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A Feminist Foreign Policy is Needed to Achieve a Transformative Recovery with Equality in the Region: Alicia Bárcena

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary participated in the 2nd Cultural Congress Migrant Women from Mexico and the World, organized by the Mexican Consulate in Houston (United States).

14 June 2021|News

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photo of Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
Photo: ECLAC.

A feminist foreign policy not only means that States guarantee women’s rights both inside and outside their territories’ borders. It also implies that States promote multilateralism with the aim of addressing in a coordinated way the structural constraints of gender inequality, a key aspect for achieving a transformative recovery with equality in the region, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said today during the 2nd Cultural Congress Migrant Women from Mexico and the World (June 14-17), organized by the Consulate of Mexico in Houston (United States).

To achieve a recovery with equality in the region, we know that national efforts are not enough, and this is demonstrated by the asymmetries we are seeing today, for example, in equitable access to vaccines, Bárcena explained on a panel entitled “Feminist Foreign Policy in the Building of a New Society,” which featured opening remarks by Alicia Kerber, Consul General of Mexico in Houston, and the participation of Cristina Gallach, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain, and Elvira García Aguayo, Coordinator of gender equality and non-discrimination at the General Directorate of Human Rights and Democracy of Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs. Ana Covarrubias, Professor at the Center for International Studies of El Colegio de México, acted as the moderator.

“Mexico is the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have a feminist foreign policy, and it joins the efforts of other countries such as Sweden, Canada, Spain, France and Norway. I want to highlight the important leadership of Mexico, of its Foreign Minister, of its consulates and embassies, as global and regional actors who are set on gender equality and women’s autonomy becoming a reality,” Bárcena said, pointing up four concrete initiatives promoted by the North American country along that path.

These initiatives are: the Alliance for Care Work in the framework of the Generation Equality Forum, which Mexico leads along with France and UN Women, and which includes the participation of ECLAC; the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) for northern Central America and Mexico, which she described as “the key to addressing the structural causes of migration”; the convening of more than 20 countries that agreed to form part of a Group of Friends of Gender Equality, along with the United Nations (UN); and the integration of a gender perspective in trade policy.

The pandemic has produced one of the worst crises ever experienced by Latin America and the Caribbean, with a 7.1% drop in GDP in 2020 and the closure of around 2.7 million businesses, Alicia Bárcena specified during her presentation.

“The current crisis has prompted a setback of more than 18 years in women’s labor participation in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is very serious. The rate of women’s labor participation stood at 46% in 2020, while that of men was 69%. There is a steady outflow of women from the labor market, in addition to increased informality and unemployment,” she indicated.

The COVID-19 crisis, she warned, has intensified the burden of unpaid care work on women, who already spent three times more time than men did on such tasks.

In our region, the senior official continued, women represent 51.7% of the 42.9 million migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. They migrate for numerous reasons, including poverty, lack of opportunities, environmental degradation, violence and other factors that affect their well-being or that of their families. “It is key to guarantee women’s rights in places of origin, transit, destination and upon return,” she stressed.

Latin American and Caribbean countries have addressed the issue of migration in depth in the framework of the Regional Gender Agenda, forged under the auspices of ECLAC since 1977, the Commission’s highest authority sustained. “It is necessary for countries to adopt cooperation agreements, like what is being carried out in northern Central America and Mexico, precisely to ensure decent labor conditions, prevention and assistance in situations of violence – in particular, sexual violence – and human trafficking, and non-discriminatory access to health services and to comprehensive social protection,” she added.

Bárcena underscored that “inequalities, and gender inequality in particular, are structural traits of Latin America and the Caribbean, which means that eradicating them necessitates changing the dominant development paradigm, the culture of privilege, and patriarchy.” Some of ECLAC’s concrete proposals for overcoming these structural constraints, she said, include making progress on women’s full digital inclusion, on a productive recovery with full economic participation by women, and on the forging of a care society.

“The current crisis gives us the opportunity to build social and economic compacts for moving towards a feminist future and to forge what we have called a ‘care society,’ a society that prioritizes the infrastructure of life and cares for the planet, families, older people, children, and people with disabilities. This is not a task for women alone, but society as a whole,” she stated.

“The care society is a proposal based on feminist economics and on the Regional Gender Agenda, which seeks to put the sustainability of life at the center of a transformative recovery, with gender equality,” she concluded.