Global Foundation for Democracy and Development Delegation Attends OAS Hemispheric ForumApril 25, 2014
GFDD and FUNGLODE Directors Semiramis de Miranda and Yamile Eusebio had the opportunity to contribute on behalf of the Foundations to the 11th Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors at the Organization of American States (OAS) during the working groups regarding the preparation of the recommendations document to be submitted to the OAS General Secretariat. The Forum took place on April 24-25 in Washington DC, and addressed the important areas of
“development with social inclusion”, ” human economic and social rights”, and “the impact of extreme poverty and social exclusion on governance in the hemisphere.”
The OAS’s Secretariat for External Relations, with support from the Governments of Canada, Chile and the United States as well as the Secretariat of Summits of the Americas, hosted the special event for the purpose of granting civil society
groups an opportunity to elaborate on proposals and recommendations on the main topic of the upcoming XLIV OAS General Assembly, entitled “Development with Social Inclusion”, which is being held June 3-5, 2014, in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Ambassador Elisa Ruiz Diaz Bareiro, Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the OAS, Ambassador Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin, Representative of St. Kitts and Nevis to the OAS, Chair of the Permanent Council, José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez, Secretary for External Relations and Summits Executive Secretary, OAS, Jorge Sanín Director of the Department of International
Affairs and Civil Society groups
The morning of the first day consisted of three plenary sessions which included panels where the General Secretariat of the OAS and civil society and social actors were represented. Each panelist made brief
presentations on the topic of the session, discussing the work of OAS political organs and the efforts carried out to support the implementation of the GA’s main topic. It was followed by a period for questions and comments.
The Secretary General of the OAS, Dr. José Miguel Insulza encouraged all attendees to continue the same valuable work that civil society organizations (CSOs) had contributed over the past year. Dr. Insulza pointed out that this is the only
regional Forum that includes civil society as active participants during the whole process. He affirmed that they should take advantage of this opportunity and discuss themes addressed in the Draft of Declaration. It is important to understand, he said, that Latin American countries were solving issues and finding solutions, and that they are continually moving in the appropriate direction. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the desired outcomes.
After presenting of the methodology and objectives of the Forum, Ambassador Alfonso Quiñónez, the OAS’s Executive Secretary for External Relations and Summits, observed that the first Draft of Declaration of Asuncion for the Forty-Fourth Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly (XLIV OAS GA) was submitted by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Paraguay with the unanimous approval of all OAS members.
Each member of the 44 CSOs that were
represented during the Forum had the objective of voicing the most vulnerable sectors of the region. Addressing the organizations, Permanent Representative of Saint Kitts y Nevis to the OAS, Ambassador Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin stated, "It is important that civil society discusses topics such as discrimination, gender, inequity, and social exclusion and prepare recommendations that could promote programs to increase and improve social inclusion".
Closing the inaugural proceedings, the Ambassador Elisa Ruiz Diaz Bareiro, Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the OAS said that her country is more than honored to host the next OAS GA, but an important challenge is to organize and create a space for harmonious debate and acquire final consensus that could have significant repercussions for the region.
The Ambassador said, "Paraguay will focus on the elimination of poverty…… and that
accomplishing them continues to be one of the main challenges of the Americas; as well as access to quality education and health care; and security for all.” Furthermore, she added, it is important “to prioritize the implementation of public policies and intersectoral programs on social inclusion as a key element in achieving democratic governance and full observance of human rights.”
During the first plenary session, moderated by Ambassador
Alfonso Quiñónez, Cletus Springer, Director of the Department of Sustainable Development and Environment, Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS (SEDI-OAS) explained the importance of democracy and social inclusion to the policies. Each, he indicated, should ideally address; redistribution, protection, production, and social cohesion. He also maintained that to achieve a balance between economic growth, human development and environmental sustainability depends on;
soundness of national policies; effectiveness of institutions charged with their implementation; the political will of governments; and the strength of alliances between Governments, public, private and civil society sectors.
Luis Alejandro Pedraza, President of Colombia’s 630,000 members Central Workers Union then took to the floor, to emphasize a unified approach must fight for equality, the integration of women into affairs of the state, non-discrimination
and prevalence of public over private institutions. He went on to say that these ideals should be built on the pillars of decent and dignified work for all.
The second plenary session was presented by Mr. Kevin Casas, Assistant Secretary for Political Affairs (SPA – OAS) and Martha Ferrera, Executive Director of Seeds for Democracy.
Mr. Casas’s presentation focused on the subject of democracy and how countries should seek to avoid the
concentration of political and economic power in decision-making. He spoke of authoritarianism and violence as major factors that are detrimental to good governance and acknowledged that the Hemisphere must take on the challenge of reducing poverty and promoting equality to ensure democracy and political stability. He stressed that there are hurdles to overcome, but that the region is moving forward and is much better than 20 years ago.
For her part, Ms. Ferrera
presented the contradictory duality of Paraguay. On the one hand, the country has made progress as an important exporter of commodities, however this has to some extent been off-set by a low tax regime (13%), leading to a lack of spending power and social investment by the central government.
The third and final plenary session was presented by Emilio Alvarez Icaza , Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR- OAS) and Camila Croso of the
Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education covering the issue of human rights, both economic and social.
In the afternoon, the participants were divided into thematic Working Groups encompassing issues such as development with social inclusion; the impact of extreme poverty and social exclusion on governance; and human economic and social rights. Each of the Working Groups were moderated by a Civil Society Representative and included a Rapporteur tasked with
taking notes during the discussions and compiling the different comments and recommendations. Support was also provided by the Department of International Affairs.
On April 25 in a Special Plenary Session of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC), the Civil Society Organization’s working groups’ proposals were compiled into a document and presented to the Member States. This document,
which took into account exchange of expertise and best practices on programs implemented by civil society regarding the GA themes, will duly be incorporated into the deliberations on the Draft Declaration and topics related to the inter-American agenda to be adopted at the XLIV OAS GA.
GFDD and FUNGLODE are active members of the OAS’s Civil Society, a community of NGOs that supports the Organization in realizing its goals and promotes the objectives of the OAS.
The upcoming GA will provide the opportunity to discuss and exchange candid and open opinions among the OAS Member States, the General Secretariat, and from civil society representation of the Hemisphere on how to tackle the challenges of the region.
About XLIV OAS General Assembly
Asunción will host the only annual meeting in which Foreign Ministers of the Western Hemisphere have the chance to discuss issues of common
concern and adopt resolutions on priority topics for the region, related to principle the pillars of the OAS. These include: advancement of integral development, with a special emphasis on social inclusion; multidimensional security; protection of human rights; strengthening democracy; and Inter-American legal cooperation.
Draft Declaration of Asuncion for the Forty-fourth regular session of the OAS General Assembly "Development with Social Inclusion" (Presented by the Permanent Mission of Paraguay) CP/doc.4979/14 corr.
Access Declaration here: (scm.oas.org/doc_public/ENGLISH/HIST_14/CP32557E04.doc)