November 17, 1998

The Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) opened its three-day assembly of delegates in Washington on Monday with its president, Paraguayan Cristina Muñoz, calling for new strategies and mechanisms for equal opportunity for women in the hemisphere.

Delegates from the 34 active OAS member countries heard Dr. Muñoz give an overview of her administration, highlighting its emphasis on the CIM strategic action plan and follow up on mandates from the two Summits of the Americas.

The Paraguayan economist said while women had made progress in the Americas in the twentieth century much still remained to be done to bring them fully into the development process and into the economic, social, political and cultural life. "CIM has an important role in the future and should continue working as an inter-governmental forum coming up with instruments and strategies for the countries to promote equal opportunity and gender equality at all levels."

The CIM president called for closer links between the Commission and civil society, and in particular with women’s organizations, saying "this OAS specialized agency is committed to strengthening democracy and reversing any authoritarian tendencies."

Speaking at the opening session also the OAS secretary general, César Gaviria, stressed joint effort as the way "to create an egalitarian hemisphere taking advantage of the growing awareness that we have not done enough to include gender focus and women’s perspectives and input into the organization’s programs and projects."

Meanwhile, the Permanent Council chairman, Ambassador Francisco Paparoni of Venezuela, mentioned the important work CIM was carrying out defending women’s rights. He said the aim was to secure dynamic participation of women in all spheres of activity across the hemisphere as an urgent undertaking.

For his part, the OAS assistant secretary general, Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas referred to the process of institutional strengthening taking place at CIM, pointing to the reforms under which the Commission seeks to broaden its activities and have access to more resources. "A more powerful Commission could provide governments the necessary support to put a gender perspective into tackling poverty and education--major concerns addressed by the Santiago Summit and priority items on the CIM action plan," Ambassador Thomas declared.