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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.

Policy Papers & Briefs 2005
MERCOSUR: A Different Approach to Institutional Development
Celina Pena and Ricardo Rozemberg

FOCAL Policy Paper
May 2005

This paper describes MERCOSUR’s main institutional features: the organic structure, the creation and implementation of quadripartite norms and the mechanisms designed to resolve trade disputes within MERCOSUR. Likewise, it evaluates the bloc’s institutions, identifies weaknesses as well as strategies for improvement. Finally, it examines some proposals for strengthening MERCOSUR’s institutions. This document argues that the greater institutionality of the bloc does not represent a condition sufficient to guarantee a deep integration among the countries in the region. It is, however, a necessary condition that should accompany political statements and the definition of common economic-trade policies. This paper contains background on the evolution of MERCOSUR’s institutions, as well as prospects for the future of the integration process.

Also available in Spanish: MERCOSUR: ¿Una experiencia de desarrollo institucional sustentable?


Conflict Prevention, Civil Society and International Organizations: The Difficult Path for Peace Building in Latin America and the Caribbean
Francine Jácome, Paz Milet and Andrés Serbin

FOCAL Policy Paper
March 2005

This paper identifies existing formal and ad hoc mechanisms developed to foster civil society participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts in Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC). The study demonstrates that there is a lack of participation by civil society organizations (CSOs) in the LAC region as a result of three interrelated phenomena. First, conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies have developed primarily through state and military channels due to the emphasis on national security. Second, the concept of state-controlled conflict prevention is reinforced by civil society and its networks because the vast majority believe that conflict prevention is primarily the concern of the state. Thus, CSOs have not traditionally incorporated these issues into their agendas. Finally, participation of civil society in forming the conflict prevention agenda is further hindered by weak civil society networks, the lack of resources and the sometimes un-representative (non-participatory) decision-making practices of CSOs. This paper argues that it is imperative to engage in capacity-building efforts that better prepare CSOs to deal with these issues. Moreover, it stresses that it is essential to implement strategies for the consolidation of alliances between CSOs and other institutions and organizations in the area of conflict prevention that will enable them to strengthen their effortsonthe national, regionalandhemispheric levels.

Also available in Spanish: La Prevención de Conflictos, la Sociedad Civil y las Organizaciones Internationales: El Difícil Camino hacia la Construcción de la Paz en América latina y el Caribe


Inter-American Institutions and Conflict Prevention
Stephen Baranyi
FOCAL Policy Paper
March 2005

In the context of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), civil society organizations (CSOs) in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean have been engaged in dialogue about the specificities of conflict prevention challenges and options in the Western Hemisphere. This paper opens with a review of the evolution of inter-American norms and institutions that deal, directly or indirectly, with conflict prevention in the hemisphere. It looks at four pillars of conflict prevention practices: i) the peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes and the new hemispheric security agenda; ii) the protection of human rights; iii) the defense and promotion of democracy; and iv) other aspects of structural prevention, especially the work of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) as a catalyst for conflict. The review finds that regional mechanisms for conflict prevention have improved, but there are still many deficits and weaknesses that need to be addressed. Based on these findings, the paper suggests five aspects of inter-American relations that could be the focus of common CSO engagement over the coming years. Promising strategies for hemispheric level conflict prevention include the Organization of the Americas States (OAS) mechanisms for the peaceful settlement of inter-state disputes; the OAS defence of democracy regime; early warning mechanisms of the inter-American human rights machinery (including norms and mechanisms related to the responsibility to protect); policies of the IDB; and activities aimed at creating a coherent approach to conflict prevention in the hemisphere. The evidence suggests that some inroads have been made already. Recently, there has been an emergence of CSO networks committed to conflict prevention providing a space to engage CSOs and officials working on more traditional development and security issues; this has helped to foster the synergies required to build a true culture of prevention in the Americas.

Also available in Spanish: Las Instituciones Interamericanas y la Prevención de Conflictos


Brazil’s Tax System: The Dilemmas of Policy Reform
Celina Souza
FOCAL Policy Paper
February 2005

Since the return of democracy and the new Constitution, enacted in 1988, Brazil's tax system is constantly evolving following the country's political and economic dynamics. The discussion highlights and examines the critical issues faced by Brazil's current tax system to adjust to new global demands and the difficulties in reconciling these demands with (a) commitments to a more decentralized fiscal system; (b) claims for reducing the amount of taxes paid by taxpayers; and (c) the need to invest more public resources to tackle poverty, social and regional inequality and to overcome the deficiencies of economic infrastructure. The paper argues that reforming a complex and constitutionalized tax system of a federal country like Brazil depends on the design of the institutions and on the existence of a consensus in support of economic reforms. The lessons of Brazil's experience with a tax system in constant reform may be applicable in other developing countries. The general lesson is that efforts to adjust highly indebted countries to global demands are possible given certain conditions, but such efforts may also trigger political dilemmas when major social and economic constraints have not been addressed.

Also available in Spanish: El Sistema Tributario Brasileño y los Dilemas de las Reformas de las Políticas


The Emerging Foreign Investment Regime in the Americas
Paul Alexander Haslam
FOCAL Policy Paper
January 2005

Despite the setbacks encountered in the negotiation of multilateral foreign investment rules at the World Trade Organization and Free Trade Area of the Americas talks, there is still a framework of rules governing investment emerging in the Americas. Although incomplete and embryonic, the emerging foreign investment regime is defined by the existing multi-layered patchwork of primarily bilateral investment agreements and investment chapters of free trade agreements. But, the shift from negotiating investment rules in a regional or multilateral forum to a predominantly bilateral one is likely to have consequences for the character of that investment regime. This paper examines the nature of this emerging foreign investment regime in the Americas. It begins by discussing the state of the global and hemispheric negotiations on investment rules, and the position of two of the hemisphere's most important players, the United States and Brazil, on this issue. The nature of the investment regime desired by both players is then examined throughananalysis of the bilateral investment agreements concluded by both with their Latin American partners.

Available in Spanish: El Régimen naciente de las inversiones extranjeras en las Américas


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