JIS News

More than 100 participants, representing 34 of the 46 member countries of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), convened at the Fourth Regional Meeting of IDB Civil Society Organizations held at the Beaches Grande Sport Villas in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, this week.
Several high level representatives from the IDB including the President, Enrique V. Iglesias, were also in attendance at the meeting, which commenced on February 16. This was in addition to, representatives from other lending agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme and civil society organizations from countries of the Americas including Canada.
The President of the IDB, in his opening remarks said that the meeting embodied a new phase in developing economic and social policies, where the participation of civil society was required at the national level, in order to “fertilize enormously, the capacity of lending institutions” such as, the IDB.
It was imperative, he further noted, not only to continue to build a culture of institutional dialogue between government and civil society organizations but also, a culture of dialogue between lending institutions and national institutions.
“We are learning and we [IDB] hope that this meeting will continue the process of mutually understanding each other and learning how to work together in the Latin America and Caribbean region,” Mr. Iglesias said.
He expressed his desire to deepen democracy through dialogue at meetings of this kind. However, he pointed out that the process had not been an easy one.
“There are suspicions from both sides. The government fears that civil society will interfere in their political legitimacy and institutions, which were elected democratically and, there are times when civil society has suspicions that can be manipulated by the political powers. So, this dialogue is a part of the learning process and, can be fertilized only if we are ready to deepen our democratic institutions,” Mr. Iglesias explained.
Continuing he said, “We must understand that each society is a special case and within that specificity, we must find the bridges of communication between ourselves and the government as well as your group of institutions.”
The success of the meetings, he told the gathering, would depend on the varying successes of their respective national civil society organizations. Elaborating on the meeting, Keith Evans, the Representative of the IDB in Jamaica, who led the proceedings, told JIS News that the meeting was divided into two parts, with the first two days open to representatives from South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The last two days of meetings, he said, would be attended by the English-speaking members of CARICOM and Haiti and Suriname, who are also members.
“What has happened in the past is that, the most populous member countries of the Bank from mainly Latin America, dominated meetings of this kind. The smaller nations [namely the CARICOM group], who were feeling kind of marginalized, felt it necessary to have a separate meeting,” Mr. Evans said.
The second part of the meeting, had a different agenda, where the participants would revisit the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA), specifically examining the implementation of it so far, and the role of the IDB in strengthening its implementation and assisting the participation of civil society in the region.
The BPOA, emanating from a Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), was held in Barbados in 1994. The Programme outlined 14 priority areas for sustainable development of SIDS and these include climate change and sea level rise, land resources, tourism, human resource development and science and technology and freshwater resources, among others.
“We are doing a kind of follow up and monitoring of the implementation of BPOA in preparation of the Fifth International Conference focusing on the BPOA in Mauritius in August of this year. Several fora have been held on the BPOA, the last of which was in the Bahamas about two weeks ago. This meeting is just a continuation of that process and to make sure that civil society is sufficiently strengthened to participate and represent the views of civil society from the region at Mauritius,” Mr. Evans said.
Encouraged by the active participation of representatives from various CARICOM countries on the opening day of the meeting, Mr. Evans hoped that the second meeting would lead to a specific plan of action. “We want to see a kind of structural framework, within which the Bank can participate in solving the problems and also help civil society solve their problems. We do not just want talk, we want action coming out of this,” he stressed.
David Smith, Specialist in Environment/Energy attached to the UNDP shared similar sentiments. He said that the UNDP in Kingston, which oversees the Cayman Islands, Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, already, had a Caribbean perspective regarding the challenges faced.
“The UNDP [however] desired to hear what colleagues outside that sphere, had to say. We wanted to get updates on their issues, particularly of the problems that small islands face, as well as the other perspective of those from the mainland and Latin America,” Mr. Smith explained.
The cross section of perspectives, Mr. Smith noted, would go a far way in providing input in designing and implementing UNDP programmes. “We definitely want to reflect some of the perspectives that we have heard, so that when we are working with people we can be more effective,” he told JIS News.
A report on the meetings will be released and circulated widely in the upcoming week.

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