“What is happening before my eyes here in Atlanta is a dream come true,” said former President of Paraguay Juan Carlos Wasmosy at the opening of the Americas Summit in Atlanta, USA on November 29, 2012. The forum at the Carter Presidential Center included nine former heads of state from Latin America and addressed key issues of economic development, democratization, and greater cooperation and integration between North and South.
The Americas Summit forum was one of four pre-convention events in advance of the 2012 Global Peace Convention, “Moral and innovative Leadership: Building Strong Families, Healthy societies, and a Global Culture of Peace.” Addressing a distinguished audience of political and civil society leaders, President Wasmosy remarked on the importance of leadership based on ethical and spiritual principles, which would become a common theme throughout the opening plenary and following panel session.
“The challenge before us, the moment we must seize, is an opportunity to kindle the fire of a great hemispheric awakening rooted in spiritual values” said Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation. Dr. Moon said that focusing on commonalities, not differences, could create better understanding and cooperation within the Americas. “There is broad common ground for the peoples of the Americas, and indeed all of humanity, in the universal spiritual principles as conveyed in the essence of our faith traditions,” he said. Dr. Moon stated the challenge facing global leaders then is to “develop the virtues necessary to resolve conflicts and build moral and ethical societies.”
Former President of Guatemala Vinicio Cerezo told the forum that “a person has to have a special character, with thought and skill, but also deep moral conviction following a path marked by his principles.” Other leaders, during the following panel titled “Toward and Ethics of Responsibility in International Relations” discussed the difficulty of leading with ideals in the real world filled with so many competing interests.
In a moving personal testimony, Former President of Bolivia Carlos Mesa recounted how he stepped down from the presidency because his value for human life would not let him order a military intervention to quell a civil uprising though his responsibility as president demanded it. Former President Lacalle of Uruguay said that real politics often competes with values and that leaders often have to protect the prosperity of their country even if it compromises those values.
President Cerezo observed that realism does not mean one has to lead without morals and that “values are still fundamental in international relations.” Dr. Jennifer McCoy, Director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program, quoted former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to illustrate this point. Upon the signing of the Panama Canal Treaty, President Carter recognized “the commitment of the United States to the belief that fairness, not force should lie at the heart of our dealings with the nations of the world. If any agreement is to last, it must serve the best interest of both nations.”
The 2012 Americas Summit covers the present and future relations between the Americas centered on ethical leadership, the value of education, commerce and investment opportunities in Latin America, and the inauguration of the Latin-American Presidential Mission.
Other leaders in attendance, including Dr. Jose Alta Mirano, former member of the Paraguayan Supreme Court; Hon. Nelson Marquezelli, Federal Congressman of Brazil; and Sir James Mancham, Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, spoke about the importance of education, cooperation through interdependence, critical judgment, and cultural diplomacy.
The Americas Summit will hold sessions throughout the Global Peace Convention, including the launch a Latin American Presidential Mission. The Convention concludes on December 2.