Multilateralism in the Americas: Is it working?

Peter M. Boehm and Christopher Hern�ndez-Roy*


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(Originally published in Canadian Foreign Policy, Vol 7, Number  2 (Winter 1999), Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University)

*  Peter M. Boehm is Canada�s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States. Christopher Hern�ndez-Roy is the Senior Summit Specialist in the OAS' Office of Summit Follow-Up, and, since December 1999, the Special Assistant to the OAS Peace Envoy to Honduras and Nicaragua. The opinions expressed here are the authors� alone and do not reflect the views of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Government of Canada or the Organization of American States or of its General Secretariat

Multilateralism in the Americas: Is it working?

Canada and its partners in the Western Hemisphere are at an interesting juncture. Caught between their active participation in the somewhat anachronistic regional multilateral architecture and the realization that these venerable but imperfect institutions represent the only effective approach to find solutions to common problems, they are working daily through the Organization of American States, the Summit of the Americas process and partner institutions to address the wide array of global issues that face us in the hemisphere. Canada, the second largest contributor to the OAS, has a lot at stake in this endeavour, as our fate as a free-trading middle power with an active multilateral tradition depends on rules, organizations and collective action. Canada's commitment to the OAS is unparalleled, and it increasingly finds itself in the vanguard of initiative and debate in the Organization; especially this year, as Canada hosts the 30th General Assembly of the Organization of American States in Windsor in June, 2000 on the tenth anniversary of our membership, and the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, in April of 2001. It is at these hemispheric events that Canada will reinforce its regional multilateral commitment.

A moving target

At various times over the past 150 years, the countries of the Western Hemisphere have sought solutions to their inter-state problems through new structures and strictures. From the Monroe Doctrine through the Pan-American Union, the Good Neighbour Era and the Alliance for Progress, two common threads existed: the bilateral nature of the relationships in the hemisphere and the fact that the problems were "international" in character. Not surprisingly, these efforts failed; as the envisioned co-operative approach did not materialize and, instead, the United States actively pursued a "hub and spoke" approach, attempting to wrap its bilateral priorities in multilateral or hemispheric packaging. Only twice in the Twentieth Century have the nations of the Americas shared broadly similar views of the concepts which govern their domestic and foreign relations. The first time occurred briefly in the interlude between the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War and the momentum behind this convergence culminated with the creation of the Organization of American States in 1948. The Cold War effectively put a chill on global and Western Hemispheric relations for the next 45 years. Then, beginning in 1989 with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and then the Soviet Union, the Cold War security-centred policy of the United States disappeared, and conventional security/military questions were gradually displaced by issues of political economy as the primary context of hemispheric relations (Viron Vaky and Heraldo Mu�oz 1993:5). This set the stage for the second era of partnership and consensus in Inter-American relations /1.

The latest initiative, the Summit of the Americas, unlike others before it, is characterised by multilateral approaches to solving what have become transnational rather than inter-State problems. This Summit process has evolved into an institutionalised set of meetings at the highest level of government decision-making. It has become a coordinating point for the infrastructure supporting international relations in the Western Hemisphere. The dynamic behind the Summit process has both political principles and institutional elements; the political principles dictate the inclusion of all the nations of the Americas that have democratically elected governments, that operate with free market economies, that are committed to conduct multilateral international negotiations on an equal basis with decisions made by consensus.  The institutional elements are the mechanisms and bodies in charge of the process, decision-making, implementation and follow-up. The question we must ask ourselves is "Is it working?".

Inter-Americanism is reborn

The momentous global political climate change which began at the close of the 1980�s signalled the beginning of a shift from bilateralism to real efforts at multilateralism. The need to reorganise Inter-American relations, by adapting hemispheric political debates and procedures to the new political, economic and social conditions of the region and the world created by the end of the Cold War thus became pressing. Politically, the successful transfer of power by democratic means in several of the larger Latin American nations and the incorporation of the Caribbean and Canada into the OAS by 1990, provided a Pan-American tableau for negotiations. A Presidential Summit in the Americas, revived after a 27 year hiatus/2, offered the possibility of reforming the relationship not only of the countries but of the institutions they had created for international co-operation and understanding. A Summit could provide a new platform to address common problems, now less ideological and more concrete, which continued to confront the peoples of the continent. This would be leveraged by using the ability of heads of State and Government to commit to concrete actions on a breadth of issues, not simply on matters falling within the purview of ministries of foreign affairs, or one international organization.

With these profound changes as the backdrop, and with the premise that all hemispheric nations save one could claim to be democracies, President Clinton proposed a Leaders Summit in the US to explore an integrative agenda for the Americas. The Miami Summit included action items designed to strengthen democracy; expand of commerce and examine economic integration in the Hemisphere. During the first semester of 1994, the US undertook bilateral consultations in order to develop a declaration and a plan of action for the Summit.  While these preparatory consultations were on-going, the Rio Group - a sub-regional political group composed of Mexico and South American nations, including the Chairs of the Caribbean Central American regional groupings - met in October 1994, and agreed to present a multilateral proposal, achieved by consensus, for the Miami declaration and plan of action. The proposal by the Rio Group led  to a meeting of representatives of all 34 Democratic nations in the Americas at Airlie Conference Center, Virginia, in late November, in order to agree upon the final documents for the upcoming Summit. This was the first time during the Summit preparations that representatives of the 34 countries sat at the same table in order to discuss and negotiate, as equals, the commitments of the plan of action that would be approved by all 34 Summit countries. This action also signalled to the United States that a "hub and spoke" approach could only take negotiations to a preliminary point, not to the final goal.  

The Summit of the Americas took place in Miami, December 9 to 11, 1994, and it was the first Summit to include Canada and the island States of the Caribbean. It was also Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien�s first foray into "Americas" diplomacy. The meeting produced a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action signed by all 34 Heads of State and Government in attendance.  The existence of new players as well as common understanding on political and economic principles based on the ever-evolving tenets of sustainable development, democracy, and free trade led to unprecedented levels of political co-operation and progress towards economic integration. The Declaration of Principles established a pact for development and prosperity based on the preservation and strengthening of the community of democracies of the Americas. The document sought to expand prosperity through economic integration and free trade; to eradicate poverty and discrimination in the Hemisphere; and to guarantee sustainable development while protecting the environment (OAS 1998a:207-240).

One of the most important initiatives to emerge from the Miami Summit was the agreement to start preparations for the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), originally a Canadian proposal.  Participants believed that the FTAA, once completed in 2005, would provide free market access for goods and services to the entire continent.  Another important initiative from the Miami Summit was the inclusion of a proposal from the President of Bolivia, Gonz�lo S�nchez de Lozada, to call for a specialised Summit on the Environment (formally called the Bolivia Summit on Sustainable Development) to be held in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia in December, 1996. The objectives of the Bolivia Summit would be to establish a common vision for the future according to the concepts of sustainable development recognizing the principles of the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Santa Cruz there was general agreement on an agenda that had featured significant impact from civil society organizations, that sustainable development include economic, social and environmental elements. Consensus was also reached on other issues such as a financial resources, technology transfers, division of responsibilities, cooperation and Biodiversity among others.  The Plan of Action that was ultimately approved included initiatives in health and education; sustainable agriculture and forestry; sustainable cities and communities; water resources and coastal areas; and energy and minerals (OAS 1998b:281-305). Canada was represented by its then Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, herself a former Minister of the Environment.

Unlike the First (Miami) Summit of the Americas, which was convened by President Clinton, the decision to hold a second Summit of the Americas was jointly made by all the Heads of State of the Americas. They had evidently appreciated the Miami Summit experience and saw merit in continuing their discussions. The Santiago Summit was prepared, discussed and approved by all the countries. Sub-regional organisations, such as CARICOM and the Rio Group, as well as regional institutions, such as the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and, in particular, the OAS, played an active part in the preparation process.

The Plan of Action, constructed around four broad themes, education; preserving and strengthening democracy, justice and human rights; economic integration and free trade; and eradication of poverty and discrimination, contained twenty-seven mandates (OAS 1998c: 241-270). While the Santiago Summit provided the green light for the formal launch of FTAA negotiations, the absence of US congressional "fast track" negotiating authority lessened the impact of the announcement. The Summit was equally notable for the decision by leaders to put greater emphasis on the social policy side of the hemispheric agenda. For this reason, Education was placed first in the Plan of Action and clearly identified as the "key to progress" for the Americas.

The Summit Process Institutionalised

Perhaps the most significant achievement of the Second Summit of the Americas, is that it laid the groundwork for the multilateral institutionalisation of the Summit.  Among other things, the Santiago Plan of Action committed the Heads of State and Government to continue to meet periodically to "deepen co-operation and understanding among the countries of the Americas (OAS 1998c:59). This established the notion of a "Summit Process" where experiences are accumulated, a common language is forged and mandates for collective action are programmed.  These structures and institutional links had been lacking at previous Summits - including Miami to a degree - where the rhetorical imperative had been paramount. Continuity at the level of Heads of State and Government was confirmed in Santiago with the announcement by Prime Minister Chr�tien, following requests from other leaders, that Canada would host the next Summit (Office of the Prime Minister 1998).

An essential element for continuity between Summits had been created back in 1995. In March of that year, the US Government created the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG), with the purpose of coordinating and implementing the mandates of the Miami Plan of Action.  Initially, the SIRG was composed of members representing the various sub-regions of the Hemisphere (Watson 1995a).  Subsequently, the Group was composed of representatives from all of the countries.  From its inception until March of 1997, the Group was led by the USA since it had been the host of the first Summit.  After March Chile assumed the helm as the host of the second Summit; Canada, in turn, assumed the helm at the 17th SIRG meeting in Washington last November. These three countries form what is known as the SIRG "Troika" and are responsible for coordinating the agenda and activities of the Implementation Review Group. The Troika, as an entity within the system, was also established by the Santiago Summit Action Plan and may of course change in its composition, depending on future Summit hosts.

The SIRG meets on a periodic basis, holding three or four regular meetings plus one meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers each year; between 1995 and 1999 it held 17 meetings, mostly in Washington D.C.  Representatives to the SIRG are known as national coordinators.  In Santiago, as part of a concerted effort by leaders to follow-up on Summit of the Americas commitments, the SIRG was tasked with reporting annually on the progress to Foreign Ministers during the General Assembly of the OAS. Canada recently adapted the notion of a Ministerial Level SIRG - given that the next OAS General Assembly will be the only occasion where all 34 Foreign Ministers will be gathered prior to the next Summit of the Americas. Meetings on the margins of the OAS General Assemblies in Caracas (1998) and Guatemala (1999) took place under different circumstances and served different purposes. This year, Canada has suggested a private Ministerial dialogue at Windsor before the inauguration of the General Assembly, with a view towards having Foreign Ministers discuss key issues for the Quebec City Summit (Axworthy 2000). Regular reporting to the General Assembly, as mandated by Santiago, will continue to take place under the auspices of the Annual Report of the Special Committee of Inter-American Summits Management (see below).

Under the guidance of the Foreign Ministers, the SIRG is responsible for making preparations for subsequent Summits, bearing in mind contributions from pertinent organs of the OAS and other international organisations and international financial institutions involved in the process. Senior representatives of the OAS, the IDB, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the ECLAC, and the World Bank are invited to support the Governments in the SIRG in order to follow up on the commitments of the Summit and to achieve greater coordination and effectiveness of these institutions in performing this task.

In addition to the SIRG meetings, there is a complementary multilateral Summit follow-up mechanism within the political structure of the OAS: the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management. This Committee of the OAS Permanent Council, currently chaired by Canada as host of the next Summit, hears reports from a variety of experts, from the partner institutions and from civil society and academia, approximately one month prior to the regular SIRG meetings. This approach allows for a thorough hearing over the major issues prior to the meeting of national coordinators and gives Foreign Ministries time to assimilate new information in preparation for the SIRG.

Another element for continuity, the system of Responsible Coordinators, also has its roots in 1995 (Watson 1995b). Countries and international organisations are chosen to facilitate the implementation of the multilateral aspects of the Summit mandates are referred to as "responsible coordinators".  When a responsible coordinator is a country, an agency or department within its national government is chosen which will design and execute projects and programs to fulfil the mandate.  Canada is responsible coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples item and supports Brazil as a co-coordinator for the Human Rights and Democracy mandate. In a few cases, international organisations, rather than countries, have been designated as responsible coordinators or co-coordinators. The PAHO, the IDB, and the OAS have all been asked to serve as rsponsible cordinators. There are two other international organisations, the ECLAC and the World Bank, which play important roles in the Summit Process but have not been designated as responsible coordinators.  Other international organisations also play supporting roles in specific areas. The goal of Summit planners is to ensure greater involvement by the regional institutions and the World Bank, recognizing both the sectoral expertise and the potential of downstream project "buy-in".

At the national level, countries, through their national coordinator, are individually responsible for establishing domestic programs and initiatives geared towards achieving the objectives of the various statements of principles contained in the three Summit Declarations. There is no specific follow-up mechanism for this level of implementation, however. Nevertheless, the SIRG will continue to encourage its membership to produce national reports so that citizens can see what direct benefits the Summit process brings at the national level.

The OAS and the Summit Process � the OAS Primus Inter Pares?

At the Miami Summit, the Heads of State and Government assigned mandates to the OAS in areas where very different positions existed among the countries.  These included drugs, corruption, terrorism, hemispheric security, sustainable development and environment.  The OAS accepted these mandates and incorporated them into its agenda on a priority basis.  Responsibility for implementing the decisions reached at the specialised Summit on Sustainable Development was also given to the OAS, specifically to its Unit for Sustainable Development and Environment. The OAS participated actively in the preparatory work for the Santiago Summit, providing technical support and organising preparatory meetings in different fields such as education, science and technology, public participation, and drugs among others. The Organization was subsequently given the task of implementing the majority of the Santiago mandates assigned to international organisations.


The foregoing is illustrative of the pattern of placing increasing responsibility for Summit implementation within the OAS. At the outset and, perhaps, reflective of an American penchant to emphasize bilateral approaches in Summit planning over a reliance on multilateral institutions, the OAS tended to be overlooked as a vehicle for the implementation of the Action Plan. Over the past five years, however, the priorities of the Organization have changed significantly and this has redirected the institution towards the Summit. Some voices of dissent notwithstanding, one can now talk of the merging of the Summit and OAS agendas (to a certain degree), with differing institutional processes at play. Significantly, with the greater institutionalisation of the Summit, the OAS Secretariat was given responsibility for operating as the record-keeping mechanism, or institutional memory of the process. This responsibility is fulfilled by the Office of Summit Follow-Up, created in July of 1998, shortly after the Santiago Summit. The Office operates a website ( that, for all intents and purposes, acts as the institutional memory of the Summit process.


While Santiago gave the OAS a significant responsibility for implementing mandates, it did not address the relationship of the Summit of Heads of State and Government, the Troika and the SIRG to the traditional political bodies of the Inter-American system, the OAS General Assembly and Permanent Council. Until Santiago, the OAS General Assembly was the highest institutionalized political body in the Western Hemisphere. Its chief responsibility was to legislate the activities of the Organization. In large part this legislation, expressed through resolutions, is now simply a "translation" of the mandates established by the Heads of State and Government meeting at the Summit level into OAS language. On the other hand, recent General Assemblies in Caracas and Guatemala have featured more and more direct discussion and interplay between Ministers, so as to imbue the proceedings with new vigour and relevance when discussing hemispheric integrative issues. The Permanent Council, the "day-to-day" political forum for the representatives of the nations of the Hemisphere then takes the translated mandates and interprets them further. Activities undertaken to fulfil the mandates are reviewed in the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management which then reports back to the Permanent Council and so on back up the chain of command to the General Assembly.


It can be said that several parallel multilateral processes with similar agendas exist in the Hemisphere. For example, education and labour ministerials are run within the framework of the Inter American Council for Integral Development ("CIDI") of the OAS and respond ultimately to the OAS General Assembly, not to the SIRG or to the Summit. Nevertheless, responsible coordinators for these items inform the SIRG of progress made under the OAS. On the other hand, transportation, energy, finance, and justice ministerials respond to the Summit (sometimes via the SIRG) and often bypass the OAS political structure altogether.


The governments of the Hemisphere are taking steps towards defining more clearly the relationships of these bodies to one another. In this regard, ideas which would place the OAS General Assembly directly under the Summit, thus establishing the explicit legal link between the supreme political body of the OAS and the Summit have been circulating at the OAS. That the three Troika nations� national coordinators are also their countries� Permanent Representatives to the OAS is particularly revealing. One respected observer of Inter-American relations has noted that "...the only significant role left for the OAS is to manage the summit process � prepare the agenda and materials for each summit session and oversee the follow-up to decisions taken by the presidents and prime-ministers" (Hakim 1999). The Organization must therefore anticipate the needs of the governments in this regard, reform some of its more antiquated procedures, and continue the process of institutional reform begun in 1995.


The OAS is positioning itself to organise and serve as the technical secretariat for all Summit-related ministerial conferences. However, given the scant human and financial resources at the Organisation, this process will take some time. The consolidation of most of the ministerial meetings under the umbrella of the OAS will not only advance hemispheric integration, but will also strengthen the Organisation's role as the hemisphere�s primary multilateral policy forum. Should it be the will of all of the member States to move in this direction, it will only be effective with adequate funding, and greatly increased coordination with and between the other multilateral organisations involved in the Process.


At the same time, as was recognized by the Hemisphere's Foreign Ministers meeting in Guatemala in June 1999, there is a need for greater coordination between the OAS, its specialized agencies, and other international organizations (Insulza et all 1999). The OAS and its various specialized agencies, PAHO, the IDB, the ECLAC, the World Bank, and others, all have some responsibility in the Summit process. Unfortunately, however, they have not always acted in concert. There are many reasons why: first, several organisations have different specialities and concerns which lead to differences in their respective interpretations of the mandates. Second, there is no direct link between the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), (the IDB and the World Bank), and the Summit Process. IFIs follow instructions from their Boards, not directly from Governments, and in the case of both the World Bank and the IDB, views of extra-regional members must be accommodated. This is reflected in the language of the Summit document which "instructs" the OAS to carry out certain mandates but merely "requests"" the support of the IFIs (OAS 1998c). Third, institutionalised bureaucracies have tended to view Summits as passing "political fads." Hence the need to get the IFIs and other affiliated organizations in on the ground floor as discussions in Windsor for the next Summit begin.

To address this problem, the OAS General Assembly, at its 1999 meeting in Guatemala, adopted a resolution creating a Committee to Coordinate Cooperation Programs of the Inter-American System (OAS 1999). The purpose of the Committee, which is made up of the IDB, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), PAHO, the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL), and other Specialized Organs and entities of the Inter-American system, is to improve the coordination of technical cooperation and program development carried out by the various organs, agencies, and entities of the Inter-American System. The establishment of this Committee is a major step towards coordinating the activities of the Inter-American system in the areas of technical co-operation which relate to the Summit process. Nonetheless, depending on how broadly this Committee interprets its mandate and builds its profile, other measures increasing the role of the OAS as the central coordinating mechanism for all hemispheric multilateral activities may be necessary.

Looking Forward to Quebec City

The central topic at Miami was the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Indeed, such was the centrality of this mandate, and its treatment by the hemisphere�s media, that the FTAA mistakenly became synonymous with the Summit Process itself in the minds of many people. The Bolivia Summit was unique in that it dealt exclusively with sustainable development. A narrower agenda here allowed energies to be focussed, and efforts at implementing its many initiatives to be centralised.

What should be discussed at the Canadian Summit? If Miami started the process of hemispheric integration and Santiago resulted in a Santiago consensus that "Institutions matter" (Burki and Perry 1998), Quebec City should launch the next wave of reforms that will help the Hemisphere leapfrog the lost decade of the 90's when growth in much of the region was stagnant. Negotiations between governments and their partners in the affiliated organizations and with other partners, including NGOs and the private sector, will continue over the next several months to come to a consensus on where priority should be placed.

There are, however, some early indications of what the results may be. Leaders have indicated their wish for periodic summits; the movement begun in Santiago towards institutionalization of the process suggests that the number of issues to be addressed can be reduced; and there is growing support for a streamlined, business-like action plan that would meet both regional needs and Prime Minister Chr�tien�s results oriented approach to discussions. Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, in a clear indication of Canadian views on the need for greater institutional co-operation, informed the OAS Permanent Council in February, 2000 that he intended to invite the heads of the multilateral institutions to Windsor for the Private Dialogue of Ministers. He also spoke of human security, good governance, inclusion and "connecting" the hemisphere as being issue areas for the General Assembly. Finance Minister Paul Martin chairs the new Group of 20, which is adopting a partnership approach to reform of the international financial architecture. The Group includes the traditional G-7 plus the "emerging economies", featuring several from the region. Canada actively participates in several meetings as well.

Free trade and even greater economic integration will remain fundamental aspects of the evolving Summit process. Concrete progress was made through the negotiating groups while Canada chaired the Trade Negotiating Committee, and Argentina�s Chairmanship will be equally active. Trade Ministers will meet in Argentina just a few short weeks prior to the Summit in Canada and their Communiqu� will figure prominently in the final negotiations for the Leaders� Declaration.

The topics discussed in the Foreign Ministers Dialogue on Drugs at last year�s General Assembly are indicative of one particular important strain of thinking. Minister Axworthy feels that human security perspective "offers a useful bridge between the hemispheric anti-drug agenda and the broader summit process". Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien proposed the Foreign Ministers� Dialogue on Drugs precisely in order to sound-out the thoughts of the other 33 Summit nations on additional aspects of the human security agenda (DFAIT 1999).

Greater engagement of civil society, an objective identified at Miami and Santiago and an issue with particular resonance in the FTAA process /3, and now in the OAS political arena, may turn out to be one of the productive elements of the emerging agenda. As mentioned above, the inclusion of Civil Society was instrumental in the success of the Bolivia Summit. For the Santiago Summit, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) organised a parallel "summit" which had no official links to the meeting of Heads of State and Government. For this and other reasons, including the timing of the event (during the actual Summit), the parallel event did not have a substantive impact on the deliberations and agreements of the Summit participants. Establishing a mechanism for constructive civil society consultation during the actual preparation process of the next Summit would be truly groundbreaking, and give voices from civil society a legitimate vehicle for getting their views heard by policy makers.

Using the newly created Committee on Civil Society Participation in the OAS, in coordination with the expanded space being created under the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management, a process of consultation with regional CSOs is emerging. Whether it will satisfy both governments and civil society organizations will only be apparent over time. Nonetheless, developments to this point suggest that even tradition-bound institutions such as the OAS can embark on a course of change and reform.

As Governments begin to discuss the agenda for Qu�bec City, in the SIRG and in capitals, they may agree that more measurable results and manageable objectives, given the increasingly restricted resources of governments and international organisations, are desirable. They should seek some balance between the myriad mandates of Miami and Santiago and the focus of Santa Cruz. The Canadian Summit declaration and Plan of Action will also need to separate more clearly statements of principle from concrete actions planned. In short, the Plan of Action must be focussed, its implementation measurable, and its benefits readily understandable. The results from Canada will need to speak directly and realistically to the hemispheric integrative urge that has characterized the past decade.

The various elements which framed the multilateral architecture of the Western Hemisphere at the time of the Miami Summit are still in place: political discussion is on-going at the OAS, the multilateral financial institutions continue to provide financing for development projects; economic policy issues are studied by ECLAC; and health issues continue to be addressed by PAHO. What is different today is the existence of a common, albeit evolving framework with which to guide the integrative efforts of these institutions.

The Summit process emerged because the countries of the Americas are committed to multilateral cooperation to solve transnational problems in the socio-economic-environmental and security fields. Recent crises in the Hemisphere, from the devastating natural disasters affecting the Caribbean, Central America, and Venezuela, to civil chaos in Colombia, to Brazil�s financial crisis; and ever increasing levels of trade in the region, complemented by ongoing FTAA negotiations, suggest that greater hemispheric integration is both timely and necessary. The evolving Summit Process, initiated in Miami, tested in Santa Cruz, confirmed in Santiago, and strengthened on the way to Canada, offers the means of achieving it.

Why This Works for Canada

Progress made through various political and technical meetings under the Summit/OAS rubric has been charted in great detail by the OAS Office of Summit Follow-Up /4. The last few months had a particularly charged agenda with Meetings of Ministers of Finance, Labour, Justice, and Status of Women. Canada has been front and centre in all of these meetings, taking advantage of the increasing focus by Finance Ministers on social policy issues, urging modernization of the Labour sector, presenting options to combat cyber-crime and strengthen judiciaries, and fighting for gender equality through the elimination of de jure discrimination, promoting women�s human rights and combatting gender based violence. From this agenda alone, it is apparent that our priorities have, over the last ten years of our increased engagement, become the hemisphere�s priorities. This is not merely an accident or the result of effective Canadian diplomacy. This represents a true winnowing of real regional interests and genuine convergence of views about what needs to be done in this hemisphere.

The conclusion of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism for National Drug Strategies under the auspices of the OAS Drug Abuse Control Commission; the recent successes in demining along the Peru/Ecuador border; the important role played by the OAS in the de-escalation of tensions between Nicaragua and Honduras over their maritime boundary dispute; the advances made by Governments towards an FTAA; and the all day emergency meeting of the Permanent Council on the attempted coup in Ecuador which produced a condemnation strong enough to dissuade the military ring-leaders from staying in power; are all examples of new and effective multilateral action, and are indicative of the potential for the OAS, the Summit process and hemispheric multilateralism.

Mandates stemming from the Summits as well as resolutions produced at the annual OAS General Assemblies represent a spectrum of common policy priorities: strengthening democracy, combatting illicit arms trafficking, stemming the flow of illicit drugs, ensuring transparency and good governance, support for human rights, promoting economic integration and free trade, and preserving the environment. The treatment of these issues address the very essence of Foreign Minister Axworthy�s human security agenda and Minister Pettigrew�s vision for freer trade and regional economic integration. As member States� policies converge and our institutions modernise, Canada will continue to play a leading role in the Hemisphere, demonstrating to Canadians and to our regional partners that hemispheric multilateralism can work, and work to our common benefit.


1/  Cuba, the last communist bastion, remained out of step, despite ouvertures from Ottawa and Mexico City.  The comfort of the status quo is as acceptable in Havana as it is in Washington.

2/  Presidential Summits had also been held in 1956 (Panama) and 1967 (Uruguay).  While these Summits included discussion of common economic and social problems, military uniforms were more common than civilian attire at these meetings.

3/  In the form of a Consultative Group of Government Representatives on Civil Society.



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� Canadian Foreign Policy, ISSN 1192-6422, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter 1999), 23-33