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May 6, 1998

The U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Victor Marrero, today called on the OAS to open itself more fully to the participation of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.

"If we want an OAS that is responsive to the needs of our people," he said, "we must allow ourselves to hear more fully the views of our peoples. That is the essence of democracy."

Speaking at a session of the OAS Permanent Council, Ambassador Marrero stressed that at the recent Summit of the Americas, the hemisphere's leaders called for a strengthening of citizen participation in all levels of civic life. Just as NGOs have made significant contributions at the United Nations, he said, such groups - which represent a "vast diversity" of causes and interests - could enrich the OAS by being more involved in activities and ongoing dialogue.

He suggested that the Permanent Council create a working group to draft, in consultation with civil society representatives, a resolution on this issue to be submitted to the General Assembly "as soon as possible." Among other things, he said, such a resolution should create a mechanism through which NGOs may gain accreditation to observe and participate in the work of various OAS entities. He also proposed that "Public Participation in Inter-American Development" become a topic for dialogue at the ministerial level, and suggested convening a government-civil society dialogue on democracy and development, perhaps at the General Assembly in the year 2000.

"Our decisions will be more relevant, more credible and more legitimate if the process through which we reach them is more participatory," Ambassador Marrero said.

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