About 150 representatives of civil society organizations from the member countries of the Organization of American States ( OAS ) today participated in a dialogue with Heads of Delegation that will attend the 40th OAS General Assembly from June 6 to 8 in Lima.
During the event, OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin reiterated the organization's commitment to promote this exchange and asserted that “this is a sustained commitment that we have been developing for many years, and it recognizes the key role of civil society.”
The meeting consisted of an exchange of ideas between government and civil society representatives on issues on the Assembly's agenda, which focuses on the theme: “Peace, Security and Cooperation in the Americas.” In this context, OAS Secretary General Insulza said that “the presence of the representatives from Member States and civil society demonstrates the new dynamic of consensus in which we live in the Americas and that defines civil society organizations as agents of democracy and as actors in the decision-making process.”
Welcoming dialogue participants, the Minister of Women of Peru, Nidia Vilchez, said her country “is honored to host this meeting. Peru, as host country, considers this exchange to be key in receiving the diverse points of view from all inter-American agendas, as well as for the theme of this General Assembly.”.
Minister Vilchez also referred to the importance of confronting the social and developmental challenges of the region, and explained that those concerns were the source of the theme of the General Assembly. “President Alan García has proposed a reduction in the arms race in the Americas suggesting that those resources can be transferred to public policies and to finance social investment in our countries, and in that way be able to contribute to the reduction of illiteracy and child malnutrition,” she said.
At the dialogue, the representative of the students who participated in the 28 Model of the OAS General Assembly that took place in Lima on May 12 to 15 presented a series of recommendations related to the prevention of political crises, women's participation in social, economic and political decision-making; transparency in arms acquisition, and the inclusion of civil society in the design of environmental policies, among others.
With respect to youth participation and empowerment, dialogue participants said “the OAS can offer an opportunity to the youth to be recognized as social stakeholders and an independent sector with unique perspectives.”
Similarly, the representatives of the various nongovernmental organizations expressed their preoccupation with possible restrictions that could affect their participation and requested from governments “a clear, firm and expressed rejection” to initiatives that condition the participation of social stakeholders in countries' internal legislatures. They also defended access to information and considered adopting a new strategy for the participation of civil society that includes “permanent consulting mechanisms in all the institutional activities and spaces of the OAS.”
Civil society organizations in the area of peace and democracy urged the governments and the OAS “to prioritize the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, preserve the peaceful resolution of conflict through political and diplomatic means and avoid any call for war, consolidating a climate of cooperation for peace in the hemisphere.”
The second session of the dialogue focused on the issues of human rights, equality and initiatives to fight discrimination. In this context, civil society representatives advocated for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples “using the guiding instruments that the OAS has established” and asked for the exercise of democracy to include “respect for minorities, the strengthening of the inter-American system of human rights and the effective guarantee of its defense.”
The issue of gender also was incorporated in today's dialogue, and civil society advocated for the recognition of diversity to promote peace, and expressed its preoccupation with challenges such as gender-based violence, human trafficking, lack of security and the respect for reproductive and sexual rights.
Furthermore, the nongovernmental organizations elaborated a proposal to be considered as part of the Declaration of Lima that will be adopted June 8 in which they put forward subjects such as the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities, public investment in this sector, and broadening public and citizen participation of people with disabilities.
Finally in the dialogue with Heads of Delegation, the Afro-descendant associations of the region presented the conclusions of a forum centered on this subject. The recommendations referred to the fight against racism and racial discrimination and intolerance; the request for public policies and programs for Afro-descendant communities that contribute to an improvement in their situation of poverty and that promote actions “that recognize the identity of the economic, cultural and social contributions of Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples, especially of women.”
After listening to the various interventions of civil society organization representatives, member countries responded to the proposals brought forth by summarizing the initiatives their own governments have undertaken in said subjects. The delegates took the opportunity to highlight the efforts of the OAS in bringing together the event's participants and reaffirmed their will to build open spaces of dialogue and promote better participation.