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OAS officials and heads of delegation engage in dialogue with civil society, workers, the private sector, and youth during the General Assembly

  June 3, 2014

The heads of delegation of the member states, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, held a dialogue today with representatives of civil society, workers, the private sector, and youth on the central theme of the forty-fourth regular session of the General Assembly, which is running from today through Thursday in Asunción, Paraguay, “Development with social inclusion.”

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said that in the course of this year, in preparation for the Assembly, civil society organizations made a series of recommendations to the member states on the priority topics of the inter-American agenda. “The recommendations came from 434 civil society organizations that are registered and participate in the activities of the OAS,” he said.

Secretary General Insulza said that inequality and social exclusion in the region stem not only from income differences, but from the social conditions that generate them and tend to be perpetuated for the lifetime of most of the people. “In our Hemisphere, poverty, inequality, and social exclusion have gender, race, and color. The number of household of indigenous people in poverty, poor Afro-descendants, and poor women head-of-households exceeds the proportion of these sectors in the population of Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

“Acting to correct these conditions must be a priority. Otherwise, we run the risk of eroding the progress made during recent years,” he added, noting that “these situations generate discontent that threatens governance and increases insecurity.”

“Herein lies the importance of this dialogue, because the civil society, the private sector, the workers, youth, and in general, the social stakeholders enhance the discussion with their experience and knowledge, helping to develop public policies that address this situation,” added the OAS Secretary General.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, Eladio Loizaga, said that “my country, as host, considers that this dialogue is the best opportunity for the exchange of views among citizens of the Americas, heads of delegation, the Secretary General, and the Assistant Secretary General on the central theme of the General Assembly, ‘Development with social inclusion,’ and other topics that are on this Assembly’s agenda.”

Referring to the focus of the discussions in the Assembly, Minister Loizaga said that “Paraguay ‘s challenges in this area are similar to those faced by the others in our Organization. The presentation of the theme ‘Development with social inclusion’ reflects the intention to analyze each state’s practices with respect to inclusive development policies, establish programs that enable efficient sharing of best practices in the matter, and consider mechanisms that will enable the OAS to act as a catalyst for exchange and generation of knowledge and experience,” said the Paraguayan Foreign Minister.

Civil Society

Marcial Gómez, representing civil society organizations that are working on “Development with social inclusion,” said that the Assembly’s theme rings hollow if it does not guarantee the full enjoyment of the rights of all persons. “Development must be understood to go beyond economic aspects to incorporate the development of every person’s capacities and recognition of his or her freedom,” he said.” Gómez said it is essential that state policies be nondiscriminatory and guarantee the same rights for all persons, with special emphasis on native peoples, Afro-descendants, persons with disabilities, peasant communities, lesbians, gays, transexual and intersex persons, the elderly, girls, boys, and adolescents, displaced persons, migrants, persons living with HIV, and sex workers.

The representative of the civil society organizations that are working to promote democracy, Graciela Dubrez, said that it is a real challenge for officials to “honor the commitment and the text of all the conventions that the governments have signed, and it seems to us they are dead letter if governments respond to every conflict with militarization.” Dubrez also expressed concern over the situation of the 200 prisoners in Guantánamo prison, calling for their release; she urged changing the Assembly’s central theme to “Development in democracy for social inclusion,” because, in her words, “without democracy there is no social inclusion.”

The representative of the Coalition of Organizations of Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Transgender, Transvestites and Intersex (LGBTTTI), Camila Zabala, welcomed the theme selected for the forty-sixth regular session of the OAS General Assembly. “There cannot be full development when LGBTTTI persons are denied the right to education, work, and justice,” she said. Zabala urged the member states to sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerancethe Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance Zabala also called on the member states to put on the agenda the approval of a resolution for an Inter-American Convention on sexual and reproductive rights.

The representative of the Afro-descendant civil society organizations, Fátima Zaracho, expressed her concern for racism apparent in the social, economic, juridical, and cultural life of the Afro-descendant populations in the region, characterized by widespread poverty, inequality, hunger, political and economic exclusion, and expropriation of ancestral lands that reduce their opportunities for a better life. Zaracho reocmmended that the OAS member states sign and ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

The representative of the pro-life and pro-family group, Ricardo Izquierdo, spoke about the proposals presented by that group to the delegates attending the Assembly, highlighting that “the family is the lynchpin of society and must be protected in a comprehensive manner.” He also expressed his rejection of induced abortion, his support for a stable union between a man and a woman, and his condemnation of all violence against the dignity of the human being. The group called for the inclusion of policies for “sexual education that promotes love and respect for the full human person, its biological, psychological, and spiritual nature.” He said that “the firmly built family, grounded on principles and values that respect the life, education and protection of the most unprotected and older adults, will strengthen and revitalize the nations.”

On the theme of human rights, the representative Enrique Bozzano made recommendations to strengthen the inter-American system. He called for universal ratification of the American Declaration on Human Rights and protection of sectors at risk. He expressed concern with the situation of human rights defenders, rejecting efforts to criminalize and try them, and urging measures for their protection with separate court systems. He also urged reflection on the topics pending the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará”
and on the forced disappearance of persons, calling for measures to prevent, punish, and eradicate this type of violence.

On behalf of indigenous peoples, Lottie Cunningham Wren made recommendations dealing primarily with the protection of their rights and identity. The document urged that inclusive development not impair or deny their rights or take their territory, and that the states in the region guarantee full participation of indigenous peoples’ participation in inter-American forums. They also called for respect for the right to self-determination and prior consent; and for moving ahead with the American Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples that is being developed in the OAS framework.

Civil society organizations that work on women’s issues participated in the dialogue and were represented by Mirta Moragas, who affirmed that development with social inclusion “will not be possible until states guarantee the elimination of structural inequalities.” The document of recommendations that she presented urged the states of the region to ensure the exercise and full enjoyment of women’s economic, social, and cultural rights; and the right to a life free from violence and the implementation of policies to eradicate systematic violence against women, girls, and adolescents. She also called for support of “access to voluntary, safe, and free interruption of pregnancy; and the full exercise of desired maternity, eliminating the criminalization of women for abortion.”


The representative of the Secretariat for Education of the Authentic Central Worker’s Union (CUT-A) of Paraguay, Graciela Congo, said that before the financial crisis there were other crises that are ongoing: “social, employment, food, energy, and environmental,” which taken together “call into question the neoliberal hegemonic model imposed for more than three decades.” Congo added, ”we consider that this General Assembly in Paraguay can send an important signal that our region is committed to the formulation of policies that effectively break the logic of economic conservatism, which restricts rights and favors the interests of corporations that dominate the global economy.”

The Executive Director of the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) of Brazil and Vice Chair of the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE), Roni Barbosa, emphasized the importance of “guaranteeing union freedom, social protection, and social security for all workers. It is important to establish a social dialogue to recover the role of the state, strengthening its role so there can be sustainable development.” Barbosa rejected calls for the unions to await improvement in the economy before distributing the economic gains, because in his view workers had shared the losses immediately.

The Policy Coordinator of the Labor Confederation of Workers of the Americas, Iván González Alvarado, explained that for the workers movement, “the vision of development is erected on pillars of decent labor, the distribution of wealth, participative democracy, gender equality, and universal social protection.” In this context, he said that the countries of the region must identify policies to permit the generation of decent work and formal employment, with rights to guarantees for collective bargaining and social dialogue. He called for the establishment of a new relationship between the society, state, and market in which the state is a vehicle for the active participation of the people and regulates the market to ensure that it responds to social needs.

Private Sector

The President of the Paraguayan Industrial Union, Eduardo Felippo, presented the conclusions of the Tenth Private Sector Forum, held in Asunción just prior to the OAS General Assembly. His remarks focused on public-private partnerships (PPPs) as “a unique opportunity that arises in some stages of the countries’ development.” “This is the time when we countries with less infrastructure development have to take advantage of PPPs, which represent a fast track to development that otherwise we could not attain. We think that a partnership with the government in which the private sector contributes its experience, knowledge, and money is very important,” said Felippo.

The Secretary General of the Latin American Industrialists Association (AILA), Luis Alberto Salvador Alban, said that education is the key to achieving “sustainable development” of the population. He said that the region suffers from an education deficit for lack of teachers, and problems of access to the education system. In response, said Salvador Alban, “the governments must take steps so that the private sector participates actively in the educational system, generating an environment of public-private competence in schools, colleges, and universities.”

The representative of the Business Council of Latin America (CEAL), Ingo Ploger, focused his presentation on public-private partnerships, saying that they contribute to the promotion of democracy. He said that social insertion “must have a permanent place on the policy agenda of the countries of the region,” with special emphasis on meeting the needs of small and medium enterprises, “which are the motor of the economies.” He added that it is necessary to identify new mechanisms for dialogue between the public and private sectors and to be innovative in creating opportunities for sharing and cooperation between these two entities.


Clara Berendsen Pereira, representative of the Talent and Innovation Challenges of the Americas (TIC Americas), spoke on behalf of the youth. Berendsen Pereira said that priority must be given to providing more opportunities for youth in decision-making organs, and her recommendations included “institutional strengthening and political leadership by national officials in charge of policies for youth entrepreneurs; strengthening the availability of financing for programs developed by youth; and reinforcing in all member states of youth’s role in the elaboration of policies for them.”

During the dialogue, there were statements by the representatives of Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, United States, Mexico , Costa Rica, El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, and Guatemala.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The B-Roll of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-227/14