Nearly 200 civil society representatives from 24 countries of the Western Hemisphere met on June 3, 2007 with the Heads of Delegations of OAS Member States and the OAS Secretary General in Panama City to discuss the theme of the XXXVII OAS General Assembly, “Energy for Sustainable Development”, as well as other topics of the inter-American agenda. The objective of the Dialogue of the Heads of Delegations with Civil Society Representatives, which took place in the framework of the XXXVII OAS General Assembly, held June 3-5, 2007, was to provide an opportunity for the exchange of points of view among the Heads of Delegations of the OAS Member States, the OAS Secretary General, and civil society organizations.

Samuel Lewis Navarro, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, moderated the Dialogue, which was also presided over by the OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. During the Dialogue sixteen civil society representatives presented recommendations developed at the Roundtable with Civil Society on the Hemispheric Agenda, held at OAS Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on May 10 and 11, 2007.  Also discussed were other topics of the inter-American agenda, including encouraging the use of sustainable energy resources, ensuring freedom of expression, promoting and protecting human rights, developing and disseminating science and technology, stimulating youth participation, promoting good governance and transparency, fighting against corruption, and addressing challenges to security in the Americas.

Foreign Ministers and representatives of OAS Member States intervened during the Dialogue, expressing their full support for the active participation of civil society as an essential condition for strengthening democracy and democratic processes in the Hemisphere.

Arnold Piggott, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, noted that “civil society is increasingly being recognized as an integral pillar on which our democracies and development processes are built.” He announced his government’s plans to hold consultations with civil society in preparation for the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 in order to ensure that civil society, indigenous peoples, women, and youth, among others, are engaged in the Summits Process.

Member States also acknowledged that the rules of procedure that govern the participation of civil society organizations in OAS activities have been improved and strengthened in the past years, and that the number of civil society organizations that comprise the OAS Registry has increased. In this sense, they also expressed their interest in deepening and improving the quality of participation of civil society organizations in OAS activities.

Finally, OAS Member States emphasized their commitment to maintain a permanent and constructive dialogue with civil society, as well as to invite CSOs to contribute to policy-making at the national and international levels, in order to enforce democratic citizenship as reflected in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The Dialogue closed with remarks by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who stressed the need for cooperation to construct a broader dialogue among member states and civil society.  Furthermore, he noted that much work remains to be done in this area and in this regard announced the creation of a new office within the OAS General Secretariat dedicated to strengthening issues related to civil society and building upon recent achievements.