The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, underscored the opportunity that the current context presents for strengthening regional integration and highlighted that this must be promoted in specific areas beyond trade, during the meeting of the World Economic Forum on Latin America 2017, which concluded this Friday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In the framework of this event, Bárcena was the main speaker on a panel about the regional integration strategy group, in which government authorities and private-sector representatives also participated. She indicated there that the current global economic and political context presents sharp tensions and uncertainties and that, therefore, it is not possible to keep doing “business as usual”.
The senior United Nations official explained that regional insertion in global trade is very low – the region only has a 6% share of global exports, compared with developing Asia’s 31% – which is compounded by the end of the so-called commodities “supercycle” and the fact that in the majority of Latin American countries less than 1% of companies export.
“For that reason at ECLAC we contend that integration must be strengthened beyond the exchange of goods. We must make progress on trade facilitation, on participation in value chains, on integration of infrastructure and energy, as well as in the technological and digital area,” Bárcena indicated.
Regarding this last issue, during the panel “Building a Regional Digital Market,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary insisted that the region must move toward development. “Second generation public-private alliances are key to propelling integrated digital markets at a regional and subregional level in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she said.
Bárcena added that the development of technological and digital platforms allows for fomenting productive diversification, growth in productivity and for leveraging the fourth industrial revolution with greater scale, connection, access and dissemination of content. “The platforms of new information technologies potentiate this process. This improves the region’s competitiveness by modernizing infrastructure and technology networks,” she indicated.
On this occasion, Bárcena announced that the sixth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (the eLAC2018 meeting) will be held in Colombia next year, with the support of that country’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology.
During the final day of the World Economic Forum on Latin America, ECLAC’s most senior authority also participated in the session “How to Implement the SDGs,” along with Simón Gaviria, Colombia’s Minister of National Planning; Javier Pastorino, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens S.A.; and Raj Kumar, President and Editor-in-Chief of Devex.
In addition to highlighting the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals (SDGs), Alicia Bárcena declared the agenda to be “civilizing” and “fundamental” for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. “This is a long-term agenda with very concrete goals: eliminate extreme poverty – which affects 75 million people in our region – give electricity to the 23 million people who do not have it, deliver food security, guarantee a healthy life and care for people’s cycle of life from birth to death, among other things,” she explained.
She emphasized in particular the gender equality promoted by the 2030 Agenda, “which is an economic issue and not just a social one,” she said. “We must guarantee the three autonomies of all women: physical, economic and that of decision-making, and end the statistical silence about gender parity,” Bárcena stated.
She reminded the attendees that ECLAC and the Mexican government are organizing the first meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which will be held on April 26-28 in the Mexican capital and where the region’s countries will present their progress on achieving the SDGs and address their means of implementation and financing. “We invite all countries and civil society organizations to participate in this forum. It will be the first gathering of its kind in the world, it is a unique opportunity to reflect upon what our development strategy will be in the medium term,” Bárcena said.