Statement by the Troika Co-Chair, Ambassador Peter Boehm, Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States
It is an honour for Canada to be a co-chair of the SIRG, a position we have been invited to hold as host of the next Summit of the Americas.
The "troika" is in fact informal: its membership will change over time. Its purpose is to encourage information flow between governments and regional and international institutions and to keep these lines of communication open between SIRG meetings. It is also flexible: the role of the troika will also evolve over time as a result of consensus decisions taken by the SIRG.
The SIRG has adopted this co-chair approach in order to ensure continuity through the next summit, and to ensure the involvement of regional institutions. The level of co-operation and collaboration between the SIRG and these institutions will also continues to evolve.
One of the guiding principles of the SIRG is transparency. As my prime minister said in Santiago, the Americas are indeed "una gran familia" -- and we all know that open and honest dialogue serve to strengthen families. Foreign Minister Axworthy underscored this point at the foreign minister's SIRG in Caracas in June.
As was the case before Santiago, we expect that the planning for the next summit of the Americas will commence approximately one year before the summit. The date will be negotiated through the time honoured channels of government.
The activities of the SIRG at this stage, then, must focus on the monitoring of the implementation of the Santiago agenda.
From a Canadian perspective, the Santiago summit was a great success. In their declaration, our leaders set out their vision for the hemisphere. The Santiago action plan translates this vision in to an ambitious work program. This work program must in turn be translated into concrete achievements.
The SIRG has an important role to play during this phase.
As we move ahead in the implementation stage, the SIRG must encourage tangible progress on all of the Santiago commitments. The general public, legislators and civil society groups across the hemisphere will expect this, and indeed deserve nothing less than our best efforts.
However, we must bear in mind that not all themes will progress at the same pace. Some themes have an ongoing process already in place -- in some instances, as legacies from the Miami Summit -- and are already being implemented, both nationally and multilaterally. In such cases, the SIRG's role can be to monitor progress by receiving reports by Responsible Co-ordinators and regional organisations involved in implementation.
Other themes -- including themes which were introduced in Santiago -- will require a more concerted and active effort on the part of the SIRG to encourage progress.
Canada believes that the OAS and other regional organisations, international organisations and international financial institutions have a natural role to play in the advancement of work on summit themes. We believe that the SIRG should encourage these organisations to contribute to efforts to implement the action plan.
In Santiago, leaders called upon the OAS in a number of instances to support the work of governments in the implementation of action plan commitments. The SIRG should continue to encourage the OAS to meet the challenges our leaders set out in Santiago.
In fact, Canada would also like to recognise the excellent work the OAS has already undertaken since the summit.
Since Santiago, the OAS has been extremely active, encouraging and sponsoring an unprecedented level of implementation activities. Education and labour Ministerials have been held under the auspices of the CIDI; an ISP meeting was held in Jamaica; the OAS trade unit continues to support the FTAA negotiations; and an OAS office of summit follow up has been established. These activities emphasise that we are all working on a common, hemispheric agenda.
These, and other activities, demonstrate the extremely strong commitment of the OAS to this process, one which the SIRG should recognise and applaud.
The FTAA process is continuing to work along a separate but parallel track. Since Canada is currently chair of the trade negotiations committee, I would like to provide you with a brief update on that process.
As you are aware, the negotiations for the FTAA were launched at the second summit of the americas in santiago in april and, in june, the first meeting of the trade negotiations committee (tnc) was held in buenos aires.
Work programmes have been established for the nine negotiating groups and three addressing horizontal issues: electronic commerce, the participation of civil society and the interests of small economies.
The first round of meetings of each of these groups took place in Miami in September and October. Efforts are also on-going to establish the administrative secretariat in Miami.
We are pleased with the progress that has been made so far. In spite of a few inevitable teething pains, the process is 'on track'.
The second meeting of the TNC will take place December 2-3 in Paramaribo, Suriname. At this meeting, the TNC will review the results of, and clarify any matters that have arisen in, the negotiations to date. A second round of negotiations will follow, beginning in early January 1999.
The TNC will then meet in the spring in Bolivia and likely again once or twice in Canada in the run up to the trade ministerial that we will host in the fall.
Canada's overall objective during our chairmanship is to get the detailed negotiations off to a strong start in all subject areas and collectively define and achieve "concrete progress" by the year 2000.
The focus of the negotiations at this early stage will be on business facilitation issues, such as customs procedures, and efforts to develop a collective process of consultation with civil society. The first meeting of the committee of government representatives on the participation of civil society was held last week, and agreed on a process for soliciting written submissions on civil society. Canada will continue to be interim chair of this committee, until a permanent chair is selected.
Canada would like to emphasise the value of consulting civil society throughout the summit process.
At the Santiago summit, leaders called upon governments to promote the participation of civil society, and gave the OAS a clear mandate to assist in this process.
One positive model, as we see it, has been that of the Bolivia summit on sustainable development (December 1996)
The Bolivia summit action plan supported the full integration of civil society into the design and implementation of sustainable development policies, and tasked the OAS to develop the Inter-American strategy for public participation (ISP). The ISP currently operates out of the unit for sustainable development and environment.
To ensure that the ISP was open to input from civil society, a unique advisory structure was created: the project advisory committee (PAC) consists of government representatives and civil society members representing various civil society sectors, and government representatives serve as national focal points to disseminate information within the country. Information is also disseminated through a network of NGOs.
Consideration could be given to expanding this idea to include other areas of focus for the hemisphere.
We are here today to take stock of the excellent work that has been done since Santiago. And we should be proud of our achievements. However, there is always room for improvement.
It is necessary, throughout the summit process, to demonstrate real progress on issues. There is a need for the SIRG to focus on action items as they are being examined hemispherically, and to continue to have an early harvest. There is an ongoing need to bring institutions into this process, and to encourage a results-oriented approach, which will bring greater credibility to the whole process
Finally, there is a need for the SIRG to look at ways it can work better together. We must co-ordinate among ourselves, and with our regional institutions, and begin to think, as a group, about what kind of monitoring mechanism we should have in place.
An efficient, productive SIRG, in co-operation with regional organisations and other groups active in the hemisphere, will bolster our hemispheric priorities, and enable the hemisphere to meet its goals.
With both governmental and non-governmental hemispheric actors working together, our leaders' vision can become reality.[SIRG/1998/XV/tracker.htm][SIRG/1998/XV/tracker.htm]