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Civil Society of the Americas Presents Its Perspectives on Security, Human Rights, and Discrimination to the Secretary General

  June 4, 2011

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, and the civil society representatives present in El Salvador for the forty-first regular session of the OAS General Assembly held an informal conversation today in which they exchanged views on the topics of greatest concern and relevance to the region.

The International Fair and Convention Center (CIFCO) in the Salvadoran capital provided the venue for the dialogue. It brought together nearly 200 representatives and spokespersons of civil society organizations from 27 countries, who represented organizations working in the fields of human, labor, and union rights; the rights of persons with disabilities and persons of African descent; gender issues; and minorities, among many others.

Welcoming the participants, Secretary General Insulza said, “each year we have a larger number of civil society representatives at the General Assembly session, demonstrating the importance we all place on citizen participation in these multilateral forums.” He noted that “these dialogues, which have always been very good, very respectful and illuminating to us, have never been completely homogeneous, because precisely there lays the essence of democracy.”

“I am convinced that we should continue broadening avenues toward cooperation among civil society organizations, member states, and the OAS General Secretariat, so as to achieve synergy in our efforts for the benefit of all citizens of the Americas,” said the head of the hemispheric organization.

The Director of the OAS Department of International Affairs, Irene Klinger, moderator of the exchange, emphasized the “ongoing commitment” of the Organization to involve civil society in its activities. She mentioned some of the achievements made in the area of civil society participation over the past year, including the registry of 41 new organizations, their participation at 16 ministerial and Permanent Council meetings, and the holding of regional, subregional, and hemispheric forums.

The concerns and comments put forward by civil society representatives at the meeting had to do with human rights, discrimination, and the central theme of the General Assembly session, “Citizen Security in the Americas.” In their statements, the representatives of nongovernmental organizations addressed topics such as democracy and citizen participation, freedom of expression, regional integration, and fighting crime, drug trafficking, and corruption. They also spoke of the need to broaden opportunities for persons with disabilities, to strive to counteract the high rate of impunity before the law, and to advocate for the rights of minorities, among them communities of African descent and of a different sexual orientation, who expressed concerns regarding the violation of their rights and the discrimination they face in their communities and countries.

The dialogue also dealt with human trafficking, discrimination against migrants, women’s political participation, access to basic social services, inclusion, and the decisions and activities of the various entities and rapporteurships of the inter-American human rights system.
On the topic of discrimination in the broadest sense of the term, the Secretary General pointed to the importance of recognizing diversity as a value and said that “democracy and politics exist because diversity exists.” “To be able to defend diversity, we must each be able to accept the diversity of others,” he added.

Informal conversations between the OAS Secretary General and representatives of civil society organizations first took place during the thirty-sixth regular session of the General Assembly, held in the Dominican Republic in 2006, as an additional opportunity for exchange with social sectors that have been participating in OAS activities for over a decade.

To be held tomorrow, Sunday, June 5, prior to the official inauguration of the forty-first regular session of the General Assembly, is the Dialogue of Heads of Delegation and the OAS Secretary General with civil society representatives on the theme of the General Assembly session, “Citizen Security in the Americas.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez, will moderate. Dialogues will also be held with workers’ representatives and with representatives of the private sector.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-706/11