Press Release


Member States Move Forward at the OAS in Dialogue on Social Inclusion

  February 26, 2013

The Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) of the Organization of American States (OAS) met today at the headquarters of the institution in Washington, DC, to continue its dialogue on policies to integrate social inclusion into the development agenda in the Americas.

During the session, the CIDI heard statements from the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, on the importance of learning from the accumulated best practices in the region and the need to show results in the fight for equality; Gerald Oriol, Secretary of State for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities in Haiti, about the experiences of his country in the field; Carla Koppell, Senior Coordinator of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on the perspective of donor organizations; and the Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS, Sherry Tross, about the importance of inclusion and development in all the work of the hemispheric organization.

Secretary General Insulza began his speech by congratulating the former Chair of CIDI and the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Deborah-Mae Lovell, for her work as head of the Council, while expressing his confidence that the same line of good work would continue with the current Chair and Permanent Representative of Barbados to the OAS, John Beale.

The leader of the OAS recalled that the organization is completing its work on the Social Charter of the Americas and, in a call to promote the work of the CIDI, said that "we must consider not only new ideas that arise, but also concentrate on the large amount of experience accumulated in the region in terms of social protection," and insisted that "one of the ways to build our program of action must be by analyzing the best practices carried out in the region by different institutions."

In terms of social inclusion, the leader of the OAS mentioned that the entity has headed up the Plan POETA (Program of Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas) to support people with disabilities, developed through the Trust of the Americas. This project, currently active in more than ten countries in the region, is based on contributions from the private sector and provides training in advanced technologies, and often employment to people with disabilities.

Secretary of State Oriol, for his part, said his country is experiencing a major change in terms of social inclusion. "Haiti has ratified not only the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities we’ve also ratified the OAS Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities and just recently we voted our own National Law on Disability. This law is a tool that is helping us move the agenda on disability forward," said Oriol.

The Haitian representative added that, in the current competitive global context, for the overall progress of a nation it is vital to include people with disabilities in decision-making processes and training. "If you want to develop the country, to make sure that citizens are able to help develop the country and contribute to economic progress it’s important that we tap the potentialities of all citizens."

The Senior Coordinator of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment fromUSAID, Carla Koppell, echoed the idea put forward by Oriol, adding that "there is a fundamental need to leverage the skills and capacities of everyone within societies to ensure that we really are maximizing the results of assistance and government programs, whether they’re funded by the donor community or by nation states around the world."

Koppell said USAID is in the midst of "profound change" in the way they work. "First we’re looking at gaps that exist among different groups within society," she said, whether women, teens, gays and lesbians or other groups. "Where are there gaps, and how do we address those gaps?" are the questions that inform the policies of the agency, she added.

The Executive Secretary of SEDI, Sherry Tross, thanked the participants for their interventions and expressed her conviction that dialogues like that held today will result in concrete steps towards development in the region. "As we are looking at CIDI going forward and how we can have a sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development, these are some of the issues that we are looking at in a very serious way," said Secretary Tross. She said that any discussions on the matter begin with strong stakeholder investment - government, civil society and the private sector - in order to achieve inclusive policies on the path to development.

Tross emphasized the importance of social inclusion issues in all the work of the OAS. "Development is in every aspect of what we do at the OAS. It’s part of what we do in democracy, it’s part of what we consider when we are discussing human rights, and it’s part of what we have to consider when we are discussing security."

At the end of the session, the CIDI approved the convening of the XXI Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High Authorities of Tourism for the 5th and 6th of September in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and certified the change of date of the Conference of Ministers of Labor to November 11 and 12 in Medellin. The meeting in the Colombian city will mark the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of Labor Ministers of the Americas.

During the meeting, the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda, Venezuela, the United States, El Salvador, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Ecuador, Chile, Canada, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Panama and Jamaica all took the floor.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event will be available here.

The B-roll of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

Reference: E-069/13