Blogi

The American Civil Society needs a culture of peace and respect

35 states of the American continent came together under the theme “Prosperity with equity” in the seventh Summit of the Americas.
Karen Cerna
21.4.2015

The Seventh Summit of the Americas was organized from April 10th to 11th by the Organization of the American State (OAS). Its main objective is the establishment of a dialogue between the states and to develop a common approach to main challenges in the region. Parallel to the government´s participation, different sectors such as civil society and private sector, had their own forums and presented their recommendations.

On the contrary to the environment of reconciliation and respect between the presidents of United States and Cuba, the civil society and social actors forum was severely affected by the irrational hatred and lack of respect between the civil society aligned to the Cuban government and the one considered as the opposition in Cuban civil society.

According to people that participated in different task groups of this forum, relations were so aggressive and violent that the forum coordination committee, decided to divide the group in two. Later each group argued to be the official one, especially the group aligned to the Cuban government.

***
Even though there were a lot of challenges on civil society forum, many task groups reached a consensus and recommendations on their theme, such as culture and education, health, energy, sustainability development and environment, citizenship and democracy.

Kepa´s partner Women's Forum for Central American Integration (FMICA) participated in democracy and governability task group. Their main declaration concerned democracy issues such as enabling environment for civil society, participation in political decisions and citizenship according to human rights declaration.

FMICA visualized women's situation on gender equality, asked for non-militarization in the Central American region, citizen participation, democracy and strengthening of the Inter-American Human Rights System.

***

Democracy and governability task group presented several proposals to improve the situation of civil society and made recommendations concerning both hemispheric and national level.

At the hemispheric level the group demanded OAS to ensure compliance with democracy and human rights in accordance with OAS charter and to establish a rapporteur for democracy attached to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

At national level the task group demanded a guarantee for permanent dialog between government and civil society, promotion of peace culture in early childhood and eradication of corruption and impunity.

***

Other issues discussed by civil society were the risks on human and environmental rights due to the construction of the big canal in Nicaragua. This topic was presented by members of the Nicaraguan civil society, who took full advantage of the event to speak out in forums, bilateral dialogues and media. Another vibrant group was the Inter-American press society. They communicated the necessity to respect freedom of expression in the American countries.

In the final forum declaration not all authorities participated and spoke with civil society, the main were the general secretary of OAS and the president of United State, Panamá, Colombia and Mexico. It is important to emphasis on the necessity that governments need to be open to have discussions with civil society. Also the absence of a signed final declaration leaves the support for the fulfillment of different sectors demands uncertain.

In my opinion still the most regrettable fact is that all forums had good coordination inside of them except the civil society forum. Instead there were expressions of intolerance and non-respect.

One lesson learnt is that the American civil society needs to have more internal discussion to build a culture of peace and respect for different points of view. An important point that some participants recommended for the next summit is to exclude political parties' representatives from the civil society group as it tends to make it more difficult to achieve consensus.