In December 2008, Brazil took the initiative to call up the first Summit
of Latin America and the Caribbean Heads of States and Government for Development and Integration (CALC), held in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil. The objective was to establish a cooperation process comprising of all the Latin American and Caribbean region.
CALC’s main virtue was to assemble, for the first time, all 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, which had not jointly met in other mechanisms without the presence of countries from outside the region. The Rio Group, which was consolidated in the 1980s as a regional forum for political consultation – with an important role in the pacification of Central America and in the re-democratization process – brought together 24 States. For countries like Cuba, which did not participate in some mechanisms in the region, CALC was seen as an important means for integration. For most Caribbean countries that did not directly participate in the Rio Group, CALC also played this role. CALC was, therefore, the first opportunity for the countries of the region to gather and reflect on the development and integration of their own agenda, shaped according to the interests of Latin America and Caribbean societies.
In February 2010, Mexico jointly held the 2nd CALC and the Summit of the Rio Group, in the so called Unity Summit. At that event, the participants approved the idea of progressively gathering the Rio Group and CALC into the framework of a single forum, entitled Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). In the Summit of Caracas, in December 2011, CELAC started functioning.
As a successor to CALC and the Rio Group, CELAC embodies two vocations: the cooperation for development and political consultation. In the context of cooperation, CELAC has promoted ministerial or high-level meetings on more than 20 themes of interest to the region, such as education, social development, culture, transportation, infrastructure and energy. In 2013 and 2014, Brazil had the opportunity to hold meetings on Family Farming, which analyzed rural development strategies, with a view to promoting food security, nutrition and eradicating rural poverty. The country also held the 1st Senior Officials Meeting on Science and Technology, in which public policies regarding education and training of human resources, research and development infrastructure, and technological services to support business innovation were discussed. In 2014 and 2015, Brazil also hosted meetings of CELAC's Working Group on Afro-descendants, in order to discuss public policies related to the promotion of racial equality and the fight against racism and discrimination.
In terms of political consultations, CELAC has demonstrated the ability to issue statements on relevant matters of the international and regional agenda, such as nuclear disarmament, climate change, the global drug problem, the case of the Malvinas Islands, and the US embargo against Cuba, among others. The dialogue and political concert promoted through CELAC has been manifested by means of joint interventions in the scope of the United Nations General Assembly and its Committees.
Additionally, CELAC became a valuable tool for the dialogue of Latin America with the rest of the world and has allowed the region to coordinate positions in relations with other regional blocs and emerging countries. Today, CELAC maintains mechanisms of political dialogue and cooperation with the European Union, China, Russia and India, , among others. Thus, CELAC is facilitating the configuration of its own regional identity. Political consultations, in general, are made at the margin of the United Nations General Assembly debates and allow for the exchange of information on themes of global interest and on cooperation between Latin America and the Caribbean and relevant actors of the international system.
CELAC assumed the regional interlocution in the dialogue and cooperation mechanism between Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union (EU), established in 1999. CELAC-EU Cooperation includes themes such as science and technology, migration, investments, gender and world drug problems, among others. Since 2012, this mechanism has had the support of the EU-LAC Foundation, based in Hamburg, with the mission to stimulate the reflection on topics of interest of both regions, to support the implementation of the objectives agreed to and to promote dialogue with civil society, academia and private sectors. Despite the wide variety of perspectives, natural in a forum that brings together 61 countries, dialogue between the two regions finds solid ground in the close cultural, historical and migratory ties, as well as in common values, such as democracy and the promotion of human rights.
CELAC works through political meetings, specialized ministerial meetings, and sectorial working groups. The definition of the order of countries that will hold the pro-tempore Presidency of the mechanism, an equitable distribution among the sub-regions of Latin America and the Caribbean is sought. Equador held the Presidency in 2015, which is assumed by the Dominican Republic in January 2016 on the occasion of the Fourth CELAC Summit, in Quito.