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OAS Presents Manuals on Public Participation for Sustainable Development

  October 21, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS) today presented at its headquarters in Washington DC a series of manuals on public participation for sustainable development in Central America and the Dominican Republic, in an event held in the framework of the Fourth Regular Meeting of the Inter-American Comission on Sustainable Development, to be held tomorrow Wednesday, October 22 and Thursday, October 23.

The Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, said that increasingly, governments in the Hemisphere make societies more participatory, promoting the exercise of democracy and consensus in decision-making. That participation, he said, legimizes the processes and facilitates environmental policies, ensuring that future generations can enjoy their environment. In addition, Ambassador Ramdin highlighted that “to participate and have an impact on the decision-making processes for sustainable development, every citizen must have access to information, feel represented, and participate in decisions, legitimizing these processes and improving the implementation of public policies.”

Among the challenges in this area, the Assistant Secretary General cited the need to improve capacity to produce, process and disseminate information; strengthen capacities of vulnerable groups; involve affected groups; guarantee that actors participate actively and in an informed way in the process of decision-making on issues that can affect their quality of life; and how to spread knowledge about spaces and opportunities for public participation established in regulatory frameworks.

The manuals for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic (available here), that were presented during the dialogue entitled “Advancing Public Participation for Sustainable Development in Central America and the Dominican Republic,” “are especially important now that we are experiencing an important increase in socio-environmental conflicts arising from the activities of large businesses in the extractive sector and the extensive agricultural production, among other areas, in which issues related to governance, taxation, access to information, transparency and accountability, as well as public participation and social inclusion,” said Claudia de Windt, Chief of Environmental Law, Policy and Good Governance of the Department of Sustainable Development of the OAS.

The dialogue, which included the participation of civil society organizations, was moderated by Lina Pohl, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador, who highlighted that “the environmental issue now has a cost for our countries, and involving the citizenry from the beginning of the implementation of public participation is of crucial importance.”

The discussion feature the participation as panelists of the Vice Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica, Patricia Madrigal; the Vice Minister for Cooperation and International Affairs of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, Patricia Abreu Fernández; and the Coordinator of the National Council for Sustainable Development of Honduras, Xiomara Cubas.

The manuals aim to spread knowledge about spaces for public participation established in the regulatory framework of the countries. They are simple and practical tools that describe the opportunities to request information and the mechanisms for public participation available in national legislation, as well as what are the required procedures and steps that citizens should follow to use them. The documents were prepared with the collaboration of national and municipal authorities, representatives of civil society organizations and networks such as the National Network of training in environmental research of Guatemala, women’s organizations, indigenous and community leaders, university students and the private sector.

The manuals respond to a mandate of the Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and High Authorities of Sustainable Development in 2006, in which the member states asked the OAS to support the implementation of the Inter-American Strategy for the promotion of public participation in decision making on sustainable development, which had been adopted in 2000.

The Strategy offers basic principles, objectives and policy recommendations for greater participation of all sectors of society and the dissemination of information needed for the taking of decisions on sustainable development. The approval of this document marks a landmark in the relation of governments and their citizens in the Americas, in that it represents the consensus of the 34 OAS member states on the basic principles so that civil society and administrations at all levels can work together toward sustainable development.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-450/14