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Evolving summits of the Americas.

In Punta del Este, Uruguay, thirty-three years ago, the OAS and the Inter-American system received a jolt of creative energy and hope when the heads of state of the American nations formally established the Alliance for Progress. In March 1961, the newly elected president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, formally proposed a ten-year alliance to promote development and social reform.

In August 1961, the Declaration of Punta del Este called for the strengthening of representative democracy and "accelerated economic progress and broader social justice." The United States offered to contribute $1 billion annually of public funds and to encourage an equivalent amount of private investment. The Alliance for Progress stressed industrialization, increased agricultural productivity, and social programs in health, housing, and education.

While the Alliance for Progress functioned principally on the basis of bilateral arrangements between the United States and the other American nations, a significant and enduring part of the effort was made multilaterally through the Organization of American States. Following the advice of former presidents Juscelino Kubitschek (Brazil) and Alberto Lleras Camargo (Colombia), an Inter-American Committee for the Alliance for Progress (CIAP) was established to determine the Alliance's priorities.

In 1967, at another Inter-American Conference, which met again in Punta del Este, the American heads of state reaffirmed their commitment to the Alliance. President Lyndon Johnson pledged the support of the United States for a continuation of the Alliance and the creation of a Latin American Common Market.

Although the Alliance, contrary to the designs of those who met in Punta del Este, was gradually and profoundly reduced to a series of bilateral agreements between the United States and other American nations, the multilateral programs continued through the 1970s as part of the technical cooperation programs of the OAS. The OAS programs generated by the Alliance included the reform and strengthening of government programs and technical agencies and the design of developmental plans. Where the OAS had the greatest impact, however, was in the development of human resources. Over the course of the past thirty-five years, the OAS has supported the training and education of hundreds of thousands of individuals in every area of academic specialization and human endeavor, both through in-country training programs and study abroad.

Since 1967 there have been no inter-American conferences of heads of states, although in recent years groups of American heads of state have met with increasing frequency to discuss important policy issues. As an outgrowth of the Esquipulas II Accords, which established the framework for the resolution of the armed conflict then afflicting Central America, the presidents of Central America have continued to meet regularly to ensure the continuation of that process. Encouraged by the government of Spain, the heads of state of the Ibero-American nations, including the king of Spain, the president of Portugal, as well as the presidents of Brazil and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas, have met several times over the past four years to discuss questions of mutual interest. For two decades the heads of government of the Caribbean nations, organized as CARICOM, have gathered regularly for meetings.

Now, the heads of state and government of thirty-four nations of the Western Hemisphere will meet in Miami, in December, at the Summit of the Americas. Convoked by U.S. President William Clinton, the conference will have a broad agenda, which while not yet fully determined, is likely to include questions of free trade and representative democracy. Not since the American heads of state came together in Washington at the OAS to witness the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977 by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and the late president of Panama, Omar Torrijos, has there been a meeting of the American presidents and prime ministers on such a scale.

What can be expected from the Summit of the Americas? The governments of the thirty-four member states of the OAS, through the annual General Assemblies of the Organization, over the past several years have stressed as priorities: the strengthening of representative democracy, the promotion and defense of human rights, the elimination of extreme poverty, the reestablishment of democratic government in Haiti, the adoption of measures against violence against women, and the control of drug abuse. It is likely that these questions will also be discussed at the Summit of the Americas. However, bearing in mind the impact of the past meetings of heads of state of the nations of the Western Hemisphere, it is certain that at the very least the Summit of the Americas will be an important milestone in the development of inter-American cooperation.
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Title Annotation:Alliance for Progress
Author:Kiernan, James Patrick
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Nov 1, 1994
Previous Article:Thirty-five years defending human rights.
Next Article:The inauguration of a new era.

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