The President of the Argentine Republic, Alberto Fernández, delivered a virtual keynote lecture this Wednesday, January 27, from the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, in which he advocated for the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean and for strengthening multilateralism to build fairer and more egalitarian societies.
The Argentine leader spoke during a high-level event in which Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, also participated along with Ennio Vivaldi, Rector of the University of Chile.
Attending the lecture were the Foreign Ministers of Chile, Andrés Allamand, and Argentina, Felipe Solá; the ambassadors of Argentina in Chile, Rafael Bielsa, and of Chile in Argentina, Nicolás Monckeberg; as well as a sizeable delegation.
In his keynote lecture, President Fernández affirmed that in a globalized world where the need for multilateralism is becoming ever more critical, Latin America and the Caribbean must be a united region in order to be capable of handling future challenges.
“We have a major opportunity to rebuild the Latin America that today is undergoing a very big economic crisis and a deep social crisis that we must emerge from quickly, because our societies no longer tolerate the idea of fiscal adjustment either. And to emerge from this, the region’s unity is central. We must unite and work together for a common destiny, respecting one another,” he expressed.
The Argentine President called for integrating the region, as well as bolstering and expanding the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).
He underlined that the pandemic prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) has exposed the insufficiency of the system, revealing the problem of inequality, equity, poverty, and the unfair and unequal conditions based on which some purport that merit must prevail.
“The economic foundations were not solid, the social foundations were weak, injustice existed and it was revealed, inequality was a problem and it was exposed in its most perverse form. The pandemic made it clear that no one can save him or herself alone, that we need to organize as humankind to help ourselves. It is time to once again place value on a word that has been forgotten in recent decades: solidarity, rather than aid,” he stated.
Alberto Fernández called for changing current logic and starting to think in another way to put an end to the perverse distribution of income, whereby a handful of people has everything while millions of others have nothing at all.
“With that inequality, no one who has embraced politics ethically can live in peace,” he warned.
He also called for guaranteeing access to the world of work for all, adding that it is ethically inadmissible that in the 21st century there be even one man or one woman who must grapple with where to find their daily livelihood.
In addition, he highlighted the importance of access to information and technology and emphasized the enormous relevance of education.
“Societal wealth no longer lies in silver, gold, oil or copper, or in soybeans or wheat, it lies in knowledge. We have to invest heavily in know-how, because that is where the wealth of the future lies,” he stressed.
Alicia Bárcena, meanwhile, underlined the deep, historical relations between Argentina and ECLAC, as well as their coinciding visions regarding the importance of multilateralism as a path to understanding, building and addressing the problems and challenges of the contemporary world, and especially of developing countries.
“We share the conviction that equality, sustainability, solidarity and international cooperation are key for moving towards a transformative recovery,” the senior United Nations official affirmed.
Furthermore, she highlighted the important achievements attained by Argentina in the context of the pandemic, such as the deployment of a broad package of measures to assist both companies and the population, the magnitude of which was comparable to that of countries with a better fiscal situation prior to the pandemic; the restructuring of foreign currency-denominated public debt with private creditors; and the monitoring of health system overload.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary also pointed up the agreement reached by Argentina and Mexico, the Slim foundation, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to produce one of the COVID-19 vaccines – a partnership that she described as “a major step towards a true ‘regional COVAX’ since it is aimed at providing more than 200 million vaccines to all the countries.”
She warned that the race for vaccines and their concentration in the hands of developed countries puts humanity in grave danger because it will open a chasm between the North and South.
“A united and coordinated response in the world and in the region is urgently necessary. Only in this way can we meet the challenge of striking a balance between caring for the economy and for health,” ECLAC’s highest authority emphasized.
Alicia Bárcena also highlighted three paradigmatic advances promoted by the Argentine government in recent months: the recognition and centrality of the right to work as the path to economic recovery and social inclusion; guaranteeing the human right of access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) for the entire population by declaring them to be essential public services, and recent implementation of the Basic, Universal and Obligatory Stipend for mobile and fixed telephony, Internet and cable TV services; and strengthening the right of women to enjoy what ECLAC calls the three autonomies (physical, political and economic) by creating the Ministry of Women and a Federal Care Map, in addition to recent approval of the Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy Law.
In her remarks, Alicia Bárcena affirmed that COVID-19 has magnified the serious structural problems of the neoliberal, concentrated and extraction-based model, forcing us to rethink the future.
She added that inequality defines Latin America and the Caribbean, a region characterized by labor informality, premature de-industrialization, low productivity, regional fragmentation, insufficient social protection, environmental deterioration and the predominance of a culture of privilege.
For that reason, she stated, rebuilding with equality and sustainability is the path for the region, with compacts and renewed political coalitions and with broad citizen participation.
She added that connecting the emergency to the recovery will require maintaining expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, as well as extending international financial cooperation to provide liquidity and promote a multilateral framework for addressing external debt issues.
Finally, Alicia Bárcena stressed the importance of international cooperation, multilateralism and solidarity in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalled that the region’s Foreign Affairs Ministers, participating in ECLAC’s 38th session, agreed to a political declaration that shows regional consensus on these priorities for overcoming the crisis prompted by the pandemic.
“This is encouraging for furthering the integration of the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean amid a global outlook that is being redefined. As a member of the G20, Argentina can give strong support in that direction and we trust in the multilateral and integrationist spirit that guides its administration,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, the Rector of the University of Chile, Ennio Vivaldi, called for taking advantage of this time in the region to comprehend what democracy is and to understand that we constitute a sister region.
He stressed that technology and innovation will allow Latin America and the Caribbean to leave the crisis behind and attain a fair and egalitarian society in which we can all develop.
“One of the things that we have learned is that there is such a thing as society, and there is a need to understand problems in this collaborative context. We have to go back to seeing ourselves as a region, we have to live a shared existence,” he affirmed.
Following the keynote lecture, President Alberto Fernández and ECLAC’s Executive Secretary held a bilateral meeting in which they addressed deepening the historical ties between both parties.