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Presidents Santos and Morales and the OAS Secretary General highlight role of civil society in the Summit of the Americas Process

  April 13, 2012

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, stressed the growing role, in number and importance, of social actors in the definition of public policies in the hemisphere, during his participation today in the inauguration of the meeting of civil society organizations and delegations attending the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), which had as special attendees the Presidents of Colombia and Bolivia, Juan Manuel Santos and Evo Morales, respectively.

“The Summit of the Americas is a unique process in the area of hemispheric cooperation, which has not only allowed the heads of state and government to discuss issues of concern to the region to create new policies, but has also created a space in which the citizens have been able to make their recommendations,” said Secretary General Insulza.

The OAS chief representative recalled that the inclusion of civil society in the meetings started “in a spontaneous way” at the Second Summit of the Americas, held in 1998 in Santiago, Chile. Since then, he explained, the participation of the sector has grown and has extended to forums like the General Assembly of the OAS and other regional and sub regional meetings. “Here, in the Sixth Summit, there are more than a thousand representatives of social actors present, there’s nothing comparable in any meeting of heads of state in the entire world,” he said.

The leader of the hemispheric organization praised “the efforts undertaken by the social actors” in recent years to contribute to the process of pubic policy-making, and stressed that among non-governmental organizations “there is an ever increasing unity and organization.”

President Santos thanked the social actors for their recommendations and said their contributions are “very necessary conditions” to make policies as inclusive as possible. In that regard, he highlighted numerous initiatives initiated by his government to protect indigenous groups, young people and the poorest of society. “If, at the end of my term, I have been able to reduce poverty in Colombia, it will have been worth it to be President of the Republic,” he said.

The Colombian leader vowed to take the conclusions of the forum to the meeting of heads of state and government that begins tomorrow in the Caribbean city. “The message that I want to take to the Summit of Presidents is that we are filled with opportunities, but that we are also filled with inequalities. How can we resolve this issue? It can be done if there is political will, it can be done if we do it by majority, it can be done if we have the contributions of all the parts that make up our societies,” he concluded.

President Morales, for his part, said he was pleased because “in previous Summits there were forums like this, but here is the first time I’m seeing so many social movements.” The Bolivian leader focused specifically on the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples of the Americas, and stressed that the governments of the region should “focus on doing away with exclusion and discrimination.”

On the subject of the absence of Cuba at the Summit of Cartagena, Evo Morales said he was hoping to see the situation remedied. In addition, he said “the Malvinas belong to Argentina and belong to America,” and that he was convinced that Bolivia and Chile would soon find a solution to their historical maritime dispute.

Santos and Morales were the first presidents in history to speak in the Dialogue between Governments and Social Actors that takes place prior to the Summit of the Americas. At the meeting, that took place in the Convention Center of the Americas in Cartagena under the slogan “Strengthening Alliances for Prosperity” and was attended by the majority of the Foreign Ministers of the hemisphere, representatives of civil society, young people indigenous leaders and workers presented their conclusions and recommendations compiled during months of regional and sub regional debates, and realized in the last three days in the forums that took place in Cartagena.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, who co-inaugurated the meeting together with Secretary General Insulza, said that “in three days of open and frank dialogue the problems that affect the continent have been discussed, challenges that we must all face together.”

Foreign Minister Holguín stressed that “the challenges we face are great, but there is a united will to face up to them and resolve them.” “Summits like this,” she added “create spaces not only to exchange opinions but also to create alliances. The Summit of the Americas is a forum to celebrate the diversity of the Americas and to work together respecting those differences. We must continue to fight against discrimination and make more efforts to achieve greater inclusion. We agree with you that social inequality and redistribution of wealth continue to be problems that generate poverty.”

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-126/12