From June 6-8, 2022, at the IX Summit of the Americas (“Summit”) in Los Angeles, California, the International Republican Institute (IRI) organized numerous side events focused on democracy and governance, including areas of transparency, inclusion, legislative strengthening, freedom of the press, and support for human rights. The Summit, held once every three years, offers civil society the space to coalesce and spotlight the most pressing challenges and opportunities for advancement for political leaders, the press, and citizens.
Prior to the heads of state gathering, the U.S. hosted a Civil Society Forum where participating civil society organizations (CSOs) crafted joint recommendations, which were presented to national leaders. The purpose of the forum was to offer CSOs and social actors the space to exchange best practices and lessons learned regarding the central themes of the Summit, and to develop recommendations for high-level government representatives.
CSO participation at the Summit comes at a critical moment for the region given democratic backsliding in various countries, the rise of populism, challenges from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, and the influx of Chinese and Russian influence. These organizations play a crucial role in safeguarding democracy, serving as a bridge between the people and their leaders. They advocate for community needs, monitor public policies, provide services, and hold their governments accountable.
However, CSOs are sometimes precluded from participating in, and contributing to, high-level meetings such as the Summit. The registration process can be challenging to navigate, and limited funding can make attending the event difficult. Further, these groups lack the advocacy and communication skills to make the most of such opportunities.
In preparation for the Summit, IRI provided guidance to partners from across the region—Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guyana, Haiti, Mexico, and Peru—on the multi-step registration process, and implemented various virtual workshops to equip CSOs with the skills to advocate shared goals at the Civil Society Forum.
Once in Los Angeles, IRI hosted a roundtable discussion for partners to craft a shared message and to strategize ways to promote their objectives. The CSOs developed a communiqué that stated their joint priorities, which they took with them to the Civil Society Forum. The statement called on regional governments to repudiate authoritarianism and demanded that governments take steps to strengthen democracy. Elements of the communiqué made their way into the final Statement on Democratic Governability, specifically point seven of the section on human rights, which advocates for governments to guarantee the safety of civil society.
In addition, IRI held a side event to the Summit, Transparency, and Inclusion: Two Pressing Demands on Democracies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The panel brought CSOs together with members of government to examine successes made toward improving transparency, existing regional obstacles, and ways to address these challenges – all while underscoring the importance of considering historically marginalized groups to strengthen the fight against corruption. The panel included Heide Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs; Jatzel Roman, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic; Daniela Chacon, Executive Director of Fundación TANDEM in Ecuador; and Aída Saucedo, State Delegate of Asociación Nacional Cívica Femenina, in Mexico. Panelists highlighted the challenges that women encounter due to corruption, which often go underreported, such as sexual extortion. They also emphasized the need for governments and donors to improve the rule of law and bring diverse voices to the policymaking table.
The Summit is an event unlike any other in the region. It brings democracies of the Western Hemisphere together and provides a space for leaders and stakeholders to collaborate and improve the region’s future. While most media attention is focused on the heads of state, IRI recognizes the significance of participating CSOs. IRI’s partnerships provided a unique opportunity to advocate for shared priorities and contribute to strengthening democratic governance across the hemisphere, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.Top