Punta Cana, Dominican Republic —
The Conference of the American Armies met from Nov. 28 to Dec. 3 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, to discuss and agree on combined goals regarding human rights, specifically the rights of those who have been affected by a natural disaster.
The Dominican Republic army hosted the conference, which included more than 20 armies from countries as far north as Canada and as far south as Chile. Each nation sent delegates to represent both their armies and their people at the week-long human rights conference.
“The main goal is to produce a Conference of the American Armies-sponsored, detailed, human rights guide that will become an annex to the interagency operations guide,” said Robert Pike, Conference of American Armies program specialist at U.S. Army South at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
The conference served as a beginning point for the guide, helping to establish which armies are committing to certain tasks, Pike said. The U.S. Army delegates mainly serve as a support element to help guide and make suggestions during the planning sessions, he said.
One of the key goals is to ensure affected persons will receive the same base level of care, especially when partner nations come in to help each other.
An example of this is when the Dominican Republic sent aid to Haiti after their 2010 earthquake and more recently after Hurricane Matthew. It was important to those in attendance that all partner nations have a baseline for how human rights will be respected.
“It’s important that we have a common understanding of how to operate jointly and with a common mission,” said Javier Rivera Rosario, U.S Army South staff judge advocate. “We want to make sure that the protection and principles of human rights are considered when planning and executing these kinds of humanitarian assistance missions.”
The Dominican Republic was a fitting location for the conference, as the Human Rights Center of Excellence is located there and they will soon have a bigger role to play within the Conference of the American Armies.
“The overall conference has been great,” Pike said. “It’s a good chance for the Dominican army to get first-hand experience running a conference, since they will take over the leadership of the CAA during the 2018-2019 cycle.”