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Social Actors at OAS Agree on Poverty and Natural Disasters Recommendations for 2012 Summit of the Americas

  November 4, 2011

Twenty-nine organizations from different social sectors from the Hemisphere today agreed in the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS) on a series of concrete recommendations on facing natural disasters and on poverty and inequality to be transmitted to the Heads of State and Government of the continent when they meet in April 2012 in Colombia for the Sixth Summit of the Americas. The gathering marks a milestone in the Summits process, establishing a direct connection between the needs and requirements of the citizens of the Member States and the meeting that brings together every three years their top political leaders to reach agreements of a continental scope.

Under the leadership of the OAS Summits Secretariat, members of civil society organizations, women’s affairs organizations, labor associations, indigenous peoples, youth, Afro-descendants, people with disabilities, the academy, the private sector, and gay, lesbian and transsexual communities from 19 countries held a debate at Organization headquarters in Washington, DC, on two of the thematic axes of the Summit and issued a document of inputs and recommendations for the Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, meeting.


Among the recommendations on poverty and inequality (available here in Spanish, English version to follow) are the following: to promote greater political participation by the citizenry to contribute to the development of State policies; to place at the center of strategies people affected by poverty and exclusion, as active agents of their development and not as passive actors of government policies; that citizens assume the commitment of getting involved, train and organize themselves to be able to effectively participate in local processes; and to contribute to a dialogue with civil society, the productive sector, and cooperation with all social actors to set up agendas towards the fulfillment and monitoring of Summits agreements.

The inputs on hemispheric cooperation for facing natural disasters (available here in Spanish, English version to follow) include the following: that governments design a program of transparency in accountability on issue of risks and their operational activities; generate ways of coordinating at all levels, including all social actors; define the roles of the relevant government organizations in the processes of coordination between government and civil society; and that political actors incorporate in their agendas the issue of preventing risks from natural phenomena.


The document agreed upon is the result of the first “Policy Dialogues: On the Road to Cartagena,” convened by the OAS on November 3 and 4. In addition to the debates among social actors, the event included the 35th OAS Policy Round Table, titled, “The Road to Cartagena: Hemispheric Cooperation to Reduce Poverty and Inequality.” Coordinated by the OAS Department for International Affairs, it drew the participation of Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development (CGD); George Gray Molina, Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); and Elsa Mata, Executive Director of “CE-Mujer” in the Dominican Republic.

“These consultations are truly collaborative efforts and are indicative of the many stakeholders that have an important part to play in the Summits process, both in preparation and implementation,” said Sherry Tross, Executive Secretary for the Summits of the Americas. The recommendations developed by the social actors will be presented next week directly to the Summits Implementation Review Group (SIRG), in which are represented all of the Member States of the OAS with the task of providing inputs to the Heads of State and Government for Cartagena.

Furthermore, she reaffirmed the commitment of the Summits Secretariat of “seeking broader citizen participation and dialogue in the Summits process, so that a representative range of voices may be heard on the issues that impact us all as citizens of the Americas and in order to generate a sense of buy-in among the citizens in this important multilateral process.”

The Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos, urged the social actors to continue providing ideas and recommendations for the Summit, adding that his country’s objective as host of the continental gathering is for mandates to be issued that “we can measure, that we can commit to implement jointly in the next few years and that would allow us to see a significant and important reduction in poverty and inequality; that is the fundamental challenge.” In this sense, and referring to the mandates to be agreed upon at the VI Summit of the Americas, to be held April 14 and 15, 2012, he recalled that the countries “do not want a declaration with twenty, fifty or two hundred paragraphs; at the most a declaration of one page, a page and a half, where the Heads of State and Government can say in the face of these very serious problems, ‘these are the mandates we wish to develop,’” he explained.

The Policy Dialogues and the 35th Round Table represent two important efforts by the hemispheric organization not only to increase participation by civil society and social actors in its activities, but also to open and expand the process of the Summits of the Americas to make it more inclusive and representative of the peoples of our continent.

In this sense, the OAS Summits of the Americas Secretariat hosts the Summits Virtual Community (SVC), a permanent online forum through which any citizen of the region can contribute to the deposit and analysis of information on the most significant issues on the hemispheric agenda. The debates in the SVC about natural disasters and poverty and inequality provided inputs for the “Policy Dialogues” held this week at the OAS. Hence, Ambassador Hoyos made a call to make the most of this and other tools offered by the Organization, and to conduct national dialogues “inside every one of the 34 States that are participating in this process of the Summit of the Americas.” “Greater internal discussion with the social actors of each country can make for a much more enriching participation and discussion,” he concluded.


As part of the debate, the panelists at the OAS Policy Round Table emphasized the growing effectiveness of public policies in combating poverty and inequality, and assessed the contributions of civil society and the inter-American dialogue. “We are now at the dawn of age in thinking about these problems of poverty and inequality where it’s equally important for the North to learn from the South as it is for the South to learn from the North; it’s about not anymore charity from North to South, it’s about shared challenges of, in particular, inequality and the creation of a stable and prosperous middle class”, said Nancy Birdsall, President of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

George Gray Molina, of UNDP, said that “the first lesson learned over the past decade is that the State is back, public policy has effectiveness over the way that poverty and inequality have declined over the past decade.” In particular, he identified a decline in the gap between skilled and unskilled labor and social safety nets as “two things driving declines in poverty and inequality reduction” over the last seven to ten years.

Elsa Mata, of “CE-Mujer,” one of the civil society organization present at the event, offered a view of the functions the nonprofit entity she heads has exercised since 1988 and the mission of which is “the creation and promotion of opportunities and awareness of women towards equity and gender equality, democracy and social justice.”

More information on the process of the Summits of the Americas is available here.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-940/11