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Maisto outlines Summit of the Americas preparations

U.S. National Summit Coordinator offers suggestions to improve draft Summit declaration

Posted: March 25, 2005

Preparations for the Fourth Summit of the Americas, to be hosted by Argentina in November, are off to a good start, but work still remains for Western Hemisphere nations as they craft a summit declaration and plan of action, according to U.S. National Summit Coordinator John Maisto.

In March 25 remarks at the Civil Society Task Force "Summit in Focus" Program in Washington, Maisto said that a recent Summit Implementation Review Group meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, marked the beginning of negotiations toward a summit declaration and plan of action.

The U.S. official said the draft declaration and guidelines for a plan of action released by the Argentine government represent a "good start."

Maisto applauded the draft declaration's focus on the summit theme of "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance," and he offered suggestions for building on the solid start.

He argued that the declaration should be "action-oriented and forward-looking," focusing on measures that leaders can take within the context of realities such as debt, deficits, and global forces beyond their control.

"It serves no purpose to focus on problems," he said. "We need to focus on solutions."

Maisto said the best way to fight poverty and create good jobs is to be competitive. He said the declaration needs to stress the central role of the private sector in job creation. The appropriate role of government is not to create jobs but to create the conditions that promote job creation by the private sector and to ensure that citizens are given equal opportunities, Maisto said.

The U.S. official said the draft should recognize the need for input from trade ministers on the Free Trade Area of the Americas and other regional trade matters. He rejected, however, the draft declaration singling out particular sectors among the many being dealt with by regional trade officials.

If the summit is serious about creating jobs, he said, "anti-corruption and transparency; strengthened local government and decentralization; independent, efficient, and credible judicial systems; and the rule of law and fiscal responsibility, among other issues, need to be prominent in the declaration."

Maisto also said that security is essential to implementing all summit goals and that the United States would seek language in the summit declaration highlighting the importance of security. Security is a prerequisite "if we are to achieve sustained economic growth and job creation" throughout the hemisphere, he said.

Maisto said hemispheric leaders plan to discuss the draft declaration on the margins of the Organization of American States General Assembly in June and a more intensive set of talks scheduled in September.

He encouraged civil society representatives to engage their governments and offer their input, and he pointed out that many of the hemispheric ministerial meetings this year will offer opportunities for civil society to submit recommendations on Summit-related issues.

Following is the text of Maisto's remarks, as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

"Update on Planning for the Fourth Summit of the Americas"

Remarks by Ambassador John F. Maisto,
U.S. National Summit Coordinator

Civil Society Task Force "Summit in Focus" Program
Washington, D.C., March 25, 2005

I want to thank all of you for coming out on this Good Friday morning, and especially those of you who have the day off -- I'm not sure it's a good thing that we're all working while our friends in Latin America enjoy Semana Santa, but at least it demonstrates our dedication to the region. I especially want to thank the Civil Society Task Force for making all the arrangements, and IFES for once again hosting us. This "Summit in Focus" series is truly an important contribution to our effort to engage civil society, and of course you're all aware that we are trying something new this month -- a webcast that we hope will expand our dialogue even farther.

My reason for being here today is to give you a readout on preparations for the Fourth Summit of the Americas that Argentina will host next November. We held a meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group, the SIRG, just two weeks ago in Buenos Aires, and it really represented the beginning of our negotiations toward a declaration and plan of action for that Summit. Argentina presented a draft declaration and distributed so-called "guidelines" for a plan of action. The Argentine Government released both of these documents publicly, and you should be aware that that is an unprecedented step that I think really puts a burden on the shoulders of civil society to engage with governments as we move forward on the negotiation.

In the short time I have today, I want to do three things: I want to give you a very brief sense of our initial reaction to the Argentine draft; I want to let you know where we go from here; and I want to give you my sense of how civil society can best engage.

We really believe that the Argentine draft declaration gets us off to a good start. They want to keep the declaration focused on the Summit theme -- which is "Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance" -- and we support that idea. They have also told us that they see the Action Plan as the place to address our broader agenda, and we agree that makes sense. At this point, we really have no draft action plan, and it's clear that will need a lot of work. So my comments today are limited to the draft declaration.

First, it is our view that the declaration must be action-oriented and forward-looking; it serves no purpose to focus on problems. We need to focus on solutions. All governments have to work within realities such as debt, budget deficits, high oil prices, and global forces beyond our control. But leaders have a lot they can do even given those constraints, and that should be the focus of the declaration.

Second, the most basic way to fight poverty and create good jobs is to grow and to be competitive. Countries that have high growth rates are also best at fighting poverty and creating jobs. So the declaration needs to stress the central role of the private sector in job creation. And it needs to make clear that the appropriate role of governments is not to create jobs, but to create the conditions that promote job creation by the private sector, and to ensure that all people have equal opportunity to improve their lives via access to quality education, vocational training, health care, and other basic social needs. Opportunity, competitiveness and economic growth, along with good democratic governance, are also the only way our hemisphere can truly tackle disparities in income distribution.

On trade: It is our view that singling out particular sectors among the many being dealt with by our trade ministers is not appropriate in the declaration, but we are pleased that the Argentine draft specifically recognizes the need for input from our trade ministers on the FTAA and other regional trade matters. What leaders say about trade, and the FTAA in particular, will obviously be very important.

Fourth, in our view, security is basic to being able to implement all our Summit goals. We will be seeking language that highlights the importance of security -- for the individual, for communities, for cities and rural areas, for countries, and for the hemisphere -- if we are to achieve sustained economic growth and job creation.

Finally, good democratic governance is more important, in our view, than the draft declaration suggests, if we are serious about creating jobs: anti-corruption and transparency, strengthened local government and decentralization; independent, efficient, and credible judicial systems; and the rule of law and fiscal responsibility, among other issues, need to be prominent in the declaration.

I want to stress that these reactions are very preliminary, and that we really are pleased with much of what is in the Argentine draft. But clearly we have a lot of work to do to achieve a consensus document for leaders to consider. So what are the next steps? At the SIRG meeting, we agreed to move up the timetable by holding a first negotiating session in Fort Lauderdale on the margins of the OAS General Assembly in June, in addition to the scheduled minister-level SIRG meeting. So all of our governments are busy preparing detailed written comments for the Argentines, which will then be incorporated into a second draft for review at that session. For our part, I am chairing an inter-agency process with the National Security Council involving all relevant U.S. government agencies. Through this process, we will develop a set of comments on each successive draft, and are also developing proposals for language and commitments we believe should be on the leaders' agenda. Countries will begin a more intensive series of negotiations in September, with input coming along the way from the various ministerial meetings being held this year. Needless to say, this is a very complex process.

So where does civil society fit? In the first instance, civil society organizations should engage their own governments -- hopefully through forums like this one and other contacts. Every country has a national Summit coordinator, and that person should be a first stop for any organizations with specific interests. Second, as we've done in the past, many of our SIRG meetings will have a session set aside to engage civil society. Third, many of the ministerial meetings this year will provide more focused opportunities for civil society input on Summit-related issues. And of course there will be special sessions for civil society to craft recommendations, like the session held here last January and the one scheduled for April 11 and 12 -- both organized by the Summits Secretariat.

The April meeting is of particular interest to me, because it is designed to prepare for the OAS General Assembly that the United States will host in Ft. Lauderdale in June. The theme for this year's General Assembly is "Delivering the Benefits of Democracy," so obviously there is a close link between the Summit and the General Assembly this year. I encourage you to participate in April, and to join us in Ft. Lauderdale. And I want to take this opportunity to stress again that all organizations wanting to attend the General Assembly must send a request to the OAS General Secretariat no later than April 5 -- that's only ten days from now.

I'm going to stop here, and I want to thank you for this opportunity. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and views as we move toward the Summit, and I'm happy to take any questions today.

(end text)

 

 

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