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Latin American Intellectuals Warn about Environmental Degradation in the Region and Call on Countries to Create Their Own Development Model Based on Equality and Sustainability

22 April 2019|News

Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, led the side event “Foundational Thinkers on Sustainable Development” during the third meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which is taking place this week in Santiago, Chile.

Pensadores Fundacionales

Pensadores Fundacionales
Pensadores Fundacionales
Carlos Vera/CEPAL

Intellectuals from Chile and elsewhere in Latin America, along with international officials, warned about the seriousness of the degradation of the region’s natural assets and called on countries to create their own development model based on equal rights and environmental sustainability. This occurred at the side event Foundational Thinkers on Sustainable Development, held on Monday, April 22, in the framework of the third meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which is taking place at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile.

The gathering was organized by the Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and was inaugurated by the regional organization’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena. It included presentations by the Director of the Commission’s Natural Resources Division, Jeannette Sánchez, on “Natural resources and the environment in ECLAC’s thinking (1948-2017)”, and by Nicolo Gligo, Director of the Centre for Public Policy Analysis (CAPP) at the University of Chile’s Institute for Public Affairs.

At the subsequent roundtables, the speakers included Francisco Brzovic, Professor at the University of Chile; José Leal, from the University of Chile’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis (CAPP); Adriana Hoffmann, Biologist and former Director of Chile’s former National Environmental Commission (CONAMA); and David Barkin, Professor and researcher at the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM-X) in Mexico. They were joined by Daniel Titelman, Director of ECLAC’s Economic Development Division; Joseluis Samaniego, Director of its Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division; Mario Castillo, Senior Economic Affairs Officer at the Division for Gender Affairs; and other Commission officials, such as Gabriel Porcile and Wilson Peres.

Despite the institutional, regulatory and planning-related advances seen in recent decades, the development pattern of Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be unsustainable, both from an environmental perspective and an economic and social viewpoint, stated Alicia Bárcena, who described the group of speakers at the event as “steadfast fighters” for the region’s sustainable development.

In her remarks, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations regional commission urged the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to assert their own thinking and create a development pattern based on national specificities and on the region’s natural assets, heritage and wealth.

At ECLAC, Bárcena stressed, “we have put equality at the center because we think it is a matter of rights, citizenship and dignity, but also of economic efficiency. Inequality is inefficient. It is inefficient not to give education, not to provide healthcare, not to protect our natural resources.”

Jeannette Sánchez reviewed ECLAC’s historical contribution to the debate on the region’s sustainable development, which has included the publication of five documents centered on the issue of equality and environmental sustainability in the last decade, while Nicolo Giglo called for “carrying out a metamorphosis” of the development pattern.

“We have to give strength back to grassroots organizations, modify the economic growth pattern, advance on binding land-use planning and on effective environmental management, tackle climate change with policies for adaptation (and mitigation), and properly administer common and shared territories in Latin America,” Giglo said.

Participants in the event posed the need to intensify critical awareness of environmental issues, to prioritize the debate on water as an essential part of the ecological cycle, and to define the market’s role with regard to formulating sustainable development policies. They also indicated that technology and digital advances can be major allies for deepening the process to raise awareness.

“Environmental issues require collective and simultaneous action,” Bárcena underscored, calling for “moving from inertia and indifference to activism.” She also made special mention of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Escazú Agreement, which is the first treaty to have provisions protecting the defenders of human rights in environmental matters.

The event on sustainable development’s foundational thinkers is one of more than 50 side events to the third meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which will be officially inaugurated on Wednesday, April 24, at ECLAC’s headquarters in Chile.

More than a thousand people will attend the Forum, including government delegates and representatives of international institutions, the private sector, academia and civil society.

The participants will meet to review the progress and challenges related to implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the region.