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Alicia Bárcena Called for Changing the Development Paradigm to Overcome Profound Global Asymmetries and Foster Equality and Inclusion

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary participated in a high-level event sponsored by the Leaders Network Reinforcing Multilateralism Together and Pathfinders, on the sidelines of the 76th United Nations General Assembly.

23 September 2021|Press Release

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Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC
Photo: Courtesy Pathfinders

The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, called for forging a reinforced multilateralism and changing the current development paradigm to overcome profound global asymmetries and thereby achieve greater equality and inclusion in developing economies, during a high-level event held in New York.

The event, entitled Delivering the UN Common Agenda: Action to Achieve Equality and Inclusion and co-sponsored by the Leaders Network Reinforcing Multilateralism Together and Pathfinders, took place on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and featured the presence of Heads of State and senior authorities from various countries along with the directors of United Nations agencies and non-governmental global entities.

On Panel No. 2 addressing “The Road Ahead,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary dialogued with the President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado; the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven; and the Executive Director of United Nations Global Impact, Sanda Ojiambo.

“We are living in a world of profound asymmetries. This is creating a lot of disenchantment and frustration in society. We are living with gaps where we have an elite and then another part of society that is on the losing end of everything,” Alicia Bárcena stated. She added that inequality is creating so much mistrust that society does not trust institutions. “The capitalist system is not working for all and that’s the problem. It is generating a concentration of income, wealth, power and access, and it must shift towards multi-stakeholder capitalism,” she emphasized.

The senior United Nations official stressed that Latin America and the Caribbean is the developing world region that has been hardest hit by the pandemic, a situation that has magnified preexisting inequalities.

“Unless we change the development paradigm and the way we communicate with people, and how we get people to participate in the decisions that affect them, we will not be able to progress. This is about creating a new power system, we must change it,” Bárcena said.

In relation to the financial aid that the developed world should provide to developing economies to cope with the growing difficulties stemming from the pandemic, such as excessive indebtedness, Bárcena pointed to the urgency of more equitably redistributing the large amount of liquidity that currently exists in the world, particularly to help middle-income countries, which account for 96% of the global public debt of developing countries (excluding China and India).

“We definitely need a debt relief agreement for small economies, especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which should be transformed into resilience funds. That is what we are fighting to implement in the Caribbean, for example. Debt service represents 59% of exports of goods and services in Latin America and the Caribbean. We need a new multilateral compact on financing for development that would include a debt component, the reallocation of liquidity – such as the FACE initiative, led by Costa Rica – and innovative instruments such as hurricane clauses for renegotiating the debt of those countries affected by such phenomena,” she sustained.

Alicia Bárcena also reaffirmed the importance of having a multilateral credit rating agency that would not solely take into consideration macroeconomic criteria when assigning investment ratings to countries. “We need multilateral reform of the international debt architecture and financing for development,” she insisted.

With regard to the problem of climate change, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary warned that many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean contribute little to global greenhouse gas emissions, but they are very much affected by their consequences.

“We have to increase international support for adaptation, not just mitigation. We need funding mechanisms to strengthen adaptation to climate change and to create resilience. Nobody is safe until everybody is safe. We cannot create islands of immunity or resilience. What happens to everyone else?” she stressed.

“Climate change is a global problem. Inequality has still not been understood as a global problem, but it is. That is why both issues are highly linked. At ECLAC we have talked about the culture of privilege, which we must definitively halt. Naturalizing inequality and discrimination is not the way forward,” Bárcena underscored.

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