Hemispheric Forum Channels Civil Society Recommendations for the Fifth Summit Process
More than 120 civil society representatives gathered in Miami, Florida, USA on May 1-2, 2008 for the Civil Society Hemispheric Forum, which was held within the framework of the preparatory process for the
Fifth Summit of the Americas. The purpose of this Forum was to encourage discussion and the exchange of ideas among civil society organizations that are involved in the follow up and implementation of Summits of the Americas mandates and that work in the areas of the inter-American agenda. The Forum provided an opportunity for civil society representatives to discuss the main themes of the Fifth Summit, as set forth in the
Concept Paper “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability,” and formalize and compile recommendation and suggestions for the consideration of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as it elaborated the Draft Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain.
The Forum, organized by the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat and the National Secretariat for the Fifth Summit of the Americas of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, brought together a diverse cross-section of civil society participants, including representatives of non-governmental organizations and hemispheric networks, groups active on issues related to youth, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and afro-descendants, as well as members of the academia, among others. Officials of the National Secretariat for the Fifth Summit, representatives of OAS Member States, representatives of institutions of the Joint Summit Working Group, and officials of the OAS and the Summits of the Americas Secretariat also participated.
The Forum received financial support from the United States State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Open Society Institute, and the Inter-American Foundation.
The initiative was lauded by OAS Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Albert Ramdin, who stated that this Forum was “a clear example of the progress that has been made in institutionalizing the partnership between civil society and the Summits of the Americas Process” and affirmed that the hemisphere “needs the voice, energy and conviction of civil society” to make the forthcoming Summit a success.
The Forum consisted of plenary sessions and four moderated thematic roundtables in which participants discussed the main themes of the Fifth Summit Concept Paper, namely, human development and poverty reduction, including health, nutrition, education and violent crime; economic growth and competitiveness; energy security and sustainable development, including climate change and natural disasters; and democracy, good governance and the promotion of human rights.
The civil society participants emerged from the two-day meeting with a series of
recommendations related to each theme, including specific proposals to be considered by the Member States as they engage in the negotiation process to finalize the Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain, to be adopted by the Heads of State and Government in April 2009.
Among these recommendations, representatives contended that governments must translate Summits mandates into “obligations, administrative measures or realistic, measurable and accountable public policies,” and must share them with civil society. They also stressed the urgent need for all OAS member governments to strengthen democratic institutions as a vital resource in order to bring about development and human prosperity, with equity and in harmony with nature. Democratic institutions must be strengthened specifically in terms of representative democracy, participatory democracy and the inter-American system.
Stressing the need for more public awareness on energy and environmental issues, they also called on the governments to promote the involvement of indigenous peoples, youth, afro-descendants, and women in policies and programs on energy and environmental sustainability.
Regarding energy security and sustainable development, the proposals by civil society accentuated the need to promote the development and universal access to modern and efficient low carbon energy generation and distribution systems, including intelligent grids and smart metering to encourage the development of new local sources, and the development of more efficient energy markets.
They also stated the need for the Fifth Summit to promote and develop social and economic policies that guarantee sustained growth with equity and social justice; increase competitiveness with the inclusion of low-income groups and the most vulnerable sectors thereby reducing inequality.
On health and nutrition issues, the civil society representatives called for more focus on investment in policies for food security; to combat malnutrition-related infant mortality; and to promote collaboration among community, university and state associations engaged in agricultural production in order to meet the requirements of the needs of member states’ particular food policies.
The Miami Forum is indicative of the increased attention that Member States and the OAS place upon expanding and improving spaces for participation by civil society in the Summits of the Americas Process, recognizing the value of the contributions made by civil society to the Summits Process, and the efforts made to implement past Summit mandates.
Trinidad and Tobago’s National Coordinator and Special Envoy to the Americas, Ambassador Luis Alberto Rodriguez, spoke at the Forum about consensus-building as a hallmark of preparations for the Fifth Summit, noting “We have strived to incorporate the perspectives and experiences of the widest cross section of actors across the Hemisphere.” In developing the theme and the Concept Paper for the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the Trinidad and Tobago government had consulted widely, Ambassador Rodríguez stated “We have taken the responsibility of not only ensuring that all voices are represented, but that a collective vision for the Americas reaches out and connects with all the peoples of the hemisphere, especially the most vulnerable.”
Indeed, the Coordinator of the National Secretariat for the Fifth Summit reiterated at the recent meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) held July 24, 2008, the steps taken by his Government in the crafting of the
Draft Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain to consult widely not only with Member States, but also with civil society representatives.
Arrangements for further consultations with civil society are being organized to continue discussions on the issues contained in the Draft Declaration with a view to ensuring that recommendations emanating from these consultations are taken into consideration during the negotiations of the Draft Declaration in the forthcoming meetings of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG). The Summits Secretariat will post dates and venues on the website as these are formalized.
To view the complete report on the Civil Society Hemispheric Forum, click
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