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Sustainability Week begins at the OAS with Meeting of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development

  November 24, 2014

The Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) of the Organization of American States (OAS) today launched the "OAS Sustainability Week" as part of its regular meeting, with a presentation by the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, followed by a discussion and presentations from invited experts on the construction of more resilient cities and communities and in greater harmony with the environment.

Introducing the meeting, the Chair of CIDI and Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the OAS, Ambassador Neil Parsan, explained that "‘Sustainability Week” at the OAS includes a series of events that seek to promote the coordination of actions and to facilitate exchange of knowledge, lessons learned and good practices in disaster risk reduction in the Americas. In this context, explained Ambassador Parsan, CIDI is “a space for discussion and exchange of ideas between government representatives and other key stakeholders to promote sustainable cities and communities in the Americas and to share with the OAS member states the current status of this issue in the region.”

The Secretary General of the UNWTO, Taleb Rifai, emphasized the link between tourism and sustainability, and noted the importance and need to work in close coordination with the governments of the Americas and regional partners such as the OAS. Member states gathered at the meeting agreed to continue working to strengthen the relationship with the UNWTO to maximize tourism’s socio-economic contributions in the region.

As an example of the efforts in this matter, the Director of the Department of Economic and Social Development of the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI), Maryse Robert, emphasized the importance of working in coordination with the private sector to carry out changes in tourism management in the region. In this regard, she highlighted the Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas (SDAA), an initiative supported by the OAS and other public and private entities such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, among others, that is supporting destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean to safeguard their natural and cultural heritage through analysis, management and local training tools.

For his part, Richard Huber, Chief of the Sustainable Cities, Resilience and Risk Management section at the SEDI/OAS Department of Sustainable Development highlighted the Sustainable Communities Initiative in Central America and the Caribbean coordinated by the OAS. The initiative, supported by the United States Department of State, has funded two dozen pilot projects in the region with seed funding of up to $50,000 each on recycling, transportation, and energy solutions, among other topics. The 14 projects funded in the first phase, completed in early 2014, and the 10 new projects selected this year, said Huber, are proving that with a small seed funding, communities can design innovative solutions to the challenges posed by rapid urbanization and its impact on the environment. In addition, the detailed follow-up and documentation of these solutions facilitates taking them to scale and encourages the exchange of good practices and experiences between countries, said the OAS official.

The CIDI meeting also included the participation of experts from the region, including Nerina Paz Lopez, Chief of Plans and Programs for the region of Valparaiso in Chile, who gave a presentation on "Resilient Valparaiso, equity and development after the catastrophe," which underscored the challenge and opportunity related to disaster response in terms of urban restructuring, livability and sustainability. She also emphasized President Bachelet’s program "Quiero mi Barrio” (“I love my neighborhood") as an example of a public program for social urban integration, with the active participation of the community in reconstruction solutions.

Other presentations were given by Claudia A. Adriazola, Director of the Health & Road Safety Program of the World Resources Institute, who addressed the public health impact that comes from urban transportation and urban development; Patricia Torres, Principal Specialist of Urban Development at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), who provided an overview of the challenges imposed by the region’s rapid urbanization and outlined her institution’s Sustainable Emerging Cities Initiative; and Chris Pyke, Vice President of Research at the U.S. Green Building Council, who highlighted new trends in green building to achieve greater energy efficiency.

The meeting continued with a debate on the progress made in implementing the Inter-American Plan for Disaster Prevention and Response and the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, adopted by member states in 2012 (AG/RES. 2750 (XLII-O/12). At this point, Patricio Henderson, Political-Diplomatic Coordinator of the Argentinian White Helmets Commission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, presented the virtual tool funded by the government of Argentina to monitor the Plan. Henderson recalled that 2015 will mark 20 years of the OAS-White Helmets Commission Convention, for which a series of celebrations are being planned in order to reminiscence the joint activities that have taken place based on that agreement.

Following the exchange of experiences and solutions among participants and representatives of the member states on issues of sustainability in the region, the meeting focused on the Development Cooperation Fund of the OAS (DCF/OEA). The Fund, which was restructured by the OAS General Assembly this year in Paraguay, is a mechanism to help finance national and multilateral programs, projects and cooperation activities. During the meeting, four programs were approved as part of the first cycle of funding, related to the theme "Social development and the creation of productive employment" which was identified as a priority by the countries.

Other activities scheduled throughout the "OAS Sustainability Week" include the Third Hemispheric Encounter of the Inter-American Network for Disaster Mitigation (INDM); a meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Natural Disasters Reduction (IACNDR), and a Regional Consultation for the World Humanitarian Summit 2016 (WHS).

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-510/14