As the 9th Summit of the Americas convened in Los Angeles earlier this month, FIU students and alumni were among the dozens of specialists and government officials participating in this historic gathering, underscoring the relevance of FIU to the issues facing the region.
“FIU is in a unique place to understand the perspectives of the United States and bring in perspectives from Latin America and the Caribbean to contextualize U.S. commitments in the region,” said Wazim Mowla ’19, assistant director of the Caribbean Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
The Summit of the Americas is a regular gathering of presidents and leaders of Latin American and Caribbean countries discussing policy issues pertinent to the region.
This year’s summit, hosted by President Biden in Los Angeles, included leaders from 23 other Latin American and Caribbean countries and was the second time ever that the event took place in the United States, following the inaugural summit in Miami in 1994.
For most of the last year, FIU faculty and leadership have been collaborating with U.S. government officials and other international organizations to support the objectives of the summit.
These objectives were front and center this past spring as the university hosted key appointees like USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon. In April, FIU in Washington, D.C. also hosted a three-day “Future of Latin America” seminar focused on the summit.
Munoz-Pogossian, director of the Department of Social Inclusion at the Organization of American States (OAS), participated in the three-day summit and focused on a wide range of issues such as post-COVID economic recovery, technology, health resiliency and democratic challenges in the region.
For her, the summit is just “the beginning of these conversations” on key issues highlighted by the participating countries. The OAS plays the important role of ensuring the implementation of the agreements.
“FIU is in a unique position based in D.C. and Miami… with professors and students who are connected to the region. They can contribute to the implementation of the agreements and shape policy via research and advocacy,” Munoz-Pogossian said.
For his part, Mowla organized many of the Atlantic Council’s convenings before and throughout the summit and spearheaded a Caribbean initiative for the summit.
He said the Atlantic Council’s role for the past eight months was to make the summit process as inclusive as possible, such as discussions that included indigenous voices and women's advocacy groups, as well as broadening the summit’s agendas to include Caribbean priorities and agendas.
Following the Summit, Mowla’s biggest takeaway is the importance of convening power and inclusivity.
Mowla highlighted FIU’s role in leveraging convening power for effective policymaking and sees an important leadership role to be played for the next decades to come.
Additionally, five FIU students participated in the OAS' Model Summit, in which students represented countries and discussed policy solutions to pertinent issues in the region.
The major themes discussed in the model summit were global health, economy, democracy and the environment.
Rita Kanazeh, a senior studying for a dual degree in biology and international relations, said her experience at the model summit cemented her desire to work in the field of international relations and in global health policy.
She added that her experience during FIU in DC’s “Future of Latin America Fly-In” prepared her for the discussions surrounding health resiliency policies that took place during the OAS model summit.
She hopes that participating in the model summit will be a stepping stone for her future as she hopes to continue fighting for the right to quality health care and global health equity.
“What makes FIU different is that we are truly international. FIU has been investing in partnerships in the region and so many students come from that region.”
FIU research and development aims to answer global challenges, such as sea-level rise, natural disasters, defense systems and infrastructure, including in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The university hosts the largest cluster of students, faculty and research either from or focused on the region. It boasts a long history of leadership and collaboration with the United States government and key partners across the Western Hemisphere to deliver solutions that advance a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future for the Americas.
Now that the summit has concluded, the university expects to work with its U.S. government partners and organizations like the OAS to help support the goals that were discussed in Los Angeles.
Learn more about agreements reached at the summit.