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How Do I Benefit From the Summit of the Americas?

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Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Video Transcript for Fifth Summit of the Americas
Washington, DC
April 15, 2009


How do I benefit from the Summit of the Americas?  Whether or not you’re one of the millions of people who directly gain from a summit initiative, if you live in the Americas, the summit is shaping your world for the better.  Here’s how.

The summit protects your fundamental rights.  In 2001, the summit adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which defines the rights and freedoms of all people in the Western Hemisphere.  This document mandates that governments respect and protect social, political, and economic rights, like freedom from discrimination, fair elections, and access to quality education.

The summit supports working families.  In Latin America, remittances, or money that people working abroad send back home to their families, represent up to one-fifth of a country’s national income.  For many years, 15 percent of remittances were being lost to transaction fees.  A 2004 special summit addressed this problem, and today those fees have dropped to less than 5 percent.  Now, more of workers’ hard-earned paychecks, an average of $300 more per family each year, go toward creating better opportunities in their home countries. 

The summit supports infrastructure developments.  Projects like building and repairing roads, upgrading airports and airlines, modernizing telecommunications, improving water and sewage services, and constructing and managing new hospitals promote sustainable growth, generate employment, and help fight poverty.  In the last three years, infrastructure projects have directly benefitted nearly 1 million people.

The private sector has invested about $2.5 billion in infrastructure in the Americas since the 2005 summit.  The summit promotes educational opportunities.  Across the Americas, education plays a key role in reducing poverty and promoting equality, and teacher training is critical to the summit’s mission of increasing access to education and boosting literacy rates.  After the summit proposed better training for teachers working in the poorest regions of Latin America, over 20,000 teachers, with the help of $53 million and 120,000 new books, are now better equipped to teach reading skills.  The 600,000 underprivileged students they’ve reached are more likely to be reading and writing by age nine, and therefore are more likely to break the cycle of poverty.

The summit promotes advances in health and wellness.  Improving healthcare is another crucial element in building a cohesive society.  Summit leaders have committed to strengthening programs that provide nutrition education, preventive care, and expanded coverage for the poor.  With 3.2 million people in the Americas infected with HIV/AIDS, the summit has taken a special interest in battling this disease.  The Three Ones Initiative was created at the 2005 summit to ensure that all countries in the region have an HIV/AIDS coordination authority, strategy, and monitoring system. 

In 2008, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief provided care and support to 95,000 HIV-positive individuals in Haiti, which has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Americas. 

The summit is looking ahead.  A particular focus of this year’s summit is energy security and environmental stewardship, including the challenge of climate change.  At our current rate, the world is predicted to consume more than 120 million barrels of oil a day by 2030.  The summit aims to boost green energy cooperation in everything from biofuels to increased energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.  Summit initiatives for agricultural development, ecosystem protection, and natural resources management also help ensure a more sustainable future.

Did you know one in five people in the Western Hemisphere speak Portuguese?

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