Africa

Fostering Civil Society In The Americas

To be successful, governments need the support and partnership of civil society.

President Barack Obama, left, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the plenary session of the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday April 14, 2012.
President Barack Obama, left, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the plenary session of the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday April 14, 2012.

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To be successful, governments need the support and partnership of civil society.  

“Democratic society,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 6TH Summit of the Americas, “is like a three-legged stool.  One leg must be responsible, accountable government. The second leg must be a private sector that creates jobs and opportunities for people.  And the third leg must be a robust civil society that speaks up on behalf of those who may not be able to speak for themselves.  If one of those legs – government, economy, civil society – is too short or is cut off, the stool collapses.”

The general trend in the hemisphere toward democracy and inclusive government has been positive, yet many Latin American and Caribbean countries still contend with discrimination, poverty, and inequality.  Civil society organizations are in a unique position to position to speak out on these issues in the public forum.

In recognition of the important role that civil society plays in the Americas and around the world, the U.S. has launched a number of initiatives to connect governments and civil society.  Last year, the U.S. hosted the first U.S. Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, which called on civil society and the U.S. government to identify specific ways to advance common goals, such a good governance and women’s rights.  Civil society also plays a key role in the Open Government Partnership, an initiative President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff launched in September 2011.

The Open Government Partnership has grown in the last eight months to become a global community of government reformers, civil society leaders, and business innovators, who together are advancing a new standard of good governance in the 21st century.  More than fifty governments are taking important steps towards greater transparency, accountability, and participation that will ultimately improve the lives of people around the world.  

“There is an undeniable connection between how a government operates and whether its people flourish,” said Secretary Clinton.  “When a government invites its people to participate, when it is open as to how it makes decisions and allocates resources, when it administers justice equally and transparently, and when it takes a firm stance against corruption of all kinds, that government is, in the modern world, far more likely to succeed.”

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