Several virtual consultations related to the themes of the V Summit of the Americas have been held in the first quarter of 2009 through the Summits Virtual Platform (SVP). The SVP is an on-line tool designed by the Summits of the Americas Secretariat in collaboration with the OAS/SEDI Department of Human Development -through the Educational Portal of the Americas-, and with the support of the Institute for Connectivity of the Americas (IDRC/ICA) to facilitate on-going communication with social actors, thus contributing to making the Summits of the Americas Process more participatory through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
A total of 600 users from the 34 OAS Member States have registered, predominantly representing Non Governmental Organizations (42%), Governmental Institutions (17%) and Academia (11%). Less represented is the private sector (9%), Inter-Governmental Organizations (7%) and Indigenous Peoples (6%).
It is worth noting that, based on information provided through an
initial SVP user survey, 63.1% of registered users had never participated in the Summits Process, 53.1% of which were not aware of the mechanisms in place for Civil Society participation in the Summits Process and 22.4% who did not know what the Summits process was.
The following virtual consultations have already been held in 2009 or are currently being undertaken:
- Virtual forum on Strengthening Public Security & Democratic Governance
From January 28 to February 15, 2009
- Virtual Forum on Women - Gender Perspective
In coordination with the OAS Inter-American Commission on Women (CIM) and in collaboration with the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM)
From February 18 to 27, 2009
- Virtual Forum on Private Sector
In coordination with the OAS Department of Trade and Tourism (DTT)
From January 13 to March 30, 2009
After each forum, the Summits of the Americas Secretariat produces a report and channels it for the consideration of representatives of the signatory countries, which are currently negotiating the text that will be signed as a Declaration of Commitment by the Heads of State and Government of the 34 OAS member States during the Fifth Summit of the Americas.
Furthermore and in addition to online consultations, the new platform has allowed the Summits Secretariat to expand opportunities of participation in other events related to the V Summit. A clear example is its role during the latest
Policy Dialogue on “Promoting Environmental Sustainability in the Americas”, (Washington DC, February 17, 2009), where SVP users from all over the region were encouraged to tune-in to the live webscast and post questions through the virtual platform for the panel of experts gathered to present policy perspectives on this theme for the consideration of Member States representatives. Some of the questions posted through the virtual platform were asked directly to the panelists during the dialogue and others, which due to time constraints were not asked at the event, were referred to the
OAS Department of Sustainable Development, whose experts offered to respond to SVP users.
It is thus clear that for the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat, Information and Communication Technologies have proved to be an important ally in promoting regional awareness and broadened opportunities for participation of a variety of actors in this, the highest level political process in our Hemisphere.
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