|Centre on North American
Politics and Society
concluding session sought to wrap-up the many issues
discussed throughout the conference, and to reassert the
commitment g[t]o address future mechanisms for
co-operation among the participants and recommendations
from each theme for both government and civil society
actors.h The conclusions and recommendations
cited here were by no means unanimous, but emerged
through considerable discussion and debate sustained by
the participantsf respect for each other, and
commitment to a more just and sustainable North
America. While recommendations may vary across the
three issues, in quantity and degree of specificity, this
reflects the nature of the issues, the varying groups and
approaches in which they were discussed and decided, and
the diverse priorities of the participants.
The concluding discussion on culture took the novel task of considering what the participants would like to see from NAFTA fifty years into the future. Recognising that cultural integration is and will continue to proceed, they considered what type of culture they desired and decided it was one that recognised and nourished a great diversity of languages, histories, customs and priorities while celebrating national and North American commonalties and collective strengths. Stressing that first of all, any decisions concerning cultural matters must be decided at the citizen level and respecting local differences and priorities, the participants highlighted language, education, exchange, and cultural industries for more detailed consideration.
Echoing the words of Sr. Ruy-Sanchez, the participants recognised the role of language in defining and preserving how communities and nations perceive and interact with the world. They asserted that cultural diversity would be impossible without linguistic freedom and support. For this, they recommended greater resources and commitment for language training for teachers, and the incorporation of all languages into the education systems. While education was seen as ensuring cultural integrity, it was also recognised as a means for building cross-cultural understanding and co-operation. It was hoped that 50 years later, students from primary grades through university would be learning about and appreciating the many cultures that make-up North America.
The education system was also seen as a powerful vehicle of cultural advancement through student exchanges, conferences, and youth initiatives. The participants recognised that the success of these efforts would depend on a larger network of government and community commitments, such as a North American commission to nurture and protect cultural integrity, the inclusion of indigenous peoples in governing systems, official support and protection of cultural industries, and the equitable distribution of resources to curb cultural homogenisation and empower previously marginalised communities.
In brief, the participants recommended
Having located issues of governance across spheres of political action (state, industry, civil society and community), levels (from North America to the individual), and topics (economy, culture, environment), the participants concluded that NAFTA is only the beginning. While NAFTA is useful in having highlighted the need for greater consideration of North American governance, the discussion and action must extend beyond narrow economic arrangements and recognise the inseparable complexities of growing integration. In particular, the participants stressed the need for
Perhaps more so than on questions of culture and governance, the participants proved particularly animated and specific in their recommendations and hopes for environmental and communal sustainability. This reflected the participantsf conviction that sustainability must be at the heart of communal, national and regional priorities, grounding individual, social and governmental understandings and efforts. Concentrating on six key objectives of corporate responsibility, information sharing, democratisation, government leadership, redistribution and citizen responsibility, the participants echoed and expanded upon many of the conclusions and recommendations noted above.
-Eco-taxation reflecting true costs of production
-sustainability must be built from the ground-up through
better education from primary school through university
-commitment to equitable distribution of resources and
-governments must take greater responsibility for
-better funding of sustainable community initiatives
-stress that people are citizens not consumers
Stressing the inseparability of environmental issues and sustainability from cultural and political considerations, the participants recognised that the issues must be dealt with together. They concluded that only through recognising the links between culture, governance, and the environment could real change be effected.
The participants concluded the conference with a video-taped message to Ministers Green, Albright and Axworthy. They took the opportunity to express their appreciation for the inspiration and resources necessary for the conference, for the opportunity to meet and discuss issues of North American culture, governance and sustainability, and gin the spirit of public diplomacy and a more active civil society,h and in hopes of a more vibrant, just and sustainable North American community, shared their deep felt hopes for the recommendations listed above.
In closing, the participants asserted with resounding consensus that the conference should not end in Montreal, but the participants should continue to support new and ongoing efforts individually and collectively, harnessing the promise of communication technology and a growing awareness of shared community, through such efforts as a North American Environmental Youth Network.
Session & Session 1: Culture
3: Sustainable Development