How can I participate in meeting the Summit of the Americas goals? You don’t have to be one of the 34 national leaders attending the fifth summit to help tackle the meeting’s agenda. Every person in the region can get involved.
Step one: Share responsibility for keeping us safe. A critical element to the stability of the Americas is securing the safety of its citizens. In 2008, drug trafficking was responsible for at least 6,000 deaths in Mexico alone. If we share the problems, then we also share the solutions, like providing information and assistance to prevent and prosecute organized crime, the trafficking of narcotics, and drug cartel-related violence, and promoting public programs that offer productive alternatives to a life of crime.
Young people can pitch in by staying in school, actively participating in sports and local community life, and refusing to use, buy, or sell illegal drugs or join criminal gangs. Join a local citizens council or neighborhood watch. If one doesn’t already exist, create one with friends and neighbors using social media tools to get out your message.
Step two: Exercise your democratic rights. The success of the 34 democratic countries represented at the summit directly depends on the citizens’ involvement. How can you contribute? Volunteer to help register voters and assist with elections, always cast your ballot, and make sure elected officials know your concerns. The Bahamas has the highest voter turnout in the Americas at over 90 percent.
Step three: Conserve energy. One goal of the summit is to secure access for all citizens to clean, dependable energy. Young people can take a lead in generating ideas from collecting used vegetable oil and transforming it into auto fuel to taking part in cutting-edge research at universities throughout the Americas. Even if you’re not involved in developing green technologies, you can still pitch in by conserving energy in small but appreciable ways. At home, use fluorescent light bulbs, unplug chargers and appliances when not in use, and don’t overcool or overheat rooms. When you’re out and about, avoid driving when possible and take mass transit instead. Mexico has pledged to produce more than 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources in the next four years.
Step four: Reduce, reuse, recycle. Another summit theme is environmental sustainability. In addition to taking measures to protect our precious biodiversity and addressing the challenge of climate change, summit leaders support initiatives to protect citizens’ health. While the richest among us consume the most resources and generate the most solid waste, it is the poor who suffer the results of environmental degradation disproportionately, often lacking access to clean water and proper sewage. Do your part by reducing, recycling, and properly disposing of your waste. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to operate a television for three hours.
Step five: Help your neighbors. Get involved with an organization that betters the lives of those around you such as programs targeting youth, indigenous or minority populations, or the physically challenged. Your work can even influence the summit’s agenda. Summit leaders reach out to hear from civil society organizations at special meetings like the Civil Society Hemispheric Forum held in Miami in 2008, which gathered together 120 representatives from 30 countries in the Americas. The forum’s recommendations will be presented at the fifth summit. Check out the calendar of events at summit-americas.org for a list of meetings and forums related to the summit.
Step six: Join the conversation. We want your opinion on summit priorities and how we can achieve them. Visit townhall.america.gov to share your thoughts, ask questions, and hear more from your neighbors across the Americas.
Did you know the Summit of the Americas Secretariat offers internships to undergraduate and graduate students in the region? For details, go to summit-americas.org/faq.