Remarks by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), at the opening of the high-level seminar “Paths towards equality and development: dialogue between Latin America and Norway”
30 March 2015
Raúl Prebisch Conference Room
Kjersti Rodsmoen, Director of the Latin America Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway,
Hege Araldsen, Ambassador of Norway to Chile,
Authorities and representatives of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean,
A very cordial welcome to ECLAC on the occasion of the Seminar on Equality and Development, held jointly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway so that we can share experiences which will help us to build a better future.
I would like to start by greeting the Government and people of Chile and expressing our heartfelt sympathy for the disaster they are facing in the north of the country. I know that some authorities who would have wished to be here were unavoidably prevented from coming by the situation.
My gratitude to all panellists and guests.
A special greeting to the Kjersti Rodsmoen, Director of the Latin America Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, and to Doctor Karl Ove Moene of the University of Oslo, whose contribution to the Norwegian social model is internationally recognized.
We will have the chance to consider the remarkable social project the Norwegians have built and to share with our Nordic friends the routes that we in Latin America and the Caribbean plan to take towards our own development.
I am convinced that despite the geographical distance, we are close to one another in a community of ideas and of shared aspirations to build societies that are fair and free.
Norway has historically played a large role in building peace in our region, with a strong commitment to upholding human rights, and so I am delighted that we are strengthening our ties on the issue of equality and development on this occasion.
Norway has developed a social fabric based on universal access to rights, ensuring the well-being of its population, where the collective interest takes precedence over the logic of the market.
When we contemplate the picture presented by our region today and the paths we are striving to open up out of the inequality that has been our lot, it is a comfort to realize that despite the difficulties and problems Norway also faces, there is a vibrant and vigorous national community in that country where, contrary to the trend of the times, the premise is still to “socialize gains” rather than losses.
ECLAC has made equality its lodestar, treating structural change as the path towards it and politics as the instrument, and it is an honour to strengthen our ties with a country like Norway.
It is a matter of satisfaction and pleasure for this Commission that last January Norway applied to become a full member of this organization, and the application was approved by the Committee of the Whole of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean on 20 March.
Let me now express my deep gratitude for the remarkable collaboration which, thanks to the support of the Norwegian Government, has made it possible to proceed since 2013 with a wide-ranging multisectoral project of joint work to promote equality in our region.
I would like to acknowledge the leading part that the University of Oslo has played in strengthening this relationship, and mention that just a week ago we received a most welcome visit from its Rector, Dr. Ole Petter Ottersen. With us today are academics from that centre of ideas, where new frontiers for knowledge and development in Norway have been forged to address the country’s technological dependency, the constraints of its geography and inertia in the exploitation of its natural resources.
Friends, we are persuaded that the key to a project for equality and development in future like the one ECLAC has proposed in its key publications lies in recognizing the importance of equalizing to grow while growing to equalize, and the importance of bringing about a far-reaching transformation in the production fabric that incorporates innovation and knowledge with active industrial policies, together with governance of our natural resources to build a diversified, more productive economy with increased value added and decent employment that can transform the potential inclusiveness of the world of work. The idea is to strike a better balance between the provision of public services and the dynamic of private consumption, in accordance with the aim of environmental sustainability, while creating a socially sustainable system of taxation and public spending to achieve a large redistributive impact and extend the development of capabilities to the whole of society.
This unquestionably requires a new equation between the State, the market and society that can create virtuous linkages between institutions and public and private agents. And this in turn calls for large-scale medium- and long-term political agreements with a strategic vision and outlook, involving a broad range of actors to ensure continuity and dynamize the exercise of citizenship. Only a virtuous dialectic between institutional change and structural change involving the key development actors will make it possible to drive sustainable development towards the equality our peoples demand.
When we consider the tasks that thus lie ahead, an agenda that is ambitious but urgent for our region, the Norwegian example presents itself as a valuable source of experience.
Friends, we are beginning two days of hard and exciting work. We shall present the results of the activities and studies that have been carried out in a process of fruitful cooperation as part of the project with Norway. We shall address the requirements of better natural resource governance in our region and the enormous challenges of inequality and informality.
This afternoon we shall present the book Desigualdad e informalidad: un análisis de cinco economías latinoamericanas, which is the result of joint work by ECLAC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway. This study analyses the links between the decline in income inequality and the formalization of employment that has taken place in a number of the region’s countries.
Tomorrow we shall begin by turning our attention to social protection systems. Not coincidentally, the Norwegian system of social protection is one of the world’s most developed and is supplemented by wage compression agreements; it is probably the combination of these two pillars that has given rise to a distribution of income and risk that is an example to the world. This dimension has also bulked large in the programme of cooperation with the Government of Norway.
The goal of ECLAC is to put equality and social protection on either side of a virtuous equation.
Tomorrow we shall also address gender equality as a central plank in any development agenda, a priority that is shared with Norway.
The activities carried out during the joint project have provided a more thorough understanding of inequities, particularly as regards women’s financial autonomy, including the debate on the post-2015 development agenda in the effort to mainstream this perspective in all the sustainable development goals.
It is impossible to conceive of development that is not fully participated in and contributed to by women.
Lastly, one outstanding issue that we hope to address together is that it is impossible to imagine a more equal future unless education becomes a key part of the debate. This will be the central issue for the final panel of our seminar.
It is essential to build capacities in our region if the economic and social advances made are to be sustained and today’s challenges responded to. The future requires rapid and substantial productivity gains, along with productive diversification to move beyond specialization in commodities. These improvements will not happen on their own. Investment in basic and higher education, in science and technology and in technical production capabilities is indispensable for a new stage of growth with greater equality in Latin America and the Caribbean to become a reality. Production needs to be diversified and new capacities added at the same time as a more intensive, equitable effort is made to extend education to sectors that have hitherto been marginalized. And these urgently needed resources can in fact be secured by taking an intergenerational approach to the management of natural resource royalties. We need to turn the riches of our territory, which will inevitably run out one day, into the basis of a new and lasting wealth, a sustained increase in the capacities of our human capital.
In this vital task, the assistance and shared experience of Norway can play a key role.
I would not wish to conclude without pointing out that Norway is co-chairing the process leading up to the Conference on Financing for Development, which will be held this year as a fundamental component of the post-2015 agenda that is to be approved by the 194 countries of the United Nations. There, sustainable development goals incorporating many of the matters to be debated here will be approved.
I hope this event is fruitful and provides an opportunity to build stronger and closer ties between our region and Norway.
Once again, you are very welcome.
Thank you very much.