18 de Diciembre de 2018
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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999


First, I would like to thank our Chairman, Fernando Reimers, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, for the invitation to join this fine panel together with Sofialeticia Morales Garza, from the Ministry of Education of Mexico, and Noel F. McGinn, Professor Emeritus of Harvard University.

Sofialeticia Morales told us an exciting story about the preparation and implementation of the education chapter of the second Summit of the Americas. My account of the developments will complement her presentation on the experience of the participating countries and the collaboration of the international development community. Rather than examining the experience of the coordinating countries involved, I will focus on the cooperating role of the international development agencies. My account will further focus on some general advances and shortcomings of the summitry process being developed at the end of the century.

Before referring to education and international cooperation in the 1998 Santiago Summit of the Americas, which celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow, I would like to make an introductory comment on the modern summitry process developed by the governments of the American nations in the 1990s.

The first Summit of the Americas convened in Miami in 1994. Its major objective was to promote and consolidate a community of democracies in the Americas, united by the promise of economic integration with social justice. International trade was conceived as the central factor to achieve economic integration. Education was then considered as one social factor within the overall development strategy envisioned by the Heads of State and Government.

During the years following the first Summit of the Americas, a number of accounts raised questions about the summitry process and its promises. The overall evaluation of the advances and shortcomings of the first Summit of the Americas reveals considerable accomplishments in terms of inter-American political dialogue and overall development policy-making. In terms of the implementation of specific Summit action items, progress has been slower than originally expected. Some observers argue that technical and financial resources have fallen short to cope with the multiplicity and diversity of Summit action items. In addition, countries were not institutionally prepared to carry out many action items, which came as an additional responsibility for the governments. The international organizations supported the implementation of some initiatives, but failed to come up with the resources and the support services needed to carry out others. History taught us again that political and social change and education reforms are complex and slow processes, especially in a multinational and multicultural context. As a result of the evaluation of the advances and shortcomings of the 1994 Summit, I think that today we are all more realistic about the promises and the possibilities of the summitry process as a new high-level strategy for inter-American cooperation.

In spite of a general consensus on the relevance of the 1994 promises, some critics argue that there is an urgent need to examine whether or not our strategy of hemispheric economic and trade integration favors equity and social justice in and among the American nations. Other accounts published by the Leadership Council for Inter-American Summitry argue that there remain important concerns—sometimes different concerns in the North and the South—related to the implementation process of some initiatives, like the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

During the transition from Miami to Santiago, the countries of the Hemisphere became increasingly aware that, beyond trade integration, they have to confront a number of important challenges related to democracy, education, the environment, and poverty. In addition, formal trade integration has become a difficult challenge for the time being. The difficulties come from the North and the South. The fact is that up to now the United States Congress did not grant “fast track” negotiating authority to the Executive, which inhibits US negotiations in the short run. On the other hand, the Mercosur nations are determined to prepare a safe transition for them, and to ensure, in their view, the development of an equitable trade model for all nations of the Hemisphere.

I believe that these facts have played a decisive role to transform education into the central issue of the 1998 Santiago Summit. I say this in response to one of the questions posed for this panel: Why did education become the centerpiece of the Santiago Summit? In a sense, and I am very candid about this, education became the centerpiece of the last Summit because the countries were not ready for a successful new presidential round on trade integration. Another decisive factor, which has to do with the substance itself, is the renewed importance given to sustainable human development and the growing awareness in political, business, intellectual and communications circles of needed education reforms in the Hemisphere to cope with the new demands of today’s global society.

As education became the centerpiece of the Santiago agenda, a new political and academic debate over education laid the groundwork for the preparation of the new Summit. Governments, non-governmental organizations, and international agencies took part in the debate. Mexico, Argentina, and Chile led the governmental preparatory efforts in the field of education. The Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, UNESCO, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean were invited to join. In a parallel civil society movement, universities and research and development institutions throughout the Hemisphere sponsored numerous studies and meetings on the subject. The purpose of these efforts was to build consensus around major regional policy issues. Needless to say that all countries involved faced a challenging task: the task of agreeing on common regional goals and strategies, while preserving their social and cultural values, as well as their national political and economic interests. Such a task was particularly challenging in those countries that could not reach consensus on education policies and plans of action at the national level.