The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reaffirmed its commitment to continue supporting the work program of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) during the new pro-tempore Presidency assumed today by Argentina.
The United Nations regional organization’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, sent a recorded message to the XXII Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of CELAC, which was held in Buenos Aires this Friday, January 7, 2022. At the meeting, in representation of the outgoing pro-tempore Presidency – held by the Government of Mexico – that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, took stock of the 2020-2021 mandate and handed the baton to his Argentine counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, Santiago Cafiero.
The event was attended by Foreign Affairs Ministers from 30 of the countries making part of CELAC membership, along with other high-level government officials. Attending on behalf of Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, was Mario Cimoli, the Commission’s Deputy Executive Secretary.
During the meeting, authorities and delegates from the participating countries widely recognized the work carried out by ECLAC and thanked the organization for the valuable support it has provided for fulfilling CELAC’s work program.
In her message, Alicia Bárcena saluted the work and leadership shown by the Mexican Foreign Ministry at the head of CELAC during 2020-2021, a period marked by many difficulties related to the pandemic, and she congratulated Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero on his election to the group’s Presidency in 2022, which will coincide with Argentina serving as Chair of ECLAC starting in September 2022 for a two-year period (2022-2024).
“In the complex context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had profound effects on the region, CELAC has been an essential space for dialogue and regional cooperation, with a pragmatic vision guided by the urgency of a collective response to the pandemic and other challenges such as natural disasters, climate change and food security,” Bárcena indicated.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary also referred to the Plan for Self-Sufficiency in Health Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was requested of ECLAC in April 2021 with the aim of formulating a strategy to strengthen, in a solid and concrete way, regional capacities in the health industry for producing vaccines and medicines, and to thereby mitigate the region’s huge external dependence and the onslaught of protectionism. This plan was approved unanimously at the Summit of Presidents and Heads of State of CELAC held in Mexico City on September 18 of last year.
Thanks to this Plan, there is already a regional observatory on vaccination and an inventory of regional capacities in the pharmaceutical industry and health sector, both public and private. In addition, it has provided a roadmap with four lines of action: mechanisms for regulatory convergence, harmonization and recognition based on the experience of six regulatory agencies recognized as Level 4 by the World Health Organization (WHO); a clinical trials platform based in the institutions that have participated in vaccine trials; a blueprint for setting in motion consortiums to support vaccine and medicine development and production, with the participation of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); and the strengthening of regional mechanisms for immediate procurement of vaccines and medicines with a view to developing a more integrated regional market.
During the XII Meeting of Foreign Ministers of CELAC, it was established that the Plan for Self-Sufficiency in Health Matters remains fully relevant given the current situation of great uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Thus, the Foreign Ministers of Argentina and Mexico, Santiago Cafiero and Marcelo Ebrard, along with around ten delegations, highlighted the work carried out by ECLAC to design and implement the Plan and called for strengthening manufacturing capacities and regional agreements to bolster the tools available in CELAC countries.
Among the areas of cooperation between ECLAC and CELAC in the most recent period, Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena pointed up the creation of the Fund for Climate Adaptation and Comprehensive Response to Natural Disasters, which was approved at the Summit of Presidents last September, with participants stipulating that it will be administered by ECLAC and financed by CELAC’s Member States and donors from outside the region.
To give impetus to operation of the Fund, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary signed agreements today with the governments of Argentina and Mexico, who were respectively represented by their Foreign Ministers, Santiago Cafiero and Marcelo Ebrard.
These agreements establish that the climate crisis is a global challenge that has a severe impact on the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, since it produces a high degree of vulnerability, especially in the Caribbean. In light of this, CELAC promotes a comprehensive development vision that contemplates the creation of new cooperation schemes within the framework of its Strategy for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management, and which would tend to reduce the negative effects of the natural disasters that cyclically affect the region’s countries.
A central element to this task is the establishment of this Fund, with ECLAC’s backing, to support the implementation of projects to promote climate change mitigation and adaptation activities, including the Strategy for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management, with a view to fostering a vision for comprehensive, resilient and sustainable development that would contribute to strengthening disaster response capacity in the region’s countries.
“One final reflection: the world is regionalizing both in terms of trade and also in productive and technological terms. In this context, CELAC acquires a central relevance so that the region can speak with a single voice. This is a strategic imperative… ECLAC will continue putting its capacities at the service of the region and of CELAC,” Alicia Bárcena concluded.