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III. Progress in institutional, financing, technology and cooperation aspects

1. Institutional arrangements
2. Financing
3. Science and technology
4. Public participation

Besides the 65 initiatives to be carried out by the governments in several sectors, the Bolivia Plan of Action also calls for some actions to be taken on institutional, financial and technological aspects, and on the matter of public participation, in order to create a framework that will facilitate the implementation of those initiatives.

1. Institutional arrangements

The OAS was entrusted in Santa Cruz with the responsibility of coordinating follow-up on the different initiatives of the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development. Several agencies of the United Nations and of the inter-American system were requested to collaborate in this endeavor.

a. Interagency Coordination and Collaboration

The Summit Plan of Action calls on the organs, agencies, and entities of both the United Nations system and the inter-American system "to develop adequate mechanisms to collaborate and coordinate with the OAS within their respective areas of action and mandates to support national regional, and hemispheric efforts towards sustainable development." In response to those instructions, a group of agencies of the UN system and the inter-American system, including all major development banks in the region, came together in February 1997 under the coordination of the OAS Secretariat to form an Interagency Task Force to Support Bolivia Summit Follow-Up.

The initial members of the Task Force were the OAS General Secretariat, the World Bank, the IDB, UNDP, UNEP, ECLAC, PAHO, IICA, CAF, USAID, and CIDA.

The objectives of the Task Force were defined as an interagency effort to:

· Provide a forum to discuss implementation of goals of the Summit especially where coordinated action of international agencies and financing institutions will facilitate government initiatives.

· Promote the financing of high-priority actions identified by hemispheric leaders at the Summit on Sustainable Development.

· Organize working groups to address specific initiatives contained in the Summit Plan of Action, particularly those requiring collective action by member states which can benefit from the coordinated support of international agencies and financing institutions.

· Serve as a clearinghouse to facilitate the collection and assembly of information from agencies regarding actions taken to assist governments in the implementation of the Plan of Action.

The group selected a few priorities from the large array of Summit initiatives and created a series of practical working groups to design joint projects, produce specific joint studies, or collaborate in holding technical conferences to facilitate Summit follow-up efforts of governments and agencies alike. The principal criterion for the establishment of interagency working groups on specific subjects is that they must produce "value-added" cooperation. The product of these joint efforts has already demonstrated that it can save money and improve the quality of agency efforts to assist governments in the implementation of Summit initiatives. The work of the task force has recently been expanded to include supporting the implementation of initiatives from the relevant section of the Miami Summit Plan of Action as well as the Bolivia Summit. The present report on Summit implementation has been made possible in large part by the contribution of the agencies that make up the task force.

b. Environmental Law Network

The Plan of Action calls for the creation of a hemispheric network of officials and experts in environmental law, enforcement, and compliance to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experiences. The network is also to be a focal point for carrying out efforts to strengthen laws, regulations, and their implementation and also to provide training in these areas. In calling for the establishment of the network, the countries said that the effort would be made in coordination with the OAS.

· The OAS has taken a leadership role in this initiative. In the Interagency Task Force on Bolivia Summit Follow-Up it chairs a working group on environmental law that includes the UNDP, UNEP, USAID, and the USEPA. Funding has been included in the OAS budget to prepare an initial technical meeting to launch the network. It has also participated in informal meetings with agencies based in Washington, D.C., to explore possible contributions of various organizations to the development of the network.

· The OAS-funded activities constitute a crucial minimum effort to establish this initiative but are not sufficient to guarantee its success. Other supporters of the initiative should be encouraged to finance additional activities during 1998, including meetings of network participants to share knowledge and experiences, and for training purposes.

2. Financing

The Plan of Action calls for the mobilization of financial resources in keeping with the commitments made at the Rio Summit. It also states that those resources should be complemented with innovative financing mechanisms and highlights the importance of international organizations and financial institutions in supporting the efforts of the hemisphere.

· The OAS was called upon at Santa Cruz to assist in the identification of avenues and means of strengthening public and private finance for sustainable development in the hemisphere. The IDB, UNDP, the World Bank and ECLAC were among the hemispheric and international institutions asked to help with this. A working group has been established to this effect, with the participation of OAS, the IDB, UNDP, the World Bank, ECLAC and CAF. A technical meeting on financing sustainable development will take place later in 1998.

· Efforts have been made to attract private capital to programs and projects sponsored by international organizations. The OAS Secretariat has established the Trust for the Americas, a foundation which will seek to mobilize resources from the private sector for actions related to mandates from Summit meetings. It will also work closely with foundations in the hemisphere to facilitate work that complements follow-up activities to the Summits, as outlined in CIDI's "Strategic Plan for Partnership for Development 1997-2001." The Trust will place emphasis on human resources development, information sharing, and interdisciplinary research with an inter-American focus to enhance the quality of technical cooperation.

· The IDB and 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries, led by Colombia, have joined forces to create the Regional Fund for Agriculture, which is an endowment fund for financing high-priority strategic agricultural research. The Bank is also considering the possibility of establishing a Foundation of the Americas to provide financial support to civil-society initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean.

· In the 1990s, several major trends in finance for sustainable development can be identified in Latin America and the Caribbean. Greater interest and activity in developing innovative domestic and international financial mechanisms have led to reductions in environmentally damaging and economically distorting subsidies and the increased use of environmental charges, user fees, and, in a few cases, emissions-trading programs.

· Private flows of financial resources from abroad have expanded. Foreign private funds have become the dominant source of capital for many countries in the region. However, the net impacts of foreign private capital upon sustainable development are difficult to determine.

· Heavy debt burdens have been a major hindrance to sustainable development. Although the debt situation of middle-income countries has, on the whole, improved significantly, and many have reentered international capital markets, heavily indebted poor countries continue to face burdensome external debt service, despite a decade of international efforts. The problem has been addressed by a World Bank/IMF initiative aimed at reducing their debt burden to sustainable levels and to complete a rescheduling process within six years.

As private flows of financial resources have become the dominant source of capital for many countries in the region, policies that result in stable macroeconomic conditions, transparent and fair laws and public administration, open trade and clear investment rules, and adequate infrastructure and human resources become more relevant since these are key determinants of foreign private capital flows. Countries should channel financial flows to promote sustainable development through sound social and environmental policies and not simply short-term, unsustainable economic growth. International financial assistance directed to sustainable development should be increased and, to be fully effective, should be used wherever appropriate, to leverage greater foreign and domestic private investment consistent with sustainable development, especially in poverty reduction.

3. Science and technology

The principal regional mechanism to address science and technology issues is the Meeting of the Ministers of Science and Technology. This forum, which last met in Cartagena in 1996, issued a Plan of Action for addressing priorities and coordinating activities and investments in science and technology cooperation. The decision to charge the Common Market of Scientific and Technological Knowledge (MERCOCYT) with the responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the Cartagena Plan of Action was acknowledged in the Bolivia Plan of Action. The OAS was given a specific mandate to collaborate with MERCOCYT in designing a science and technology program.

· The OAS Secretariat designed a program to address some priority issues defined in the Science Plan of Action, which includes projects in science and technology innovation indicators, food enterprise technologies in the Caribbean, the use of biotechnology in vegetable production, institution building in Central America, and technology transfer in key industry sectors.

· The first of the key-industry-sector meetings which focused on the agri-food sector, was held in Costa Rica in mid-1997 with the participation of 76 industry associations from 21 countries and representatives from four financial institutions. The OAS joined forces with GTZ, the German technical cooperation agency, to offer workshops in five countries on ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, focusing on chemical-discharge management in industrial effluents. USAID has also sponsored seminars on ISO 14000 and clean technology for the industrial-export sector in South America and for the Caribbean tourist hotel sector. In addition, the Specialized Information System on Biotechnology (SIMBIOSIS) project which received special attention in Cartagena, is providing training on biotechnology applications in seven countries to treat industrial pollutants such as those from mining.

· In October 1997 the UNDP started a preparatory assistance project for the establishment of the Network for Sustainable Development of the Americas, which will provide information and means of communication for analysis and decision-making on sustainable development issues. The preparatory project will formulate the program document supporting the establishment of the Network and create a pilot version of its design and a critical mass of core modules to test how it provides basic information and services to users. In April 1998 a program document supporting the establishment of the hemispheric network will be submitted to the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, in compliance with the mandate given UNDP in Santa Cruz.

Most of the difficulties encountered in transferring scientific and technological information relate to an increasing gap between countries which invest in innovative technologies and those which cannot adequately support research and development. Fast-paced advances in technologies such as informatics, microelectronics, biotechnology, new materials, and digital communications equipment require substantial investments in training and institutions. This technological gap has significant impacts on the well-being of the nations concerned since, in large part, it determines the differences in productivity, which, in turn, affect income levels and distribution within and between countries.

Strong support should continue to be given to the work of MERCOCYT as a means of responding to both the Cartagena and the Bolivia Action Plans. Developing a regional innovation system to raise the level of cooperation on science and technology, establish common policies on generating, transferring, and accessing new technologies, and support subregional efforts such as the Scientific and Technological Commission for Central America and Panama (CTAP) deserves priority.

4. Public participation

Governments of the hemisphere, through recent global and regional summits, have recognized that strong civil-society engagement in decision-making is fundamental for enhancing democracy, promoting sustainable development, achieving economic integration and free trade, improving the lives of all people, and conserving the natural environment for future generations. In the area of sustainable development, the Declaration of Santa Cruz de la Sierra specifically endorses this principle, committing its signatories to supporting and encouraging, as a basic requisite for sustainable development, broad participation by civil society in the making of decisions on policies and programs and their design, implementation, and evaluation.

· Important progress has been made since the Miami Summit of the Americas and the Bolivia Summit on Sustainable Development in addressing the need for public participation in decision-making and in identifying and developing the means to strengthen civil society.

· The Organization of American States, in compliance with the Bolivia Summit mandate, is currently formulating the Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation (ISP) to identify concrete mechanisms for securing transparent, accountable, and effective participation by individuals, civil society, and governments and to promote participatory decision-making in environment and sustainable development issues. This strategy is being formulated by conducting demonstration studies, analyzing relevant legal and institutional frameworks and mechanisms, sharing information and experiences, and establishing a basis for long-term financial support for public-private alliances. The ISP is a significant effort to support collective actions by OAS member states to strengthen partnerships between the public sector and civil society. The Global Environment Facility, the OAS, USAID, UNESCO, and other donors are financially supporting this effort. Several consultations and meetings have been held and technical studies are being conducted to identify lessons learned and best practices for public participation mechanisms to be recommended as the final Strategy.

In most countries of the hemisphere, civil-society participation still needs to be fully integrated into sustainable development decision-making processes, enabling citizens to participate responsibly in decisions regarding their country's and community's development path. Even where mechanisms do exist to facilitate and enable effective participation, many remain unaware of their scope and application, or lack the tools to take advantage of available processes. The failure to fully integrate stakeholder participation into environment and sustainable development policies continually deprives governments of the unique contribution and perspective of civil society and limits the full participation of citizens in determining their future. Up to now, the main obstacle to the implementation of the ISP has been maintaining coordination and information flow between governments and civil-society organizations. The experiences of OAS implementing the ISP, could lead to broader support for civil-society participation in public issues in areas considered pertinent by the Santiago Summit.

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