|Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA|
FTAA - COMMITTEE
OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF
CONTRIBUTION IN RESPONSE TO THE OPEN AND ONGOING INVITATION
Foro de Coordinaciones de ONG de Guatemala [NGO Coordination Forum], a tertiary level organization, recognized as a legal entity by the Government of Guatemala, with legal Representative: Helmer Velásquez, Address: 2ª. Calle 16-60, zona 4 de Mixco, Residenciales Valle del Sol, Edif. Atanasio Tzul 3er. Nivel. Telephone: (502) 433-4007 (...08 or 09), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consejo de Investigaciones para el Desarrollo de Centroamérica (CIDECA) [Research Council for Central American Development], nongovernmental organization legally constituted as a development agency with legal status recognized by the Government of Guatemala and as legal Representative: Jorge Mario Salazar. Address: 17 calle 11-72 zona 2 Ciudad Nueva, Guatemala. Telephone: (502) 254-0582, Email: email@example.com
For consideration by:
The Committee of Government Representatives on the Participation of Civil Society.
The Negotiating Group on Intellectual Property Rights.
The Negotiating Group on Agriculture.
The Role of National
Governments, Political Intermediation
The following text is intended as a contribution following analysis, consultation and reflection, and is based on experience gained through the work carried out by Guatemalan civil society organizations in a development-centered process. We are particularly interested in presenting our thoughts on aspects reflecting the role of national governments and that of political intermediation, as well as the effect of the processes of exclusion/inclusion in the context of the FTAA, and what one hopes to see included in the FTAA Agreement.
1. National Governments and Sovereignty
We begin with the inalienable principle that sovereignty resides in the people, which is the essence of the democratic system and, as such, is not subject to negotiation. Rather, international relations must be based squarely on the fundamental purpose outlined in our Constitution: TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE MAINTENANCE OF PEACE, THE STRENGTHENING OF DEMOCRACY, AND THE SHARING OF MUTUAL AND EQUITABLE BENEFITS AMONG STATES.
We must not forget that Central America has States which are still young and little developed, with institutionalized policies and atrophied operations: “push-button States”. This distortion of its true role, however, must not serve as justification for the dismantling of the State.
Contrary to this trend (which is at least beginning to be reviewed, given its obvious and disastrous consequences for the people), the FTAA should become a sovereign opportunity for the people to endow themselves with strong and democratic States.
To this end, THE FTAA MUST FOLLOW EXPLICIT POLICIES DESIGNED TO PROMOTE:
We quote one article from the Political Constitution of the Republic of Guatemala: “THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL SYSTEM OF THE REPUBLIC OF GUATEMALA IS FOUNDED ON PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE. IT IS THE OBLIGATION OF THE STATE TO GUIDE THE NATIONAL ECONOMY IN A MANNER THAT UTILIZES THE COUNTRY’S NATURAL RESOURCES AND HUMAN POTENTIAL TO INCREASE PROSPERITY WITH THE AIM OF ACHIEVING FULL EMPLOYMENT AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF THE NATIONAL INCOME.”
2. Political Intermediation.
Guatemala’s political landscape is badly fragmented, with widespread mistrust of politicians and sporadic participation by voters at election time only, or when a particular issue sparks debate. The system is dominated by elitist special interest groups, and the political parties themselves are ineffectual.
The policies that govern public finance are dictated by the international financial institutions, multinational corporations and the foreign policies of powerful nations, further weakening the role of political parties.
Resistance to these forces and the effort to propose alternatives has passed into the hands of civil society organizations as we seek ways to transform these levels of participation into a means for controlling the processes producing globalization and defending the interest of the common man.
Participation and coordination of the various sectors of society must be understood to represent the emergence of qualitatively different forms of political intermediation, a phenomenon which is vitally necessary for the democratic strengthening of a nation.
THERE IS A NEED FOR PERMANENT PROGRAMS TO STRENGTHEN THE CAPACITY OF CIVIL SOCIETY TO MAKE ITS VIEWS KNOWN AND TO MONITOR THE WORKINGS OF GOVERNMENT. IT FOLLOWS THEN THAT THE FTAA MUST CONDUCT A MASSIVE INFORMATION AND AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.
Fostering civil society’s ability to provide political intermediation by formulating public policy and monitoring social outcomes will enhance its role as a key actor in national development.
1. Social Exclusion/Inclusion
In the field of development, the terms social exclusion and social inclusion assume a range of opportunities that are denied to some but not to others, in an ongoing and increasingly contradictory process.
The term “exclusion” is applied to those who remain outside the established political and economic system, and can be seen in unemployment and the reduced security and social benefits available to the poorest segments of society.
By recognizing social justice as its guiding principle, the FTAA must reverse this situation and promote “inclusion,” establishing stable living conditions through welfare and social security systems. In the specific case of Guatemala, historically the majority of this country’s population has remained in the exclusion camp, that is to say, most Guatemalans have never had access to benefits under the social service system. Meanwhile the State, as the central administrative institution, looks after the economic interests of powerful groups and serves as the principal agency promoting a system of domination which includes everything from open racism, discrimination and exploitation, to oppression and marginalization, thus resulting in social injustice in all its ugly forms.
In the context of the FTAA, Guatemala therefore represents a tremendous challenge in terms of policies, programs and social intervention strategies to improve the lot of the large majority of Guatemalans that have been historically excluded. Moreover, the country must now face yet more disparities arising from the requirements of the free trade agreements.
Based on the above, one of the most pressing contradictions to be resolved is that of the opposition between multiculturalism and racism.
One element which will help to resolve this contradiction is to ensure that the FTAA includes a requirement that the large multinational corporations contribute funding for intercultural education and citizen participation programs, and that the signatory States agree to promote those programs.
Historically, the indigenous people of Guatemala have demonstrated a high degree of organization which, for example, has enabled them to maintain a high profile in our society. No one provided this position to them; instead, they carved out a space through their own efforts. A passing reference is not enough, however, and the FTAA must formally acknowledge the forms of organization developed by the citizens of each country, and foster and respect the specific organizational structures developed by indigenous peoples, as well as their ancestral rights.
In the end, an economic development strategy which is not fashioned with an approach to intercultural development in mind, will fail to close the gap between rich and poor, and achieve sustainable development.
4. Conclusions and Recommendations:
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