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Civil Society Organizations Air Views on Regional Issues at OAS General Assembly

  June 5, 2011

The dialogue of heads of delegation and the Secretary General with representatives of civil society on the theme of the forty-first regular session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) –“Citizen Security in the Americas”- was held today at the International Convention Center (CIFCO) in San Salvador. At the dialogue were representatives of 147 organizations in the Hemisphere, who set out their views on a variety of issues on the hemispheric agenda.

The meeting, which focused primarily on the theme of the Assembly, drew participants from a range of social sectors concerned, inter alia, with youth, business enterprise, human rights, persons with disabilities, citizen participation, integral development, indigenous peoples, and persons with different sexual orientations, among others.

In welcoming those present at the dialogue, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez, referred to Article 6 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which provides, "It is the right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decisions relating to their own development" and that "this is also a necessary condition for the full and effective exercise of democracy" since"promoting and fostering diverse forms of participation strengthens democracy." In that framework, he added that his government regarded "this forum with civil society organizations as a seminal element of this General Assembly."

El Salvador's senior diplomat also explained that "in order to make headway on the issue of citizen security, it is important to promote strengthening of technical and financial cooperation at the hemispheric level, as well as working together to combat the structural problems that affect and undermine the development and growth of countries and their peoples."

Representatives of nongovernmental organizations submitted their recommendations to the delegates present at the regional meeting, calling for attention to be given to the impact of violence and insecurity on youth; promotion of employment opportunities and provision of technical education for young people; creation of sources of financing to support business enterprise; encouragement of measures to combat organized crime; promotion of disarmament, and prevention of the influence of groups that support terrorism from outside the region.

They also appealed to the countries taking part in the Assembly to get behind initiatives, inter alia, in the areas of freedom of association, access to public information, independence of the judiciary, and adoption of an inter-American convention against racism and all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

They also expressed their concern about gender and ethnic violence, and explained that many crimes committed in the hemisphere were rooted in prejudices and vulnerabilities associated with discrimination against Afro-descendant or native peoples; against persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression; against persons with disabilities, or against migrants, displaced persons, and other vulnerable groups.

Representatives of civil society organizations also argued in favor of paving the way for greater equality of opportunities in education and employment and of ensuring that social protection systems are sustainable and operate optimally. In addition, they underscored the need to consider the issue of migration as a key factor for citizen security, given the existence of problems such as trafficking in persons, and to tackle it using a holistic approach, adopting measures that went beyond mere suppression.

The heads of delegation and representatives of the United States, Guatemala, Chile, Paraguay, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, and Argentina thanked the civil society organizations for their investigative efforts and noted that they shared several of the concerns and opinions put forward in the course of the dialogue. The government representatives also cited initiatives and accomplishments in their own countries on the issues mentioned and reiterated the commitment of their executive branches to addressing those concerns.

The dialogue of heads of delegation and the Secretary General with representatives of civil society on the theme of the General Assembly has been a part of the official agenda of the General Assembly since 2003, when it was held in Santiago, Chile. With time, the dialogue has expanded to include other actors, such as the private sector and workers.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-712/11