Summits of the Americas Newsletter

November 2008 | Summits Online | Espaņol

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Forum brings together Caribbean civil society to discuss Fifth Summit themes

Over 180 civil society representatives from more than 20 OAS Member States, including 14 countries of the English-speaking Caribbean, attended the Caribbean Sub Regional Civil Society Forum on October 30-31, 2008 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

The participants represented a wide diversity of civil society organizations from the English-speaking Caribbean. The Forum provided an opportunity for the representatives to review the Draft Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain presented by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and discuss and compile substantive recommendations on the themes of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, to be held in April 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago.

Civil society representatives attending the forum discussed and drafted recommendations on the topics of promoting human prosperity, environmental sustainability and energy security, as well as strengthening democratic governance and the Summits Process. Final recommendations will serve as inputs to the negotiations on the Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain taking place within the framework of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) meetings. The Caribbean Forum was the first of a series of sub regional, regional and thematic consultations with civil society in preparation for the Fifth Summit.

While addressing the Caribbean Forum, Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin reiterated that civil society engagement in the preparation of such critical encounters as the Fifth Summit of the Americas cannot be a one-off activity. “Civil society engagement is not a gesture, it is an obligation,” Ambassador Ramdin asserted. “This engagement should be a continuous one, structured and well defined, and even beyond the Fifth Summit of the Americas,” he stated.

Ambassador Ramdin stressed that civil society must be guaranteed “an adequate space” to express their points of view and desires to governments but also to the public at large. He said civil society’s role is crucial because “governments—elected representatives and executive authorities—alone are not capable of mobilizing the necessary forces and resources to facilitate a process of peace, stability and prosperity.”

Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon also spoke of her government’s commitment to fully engaging civil society in the Summit of the Americas it will host, under the theme “Securing our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability.” Minister Gopee-Scoon described civil society as “the collective voices and agents of our peoples, providing the conduit for consultation on issues that affect the very social fabric of each of our societies.” According to the Minister, given that civil society is “the strongest proponent of Summit reform,” its expertise and recommendations “are vital to the inter-American agenda in order to advance Summit implementation.”

Also speaking at the opening session, Hazel Brown, Coordinator of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, added that Caribbean civil society organizations were focused on the outcomes of the process and hope to be able to influence its output in ways that would benefit all people. “We need to build and demonstrate our unique culture and expertise and share what we know and are doing as good practices in the areas of the Summit theme,” she said.

Other stakeholders in attendance included David Morris, Director of the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat; Irene Klinger, Director of the Department of International Affairs of the OAS, and Racquel Smith, of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL). The two-day meeting was also attended by officials from multilateral organizations and OAS Member State governments.

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