Following a one year process of dialogue and meaningful exchanges among OAS Member States, which included consultations with civil society and social actors, the Third Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and High Level Authorities on Sustainable Development concluded in Honduras on October 21st. At the meeting, Member States adopted the Declaration of Tela to promote a sustainable development agenda for the Americas, in line with the objectives for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations, and with a full commitment to address climate change.
Twenty Member States attended the gathering, inaugurated by the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández and by OAS Assistant Secretary-General, Néstor Méndez. “We look at this meeting with great hope" said the Honduran President during the inauguration, "because we need to learn from each other. We need to support each other. In the end, our people who need the most are the ones suffering the most" said the President, in relation to the sustainable development and climate change challenges that the region is facing. (Watch video below)
In turn, OAS Assistant Secretary General Néstor Méndez, stressed that “the main message that we are all sending from Honduras, as well as from other countries of Central America and the continent is that Sustainable Development is not an option, but rather an imperative.”
During his remarks, Ambassador Mendez referred to the role of the OAS in this area, highlighting that the differing capacities of countries in the Hemisphere to promote and attain sustainable development places a burden of responsibility on the Organization. In this sense, he emphasized the importance of designing and adopting a forward-looking agenda for the OAS to offer Member States sustained support in designing structured policies, programs and strategies that build their resilience and reduce their vulnerability to internal and external shocks.
The Ministerial was preceded by a one-week encounter of “youth united for sustainable development”, as well as a hemispheric roundtable with civil society and social actors. Participants passionately shared their views on environmental and sustainable development issues, and formulated recommendations that were later presented at the Ministerial Meeting.
The Third Inter-American Meeting of Ministers and High Authorities on Sustainable Development adopted by acclamation a strategic framework for updating the Inter-American Development Program (PIDS) with six strategic areas for action: disaster risk management; sustainable management of ecosystems; integrated water resources management; sustainable cities and communities; sustainable energy management, prioritizing the promotion of clean, renewable, environmentally sustainable energy efficiency; and strengthening and capacity building for efficient, effective, accountable and inclusive institutions for sustainable development. All of these areas were addressed in panel discussions at the meeting, with a plenary session on the challenges and opportunities for the Program’s implementation. At this session, most representatives called for the prioritization of the PIDS and cautioned about avoiding duplication with other efforts.
The countries also recognized climate change as a cross cutting theme in the PIDS. In this sense, countries highlighted the need to continue working together to achieve a global climate agreement at COP-21 –-the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in December in Paris, France.
In his closing remarks, OAS Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Ambassador Neil Parsan, recalled that the sustainable development agenda was defined while keeping in mind "our people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, all part of the essential purposes for which the OAS was created." Ambassador Parsan added that in this regard, the role of the OAS "is critical to the implementation and nationalization of the Sustainable Development Goals and, in the words of our Secretary General, to ensure 'more rights for more people.’"
During 2016, the OAS will work with Member States toward the adoption of a new PIDS on the basis of the strategic framework agreed-to in the Tela Declaration and under the presidency of Honduras.
This article was originally published in the SEDI newsletter.