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OAS Authorities and Heads of Delegation Engage in Dialogue with Civil Society, Workers, and the Private Sector in the Context of the General Assembly session

The Heads of Delegation of the member states, the General Secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, and the Assistant General Secretary, Albert Ramdin, today engaged in dialogue with representatives of civil society, workers, and the private sector on the key theme of the forty-third regular session of the General Assembly, held today through Thursday, in Antigua Guatemala: "For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas."

The General Secretary of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, pointed to the contributions made by nongovernmental organizations and social actors to policies and initiatives formulated within the OAS framework. "You enrich us with your experience and knowledge, constitute an invaluable contribution to public policy design and monitoring and contribute to consolidating the democratic values and principles of the Organization," he noted. The highest authority of the OAS underscored the importance and significance of the annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and principal authorities of the OAS with civil society in the context of the General Assembly session, which he characterized as essential and necessary. "The doors of the OAS are ever open to the civil society organizations of the Americas that form part of the heterogeneous and unique mosaic of democracy that is our region," he added.

"I consider this dialogue among our the most important activities carried out in the framework of the General Assembly session because it provides a forum unparalleled in other multilateral organizations, where representatives of government and social actors can share ideas and consider new forms of collaboration," he indicated.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, said that his country "values highly civil society participation in hemispheric decision-making processes." Citizen contributions, he noted, had begun on May 9, at OAS headquarters, in Washington, D.C., where the X Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Other Social Actors made different recommendations on the drug issue in the Americas for presentation to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the General Assembly session.

Based on those recommendations, Minister Carrera Castro indicated, the Draft Declaration of Antigua, Guatemala "had included two important paragraphs referring to the crucial contribution made by civil society to the drug issue." The first refers to the design, execution, and evaluation of public policies; and the second "encourages broad and open debate on the world drug problem" that takes account of the experience and knowledge of civil society.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala noted that the objective of the dialogue, like that of the Assembly session as a whole, was "for us to identify jointly how we can build capacities in the OAS and in our own governments to address the problem of narcotics use in the Hemisphere." The dialogue was organized as two rounds of interventions by representatives of youth, civil society, workers, and the private sector, followed by comments from member states.

Civil society

Wesley Gervais, founder of the Hivesource project, and participant in the Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas (TIC Americas), spoke in representation of youth, noting the many Caribbean participants in the Competition, which had concluded on Monday, June 3, in Antigua, Guatemala. Gervais indicated that, among the main recommendations by the TIC to the governments was that bureaucracy should be simplified and costs of the company patent registration process reduced, especially for young entrepreneurs; and that opportunities should be expanded for businesses created by youth so as to promote leaders with innovative ideas.

The representative of the civil society organization Institute for the Teaching of Sustainable Development, Carmen Rosa de León, expressed satisfaction with the OAS for addressing the drug problem in the Americas at the General Assembly session and providing a forum for political leaders to express their views. De León indicated that it was necessary to remove drug use and consumption from the criminal and security sphere, which would help reduce pressure on jails. She also asked that the ancestral use of coca leaf be acknowledged and requested those OAS member states that had not yet done so to ratify the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

Iduvina Hernández, of the Association for the Study and Promotion of Democratic Security, said that a repressive approach should be avoided in all drug policy, since this was a public health matter. She indicated that the current drug situation manifested itself as violence against minorities; called for gun control in the civilian population; and indicated that addiction should be treated as a disability. Hernández, who also spoke in representation of civil society organizations working to promote and protect human rights, called on the member states to respect the autonomy and independence of the Inter-American Commission on

Human Rights.

Salam Gómez, of the civil society organization Fundamental, indicated that there was an inherent association of drug users and persons with physical disabilities, and asked the member states to recognize the "full rights" of these persons. She further indicated that most persons with disabilities in the Hemisphere lived in poverty or extreme poverty, and asked the OAS member states to adopt the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

Johanna Ramírez, of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People, and representing the coalition of LGBTI organizations registered with the OAS, denounced the increased discrimination against transgender people, and requested the member states to develop health and education plans for these groups. Ramírez denounced the legislative discrimination suffered by transgender people in the English-speaking Caribbean countries, where laws are in place punishing relations between people of the same sex. She requested all member states to develop policies in the context of a culture of respect for human rights and a pluralistic society.

Mirta Moraga, of the civil society organization AIREANA, spoke in representation of the campaign for sexual and reproductive rights, and demanded that the member states dismantle networks that manage the human trafficking business and enact measures to eradicate the feminization of poverty.

Gloria Nuñez, representative of civil society organizations working to promote the rights of Afro-descendants, expressed concern regarding the violence used by criminal gangs trafficking drugs among Garifuna populations living on the coasts of Central America. Nuñez indicated her alarm at the absence of the State in protecting Afro-descendant communities. She also recognized the work of the OAS Working Group that had prepared the draft Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance, and requested the member states to adopt it during the sessions of the General Assembly session in Antigua, Guatemala.

Larissa Ríos, speaking in representation of pro life and pro family groups of Guatemala, said that the OAS should strengthen the right to life because "it is a basic human right." Ríos indicated that marriage "should be a union between a man and a woman," and requested the member states to encourage projects that strengthened adoption processes.


The President of the Trade Union Technical Advisory Council (COSATE), Francisco Quijano, spoke in representation of workers' organizations and referred to the urgency of creating a comprehensive policy on drugs. "It is clear to us that this issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency and that States have a responsibility to prevent drug trafficking, which affects most severely those most impoverished and workers of the Americas," he indicated. Systematic violations of human rights and drug-related insecurities, he continued, stem from policies of exclusion that do not address the true need of the citizenry. "Socioeconomic, territorial, demographic, gender-based, and generational inequality have contributed significantly to raids and insecurity," he maintained.

The Secretary for Trade Union Policy and Education of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), Amanda Villatoro, referred to the relationship between the fight against drugs and matters such as peace, human rights, democracy, and public health. "We consider drug abuse a socio-health problem; accordingly, national health, education, support, and social inclusion systems must be strengthened in the areas of prevention, treatment, and damage reduction," she indicated. Villatoro advocated conducting an evaluation of these systems to identify actions needed to respond "taking a non-repressive approach in a human rights framework." The TUCA representative also commented on the need to promote decent work "with rights for all workers"; the importance of minimum wage policies, and defending the right to collective bargaining between workers and employers, since such policies contribute to poverty reduction.

For his part, the General Secretary of the General Confederation of Workers of Guatemala (CGTG), Alberto Ramírez Ordonez, referred to the need for a comprehensive policy on drugs, combating citizen insecurity, and anti-trade union violence. In that context, he mentioned the high rates of anti-union violence in different countries of the region, including torture, kidnapping, and threats, and pointed to the gravity of allowing impunity for these crimes to persist. "We support social dialogue, but there is no time left to lose. The international trade union movement and the families of the victims want these cases investigated and the perpetrators duly punished," he indicated.

Private sector

Representing the private sector, José Santiago Molina, President of the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial, and Financial Associations (CACIF), summarized the conclusions of the Private Sector Forum, an event held prior to the General Assembly session in Guatemala City, on Friday, May 31. Among other matters, the Forum emphasized the importance of enhancing security and institutions and of forming public-private partnerships in the area of security. John Craig, representative of the Business Technical Advisory Committee on Labor Matters (CEATAL), said that drug use leads to lower productivity and fewer job opportunities. He also regretted the "vicious circle" wherein lack of opportunities leads to drug trafficking which, in turn, further reduces job opportunities.

Hernán Pitto, Vice President of the Latin American Industrialists Association (AILA), emphasized the role of industries in drug prevention and treatment, as well as the importance of science in seeking solutions to addiction. César Zamora, Treasurer of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), indicated a need to assign priorities to resources in combating drug trafficking and the important role of education and strengthening values among youth.

A gallery of photos of the event will be available here.

The video of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.

Source: OAS Media Center https://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=E-224/13

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