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


Summary of Initiatives Endorsed at Previous Conferences of Spouses

Initiatives endorsed by the Spouses of the Americas throughout the past eight conferences fall within six general themes: Women’s Health; Education; Children’s Health; Prevention of Violence; Rural Women; and Senior Citizens. Each theme accommodates different initiatives with specific projects that are currently in progress. All activities endorsed by the Conference of Spouses are fully funded by international organizations.

Theme: Women’s Health

Initiative: Reduction of maternal mortality
First Endorsed:
Third Conference, Costa Rica Declaration, 1993

Maternal mortality persists as a crucial public-health challenge in the Americas. Every year, an estimated 25 000 maternal deaths occur from causes related to complications during pregnancy, childbirth or abortion. At every subsequent conference, Spouses of the Americas have encouraged and supported the development and strengthening of national and regional programs directed at the rapid reduction of maternal mortality.

Initiative: Prevention and control of nutritional anemia
First Endorsed:
Sixth Conference, La Paz Declaration, 1996

Approximately 20% of maternal deaths are a result of nutritional anemia. As a result, a project was endorsed to address this serious problem through programs of fortification and targeted supplementation of basic micro-nutrients to pregnant women’s food. The project also involves promoting education and public awareness campaigns.

Initiative: Sex education and prevention of teenage pregnancy
First Endorsed:
Eighth Conference, Santiago Declaration, 1998

This project is aimed at providing technical assistance to Spouses, with a view to allowing the determination of specific needs in this area that they can address most efficiently.

Initiative: Prevention of HIV/AIDS
First Endorsed:
Eighth Conference, Santiago Declaration, 1998

HIV/AIDS is an overwhelming cause of maternal and infantile deaths worldwide. A specific project launched within this initiative is the development of a model for training educators and students at universities the region, on the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission and teenage pregnancy.

Theme: Education

Initiative: XXI century schools: education for life
First Endorsed: Seventh Conference, Panama Declaration, 1997

Spouses of the Americas are aware of the crucial role that education plays in the development of their societies. Thus, at the Seventh Conference in Panama, Spouses committed themselves to promoting sustainable human and social capital development, notably by helping future generations to acquire the knowledge and skills to care for their own health, and by encouraging the creation of supportive environments and conditions conducive to health.

Initiative: Human rights education and a culture of peace
First Endorsed:
Seventh Conference, Panama Declaration, 1997

Eighteen countries participate in this UNESCO-funded project. Its main objective is to support and co-ordinate national and regional Spouses’ initiatives that aim to promote the development and effective execution of social policies by their respective governments, and to increase public awareness on the subject. Within this framework, Spouses have carried out educational and cultural activities to advance human rights and a culture of peace in their societies. Furthermore, they have achieved more visible participation of women in the processes of building, consolidating and promoting human rights and a culture of peace in the hemisphere.

Theme: Children’s Health

Initiative: Eradication of measles
First Endorsed: Fifth Conference, Paraguay Declaration, 1995

In 1995, Spouses agreed to contribute toward the eradication of measles in the region by the year 2000. In launching this initiative, they were encouraged by the successful eradication of poliomyelitis from the region in 1991, making the Americas the first region in the world to achieve this health landmark. Since then, Spouses have reiterated at each conference their commitment to continue acting as facilitators and mobilizers on this issue until, by the year 2000, the transmission of the virus is stopped in every country of the Americas.

Great progress has been made toward the eradication of measles, with a marked reduction in the annual number of reported cases. In 1998, the number of confirmed cases in the region was 12 908, which represents a 76% reduction since 1997. So far this year, only 400 cases have been reported. The coming months are critical if this hemispheric goal is to be reached. Spouses will remain important allies to promote public awareness of vaccination strategies and to ensure that attention from the highest political levels to the most remote areas of every country, is focused on measles eradication.

Initiative: Eradication of child labour
First Endorsed:
Seventh Conference, Panama Declaration, 1997

The protection of children has been a constant concern throughout the Conferences of Spouses. At the Conference in Panama, the Spouses agreed to work together to eradicate child labour in the hemisphere.  They signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Labour Organization, promoting the creation of national committees for the eradication of child labour. This initiative is aimed at protecting children under the age of 14 from working under conditions that put at risk their physical, intellectual, social and emotional development within a context of economic exploitation.

Efforts of the Spouses to eradicate child labour in the Americas through these committees include the improvement and updating of information systems, institutional strengthening to ensure that legislation on the subject is being effectively implemented, educational reforms, massive public awareness campaigns, scholarships, promotion of recreational and cultural activities for children, and the launching of studies and analyses on the current situation of child labour in the region. Spouses also committed themselves to launching and promoting the proclamation by the United Nations of an International Year for the Eradication of Child Labour.

Promotion of early childhood development:
First Endorsed:
Eighth Conference, Santiago Declaration, 1998

The general objective of the project is to promote child development among the poor, and to make it easier for women living in poverty to join the labour force by sharing and transferring the lessons learned from the successful management of programs for children aged zero to six.

Theme: Prevention of All Forms of Violence

Initiative: Prevention of violence:
First Endorsed: First Conference, Venezuela Declaration, 1991

Violence, particularly domestic, is a public health and human rights problem that manifests itself in mortality and morbidity of women, girls, boys, young people and the elderly; it affects their quality of life, and has crucial implications for equity, efficiency, and quality of health services.

The Conferences of Spouses of Heads of States and of Government of the Americas have o officially declared support for the drafting and implementation of policies, as well as for educational campaigns at the regional level. These campaigns are directed toward preventing and eliminating of domestic violence.

Theme: Promotion and Strengthening of the Role of Rural Women

Initiative: Participation of women in rural development
First Endorsed:
Second Conference, Colombia Declaration, 1992

In February 1992, from all around the world, including the Americas, gathered in Geneva to discuss the "economic advancement of rural women." The result was the signing of the Declaration of Geneva on the Advancement of Rural Women, which was ratified in 1993 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In September of that same year, Colombia hosted the Second Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean. At this conference, the Spouses requested the support of the Regional Co-operation Organization in launching new initiatives. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture (IICA) designed a research project on Women as Food Producers in the Andean Region, South America and the Caribbean. The results of the project were presented in 1995 as an analysis of the current situation of rural women in 18 countries of the hemisphere.

On the basis of these analyses, and on an awareness of the particular needs of the region and of each country, the Sixth Conference of Spouses of Heads of State and Government of the Americas, hosted by Paraguay (1996), proposed the Inter-American Meeting for Agriculture. The objective was to establish a program to improve the economic and social conditions of rural women and their access to decision-making processes, and thereby to promote sustainable and equitable development in terms of gender. The proposal was approved, and in 1997 the Program for Entrepreneurial Development of Rural Women (PADEMUR) was endorsed by the Spouses at the Conference in Panama.

Theme: Senior Citizens

Initiative: Senior Citizens
First Endorsed:
Eighth Conference, Santiago Declaration, 1998

The theme of senior citizens was formally introduced on the Conference agenda in Santiago, Chile, in 1998. The main objective of this endorsement was to support countries in the hemisphere in the definition, design, preparation and implementation of respective "national policies" for senior citizens.

Such policies would aim to improve the quality of life of senior citizens in the region by supporting programs designed to bring about major changes in the general public perception of the aging process, as well as ensuring better treatment and greater awareness of society. The policies would tend to improve living standards for the aged, and strengthen and extend the availability and range of social services to senior citizens, particularly regarding health and social security.