Updated April 26, 2005

Archive of Meetings and other Documents 
in the area of Civil Society


Seminar with Andean Community “Democratic Governance and the Problem of Employment in the Andean Sub region”
April 14 - 15, 2005 (Lima, Peru)

Civil Society Hemispheric Forum: “Delivering The Benefits of Democracy”
April 11 - 12, 2005 (Washington, DC)

Seminar “Democracy and the IV Summit of the Americas”
March 11, 2005 (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

XXXVII SIRG Meeting (Summit Implementation Review Group)
March 9 - 10, 2005 (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Roundtable with Civil Society / Special Session of the CISC
January 24 - 25, 2005 (Washington D.C.)

XXXVI SIRG Meeting (Summit Implementation Review Group)
October 19 - 20, 2004 (Washington D.C.)

The Civil Society acquires greater importance in the region
June 6, 2004

QUITO, Ecuador -- Civil society plays an increasingly important role in the consolidation of democracy and decision making in the region, affirmed the Minister of Foreign Relations of Ecuador, Patricio Zuquilanda, today, hours before the formal inauguration of the General Assembly of the Organization of the American States (OAS).

During a dialogue between representatives of civil society and Ministers of the region, Zuquilanda stated that "it is necessary to emphasize the common task which, in a globalized world, corresponds to the States and civil society in the promotion of human rights, the strengthening of democracy, sustainable development, hemispheric security and, in general, the noble intention to reach a more participatory vision of citizens in the monitoring of individual and collective rights".

He emphasized the importance of the Hemispheric Forum of Civil Society that was held in Quito on April 26-27, which produced a series of recommendations that were presented to the delegations of the 34 Member States gathered within the framework of the OAS. The recommendations will enrich the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs over the course of the next two days, said Zuquilanda.

In addition, the Secretary General of the OAS, Caesar Gaviria, emphasized that the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the activities of the OAS have increased progressively in the last five years. Today, civil society participates widely in the activities of the OAS and also provides technical support to the workings of the Organization in the countries, said Gaviria.

About 150 civil society representatives attended the dialogue that was led by Irene Klinger, Executive Secretary of the Summit Secretariat of the Americas of the OAS. During the almost three hour dialogue, participants exchanged points of view with the delegations on the central subject of the General Assembly, the fight against corruption, as well as other subjects of importance in the region, such as the strengthening of the human rights and the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Valeria Merino of the Corporación Latinoamericana para el Desarrollo, explained that the session represented for the civil society, "an opportunity to listen and to be listened to".

This dialogue, which was institutionalized and has become a part of the regular agenda of the General Assembly, reflects the commitment of the OAS and its Members States in terms of citizen participation.


Working Session with Civil Society: An Up-date on the Summit Process

On Wednesday September 24, 2003 the ESQUEL Foundation organized a working session, through its traditional Civil Society Task Force, called “An Up-date on the Summit Process.”  The event, which included participation of more than 25 civil society representatives, international organizations and invited special guests, was held at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) headquarters in Washington, DC. The objective of this Task Force was an exchange of ideas on the Heads of State and Government’s Summit of the Americas process and to announce the Special Summit of the Americas that will be held in Mexico on January 12th and 13th, 2004.

The session began with remarks by Jane Thery on behalf of the Organization of American State’s (OAS) Summits of the Americas Secretariat. Ms. Thery offered an analysis of the challenges that the 34 Member States that participate in the Summit are confronting.  She also referred to the activities that the Summits of the Americas Secretariat are developing in coordination with multilateral agencies that participate in the Summit process, the work of the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) and, of course, the important participation of civil society in the Summit preparations and in the OAS.

The Task Force also included the remarks by Gwyneth Kutz, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS, who highlighted advances in the inter-American agenda since 1994 when the Heads of State and Government met in Miami at the First Summit of the Americas.  She emphasized that the participation of civil society has been strengthened in the last few years.  She also pointed out that the Special Summit works to compliment the Quebec City Plan of Action, noting its appropriateness at the moment because a third of the newly-elected Heads of States and Government in the Americas have not participated in the Summit process. 

The Task Force participants included representatives of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Esquel Group Foundation, Trust for the Americas, Partners of the Americas, American University, USAID, the Inter-American Foundation and Casasals, Inc, who discussed with interest in the topics of citizen participation, democracy, social inclusion and, in general, the central topics of the Summit.

Meeting of the Civil Society Task Force: "Diasporas and Development in the Americas: Beyond Remittances in the Transnational Communities"

On April 25, 2003, the OAS Secretariat for the Summit Process and the Esquel Group Foundation jointly hosted the April session of the Civil Society Task Force on the theme "Diasporas and Development in the Americas: Beyond Remittances in the Transnational Communities.” Representatives from the government, the private sectors, and civil society participated in the special consultative conference, which was held at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. Experts discussed how relationships between nations and diasporas create "transnational communities," and the impact this has on a wide range of issues including migration and democracy, as well as remittances as instruments for approaching the goals of social development and poverty alleviation.

The panel featured Mr. René Leon, El Salvador's Ambassador to the White House, and Carlo Dade of the Inter-American Foundation, and Ramon Daubon of the Esquel Group Foundation moderated the discussion. Jane Thery, of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat of the OAS, offered introductory remarks to the conference, which was attended by an audience of more than 20 individuals representing a wide range of public and private sector organizations as well as national governments.

The discussants agreed on the importance of recognizing that remittances are an indicator of a much greater phenomenon that is changing the way governments and individuals behave. Carlo Dade of the Inter-American Foundation explained that remittances must be understood as more than a phenomenon to be utilized for development. Remittances show the complex relationship that exists between diasporas and their home communities. Advances in telecommunications and airline travel have facilitated communication between colonies and their communities of origin. The influence of migrants, economically, politically and socially in their nation of origin has fundamentally reshaped this community and made it transnational. They must be understood in their totality, extending beyond the idea of migrants accounting for a large percentage of countries' gross domestic product, to effectively govern and develop this community resource.

Ambassador Rene Leon emphasized that the character of diasporas must be understood as being in a state of constant flux. They are not a "stock" but embody a social, political, and economic reality. The influence and character of "diaspora-communities" must be continually reevaluated not only in terms of purchasing power, but also in political and cultural terms.

El Salvador has been heavily impacted by the mass migration that began during the civil war and continues today. The political, social, and cultural differences between those who remain in El Salvador and those who leave is stark. Individuals that decide to emigrate are typically from the social classes that do not play major a role in politics and society. However, many of these emigrants that return to El Salvador, or send remittances, come to present a strong economic interest in society and influence the political preferences of their families. Other individuals that return have been deported, and some are second-generation that do not speak Spanish well. This creates a dynamic of antagonism and paradoxical exclusion of "foreigners" in their "homeland."

Governments must create policies in response to the impacts of migration. For example, Ecuador has begun a program to improve the quality of life on communities to prevent emigration. In El Salvador there is a social security program for emigrants so they might choose to retire in the country. The export (and import) of labor remains an important issue facing governments in the region. Over the last few years, more middle class individuals and families are choosing to emigrate and today, the number one export of every country in South America and the Caribbean is human capital.

The primary link between the communities of origin and migrants remains economic. However, the interconnection of the transnational community extends beyond these links. Issues affecting democracy such as allowing emigrants to vote in "home-elections" are increasingly prominent and must be addressed. In the Quebec City Plan of Action of the Summit of the Americas, the Heads of State included specific aspects and benefits of orderly migration on national and regional development, and supported several initiatives designed to strengthen linkages among transnational communities. Building upon these initiatives will help to address the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities migration presents.

Special Session of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS   Activities

The Special Session of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities took place on March 28, 2003 at the OAS headquarters. In attendance were more than 30 civil society representatives, who expressed their views on the participation of their respective organizations in OAS activities. Ambassador Paul Durand, Chairman of the Committee, pointed out in his opening remarks that the accreditation of 63 civil society organizations (CSO) to the OAS is a sign of progress and interest in the work of the Organization. Various organizations made reference to resolution CP/Res 840 approved by the Permanent Council of the OAS, entitled "Strategies to Increase and Strengthen Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities", which was viewed as a step forward in the participation and collaboration process with non-government organizations. The Center for Human Rights and the Environment presented a series of recommendations developed by over 70 representatives of civil society to increase participation of CSOs in the OAS. Recommendations included increasing the number of accredited organizations to the OAS to encourage further exchanges of information and debate on a development agenda between the various actors in the inter-American system, among others.

The afternoon session of the CISC served as an opportunity for CSOs to express their points of view with respect to specific Summit themes. These views were transmitted to the XXVIII Meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group, which took place on April 2, 2003 at OAS headquarters. This was the first time that CSOs were invited to participate in an open session of the SIRG. These themes were chosen for discussion in anticipation of the Special Conference on Security which will take place in Mexico, the XXXII OAS General Assembly to be held in Santiago de Chile on June 8-10, 2003, the theme of which will be "Governance in the Americas", and the Meeting of Ministers of Education, which will take place on August 11-13, 2003 in Mexico. Furthermore, the Corporación PARTICIPA presented an oral report on the progress of the civil society strategy to follow up on the implementation of the Quebec City Plan of Action.

For more information on this event, please click on the Report of the Special Session of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities.

Strategy for Civil Society Follow-Up of in the Implementation of the Quebec City Plan of Action

In continuation of their analysis and evaluation of civil society participation in the Summits of the Americas Process, Cooperación PARTICIPA presented the Profile of the Civil Society Follow Up Strategy to the Implementation of the Quebec City Plan of Action (Spanish only) in June 2002. The Profile was elaborated in conjunction with the Regional Coordinator of Economic and Social Research (CRIES), the Department of Political Science at the University of the Andes in Colombia (UNIANDES), FLACSO-Chile, FOCAL of Canada, and ESQUEL Foundation of the United States. This strategy paper seeks to design and implement mechanisms that will allow for follow up on issues related to the strengthening of democracy in the Quebec City Plan of Action. It contains the contributions of representatives of civil society organizations from 16 countries, who participated in a workshop, entitled “Evaluation of the Summit Process and Design of a Follow Up Strategy to the Implementation of the Quebec City Plan of Action,” held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 23-24, 2002. For more information, please see the Cooperación PARTICIPA web site, found here.

The recommendations that resulted from this workshop were presented at the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) meeting on November 7th, 2002, at PAHO, Washington, DC.

On December 19-20, 2002 a second workshop on the Evaluation of the Summit Process and Design of a Follow Up Strategy to the Implementation of the Quebec City Plan of Action was held to define certain aspects of the civil society follow-up process to the Quebec Summit. The workshop, which was held in Santiago de Chile, included members of the hemispheric coordination for the project, such as Focal, Uniandes, Flacso and Corporación Participa.

The main purpose of the meeting was to define the methodology to be used by the civil society organizations in the follow up to the commitments made by governments at the Quebec Summit. A methodology advisor participated in the meeting in order to guide efforts aimed at defining indicators, a task that will be completed mid-month in January 2003.

The December workshop concluded with the elaboration of an indicator manual, addressed to the National Coordinators in which indicators, questionnaires and sources of information for the five issues being followed (information access, liberty of expression, local government and decentralization, access to justice and civil society participation) are defined. The manual also includes a profile of individuals who should be in charge of applying this instrument in the countries, as well as a methodological guide to use it.

A workshop will take place in order to transfer the methodology and thus train the remaining organizations in the use of follow up applications. This workshop is scheduled for April 9-11, 2003 and will also deliberate strategies for the dissemination of the project by participating organizations.

The Quebec Summit Follow up Project includes 16 participating organizations and seeks to elaborate recommendations to the Summit of the Americas Secretariat regarding the participation of civil society in the implementation of mandates from the Quebec City Summit.

The Civil Society Forward Together Conference

The Civil Society Forward Together Conference, was a historic consultation between the representatives of Civil Society in the 15 Member States of the Caribbean Community and the Heads of Government held at the Ocean View Hotel, Guyana on July 2-3,2002.

Conference on Decentralization, Local Economic Development, and Citizen Participation

An international conference on "Decentralization, Local Economic Development, and Citizen Participation" was held on June 17 - 20, 2002 in Arequipa, Peru. Participating were local and national public entities, the private business sector, civil society and community groups. The conference sought to encourage discussion on public policy actions that would improve the quality of life of individuals in diverse countries of the region, particularly on the local level. Academicians and government leaders presented workshops on development issues, examining models, development experiences, and proposals for economic development and local participation in a decentralized context. The conference was sponsored by the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), the municipality of Arequipa, Marco Región Sur and the Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Regional (CEDER).

Meeting of the Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities

On January 24, 2002 the Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities took place in Washington, DC.  To see the official agenda of this meeting, please click here.

Consultations by Civil Society on Education

The Unit for Social Development and Education has initiated an electronic consultation where civil society organizations can share their perspectives on the role of civil society in educational development. The Unit has invited these civil society organizations to participate in the process, directing them to sign on to the web page www.oas.org/consulta. Once signed on they can register and send in their participation, which will be posted on the same page.

The topic of this consultation is Civil Society’s Participation in Education: Myths, Realities and New Challenges. In parting, a discussion on Rosa Maria Torres’ article titled "Citizens’ Participation and Education; A panoramic view and twenty experiences in Latin America" was proposed. This article can be found on the same web page.

Building Democracy from the Grassroots

A forum on "Building Democracy from the Grassroots" was held at OAS Headquarters on July 16, 2001. Sponsored by both the OAS and the Inter-American Foundation, the forum brought together government policymakers and representatives of civil society and academia, among others, who shared ideas and experiences related to local governance and democracy-building.  For more information on this meeting, please click here.

Updated July 02, 2004

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