Medellín, June 27, 2019.- On the first day of the 49th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), taking place in Medellin, Colombia, hundreds of people were unable to enter the plenary session, originally planned as a public event. Instead, the plenary was set up in a small room, in which about 50 seats were set up for civil society participants. However, more than 800 people registered for the session. Despite the empty chairs in the room, members who were waiting outside were not allowed to enter.
In addition to this restriction, previously registered participants were not allowed to enter the General Committee. Previously, this space was open in other General Assemblies. In this particular occasion, access was limited to one person per Coalition. Unfortunately, representatives faced difficulties entering. For example, only 24 chairs were made available for the 39 accredited participants.
In light of these events, 12 coalitions, which gather over 364 organizations of the Americas and approximately 508 individuals, condemn the actions of the General Secretariat of the OAS and the State of Colombia, host of this General Assembly. In coordination with other States, there appears to have been a deliberate decision to restrict the participation of civil society organizations, many of whom made numerous efforts to attend this session in person.
This is a very serious and historical setback for civil society. It points to a reduction of an effective and substantive participation of civil society in key spaces. However, we would like to point that our voices are essential in guaranteeing compliance with the democratic principles, the foundations and the objectives of the OAS.
We demand that the OAS #LetUsIn during the second day of the plenary session, and ensure full access and participation of accredited civil society members. We also ask that sufficient seats be available within the General Committee, as these were the bare-minimum commitments made in the initial phases of the General Assembly to civil society.
Finally, we wish to underscore that, in spite of the restrictions, civil society will continue to observe and monitor the actions of the States and demand accountability for the decisions that arise from these spaces.
Coalition for Inclusive Dialogue REDLAD, made up of 15 organizations
Coalition for Human Rights for Women in the Americas, made up of 13 organizations
Coalition for Religion, Belief and Spirituality in dialogue with civil society, made up of 25 de organizations
National Coalition for peace, democracy, laity and human rights, made up of 23 organizations
Coalition Forum Citizen of the Americas, made up of 20 organizations
Human Rights Organizations Coalition of the Americas, composed of 13 organizations
Coalition of Human Rights of Youth and Adolescents of the Americas, composed of 10 organizations
Coalition of Human Mobility, composed of 23 organizations Coalition of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, composed of 28 organizations
Coalition of LGBTTTI Persons, composed of 50 organizations
Afro-descendant Coalition of the Americas, composed of 121 organizations
DPETSA Coalition for the Rights of Persons who Exercise Sex Work, composed of 23 organizations