Keith Mines on the Summit of the Americas
While "there was a lot of controversy on the way in," USIP's Keith Mines says the summit produced several notable outcomes, including a declaration on migration, that give regional leaders a chance to "put some resources behind [these issues] and hopefully pull together some new initiatives."
U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.
Julie Mason: Keith Mines is director of the Latin America program at the U.S. Institute of Peace here for a little bit of a recap of the Summit of the Americas. Keith, welcome back.
Keith Mines: Right. Good to be here. Thank you, Julie.
Julie Mason: So there's some very skeptical reporting on this suggesting that what Biden got out of it was a taste of America's decline.
Keith Mines: Well, I mean, I'll let the summit speak for itself. That's not exactly fair. There was a lot of controversy going into the summit. And the organization on the U.S. side could have been much better. The selection of the city for the summit was only done in January, the invites got out a little bit late in May, actually quite late. So, there was some organizational things that could have been better. So, there's legitimate criticism there.
There was a lot of controversy on the way in and it mostly revolved around the question of who should come to the summit and who gets invited. This is the ninth Summit of the Americas, the second time that U.S. has hosted it. We hosted the first one, and then this one, back in 1994. But part of the summit process has always been to get support for the Democratic Charter, which is something that came out of the summit, the Democratic Charter of the Americas. So the question of whether to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela was looming the whole time. And in the end, the United States did not invite them. And then out of solidarity with them, a couple of other states did not attend, and then some sent lower representation. So that was kind of something that had a lot of controversy and a lot of press on the way in. But coming out of it, I would actually argue that there's a number of deliverables that are kind of standard fare for this kind of a gathering and came out of it kind of worthwhile.
Julie Mason: All right. Can we hear about those?
Keith Mines: Sure. I mean, we went into the summit, the U.S. went into it, with this theme of building a sustainable, resilient and equitable future. So there’s kind of always these bold, kind of titles for these things. But you know, coming into this summit, we've got a lot going on in the hemisphere. We were just coming out of COVID, which hit the hemisphere harder than any other part of the world. China making inroads across the hemisphere that the United States is trying to match. We've got multiple migration crises. It is no longer just Central Americans coming through Mexico to the United States. There's a huge Haitian crisis now, and then, of course, the Venezuelan migration crisis across the hemisphere. And there's these looming big questions about the neoliberal economic model. Is that still the right model for the for the hemisphere? There's kind of a pink wave now of elections that are going to the left. So, there's a lot to work on. These are things that can't be worked on in isolation.
The question of Latin America in the priority list of the administration, I think Latin America, for almost every administration, unfortunately, is lower than it should be. But that's not to say that there's nothing going on. And not to say that the nothing is achieved. So, you know, the process of these things is always the same. There's these high-level goals and declarations and ideals that are set out. And then there's a scramble for deliverables. So that's the mid-level diplomats across the hemisphere that get to work. And everybody's trying to figure out what do we deliver. And on the U.S. side, of course, that's acute, because the deliverable for smaller countries might just be to make one bold declaration or stick it to the United States or something like that. But for the United States, it's real. It's got to be a place where resources are committed. And there's some things that are initiated that are actually going to make a difference. And for this administration that is geared to the American middle class. It's really a foreign policy that tries to deliver for middle America. So, you've got this opportunity to showcase certain issues and to draw attention to different things.
But a couple of the deliverables that I thought were noteworthy and kind of looking at this in the context of previous summits, there was the launch of a Center for Media Integrity. It's a small initiative, but it was done with the OAS, which will be a hub to promote and support independent non-interest affiliated journalism. So again, a small but a kind of a potent symbol about journalism. The big one was the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration. And this had a number of things that were noteworthy. There was a number of country commitments that were made. But it was an acknowledgment that it's not just a U.S. issue. It's truly regional. And that's the, you know, the force of the Venezuelan migration crisis is that's hitting countries that, you know, not migrants trying to come to the United States. They're getting stuck in Colombia, Peru, Chile, across the hemisphere. And it was key to how people migrate. And kind of a reminder that the very act of migration just leaves people vulnerable.
So, there was this effort to try to build in some new programs that would be helpful in that regard. There was a guest worker program that was announced. There's a special focus on Northern Central America and Haiti. Middle income countries did not get a pass. There's things that they can do better. And now it's been of more refugees from the hemisphere being allowed into the United States. And then opening societies at home. That's always one of the key things. But that was done creatively, I think, through mobilizing more funding and funding through the Inter-American Development Bank's $3.2 billion was not announced, but was affirmed in private sector funding, which is much more impactful and resilient than just U.S. assistance. So anyway, the migration thing, I think, had enough meat on the bones there to look at it in a good context. And then there was a number of other documents and an action plan on health and resilience, a regional agenda for digital transformation, energy transition, a green future, and then democratic governance. So, a number of things that again, draw attention to certain things, put some resources behind them, and hopefully, hold together some new initiatives.
Julie Mason: Keith, what kind of issues were left off the table? What did they omit?
Keith Mines: Well, the thing that some people note is, and it's not really the place of these summits to do this, but there's obviously some real compelling crises. Venezuela and Haiti, I think are the two that that come to mind. And these are almost never addressed in a summit like this. But those are kind of left alone. So that's the, you know, the real crises that kind of require attention, those have to be done in another forum. There's longer term issues that I think were, I don’t know if I'd say left off the table, but there, and they were behind a lot of this, but again, this question of the socio-economic transformation that is in play, and that COVID kind of made acute, it kind of it made it more urgent, and also drew attention to it. But this question of how to retain the positive macro-economic framework that came out of neoliberalism of the past 20 or 30 years while delivering for citizens. And there was a couple of noteworthy interventions I thought that President Boric from Chile was very, I think, strong and compelling, if you will, in this regard, he was raising some of these harder issues for the region.
The other thing that was, it was there, it’s not something, again, that could be solved, but the question of dialogue. Citizens in the hemisphere are just hungry to dialogue with their governments. And I think they're often feeling shut out, which is part of what's leading to some of these wild mood swings, electorally, and then dialogue between governments. So, this is something that the summit showcases that there's not really the architecture for doing that. The OAS is not really where that happens. The summit happens every three years. And we kind of scramble to make it work. But what is the mechanism that we have for dialogue? And former Obama official Dan Restrepo recommended maybe something sub-regional, may we need sub-regional fora that would be more effective there. And then the persistence of migration that can be solved but not managed that was always in the in the foreground of what was going on. There was the challenge of addressing climate, amidst unmet basic needs. And that's one of the things that the hemisphere really struggles with is you can't just, you know, drive forward to climate agendas that are going to further impoverished people.
And then the other thing that I would just note is trade used to be a real big part of these and it's not anymore, so I think between the, you know, the things that went on in the in the last administration with regards to trade and we haven't quite found our footing on that yet. But that used to be a real driver of economic prosperity for us and of cohesion. Trade is something that was not really prominent in in this gathering.
Julie Mason: Really great recap. Keith Mines, thank you so much for joining me.
Keith Mines: Thank you, Julie. Good to be here. Take care.