On July 20, the Summit of the Americas Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Government of Peru organized an official launch of the theme of the VIII Summit of the Americas: “Democratic Governance against Corruption”. The purpose of the event was to inform civil society and social actors of the continent and to give them an opportunity to share ideas and comments on the main theme chosen by the Government of Peru for the upcoming Summit. The launching took place in Lima, Peru, but the event was broadcasted online via Webcast throughout the Americas. Although there wasn’t dynamism and interaction with the non-present public lacked, some important things could be highlighted, such as the format of civil society participation at the next Summit and how the dialogue with the Secretary General and governments will be held.
Civil society considers the main theme of great relevance considering the regional situation. Last year was uncovered one of the biggest corruption scandals involving more than one government and several politicians in Latin America from both left and right wing. Odebrecht is just the top of the iceberg of a problem that has become entrenched in the political culture in this part of the hemisphere and deserves our full attention. We celebrate the Peruvian government and OAS’ decision about wanting to debate it. However, it is not enough. They must set specific actions and commitments regarding this, involving the public and private sectors. Both sectors are key actors to end this scourge that empty our nations’ treasuries.
As civil society, we must exercise citizen control over public resources; how our governments and the private sector manage them. Therefore, we must demand that the mandates of the upcoming Summit in Peru are real and measurable. In the last months, in the Citizen Forum of the Americas we have been working to monitor the fulfillment of the commitments made by the governments in the mandates of the 2015 Summit of the Americas. We have found several shortcomings, both in the fulfillment and in the measurement thereof. On the other hand, in many countries there are no laws on transparency and access to public information. In those where there are, the procedure to exercise the right to access the information is scarce or unknown to the citizenship. This matter is also important in fighting corruption, the states of the Americas must commit themselves to transparency and public accountability.
According to Transparency International, levels of corruption in Latin America and Caribbean are worrying. In their most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, published earlier this year, they reveal that the region’s average is below 40 points, on a scale of 100. If we look at the global map of the index, we realize that Latin America and Caribbean have levels similar to Africa and some countries in Asia, in which the political systems are not precisely democratic.
At the next Summit, civil society and social actors will mark an important participation milestone, and the Citizen Forum of the Americas will be a fundamental scenario. We should remember that the Forum has open doors for all organizations, activists and citizens in general interested in impact on public spaces, both national and hemispheric contexts.