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Secretary General Insulza and the ministers of foreign affairs of the Hemisphere exchanged points of view with social actors in the framework of the OAS General Assembly

  June 3, 2012

Representatives of the workers, the private sector, civil society, and other social actors engaged in a lengthy dialogue today in the framework of the forty-second regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) with representatives of the member states of the Organization and OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, in which they exchanged views on the subject of "Food Security with Sovereignty," the theme of the Assembly of ministers of foreign affairs of the Americas, which began today and will last until Tuesday in Cochabamba (Bolivia).

"The subject that brings us together today constitutes one of the major challenges facing the region," Secretary General Insulza said at the start of the meeting. "The latest report on the Millennium Development Goals is somewhat paradoxical," Insulza went on to say. Although countries were making progress with poverty reduction, with the poverty rate now standing at 31.4 percent, ten points less than a decade ago, we were not on track for achieving the MDG target of halving by 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

The highest-ranking official of the OAS pointed out that 9 percent of the total population of the Americas, approximately 53 million people, "have a calorie intake below the required minimum, even though our food production figures continue to improve." He added that "both North and South America have substantial food surpluses." "There is no reason then," the Secretary General declared, "why people still go hungry."

Secretary General Insulza said he welcomed the fact that once again a dialogue was being held in connection with the General Assembly with the leading social actors in the Americas. He said it was a "highly constructive occasion and a traditional part of our General Assembly." In 2003, the OAS General Assembly welcomed representatives of civil society. In 2006, it included the private sector; and, in 2007, workers' representatives.

The Bolivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Choquehuanca, also underscored the importance of the dialogue with social actors. "As the host country, Bolivia regards this dialogue as an ideal opportunity for the citizens of the Americas to exchange opinions and points of view on matters that figure prominently on the Inter-American agenda, as well as discuss the leitmotiv of the General Assembly: Food Security with Sovereignty." Minster Choquehuanca chaired the meeting, flanked by his Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Juan Carlos Alurralde.

Civil Society

Eight representatives of civil society took part in the dialogue, in which they spoke about access to water and family farming, human rights and a range of projects headed by young entrepreneurs. They also voiced their concern regarding gender violence and violence against human rights defenders, as well about restrictions on freedom of expression in some parts of the Americas.

Other organizations called upon the member states to adopt the Inter-American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, while one indigenous representative from Peru claimed special status for his group, saying: "We are not just normal citizens. Rather we have rights that go beyond those of the general public, because we have a cultural identity of our own."

Other representatives asked member states to guarantee "lives free from violence and without discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ethnicity or race, economic status, disability, age, or any other condition." They also requested that the member states recognize "different types of families" and respect "the separation of Church and State."


There were four workers' representatives, who mainly referred to the risks associated with trade union activities in some countries in the region; the part played by deregulation in the origins of the current economic crisis; the importance of trade union freedom and collective bargaining; the momentum given by the OAS to the trade union movement; the assassination of journalists; and excessive unemployment among women, youth, indigenous people and Afrodescendants.

The workers' representatives also declared that "freedom for families and smallholders was the key to feeding our peoples" and called for "guarantees for the full exercise of the human right to food" and for”urgent regulation of food markets."

Along the same lines, another workers' representative called for "promoting decent work in the agricultural sector." "In particular," he added, "progress must be made with studies regarding the establishment of a minimum agricultural wage."

The Private Sector

The four private sector representatives who took part in the meeting presented a survey that had been conducted on line with the support of subregional and hemispheric business associations in order to identify interests and points of view regarding the theme of the General Assembly session: "Food Security with Sovereignty in the Americas." The findings of this survey (available here)served as the business representatives' recommendations to the representatives of the member states.

The private sector's recommendations to government included: boosting food security with technological information and communication tools; continuing to promote corporate social responsibility by increasing productive investment; and working jointly to develop infrastructure in order to reduce costs and increase connectivity. The businessmen also recommended that governments step up their commitment to protect natural resources and pursue sustainable policies.

Other business sector concerns voiced during the dialogue referred to the need to promote agricultural research and technology transfer and to strengthen technological assistance services and training for producers. They also called for public-private partnerships for establishing and operating well-run food banks.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-202/12