About the Summits of the Americas Secretariat
The Summits of the Americas Secretariat forms part of the institutional mechanisms of the Summits of the Americas Process and provides support in the areas of planning, implementation, outreach, and follow up of Summit mandates.
The role of the OAS in the Summit Process has been transformed in the last ten years. In the First Summit of the Americas, held in Miami in 1994, several international organizations contributed documents and suggestions that were considered by the coordinators and participants of the Summit. At the OAS, the Permanent Council, with the Secretary General, prepared a document that drafted the OAS’s possible contributions to the Summits of the Americas. The OAS Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria, attended the Summit and talked about the importance of this event for inter-American relations and for building trust amongst the countries and institutions of the inter-American system.
This was the beginning of the Summit Process, as institutionalized in the framework of hemispheric relations. This process sought to gather experiences, develop a common language, and create consensus on mandates for collective actions on topics of regional interest.
Later, the OAS had an essential role in the preparation and holding of the Summit on Sustainable Development held in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia in 1996. The main meetings of negotiations on the Declaration and Plan of Action were held at OAS headquarters, with support from the OAS as technical secretariat. In those meetings, the OAS was entrusted with significant duties in the follow up of the Summit mandates.
The OAS played an active role in the preparatory work for the Second Summit of the Americas which took place in Santiago, Chile in 1998. The OAS offered technical support for the organization of the preparatory meetings in several thematic areas such as education, science and technology, public participation, and drugs, among others. The Plan of Action of the Santiago Summit assigned to the OAS the implementation of many of the mandates. In particular, the OAS was mandated to keep “the institutional memory of the Summit Process and provide technical support to the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG).”
As a result of this mandate, in July 1998 the Secretary General created the Office of Summit Follow Up (OSFU). OSFU was established as the institutional memory and technical secretariat of the Summit Process. It provided follow-up of the implementation of mandates and support to the SIRG and to the Chair of the Summit Process.
The Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, Canada in 2001, recognized the central role of the OAS in the support of this process. It also recognized the critical job performed by the Special Committee in Inter-American Summits Management (CEGCI) in the coordination of OAS efforts in Summits administration and in providing a forum for civil society contributions to the Summits of the Americas.
The Office of Summit Follow Up, in preparation for the Summit in Quebec, was in charge of the management of documents through the Summit website and organized the negotiation meetings with the government of Canada. On this occasion, the Heads of State and Government designated the Office of Summit Follow Up as the Secretariat for the Summit Process. The OAS was entrusted with the implementation of several mandates in different areas and with the coordination of the work of international organizations related to those mandates.
To formalize the commitments established in Quebec, the OAS Secretary General signed Executive Order Number 02-03 on May 31, 2002, which strengthened the responsibilities of the Office of Summit Follow Up and changed its name to the Secretariat for the Summit Process. The Order also specified the Secretariat’s responsibility to coordinate activities concerning civil society participation in the Summit Process. The new duties also included presiding over the Joint Summit Working Group (JSWG), which currently includes the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS); the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB); the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO); the World Bank (WB); the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI); the Andean Development Corporation (CAF); the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); the International Organization for Migration (IOM); the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Secretariat for the Summit Process was called upon to formulate suggestions for the participation of civil society in OAS activities in accordance with the guidelines created for this purpose; to work on connecting the ministerial meetings with meetings from other sectors related to the Summit Process; to distribute the information emanating from the follow up mechanisms of the Summit Process; and to develop specific activities to evaluate the implementation of Summit mandates.
This Executive Order was restructured by Executive Order No. 05-13 Rev. 3 (Only in Spanish) of March 30, 2007, which restructures the General Secretariat and specifies the function of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat in relation to the social, academic, governmental, and institutional actors that participate in the Summits Process.
In the Special Summit of the Americas, held in Monterrey, Mexico in January 2004, governments signed the Declaration of Nuevo Leon. They stated their gratitude to the OAS and its General Secretariat, in particular to the Secretariat of the Summits of the Americas Process and the Joint Summit Working Group for their work on follow up and implementation of Summit mandates. The governments called for the organizations of the Inter-American System to provide in-depth support and assistance in the preparation for the Fourth Summit of the Americas.
The Summits of the Americas Secretariat played a fundamental role in the preparations for the Fourth Summit of the Americas, held in Mar del Plata, Argentina in November 2005. In this Summit, the Heads of State and Government gathered to discuss the theme: “Creating Jobs to Confront Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance.” The Declaration and Plan of Action of Mar del Plata instructed that the General Secretariat of the OAS continue to act as technical secretariat; provide support for meetings of the SIRG, ministerial meetings, and specialized conferences; coordinate the participation of civil society; and ensure the dissemination of information on the Summits Process and the commitments adopted by the States. In the Plan of Action of Mar del Plata, the institutions of the JSWG were called to perform specific tasks in order to achieve the objectives in terms of growth and democratic governance in the region.
During the 5th Summit of the Americas, held in Trinidad and Tobago from April 17 to 19, 2009, the Heads of State and Government embarked upon a new era of inter-American relations. The Summit underlined the importance of a process that began 15 years ago. Now, more than ever, with a renewed commitment toward the Summits Process, the need for and utility of a follow-up system is evidenced; such a system would allow the Member States of the OAS to tackle, in a comprehensive manner, the collective commitments reached throughout the various Summits of the Americas.
The 5th Summit of the Americas set a new tone in hemispheric relations, harmonizing the development of collaborative and multilateral initiatives expected to produce long-term results. Now is the appropriate moment to begin the important stage of implementation.
The Secretariat also operates the website "Summits of the Americas Information Network”, which was created as an important tool for fostering interaction between the actors in the process, the Member States, and citizenry at large.
Currently, the Summits of the Americas Secretariat continues with the tasks of providing follow-up, institutional memory and support to the SIRG and the JSWG, the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS activities (CISC) and to the Chair of the Summit Process. This assignment has been complemented with outreach activities, creation of incentives for civil society participation, contribution to ministerial meetings, presentation of reports, research, and organization of other events related to the commitments of the past Summits Declarations and proposed topics for future Summits.
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