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September 3, 1999


Mexico City will host a hemispheric meeting that is being called by the organization of American States (OAS) to promote public participation in the preparation, adoption and implementation of policies and programs dealing with sustainable development.

Over 60 participants, representing governments and civil society organizations around the hemisphere, will gather September 8 to 10 to pore over the findings of national consultations held over the past two months in most of the 34 member states. Many civil society organizations were actively involved in those consultations.

Acting on a mandate from the heads of state and government who met in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, for the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development in 1996, the OAS prepared an Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation in Decision-Making on Sustainable Development (ISP), which is to be submitted at the Mexico meeting after going to the member states for consultation. This is first concrete outcome of the Summit.

The Director of the OAS Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment, Richard Meganck, said this was an important meeting. He said public participation in decision-making "is vital to spur governments to pursue long-term policies, objectives and planning." According to Meganck, the Inter-American Strategy was a communication mechanism to help involve citizens in decisions affecting their quality of life and so that the principles proposed would be applied to any development project. He added that he was confident member states would approve and implement the Inter-American Strategy thereby making themselves better able to identify and deal with shared environmental problems.

Ramón Daubon, Executive Director of the Caribbean Development and Environment Institute in San Juan, Puerto Rico, observed that "good government" was one of the main benefits of citizen participation, as throughout history the development of countries throughout has been linked to participation by their citizens. "In this sense, the Inter-American Strategy will bring citizens together to organize themselves more constructively. It will also be a vehicle for openness, allowing states to open windows to citizen participation," he said.