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NGOs want to see draft of Summit declaration

President of the Network of Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs), HazelBrown, wants the Government to release the latest version of the draftdeclaration that will be signed by the heads of States at the Fifth Summitof the Americas at the weekend.

Speaking yesterday at the Coalition of Civil Society Organisationsmeeting at the Daaga Hall of the University of the West Indies, StAugustine, Brown said:

"Whereas in previous Summits we were able to see the draft the heads arecoming to sign because as you all know now the heads are coming here tosign an agreement that has already been negotiated and agreed, so they arejust going to sit down on Sunday and sign."

"We want to see it, we want to know where it is after all of the effortthat has gone into contributions to something we need to see it and we needto say today we want to see the declaration.

"I understand one of the communication people said it will be ready onFriday but that is not good enough we want to see it now, we want to see ittoday," she added.

She said the lesson they have learnt from this is that the process ofengagement of civil society by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago isvery disrespectful.

Brown added that while the agenda for the civil society forum which wasagreed upon two days ago did have some inputs from the Civil SocietyOrganisations it cannot be said to be their agenda.

"Our determination is that when we gather in that boat tomorrow and onthe following day we will make the agenda because that is our business thatis what we have been putting our blood, sweat and tears into all theseyears and we cannot just sit down and roll over and say whatever you say,"she said.

The most challenging aspect of the preparation for the summit forum, shesaid, has been getting the national secretariat which is appointed by theGovernment and the office of the Prime Minister to recognise and value thecontribution that the civil society can make.

"We have to find a way to make them understand, recognise and value usas civil society. In particular, their attempt to control every aspect ofthe preparations including setting the agenda."

"Somehow they got it into their heads that this was a forum for civilsociety and not of civil society but we will continue to fight for the nexttwo days," she added.