Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Castronomics Capitalism Civil Liberties in the Americas and the Caribbean Quest for Self Determining Sustainable Development RIP Fidel Castro

Balancing the sleigh
Seasonal and timeless as it seems, in the context of this contemplation on Castronomics, if only to take the edge of the dogmatic irrational hysteria that has often accompanied considerations of Fidel Castro, I wanted to post without comment this one of the C Monologues of a Christmas past and satire on one who may be considered a modern-day Scrooge.
Rather than downplay the civil liberties violations and atrocities that has dogged Castro's leadership, its focus on the reactionary and irrational responses to his perceived lunacy that spur his penchant for turning the mirror of his atrocities on his detractors: revealing the system to which he ascribes and they oppose as a carbon copy of the one he opposes and to which they subscribe. 
Does it remind us of any contemporary dictator or despot and the nature of reactions and responses to the same? Capitalism, when it rears its ugliest head and snarls its meanest to stampede over civil rights and social equity is no different from the sceptre of communism that has disinherited and dismembered many....and the accompanying cartoon which the cartoonist for the C Monologues joined heads in conceptualising adequately captures that:
...and all the other dictators shouted all out in glee...
Fidel-the-Red-Cigar-Dictator, you'll go down in hisstorieeee...
Writing his own story, crafting his own epitaph, there must be a  place reserved for dictators down or up in history’s annals.
But for those trying to balance the sleigh to get toys to the world’s children on time, it often seems like dodging showers of meterorites on a starry starry Christmas eve night.  
So it was at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, then wearing then cap of spokesperson for the civil society agenda and its perspective on the Summit theme: Securing Our Citizens' Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability."
I had entered the Summit processes in the lead up to the Special Summit of the Americas that took place in Mexico in January 2004 through to the 4th Summit in Argentina that followed in 2005.
Regional civil society have always largely been in solidarity around the Cuba issue with a clarity that governments didn't seem to understand. It was one thing to condemn the injustices of the dictator; it was quite another to deny a place around the negotiating table and impose sanctions that negatively affect the lives of innocent men, women and children who are then doubly victimised by now not just their own leader, but also the outside world.
Much of the energies of the Summit processes became embroiled in the debate on the denial of Cuba a place at the Summit table. Runaway though it might be, Cuba was part of the Caribbean family in a summit being hosted by a Caribbean nation. The illogic of denying space to Cuba was clear to those who saw the Summit processes as an arena at which modifications of extreme positions could be negotiated, if such Summits were to be worth the enormous volume of paper they pilot and trees they destroy in processes in the name of peace. 
But it may not have been so clear to those who did not have what the Latinos call cajones to dare to incur the wrath of the almighty powers that be and the threat the then newly-appointed and well-anointed US President Barack Obama and in adherence to the US sanctions against Cuba would not share the Summit of the Americas arena with Castro; and that although several of the heads of governments and states, including of the host country, benefitted from some of the advances Cuba had made for itself in medical care, for instance.

Although somewhere lurked much common ground and a shared desire for deepening the potential of regional collaboration, every manner of pressure was placed on us to relent in those minutes and hours when we were pounding at what became a wall of indifference that set civil society on one side and governments on the other. 
We put Cuba and Haiti on the agenda. We were told that Cuba was not to be even whispered around the Summit, because nobody is going to entertain any discussion relating to Cuba. And in hindsight, the Summit could have worked if the leaders had handled it differently. You cannot go through all that financial expense, come here saying “It was great meeting you all, but sorry we waiting on the IMF” and others to tell us what do to about something like the international financial crisis.Dr Kris Rampersad, Interview with Clevon Raphael, Newsday (see below)
 Coordinating the regional/Americas outreach, the national coalition, and thereafter Commonwealth civil society outreach processes as the OAS Summit led to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit and in the direct firing line of the missiles hurled at messenger from both the so-called democracies as with the dictatorships, would leave scars as it would on civil society, on the people of the Americas.  The Summit itself seemed a farce and intense drain on resources. The 2009 Declaration was signed solely by the Prime Minister of the host nation, now deceased, Patrick Manning. The ALBA countries refused to sign the declaration, issuing their own called The Declaration of Cumana, in the wake of presenting Obama with a copy of Eduardo Galeano's book, Open Veins ofLain America Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (1973) that sets underdevelopment in the region in the contexts of historical exploitation which Obama must have read, given the path he has subsequently taken.
"In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism, but its vicious senility. Underdevelopment isn't a stage of development, but its consequence...underdevelopment arises from external development, and continues to feed it." (Eduardo Galeano Open Veins)

But our message would land on some listening ear, though it would be almost a decade before we would begin to hear audible sounds of its receipt.
In the slow pace of progress in the processes of international diplomacy we had planted a fertile seed, one that resonated with the much looked-to US leader - who a few months later in 2005 would have bagged a Nobel Peace Prize, just for having won a US election it seemed at the time, although in their citation is was for "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". Maybe it was a prize presented in trust, in what was to come. It would take close to a decade to germinate until the climate between the US and Cuba will begin to warm and the ice to thaw. Obama and, not Fidel, but Fidel's successor, his brother Raul, would signal that they would both share the arena of the Summit of April 2015 in Panama. With that came soundings of revisiting and easing some of the sanctions.
A year later Barack will be jetting to Cuba on the heels of Pope Francis for the historic first visit of a sitting US President to land on Cuban soil since Fidel was a toddler.
The world was moving on. Many were moving on. I too had moved on, engaged in other dimensions of the peace building processes. But some of the missiles unleashed almost a decade earlier in the heated moments of negotiations in the Summits in the America were still wildly hurtling towards a targeted messenger, in another peace building arena. Sometimes when you identify with a cause, you network with like minds on the cause; but you also become the targets of its enemies. In a world where knowledge and information and networking is seen as the singular greatest threat to established tottering status quos, it seems easier for the status quo to make targets of those in the business of increasing and empowering citizens to use knowledge and its tools than to engage and effect reform of the decadent processes and mechanisms.
 The weapons of mass or other destruction are sometimes planted and set on paths of destruction that resonate eons later, even when the climate and the environment in which they were planted had altered, modified, revised or changed hardline positions. Many a journalist and civil and human rights activist have suffered, been sanctioned or denied access to opportunities, mutilated, spirits broken, lost lives, by Fidel Castro and those who cast themselves in lesser or even opposite moulds to him, when engaging more diligently with the processes would have more meaningful outcomes for societies and peoples and by extension governments themselves.

As I write this, I am penning a note to dictators and dictators to be: be careful how you treat your writers, poets and artists, because guess who would be writing your epitaphs; and if you destroy them all, who would be left to sing your praises.
But time is not often on the side of those trying to Constraint Castro or the Castros to be, or the Castros among us.

related links:

cris copy.pngVictory for ships’ owners
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Dr Kris Rampersad:

Dr Kris Rampersad
Caribbean leaders lost a great opportunity to wrest benefits for the region during last week’s Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain. Director of International Affairs of the Network of NGOs and lead researcher for the Active Democracy Network, Dr Kris Rampersad, also laments that it was an anti-people gathering.
Caribbean leaders lost a great opportunity to wrest benefits for the region during last week’s Fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain. Director of International Affairs of the Network of NGOs and lead researcher for the Active Democracy Network, Dr Kris Rampersad, also laments that it was an anti-people gathering.
Q: How optimistic is your organisation that Trinidad and Tobago would benefit anything—long-term or short-term—from the just-concluded Fifth Summit of the Americas?
A: Well, looking at the Declaration of Port-of-Spain, it was a great start in terms of social inclusion, fight against poverty. The problem arises when we come to the declaration itself...  
Based on what has transpired so far, do you see any tangible benefits accruing to this country, based on the large financial outlay spent on this three-day affair?
[At a coffee shop at the Grand Bazaar last week]. Maybe it is too early to assess that, but what we would have liked to see was more concrete actionable areas, like how are they going to deal with the international financial crisis, even though they said they were waiting on other international meetings before establishing a position.  
The Government is on the offensive against the barrage of criticism for staging the conference at such a huge cost. Are the people being unfair in this regard?
No, Clevon. I don’t think so. A lot went wrong in terms of the whole implementation/execution of the summit. Government is pitching it as a success the fact that it got 33 leaders here. We could have thrown a party and have the same number of leaders here, and given that kind of vagueness on what we stand to benefit, the population has a right to be concerned.
Are Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Trade and Industry Minister Mario Browne acting prematurely in claiming its success?
[A cynical grin]. If they see blocking off the people of Beetham, the suppressing of people’s legitimate right to protest and emptying the streets, particularly of the capital city, of human life as a success, one can see why they are making that claim. What, if anything at all, substantial has come out of having them here we are yet to see that.
Since it is difficult to pinpoint any positives for T& T, what about the summit that impacted upon you in a very precise way?
Clevon, the saddest moment for me was when I walked into Port-of-Spain on the weekend with some of my friends, and the city was a virtual ghost town. I have never been to any international conference like this one where people said that they needed to stay away. They did not feel a part of the process… and for the reasons we know so well. The people were virtually ostracised from the meeting, and that, too, was responsible for its lacklustre showing.
What were you all looking for that did not emerge out of the meeting?
Since the start of the planning of the Summit, they said they were going to focus on implementation. They themselves said there were more than 600 unfulfilled mandates emanating from previous summits.
Have you all seen anything in the declaration that would tangibly benefit Trinidad and Tobago?
It is not the document in itself, Clevon, and that’s what we are saying; [frowning] it’s what they do with what they say they are going to do. That is what implementation is about, and there is nothing very specific targeting Trinidad and Tobago.
I don’t want to draw you into the political arena, but don’t you think that a lot of this money could have been spent on more important areas of national concern?
We said that the Summit could have been beneficial to T& T, and I don’t know if that at this stage we can quantify what those benefits might be. But, yes; I agree with you that there are several other areas in which this money could have been redirected…
I am not trying to force you to, but...[Interrupting]. You are trying, Clevon [laughs]....from your vantage point, was this meeting a waste of taxpayers’ money, in terms of benefiting the average citizen of T& T?
There was some wastage. For instance, the cruise ships. We were on the Victory, which was practically empty. I don’t know what happened on the Princess...
It was, indeed, a victory for the cruise ships’ owners, in terms of collecting fat fees?
[Chuckling]. Well, they did declare afterwards it was a victory for them…and Mr Manning did say last night it was $120 million for both vessels. The media focused on the fancy vehicles, but there were other areas that needed to be focused on to make this exercise meaningful to us.
Did the Government make any meaningful effort to involve civil society in the actual summit?
[A quick passing of her hand through her shoulder-length hair]. Well, this has been one of our complaints long ago; that we do not think that the Government was engaging us in a meaningful way. And we have people among us who have a sense of how this conference could have been directed to our benefit. We would have also liked to see the Caribbean leaders, not only Trinidad and Tobago, take a stronger stand on several matters.
The Latin American leaders came with their well-defined agendas; didn’t they?
Yes. And that is exactly my point. The Caribbean leaders did not put forward a common agenda for the region. Given the fact this was the first time this gathering was taking place in the Caribbean, there were some essential areas in which we could have gained some kind of advantages. Here was our opportunity to shine, but this never came across during the entire summit. What a shame!
Dr, since no one, including Mr Manning or Trade and Industry Minister Mario Brown, can give us any idea of tangibles coming to this country for hosting this expensive adventure, don’t you agree that it was a colossal waste of money?
[Laughs again]. Was it a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money? Clevon, [twiddling a pencil while pausing on this question], …was it a colossal waste of money? Clevon, we keep being optimistic that something would come out of this if the regional governments kind of take a position and have a sense of direction. But we are not seeing that. The US and some of the Latins came and got something. Nothing for the Caribbean.
Finally, what did civil society get out of the conference?
We put Cuba and Haiti on the agenda. We were told that Cuba was not to be even whispered around the Summit, because nobody is going to entertain any discussion relating to Cuba. And in hindsight, Clevon, the Summit could have worked if the leaders had handled it differently. You cannot go through all that financial expense, come here saying “It was great meeting you all, but sorry we waiting on the IMF” and others to tell us what do to about something like the international financial crisis.
Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | April 22, 2009
Groups question success of Trinidad summit
Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Patrick Manning signs the final declaration of the fifth Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Sunday, April 19. Manning was the sole signatory. The confab of 34 heads of government from within the hemisphere was overshadowed by Cuba, and Hugo Chávez, who grabbed centre stage with the unexpected presentation of a book to United States President Barack Obama that detailed Latin America's beef with the superpower over many decades.
News reports highlighted the erection of a new wall that did not entirely block the urban blight of Port-of-Spain, others wondered where was the beach amid organisational glitches at the fifth Summit of the Americas.
Now civil society groups in the Americas said Tuesday they were still awaiting the promised action and implementation plan that was supposed to have emerged from the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Port-of-Spain Declaration.
Sole signatory
Trinidad's Patrick Manning was the sole signatory to the declaration.
The Active Democracy Network (ADN), whose membership spans 24 countries said it had expected more of a commitment on a number of issues including poverty alleviation from the western hemispheric leaders.
"In the areas where we expected assigned deadlines and responsibilities, the Summit merely adopts UN deadline of 2015 for the alleviation of poverty and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at a time when the UN is itself reviewing that deadline - just five years away," said ADN spokesperson Dr Kris Rampersad.
Strategic actions
"The only clauses that assert accountability from governments are Clause 66, which merely 'instructs' governments to meet again in 2010 on the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development (PIDS); Clause 90, which calls on 'the technical secretariats of all Inter-American Ministerial Meetings to inform their ministers and high level authorities of the mandates arising from this summit and to initiate strategic actions, by the end of 2009, to facilitate the implementation of our commitments."
Clause 99 instructs ministers of finance or pertinent authorities to convene a meeting in 2010 to address regional financial and economic issues.
But: "Will the financial and economic crisis wait until we reach to Clause 99 and 2010?," said Rampersad, reeling off a series of questions on the action plan post summit, Caribbean priorities, and solutions and projects identified for food, energy and environmental crises.
97 new commitments
"These are questions that remain unanswered in the Declaration. In essence, it implies that we seem to have held a Summit to instruct all attending to commit to meet again," said Rampersad.
The Port-of-Spain Declaration, she said, was no different than the some 634 mandates and commitments that governments of the region have signed on to over the last four summits, on which some 60 per cent of the governments have taken no action.
"This Summit, in fact, adds 97 more commitments to the 634 others, while leaving open the questions of who is going to implement them, given the token signing of the declaration by the Chair, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, seemingly on behalf of the meeting," said Rampersad.

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, November 14, 2008: (IPS)  – Caribbean civil society groups say they want to have direct input at the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad and Tobago next April, and are urging hemispheric governments to begin implementing some of the 600 recommendations that have been agreed upon at previous summits dating back to 1994.

 “We are happy that Trinidad and Tobago is focusing on implementation at the Apr. 17-19 summit, and we are lending our expertise to that process,” said Dr. Kris Rampersad, director of Lobby, Advocacy, Research and Public Relations of the Network of NGOS of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women.

 She told IPS that at a two-day Caribbean Sub Regional Civil Society Forum held here over the weekend, delegates also agreed on the need for including civil society representatives in government delegations — one of the commitments made at the Quebec Summit five years ago and reiterated at the last summit in Mar de Plata, but never implemented.

 “It is time to deliver. Since Trinidad and Tobago, as host, is leading this call for implementation, it is an ideal opportunity that our government leads by example and start implementation from the home front, beginning at national level,” Rampersad said.

 “The Caribbean has in the past had relatively low-keyed involvement in the summit process. Now that it is being staged in the Caribbean, it gives the region an opportunity to redefine its roles and responsibilities within the hemisphere,” she added.

 The Summit of the Americas is held every three to four years, and brings together the region’s 34 heads of state to discuss political, economic, social, and security issues.

 Hazel Brown, coordinator of the Trinidad-based Network of NGOs, reminded delegates that “nothing will be handed to us — we have to take it,” and that the purpose of the forum was to allow for the establishment of a strong citizens’ movement in this hemisphere of which the Caribbean is a vibrant part.

 The forum here was organised by the Trinidad-based NGO, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Canadian-based Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) and held under the theme “Building Civil Society Capacity for Participation in the Summit Process and Follow-Up”.

 More than 100 NGOs and civil society groups were represented at the forum, which discussed issues such as human prosperity, environmental sustainability, energy security, democratic governance, and strengthening the summit process.

 OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin said that the participation of civil society in next year’s summit “cannot be a one-off activity”.

 “This engagement should be a continuous one, structured and well defined, and even beyond the Fifth Summit of the Americas. Civil society engagement is not a gesture, it is an obligation,” he said.

 But the forum here also noted the failure of the 34 hemispheric governments to implement many of the recommendations that had emerged from previous summits and recalled, for example, the 2003 Quebec summit, which produced at least 43 pages of recommendations.

 “We, as part of a hemispheric group of civil society organisations — the Active Democracy Network — monitoring implementation of the summit mandates will launch an index of government compliance that will rank the governments based on analyses carried out by experts throughout in terms of implementation,” Rampersad said.

 “From preliminary data, it is clear that there has been regression in some of the areas. In others, governments have made some progress,” she said, noting that in some cases “there has been no movement at all”.

 The Active Democracy Network’s initial focus is on recommendations involving local government reform, freedom of expression, access to information and involvement by civil society in decision making.

 For example, regional leaders committed in the Quebec Plan of Action to strengthen local government systems by making them more autonomous and active agents of political and administrative decentralisation.

 “Instead, even despite the national consultations, in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, we are seeing evidence of reducing the powers of local government and increasing control by central government,” Rampersad said.

 At the summit in Quebec, the participating governments had also agreed to promote mechanisms to facilitate citizen participation in political life, and provide the resources to do so, including information, training and technical support and financial resources.

 Rampersad believes that with the summit being held in the Caribbean for the first time ever, regional countries, and more specifically the Trinidad and Tobago government, should use the opportunity to set an example.

 “Here is a very good place to start. We have measurable data of where implementation can be improved. We must go beyond the rhetoric and act on it,” she added.

 Arthur Gray, advisor to the National Coordinator of the Fifth Summit Secretariat, said that the summit, apart from the historic significance of being held in a small island developing state, provides an opportunity for the Caribbean to shape a hemispheric agenda “that addresses the issues and themes that are of direct relevance to our region even as it lays the foundations of a new structure of Inter-American relations that is in consonance with the urgent realities of our time.”

 The delegates at the just concluded Caribbean Civil Society Forum say they want it to become the core of a network of Caribbean civil society organisations (CSO) that will work to advance CSO involvement in the summit process, sharing expertise and experiences.

 In addition, they have also pledged to form national umbrella CSOs to lobby their governments to hold national consultations that would feed into the regional compilation of civil society recommendations.
Rampersad said that the forum also agreed that “there be meaningful and effective spaces for civil society interface with Government at the summit and to dialogue on recommendations for the Summit plan of action”.

Civil groups question absence of Summit action plan



PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, April 22, 2009 – Civil Society groups are still awaiting the promised action and implementation plan that was supposed to have emerged from the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Port of Spain Declaration.

The Active Democracy Network – comprising civil society organisations of 24 countries of the Organisation of American States, including the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women – is questioning why no action plan was created, particularly in light of the global economic crisis.

“In the areas where we expected assigned deadlines and responsibilities the Summit merely adopts UN deadline of 2015 for the alleviation of poverty and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals at a time when the UN is itself reviewing that deadline – just five years away,” lamented the spokesperson for both networks, Dr Kris Rampersad.

She added that the Declaration of Port of Spain, adopted even after some member countries refused to support it, did not outline any priorities for the Caribbean or provide any solutions or projects to address the financial crisis, the energy crisis, or the environmental and climate crises.

“In essence, it implies that we seem to have held a Summit to instruct all attending to commit to meet again,” said Dr Rampersad.

To support his point, he highlighted clause 66 of the declaration which instructs governments to meet again in 2010 on the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development (PIDS); clause 90 which calls on “the technical secretariats of all inter-American Ministerial Meetings to inform their Ministers and high level authorities of the mandates arising from this Summit and to initiate strategic actions, by the end of 2009, to facilitate the implementation of our commitments”; and clause 99  which instructs Ministers of Finance or pertinent authorities to convene a meeting in 2010 to address regional financial and economic issues’.

“Will the financial and economic crisis wait until we reach to clause 99 and 2010. Where is the action plan?” Dr Rampersad questioned.

She added that while the civil society groups are encouraged that the Summit reaffirms commitments that governments include civil society in policy action and decision, and strengthens its resolve to promote human rights, fundamental freedoms, women’s rights and social inclusion, “it is clear that this Declaration is no different than the some 634 mandates and commitments that Governments of the region have signed on to over the last four Summits, with record of minimal follow-up”.

Dr Rampersad said an assessment by the Active Democracy Network launched during the pre-Summit forum showed almost 60 per cent of the governments not implementing Summit decisions.

“This Summit in fact adds 97 more commitments to the 634 others, while leaving open the questions of who is going to implement them, given the token signing of the declaration by the Chair, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, seemingly on behalf of the meeting,” she said.

Dr Rampersad said the declaration raises questions on what level of consensus was achieved and “how binding could these commitments be made given their vagueness and lack of applicability to the most pressing of today’s realities”.

The Active Democracy Network’s review and Index of government’s performance and the work of other organisations give specific recommendations on areas for immediate action and implementation.

The spokesman insisted that governments do not have to reinvent the wheel to find solutions to the regions problems, but instead use new action-oriented approaches to alleviate them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Manning opens people's summit; T& T gets poor scores on implementing summit mandates
Trinidad & Tobago's Prime Minister Patrick Manning formally opened the Fifth Summit of the Americas on board the cruise ship, Caribbean Victory, which is docked in Port-of-Spain. But the high profile guests, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are yet to arrive for the two-day conference, which begins on Friday.

“I welcome you to the Fifth Summit of the Americas,” he told hundreds of guests from civil society and public life.

He thanked the groups for helping people, noting that they play a critical role in the development of a people and society. “The effects of civil society’s work have often been lost to those of us who toil in other vineyards,” he said.

Manning said governments must not govern in their own interests but in the interests of the people, adding that a nation is judged on how it treats its least fortunate citizens. In that context, he said, civil society has the potential to make nations great.

“This my dear friends is a People’s Summit. In the end it will be the people who benefit....Your deliberations will go a considerable way to improving the lives of the people in the hemisphere.”

While Manning is sounding upbeat ahead of the summit, an implementation index to be released Thursday shows that Trinidad and Tobago performed poorly on implementing mandates from the last four Summits of the Americas.

The index shows Trinidad and Tobago at 0.09 on Freedom of Expression, 0.08 in Access to Information, 0.04 Decentralisation and Local Government, 0.18 for Citizen Participation and 0.02 on gender perspectives.
Dr Kris Rampersad , International Relations Director of the Network of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) said these scores have been developed by the Active Democracy Network, grading 24 countries in the region with respect to keeping their pledge to implement measures agreed at previous summits.
Rampersad said Trinidad and Tobago has done virtually nothing in these areas.
Hazel Brown, president of the Network of NGOs, said one reason why Governments have not implemented the mandates from previous Summits is because of a lack of information. "They agree to things and they sign things and nobody knows," she told reporters.
"One of the proposals that we are making is that when you go and you sign things on our behalf in our name when you come back please tell us," she said.
"We have insisted that what this summit must be about is to look at those 634 mandates that were made in the last four summits and determine what the priorities are and how together citizens and Government we will ensure for the benefit of ourselves and our children the implementation of those mandates. Those things cannot be implemented without this kind of cross sectoral collaboration between all of us as citizens."
Brown noted that the Jamaican government has said it is willing to work with the civil society representatives to see how they can improve their performance.

NGO: Summit can make change in the region
  • Published on Apr 12, 2009, \
The Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for the Summit of the Americas believes that the Summit can be an effective vehicle in making change throughout the region. 
However, Dr Kris Rampersad International Relation Director of the Net Work of NGO's and the representative of the hemispheric Active Democracy Network explained in a telephone interview that this can only be accomplished if the leaders attending the Summit are aware of the real issues that are affecting the people they serve and actively work to institute the decisions that they come to after the Summit is over. 
The Civil Society Organisation she said is determined to do its part to ensuring this and will facilitate the former of the two by hosting a meeting on Tuesday at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, in an attempt to bring together all sectors of civil society to give them a voice. 
"A lot of people feel left out of what is taking place as it relates to the Summit so we are trying to create an avenue, through this meeting on Tuesday, to allow for the input from the public so that the issues being discussed won't just come from the heads of State but from the people in a majority." 
"Our view is that the Summit can be beneficial but it depends on what the leaders take from it and the follow up on the decisions taken during the Summit when they get back to their countries." 
She added that in the past a lot of what was discussed and eventually decided upon at the previous Summits never materialised because there was no follow up to the discussions. 
"Our position is that at this Summit they need to focus on specific actionable points and tied to that timeline and assigned responsibility for various Governments so that everyone knows who is responsible for carrying out what action," she said. Tuesday's meeting she said is open to all members of the public including trade unions, community groups, religious organisations and other NGO's. Its agenda is focused on the Global/ Hemispheric Economic Crisis: Implications for civil society and proposed policy Initiatives, Civil Society Appraisal and Institutionalising Civil Society Participation in Democratic Governance and Matters Relating to the Agenda and Civil Society Management of and Participation in the three civil society fora. 
Rampersad said this was important because the Civil Society Organisation would be the body preparing the communiqué for the foreign Ministers and they needed to ensure that Caribbean issues were on the agenda. 
"This being the first time that the Summit is being held in the Caribbean it is an opportunity for the Caribbean to establish a higher profile on the hemispheric agenda." 
"Many times we are just grouped together with Latin America but Caribbean issues and needs are many times very different to the needs of Latin America," she added.
Caribbean Net News
October 23, 2008
The Caribbean Civil Society will meet in Trinidad and Tobago to discuss the agenda of the upcoming Heads of Government Summit of the Organisation of American States. "It is an opportunity for regional organisations to place on the agenda exactly what they expect of their governments when they meet in Summit in April 2009 on the theme Securing Our Citizens' Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability", Director of Lobby, Advocacy, Research and Public Relations at the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, Dr Kris Rampersad explained. The Caribbean Civil Society Forum will take place from 8 am on October 30 and 31, 2008 in Port of Spain. It is being hosted by the Network, the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) with the support of the Summits of the Americas Secretariat and the Department of International Affairs of the Organization of American States. The Network has set up a civil society secretariat to supply citizens with relevant information on the Summit. "If Caribbean citizens are concerned that the issues which are important to the region are not receiving adequate political attention, this is the opportunity to make those concerns heard," said Rampersad, adding that the sessions will be largely open to the public.
Said Rampersad: "The Forum will mobilise the diverse range of expertise and activism of CSOs for more meaningful participation in the summit process and to recognize their role in spurring their governments to confront contemporary issues facing the Hemisphere. It is critical for Caribbean civil society to know and understanding this OAS decision making machinery in order to influence the development of public policy, programs and government practices that can improve their lives through implementation of Summit mandates. The Forum will discuss and compile recommendations to be presented to the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG), which will shape the Draft Declaration of Commitment and the hemispheric agenda at the Fifth Summit. Following on the practice established at the four previous Summits, this Forum is also designed to provide impetus for Caribbean civil society, as members of the host region of the Summit, to take a leadership role in the lead-up process to the Summit.
"We envision the Forum will begin the process of developing a strong network of Caribbean civil society organisations at local and regional levels that can collaborate with CSOs in other regions of the Americas for the Summit," said Rampersad. "These partnerships and collaborations are critical to build capacity to participate in the OAS process, as well as other important initiatives within the Americas."
Based on the themes, sessions will be held on the topics: Human Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Energy Security, Democratic Governance, and Strengthening the Summits Process, the Forum will:

  Draft recommendations from CSOs on themes of the Fifth Summit to be presented to the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG).
  Highlight models of successful CSO participation in implementing and monitoring past Summit mandates in the Caribbean.
  Raise awareness among CSOs of the Fifth Summit themes and the draft Declaration of Commitments.
  Assess and improve the capacity of CSOs to partner on advancing Fifth Summit commitments to foster human prosperity, democratic governance, energy security and environmental sustainability in the Caribbean.

  (Kris Rampersad - Sunday, October 5, 2008, 05:26:50 p.m.) It would be useful if we can look at this from our regional home-grown perspective rather than from and with all the imported approaches that we are being spoon-fed and adopting wholesale - with evident disastrous effect...(The reasons why are we in the current crisis!!!) Brazil’s is a great model to follow - combining as it does political will with mechanisms to support home grown methods and technologies…Will post more on this before end of the week.
T& T did not fare well in adopting previous summit mandate
Trinidad and Tobago has received very poor scores on a performance index on the implementation of mandates from the last four Summits of the Americas.
Trinidad and Tobago has received very poor scores on a performance index on the implementation of mandates from the last four Summits of the Americas.
The index which will be launched tomorrow shows Trinidad and Tobago with extremely low scores of 0.09 on the issue of Freedom of Expression, 0.08 in the area of Access to Information, 0.04 in the area of Decentralisation and Local Government, 0.18 for Citizen Participation and 0.02 on gender perspectives.
Dr Kris Rampersad , International Relations Director of the Network of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) said these scores on the index - a score pad developed by the Active Democracy Network on the performance of implementation for 24 countries in the region with respect to the extent governments have implemented the things they promised - shows that this Government has done virtually nothing in these areas.
Hazel Brown, president of the Network of NGOs, said it was not enough for them to say that the Government was not doing this or they hadn't done that: "So we are able to say for specific things what they have done and use those results of the index to encourage some improvement in the situation with regards to implementation."
She added that one of the reasons Governments have not implemented the mandates agreed upon at the previous Summits was because people don't know what they agree on when they go to these conferences.
"They agree to things and they sign things and nobody knows."
"One of the proposals that we are making is that when you go and you sign things on our behalf in our name when you come back please tell us," she said.
Brown added that multi-sectoral collaboration and partnership is also very important for the implementation of the summit mandates.
"We have insisted that what this summit must be about is to look at those 634 mandates that were made in the last four summits and determine what the priorities are and how together citizens and Government we will ensure for the benefit of ourselves and our children the implementation of those mandates. Those things cannot be implemented without this kind of cross sectorial collaboration between all of us as citizens."
Brown pointed out that the Government of Jamaica has expressed its willingness to work with the civil society representatives to see what the score pad says about them so that they can improve their performance.

Read more here:

Skewed development vision in CHOGM concept paper
Sun, 2009-11-29 17:11 — Anonymous
Byline Author: 
Article Date: 
Sunday, November 29, 2009
...Imbalanced attention to key drivers: culture, gender and rural development
Despite its very clear identification of Commonwealth challenges, and its theme Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future, the CHOGM concept paper gives unequal focus to its three key words, ‘partnering, equitable, and sustainable.’
Despite its very clear identification of Commonwealth challenges, and its theme Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future, the CHOGM concept paper gives unequal focus to its three key words, ‘partnering, equitable, and sustainable.’
The paper is heavily slanted to climate change, almost to the oblivion of all else, and even that is skewed to the perspective that all the world’s ensuing problems will arise from the climate change phenomenon. This constitutes a business-as-usual, plaster-on-the-sore approach that holds the symptoms for the cause.
It ignores the reality that anticipated challenges from changing climate patterns are really manifestations of the continued imposition of culturally alien financial and other systems on many of the world’s communities, unbalanced economic development, neglect of the contributions of women and girls, and inequitable investments in the largely rural-based agricultural sectors in favour of close-to-the-nose urban sectors.
The paper’s approach is analogous to the get-rich-quick models that spiraled the financial crisis in the first instance; the failures that have arisen from focus on economic security at the expense of food security; and the disrespect for home-grown, culturally evolved modes of coping with life’s challenge that have excluded large segments of the world’s peoples from an equal share of development — spring-factors that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change, not the other way around!
The concept can certainly benefit from strengthened emphasis on the need for integrated and multi/cross sectoral approaches that promote balance and equity and that recognise different notions and cultures of development that can add enormously to solutions for the current crises of finance, food security, water and land management, soil conservation, rising temperatures and ocean levels.
As it treats with climate change, there is need in the concept for dedicated attention through paragraphs that:
1. recognise that peoples’ cultures are central and pivotal to development around which all else orbits if there is to be widespread buy-in-to the Millennium Development Goals;
2. account for the conditions of and contributions of two-thirds of the Commonwealth—who are women and children—as key starting points (not endpoints) to reversing the horrifying imbalances of poverty, malnourishment, child and maternal mortality that will be aided and alleviated through - not token - but revisionist priority positioning of agriculture, food security and rural in the Commonwealth and others’ development agendas.
This would go a long way to help right the lopsided vision in the concept, clouded as it is by climate change as the looming tsunami bearing down on the world, by sharpening its focus on the real subjects of the MDGs: the neglected communities that huddle on tsunami-endangered coastlines, farmers who are squeezed onto precarious hillside to produce the world’s food as concrete encroach on prime agriculture lands and the plight of the disadvantaged, including women and children.
2. Dr Kris Rampersad, a T& T based media, cultural and literary development consultant and international relations director of the Network of NGOS of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, reviews the Concept Paper for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the context of status of the global development agenda.

The Declaration of Cumaná 

by ALBA Member Countries
from ALBA, Cumaná, Venezuela

We, the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the Draft Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

- The Declaration does not provide answers to the Global Economic Crisis, even though this crisis constitutes the greatest challenge faced by humanity in the last decades and is the most serious threat of the current times to the welfare of our peoples.

- The Declaration unfairly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the consensus in the region condemning the blockade and isolation to which the people and the government of Cuba have incessantly been exposed in a criminal manner.

For this reason, we, the member countries of ALBA believe that there is no consensus for the adoption of this draft declaration because of the reasons above stated, and accordingly, we propose to hold a thorough debate on the following topics:

1. Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction. What we are experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature, not another cyclic crisis. Those who think that with a taxpayer money injection and some regulatory measures this crisis will end are wrong. The financial system is in crisis because it trades bonds with six times the real value of the assets and services produced and rendered in the world, this is not a "system regulation failure", but a integrating part of the capitalist system that speculates with all assets and values with a view to obtain the maximum profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has generated over 100 million additional hungry persons and has slashed over 50 million jobs, and these figures show an upward trend.

2. Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis, by submitting the necessary conditions for life in the planet, to the predominance of market and profit. Each year we consume one third more of what the planet is able to regenerate. With this squandering binge of the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets Earth by the year 2030.

3. The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet. To avert this outcome, it is necessary to develop and model an alternative to the capitalist system. A system based on:

- solidarity and complementarity, not competition;

- a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human resources;

- a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries;

- a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies and wars;

- in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

4. As a concrete expression of the new reality of the continent, we, Caribbean and Latin American countries, have commenced to build our own institutionalization, an institutionalization that is based on a common history dating back to our independence revolution and constitutes a concrete tool for deepening the social, economic and cultural transformation processes that will consolidate our full sovereignty. ALBA-TCP, Petrocaribe or UNASUR, mentioning merely the most recently created, are solidarity-based mechanisms of unity created in the midst of such transformations with the obvious intention of boosting the efforts of our peoples to attain their own freedom. To face the serious effects of the global economic crisis, we, the ALBA-TCP countries, have adopted innovative and transforming measures that seek real alternatives to the inadequate international economic order, not to boost their failed institutions. Thus, we have implemented a Regional Clearance Unitary System, the SUCRE, which includes a Common Unit of Account, a Clearance Chamber and a Single Reserve System. Similarly, we have encouraged the constitution of grand-national companies to satisfy the essential needs of our peoples and establish fair and complementary trade mechanisms that leave behind the absurd logic of unbridled competition.

5. We question the G20 for having tripled the resources of the International Monetary Fund when the real need is to establish a new world economic order that includes the full transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, entities that have contributed to this global economic crisis with their neoliberal policies.

6. The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new international financial scheme should be adopted with the participation of the 192 countries that will meet in the United Nations Conference on the International Financial Crisis to be held on June 1-3 to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

7. As for climate change, developed countries are in an environmental debt to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon emissions into the atmosphere since 1750. Developed countries should pay off their debt to humankind and the planet; they should provide significant resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark upon a growth model which does not repeat the serious impacts of the capitalist industrialization.

8. Solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises should be comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve a problem by creating new ones in fundamental areas for life. For instance, the widespread use of agricultural fuels has an adverse effect on food prices and the use of essential resources, such as water, land and forests.

9. We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us, instead of uniting us. In this regard, we petition for the abrogation of the Law of Cuban Adjustment and removal of the discriminatory, selective Dry Feet, Wet Feet policy that has claimed human losses. Bankers who stole the money and resources from our countries are the true responsible, not migrant workers. Human rights should come first, particularly human rights of the underprivileged, downtrodden sectors in our society, that is, migrants without identity papers. Free movement of people and human rights for everybody, regardless of their migration status, are a must for integration. Brain drain is a way of plundering skilled human resources exercised by rich countries.

10. Basic education, health, water, energy and telecommunications services should be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private deal or marketed by the World Trade Organization. These services are and should be essentially public utilities of universal access.

11. We wish a world where all, big and small, countries have the same rights and where there is no empire. We advocate non-intervention. There is the need to strengthen, as the only legitimate means for discussion and assessment of bilateral and multilateral agendas in the hemisphere, the foundations for mutual respect between states and governments, based on the principle of non-interference of a state in the internal affairs of another state, and inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples. We request the new Government of the United States, the arrival of which has given rise to some expectations in the hemisphere and the world, to finish the longstanding and dire tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterized the actions of the US governments throughout history, and particularly intensified during the Administration of President George W. Bush. By the same token, we request the new Government of the United States to abandon interventionist practices, such as cover-up operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at disturbing states and governments, and funding of destabilizing groups. Building on a world where varied economic, political, social and cultural approaches are acknowledged and respected is of the essence.

12. With regard to the US blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of the latter from the Summit of the Americas, we, the member states of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America, reassert the Declaration adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean countries last December 16, 2008, on the need to end the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the Government of the United States of America on Cuba, including the implementation of the so-called Helms-Burton Act. The declaration sets forth in its fundamental paragraphs the following:

"CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the need to finish the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, and the statements on such blockade, which have been approved in numerous international meetings.

"WE AFFIRM that the application of unilateral, coercive measures affecting the wellbeing of peoples and hindering integration processes is unacceptable when defending free exchange and the transparent practice of international trade.

"WE STRONGLY REPEL the enforcement of laws and measures contrary to International Law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and we urge the Government of the United States of America to finish such enforcement.

"WE REQUEST the Government of the United States of America to comply with the provisions set forth in 17 successive resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade on Cuba."

Additionally, we consider that the attempts at imposing the isolation of Cuba have failed, as nowadays Cuba forms an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean region; it is a member of the Rio Group and other hemispheric organizations and mechanisms, which develops a policy of cooperation, in solidarity with the countries in the hemisphere; which promotes full integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to justify its exclusion from the mechanism of the Summit of the Americas.

13. Developed countries have spent at least USD 8 billion to rescue a collapsing financial structure. They are the same that fail to allocate the small sums of money to attain the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of the GDP for the Official Development Assistance. Never before the hypocrisy of the wording of rich countries had been so apparent. Cooperation should be established without conditions and fit in the agendas of recipient countries by making arrangements easier; providing access to the resources, and prioritizing social inclusion issues.

14. The legitimate struggle against drug trafficking and organized crime, and any other form of the so-called "new threats" must not be used as an excuse to undertake actions of interference and intervention against our countries.

15. We are firmly convinced that the change, where everybody repose hope, can come only from organization, mobilization and unity of our peoples.

As the Liberator wisely said:

Unity of our peoples is not a mere illusion of men, but an inexorable decree of destiny.— Simón Bolívar
President Obama's Opening Statement at the Fifth Summit of the Americas
- 04/17/09


Good evening. I am honored to join you here today, and I want to thank Prime Minister Manning, the people of Trinidad and Tobago for their generosity in hosting the Fifth Summit of the Americas. And I want to extend my greetings to all the heads of state, many of who I am meeting for the first time. All of us are extraordinarily excited to have this opportunity to visit this wonderful country -- and as somebody who grew up on an island, I can tell you I feel right at home. (Applause.) 

It's appropriate and important that we hold this summit in the Caribbean. The energy, the dynamism, the diversity of the Caribbean people inspires us all, and are such an important part of what we share in common as a hemisphere.

I think everybody recognizes that we come together at a critical moment for the people of the Americas. Our well-being has been set back by a historic economic crisis. Our safety is endangered by a broad range of threats. But this peril can be eclipsed by the promise of a new prosperity and personal security and the protection of liberty and justice for all the people of our hemisphere. That's the future that we can build together, but only if we move forward with a new sense of partnership.

All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. (Applause.) There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration. (Applause.)

To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I am very grateful that President Ortega -- (applause) -- I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. (Laughter.) Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.

I didn't come here to debate the past -- I came here to deal with the future. (Applause.) I believe, as some of our previous speakers have stated, that we must learn from history, but we can't be trapped by it. As neighbors, we have a responsibility to each other and to our citizens. And by working together, we can take important steps forward to advance prosperity and security and liberty. That is the 21st century agenda that we come together to enact. That's the new direction that we can pursue.

Before we move forward for our shared discussions over this weekend, I'd like to put forward several areas where the United States is committed already to strengthening collective action on behalf of our shared goals.

First, we must come together on behalf of our common prosperity. That's what we've already begun to do. Our unprecedented actions to stimulate growth and restart the flow of credit will help create jobs and prosperity within our borders and within yours. We joined with our G20 partners to set aside over a trillion dollars for countries going through difficult times, recognizing that we have to provide assistance to those countries that are most vulnerable. We will work with you to ensure that the Inter-American Development Bank can take the necessary steps to increase its current levels of lending and to carefully study the needs for recapitalization in the future. And we recognize that we have a special responsibility, as one of the world's financial centers, to work with partners around the globe to reform a failed regulatory system -- so that we can prevent the kinds of financial abuses that led to this current crisis from ever happening again, and achieve an economic expansion not just in the United States but all across the hemisphere that is built not on bubbles, but on sustainable economic growth.

We're also committed to combating inequality and creating prosperity from the bottom up. This is something that I've spoken about in the United States, and it's something that I believe applies across the region. I've asked Congress for $448 million in immediate assistance for those who have been hit hardest by the crisis beyond our borders. And today, I'm pleased to announce a new Microfinance Growth Fund for the hemisphere that can restart the lending that can power businesses and entrepreneurs in each and every country that's represented here. This is not charity. (Applause.) Let me be clear: This is not charity. Together, we can create a broader foundation of prosperity that builds new markets and powers new growth for all peoples in the hemisphere, because our economies are intertwined.

Next, we can strengthen the foundation of our prosperity and our security and our environment through a new partnership on energy. Our hemisphere is blessed with bountiful resources, and we are all endangered by climate change. Now we must come together to find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can create jobs and protect our planet.

So today, I'm proposing the creation of a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that can forge progress to a more secure and sustainable future. It's a partnership that will harness the vision and determination of countries like Mexico and Brazil that have already done outstanding work in this area to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each country will bring its own unique resources and needs, so we will ensure that each country can maximize its strengths as we promote efficiency and improve our infrastructure, share technologies, support investments in renewable sources of energy. And in doing so, we can create the jobs of the future, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and make this hemisphere a model for cooperation.

The dangers of climate change are part of a broad range of threats to our citizens, so the third area where we must work together is to advance our common security.

Today, too many people in the Americas live in fear. We must not tolerate violence and insecurity, no matter where it comes from. Children must be safe to play in the street, and families should never face the pain of a kidnapping. Policemen must be more powerful than kingpins, and judges must advance the rule of law. Illegal guns must not flow freely into criminal hands, and illegal drugs must not destroy lives and distort our economy.

Yesterday, President Caldera of Mexico and I renewed our commitment to combat the dangers posed by drug cartels. Today, I want to announce a new initiative to invest $30 million to strengthen cooperation on security in the Caribbean. And I have directed key members of my Cabinet to build and sustain relations with their counterparts in the hemisphere to constantly adjust our tactics, to build upon best practices, and develop new modes of cooperation -- because the United States is a friend of every nation and person who seeks a future of security and dignity.

And let me add that I recognize that the problem will not simply be solved by law enforcement if we're not also dealing with our responsibilities in the United States. And that's why we will take aggressive action to reduce our demand for drugs, and to stop the flow of guns and bulk cash south across our borders. (Applause.) And that's why I'm making it a priority to ratify the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms Convention as another tool that we can use to prevent this from happening. And I also am mindful of the statement that's been made earlier, that unless we provide opportunity for an education and for jobs and a career for the young people in the region, then too many will end up being attracted to the drug trade. And so we cannot separate out dealing with the drug issue on the interdiction side and the law enforcement side from the need for critical development in our communities.

Finally, we know that true security only comes with liberty and justice. Those are bedrock values of the Inter-American charter. Generations of our people have worked and fought and sacrificed for them. And it is our responsibility to advance them in our time.

So together, we have to stand up against any force that separates any of our people from that story of liberty -- whether it's crushing poverty or corrosive corruption; social exclusion or persistent racism or discrimination. Here in this room, and on this dais, we see the diversity of the Americas. Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path. But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americans [sic] have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies.

There's been several remarks directed at the issue of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, so let me address this. The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know that there is a longer -- (applause) -- I know there's a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day. I've already changed a Cuba policy that I believe has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the islands whenever they choose and provide resources to their families -- the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to pay for everyday needs.

Over the past two years, I've indicated, and I repeat today, that I'm prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from drugs, migration, and economic issues, to human rights, free speech, and democratic reform. Now, let me be clear, I'm not interested in talking just for the sake of talking. But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.

As has already been noted, and I think my presence here indicates, the United States has changed over time. (Applause.) It has not always been easy, but it has changed. And so I think it's important to remind my fellow leaders that it's not just the United States that has to change. All of us have responsibilities to look towards the future. (Applause.)

I think it's important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States' policy should not be interference in other countries, but that also means that we can't blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere. That's part of the bargain. (Applause.) That's part of the change that has to take place. That's the old way, and we need a new way.

The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made. We will be partners in helping to alleviate poverty. But the American people have to get some positive reinforcement if they are to be engaged in the efforts to lift other countries out of the poverty that they're experiencing.

Every nation has been on its own journey. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we must respect those differences while celebrating those things that we share in common. Our nations were all colonized by empires and achieved our own liberation. Our people reflect the extraordinary diversity of human beings, and our shared values reflect a common humanity -- the universal desire to leave our children a world that is more prosperous and peaceful than the one that we inherited.

So as we gather here, let us remember that our success must be measured by the ability of people to live their dreams. That's a goal that cannot be encompassed with any one policy or communique. It's not a matter of abstractions or ideological debates. It's a question of whether or not we are in a concrete way making the lives of our citizens better. It's reflected in the hopes of our children, in the strength of our democratic institutions, and our faith in the future.

It will take time. Nothing is going to happen overnight. But I pledge to you that the United States will be there as a friend and a partner, because our futures are inextricably bound to the future of the people of the entire hemisphere. And we are committed to shaping that future through engagement that is strong and sustained, that is meaningful, that is successful, and that is based on mutual respect and equality. 

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Statement by Chair of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Patrick Manning

Statement by the Chairman of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the Honourable Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago April 19, 2009 Statement by the Chairman of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the Honourable Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago April 19, 2009 As Chair of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, I must say how very pleased I was with the manner in which the deliberations progressed yesterday in the Plenary Sessions and again this morning at the Leaders’ Retreat. Since taking over the leadership of the Summits of the Americas Process, Trinidad and Tobago has called, consistently, for greater cooperation, integration and solidarity among our nations as the primary vehicle for ensuring peace, security and prosperity for all the peoples of the Americas. This Summit has been a historic event for us here in Trinidad and Tobago and for the wider CARICOM Region and has exceeded by far all our expectations. The Port of Spain Summit was characterized by mutual respect and an eagerness and genuine desire to work together on solutions to the many challenges facing the Hemisphere. Several leaders expressed the view that Port of Spain marks a turning point for inter-American relations and for building a stronger community of nations. Latin America and the Caribbean are now at a different crossroad in their relations with each other and with the United States of America. With the changing political landscape, the terms of engagement have changed and occasioned by an altogether different posture that is based on mutual respect and equality among partners. The leaders of the Hemisphere agreed that we now have a real opportunity to put interAmerican relations on a completely new footing which sees all countries, big or small, developed or developing as equal partners. Such relations must be built on the basis of new vision and a people-centred development strategy. The deliberations over the past day and half centred on the three main pillars of Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain - human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability. The discussions also focused on the re-integration of Cuba into the inter-American system, and on developing relevant responses to the current global financial crisis. Reintegration of Cuba in the Inter-American System Several Presidents and Prime Ministers called for an end to the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit process and the inter-American system. There was a clear consensus that the reintegration of Cuba in the inter-American relations is an essential step toward the building of a more cohesive and integrated Americas. The very open and conciliatory stance of President Obama and other leaders at the Summit has heightened optimism for the full engagement of Cuba in Hemispheric affairs in the not too distant future. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to the day when Cuba is fully embraced into the folds of the inter-American family. Global Financial Crisis At the time of this Fifth Summit, the world economy is facing a severe financial crisis, which has led to a wide-spread global economic slump. Economic statistics released by the International Monetary Fund in January 2009 indicate that the world economy grew by just 0.5 per cent in 2008 but is expected to record negative growth for the first time in 60 years, in 2009. While the economies of the Western Hemisphere fared much better in 2008 growing on average by 4.8 per cent, economic growth is expected to slow sharply in 2009 to around 1.0 per cent. The countries of the Americas now face higher than expected declines in the price and volume of exports, restrictions in access to trade financing, difficulties in accessing other kinds of external finance and reduced remittances from migrant workers. The current economic slump has depressed commodity prices, constrained the growth of investment, weakened labour markets and lowered business and consumer confidence. They are also not immune from the negative social consequences of the current global crisis which is threatening to derail the hard-won gains achieved over the past two decades. The social consequences are likely to be quite significant. Many people are losing their jobs and are being forced back into poverty. The impact on the smaller economies has been even more pronounced. A protracted crisis will create severe economic and social hardships in these vulnerable economies and can derail them from the path of sustainable development that they have been working so assiduously to achieve. In the context of the current economic downturn, ensuring sustainable development for all the peoples of the Americas requires a renewed focus on the commitments made in the Doha Declaration; the Millennium Declaration; the Monterrey Consensus and the 2005 Global Summit. Many countries have unveiled various measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis and maintain macroeconomic stability including fiscal stimulus plans, tax cuts, liquidity support for financial markets and interest rate reductions. However, the extent of the fiscal support needs to be carefully managed so as not to limit fiscal space going forward. Greater harmonization of monetary and fiscal policy is now essential. Notwithstanding individual efforts, the crisis requires a concerted and coordinated global response. Unilateral action alone will likely be ineffective. There is a need for greater economic and commercial ties among the countries of the Americas; and the restoration of credit flows to finance international trade and arrest any abrupt decline in exports. Developed countries also have an important role to play in addressing the weaknesses in their financial systems, in order to restore trust in the markets. The decision at the recently concluded London Summit to make $1.1 trillion in new resources available through the International Financial Institutions to restore credit, encourage trade and support employment and growth in the global economy is a step in the right direction. This package must be implemented as soon as possible. While the allocation of resources to the IMF is a positive step, it is but a basic one. Priority must also be given to reviewing of capital requirements of the other multilateral institutions and to supporting their various liquidity enhancement initiatives. The Inter-American Development Bank and other financial institutions must use their respective competitive advantages and financial resources in order to more aggressively fulfill their mandates on poverty reduction and sustainable development. Leaders placed the recapitalization of the Inter-American Development Bank high on the agenda for immediate action. The recognition of the human dimension of the crisis and the possibility of including environmental consideration in the fiscal stimulus plans show that the leaders at the G20 London Summit, in spite of the pressing short term demands have not forgotten the long-term consequences. It is a positive signal that, in the midst of the economic turmoil, the commitment to face the challenge of climate change and its irreversible consequences is reaffirmed. Each government has an important role to play in what is now an interdependent global financial and economic system and robust and effective regulatory structures must be implemented to enhance the stability of national and regional financial systems. There must also be greater involvement by emerging and smaller countries in the Western Hemisphere in the overhaul of global regulatory structures, markets and systems with a view to forestalling future financial crises. Small countries have a legitimate interest in the responsible, transparent, yet competitive export of international services. Stimulus efforts, as far as possible, must support sustainable economic growth and development in order to promote human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain The Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain, which was the document negotiated over the last six months by 34 countries, outlines measures to be taken at the technical level towards the goal of securing our citizens’ future. The Declaration makes broad reference to the financial crisis and as such, does not address, in any detail, the specific implementation measures. The issue of the economic crisis must be dealt with very carefully and therefore, Ministers of Finance of the Western Hemisphere, who will meet in Chile in July, will be directed to examine the crisis in greater detail, taking into account the outcomes of the London G20 meeting, and to clearly define practical measures to be taken by all countries. During the Leaders’ Retreat an agreement was reached that the Chair of the Fifth Summit of the Americas would sign the declaration as having been adopted by all Heads of State and Government attending the Summit. While there were reservations by some countries on particular aspects of the Declaration, the Leaders wanted to send a strong signal of solidarity and cooperation. The collective view was that the Fifth Summit was a tremendous success, pervaded by a unique spirit of openness and goodwill, and that it heralds the beginning of a new era in inter-American relations Haiti In the same spirit of cooperation, the Leaders reiterated their commitment to supporting Haiti and agreed that the issue of funding for development programmes would be addressed at the OAS General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in June.

Declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas