GFDD Attends the 4th Regular Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable DevelopmentOctober 21, 2014
On October 21, 2014 the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) attended the 4th Regular Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development, at the Headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington DC.
“Advancing Public Participation for Sustainable Development in Central America and the Dominican Republic” (from 3 to 5.30pm)
The event, which was divided
into two parts began with a panel discussion from 3 to 5.30pm entitled “Advancing Public Participation for Sustainable Development in Central America and the Dominican Republic”, as a prelude to the IV Regular Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development taking place later that day.
This first session allowed civil society organizations, such as GFDD, the opportunity to receive a presentation of several manuals
published by the OAS on the topic of public participation in the area of sustainable development in several Latin American and Caribbean countries (including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic). The manuals aim to support the implementation of the Declaration of Santo Domingo for Sustainable Development of the Americas, which calls to
promote citizen and public participation as a key element in the sustainable development policy decision-making process and to support OAS member States’ efforts to implement the Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation in Decision Making for Sustainable Development (ISP).
The meeting covered several topics including the importance of cooperation agreements between member states, the value of practical in
person training, the upcoming Fourth Regular Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development (from Wednesday October 21 to Thursday October 22 at OAS Headquarters), the important role of the OAS for promoting the topic of public participation in sustainable development and the value of engaging local communities in these policies to ensure an effective transition to a green economy.
Several high level speakers took part in the discussion, which was
moderated by Ms. Lina Pohl, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for El Salvador. The other discussants included Ms. Anne Hall, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, of the U.S Department of State, Ambassador Leónidas Rosa Bautista, Permanent Representative of Honduras to the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, OAS Assistant Secretary General, , Patricia Madrigal, Vice Minister, Ministry of Environment and
Energy for Costa Rica, Xiomara Cubas, Coordinator, National Council for Sustainable Development of Honduras and Ms. Patricia Abreu Fernández, Vice Minister for Cooperation and International Affairs, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for the Dominican Republic.
The discussion became very lively as the participants got further engaged in the debate on public participation.
Commenting on the importance of public participation, Ms. Anne
Hall, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, of the U.S Department of State, stressed that ‘people are always more involved in laws and policies when they are involved in them from the outset’. She illustrated her argument by pointing to the increase in public participation that stemmed from the cooperation agreements of the US, and stressing that over 13,000 people had been reached
through the US governments small grants program, which had allowed for the creation of educational workshops and in person training on the importance of engagement in environmental decision making and enforcement.
Ambassador Leónidas Rosa Bautista, Permanent Representative of Honduras to the OAS, stressed that the next round of OAS negotiations on sustainable development would take place over the next two days, as part of the upcoming Fourth Regular
Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development (from Wednesday October 21 to Thursday October 22 at OAS Headquarters). He emphasized the importance of the OAS as a source of promotion for sustainable development by explaining that sustainable development was particularly important for develop countries in the region, whose economies were most vulnerable to environmental damage.
Ms. Lina Pohl, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for
El Salvador explained that the environment has become a transcendental theme that affects many fields, from public health to food security. Aligning herself with this statement, Patricia Madrigal, Vice Minister, Ministry of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica explained that as resources have become much more scares there is now a necessity for the public to become part of these mechanisms and the decision making process.
Ms. Patricia Abreu Fernández,
Vice Minister for Cooperation and International Affairs, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources for the Dominican Republic emphasized the need to socialize the problems encountered so that communities could understand the need to implement policies that promote sustainable development. In order to achieve this, Ms. Fernández noted the importance of educating communities about the potential of technology in permitting this transition to sustainable development and for making
the most of opportunities for sustainable development.
A representative from the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development at OAS concluded the meeting by thanking participants for their comments and by emphasizing that all states share a common development paradigm that puts the welfare of its people at the center. Highlighting progress made towards this paradigm he stressed that “The OAS handbooks launched at this event are a sign of
concrete steps that have been made towards public participation and accountability at all levels”.
“Sustainable Development Agenda for the Americas” (from 6pm to 7.30pm)
The second meeting, entitled “Sustainable Development Agenda for the Americas”, offered GFDD together with numerous other individuals and civil society organizations, the opportunity to attend an open,
dynamic, and inclusive debate that contributed to the definition of strategic areas of action of the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development (PIDS) and the development of a post 2015 sustainable development agenda for the Americas.
The discussion touched on many issues including the difficulty for governments to balance the long term policy needs of a transition to sustainable development with immediate objectives such as combatting unemployment and the
economic recession, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN process on development issues, the policy challenges faced by Small Island States in combatting environmental issues such as climate change, the need to bring in all the pillars of sustainable development into the discussion and ensuring effective governance systems to ensure this is carried through.
This panel also featured several high level speakers including Glenda Umaña,
CNN en Español Journalist who moderated the discussion, OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, Juan Antonio Hernández, Honorable Representative of the National Congress of Honduras, Chair of the Social Development Committee, Ninfa Salinas, Senator, President of the Commission of Environment and Natural Resources of the Senate of Mexico, Donnalyn Charles, National Ozone officer, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of Saint Lucia, Professor
Hunter, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental Law Program at American University’s Washington College of Law.
OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, opened the discussion by explaining that to overcome the balancing act of short term versus long term policy objectives, government “need to work together, as [they] can’t achieve the SDGs on [their] own”.
Ms. Salinas, Senator, President of the Commission of Environment and Natural Resources of the Senate of Mexico aligned herself with Ambassador Ramdin’s comments and pointed to the similarities shared by countries of Latin America as they share the largest degree of biodiversity and largest amount of freshwater reserves in the world, in addition to the most impacts to climate variability and water scarcity.
National Ozone officer, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of Saint Lucia commented on the challenges faced by listing the issue of reporting requirement to UN secretariats. She explained that this was often viewed as a burden by SIDS given their limited resource capacity, limited levels financial assistance and limited technology. She stressed that her country’s national development plan, offered the best way to achieve these objectives.
Having suggested the implementation of a 10-15 year national vision overseen by an appointed committee, this was seen as a long term policy that should overcome any change in government.
Following the presentations an open dialogue, ensued with active involvement from participants both present at the session and online through social media. A number of issues were put to the participants including the importance of further engagement on climate policy by heads of state
and government, the need to change the mentality of government and parliamentary leaders on the issue of development and the need for further involvement of indigenous communities in the post 2015 development agenda.
Ambassador Ramdin provided the closing remarks the continuing need for cooperation between governments on the issue of sustainable development. Pointing to the active involvement of the different members of civil society in these discussions, he termed the
meeting a great success. Finally, looking ahead he asked for “all relevant actors in the development agenda to be bold in their decision making” and for numerous stakeholders to remain engaged in the discussion to add pressure to the debates.