On February 20, the Dialogue hosted a private Civil Society Consultation on the Summit of the Americas at its office in Washington, DC. This closed-door session offered an opportunity for US government officials to present their priorities and goals for the Summit to be held in Panama in April, and to solicit reactions and viewpoints from civil society leaders. The conversation highlighted civil society’s role in the Summit process and built upon previous discussions held at the US Department of State in May and October 2014.
Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty, III, White House chief of staff, counselor to the president, and special envoy for the Americas under President Clinton, offered opening remarks. Three representatives from the US government led off the discussion: Ricardo Zúñiga, senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council; John Feeley, principal deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs; and Michael Fitzpatrick, US acting national summit coordinator. Manuel Orozco, senior fellow at the Dialogue, moderated the conversation.
During the session, speakers emphasized the importance of the Summit for purposeful engagement between the leaders of the Americas. They noted the issues likely to be discussed, including violence in the region, democratic governance, rule of law, corruption, freedom of expression, Cuba, and the Colombia peace talks. Although they acknowledged that divisive groups could disrupt the process, US government officials maintained that the Summit is an important opportunity for dialogue among civil society, the private sector, and government leaders of the Americas.