HACIA Democracy is an annual conference that simulates the proceedings of the Organization of American States (OAS). The conference is aimed towards high school students interested in democratic advancement and development. HACIA’s founding members conceived of the organization as a forum to offer an educational experience that focused on domestic and regional issues in the Americas. Since its inception in May 1994, HACIA’s staff and participants have continued to explore and address a diverse range of topics affecting countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The organization is based at Harvard University, and is staffed and entirely administered by Harvard undergraduates. HACIA also has faculty advisers at Harvard with an established academic and personal interest in the American continents. The organization’s staff is drawn from a wide variety of intellectual and cultural backgrounds, who share a common interest in Latin America and international affairs. The staff and the Board of Directors of HACIA work throughout the year to deliver a successful conference every March. In addition, participating schools and a variety of institutions in the host country play an important role in the planning and execution of the conference.
HACIA offers an unparalleled experience to all its participants. The collaborative arrangement between university and high school students is unique among government simulation conferences. The members of the group are interested in furthering democratic ideals, and as such, our primary goal is to provide delegates with an opportunity to discuss and practice democracy through different forums. As members of HACIA, we concentrate on the basic principles of democratic decision-making – cooperation, consensus, and negotiation – and maintain this focus throughout all aspects of the conference.
HACIA Democracy was founded in May 1994 by Harvard undergraduate students who aimed to create an educational government simulation that focused on domestic and international issues in the Americas.
In its first year, HACIA Democracy launched a research, recruitment, and fundraising campaign. The energy and support of the International School of Panama was crucial to the success of HACIA Democracy’s first conference (Expo ’95, Panama City, Panama). Delegations from Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama attended this first conference.
The conference expanded and improved each year. HACIA’s 1999 summit left Panama for the first time, and was held in Costa Rica. That year, for the first time, public school students participated in the conference. This, along with the creation of HACIA’s first Spanish language committee, allowed more diverse points of view than ever to be voiced at the summit. HACIA has also enjoyed geographical diversity among its delegations. We had, for example, the unique privilege of welcoming a delegation from China in 2009. Following in this tradition of continuous growth, HACIA Democracy successfully moved the conference for the first time to South America in 2011 and the Caribbean in 2013, showing that the opportunities for growth of this young democratic forum are limitless.
As HACIA moves into its 23rd Summit, it has become the largest and most diverse OAS simulation in the world. Since its inception, thousands of students have attended the conference from dozens of schools around the world, and it is our vision that we continue to teach the region’s youth for years to come.
The eight members of the HACIA Democracy Board of Directors are tasked with managing all logistical and substantive aspects of the Summit of the Americas. They are democratically elected following the completion of each Summit by the outgoing staff, and work with a team of approximately 30 Harvard students to organize each year’s Summit.
Each year, the Board of Directors selects 30 Harvard students to write bulletins, develop committee topics, and serve as co-chairs for the fourteen HACIA committees. The application process is highly selective; the board looks for experience, enthusiasm, and interest in Latin American issues. Our staff is the reason that HACIA remains the pre-eminent OAS simulation in the Western Hemisphere.