Media Center



  June 3, 2007

PANAMA CITY, Panama –The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) held an extensive dialogue today with representatives of civil society. The meeting was held a few hours before the opening of the 37th OAS General Assembly and was moderated by Panamanian Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro.

Participants representing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the hemisphere talked to the Heads of Delegation about the main issue of this General Assembly, Energy for Sustainable Development, as well as the promotion of human rights, fundamentally in the area of gender equity, the eradication of poverty, freedom of expression, access to public information, the struggle against all forms of discrimination and the fight against terrorism.

The participants addressed the need to further institutionalize the dialogue with the OAS and its member states, as well as to define the procedures that guarantee its effectiveness. They expressed their appreciation for OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza's move to strengthen the relationship with civil society by designating a permanent liaison between the General Secretariat and the NGOs.

The foreign ministers and other delegates from Canada, Haiti, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Grenada and Mexico highlighted the positive contributions civil society has made to the region’s democratic agenda, noting that its active participation is an essential condition for improving the quality of democracy in the countries of the hemisphere.

Proposal for the Creation of a Special Fund

Prior to the meeting with Heads of Delegation, the civil society representatives held informal talks on Saturday with Secretary General Insulza at a hotel in Panama. During the meeting, the NGOs that work in the region raised questions related to their dialogue with the OAS, the follow-up to different inter-American conventions and the promotion of human rights.

The Secretary General raised the possibility of promoting the creation of a special fund that would be made up of voluntary contributions from the OAS member states to implement actions they consider a priority and that are normally carried out by civil society organizations.

“We hope to constitute a fund next year based on resources provided by the countries. This should be made up of voluntary contributions,” Insulza said. He added that the OAS could raise voluntary resources for the participation of civil society organizations—based on agreements with them—then accept applications for grants. “We hope the NGOs that have resources understand that there are others who have less. But in the end there will be a bidding process,” explained Insulza.

What has still not been decided, he added, is the type of mechanism to be used. “One could be the following: the country that so desires could give money so that NGOs could provide support on issues that are a priority for the states. I promise for the next Assembly, in the reasonable lapse of a year, to have a bidding process in place for this type of participation,” the Secretary General told the representatives from civil society.

Reference: GA-12-07