Summary: Information / Discussion
The role of civil society organizations in Latin America
||16 July 2002, 19:30-21:00 VK 12:47 PM 2002-11-27
Moderator(s):|| • Mr. Tomas Alarcón, Comisión Andina para el Auto-Desarrollo Jurídico de los Pueblos Indígenas|
Presenters/ Participants:|| • Mr. Rubén Ortiz, Asociación de Agroturismo y Ecoturismo Indígena|
||Zhenying Wu (ICVolunteers)
||Latin America, ALCA, women, representation, indigenous problems
In this round table, a short report on the general state of civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Latin America was presented. Afterwards, the discussion went on to topics like women's role in South American NGOs, the specific problems of indigenous people, NGO networks and organizations in Latin America, and how to get true representation for civil society. A draft for a declaration by the South American NGOs for this Forum was presented and commented on by the participants.
To begin the session, Mr. Ruben Ortiz (AGREOTOUR / KONOJEL, Guatemala) gave an account of the situation of civil society in Latin America. He talked in particular about the annual exchange of staff and speakers among civil society organizations across Latin America and the development of communication through the Internet. Results of meetings in Porto Allegre, Monterey and the current expansion projects of the ALCA to South America were briefly touched on.
The debate was then opened, with the following goals articulated for delegates in Geneva:
- Unite and improve negotiating positions in relation to governments and big companies;
- Coordinate actions and compare experiences;
- Articulate programmes and strategies;
- Work using appropriate methods;
- Join the networks of established civil society organizations;
- Manage financial and human resources through a clear plan;
- Promote communication and information;
- Strengthen the institutionalization of NGOs in order to improve efficiency.
Delegates then discussed a rather unique trait of Latin America: that many organizations presenting themselves as NGOs are in fact governmental organizations, since other associations are often banned. The need to be totally independent from government was clear to everybody.
Another issue participants felt was not being handled in other sessions at the WCS Forum was that of indigenous people who are discriminated against and are very much a part of the civil society movement. The Zappatist movement in Mexico was mentioned as an example.
The discussion then moved on to another oppressed group, that of women. There are many women's civil society organizations in Latin America, although they are often very small and operating only at the local level.
The existence of differing concerns and goals inside the civil society movement was acknowledged by delegates. Mr. Tomas Alarcon (CAPAJ) then explained why it is important to also look at the common factors and speak with one voice.
Mr. Ortiz distributed a document from the "Coordinadora Continental Abia Ayala" entitled "America Latina", containing draft guidelines and proposals for discussion. The proposals were summarized as follows:
- Take steps to free civil society organizations of governmental influence;
- Use new communication technologies to form a network of Latin American NGOs;
- Create a parliament of Latin American civil society organizations to act as a common front in interactions with the international community and international organizations.
After listening to a review of the state of civil society organizations in Latin America, delegates discussed the guidelines and proposals that had been drafted in preparation for this meeting. A new item about women's rights was added, and it was agreed that further input from participants during later forum sessions would be sought before the document was finalized. It was also proposed that there should be at least one woman representative for Latin American civil society organizations in any potential representative body. Delegates agreed to meet again before the end of the week.
Presenters' Documents Available
16.29_ortiz_ruben.doc (34 K)
16.29_ortiz_ruben_2.doc (38 K)
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