Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance from seven countries of the region and United Nations high authorities offered a fervent defense of multilateralism today as the principal and only tool for advancing toward fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to arrive at development that puts equality front and center. This was in the context of ECLAC’s thirty-seventh session that concludes today in Havana, Cuba.
In a high-level dialogue with special participation by Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General, foreign ministers from Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Uruguay and Venezuela, and the head of Finance for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also welcomed the position paper by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), The Inefficiency of Inequality – presented this week during the debates in Cuba – and congratulated its Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, for the Commission’s ongoing work in pursuit of dialogue and regional integration during its 70 years of existence.
In her remarks, Amina Mohammed expressed her gratitude toward Latin America and the Caribbean for the constant support and commitment to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda since its creation, highlighting that the region’s collective involvement in the Agenda has been vital to its fulfillment.
“I know that in Latin America and the Caribbean this agenda is seen as an opportunity to address structural gaps such as inequality, marginalization, climate change, and youth opportunities. At the same time, you have compellingly raised the specific challenges of realizing sustainable development in Middle-Income Countries. This is crucial,” pointed out the second-highest authority of the world organization.
“How can we uphold our commitment to leave no one behind when absolute income poverty rates are declining but multi-dimensional poverty and inequality are going up? This is central – and you have been leading efforts to put this on the table,” underscored Mohammed.
Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez, warned that the attacks on multilateralism are increasingly more serious and new threats are lurking in the region. “The process of implementing the 2030 Agenda poses great challenges for our countries. While there is progress, poverty and inequality are on the rise and financial resources are insufficient. New resources are essential,” he said.
The head of Cuban diplomacy also commended the important role played by ECLAC, and particularly its Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, in supporting the countries and following the Agenda.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, Fernando Huanacuni, said that globalization undoubtedly has negative impacts on the countries and affects the most vulnerable sectors of society. “If the problem of the inefficiency of inequality affects people, the way to confront it is from the State but by empowering citizens, allowing the people to govern,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, María Fernanda Espinosa, said severe problems in today’s world, such as slow and uncertain economic recovery, inequality, political tensions, threats to peace, and migratory and humanitarian crises, demand collective action by the international community.
“Multilateralism is not only a more effective platform for combatting inequality, it is also the only one we have. I want to single out ECLAC’s enormous contribution to this task. It has been a vanguard think tank for 70 years,” said the minister.
Jamaica’s Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Pearnel Charles Jr., emphasized a relevant issue that is not always taken into consideration: the enormous costs of insecurity, organized crime and violence in the development of countries, especially in the island nations of the Caribbean.
“When we analyze the issue of the inefficiency of inequality, we have to also think about the inefficiency of insecurity. Crime has an indirect effect and a significant cost when it comes to meeting the SDGs,” he said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, Rodolfo Nin Novoa, underlined that multilateral action is key for achieving the SDGs. “We must work together to maintain and improve the broad consensus needed to establish pathways to the implementation of these goals,” he emphasized.
“We cannot conceive modern societies in a zero-sum scenario. Here we must single out ECLAC. Its contributions have consolidated into indispensable points of reference. In the document, The Inefficiency of Inequality, there is no single diagnosis but rather it provides concrete guidance for attaining sustainable development with equality,” stated the Uruguayan authority.
In his remarks, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, also lauded the work done by ECLAC, saying it is an institution “that has continued to be essential for the region’s peoples throughout these 70 years.” He added that ECLAC has pursued policies to activate – in the words of Simón Bolivar – the two fundamental levers: work and knowledge, “to thus make men more honorable and happier,” he said.
“The international situation and voracity unleashed for some lead us to defend multilateralism today more than ever to build a world of peace,” added Arreaza.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technologies for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Camillo Gonsalves, said that multilateralism requires solidarity with developing countries and small island developing States (SIDS) to make investments in public assets. “In the Caribbean, we are wagering on the 2030 Agenda, but this has a cost,” he underlined.
In her remarks in closing the session of dialogue with high authorities, Alicia Bárcena expressed her enormous gratitude to the government of Cuba for hosting the thirty-seventh session of ECLAC, to the government of Chile for its abiding support for the Commission’s work and being its main headquarters, to Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago for their sub-regional headquarters of the organization, and to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia for hosting national offices in their countries.
The senior representative of the United Nations regional organization indicated that hyper-globalization affects inequalities in various settings and therefore must be confronted with collective action. “Latin America and the Caribbean is a region that is very committed to the 2030 Agenda. There are now more than 20 countries (of a total 33) that have presented their voluntary national reviews on their progress,” she highlighted.
On another note, Bárcena added that in this current session, ECLAC has made a very clear commitment: the Caribbean must go first, given that it is a more vulnerable sub-region and is more exposed to financial and climatic challenges. “We need to build a single region and cannot do so without the Caribbean,” she underscored.
“The orientation that ECLAC creates is intended as a space for dialogue for each country. We welcome your mandates with much commitment, because for us regional integration is essential. We want to help build pathways to meeting places for all,” she stated.