Atlanta welcomed a host of former Latin American Presidents as they attended the 2012 Global Peace Convention on Thursday, Nov. 29, through Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The event was a four-day summit engaging government and civil leaders in a collaborative exchange on the challenge of peace.
"Peace is a universal message," said State Senator Emanuel Jones, chairman of the Atlanta and Georgia branches of the Global Peace Foundation, in a conversation with Snellville Patch.
This year's theme centered around the two Americas: Latin America and the United States. Eight former presidents of Latin American countries presented ways to bring the two hemispheres together.
As an example, Sen. Jones spoke about the rapidly growing minority population in Gwinnett County. Many immigrants from Latin America, he said, send back a big chunk of their hard-earned money back to their home country in order to provide for their families.
"Without that money, a lot of those families would be destitute," Jones said. "Which is why they want to come here; for those opportunities."
He discussed the benefit of building bridges and creating economic opportunity with the South, in an effort, in part, to discourage illegal immigration. If residents of Latin American countries had the opportunities in their homeland that they know are available here, according to Jones, fewer would expatriate.
America has historically attracted immigrants from nations with fewer opportunities, and that is still true today, according to Jones.
Jones hopes that the Global Peace Foundation will create an awakening in the south, beginning with Atlanta. The foundation strives to be an agent of change, economically, culturally and spiritually.
"You can't change the course of history," he said, referencing the demographic and cultural changes in the States. "We keep marching right along in being a more inclusive state and country."
This was the first time the conference was held in the States. They were drawn to Atlanta in part because of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The theme, 'Moral and Innovative Leadership: Building Healthy Families, Ethical Societies and a Global Culture of Peace,' included discussion on social entrepreneurship and ways that nonprofits can offer not just humanitarian aid, but economic opportunity.
"You see America, with all of its vastness and wealth," said Jones. "Why not build bridges? Let's bring these two hemispheres together."
Former heads of state convened daily at the Carter Center during the Americas Summit, a ground-breaking collaborative dialogue on regional cooperation, sustainable development, North-South relations, and transparency and democratic governance, according to convention officials. The discussion centered around key issues of common concern and the need for improved hemispheric relations.
The following former presidents spoke during the Summit:
- H.E. Carlos Diego Mesa, Former President, Bolivia (2003-2005)
- H.E. Gustavo Noboa Bejarano, Former President, Ecuador (2000-2003)
- H.E. Juan Carlos Wasmosy, Former President, Paraguay (1993-1998)
- H.E. Luis Alberto Lacalle, Former President, Uruguay (1990-1995)
- H.E. Alvaro Colom Caballeros, Former President, Guatemala (2008-2012)
- H.E. Elias Antonio Saca, Former President, El Salvador (2004-2009)
- H.E. Rafael Hipólito Mejía, Former President, Dominican Republic (2000-2004)
- H.E. Nicolas Ardito Barletta, Former President, Panama (1992-1998)
- H.E. Marco Vinicio Cerezo, Former President, Guatemala (1986-1991)
- H.E. Jaime Paz Zamora, Former President, Bolivia (1989-1993)
- H.E. Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, Former President, Bolivia (2001-2002)
The foundation was created by Hyun Jin Preston Moon. He is the son of Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, although the church has no official ties to the foundation. A presidential delegation from Kurdistan/Iraq was also present, as well as leaders from African nations and the Phillippines.
For more information on the Global Peace Foundation, visit their website.