Report of the delegation of Latin American think tanks to the United States - Foundation Office New York
From January 22 to 28, 2020, a delegation of Latin American think tanks travelled to New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. in order to exchange views with organisations and think tanks in the United States. The participants of the delegation had the opportunity to meet with several United Nations officials and members of U.S. think tanks with whom they discussed the implementation and challenges of the Agenda 2030 and the role of think tanks in communicating with civil society. The delegation consisted of eight participants representing think tank organizations from seven Latin American countries.
The members of the delegation included the deputy directors Luciana Gama Muniz and Carla Duarte of the Brazilian Center for International Relations (CEBRI); José Hidalgo Pallares, director of the Society for Development Studies (CORDES) from Ecuador; Giulia De Sanctis, president of the Center for Democratic Initiatives in Panama (CIDEM); and Sybil Rhodes, president of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL). Other participants included Ana Lucía Blas, Communications Officer of the Think Tank for Research and Social Studies (ASIES) from Guatemala; Elaine Ford, Director and founder of Democracy & Development International (D&D International) from Peru; and Pedro Mayorga, Coordinator of the Legal Department of the Center for Democracy and Community (CDC) from Chile.
The delegation was structured in three sections, with stays in New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. During the visit to New York, the participants first had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the United Nations to learn more about the work of the organization and at the same time to discuss how think tanks can act as links in the cooperation between different countries, governments and civil society to achieve the goals of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.
In this context, initial talks were held with Almudena Fernández and Diego Zavaleta, advisers to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. During this meeting, Ms. Fernández and Mr. Zavaleta presented the challenges and opportunities identified by UNDP in the Latin American and Caribbean region and shared their recommendations for action to increase productivity, address gender inequality and strengthen state institutions in the region.
The delegation was then received by Pedro Conceição, Director and lead author of the UNDP Humanitarian Development Report Office. During this meeting, the main findings of the Report Office were discussed, such as issue of inequality in the development of countries, both in terms of income and opportunities for the people living in those countries. At the same time, the role of think tanks in disseminating information to the public and in achieving equal opportunities in the various countries, especially in working with decision-makers, was also discussed in this context.
Afterwards the participants of the delegation were first advised on communication issues by Mrs. Paloma Escudero, Director of the UNICEF Communications Department and later in the KAS office by Oisika Chakrabarti and Sharon Grobeisen of the UN Women's Department and Michael Schmidt, Regional Director of the Jewish Committee in America. Both discussions focused on current forms of communication and the strategies these organizations use to get their messages across to their respective target groups.
Regarding an international perspective, meetings were subsequently held with Laura Flores, Director of the Americas Division, and her team from the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, as well as with senior UN members from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and Brazil. They provided an insight into the varying realities of the different countries and discussed possible ways in which think tanks can be key actors in working with civil society and help to strengthen democratic values in a constantly evolving Latin America. In the same context, the delegation also exchanged views with Brian Winter, vice president for policy at Americas Society and Council of the Americas, who also referred to the current political changes in Latin America and encouraged the members of the delegation to actively participate in the development of public policy through research.
The last meeting in New York was with Marc-Andre Dorel, Officer-in-Charge of the NGO Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Jeffrey Brez, Chief of the NGO Relations and Advocacy Division of the UN Department of Global Communications, who shared their views on ways in which the various think tanks can strengthen their cooperation with the various UN entities.
On January 25, the group travelled by train from New York to Philadelphia, where they spent the afternoon with Professor James McGann, Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP). During this meeting, Professor McGann addressed the need for the various think tanks to work more closely together and play a leading role in communicating with civil society in order to meet current political challenges and strengthen democracy.
Afterwards the delegation continued to Washington D.C., where it met with representatives of various think tanks to discuss approaches on how think tanks can get their messages across to civil society. The first of these meetings was with the International Republican Institute, where the group spoke with Jan Surotchak, Senior Director of Transatlantic Strategies, Paul McCarthy, Director of the Europe Department, and Dan Munz, Director of Communications. The exchange of views then continued with Mr Jesper Frant, senior digital communications officer at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). The NDI representatives provided insights into their experiences with public communication and the way in which the organisation’s projects are presented through their website, social networks and other platforms.
Another organization that offered valuable insights into the work of Think Thanks in the United States was the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS), which focuses on the analysis of economic, international, security and social policy issues affecting the United States, Germany and transatlantic relations in general. In addition, the participants of the delegation had the opportunity to visit the Center at the Atlantic Council, whose representatives gave their views on the current situation in Latin America and possible strategies for meeting the challenges in the region.
At the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Andrew Schwartz presented his experience in knowledge generation through think tanks and addressed the need for new methods in the dissemination of information to civil society through organizations. In this context, he referred to the experience of the iDeas Labor initiative, which uses digital tools in a creative way to share its research findings on current global challenges. This is done through easily accessible and user-friendly videos, podcasts, websites and reports. The delegation's visit concluded at the Pew Research Centre, where they discussed the role of research and knowledge generation as an essential tool for data-driven decision making.
The delegation of Latin American think tanks to the United States was conducted in cooperation with the office of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in New York and its representative, Mrs. Andrea Ellen Ostheimer, as well as the project coordinator Sebastian Borchmeyer. The delegation was also supported by the office in Washington D.C. with its representative Mr. Paul Linnarz and the project coordinator Sabine Murphy. Project coordinator Marcee Gómez accompanied the delegation on behalf of the KAS regional programme Alliances for Democracy and Development with Latin America (ADELA).