|Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA|
COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF
CONTRIBUTION IN RESPONSE TO THE OPEN AND ONGOING INVITATION
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Proposal for the creation of a Permanent Civil Society Committee
The International Center for Legal Research Foundation (Fundación Centro Internacional de Investigación Jurídica CIDIJ by its Spanish acronym) in response to the open invitation extended to civil society by FTAA officials in the Buenos Aires Ministerial Declaration (Argentina, 7 April 2001) and the Quito Ministerial Declaration (Ecuador, 1 November 2002), which instruct the SOC, together with the TCI, to study the possibility of establishing a civil society committee within the institutional architecture of the FTAA, and having considered documents FTAA.TNC/22, FTAA.TNC/23 and FTAA.soc/24, hereby submits this contribution with a view to institutionalizing the participation of civil society in the Hemisphere. This contribution was prepared by researchers working for the Foundation, whose names appear at the end of the document.
Proposal for a Permanent Civil Society Committee
The main objective of the permanent civil society committee is to defend and directly represent the interests of civil society in the FTAA process, by participating actively in the decision-making process from the negotiation stage of the FTAA in order to ensure greater transparency and strengthen democracy from within the hemispheric integration process.
This Committee will comprise members of civil society from the 34 countries participating in the FTAA negotiations and who will represent the different sectors of these societies.
The proposal covers the following areas:
FTAA COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Civil Society Committee
The TNC1 instructs the SOC2, in coordination with the TCI3, to study the possibility of establishing, after the entry into force of the FTAA4, a Civil Society Committee within the institutional architecture of the FTAA,4 for the consideration of the TNC. This committee could be modeled on the SOC document on best practices and on similar experiences of civil society participation that exist in other multilateral and regional institutions such as the OAS, the United Nations, MERCOSUR, the European Union, CARICOM, Andean Community, etc.
1- The Sixth and Seventh meetings of the Ministers Responsible for Trade in the Hemisphere, held in Buenos Aires, on 7 April 2001, and in Quito, on 1 November 2002, respectively, which reaffirm the commitment to transparency and the need for increased and sustained participation of the different sectors of civil society in this hemispheric integration project, Argentina considers it vitally important that this Committee, which would represent civil society as whole, be created during the negotiation stages, not only to finalize the Free Trade Area of the Americas but also to achieve true hemispheric union.
2- This Committee will facilitate the participation of those members of the business community, as well as labor, environmental protection and academic groups, and non-governmental organizations that wish to present their views on the issues under negotiation in a constructive manner, by emphasizing the needs of the societies of the 34 countries involved in the hemispheric integration process.
3- The objectives of the participating countries include: strengthening of democracy, political dialogue, economic stability, progress toward social justice, trade liberalization, greater competitiveness in the private sector, raising of living standards, greater solidarity as a community, and considering there is no entity that participates actively in the decision-making process in representation of civil society from each country.
4- Documents FTAA.TNC/22 and FTAA.TNC/23, which lay the groundwork for the possibility of creating a Civil Society Committee within the institutional architecture of the FTAA for the consideration of the TNC.
Argentina supports the idea of allowing this committee to participate during the negotiation stage of the FTAA to ensure greater transparency, participation, and to strengthen democracy within the hemispheric integration process so that once the FTAA enters into force, it will have legitimacy in each of the 34 countries.
Chapter I - Nature
a) The Committee of Representatives of Civil Society is a specialized, permanent body created in accordance with the stipulations of document FTAA.TNC/22.
Chapter II - Composition and Creation of the Committee
a) The Committee shall comprise 7 members per country, as follows:
b) To this end, each State shall set up a registry listing the NGOs that operate in their territory, registered trade unions, universities, professional associations, economic activities with the greatest impact on the economy, and other data considered necessary in selecting the Committee members.
c) Committee members shall be drawn by lot in a public hearing, held in each of the 34 countries, from among the members listed in the registries indicated previously. For this purpose, each State shall regulate the selection mechanism in its domestic legislation.5
d) Country representatives shall hold the position for 18 months or until the next ministerial meeting, and may be re-elected to only one more term. Every nine months, however, half of the Committee’s members shall be replaced.
e) The Committee shall have one Chair and one Vice Chair, elected by its members. In no case, however, shall any member be directly designated by the governments.
f) The Chair and Vice Chair shall be elected by vote at the first ordinary meeting. The members elected for the two positions shall not be required to be of the same nationality, but it shall not be considered an impediment if this is the case.
g) To ensure the highest level of transparency possible, the representatives designated to serve as Chair and Vice Chair shall not have the same nationality as the Chair, Co-Chair or Vice Chair of the FTAA.
h) Individuals with the same nationality as the members of the Committee during the 5 previous periods shall also be excluded from the position of Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee.6
i) The Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee shall be elected using a two-round system, which provides for direct election of the candidate with the absolute majority of votes from among all the members of the Committee. In the event that no candidate wins the required majority, from among all the members of the Committee, a second round will be held between the two candidates with the most votes. The candidate that obtains the highest percentage of votes in this second round will be elected.
Chapter III - Objectives and Functions
a) The main objective of the Committee is to directly defend and represent the interests of the civil society in the FTAA process.
b) In the FTAA negotiations stage, the Committee shall play an important role in decision-making for the implementation of the FTAA, thus conferring greater legitimacy and transparency to this process of integration and strengthening of democracy throughout the Continent.
c) Identify areas in which it is necessary to intensify the direct participation of civil society in the economic, political, social, and cultural development of the people.
d) Formulate strategies aimed at increasing the direct participation of civil society in the decision-making process.
e) Urge governments to create mechanisms for direct consultation with civil society.
f) Regularly inform the Tripartite Committee on the main activities of the Committee.
Chapter IV - Plenary
a) The Committee shall meet regularly every 6 months, rotating the venue among the 34 member States, so as to facilitate communication with the different societies. The Committee hold extraordinary meetings when it deems convenient or when its participation in a decision-making process were necessary.
b) All decisions of the Committee shall be reached by consensus. These decisions shall be binding for the delegates of the Committee in the respective negotiating groups in which they participate.
c) The Plenary Meetings of the Committee shall be conducted by the Chair. In this regard, an agenda shall be drafted on the issues to be discussed; these issues are to be previously submitted to the Permanent Secretariat no less than sixty days prior to the meeting of the Committee.
d) The Plenary shall designate the delegates responsible for representing the Committee’s position before the different negotiating groups. A delegate shall be designated by the negotiating group or commission; the number of delegates may increase or decrease in accordance with the number of negotiating groups or commissions that exist.
Chapter V - National Committee
a) Independently of that set forth in the previous chapter, each State’s seven members on the Civil Society Committee shall also comprise the National Committee of each State.
b) The objective of the National Committees is to operate as a communication channel between the Plenary of the Committee of Representatives and the civil society of their respective States.
c) The jurisdiction of the National Committees is limited to the territories of their respective States.
d) Apart from that set forth in the preceding paragraph, different National Committees may group together to present coordinated policies in representation of civil society.
Chapter VI - Delegates
a) Delegates of the Committee of Representatives of Civil Society shall be responsible for formulating the position of the Committee before the different negotiating groups and commissions. This representation shall be of a permanent nature in accordance with the operation of each negotiating group or commission.
b) In each negotiating group or commission, the Committee, through its delegates, shall have the right to vote to express the position of civil society.
c) The mandate of the delegates is limited to expressing the position adopted in the Committee Plenary, and no delegate may exceed or amend the mandate.
d) The delegates shall regularly inform the Committee Plenary on the status of the negotiations in each negotiating group.
Chapter VII - Permanent Secretariat
a) The Permanent Secretariat shall carry out the administrative, technical, and executive functions of the Committee of Representatives of Civil Society.
b) The Permanent Secretariat shall operate together with the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee.
c) The office shall be directed by an Executive Secretary designated by the Committee Plenary.
d) The Permanent Secretariat shall receive notification of the issues to be discussed, which shall subsequently be included on the agenda on the date of the meeting of the Committee Plenary. The Permanent Secretariat, in turn, shall forward the agenda to each of the member States so they may independently prepare their position before the Plenary makes a decision.
Chapter VIII - Financing
a) Once established, the Permanent Committee of Civil Society shall formulate, at its first ordinary meeting, the tool to be used to determine the budget allocated to finance said committee, which shall be approved by the Tripartite Committee.
b) The Tripartite Committee shall be responsible for the financing of the Permanent Committee of Civil Society. An item shall be provided within the budget for this purpose.
c) Other sources of financial support include the countries participating in the FTAA, academic institutions, private-sector entities, and regional and multilateral financial and development institutions.
GUSTAVO CHMIELEVSKY INÉS MUGURUZA ELISABET RUDI
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