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Consensus comes of age

The heads of 34 western Hemisphere nations meeting in April in Santiago, Chile, urged action on free trade, poverty reduction, education and judicial reform, among other issues. So did the IDB governors at their meeting a month earlier in Cartagena, Colombia.

While such coincidences don't seem extraordinary today, until very recently many hemispheric gatherings were marked by contentious debates over a host of political and ideological wedge issues. Many of the most divisive questions of the past have now been replaced by a mature partnership founded on common interests.

A strong message coming out of Santiago was that the greatest benefits from free trade will flow to the countries with the best prepared people and the strongest institutions. "We all admit that too many of our citizens have not seen their own lives improved as a result of our participation in the global economy," said United States President Bill Clinton.

Similarly, the central themes at the IDB meeting were better education, poverty reduction, greater equity, a stronger democratic process, and violence reduction. "There is a need for resolute political commitment. . . to even out social inequities and search for ways of affording equal opportunity to every citizen," declared IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias in Cartagena.

The two meetings had more in common than rhetoric. Many of the initiatives in the summit's 34-page action plan will rely on IDB financing and technical expertise.

 

 

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