THE HEMISPHERIC SUMMIT PROCESS AND THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES

The OAS and the experience of the Miami Summit

I. Introduction

With the conclusion of the Miami summit, the inter-American agenda took on a new shape. The changes of the last few years in the region opened up new possibilities of concerted action on essential issues such as democracy, human rights, economic integration, sustainable development, modernization of the state, the fight against drugs, terrorism, corruption, and other important matters.

In some of these areas, the Miami Plan of Action contained precise mandates which the Organization of American States to translate into action. Today, almost three years after Miami, the General Secretariat presents a document containing an objective evaluation of advances that governments in the hemisphere have made in the OAS framework. Those advances include collective strategies, plans of action, and binding conventions in areas that required difficult negotiation.

Two important lessons should be recognized. First, the phenomenon of inter-American society has evolved and there is much greater consensus today than there has been at any other time in our history. Second, the OAS is the best-suited political forum for strengthening consensus in those areas that are fundamental to the hemisphere's new agenda.

II.  The OAS and follow-up to the Miami agreements

Below is a review of the OAS work in relation to each of the initiatives approved as part of the Miami Plan of Action where the states gave the OAS specific mandates. Only work of relatively large scope is included here. This is not to minimize the fact that the OAS has initiated a number of specific activities and projects in support of the countries' efforts. Indeed, those growing activities in which the Organization has been involved have provided experience that has been of great value in implementing and following up on the Summit agreements.

1. Preserving and Strengthening the Community of Democracies in the Americas

  • Strengthening democracy

The OAS has implemented various programs and activities in this area to support the institutional strengthening of the hemisphere's democracies. Deserving special emphasis are the numerous projects which the OAS - generally through the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy

(UPD) - carries out in the member states at their request. These projects have covered, among others, strengthening of governmental institutions, technical training programs for public employees, and training programs on democratic values.

Additionally, the OAS has provided support for the democratic process through a series of special programs for the consolidation of democracy. This includes initiatives which involve complex programs where concentrated and integrated efforts to support the consolidation of peace and the development of democracy in countries that are particularly vulnerable following periods of internal conflict.

There have been projects to strengthen democratic institutions, to support processes aimed at preventing and resolving conflict, to support programs to reintegrate former combatants and refugees in society, to support programs in education for democracy, and to develop mechanisms to monitor human rights compliance. All of these projects have been adapted to the specifics of the countries involved and each has been carried out j jointly with the benefiting state.

These programs constitute substantial support by the OAS for transition to, restoration of, and consolidation of democracy in member states. The specific programs are:

a. Programs for situations following conflict.

The OAS has developed various kinds of programs in Nicaragua (CIAV-OAS), Haiti (MICIVIVI), Suriname, and, more recently, Guatemala. Here the OAS has supported advisory functions in peace negotiations, the demobilization and disarming of large groups of combatants, the repatriation and voluntary resettlement of irregular forces, reintegrating such forces in the country's economic, social, and political life, monitoring human rights compliance, creating and training local networks of human rights promoters such as peace and human rights commissions in the most violent areas, and helping to establish them as institutions.

b. Missions to observe elections (MOBs)

These activities have turned out to be of great importance both in countries that experienced conflicts, and in countries which, since the early eighties, have gone through transitions from authoritarian regimes to democratic government. In both, free elections have been a crucial point in establishing a system of government broadly perceived as legitimate by the population. The active participation of observer missions from the OAS in these elections has been important for the credibility, neutrality, and transparency of the new or recently revived electoral systems. The legitimacy of the initial democratic governments following authoritarian regimes, or of governments immediately following periods of conflict, derives principally from the honesty of the electoral process; hence the OAS's role in observing such processes, advising entities in charge of elections, and, when appropriate, publicly and internationally validating the honesty of the elections has become a 'calling card' for the new governments.

OAS observer missions take into account the entire range of the electoral process in all its aspects, including the organization and administration of voting, the enforcement of electoral legislation, the registration of parties and candidates, the creation of voter roles, and the unfolding of campaigns and citizen participation, among other things. It bears pointing out that in each case the Secretariat acted only at the invitation of the member state being observed. From the first electoral observation mission in 1989 to present, the OAS has participated in observing thirty-six elections in fifteen member states. Presidential, constitutional, parliamentary, and municipal elections have been observed.

  • Human Rights

In the human rights field, the OAS has undertaken a careful process of study, dialogue, and evaluation of the hemisphere's human rights system. Beginning with meetings at the OAS in late 1996 and early 1997, government representatives, experts, and representatives of civil society have worked from within the Organization to develop a series of criteria and suggestions for strengthening the system by which human rights are promoted and protected. This work should make ¡t possible to strengthen the ongoing efforts of the various branches of the inter-American system, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Specifically on indigenous peoples, the OAS, through the IACHR, has developed the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This has involved a process of extensive consultation with governments, indigenous representatives in the region and various branches of the OAS as well as other organizations.

  • Strategy for the fight against drugs

At the Miami Summit the heads of state and government of the Americas, aware of the need to seek a collective, integrated, and balanced approach to the drug problem, spoke of the need for a "broad, coordinated hemispheric strategy to reduce drug consumption and production» and while supporting efforts by CICAD they agreed to "work together to formulate an anti-drug strategy for the twenty-first century." They also charged the OAS with working on the problem of money laundering.

On the former, a multi-lateral approach was adopted through CICAD to achieve a consensus that would make ¡t possible for the states to sign a hemisphere-wide declaration reflecting a collective view of the threat represented by drugs, the need for a comprehensive approach to the problem, and the recognition that only by working together can success be achieved in this struggle. This was followed by the approval of the "Anti-drug Strategy for the Hemisphere" in Buenos Aires in 1996, and its signing in Montevideo late that year. Subsequently, CICAD approved an initial proposal that contained forty-one specific actions to implement the strategy.

In the money-laundering area, the ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires in 1995 gave CICAD the job of translating the Declaration of that meeting into a program of action to fight money laundering. This was approved by the relevant authorities in June of 1996 and is now being put in place.

  • Corruption

The mandate that carne down from Miami regarding the fight against corruption stated that the governments should "with due consideration of relevant treaties and national laws, develop in the OAS a hemisphere-wide approach to acts of corruption in the public and private sectors which would include extradition and trial of individuals accused of corruption, by negotiating a new hemispheric agreement or new arrangements within existing frameworks of cooperation."

Following a process of negotiation within the OAS, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption was approved in March of 1996. This is a landmark. in intentional law. It establishes a common way of categorizing the crime of corruption, commits the countries to strengthening their internal mechanisms, and creates possibilities for prosecuting this crime through judicial cooperation, exchange of evidence, and adoption of measures on ownership of property. It also contains preventive measures associated with the process of modernizing public institutions and with citizen participation in mechanisms for controlling corruption.

Finally, two basic elements of the Convention must be emphasized. The first: is that ¡t constitutes an important step forward in terms of preventing bank secrecy from being used to hide or protect perpetrators of corruption, and the second is that ¡t makes significant progress in reconciling the values represented by the principle of asylum with those involved in combating corruption.

The Inter-American Convention Against Corruption has subsequently been reinforced by the Member States' approval of a Plan of Action Against Corruption, which lays out a series of specific measures in different areas which the countries can begin to put in place in order to fight corruption.

  • Terrorism

In April of 1996, a successful specialized conference on terrorism took place in Lima under OAS auspices. The conference articulated common principles linking the countries of the continent and these were used as the basis for a commitment to a plan of action of prevent, counter, and eliminate terrorism. At this meeting, which was the first inter-American meeting on the subject, ¡t was agreed that the countries would, create measures, as part of their national bodies of law, to deal with terrorist acts and perpetrators as common crimes and criminals. The Declaration and Plan of Action establish instruments by which persons responsible for acts of terrorism can be extradited, and they propose measures aimed at achieving greater police and judicial cooperation in situations relating to acts of terrorism.

  • Evaluation of Inter-American Law

Given political and economic changes on the continent in recent years, the OAS has considered ¡t important to evaluate and take stock of the consequences of those changes on the inter-American legal system. It has become necessary to evaluate the system and its ability to adapt and respond to new challenges in areas such as democracy, environmental law, labor law, trade and economic integration agreements, foreign investment, intellectual property, telecommunications, science and technology, hemispheric security, the collective fight against the encroachments and internationalization of organized crime and phenomena such as terrorism, drug trafficking, corruption, the arms trade, and the illicit exploitation of natural resources.

During the past year the OAS's branches have come to decisions of the greatest importance in achieving this goal. Thus, for the first time, the General Assembly in Panama approved a declaration on the inter-American contribution to the development and codification of intentional law, on which the Commission for Legal and Political Affairs is now working.

2. The Promotion of Prosperity Through Economic Integration and Free Trade

  • Trade

Through its Trade Unit, the OAS has provided important support for the FTAA process, specifically, technical support work for nine of the twelve FTAA working groups for each of their consultation and analysis sessions. The groups supported are: Investment, Intellectual Property, Standards and Technical Barriers to Trade, Services, Subsidies, Anti-dumping and Compensatory Payments, Smaller Economies, Resolving Disagreements, and Competitive policy. The OAS has produced and published four technical documents on issues relevant to the FTAA process. These documents were approved by the trade ministers at the Belo Horizonte meeting and were made available to all the states at that time.

The OAS's work in this area has also represented the acquisition of a substantial body of experience in working jointly with other regional institutions. The conception of the Tripartite Committee set up by the trade ministers as the locus of support for FTAA has meant designing mechanisms for working closely and efficiently with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL).

  • Telecommunications

The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) continues to be the main meeting place for the hemisphere as. they move forward in the information revolution sharing their experience and standardizing languages. CITEL has made important technical contributions to the work of the working groups in this area, and has produced technical studies aimed at supporting the separate countries in their process of designing and implementing telecommunications policy.

  • Science and Technology

The OAS has direct1y supported ministerial meetings in this area, and has carried out important partnership and technical assistance work through the MERCOCYT program, which promotes the work of the region's scientific and technological companies and promotes exchange among them, as well as participating in designing and implementing plans for scientific and technological development for the smaller and less developed countries.

3. The Eradication of Poverty and Discrimination in Our Hemisphere

  • The fight against poverty and exclusion

With the creation of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), the OAS has sought to reshape the work ¡t does in areas relating to partnership for development. In this area CIDI is emerging as the main instrument of collective action and cooperation in the Organization; its central objective is to formulate and recommend to the General Assembly strategic plans which lay out policies, programs, and measures of cooperation for integral development.

Through the Unit for Social Development and Education the OAS has succeeded in creating a forum. for discussion and dialogue regarding public policy in the fight against poverty and discrimination. In this context, the Unit has taken on the job of technical secretariat to the Red Social de América Latina y el Caribe, supporting the Red in its process of institutional strengthening and the development of its human resources. At the same time, the Unit is intensely involved in providing support for the work of the social investment funds of the continent's countries.

Coming out of this experience, ministers and officials with concerns in this area met at the OAS and approved the Inter-American Program for Overcoming Poverty and Discrimination along with a corresponding Plan of Action. The Plan of Action will serve to enhance inter-American dialogue and he1p to identify specific areas of collaboration related to the modernization of public institutions and administration of social programs, will support the strengthening of mechanisms for participation in civil society aimed at fighting poverty, will promote and finance social investment, and will support anti-poverty and anti-discrimination programs.

4. Guaranteeing Sustainable Development and the Conservation of Our Environment for Future Generations

In the plan of action that came out of Miami the heads of state and government decided to hold a summit on sustainable development in Bolivia in 1996, followed by annual ministerial conferences.

In close cooperation with the Bolivian government, and at its request, the OAS took part in organizing that summit and served as technical secretariat for the complex negotiations which, due to the disparity among points of view on the subject, preceded the Santa Cruz Summit on Sustainable Development.

At the Bolivian summit two documents were approved: a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action. These represented a step forward on sustainable development in relation to the environmental and development summit at Rio and the Miami summit. Not only were common notions formally agreed on for the first time, but specific collective actions were agreed on, and responsibilities were allotted to various countries and regional organizations.

The Declaration in effect says that sustainable development is an interdependent and integrated process in which strategies, objectives, and economic, social, and environmental processes are linked in order to benefit human beings as individuals with economic needs, as citizens with political rights, and as inhabitants of the biosphere.

Thus it creates a context in which the consensus emerging from Santa Cruz is the foundation for a new developmental paradigm with both social and environmental dimensions, recognizing that additional new financial, technological, and macro-economic tools are needed to make sustainable development possible, and that cooperation needs to be better structured, thought through, and coordinated.

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