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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 24, 1998


Vital Voices of the Americas: Women in Democracy

The U.S. Government and the Inter-American Development Bank will co-sponsor the "Vital Voices of the Americas: Women in Democracy" conference on October 1-3 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

The conference, which the Government of Uruguay is hosting, will highlight the role of women as an integral part of strengthening democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere.

It will be the first hemisphere-wide conference on women and their role in democracy since the Summit of the Americas process was launched in Miami in 1994.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to address the conference as part of her first visit to Uruguay. Uruguayan President Julio Maria Sanguinetti, who met with President Clinton yesterday in the Oval Office, and IDB President Enrique Iglesias have also indicated a willingness to address participants.

Nearly 400 women leaders from the governmental, nongovernmental, civil society, legal, educational, journalistic, and private sector spheres will attend the conference.

All countries of the Summit of the Americas process will take part; the principal themes of the conference are drawn from the goals set out in the Santiago Summit Plan of Action.

Over the three-day conference, participants will attend plenary sessions and conduct workshops in the areas of Law and Leadership, Politics and Public Life, and Economic Integration and Business Growth.

An example of a Summit commitment that will serve as the basis of discussion is reaching legal equality between men and women by 2002.

An Honorary Steering Committee, including such respected figures as former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin, former Ambassador of Costa Rica to the U.S. Sonia Rosario Picado, and former head of the Uruguayan telephone company Rosario Medero, will provide guidance to conference organizers.

"Vital Voices: Women in Democracy" is a prototype conference inspired by a similar meeting held in Vienna, Austria in July 1997 that convened women leaders from Eastern and Central Europe and the countries of the Former Soviet Union with Americans and European Union members.