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New LAC Forum Agrees to Coordinate on Sustainable Development

6 December 2011: The founding Summit of Heads of State and Government from 33 Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) countries agreed that the newly formed Community of LAC States (CELAC) shall work together to take common positions and form regional strategies in a variety of policy areas, including sustainable development. The Summit, held from 2-3 December 2011, in Caracas, Venezuela, brought together all nations in the Americas except Canada and the US to form a new forum to serve as an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS), where Canada and the US participate but in which Cuba has been barred from participating since 1962.

The Summit adopted a Declaration of Caracas, a Caracas Action Plan, and a series of "special communiques" on issues such as food security, terrorism and  nuclear arms.

The Caracas Declaration sets out the general principles and aspirations of CELAC, and instructs the Chairman Pro-Tempore (President Sebastian Peñera of Chile) to implement the Caracas Action Plan, and members' Foreign Ministers to submit proposals on allocating the necessary financial and material resources to support that implementation. The document does not, however, agree on a permanent secretariat or how CELAC will take decisions in the future. These questions are expected to be decided at the 2012 summit to be held in Chile.

The Action Plan outlines intended CELAC work in priority areas, including the environment. On that issue it calls for creating a CELAC working group that will "foster coordination, harmonization and complementation in the environmental field," including the generation of common regional plans, policies and programmes in priority areas for sustainable development. The group also is charged with preparing a draft regional environmental agenda. The Action Plan further calls for convening a Ministers of Environment Meeting prior to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) to "contribute to the success" of that Conference. Lastly, the Plan calls for creation of a multidisciplinary knowledge center to help strengthen institutions and train communities in the elaboration of a common agenda for managing water resources. [CELAC Summit Documents]