The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, stressed today the importance of advancing towards new, fair and inclusive fiscal, political and social compacts to achieve more universal well-being in the region, during the XX Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), held in the framework of the 75th United Nations General Assembly.
ECLAC’s highest authority participated as a special guest in the gathering led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard, in his capacity as President Pro Tempore of CELAC in the year 2020.
Also participating in the meeting were Foreign Ministers from the Americas and the Caribbean, as well as Julio Berdegué, FAO’s Regional Representative; Juan Ramón de la Fuente, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations; and Rebeca Grynspan, Ibero-American Secretary-General.
In her remarks, Alicia Bárcena underscored the relevance of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations together with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
“In this context of economic and social vulnerability, when the world needs more multilateralism and cooperation to achieve global public goods like a universal vaccine, peace, climate security and financial stability, CELAC is very relevant,” she sustained.
The Executive Secretary recalled that this crisis has exposed the region’s structural gaps of inequality, low productivity, and financial and climatic vulnerability, noting as well that this is the worst economic contraction in its history.
ECLAC’s most senior representative also pointed up what Mexico’s presidency pro tempore has achieved on health matters.
“CELAC has been active amid this crisis and it has been an honor for ECLAC to accompany it in this challenge. I want to highlight what has been done to achieve a vaccine for all and to expand manufacturing and supply chains, as part of the project to produce vaccines for all in coordination with Argentina, the University of Oxford, AstraZeneca and the Slim foundation,” she added.
Separately, Alicia Bárcena underscored that gender inequality is a major challenge for the region, since women will be the most affected by this crisis due to increased unpaid work and care-related pressures linked to school closures, with gender violence on the rise.
Furthermore, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary stressed that there are 40 million households without digital connectivity today. To address this, she outlined the five measures being promoted by the regional commission, which are focused on providing an emergency basic income for 6 months to all people living in poverty; extending the repayment and grace periods for credits to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); offering a basic digital basket that would include a laptop, smartphone and tablet along with a low-cost connectivity plan; providing relief on the debt and interest payments of middle-income countries, especially for the Caribbean, and creating the Caribbean resilience fund; and supporting Costa Rica’s FACE proposal (an economic emergency relief fund) to respond to the pandemic, which entails a fund of $516 billion dollars, which amounts to 0.7% of developed countries’ GDP.
In addition, she emphasized that the region must implement cooperation beyond the pandemic and bring about greater productive, trade and social integration.
“Our region has a historic opportunity today to strengthen integration and intraregional trade, and it must also take advantage of the fact that it has its own institutional framework: CARICOM, the Central American Common Market (CACM), MERCOSUR, the Andean Community and the Pacific Alliance,” Bárcena said.
“More must be done, both in terms of scope and magnitude, to overcome this systemic crisis and ensure a recovery in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. We are at a civilizing crossroads that demands that we renovate our institutions. We have to create a global social compact, it will be necessary to revamp our development model, not losing the link to the 2030 Agenda and building more resilient societies,” she stated.
Finally, she indicated that ECLAC will continue working to maintain the COVID-19 Observatory, which provides follow-up on the measures taken by the 33 countries of CELAC. In addition, the Commission will keep working with FAO on follow-up of the food security program mandated by those same countries.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, “it has become clear that CELAC today makes political, practical, immediate and urgent sense. And that is demonstrated by the intense work that we, as the Latin American and Caribbean community, have carried out vis-à-vis the pandemic.”
“We are going to insist on everyone having access to the vaccines, because that is imminent, and in line with what has emerged here, we are going to organize a gathering in October with distinct international organizations for the economic recovery,” the senior official added.