Leading academics and practitioners from 22 countries across the Western Hemisphere took part in the Inter-American Forum on Governance, a series of four e-Conferences held this fall. Hosted exclusively online at Governance Village, the project featured four thematic discussions co-sponsored by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), the Canadian International Council (CIC) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The thematic discussions included: Strengthening and Sustaining Democratic Institutions; Building Multidimensional Security in Haiti; Integral Development: Energy and the Environment; and The Fight for Human Rights in the Americas.

The e-Conference series launched with a discussion of the ongoing political crisis in Honduras. Held on September 29, just one week after deposed president Manuel Zelaya had returned to the country, the topic generated some of the Forum’s liveliest debate and included top regional experts.

Panelists Jorge Heine (Distinguished Fellow, CIGI) and Pablo Policzer (Canada Research Chair in Latin American Politics) started the online discussion with differing perspectives on Honduras: A Unified Voice in the Hemisphere? Mr. Heine argued that the Micheletti regime’s actions posed a fundamental threat to democracy in the region, while Mr. Policzer said that, although a coup had certainly taken place in Honduras, it may not have been unconstitutional. Participants discussed whether constitutions  are relevant in Latin America anymore, and if the OAS should set up a peer-review mechanism like the one employed by the African Union.

A debate on the effectiveness of the Inter-American Democratic Charter also occurred, with Andrew F. Cooper (associate director, CIGI), Dario Soto (deputy director, The Trust for the Americas) and Pablo Gutierrez (director of the Department for Electoral Cooperation and Observation, OAS) acting as panelists. The first e-Conference concluded with a wide-ranging discussion on how to bring Cuba back into the Inter-American system, and what role Canada could play in that process. Panelists included Daniel P. Erikson (director of Caribbean Programs, Inter-American Dialogue), Lana Wylie (research associate, CIC) and Ramon Daubon (president, the Esquel Group).

For the second e-Conference session, the Forum examined one of the longest-standing governance challenges in the Americas: how to foster political stability and stimulate economic development in Haiti. Held from October 10 to 12, panelists and participants produced an in-depth debate on the multitude of governance challenges facing the island nation.

The session’s first discussion – The Challenge of Providing Security in Haiti – yielded a particularly active dialogue, featuring spirited contributions from panelists Stephen Randall (director, Institute for United States Policy Research), Major-General Eduardo Aldunate (former deputy force commander, MINUSTAH) and Alexandre Addor-Neto (secretary for multidimensional security, OAS). Debate focused on the strengths and limitations of the international intervention in Haiti, a topic illuminated by Maj-Gen. Aldunate’s intimate knowledge of the UN peacekeeping mission there. Moving towards a more holistic sense of security, discussion on day two of the e-Conference focused on Institutionalizing Economic Development. Panelists analyzing this challenge were Andrew Thompson (senior fellow, CIGI), Carlo Dade (executive director, Canadian Foundation for the Americas), Yasmine Shamsie (associate professor, Wilfrid Laurier University) and David Rojas (director, Partnership for Opportunities in Employment Through Technology in the Americas).

The final day of debate focused on an OAS initiative to foster socio-political stability by providing a Standard Registration System for Haitians. In this discussion the process of registering all Haitians as citizens under the law was debated by participants and panelists Robert Fatton (professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia), Mariana Costa (specialist, Civil Identity Program, OAS) and Luc Lapointe (national coordinator, Haitian Civil Registry, OAS).

For the final two e-Conferences, panelists and participants convened for a single day of debate on each topic. Held on October 28, the e-Conference on energy and the environment concentrated on nuclear power in the Americas and its vulnerability to natural disasters, the harmful effects of biofuel subsidies and how to generate the political will to reform energy sectors across the hemisphere. Panelists leading the session were Annette Hester (research fellow, CIGI), Mark Lambrides (chief of Energy and Climate Change Mitigation Division, OAS) and Claudia de Windt (chief of Environmental Law, Policy and Good Governance Division, OAS). The last session, which took place on November 12, addressed the fight for human rights in the Americas. It featured a multifaceted discussion about freedom of speech across the Americas and the rights of migrant workers in Canada. Panelist Jenna Hennebry (associate director, International Migration Research Centre) led the discussion and was joined by Santiago Canton (executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, OAS), who contributed via video.

Online discussions and e-Conference materials are available to view and download.

Brandon Currie is content editor for Governance Village, a CIGI project.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.