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To Achieve Sustainable Development, It is Necessary to Equalize to Grow and Grow to Equalize: Alicia Bárcena, at Latin America and the Caribbean week in France and at the OECD Forum

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29 May 2018|Press Release

During a visit to Paris, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary participated in the International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean and in the OECD Forum 2018, among other events.


Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary, during her participation at the OECD Forum 2018
Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary, during her participation at the OECD Forum 2018.
Photo: Marco Illuminati/OECD

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, called for equalizing to grow and growing to equalize with the aim of moving toward a new, more inclusive and sustainable development model, and for forging renewed social compacts that enable changing current growth and production patterns and fighting growing inequalities in the region, in remarks she made at various high-level events dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean that are taking place this week in Paris.

The senior United Nations official is in France to participate in the 10th International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC Forum), the seminar “Renewable Energies and Sustainable Cities, New Models for Partnership between Latin America and France,” the OECD Forum 2018, and the colloquium “Sustainable Cities in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean as a Driver of Social Transformation” – all of which are being held between May 28 and 30.

At her first activity in the framework of the LAC Forum – convened on Monday, May 28 by France’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) – the top authority of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) stressed the need to carry out profound transformations in the region, “just as we have proposed in the institutional document The Inefficiency of Inequality, recently presented at our 37th session in Cuba.”

“Inequality is inefficient, not only because it is an ethical failure but also because it is a failure from an economic point of view. We must overcome the culture of privilege that reigns in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Bárcena said at a panel on the role of institutions in greater well-being, moderated by Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre, and with fellow speakers David Tuesta, Peru’s Minister of Economy and Finance; Isidoro Santana, Minister of Economy, Planning and Development of the Dominican Republic; and Delia Ferreira, Chair of Transparency International.

“Our region has enough maturity to seek its own paths and trails, to define its own institutions that respond to its particular realities and not copy models from other places to combat our inequalities,” she said. With regard to the need to strengthen employment and institutions, Bárcena emphasized that it is essential to invest in the 165 million young people of Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure that the demographic bonus is not taken over by organized crime, especially drug trafficking.

On Tuesday, May 29, Alicia Bárcena was one of the main speakers at the opening session of the seminar “Renewable Energies and Sustainable Cities, New Models for Partnership between Latin America and France,” organized by the government of that country. Other participants included Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, the Secretary of State attached to the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs; Santiago Levy, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge of the IDB; and Paola Amadei, Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation.

On this occasion, Bárcena noted that moving toward renewable sources of energy in urban areas is a fundamental challenge for a region so highly urbanized as ours, where nearly 80% of the population lives in cities. She indicated that Latin America and the Caribbean, with its high levels of inequality both as measured by income and in spatial and territorial terms, faces on the one hand gaps in energy access and, on the other, unsustainable and polluting patterns of energy consumption.

“For this reason we promote what we have called ‘the environmental big push,’ which requires a package of coherent policies and investments and adequate fiscal stimulus to promote the transformation of the productive structure based on the incorporation of technological progress and the principles of sustainability and equality,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary said. “Moving toward a sustainable energy matrix in our cities in the context of this environmental big push will necessitate a social and political coalition aligned with its main goals, and the participation of multiple actors. It also requires a renewed conversation between the State, the market and society.”

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, May 29, Bárcena spoke at a panel on inclusive growth and the empowerment of the State, in the framework of the OECD Forum 2018, which contemplates a meeting of the organization’s Ministerial Council – with the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron in the closing session – and which forms part of OECD Week 2018, which brings together government ministers from its member countries, international experts and key figures from the academic and business worlds as well as from civil society.

Bárcena recalled that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals (SDGs) represent a historic global consensus in pursuit of a new development paradigm. “Achieving it is not an easy task, since this depends on initiatives such as the promotion of full employment with greater productivity and equality,” she indicated.

In this sense, the UN official explained that ECLAC has been analyzing in a systematic fashion the link between equality and efficiency since 2010. “We have presented evidence that equality, democracy and a thriving economy are complementary forces and that they are mutually supportive,” she stated.

“Equality must be a driver of inclusive growth, not a trade-off. Inequality in income and wealth is economically inefficient. Improving education and skills to adapt to technological change, as well as eliminating the culture of privilege, is key,” Bárcena insisted.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 30, Alicia Bárcena will participate in the colloquium “Sustainable Cities in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean as a Driver of Social Transformation,” organized by the Institute des Amériques (IdA), the EU-LAC Foundation and the French Development Agency (AFD). There she will sustain that in order to close the inequality gaps that affect cities and bolster sustainable urbanization with policies coherent with the environmental big push, broad multi-stakeholder participation is needed along with a renewed perspective on public-private partnerships for mobility and sustainable construction, resilient infrastructure, urban climate finance, and the urban applications of emerging technologies.

During her visit to France, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary also held important bilateral meetings with French authorities, with OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría and various representatives of the organization. She also met with the AFD’s Director for Latin America and Deputy Director-General for Latin America, Hervé Conan, and the Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation, Paola Amadei, as well as with representatives of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network.