(26 October 2012) Today, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, declared that our continent's major challenge is to overcome poverty, during a lecture given at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
The Ecuadorian leader was received by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of this United Nations regional commission, who welcomed him on behalf of the institution.
The lecture was attended by authorities, diplomatic representatives, officials from international agencies and members of civil society institutions.
Also in attendance were the Secretary-General of Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, former President of Chile, Patricio Aylwin, the Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, Ricardo Patiño, Ecuadorian Minister of Strategic Sectors Coordination, Jorge Glas, Ecuadorian Minister of Natural Heritage Coordination, María Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuadorian Minister of Culture, Erika Sylva, and Ecuadorian Minister for Science and Technology, René Ramírez.
According to Ms. Bárcena "In Latin America it is time for equality. We are convinced that it is only possible to intensify democracy through entitlement to rights", and she went on to highlight progress made by the Government of Ecuador in reducing poverty and inequality, based on changes to the country's economic and social structure.
The Executive Secretary added that "ECLAC maintains that the key to equality is employment with full entitlement to rights, and that social policy is the essential complement for facing risks on the path to structural change. Social progress is not limited to social policies".
President Correa thanked the United Nations official for the welcome, and agreed with her that defeating poverty should be the main aim of Latin American societies.
He said "The great challenge for our America, the moral imperative, is to beat poverty and extreme poverty. It is shameful for Latin America - which could be the most prosperous continent on the planet - to maintain current levels of inequality that in turn produce poverty and extreme poverty".
According to Mr. Correa "This is the challenge the world over: beating poverty, which for the first time in history is not the result of scarce resources or natural factors, but of perverse and exclusive systems. For this to happen, changes are required in power relations and political processes".
The President of Ecuador explained that poverty cannot be eliminated through economic growth alone, but by also improving income distribution. He added that reducing poverty should be the standard used to measure national progress, rather than per capita income as is currently the case.
"It is impossible to sleep soundly while there is just one Latin American living in poverty", he stated.
The Ecuadorian President outlined the four factors needed to eradicate poverty: a fairer tax system in which the rich pay more taxes, public spending that finances entitlement to rights in order to guarantee equality, market governance based on social aims and an appropriate distribution of (public and private) social capital.
He also described his Government's progress, including concrete achievements such as a fall in the Gini coefficient (that measures inequality) from 0.55 to 0.47; regulation on decent wages; fiscal reform (that will increase social investment from 4% to 11%); and universal access to free, quality public education.
At the end of the lecture, the ECLAC Executive Secretary and President Correa agreed to hold a meting in Ecuador to discuss, from a national perspective, the ideas put forward in the document Structural Change for Equality: An Integrated Approach to Development , which the United Nations regional commission presented at its session in August.
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