The Hemispheric Summit Process and the Organization of American States
The OAS and its contribution to the Santiago Summit
In compliance with the mandate of the twenty-seventh regular session of the General Assembly, the General Secretariat is presenting a proposed Work Plan outlining the steps that need to be taken to effectively support the commitments made during the hemispheric process. These suggestions are put forth particularly in light of the upcoming Summit, which is scheduled to take place in Santiago, Chile, in 1998.
It has been noted on recent occasions that as the process of dialogue and hemispheric agreements begins to consolidate, ít would be convenient that ít be established on a solid institutional basis in order to ensure a gradual and cumulative process. In this sense, this proposal advances suggestions regarding the support that the Organization will be able to provide to the process of institutionalization and follow-up of the agreements of the hemispheric summits.
This proposal did not come in from, the cold. Over the past three years, the OAS has gained invaluable experience by supporting the member states, through different mechanisms, in the execution of the initiatives adopted in the 1994 Summit Plan of Action. Specifically, the OAS has supported the work of 14 of the 23 initiatives approved in Miami. This has enabled the OAS to acquire valuable first-hand knowledge about the preparation of meetings of high-level government officials and experts; the elaboration of documents and tec1mical support materials necessary for the discussions of the countries' delegates; and the compilation and distribution of documents in order to guarantee the successful outcome of the meetings. At the same time, the Organization has become a forum where the member states can easily access information and other support mechanisms.
In order to further this experience and better serve the member states, the Office of the Secretary General has prepared this proposal. In accordance with the General Assembly mandate, this proposal focuses primarily on the tasks that will be required to undertake the activities that will ensure the follow-up of the initiatives adopted in Santiago, Chile by the Heads of State and Government.
Furthermore, this proposal includes some ideas regarding the possible contributions of the OAS during the pre-Summit period. These suggestions address specific requirements expressed by some of the member states who play a coordinating role, in accordance with the agreements reached by the member states in the SIRG meetings.
Finally, the proposed Work Plan addresses the financial implications of each task identified in this document. In this sense, we are only putting forth the general criteria which we consider essential to bear in mind during the discussions regarding the identification of responsibilities and assignment of tasks during the follow-up process. Ultimately, a detailed proposal will depend on the specific mandates that the Organization receives at the Santiago Summit.
2. The OAS during the pre-Summit process.
The OAS, in coordination with the various institutions of the inter-American System, is prepared to provide support and contribute effectively to the work of SIRG and of the coordinating countries at the upcoming Summit of the Americas. The contribution of the OAS could be in terms of preparing the documents requested both by SIRG and by the countries coordinating the issues, as well as in terms of organizing and supporting the preparatory meetings according to specific issues.
With that perspective, the OAS is supporting the requests of some of the coordinating countries to prepare initiatives by subject matter. To date, the OAS is supporting activities in the following areas:
The OAS has participated in the preparatory meetings and is collaborating closely with the coordinating countries in the preparation of the document which is being submitted to the member states at this SIRG meeting. The OAS has also prepared a working document aimed at contributing to the global discussion on education policies.
b. Preservation and Strengthening of Democracy and Human Rights:
The General Secretariat has submitted to the member states two proposals which are in the process of being implemented with the participation of the multilateral banks. These are:
- The Program for Studies on Democracy; and
- The Support Program for Newly Elected Governments
We have also distributed a revised version of the working document entitled "Representative Democracy in the Americas," which is a proposed framework for action for the inter-American system. This document, submitted to the member states by the Secretary General in April 1997, contains some reflections as a contribution to the general discussion on this issue.
Regarding Human Rights, a proposal is being submitted on how to continue the process of strengthening the system to promote and protect human rights, an initiative of the OAS member states recently approved at the last General Assembly.
Finally, regarding both democracy and human rights, we are making available to the member states documents that include contributions on judicial cooperation, public safety and security, and corruption.
c. Economic Integration and Free Trade:
In addition to the work pertaining to FTAA being carried out by the OAS through its Tripartite Committee, the Organization has been asked to provide support to the Labor initiative as well. This undertaking will be carried out within the framework of the next meeting of the Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor to which the OAS already provides tec1mical support.
The OAS will also support preparatory meetings in the areas of science and technology, as well as in telecommunications.
d Eradication of Poverty and Discrimination:
The OAS is supporting two specific sub-issues.
- Public participation: We are cooperating with the coordinating countries in the identification of initiatives derived from the Inter-American strategy for Public Participation.
- Women: The Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), a specialized organization of the OAS, is helping with the organization of the second preparatory meeting scheduled to take place in October. At that time, the coordinators will assign specific tasks to CIM.
e. Social Development:
finally, the OAS General Secretariat will submit, at the Santiago Summit, a progress report regarding to the execution of the Santa Cruz Summit Plan of Action. This will include information on the progress made at the national level and on the advances made by the international. organizations committed to the process.
3. Follow-up Process of the Santiago Summit: the OAS is ready for the new challenges.
Aware that the future of the OAS depends to a great extent on its ability to respond efficiently and in a timely manner to the needs and challenges of its member states, the Organization is prepared to play a useful and supplementary role in the fulfillment of the commitments undertaken by the Heads of State and Government at the next Summit. In this context, the General Secretariat recommends the establishment of a mechanism to institutionalize and follow-up the process of hemispheric summits. It would be based on two main principles:
a. Global coordination of the process under the responsibility of the foreign ministries.
The Foreign Ministries are responsible for the political negotiations and general coordination of the summits. One of the keys to the success of the summit process has been making the foreign ministries responsible for the negotiation of the agendas and for the fulfillment of the mandates of these meetings. The continuing participation of the Vice Ministers and other high-level officials, as forums for negotiations and general coordination, will guarantee a successful follow-up of the meetings of the Santiago Summit. This structure has been one of the main reasons why the follow-up process of the Miami Summit was so successful. Two factors in particular contributed to this success: first, the Vice Ministers participated in the meetings with full authority to adopt decisions and agreements quickly. Second, the work method proved to be responsive and enforceable, which enabled fluid and effective negotiations.
It is for these reasons that the General Secretariat has decided to introduce the possibility of adopting a similar mechanism to follow-up on the Santiago meetings. Bearing in mind the objective to advance the process of institutionalization without altering the above mentioned characteristics, the OAS could host the execution of these meetings at its headquarters and maintain a coordination mechanism at the Vice Ministerial level by providing the process with administrative and technical support, institutional memory, and at the same time maintaining the flexibility and efficiency of the process.
b. Follow-up according to Specific Issues
Following up on the specific issues of the Miami Summit at regular meetings has also provided a global vision of the execution of the Miami Plan of Action. However, once this stage has been completed, we believe that in the future ít would be more efficient to avoid using a uniform and homogenous mechanism.
As the agreements of the Plan of Action of the Santiago Summit become more and more technical, the follow-up process must be adapted to the characteristics and specificities of each issue in particular. This would mean that, when appropriate, follow-up tasks would be assigned to the pertinent experts in each country as well as to the coordinators of the foreign ministries.
c. OAS Contribution to the Hemispheric Summit Process
Based on those principles, the OAS is prepared to create a mechanism to support the follow-up of the hemispheric summits in order to carry out the general coordination of the work of the Organization in the following aspects:
This coordinating mechanism could be implemented at no additional cost to the Organization within the framework of a timely fulfillment of the contributions of the member states. The individual responsible for coordination would work with the staff of the OAS. S/he would be located in the Office of the Secretary General and be directly responsible to him. S/he would work in close coordination with the specific areas of the Organization which are already involved in support tasks. The coordinating mechanism could provide support to the OAS Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management, and will ensure a constant flow of information to the Permanent Council of the Organization. Finally, ít will serve as a focal contact point to channel the requests that both members states and non-governmental organizations submit to the OAS. All this will ensure a centralized, organized, and efficient coordination under the political responsibility of the Foreign Ministries with responsive and effective OAS support.
Apart from the institutional arrangements that the General Secretariat of the OAS may adopt in the fulfillment of its responsibilities, the OAS has the capability to provide the following support:
- Serve as a multilateral political forum to create consensus in an institutionalized framework so that the processes become cumulative projects and the region's asymmetries are balanced.
- Support activities requested by the member states for the implementation of the activities defined in Santiago.
- Use of existing institutional mechanisms to facilitate Summit follow-up, such as meetings and conferences of ministers and sectoral authorities of the member states. This is already taking place in the areas of education, labor, social development, environment, social investment funds, telecommunications, science and technology, drug abuse and drug: trafficking, and women. This year the ministers of justice will be included. In all. these meetings, the OAS has served as Technical and Administrative Secretariat. The use of these modalities will allow for a greater coordination between the execution of the agreements reached in the meetings and summits and the specific sectoral policies of each country. The Executive Secretariat of CIDI is preparing a study on the ministerial meetings that are taking place within the OAS framework. The study also describes the type of support that it is providing and suggests how to take on* the follow-up of sectoral issues. This document will be submitted to the SIRG at its next preparatory meeting.
- Coordination among regional institutions. As has already been indicated, as long as the mandates that arise from the summits have an inter-sectoral nature, follow-up and support activities must be the responsibility of those institutions that have a comparative advantage in each area. This involves mobilizing resources and activities of organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Andean Development Corporation, among others. Effective follow-up of the process requires a specific mandate by the countries in order to establish a lasting system of coordination between the organizations providing support to the follow-up of the Santiago Summit.
- Survey of the region1s various efforts on each subject, exchanging information with the international agencies in order to avoid a duplication of efforts among the countries, international organizations and cooperation agencies.
- Institutional memory, documentation center, and Website of the Summit Process. As the summit process and hemispheric dialogue consolidate as a mechanism of consultation and periodic deliberation, ít is necessary to define where the institutional memory of the process will reside. At the same time, it's important to centralize this information to facilitate and guarantee easy access to ít by the member states and governments. For this reason, the OAS would create a Website on the Internet which would include all information pertinent to the summit process beginning in Miami in 1994 and continuing with the work undertaken by SIRG.
- Coordinate all efforts by the member states and international agencies to create a technological Network of the Americas to exchange information in all areas regarding the follow-up of the Summit.
- Administrative Secretariat of the various follow-up meetings. The OAS has the necessary administrative structure to support the execution of these meetings. This includes, among other things, appropriate facilities, secretariat staff, and trans1ation and interpretation services when the meetings take place at OAS headquarters.
- Technical Secretariat. Because of the high technical level and specificity of hemispheric dialogue, an in-depth analytical study in the various areas is required in order to nurture and focus it. The OAS, together with other institutions, can prepare, documents for discussion, comparative studies, and other analytical instruments which will enrich the discussions of the regional authorities on sectoral policies.
- Forum for the exchange of experiences. Here, the OAS has ample experience which will enable the expansion of horizontal cooperation in the region in the areas defined in Santiago.
4. Financing and institutional arrangements at the OAS.
The General Secretariat believes that the pre-Santiago Summit activities will not raise additional costs to the Organization. Each area's budget has resources which, although somewhat limited, are sufficient to finance the activities in this stage. On the other hand, the budget approved in Lima has a specific amount allotted for meetings and specialized conferences. All of this is obviously subject to the punctual fulfillment of the financial obligations of the member states to the Organization.
With regard to the following stage, and independently from the agreements and mandates which. arise in Santiago, the consolidation of the summit process as an opportunity for hemispheric dialogue will require substantive decisions so as to optimize existing follow-up mechanisms, including:
Incorporating the Summit mandates through General Assembly Resolutions. The source of funding for the activities must be clearly defined. In this sense, the Special Committee on Inter-American Summits Management can make a significant contribution to the process.
The Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Affairs must be given the authority to expeditiously adjust the budget according to the, mandates of the General Assembly.
Clear mandates by the Heads of State and Government to initiate, an institutionalized process of coordination between the institutions of the Inter-American system to optimize the implementation and the use of resources, as well as to better serve the countries of the region.
The member states must also study supplementary mechanisms to ensure the appropriate financing of the Summit agreements when they go beyond, the capabilities of regional organizations. This is true for both specific follow-up tasks as well as for the meetings in general.