Updated June 7, 2001

Second Summit of the Americas


At the Santiago Summit, Governments agreed to encourage the participation of groups of civil society in local decision making. To this end, Governments agreed to take the following measures:

Program for Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation

Through the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, the OAS manages the Program for Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation the purpose of which is to promote the exchange of information among central governments with a view to strengthening their capacity to undertake processes of decentralization and citizen participation.  

The technical guidelines for this Program were formulated at a regional seminar, held in Caracas, Venezuela on May 12-13, 1997 with support from the Governments of Bolivia and Venezuela. Government participants at this meeting on "support to Processes of Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation" agreed on broad guidelines for a program, which would be developed by participating countries with the support of the UPD.  It was considered that assisting governments to develop the policy framework for decentralization, strengthening local government and promotion of citizen participation is one vital way that OAS/UPD can effectively contribute to hemispheric efforts in these areas.

The Program of Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation aims at :

The Program consists of a series of sub-regional meetings, exchange of experience, technical meetings, training seminars, technical assistance through horizontal cooperation, comparative and applied research, and the preparation of policy papers.

Between June and August 1998, three workshops were held under the Program, one in Jamaica, with the participation of CARICOM members, a second in Bolivia, for officials from South America, and the third in Costa Rica, for representatives of Central America and the Dominican Republic. (For further information on the seminar held in Jamaica, please see the Report of the Workshop in Kingston, Jamaica).

In addition to the above major activities, UPD was among the co-sponsors of a CARICOM Workshop held in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, September 28-29 1998, on "Effective Youth Participation in Civil Society". That meeting established the basis for continued collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat on youth issues, particularly youth participation at the municipal and community levels, and youth leadership training. UPD also collaborated with the Tenth Latin American Congress of Municipal Legislators by commissioning one of the background discussion papers presented at that Congress, which took place in La Paz, Bolivia on December 2-5, 1998.

In cooperation with institutions of the member states, the UPD planned and implemented the following 1999 Program activities with the objective of deepening dialogue and analysis of the areas defined in 1998. Activities were:

In the final quarter of 1999 and early 2000, an integrated activity in collaboration with the Andean Parliament and Government of Ecuador on the legal framework for decentralization and citizen participation at the local level in the Andean Community. The activity comprises the following components:
    1. Research papers on decentralization and citizen participation in each of the five States of the Andean Community;
    2. Seminar in Quito, Ecuador, November 18 and 19, 1999, attended by some 200 participants;
    3. Publication to be completed in the year 2000 on the results of the activities above and draft model legislation on decentralization and citizen participation.

The UPD will continue to encourage skills development and offer refresher courses for officials, mayors, legislators, and experts in order to support efforts to train and upgrade human resources specializing in decentralization and local government. The UPD will also sponsor comparative research and the publication of papers on legislation in this field.  Furthermore, the UPD is working with the Government of Bolivia on the creation of a "Permanent Forum on Citizen Participation at the Municipal Level," which will be composed of representatives of countries interested in this issue.

For the first half of the year 2000, the efforts of the Program of Cooperation have focused on consolidating arrangements for the various following activities:

With respect to others initiatives relating to the mandate on Municipal and Regional Administrations, the increasing importance of decentralization and participation by civil society as public policy issues has led to a number of important international meetings and activities on these topics, such as the annual Inter-American Mayors� conferences. The next meeting will be in June 2000 in Miami.

Another interesting development is the formation of the International Forum for Cooperation on Local Government in Latin America and the Caribbean. This forum, convened by the IDB and with the International City/County Management Association on the US serving as technical secretariat, comprises a broad group of agencies and countries active in the issue of local government. Following a decision in principle to establish such a forum during the annual meeting of the IDB in Paris in mid-March 1999, a technical meeting took place in Washington, D.C. in June 1999 at which agencies shared information on programs being implemented and identified key areas such as training and capacity building. A major aim of the Forum is more effective coordination among agencies for the benefit of the decentralization process and strengthening of local government.

In preparation for the Quebec City Summit in April of 2001, a Roundtable Seminar to examine Strengthening Municipal and Regional Administrations was held on April 25-26, 2000, in Washington D.C. This two-day event focused on the following objectives:

XXX OAS General Assembly

The XXX OAS General Assembly which took place on June 2000, in Windsor, Canada, adopted a resolution that instructs the Permanent Council to prepare the necessary studies for holding a meeting of ministers or authorities at the highest level responsible for policies on decentralization, local government and citizen participation in municipal government.

Sixth Inter-American Conference of Mayors, Miami, Florida

The Sixth Inter-American Conference of Mayors "Building Local Governance: The National and Local Roles � Conflict or Cooperation," took place in Miami, Florida, from June 27 - 29, 2000. The Conference included discussions on the following issues:

At the end of the Conference, participants adopted a Declaration of Principles on Local Governments to be presented to the next Summit of the Americas.

Technical Roundtable

On October 12-13, 2000, the Program in Cooperation in Decentralization, Local Government and Citizen Participation of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy (UPD), along with the help of experts, held a Technical Roundtable in San Jos�, Costa Rica. The central objective of the meeting was to analize the main challenges that the Hemisphere faces in this area and methods to strengthen the support that the UPD, by serving as an intergovernmental forum, would be able to lend to member States.

After the introductory session, discussions took place in three simultaneous working groups, that took into consideration three specific themes: the present situation of decentralization across the Hemisphere; obstacles, challenges, and required actions; and recommendations about the role of the UPD/OAS in this process. For more information on the Roundtable, please click here. (Spanish Only)

Course about Decentralization

An upcoming course will be offered at the Pont�fica Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia, entitled, "Decentralization and Local Governments, with an Emphasis on Citizen Participation, in the Andean Region." The diplomatic course will take place on December 4-12, 2000, and will have the following objectives:

For more information, and to apply for the course, click here.

Summit of the Mayors of the Americas

From March 27 to 30, 2001, mayors of America's major cities as well as experts and representatives from a variety of organizations will gather in Montr�al, Qu�bec, to discuss the role of cities in the integration process underway in the Hemisphere. Participants to this Summit of the Mayors of the Americas will discuss issues such as the role of cities in economic, social and institutional integration. The objectives of the Summit are to understand the role of cities as key agents of integration and development in the Americas; to strengthen cooperation and solidarity among participating cities; to adopt a joint declaration on the role of cities in the FTAA process; and to present a Mayor's Declaration to Heads of States and governments at the Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec City in April 2001.

The mandates and initiatives for strengthening local governments were reinvigorated and fortified at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas, within the mandate entitled, "Making Democracy Work Better".  For more information on these mandates, and to continue with follow up activities in the area of decentralization and local governments, please click here.

Updated June 7, 2001