We are pleased to present this summary of the Inter-American Dialogue’s work in 2011.

The Dialogue’s China and Latin America program grew considerably in 2011 under the leadership of new program director Margaret Myers, who arrived at the Dialogue after completing a year of research in Nanjing, China. The program held the inaugural meeting of its China and Latin America Working group on September 15 in Washington, bringing together some fifteen experts on China-Latin America relations from the United States, China, Latin America, Europe, and Australia to assess the field of China-Latin America studies and strategies for addressing disparities in the China-Latin America relationship. The program also convened several public discussions on topics ranging from ChinaMexico competition to China’s long-term growth prospects.

This year the Dialogue also launched a new initiative on security and migration in Central America and Mexico. The Dialogue has joined with leading think tanks, research centers, and independent journalists in Mexico and Central America to discuss and craft policy solutions to the most important challenges facing their countries. The project aims to bring Mexican and Central American viewpoints into Washington policy debates and promote fresh, practical ideas for greater cooperation among the United States, Mexico, and the countries of Central America. The first meeting was held in Washington in July 2011 and the second meeting in Guatemala City in February 2012, which included Guatemala’s president, minister of the interior, and attorney general along with the US ambassador to Guatemala.

The Dialogue’s drug policy project launched its report, published jointly with the Beckley foundation, Rethinking Drug Policy, in February at a standing room only event on Capitol Hill. Three Congressional leaders spoke at the session: the chair and ranking members of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere—Connie Mack (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY)—and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). Two additional public events and a private workshop were held during the course of 2011 to examine alternatives to current US drug policies, raise the profile of drug-related issues with the Washington policy community, and promote discussion among the US government and the countries of the region to explore multilateral cooperation.

In partnership with the government of Colombia, the Dialogue was involved in a variety of activities in preparation for the VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia in April 2012. To inform the debate among the presidents of the Western Hemisphere, the Summit Committee commissioned Dialogue staff to prepare a series of papers on central topics, including citizen security, poverty and inequality, and health and technology.

The Central America Working Group continued its work in 2011 with a meeting in San Salvador to discuss issues specific to each country and challenges facing the region. Participants included Francisco R. de Sola, president of FUSADES; Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala and head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Honduras; and Carlos Fernando Chamorro, director of Nicaragua’s online journal Confidencial, among others. The Latin American Economies Roundtable, which brings together a small group of leading economic analysts from the public and private sectors, met five times during the year to consider Latin America’s economic prospects for 2011 and examine the role of stable macroeconomic policies in fostering growth. The roundtable is a joint initiative of the Dialogue, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Tulane University.

This year, the Dialogue continued to look at Latin America’s relationship with the United States and Europe at the 2011 trilateral conference in April in Madrid, the fourth such meeting since 2007. In collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Ibero-American Summit and Real Instituto Elcano, the Dialogue convened an influential high-level group of public and private leaders from Europe, Latin America, and the United States for discussions of key challenges facing the trilateral relationship and how to strengthen cooperation among the three parties.

Other highlights of this year’s activities include the Fifteenth Annual CAF Conference that attracted a record number of participants over two days. This year’s discussions centered on Latin America’s growing independence and prospects for weathering the global financial crisis. Keynote speeches were made by Enrique Iglesias, secretary general of SEGIB and Thomas Shannon, then-US undersecretary for political affairs and current US ambassador to Brazil. Other speakers included Hector Arce, president of the Chamber of Deputies of Bolivia; José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the OAS; Maria Emma Mejía, secretary general of UNASUR; former president of Panama Martín Torrijos; and former foreign ministers Guillermo Fernández de Soto (Colombia) and Gustavo Fernández Saavedra (Bolivia). 

The Dialogue’s Latin America Working Group met twice in 2011, in Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hosted by the Getulio Vargas Foundation. Co-sponsored by CAF, the working group is comprised of 25 to 35 diverse, high-level experts and practitioners who gather biannually to analyze the policy issues and choices confronting the region’s leaders. The group also produces a series of working papers.

The remittances and development program expanded its financial literacy initiative first implemented in 2009. The program provides a toolkit, brochure, methodology, and curriculum for both remittance recipients and migrants in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Paraguay, select Middle Eastern countries, and the United States. The Dialogue’s evaluation of Western Union’s 4+1 program measured the impact of diaspora investment projects made in partnership with private sector and government institutions with the goal of supporting local economic development in Mexico.

The Dialogue’s social policy program expanded the Commitment to Equity project in partnership with the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University. The goal of this initiative is to evaluate the extent to which Latin American governments help or hinder social progress. In November, the Dialogue, Tulane, and Center for Inter-American Policy and Research held a two-day workshop, bringing together 11 researchers from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay to discuss their research on fiscal policy, fiscal mobility, and redistribution in Latin America.

During 2011, PREAL and its staff partnered with national organizations and members of the private sector to launch two national education report cards (in Honduras and the Dominican Republic). It also opened a Central American and Dominican chapter of its working group on the teaching profession. In addition, PREAL co-organized more than 60 events with working groups and national partners. PREAL also signed agreements with CECC/SICA, UNESCOOREALC and UNESCO-UIS to cooperate on a variety of activities related to teacher policies, testing and testing systems, and monitoring progress toward international education goals.

The hallmark of the Dialogue’s Congressional Program, the Congressional Members Working Group, convened over a dozen members of Congress in two private dinner meetings on Capitol Hill this year. Members discussed President Obama’s April 2011 trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, and violence, crime, and insecurity in Central America. Both dinners featured high-level Obama administration officials such as Arturo Valenzuela, then assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs; William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement affairs; and Roberta Jacobson, current assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

The Dialogue enjoyed the regular participation of business leaders in our activities in 2011. New companies like Citigroup, Deloitte, Forbes & Manhattan, Mead Johnson, Oracle, and Western Union, among numerous others, joined our Corporate Circle this year. The corporate program continues to publish the highly regarded daily Latin America Advisor—along with weekly and biweekly Advisor titles on energy and financial services—as a cornerstone benefit of Circle membership. The Advisor published nearly 1,000 commentaries written by experts from around the world on questions posed by subscribers. Corporate financial support also helped make possible the launch of the Latin America Advisor’s first secure online, keyword searchable portal. More than 2,000 editions of the Advisor are now archived on the portal and available to researchers. The University of California at Berkeley, the University of Florida, Baylor University and other leading academic institutions have subscribed.

In 2011, Dialogue staff published articles in leading policy journals—including Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, Current History, and the Journal of Democracy—that analyzed Latin America’s shift to the center, the strain in US-Brazil relations, Central America’s security predicament, and the outlook for Venezuela’s political future amid the questionable health of President Hugo Chávez. Staff also published over 100 articles and interviews in newspapers, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, El Tiempo, O Estado de São Paulo, El Comercio, ideele, El Espectador, El Colombiano, Política Exterior, Infolatam, América Economía, and Confidencial, among others—on topics ranging from Brazil’s foreign policy under Dilma Rousseff, to US immigration policy, Peru’s election of Ollanta Humala, the US free trade agreement with Colombia, rethinking US drug policy, Obama’s trip to Latin America, the shifting landscape of regionalism in the Western Hemisphere, the testing of Peru and China’s relationship, and the US economic crisis and its impact on Latin America.

Download the complete report below.