The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, concluded this Friday, June 21, a two-day visit to Spain, where she participated in two high-level events and held bilateral meetings with government authorities and officials from international cooperation bodies.
During these activities, the senior United Nations official insisted on the necessity of carrying out a new, inclusive cooperation model in which middle income countries can fully participate.
On Thursday, June 20, Bárcena led the presentation of the report Latin American Economic Outlook 2019 (LEO 2019), produced jointly by ECLAC, the European Commission, the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the CAF–Development Bank of Latin America.
In her remarks at this event – held at Casa de América in Madrid, with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Spanish Cooperation, and the Carolina Foundation – ECLAC’s Executive Secretary indicated that in a global context that gets more complex every day, where the effects of hyper-globalization and of the technological revolution reshape global balances and where environmental challenges – primarily climate change – require urgent and coordinated measures, Latin American countries must tackle new challenges that constitute gaps and “traps” that hinder their transition towards more sustainable and inclusive development.
The study was presented before a multitudinous audience made up of authorities from various countries in Europe, prominent officials from international cooperation bodies, academics, businesspeople and other representatives of the private sector.
The speakers included Juan Pablo De Laiglesia, the Spanish government’s State Secretary for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean; Andrew Jacobs, Head of the European Commission’s Unit of Regional Sector Policy Analysis for Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific (EuropeAid); José Antonio Garcia Belaúnde, Representative of the CAF–Development Bank of Latin America in Europe; and Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Center.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, these traps affecting sustainable and inclusive development mainly operate along four dimensions: productivity, social vulnerability, institutions and the environment,” Alicia Bárcena indicated. “The interaction between the productivity trap and the trap of social vulnerability is reflected in the concentration of wealth in the region’s countries. The productivity trap is a factory for poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean,” she added.
ECLAC’s highest authority explained that the challenges the region faces today are not the same as a few years ago, and therefore the response to these challenges must be updated; thus, it is necessary to consider and implement new international cooperation policies and instruments that allow countries in transition to attain the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said.
In this area, she underscored that ECLAC – in conjunction with the OECD Development Center, the EU and CAF – has worked to forge a new approach to development (called “Development in Transition” or DiT) that takes into account the needs of countries in transition, meaning those middle income nations that have been “graduated” from official development aid but still face structural gaps and very deep inequalities that prevent them from making further progress.
“The window of opportunity is here and now…The digital revolution allows us to accelerate some changes and improve our competitiveness, but at the same time it can be very threatening in terms of employment. Climate change, meanwhile, opens up infinite possibilities on the technological and institutional front. And first and foremost, we need to rebuild our citizens’ trust to be able to lay the foundations for the development of the future,” Bárcena stated.
Also on Thursday, June 20, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary held bilateral meetings with Anna Terrón Cusí, Director of the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP); Cristina Gallach, Spain’s High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda; and Rebecca Grynspan, Secretary-General of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).
Meanwhile, on Friday, June 21, she was one of the main speakers at a breakfast meeting on “The capacities of Ibero-American youth to achieve the 2030 Agenda,” organized in Madrid by ECLAC, the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) and the International Youth Organization for Ibero-America (OIJ).
On this occasion, Alicia Bárcena reiterated that Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. “In countries like Guatemala, the gap between those who have the most and those who have the least is 70 times greater. And this is important, because there is a correlation between inequality and productivity. The Latin American region represents just 20% of the total productivity of the United States,” she said.
She added that Latin America and the Caribbean is a great factory for productive heterogeneity, due to the coexistence of very powerful companies on the technological frontier – which contribute a great deal to GDP but generate very little employment – alongside a 90% proportion of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which concentrate precarious jobs. “This affects young people in a particularly striking way,” she noted.
In addition, Bárcena indicated that one-fifth of the region’s young people are outside the formal economy, on top of being affected by unemployment. To increase productivity, the senior United Nations official stressed that “in the framework of the 2030 Agenda and specifically Sustainable Development Goal 4, having at least 12 years of continuous education and training throughout the entire life cycle are the key.”
Later in the day, Alicia Bárcena held bilateral meetings with Susana Malcorra, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, and with authorities of the Spanish government – including Josep Borrell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation, and Juan Pablo De Laiglesia, State Secretary for International Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean – with whom she exchanged views on the challenges in relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, the United Nations and ECLAC.