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Panama 2015 | DIPLOMACY | FOCUS: SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

The Summit of the Americas sets the agenda for the American Continent, and is one of the most high-profile events of its kind.

The Cumbre de las Américas (Summit of the Americas) is a meeting of the heads of state and representatives of the 35 nations that comprise the Americas, and is organized by the Organization of American States together with multilateral bodies. Panama hosted the VII Summit of the Americas in April 2015, introducing significant innovations to the proceedings. For the first time in the history of the summit all leaders of participating countries were officially invited to participate. Moreover, an academic forum was set up and incorporated into the main gathering, boasting the attendance of the rectors and presidents of the most prestigious and noteworthy universities in the Americas.

The central theme of this year was “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,” which focused on several sub-themes, among them education, health, energy, environment, migration, security, citizen participation, and democratic governance.

The continent has experienced significant levels of economic development. Nevertheless, even with this vigorous growth in mind, it is clear that prosperity has not reached everyone equally. In several states we can still find families that live in extreme poverty. Shortcomings in the areas of health and education, as well as serious challenges in terms of security matters, have resulted in a regrettable increase in organized crime across the hemisphere. Discussions considered the benefits of using integration and new approaches to the topics of energy and migratory flows to confront these challenges in coming years

Based on these ideas, Panama has established itself as an international platform for dialog and mediation, offering the possibility for all participants in the summit to talk about the challenges that are emerging throughout the continent. The chances of closing a complex chapter of the continent's history have also become clear following a meeting between US President Barack Obama, and Cuban president Raul Castro. Both nations are involved in historic efforts to work toward peace and the normalization of diplomatic relations.

The summit benefited Panama not only from a diplomatic perspective, but also economically. The event generated $100 million, and projected the country's modern and dynamic new image to the wider world. On the other hand, CONEP (National Council for Private Enterprises) highlighted that over the days during which the summit took place, the private sector, which had suspended activity for the entire length of the event, recorded a loss of $40 million.

During the summit, major agreements were signed between Panama and leading countries in the region. At the end of the Summit, President Obama underlined the importance of the new agreement signed with President Varela by stating that “President Varela and myself witnessed the signing of a deal between Boeing and Copa Airlines. This deal will create 12,000 jobs in the US, and 6,000 in Panama. It is an example of what happens when we work together. We intend to seize this opportunity. I am grateful for the opportunities, for the cooperation, and the partnership that we already enjoy. And we can make it even stronger, and even better.”

The second “CEO Summit of the Americas,” a parallel forum running alongside the main event, was jointly organized by the Government of the Republic of Panama and the Inter-American Development Bank. The CEO Summit gathered heads of state and business leaders of the region to analyze particular opportunities for trade and investment, as well as priorities for the social and economic development of the Americas.