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First Dialogue Session in Atlanta

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The first dialogue session took place in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 23-24, 2010, and brought together approximately 30 participants from the United States and the five Andean countries. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter joined the participants in the dialogue, as did Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. State Department Christopher J. McMullen. During this first meeting, the forum was established as a space for dialogue and deemed by the members as an important, strategic, and promising new initiative given the current political, economic, and social dynamic in the Andean subregion and broader hemisphere. A significant result of the first session was the formation of working groups based on the identification of high-priority transnational policy issues, including the need for cooperation on drug policy; climate change, and integral development; the role of the media in inter-country relations; and differing conceptualizations of democracy.

The Development of a Common Agenda
During the dialogue, misperceptions and misunderstandings among the six forum countries were identified by the members as obstacles to collectively responding to shared challenges. As a result, the forum members committed to developing a Common Agenda that would identify the points of convergence in current perceptions and expectations regarding relations. Members agreed to conduct consultations in their respective countries with key government, civil society, academic, and private sector representatives to map the current perceptions and expectations regarding relations among the forum countries within their respective countries.

Different Conceptualization of Democracy and Human Rights
The dialogue session highlighted the competing and sometimes conflicting conceptualizations of democracy and human rights among the countries as a source of misperception and an obstacle to cooperation. The debate touched upon the questions of how to strengthen democracy and make it more meaningful and inclusive for citizens across the region, as well as how to deliver high-quality citizenship that protects not only civil and political rights but also economic and social rights.

Role of the Media in Creating Positive and Negative Perceptions of Other Countries 
Polarized and politicized media as well as "microphone diplomacy" have often inflamed misperceptions and misunderstandings among the six countries. Forum members concluded that the media play an unrivaled role in providing information to the domestic public, which contributes to the positive or negative perceptions among the general public.  The participants pointed out how the media in all six countries sometimes distort information related to bilateral and regional policy concerns and thus create an obstacle to a constructive dialogue among the Andean countries and with the United States.

Policy Issues of Concern 
The forum identified several transnational policy issues to prioritize for future work, including cooperation on drug policy, climate change, and conceptualizations of integral and sustainable development. The members agreed to meet again for a second dialogue session on June 1-2, 2010, in Lima, Peru.

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