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Alicia Bárcena: The Hallmark of Equality and its Key Impact on Development in the Region Distinguish ECLAC’s Legacy in the Last Decade

24 March 2022|News

The Executive Secretary of the regional Commission participated today in the launch of a special issue of El Trimestre Económico dedicated to reviewing the organization’s work over the last ten years.


“The hallmark of equality and its key impact on the development process of countries in the region and on human progress distinguish the legacy of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) over the last decade,” Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the United Nations regional Commission, said today during the presentation of a special edition of the journal El Trimestre Económico dedicated to analyzing ECLAC over the last ten years.

“The issue we are presenting today is the result of a generous invitation that we interpret as sincere recognition of the work and substantial contribution to the regional debate on development and equality that we have been undertaking throughout this last decade,” the Executive Secretary of ECLAC stated during her speech.

She added that “this special issue is about the central role of equality in consolidating a development style that combines economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability, areas that ECLAC has been studying in depth since 2010.”

El Trimestre Económico, published by Fondo de Cultura Económico, is the longest-standing economic analysis journal in the area of social sciences in Latin America and one of the most prestigious flagship publications on development traditions in the region. The latest issue includes a prologue by Alicia Bárcena and presents a compilation of eleven essays on ECLAC’s intellectual production over the last decade.

The special issue was presented in an event held in a hybrid format that included the participation of Alicia Bárcena as well as that of José Gabriel Palma, professor at the University of Cambridge Economics Faculty, and José Valenzuela, member of the El Trimestre Económico Board of Trustees. The event was moderated by Saul Escobar, professor and researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History’s Office of Historical Studies in Mexico, and Jorge Isaac, full professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Acatlán Faculty of Higher Education, both of whom are members of the journal’s Board of Trustees.

During her speech, Alicia Bárcena noted that although Latin America and the Caribbean is not the world’s poorest region, it does suffer from the greatest inequality. She also stated that inequality gives rise to a culture of privilege that restricts access and opportunities and distorts public policy.

“Inequality defines our region; it is unjust, inefficient, and conspires against sustainable development. Equality is not just about entitlement to rights. Equality is necessary for growth, and growth for equality,” she affirmed.

The United Nations senior official also cautioned that “we are no longer in a period of change but rather in a true change of period. This means we must rethink development and place equality at the center. To achieve that, we need social compacts,” she stated.

Alicia Bárcena also discussed the deep asymmetries between developed and developing countries, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As an example, she noted that Latin America and the Caribbean produces only 8.3% of greenhouse gases worldwide but is highly vulnerable to climate change.

“There is tremendous asymmetry, and we have forgotten the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. We must take positions because the evidence shows that these asymmetries are unacceptable and that developed countries have a historical debt to developing countries,” she stressed.

The ECLAC Executive Secretary also highlighted the urgency of recovering the role of the State, which is essential to regulating relationships between the market, the State, and society, and to implement transformative structural policies.

She also urged progress toward solid and united multilaterialism in the face of nationalist and regionalist drift and the elusiveness of regional integration.

The latest issue of El Trimestre Económico begins with an article titled “Rethinking development from equality,” written by Alicia Bárcena and Mario Cimoli, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECLAC, in which they analyze the current context of the region, characterized by three crises: economic, social, and environmental.

In the following articles, experts from ECLAC and other institutions in the region analyze issues such as the Latin American economy during the first decades of the 21st century, ECLAC’s philosophy, the importance of a macroeconomy for development, center-periphery relations in the 21st century and the three-gap model, the environment and development in a center-periphery context, the culture of privilege and equality of rights, equality and social protection as keys to inclusive and sustainable development, and gender equality and the autonomy of women in the thinking of ECLAC.

The issue also includes the full version of Raúl Prebisch’s article titled “The Latin American periphery in the global system of capitalism,” originally published in issue 13 of the CEPAL Review in 1981.

“The articles included in this special issue fulfill the goal of describing, in most cases from first-hand experience, the most significant milestones in the creation of ECLAC’s ideals: forward-looking ideals for our region that aim to overcome structural obstacles that have slowed deep democratic advancement and material and cultural progress in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Alicia Bárcena affirmed.

“The ECLAC I have directed has established and made available to our people an indelible legacy that places emphasis on the dignity of its inhabitants, that is, on the possibility of exercising with the utmost freedom their entitlement to rights,” she concluded.