There is precisely one point that matters: Point 18 reads "Aprobar el Plan de Seguridad Alimentaria, Nutrición y Erradicación del Hambre 2025 de la CELAC."
CELAC countries approved a plan to end hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2025. It is the only time in the document they use the term "aprobar" or approve, to show a new agenda item that has been agreed to by everyone. It is also a firm, measurable goal for the group. It's a good goal too, one I fully agree with.
Everything else is fluff. Every other point in that document reiterates or acknowledges previous statements by the group or offers an opinion on an issue over which they have no control and are not committing any resources or effort. They approve of the declarations made at previous meetings and support the holding of future meetings, creating long chains of meetings in which they announce that they approve of each other's meetings.
To be fair, the vast majority of documents produced at the Summit of the Americas or the OAS General Assemblies have been similarly lacking in content. Very rarely do these major multilateral events produce significant and measurable policy items. There is a benefit to getting presidents in the same room to talk, even if they don't agree to anything specific or new. The real work of these multilateral organizations, to the extent anything is accomplished, is done at a lower level than the symbolic presidential meetings. But it's frustrating to read.
The statement on climate change was particularly disappointing. While highlighted as one of the focuses for CELAC in this conference and this year, the statement calls for developed countries to do more while failing to call on region to do anything. The statement acts as if Latin America and the Caribbean are just waiting on the developed world, not taking any actions internally. The statement also adopts some old language that gives countries like China and India a pass for their role in climate change, which is politically convenient for countries like Costa Rica and Ecuador, but doesn't help the reality of getting an effective global multilateral agreement done.
The statement on Internet governance is confusing. On one hand, the statement announces regional support for net neutrality, supports the right to privacy, promotes greater connectivity and technology infrastructure and appears to support a multistakeholder model for internet governance (which is opposed by China and Russia). All good things. On the other hand, it says internet usage must respect state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs, which appears to be a nod of support to the countries in the region that want to increase censorship and domestic spying on opposition.
So CELAC was largely style over substance. Yet, there are things to read in that style. What took up the attention of CELAC's meeting in Costa Rica?
There were multiple statements on US-Cuba relations (CELAC thinks the US needs to drop the embargo, the designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, and give back Gitmo). CELAC also disapproved of recent US sanctions on Venezuela. There was a token statement on Puerto Rico, precipitated by Nicaragua President Ortega forcing the issue and attempting to give time to a Puerto Rican independence activist, which forced the entire presidential discussion time to be shut down. Overall, that's a lot of time and ink spent on the United States for a group that is supposed to not include the United States.
Along with those criticisms of the US, the leaders and international positions of ALBA are also overrepresented. With Ecuador President Correa taking the presidency of CELAC for the coming year, attention on him is understandable. However, the focus on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua and the attention those leaders and their statements receive is a skewed priority set for the region. Bolivia is the frontrunner to lead CELAC in 2018 and will be the fourth ALBA member in eight years to lead the organization (after Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador).
If ALBA countries and criticism of the US are overrepresented, then what is underrepresented?
CELAC's consensus model means there were no discussions of some of the high-profile and pressing controversies in the region. Venezuela's ongoing economic and political problems, the region's most likely crisis area over the coming 12 months, was ignored. So were discussions about the disappeared 43 students in Mexico, the ongoing human rights problems in Central America, the debate over the Nicaragua canal, censorship in Ecuador, Guyana's political crisis, the death of Alberto Nisman in Argentina or the overall militarization of security across numerous countries.
Central America's northern triangle received minimal attention. CELAC couldn't even be bothered to pass a resolution supporting the recent document put together by the Northern Triangle to improve security.
The Caribbean, once again, got the short end of the stick. Even though the 15 members of Caricom are almost half of CELAC's 33 total membership, they get minimal mention or attention outside of Cuba. There was a brief and weak declaration of support for Haiti's government. Caribbean-specific concerns regarding climate change and energy security were brushed over. Most of the CELAC documents are only available in Spanish even though English is the primary language of 12 of the member states. Hopefully the Caribbean will get more attention in 2016-17 when the Dominican Republic has the presidency of the organization.