Open Letter to the Members of the Summit Implementation Review Group
(January 26, 1996)
I was pleased with the results of our Fifth Meeting of Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) held at the ECLAC headquarters. The Responsible Coordinators of the poverty and discrimination eradication initiatives deserve congratulations for their comprehensive and informative presentations on follow-up activities. The frank and open dialogue between the delegates continues to be the key to a meaningful implementation effort. We were honored by opening presentations by U.S. Presidential Counselor Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty III, Chilean Foreign Minister Jose Miguel Insulza and his colleague Minister of Planning Luis Maira. The latter gave an invaluable summary of the results of the Conference on Poverty which had been held a few days earlier at the ECLAC headquarters. All three helped set the stage for our review of the issues. I summarize the main points raised by the panels and various discussions below.
Universal Access to Quality Education (Presented by Mexico, Responsible Coordinator)
A representative of the Government of Mexico's Ministry of Education presented an excellent outline for concrete steps toward implementation of the commitments undertaken by the countries of the hemisphere at the Miami Summit. The Government of Mexico plans to develop a concrete plan of action- in cooperation with Co-coordinators Argentina and Chile for presentation to a future SIRG meeting. Mexico also plans to divide the issue into basic education and adult education, studying each according to principles of equity of access, quality of instruction, and relevance. During the general discussion, specific goals of the Miami Plan of Action were highlighted.
Basic Health Services (Presented by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Responsible Coordinator)
PAHO gave a thorough accounting of activities and strategies executed in fulfillment of the Summit Plan of Action. Immunization programs are moving forward at a significant pace, though child and maternal health issues have seen slower advancement due to lack of resources. PAHO has also facilitated the discussion for reforming the health sector in order to reach Summit goals. The role of the First Ladies of the hemisphere has been instrumental in highlighting the importance of these issues in their respective countries, especially in eliminating measles from the hemisphere by the year 2000, reducing maternal mortality, and violence against women.
Speaking from the perspective of national follow-up actions, Health Minister Massad of Chile explained his government's efforts to concentrate on equity in health services while maintaining quality of service and the extent of coverage.
Argentina also articulated several ideas on fighting hunger in the hemisphere, emphasizing the role of the private sector and utilization of existing infrastructure. The Government of Argentina plans to circulate a formal proposal to the hemisphere in the near future, which will serve as the basis for a future meeting of technical experts.
Strengthening the Role of Women in Society (Presented by Nicaragua, Responsible Coordinator)
The Executive Director of the Nicaraguan Institute for Women, joined by representatives of the Government of Argentina, the OAS Inter-American Commission for Women (OAS/CIM) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), emphasized the major priorities in reducing discrimination against women: greater awareness of violence against women, reform of the legal system to protect women from violence, and the need for more roles for women in policy-making. Some examples of national actions to these ends include the establishment of women's emergency phone lines and police training to more adequately address violence against women. Increasing the economic competitiveness of women through education can also play an important role, as evidenced by the "seed fund" administered by the Inter-American Commission on Women.
Encouraging Small Business and Microenterprise (Presented by the Inter-American Development Bank; Responsible Coordinator)
The panel, consisting of representatives of the IDB, the Development Bank of Chile and the Women's World Banking Affiliate in Chile, illustrated how a small amount of funding can make an enormous difference in the lives of those who might otherwise be bound by poverty, the majority of whom are women. Small loans, combined with specific job training, often represent the only chance these people have for lifting themselves out of poverty. The IDB intends to engage private financial institutions to make micro-loans widely available.
IMPLEMENTATION PROPOSAL FOR DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The Governments of Brazil and Canada presented an initial joint implementation proposal for the initiatives on democracy and human rights. The prevailing consensus at the meeting was that it is an excellent, comprehensive, but flexible proposal. At the suggestion of Brazil and Canada, we agreed to forward their proposal to the OAS Special Committee for Inter-American Summits Management with the recommendation at it organize as appropriate and with due consideration for other OAS entities operating in these areas, a working group to better coordinate follow-up activities for these issues.
ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
At the SIRG meeting, there was general agreement concerning the role of international organizations in the implementation process. Some initiatives are naturally suited to the coordination by an organization with the technical capacity to do so, a fact our leaders agreed to in the Summit Plan of Action. The wisdom of having hemispheric international organizations serve as voluntary Responsible Coordinators was, I believe, borne out at this SIRG meeting. It was emphasized, however, that the Summit Coordinating Office will continue to work with such international organizations to ensure that information is circulated rapidly to governments. And governments, after all, are in charge of the overall process whether via their representatives to the international organizations or through the SIRG meetings.
NEXT SIRG MEETING
Summit countries accepted the invitation of the Government of Jamaica to hold the Sixth SIRG Meeting in Kingston, tentatively set for May 16-17. The agenda for the meeting was discussed in light of several priorities:
In response to the various priorities and concerns expressed by several countries, I propose to develop the agenda in the following manner:
To accommodate the considerable work program, we will be open to extending the meeting beyond the traditional one-day length as we develop the agenda;
In sum, I am optimistic that Summit implementation is proceeding in a positive manner. The SIRG meetings have acted as a catalyst for the advancement of Summit initiatives and have helped perfect the implementation process. Though the SIRG process continues to evolve, I am confident that we are on the right track. I look forward to continued discussions as we develop the agenda for the Sixth SIRG Meeting in Jamaica.
Alexander F. Watson