The opening session of the Organization of American States Civil Society Forum had three highlights:
1. Former President Bill Clinton's speech
2. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela’s opening remarks
3. Analysis OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza gave to the audience.
Clinton praised civil society for becoming the balance of power filling the gap between the governments and citizens of the Americas. He stressed that in the 21 years since the first summit in Miami during his administration, civil society has been instrumental in progressing the social agenda of the Americas.
The forum, held in Panama City this week, has attracted 800 attendees in addition to those present for the Seventh Summit of the Americas. Varela is proud to host the historic summit where “all the Americas, without exception, will be here.”
Emphasis has been placed on the Cuban delegation, as Clinton mentioned the importance of the island nation’s attendance, and the need to move forward with relations.
Insulza noted the importance of poverty in the Americas decreasing 20 percent in the last decade, but said progress still remains, as the distribution of wealth is very unbalanced.
This summit is the first attended by Cuba, a move that has brought extra controversy and attention, considering the summit’s democratic charter. Approximately 100 protestors have made an effort to disrupt the proceedings, directing their ire at Cuba and the United States.
B'nai B'rith conducted advocacy during a meeting with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. B’nai B’rith Latin American leadership thanked him for 10 years of open support to our agenda, and we wished him well in his political future back in his native Chile.