Yellow banner with pen and letters

Summitry in the Americas: The End of Mass Multilateralism?

Date: 2006
Summits among large numbers of leaders that convene on a periodic basis are the “new diplomacy.” In the Western Hemisphere, summits continue to multiply, whether in response to specific issues or to the desire by certain countries to assert their leadership. At the same time, skepticism regarding the value of summits has become widespread. A common view is that summits are largely photo ops for leaders and that their lofty communiqués are soon forgotten, leaving a wide gap between aspirations and implementation. These frustrations notwithstanding, summits are here to stay. Gatherings of heads of state respond to our era of globalization and inter-dependence, when many common problems can only be addressed through international co-operation. This policy paper will explore some of the many lessons learned during the five Summits of the Americas and two special Summits that have been held since the inaugural Miami Summit in 1994. Inter-American summitry has served a number of valuable purposes such as adding legitimacy to democratic norms and values, advancing specific initiatives, providing a forum for face-to-face engagement of leaders, compelling executive branch bureaucracies to focus on issues of inter-American interest and, on occasion, addressing crises of the moment. However, it has also suffered from evident shortcomings, the most serious being the following: the wide gap between words and deeds that has generated a summitry credibility gap; the limited engagement of existing multilateral institutions in partnering and helping to finance Summit initiatives; and the ups and downs of civil society inclusion.
ReferenceFeinberg R (2010) Summitry in the Americas: The end of mass multilateralism? Canadian Foundation for the Americas, Policy Paper, March

Related resources

Funeral summits

09 Aug, 1996

Peacemaking 1919

09 Aug, 1933