The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza today inaugurated, together with the Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis to the OAS, Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin, the 11th Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors, in which he said that an active and present civil society is “a characteristic feature of our democracies.”
The leader of the hemispheric institution said that the meetings with civil society were adopted as a regular procedure by the OAS in 2003 for two reasons: “first, because civil society and social organizations are a very characteristic feature of our democracies.” Secondly, Secretary General Insulza said “due to the kind of policies that we carry out, it is fundamental to include the opinions of civil society,” and cited as examples social inclusion – the central theme of the General Assembly of the Organization, which will take place in Paraguay in June – human rights, gender issues, discrimination, and the efforts of the OAS in combating corruption.
Insulza invited the civil society representatives to attend and participate in the General Assembly which will be held from June 3 to 5 in Asunción, Paraguay, and said that its theme “Development with Social Inclusion,” opens a very opportune debate because, while economic growth in the region in the past decade “brought substantive changes to our societies,” such as the growth of the middle class and the shrinking of poverty, it is nevertheless true that, according to several international organizations, that era of rapid growth is coming to an end.
For these reasons, emphasized the Secretary General, it is more important than ever to reduce inequality in the region, and that “is one of the great issues for civil society.” Along those lines, he announced that the Organization is producing a report for the General assembly on the various faces of inequality in the region. “Inequality is not only an issue of monetary income. Inequality exists in our societies in all dimensions,” he said, and mentioned examples such as access to education and justice, violations of human rights, and drug addiction, among others.
For her part the Chair of the Permanent Council of the OAS and Permanent Representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin, said to the representatives of civil society that “your participation in this Forum is vital in helping us to take the pulse of the situation in the Americas and to develop policies that meet societal needs.”
The OAS has a long history of participation of civil society and social actors in its activities,” said Ambassador Henry-Martin, “and our responsibility is to continue stimulating this active participation, and open spaces for the representatives of civil society to share their proposals in a substantive way.” The Chair of the Council said “this is precisely the objective of this Forum. To give you the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions to the debate of the member states on the draft Declaration of Asunción.” In her conclusion, she assured the civil society representatives that “in my capacity as Chair of the Permanent Council you have an advocate to promote the results of your consultations today and tomorrow.”
The 11th Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors aims to offer to participants the opportunity to dialogue with representatives of the member states of the OAS on the central theme of the next General Assembly, “Development with Social Inclusion.” The recommendations that emerge from the Forum will be presented by representatives of the civil society organizations and social actors on April 25, 2014 in a Special Meeting of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC). These recommendations will contribute to the deliberations of the Member States on the Draft Declaration and topics related to the Inter-American agenda to be adopted at the 44th OAS General Assembly.
44 Civil Society Organizations from 19 OAS member states are taking part in the Forum.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.