WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The 17th Annual CAF Conference, organized jointly by CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, The Inter-American Dialogue and the Organization of Latin American States, opened with call for Latin America to overcome its internal divisions and lack of unity. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130904/FL74587 ) In the first day of the two-day event, which attracted a record crowd of more than 700 business and government leaders from across the hemisphere, keynote speaker Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile, declared that, while Latin America's self-confidence has grown, the region still needs to come together. " Latin America is holding the cards. But we need to speak with a single voice, help those countries that are falling behind and break the division between the Pacific nations, on the one hand, and the Atlantic nations, on the other." Latin America, added Lagos, needs to solve its own problems in order to be able to engage with the United States as an equal partner. "If we resolve our own problems, we can engage in an inter-American dialogue with the United States on more equal terms." In his opening remarks, CAF president Enrique Garcia emphasized that the expansion of the development bank he leads has mirrored that of the region's economic growth, assuring the audience that Latin America is now in a position to establish a more symmetrical relationship with the United States. "What we need is a new inter-American agenda," said Garcia. "Today, Latin America is very different from what it was 20 years ago. The region deserves to be respected for its accomplishments and, at the same time, understood and appreciated for its diversity." For his part, Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, noted that Latin America has overcome major challenges in terms of establishing democracy and stable governments, although much still needs to be done to address unmet social demands. "A lot of economies in the region have grown, but poverty and inequality are still with us. The goal of the Organization of American States is improve conditions in all our countries." The annual CAF Conference was opened by Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, who emphasized the quality of the speakers at this year's event, as well as the variety of themes that are being addressed during the two days of discussion.