Ninth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas


Ninth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas

"Women of the Americas: Agents of Change"

The Ninth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas will be held in Ottawa from September 29 to October 1, 1999. The Conference Chair, Mrs. Aline Chrétien — wife of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and the Conference Moderator, Mrs. Huguette Labelle — President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will welcome more than 30 influential women leaders to discuss the common challenges and shared social goals of the countries of the Americas.

The Conference originated in 1980 when the First Ladies of Central America decided to meet to exchange experiences and integrate goals, projects and mechanisms for action and co-operation among their nations. It became an annual event in 1991 and a hemispheric event in 1994, with the first-time participation of Canada and the United States. The eight previous conferences were held in Chile (1998), Panama (1997), Bolivia (1996), Paraguay (1995), Saint Lucia (1994), Costa Rica (1993), Colombia (1992) and Venezuela (1991).

The Conference of Spouses traditionally focusses on social welfare themes, such as health, education, violence, and the increased participation in society of women and children. This year, the themes selected are "A Healthy Start: Investing in Children 0 - 6" and "Women’s Health" . Both themes are of common relevance to all countries in the Americas, and at the same time, are broad enough to accommodate important sub-themes, depending on the priorities and interests of participating nations.

In somewhat of a departure from previous Conferences, the Ninth Conference of Spouses will include a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Fair. NGOs active in and dedicated to improving conditions for early child development and the well-being of women throughout the hemisphere have been invited to display their projects and exchange strategies and tangible solutions to women’s health and early child development challenges in the Americas.

Telehealth, a technology that provides effective health-care services to rural and remote communities, will be showcased during the Conference. Telehealth relies on basic computer and telecommunications equipment to relay critical information among clinics and hospitals, patients and doctors. Canada has formed partnerships with countries in the Caribbean and South America to deliver telehealth services. The Conference is an opportunity to increase awareness of this exciting new technology.

Since officially joining the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1990, Canada has been increasingly involved in the new inter-American agenda. Canada’s hosting of the Ninth Conference of Spouses is consistent with an increased participation in the hemisphere. It is part of a broader inter-American vista that includes hosting, over the next two years, the Americas Business Forum (November 1-3, 1999), the FTAA Trade Ministerial (November 3-4, 1999), the OAS General Assembly (June 4-6, 2000) and the 2001 Summit of the Americas.