Summits of the Americas Newsletter

February 2009 | Summits Online | Español

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Policy Roundtables Further Dialogue on Key Summit Themes

In order to provide OAS Member States and other Summit stakeholders with enhanced opportunities to consider and discuss the thematic priorities of the Fifth Summit, the Summits of the Americas Secretariat of the OAS is carrying out a series of policy roundtables and dialogues that bring together top experts from government, international institutions (including institutional partners of the Joint Summit Working Group), academia, the private sector and civil society. At these events, which are webcast live via the OAS website and are open to the general public, panelists present a variety of policy perspectives and recommendations, as well as field specific questions and comments from audience members. The results of the roundtables are then complied into policy briefs and circulated for the consideration of Member States and other Summit stakeholders. Two such roundtables focusing on the Fifth Summit main pillars of Energy Security (see Policy Brief) and Environmental Sustainability were held in December 2008 and February 2009, respectively.

On December 5, 2008, the Summits Secretariat partnered with the OAS Department of Sustainable Development to present a dialogue on “Promoting Energy Security in the Americas.” Panelists at this event included Ramon Espinasa, Chief, Western Hemisphere Hydrocarbons Initiative, Inter-American Development Bank; Jerry Butler, Chairman, Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum; Deborah Bleviss, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and Francisco Morandi, Vice President of Strategy Implementation from the AES Corporation. The panel was moderated by Mark Lambrides, Division Chief, Renewable Energy and Climate Change Division, Department of Sustainable Development, OAS. The expertise of the panelists touched on many of the key issues in energy security, including regional integration, renewable energy sources, transportation, and the sustainability and affordability of energy services to low-income populations.

Ambassador Alfonso Quiñonez, Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS, opened the dialogue by noting that, “Energy security is paramount to economic growth, development, poverty alleviation, and health. It is also linked to environmental issues such as contamination and global warming.”

A roundtable on “Promoting Environmental Sustainability in the Americas” was held on February 17, 2009 and was the 12th in the OAS Policy Roundtables Series. This event was realized in collaboration with the OAS Department of International Affairs and the Department of Sustainable Development, and expert panelists included: Senator Liz Thompson, Former Minister of Environment and Member of the Barbados Senate; Bruno Pagnoccheshi, Director of the Brazil National Water Agency (ANA); Cassandra Rogers, Senior Natural Disaster Specialist for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); David Hunter, Director of the International Environmental and Comparative Law Program at the Washington College of Law of American University; and Jake Werksman, Director of Institutions and Governance, World Resources Institute.

In opening this panel, Assistant Secretary General Ambassador Albert Ramdin emphasized the cross-cutting importance of the issue, stating that ‘“Environmental sustainability has many elements to it, which could affect the political stabilities of countries.” In particular, Ambassador Ramdin noted, “the security perspective, the issue of development, and the critical element of the environment.”

As part of the strategy of increasing dialogue and participation by social actors in the Summits process, the February 17 policy roundtable was also promoted via the Summit Virtual Platform and received questions posed by participants watching the webcast of the event throughout the Americas. Several of these questions were addressed by the panelists during the course of the roundtable. This element of participation will continue to comprise a key element of future policy discussions.

The host government of the Fifth Summit was represented at both of these roundtables by Trinidad and Tobago’s Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador Glenda Morean-Phillip, who captured the importance of these dialogues to the Summit process by noting that, “this forum, and the views in particular, could not have been more timely…and I am certain that the comments of the panelists and the participants will factor into our deliberations.”

These policy roundtables and dialogues will continue after the Fifth Summit is held on April 17-19, 2009 in Port of Spain, and will make up an important element of the Summit follow-up and implementation process. Details on future policy events will be promoted via the Summits Information Network and the Summits Virtual Platform.

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