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OAS Secretary General Meets with Civil Society Representatives of the Americas

  June 2, 2014

Representatives of over 500 civil society organizations of the region participated in a dialogue today with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, in the context of the forty-fourth regular session of the hemispheric institution, in Asunción, Paraguay. They discussed topics related to human rights, especially problems of exclusion of minorities, among other issues.

Secretary General Insulza expressed the pride the OAS feels at being the organization with the highest direct participation by civil society representatives, noted the importance of their contributions to the institution, and emphasized the diversity of viewpoints expressed by representatives of community actors of the Americas. Over 600 civil society organizations were invited to the OAS General Assembly session, and over 500 registered to attend the main annual event of the hemispheric organization.

Secretary General Insulza said the central theme of the Assembly session, “Development with Social Inclusion,” is motivated by concern over the problem of inequality affecting all countries of the Americas. “Our region has experienced very significant growth in recent years, because poverty has dropped by 60 percent," he said, and, "despite this progress, we have not managed to reduce inequality.” He also said “many persons still live in a precarious state in that, though they have managed to cross the threshold out of indigence, any crisis can push them back over.”

Insulza said that “inequality not only depends on monetary income but is also related to gender, race, and social class; it also has to do with age, since there are many more young people out of work than unemployed adults.

Discrimination against women is also tangible in our region; in the country where women are doing best, they earn, on average, 75 percent of what men are paid.” He called civil society's contributions to the General Assembly session in Asunción vital, because they will provide the viewpoints of community leaders of the region on lessening the inequality gap in the Hemisphere.

The civil society representatives commented on the problems of violence and discrimination besetting the Hemisphere's minorities, and on attacks on the region's human rights defenders; positions in favor of, and against, the interruption of pregnancy; the rights of persons of African descent; the rights of indigenous peoples; the rights of the LGBTTTI community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites, and transgender and intersexual persons); the criminalization of various sexual acts in some countries of the Americas; and the rights of women.

Other civil society representatives expressed concern over a lack of recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities; the many children and adolescents subjected to violence; access to justice and the need for impartial judicial systems; the situation Venezuela is undergoing; and uncertainty about the peace process in Colombia.

Consulted after the meeting on the Venezuelan situation, Secretary General Insulza reaffirmed his position in favor of dialogue, expressed his support for the efforts being carried out by the foreign ministers of UNASUR, and said that, “in order to reach a solution, both the Government and the opposition must yield somewhat in their positions and show some flexibility.”

An informal talk between the OAS Secretary General and representatives of civil society organizations has taken place in the context of the General Assembly session since its thirty-sixth regular session, held in the Dominican Republic in 2006. This is an additional forum for discussion with the social sectors, who have been participating in OAS activities for over a decade.

The OAS Secretary for External Relations, Alfonso Quiñonez, moderated the meeting with civil society representatives, which lasted over three hours. It took place at the headquarters of CONMEBOL in Asunción. Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 3, before the official inauguration of the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly, there will be a dialogue between the heads of delegation, the OAS Secretary General, the OAS Assistant Secretary General, and representatives of civil society, workers, and the private sector, among other social actors.

A gallery of photos of the event is 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

Reference: E-221/14