OAS Hosted Dialogue on Main Issues of the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda for the Americas

October 22, 2014

The Organization of American States (OAS) last night hosted at its headquarters in Washington, DC, a dialogue entitled "Building a Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda for the Americas," whose main objective was to contribute to the definition of strategic action areas of the Inter-American Program for Sustainable Development (PIDS) and the development of the post-2015 agenda on the subject.

The Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Albert Ramdin, who opened and closed the dialogue, said in his comments on the conclusions that all the speakers agreed on the need to find a balance between what should be done and what can be done. The senior official of the Organization warned of the difficulties of successful international coordination and funding policies for sustainable development, and proposed to the countries of the region the creation of an environmental tax in order to obtain resources to finance it. In this line, he asked OAS member states to increase their contributions to sustainable development policies.

Ambassador Ramdin emphasized the need to raise awareness about the effects of long-term sustainable development, noting that the OAS should work with the legislatures of the region to raise awareness on this issue. In this regard, he warned that if action is delayed for 30 years, "it will be too late."

In his address, the OAS Assistant Secretary General highlighted the importance of this dialogue, saying "it is essential to address the remaining achievement gaps in the Millennium Development Goals" of the United Nations for the year 2015. Ambassador Ramdin recalled that this initiative serves as an input for the creation of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, "which will be approved next year by the Ministers of Sustainable Development, who will meet in Honduras.”

The debate was organized by the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the OAS, and was attended by the President of the Commission of Environment and Natural Resources of the Senate of Mexico, Ninfa Salinas; the Chair of the Social Development Committee of the Congress of Honduras, Juan Antonio Hernández; the Officer from the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of Santa Lucia, Donnalyn Charles; and Professor of Law and Director of the International Legal Studies Program at American University, David Hunter.

The Mexican Parliamentarian raised four key issues to the development of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. First, she said that Latin America should work to address problems of social inequality, because "we are the region with the worst level of income distribution in the world." The second issue raised by Senator Salinas was the need to exploit the continent's natural resources, since "we have the greatest biodiversity on the planet."

The President of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the Senate of Mexico also stated that the Americas should take advantage of its water resources, as the continent is the region with greater availability of fresh water in the world. Fourth, she raised the urgency of addressing the problems of climate change because -in different levels- it affects all regions of the Hemisphere.

Deputy Hernandez said the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda must focus on environmental protection. "Just as we have done the damage, we have to fix it," said the Honduran congressman, who acknowledged difficulties in the legislative powers of the region to achieve political consensus on the matter. The Chair of the Commission for Social Development of the Congress of Honduras expressed the need to develop social inclusion policies aimed at improving the lives of lower-income sectors, and as an example he said in his country there are "600,000 families living on less than a dollar a day.”

For her part, Officer Charles said that in the small island states of the Caribbean the impact of climate change is very strong. The Officer of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology of Saint Lucia said that it is essential that the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda takes into account the financial difficulties faced by Caribbean countries when allocating resources in this policy area. "We have limited financial and technical assistance resources," she said. Charles also said that Caribbean countries have to bet on long-term policies to move forward on sustainable development. She added that it often happens that in five years, when the government changes, the new ministers start from scratch with their agendas, which prevents successful long range policy planning.

For his part, Professor Hunter said it's key that governments grant a priority role to the post-2015 development agenda, so that they can articulate the tensions generated between private investors and the communities where initiatives are developed that usually affect their environment. For example, he proposed that governments push for companies to pay higher wages to their employees, which will improve the quality of life in the communities. The Professor of Law and Director of the International Legal Studies Program at American University recognized the difficulty of convincing governments to get involved in the issue, but insisted on the need for persistence, given that “sustainable development is very important”.

The Dialogue "Building Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda for the Americas" was held in the framework of the Fourth Meeting of the Inter-American Committee on Sustainable Development, taking place on Wednesday October 22 and Thursday October 23 at the OAS headquarters in Washington, DC.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.