. I would like to offer my congratulations for having arrived here, since I know that the path taken for the formulation of the Strategy has been long but productive. The enthusiasm and perseverance of all involved has made this possible.

Today, technology enables us to communicate by this mean, to inform you of the fulfillment of one of the most important mandates delivered by the Heads of State and Government in the Summits of the Americas.

In the Earth Summit, celebrated in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, almost all of the Heads of State of the planet established sustainable development as the goal towards which the countries of the world should direct themselves in a collective and solidary manner.

A few years later, our region became the first in the world to hold a presidential summit on this issue by holding the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development in Bolivia in December 1996. This and other regional fora have addressed the concepts and proposals related to protection of the environment and sustainable development and it has been clearly established that the challenge of achieving sustainable development is the responsibility of not only governments, but of all sectors of our societies.

Through that common effort, a bridge has been built over the foundations laid at the Summits of Rio, Barbados, Miami, Central America, Santa Cruz and more recently, Santiago. As a result, the countries of the Americas are better prepared to face the enormous challenges presented to us by the new millennium; challenges that refer, not only to the inherent difficulties in the conception of sustainable development and in making it operational, but also to the difficulties derived from the very diversity of the countries of our hemisphere.

Our countries have been working with creativity and imagination in the search for new forms of collective action and hemispheric cooperation. With the objective of establishing concrete means to strengthen sustainable development, in the Santa Cruz Summit the Heads of State and Government conferred responsibility to the OAS for formulating a strategy for the promotion of public participation in decision-making for sustainable development.

To respond to that challenge, the Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment of the OAS began the task of formulating the ISP two years ago with the active involvement of the governments, civil society and development agencies that supported us in this task. In particular, I would like to thank the Global Environment Facility, PNUMA, AID and UNESCO for their contribution to this effort.

In reflecting on the process that brought us here, I would also like to give special recognition to the role played by civil society in supporting and nourishing dialogue. There were enormous and very valuable positive contributions from the non-governmental sector.

Everything done in this field has once again demonstrated that the OAS is a forum that has adapted its priorities to the new realities of the hemisphere, an Organization that is strengthening the mechanisms of citizen participation, allowing greater presence of civil society in hemispheric dialogue and in the tasks to face collective problems. This was demonstrated in the negotiation process of the FTAA and with the approval in the Assembly of the OAS, held in Guatemala, of two resolutions to facilitate greater civil society participation in the activities of the Organization.

With the conclusion of this formulation stage of the Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation and what I just mentioned regarding the opening of the OAS in its capacity to promote greater civil society participation in the Hemisphere, we can more confidently accept the challenge presented to us in the Santiago Summit where this Organization was charged with the task of extending the experiences of the ISP to other substantive areas, with the objective of promoting "greater participation of society in public affairs".

We know that the task ahead of us is formidable and that we must find answers to the multitude of challenges that will be presented with the implementation of the ISP. Nevertheless, we can say that we have traveled a good stretch of the path that we set out to take.

Upon coming to the end of this first effort, we can feel satisfied with the progress that we have made in advancing in some key elements for sustainable development in the Americas. We can also be encouraged by the spirit of consensus and the enthusiasm that exists for carrying out this initiative. I am sure that this meeting has produced the expected fruits and will constitute a new and informed contribution to perfect this important initiative that during the next millennium will guide sustainable development in the Americas and consequently, of the planet that we will leave for future generations.

Today the OAS is proud to be able to say that we have successfully fulfilled this mandate that was delivered in the Bolivia Summit. All future action will require the continued collaboration that we have enjoyed to date.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by inviting you to send a message to all corners of the hemisphere: citizen participation and sustainable development are essential to the interests of all and it is indispensable for government and civil society to work together, since any development effort, in order to be truly sustainable, requires the active participation of civil society.

Thank you.