In December 1994, President Bill Clinton brought together 34 of the hemisphere’s presidents and leaders to the first Summit of the Americas in Miami. It was the first such summit in 27 years.
Two decades later, Clinton will host another hemispheric conference in South Florida. On Tuesday, Clinton will unveil the “Future of the Americas,” a Dec. 11 event at the University of Miami that will focus on the next 20 years in the region.
Among the invitees are Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest man and the founder of the Carlos Slim Foundation; Inter American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno; and Cisneros Group Chairman Gustavo Cisneros.
The meeting aims to create a space where leaders can talk about energy, infrastructure, the environment, healthcare, vocational training, agriculture and chronic disease, among other topics.
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“There’s been tremendous progress across our hemisphere since we first came together 20 years ago, and now more than ever, it’s clear the next 20 years in our hemisphere will depend largely on the actions that leaders from all sectors and countries take today,” Clinton said in a statement. “I’m thankful for the leadership of the people who are participating, and hopeful that our discussions will re-energize their efforts to shape our shared future in ever more positive ways.”
The summit is seen as a complement to the official Summit of the Americas, which will be held in April in Panama.
The Miami meeting will bring together an eclectic group. Along with business magnates, academics and philanthropists, the event will feature Miami music moguls Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine and the executive director of the Florida Marlins Foundation, Alfredo Mesa.
“The folks who are coming are remarkably successful leaders, whether they are from NGOs, philanthropy, business or government — and they really hold it in their hands to shape the future of the Americas,” said Amitabh Desai, director of foreign policy at the Clinton Foundation.
University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who was secretary of health and human services in the Clinton administration and plans to attend the event, said bringing together such a high caliber group was an “important opportunity” to “discuss the future of the Americas and to bring attention to Latin America.”
Outside of opening and closing statements, the event will be closed to the public. The idea is to create an environment that is conducive to dialogue and problem-solving, said Craig Minassian, the foundation’s chief communications officer. “We hope the event will be a starting point for generating new ways to address persistent challenges throughout the region.”
Since leaving office in 2001, Clinton has remained a player in the region through the Clinton Foundation.
Since 2010, the foundation has raised $34 million for Haiti. Since 2012, the Clinton Health Matters Initiative has implemented health programs at community and college campuses that serve two million Hispanic Americans. Since 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative has been bringing together global leaders. Last year, the CGI held its first Latin American conference in Brazil.
The Miami summit comes amid grumblings in the region that Washington has been too busy in the Middle East and Asia to pay attention to Latin America.
Shalala said Clinton was and remains deeply interested in the region and that high-level meetings like the one in December can help attract attention to it.
In that sense, the new summit “is a continuation of the Clinton legacy and his commitment to Latin America,” she said.