“Civil Society is the engine for democratic change in the region” States Almagro

June 13, 2016

Santo Domingo is hosting the 46th General Assembly of the OAS, in which GFDD and Funglode took part yesterday in the Civil Society Forum

As part to of the 46th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary General, emphasized the role of civil society in promoting democratic change and real solutions to the problems and challenges facing member states in the region. GFDD and Funglode, along with
70 other organizations, participated in a forum on democracy and sustainable development at the assembly, being held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

More than 700 civil society organizations, social partners and workers from around the Americas gathered in a forum on Sunday June 12th at the Hotel Catalonia in Santo Domingo wherein they prepared documents and statements to be presented to the Secretary General of the OAS, Deputy Secretary General and Heads of

Divided into thematic working groups, which included human rights, LGBTI, democracy, sustainable development and labor issues, among others, participating civil society representatives from the region exchanged their concerns and defined the major challenges they regard as relevant, to be expressed to OAS authorities within the framework of the General Assembly. In addition, they prepared documents with concrete proposals for solutions and other

In terms of democracy, the main issues mentioned had to do with the struggle against corruption and impunity; the importance of rescuing and strengthening the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; the regulation of political parties, electoral campaign financing and the need for improving electoral systems as a whole; strengthening legal and judicial processes; the need to reinforce spaces and mechanisms for civil society participation in the OAS and
within each of the Member States; public safety and addressing the weak system of checks and balances, among other issues. Also mentioned was the importance of implementing, or at least strengthening, the many existing laws, such as access to public information.

Sustainable Development
Regarding sustainable development, participants in the forum defined the following as priorities: encourage the OAS to promote Agenda 2030 and the United
Nations Sustainable Development Goals; guarantee basic services for the population (health, education, etc.); promote sustainable cities; invest more in research and development and promote more and better partnerships and inter-sectorial synergies, among other concerns.

The main issues, which created confrontations and that did not reach consensus had to do with the rights of the LGBTI community; the definition of ””family”” and other aspects related to religious
ideologies. Another issue that caused differences of opinions was the payment of outstanding dues by OAS member countries to better contribute to the IACHR.

Farah Paredes, representative of Funglode, called for the promotion of the role of youth in democratic public policies and sustainable development. Meanwhile, GFDD representative, María Victoria Abreu, emphasized the importance of strengthening the role of civil society in promoting innovation in alternative
sources of financing that will enable the successful implementation of Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the importance of promoting a culture of sustainability in addition to individual attitudes and organizations’ approach that encourage it. She also stressed the importance of civil society in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of SDGs.

In the afternoon session, civil society organizations had a discussion with OAS
Secretary General, Luis Almagro, during which they presented the main concerns that were aired at the various forums in the morning. “Civil society is essential for identifying problems in the region and the countries, and for jointly implementing solutions. You are the engine for democratic change and for development with environmental sustainability,” said Mr. Almagro.  He also commented on the need to find solutions for the financial sustainability of the OAS,
adding that they will need to cut their budget by $2 million dollars this year, viewing it as unwise and impractical to expect the financial situation will be solved by the quota system of member countries.

Regarding the IACHR, the Secretary General said he believes there should be a change in what OAS member countries contribute to the International Criminal Court (where not a single case from the region is being heard), in relation to what the IACHR contributes, wherein
there are indeed thousands of cases waiting to be heard.

Meanwhile, with regard to issues within the LGBTI community and controversial ideologies, Almagro said: “All forms of discrimination that result in violence and hatred must be done away with.”

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