Every day, the Organization of American States (OAS) works hand in hand with the governments of the region to strengthen democracy, promote peace, guarantee security, and make progress towards integral development. To do this, the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) supports the quest for high-level political consensus, strategic vision, and educational activities that strengthen the capacity of institutions in the hemisphere. These macro objectives may seem distant or abstract, but they take on real meaning when they are translated into greater well-being, education, employment, social inclusion, development, and productivity in the hemisphere.
From the central offices of the OAS in Washington, DC, we are pleased to share information about the impact that our work has on the lives of people. The examples in this article remind us daily of our mission to accompany states as they work to improve the quality of life of the people of the Americas.
The work of SEDI includes: financing and supporting multilateral cooperation initiatives; strengthening the production and trading capacity of small producers; promoting effective experiences to ensure the social development, inclusion, protection, and development of people with disabilities in the world of labor, science, or education; helping local communities prepare for and respond to natural disasters; promoting the transfer of grassroots educational experiences for peace; and stimulating the development of the cultural industry, to name just a few areas of cooperation.
Through these efforts, the OAS is making a real impact on communities, groups, and individuals in the hemisphere. The following stories provide a glimpse into the difference we are making.
FEMCIDI: a Tool for Promoting Development in the Americas
Over 1,000 projects have been funded since the Special Multilateral Fund of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (FEMCIDI) was created. One outstanding example of these initiatives is a project that has made it possible to rebuild the social fabric in border communities of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The project is called Reading Without Borders and is coordinated by Colombia's Minister of Culture.
Reading Without Borders has three main goals: to promote reading at all levels, to strengthen the cultural identity of communities, and to optimize the work of public libraries in border areas. It has been able to improve access to cultural resources along borders and improve the quality of life of residents, while respecting the cultural and linguistic diversity characteristic of these regions.
The success of the project comes from training librarians to implement reading programs in the communities and to make libraries self-sustaining, which is especially important in order to reduce their dependency on external actors. So far, 30 libraries have participated, benefiting about 9,300 people directly. The project has shown that reading can change the way of life in entire communities through personal growth, which then redounds to the benefit of the population as a whole.
The Community After-School Programme , which began in Saint Lucia in 2009, is another example of a successful program. It aims to help high-risk communities by implementing extracurricular educational programs that provide academic support as well as sports, art, theater, and home economics activities. The objective is to promote changes in the attitudes of girls, boys, and teenagers and reduce negative behaviors associated with too much idle time. Parents of children participating in this initiative have reported that their children are now less likely to get involved in activities associated with violence, drugs, and crime. They feel they are not alone in caring for their children, who now have the opportunity to be in safe and healthy environments. At the same time, the children are being empowered intellectually and creatively and have shown improvements in their schoolwork.
About 250 children have benefited from the program, and all of them are performing better at school thanks to the academic assistance they ate given. According to the father of one of the participants, "the extracurricular program has improved [my son's] education, perception, and attitude." Improvement in the participants' quality of life also creates benefits for the community as a whole since crime and violence ate reduced.
These are just a few examples of the many ways in which the OAS FEMCIDI cooperation fund is helping to transform lives and communities every day. For fourteen years, FEMCIDI has supported the design and funding of projects in the member countries in the areas of education, culture, trade, social development and employment, science and technology, democracy, sustainable development, and tourism. One of the most innovative aspects of this program is that it initiates and promotes transnational projects, reinforcing OAS principles of solidarity and crosscutting cooperation. Another important aspect is that the projects ate proposed and...