Representatives of countries from the region that participated in the Extraordinary Meeting of the Committee on South-South Cooperation: opportunities for renewed international development cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean took the first step today to transform that subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) into the Regional Conference on South-South Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean, upon approving a resolution containing that recommendation, which will be submitted to the Committee of the Whole of ECLAC for consideration in November.
The name change would give that body greater institutional strength for offering faster, more effective and efficient regional responses, in consonance with the major changes being faced by the world and the region. If approved, the Conference would hold regular meetings “every two years at the headquarters of ECLAC in Santiago, in alternating years to the sessions of the Commission, using installed capacity and within existing resources.”
“The creation of this Conference will offer us the possibility of renewed cooperation,” Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, underscored at the meeting’s closing session, adding that “this is the time for us to strengthen our regional political and economic agreements.”
Bárcena recalled that the COVID-19 crisis has revealed huge asymmetries in terms of access to vaccines, the concentration of wealth, the fight against climate change, and financing for development. “Within our region, for example, there are countries where 69% of the population is fully vaccinated, while other countries have yet to reach 1%,” she warned.
Despite the economic growth expected for 2021 and 2022, “at ECLAC we talk about the paradox of the recovery, because it will not succeed in alleviating poverty, inequality, unemployment and informality in our countries.” She added that “middle-income countries, which include the majority of Latin American and Caribbean nations, must continue to advocate for access to external financing to be equitable and independent of income level.” To that end, making progress on a multidimensional measurement of development is key, she noted.
Rodolfo Solano Quirós, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica – the country presiding over the Committee on South-South Cooperation of ECLAC – thanked the Commission for presenting the draft document Development in transition: Concept and measurement proposal for renewed cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean, which he said “contains valuable inputs for continuing to reach agreement on a single voice for Latin America and the Caribbean in multilateral spaces.” He further explained that “once the Regional Conference on South-South Cooperation is consolidated next November, we will be able to work more frequently on the redesign of cooperation systems to take into account income distribution, equity and well-being, among many other aspects, in a multidimensional conception of sustainable development.”
The second and final day of the Extraordinary Meeting, inaugurated on Thursday, included a Dialogue of ministers of foreign affairs and high-level authorities on the opportunities and challenges of international development cooperation in the context of the health, economic and social recovery post-COVID-19, which was moderated by Alicia Bárcena.
Participating on the panel were E. Paul Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration of Antigua and Barbuda, the country serving as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS); Ramon Cervantes, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize; Leslie Campbell, State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; Hugo Rivera, Vice Minister of Economic Affairs and International Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic; Carlos Ramiro Martínez, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala; Felipe Solá, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina (by video); Erika Mouynes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama (by video); and Foreign Minister Solano of Costa Rica.
Minister E. Paul Chet Greene of Antigua and Barbuda indicated that “international development cooperation is more urgent than ever today,” since the pandemic has exposed structural gaps and eroded the progress made by countries, especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean. In this regard, he advocated for a multidimensional measurement of development and for “relations between donor and recipient countries to be recalibrated.” He continued: “I am referring to a new type of development cooperation, which is an obligation for the international community if we want to have a robust global recovery.”
Along similar lines, Minister Ramon Cervantes noted that, although Belize is considered to be an upper-middle-income country, second in Central America’s per capita income ranking, it continues to be vulnerable to external shocks. “We need multidimensional, innovative, dynamic, inclusive and sustainable international cooperation,” he said, adding that this is the right time to expand South-South cooperation.
Vice Minister Hugo Rivera of the Dominican Republic called for supporting the neighboring country of Haiti, which was struck by a devastating earthquake on Saturday, August 14. “Haiti, the country with which we share an island, needs help, it needs international cooperation,” he stated, praising the role of South-South cooperation in confronting the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. “Let’s continue betting on strengthening cooperation and the region’s integration. With a much more united region, the Dominican Republic thinks we will have better well-being in the future,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Vice Minister Carlos Ramiro Martínez of Guatemala indicated that “we are convinced that greater participation of middle-income countries in international cooperation initiatives can have a multiplier effect that would contribute to achieving our goals at a regional and global level.”
State Minister Leslie Campbell of Jamaica proposed some actions to be prioritized by the Committee on South-South Cooperation of ECLAC, and the Commission in general, including continuing to advocate for a multidimensional measurement of development in order to have long-term financing, and fostering cooperation in key sectors such as the strengthening of public health systems, the diversification and expansion of intraregional trade, and the promotion of e-commerce and tourism, among others.
Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Solá stated via video that the COVID-19 crisis has made it necessary to undertake more decisive efforts on regional integration and cooperation, and financing for development.
“We celebrate the work that ECLAC is carrying out to support our countries, not just by debating the global asymmetries that the world is experiencing in terms of access to vaccines, but also in the fight against climate change and access to financing for development,” he said, expressing support for the Plan for Health Self-Sufficiency, which ECLAC is preparing at the request of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Finally, the Foreign Minister of Panama, Erika Mouynes, indicated (also in a recorded message) that South-South and triangular cooperation stand out as effective tools for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, supporting the formulation of public policies that offer opportunities to citizens and reactivate the sectors most affected during the pandemic.
Participating in the Extraordinary Meeting of the Committee on South-South Cooperation were representatives of 35 Member States of ECLAC, 4 associate members and more than 20 international organizations – totaling more than 150 participants in all.