1. Rationale for a Forum of the Americas on Sustainable Development
2. Institutional Framework for the Forum
3. Coordination of Support from International Organizations
4. Financial Resources for Sustainable Development
5. Environmental law
6. Public participation
The short time since the Bolivian Summit is enough to take meaningful account of some progress made in implementing the 65 initiatives of the Plan of Action. At the same time, some obstacles have been identified that are common to most of those initiatives, and some institutional arrangements that could facilitate progress have been devised. Previous sections of this report have summarized specific accomplishments, obstacles, and proposals for action in the five areas of the Plan of Action. A brief review has also been made of progress achieved on the recommended institutional, financial and technological actions, which were mandated to establish a favorable framework for implementation of the Plan. This chapter brings together some of the more general conclusions, which have been suggested in this report.
The significant accomplishment of the Americas in being the first region of the world to agree on a regional agenda for sustainable development should be followed up by concrete measures designed to expedite the implementation of the initiatives and actions approved in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
Serious differences between developed and developing countries on issues related to the concept of and the means to achieve sustainable development have not been resolved. The mutually agreed upon initiatives for action also in many cases need to be more precisely defined. They require additional refinement, including practical ways to put them into effect, before they can be implemented. Both bridging the gap and fine-tuning the initiatives can be attained through further constructive structured dialogue at the technical and political levels. Many of the initiatives involve the coordination and cooperation of two or more sectors. Cross-sectoral dialogue is greatly needed to resolve issues at the interface between sectors, with the involvement of the relevant government agencies of planning and finance.
A ministerial-level forum should be established for continuing governmental contacts towards finding common grounds for policy and for action, and also for undertaking the necessary additional analysis and improvement of the initiatives and goals of the Plan of Action. A Forum of the Americas on Sustainable Development should be established at the ministerial level and be open to government representation in specific sectors to be considered at its meetings.
The appropriate institutional place for a Forum of the Americas on Sustainable Development is the Organization of American States, the political forum of the countries of the hemisphere. The OAS was entrusted in Santa Cruz with the role of coordinating the follow-up of the various decisions of the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development. Within the OAS, the Forum should be established in the context of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) and could take place at its annual ministerial meeting. The guidelines for its functioning are presented in the Introduction to this report. As explained there, it is necessary that the proposed hemispheric forum work in close coordination with other international organizations and fore dealing with the environment and sustainable development issues at regional and subregional levels.
The Santa Cruz Plan of Action instructed the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development (CIDS) to review the progress of the Plan as part of its agenda. The OAS General Secretariat has been providing technical secretariat services to this Committee. The OAS should continue to support CIDS and also function as the source of technical and logistic support to the proposed Forum within CIDI.
The Interagency Task Force to Support Bolivia Summit Follow-up has made a valuable contribution to a process of selecting activities within the Plan of Action and identifying means for implementation which can attract the support of financing and technical cooperation agencies.
While governments, together with their civil societies, are primarily responsible for implementing the Plan of Action for the Sustainable Development of the Americas, the active participation of agencies of the United Nations and inter-American systems can offer substantial support to the technical, operational, and financial aspects of the Plan of Action. The work of the Interagency Task Force in this regard, with its coordinated action by specialized international and inter-American institutions, should be stimulated and maintained.
A number of bilateral and multilateral agencies have presented detailed statements of their policies and inventories of their projects in the area of sustainable development, which accompany this report. Some of those organizations, such as the IDB, USAID, and the World Bank have channeled substantial technical and financial resources to support the implementation of Summit initiatives. The appended compilation of their policies and projects will be useful to the countries as indicators of possible sources of future support. The priority assigned by the agencies to different aspects of sustainable development shows the extent to which the international community is backing the initiatives of the Santa Cruz Plan of Action.
A lack of sufficient financial and technological resources has been identified as one of the main constraints in implementing many of the initiatives launched in Santa Cruz. Constructive dialogue is needed to explore innovative financial mechanisms that can be accepted by all parties concerned to supplement the funding available for sustainable development. Dialogue can also contribute to overcoming difficulties in transferring scientific and technological information.
The OAS has responded to the mandate received at Santa Cruz to look for new instruments and sources of financing for sustainable development, with the support of other international institutions. The working group of the Interagency Task Force established for this purpose is collaborating on plans for a technical meeting on financing sustainable development, which is expected to take place later in 1998.
The OAS has opened its doors to private capital through the establishment of a foundation that will try to mobilize resources from the private sector for financing development programs and projects. The IDB has strengthened its financial support to Latin America and the Caribbean by establishing new instruments in the fields of agriculture and energy. The Bank is also considering the creation of a foundation to support civil-society initiatives.
There is a fortunate trend in Latin America and the Caribbean towards reducing environmentally harmful subsidies and increasing the use of environmental charges and user fees. As private flows of financial resources have become the dominant source of capital for many countries of the region, policies that are key for private investment are gaining in importance.
The efforts made by the OAS to begin establishing the basis on which a network of hemispheric experts and officials on environmental law can be created should be encouraged. Institutional arrangements in the region, among them the legal framework, are critical to the success of the common effort to promote sustainable development. The environmental law network should contribute to modernize laws and regulations and to improve their enforcement.
The initial OAS technical meeting to launch the network should serve as the occasion for other international institutions to initiate their support to the development of the network.
The OAS has responded promptly to the mandate it received to assist in the formulation of an inter-American strategy for the promotion of public participation in decision-making for sustainable development. Following the guidelines embodied in the Plan of Action, the strategy will promote the exchange of experiences and information among representatives of government and civil society on policies, programs, and legal and institutional mechanisms.
Civil society involvement is an essential component of sustainable development, since it amounts to recognition that development is a task of and for the citizens. Interaction between the government and groups such as non-governmental organizations, civic associations, labor unions, and civil society in general provides a broad basis upon which sustainable development efforts can be founded. The relative scarcity of human resources can be overcome through attracting the whole community to share in the drive for development. The effort the OAS is undertaking in this context deserves full support. The cooperation that the GEF USAID, and UNESCO are providing in this effort is to be commended.