The closing session of the Organization of American States Civil Society Forum had three highlights:
1. U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech
2. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speech
3. Presentation of the document on governance and the brutal incidents, made by Cuban officials.
Obama was warmly welcomed by the thousand Civil Society delegates attending the session, including those from B’nai B’rith. He stressed that Civil Society plays a key role in communication, enforcing standards between governments, and that democracy and freedom are a strong asset to society.
Santos announced that he is hopeful that 40 years of civil confrontation against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (F.A.R.C.) are close to an end because Colombia and the region as a whole need peace.
Both Obama and Santos underlined the importance of Cuba’s attendance at the Summit of the Americas, representing the first time in a half century that all the Americas attended the meeting.
I was elected by the governance working group to conduct dialogue with the organizers, the Panamanian foreign ministry officers. Our group’s official statement from the conference is a document that insists that no country can join OAS if it does not sign the Democratic Charter first.
Perhaps dialogue between presidents will open windows of opportunity for business in Cuba, but the payoff must be political tolerance for its citizens. This is an issue to watch moving forward.