The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) proposed today the forging of far-reaching political and social compacts with broad participation in the region, so that through dialogue and transformative leadership, consensuses may be achieved to universalize social protection and health, and to reorient development on the basis of equality and environmental sustainability.
“Political compacts will be needed that include expansionary, progressive, effective and efficient fiscal policies,” Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, stated during the launch of the institution’s Special Report COVID-19 No. 8, entitled Political and social compacts for equality and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean in the post-COVID-19 recovery.
“We need leaderships that provide certainty, that know how to build partnerships, that help us recoup politics and well-being, that help us promote solidarity among nations, to strengthen regional integration, to fulfill international agendas, such as the 2030 Agenda, and to link the emergency with the recovery. Because this region needs a guide, certainty, leaderships and orientation for a transformation,” ECLAC’s highest authority set forth.
Bárcena recalled that Latin America and the Caribbean is facing the worst crisis in 100 years, with health, economic, social and political effects and consequences that will last into the medium term.
The COVID-19 pandemic, she said, has revealed structural problems in the region’s development model, deepening inequality, poverty and economic and social vulnerability and widening the already unacceptable gender gaps, since “women are the most exposed to job loss due to confinement, they are employed on the front line of care and they are the least protected.”
ECLAC estimates that the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will fall 9.1% in 2020, and it forecasts the closure of 2.7 million formal businesses. Unemployment is seen affecting 44 million people, and a 15-year setback in terms of poverty reduction is foreseen (with 231 million people living in poverty in 2020) along with a 30-year backslide with regard to extreme poverty (96 million people).
Although she highlighted the fiscal efforts that countries have made to tackle the pandemic (which have averaged 4.1% of GDP, accompanied by state credit guarantees of up to 10% of GDP), she reiterated that they have not been enough. In Latin America, 53% of the economically active population does not contribute to nor is affiliated with health care systems and a crisis can be seen among the middle strata, she noted.
Separately, she emphasized that “we have to learn from the past” and address phenomena such as “strong citizen discontent, the worrisome estrangement from representative democracies, the lack of confidence in authorities and institutions, and the limited handover between generations in politics.”
“It is critical that we not lose sight of the centrality of human rights and the validity of the rule of law during the pandemic, as well as in the recovery process,” she sustained. “Emergency measures should not unjustifiably alter democratic processes, the right to elect and be elected, which are fundamental to democracy.”
“We must listen, dialogue and empower territories, governments and subnational actors. This crisis also demonstrated that civil society, academia and the private sector are indispensable actors,” Bárcena stressed.
ECLAC’s new document was presented during a web seminar that featured comments from Beatriz Paredes Rangel, Senator from the Republic of Mexico; Benito Baranda, President of América Solidaria; Laura Flores, Director of the Americas Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs; Cecilia López, President of the International Center for Social and Economic Thought (CISOE); and María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, with Luis F. Yáñez, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Secretary of the Commission of ECLAC, serving as moderator.
“The document being presented to us today is splendid, since in a concise and specific way it provides a comprehensive view of the main aspects to consider given the complex circumstances that COVID-19 confronts us with, and it contributes to ensuring that none of the essential issues that must be considered escape us as we design public policy,” Senator Beatriz Paredes indicated. “I invite ECLAC to present it to the Mexican Congress and I suggest that similar presentations take place throughout the region.”
In his remarks, Benito Baranda also praised the report’s diagnosis and proposals, and he indicated that we are facing a crisis of humanity that has widened the chasm of inequality in the region. “In effect, the vast majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries were already, before the health crisis, living through diverse crises that were unaddressed and unresolved,” said the President of América Solidaria, who called for taking advantage of the opportunity to modify the asymmetries solidified by a model that leads to competition rather than collaboration.
“It seems to me that ECLAC’s call, made through this report, to seek political and social compacts that would allow for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences in a sustainable way is not only timely, but critical,” Laura Flores of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs sustained. “As the report proposes, now more than ever government policies must be transparent, inclusive, receptive and centered on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which continue to be our framework for the recovery.”
Meanwhile, Cecilia López, from CISOE, stated: “ECLAC’s message, which we share, is ‘political leadership, strengthening of democracy,’ which begins with recognizing the Latin American and Caribbean identity. The time has come to assume that leadership, we cannot do this alone.” López added that it is also time to forge a regional agreement with political leadership, which the United Nations – and ECLAC in particular – could lead.
Finally, in addition to thanking ECLAC for its work – which she described as “a compass, which has offered clear guidance and which has become a leading reference for other regions of the world” – María Fernanda Espinosa indicated that “we need transformative political action that includes, that listens, that is based on one or several compacts reflecting minimum agreements. We need more State, more community, more cooperation, more multilateralism, for common sense issues: the right to life, the right to dignity, respect for nature.”