High-level authorities and representatives of national statistics offices from Latin American and Caribbean countries stressed today the importance of producing timely and reliable statistics for a transformative recovery with equality and called for strengthening the role of national statistical entities to tackle the challenges inflicted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Twentieth Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Statistical Conference of the Americas (SCA) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) was inaugurated by Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Juan Daniel Oviedo, Director-General of the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) of Colombia, in his capacity as Chair of the SCA-ECLAC; and Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division.
Participants in the virtual meeting, which will conclude tomorrow, include 33 delegations from ECLAC’s Member States and 10 associate members, along with regional representatives and representatives of the United Nations System’s agencies, funds and programs, international organizations, academia and civil society.
During the meeting’s opening ceremony, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, stated that the crisis prompted by the pandemic has highlighted the importance of producing timely and reliable official statistics for monitoring the disease, identifying groups in situations of vulnerability and measuring the impact of confinement and social distancing policies on people’s living conditions, with georeferencing and data disaggregation being key to guiding and focalizing the most urgent and forward-looking actions.
She emphasized that a particularly relevant source of information in this context are the population and housing censuses of the 2020 round, which provide vital information on demographic dynamics and the population’s living conditions. In that context, she flagged the postponement of the 2020 round of censuses in several of the region’s countries and the reduction of their budgets, urging countries to redouble their efforts to invest and ensure their implementation.
Meanwhile, Juan Daniel Oviedo, Director of Colombia’s DANE, underlined the role of statistics for consolidating bodies of information that become evidence and orient citizen-centered public policies around the complex and innovative concept of well-being.
Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division, highlighted the pioneering work of the Statistical Conference of the Americas in mainstreaming gender statistics, describing it as exemplary of the region’s leadership and influence in the global statistical community.
The meeting featured a high-level panel that addressed the statistical challenges of development in transition, where, along with Alicia Bárcena, the speakers included Mario Pezzini, Director of the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission.
In her remarks, Alicia Bárcena emphasized that income is not a good proxy for development, above all for development-in-transition countries, because it does not reflect the capacity to save or to access and mobilize resources for financing development.
She added that graduation from Official Development Assistance does not ensure access to other sources of financing and, on the contrary, is exclusionary. Furthermore, she warned that countries exposed to extreme natural phenomena, such as those in the Caribbean, need solidarity and additional support to address climate asymmetries.
The senior United Nations official noted that the concept of development in transition renders visible a series of traps and structural vulnerabilities in social, environmental, institutional and productivity-related matters.
She highlighted that since 2017, ECLAC, the European Commission and the OECD Development Centre have promoted a narrative that serves to reinterpret development and strengthen the role of cooperation in order to leave no one behind.
“Development is a continuous process that is not measured adequately by income level. We need multidimensional measurements that would allow us to change the categorization of low, medium and high. All countries, regardless of their income level, face development-related challenges,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary asserted.
She specified that middle-income countries represent 75% of the global population, 62% of the people living in poverty, and around 30% of global aggregate demand. They also represent 96% of the public debt of developing countries (without including China or India).
“That is why if we do not consider their debt problems and give them tools and opportunities, we will have a systemic crisis, with major repercussions,” she explained.
Alicia Bárcena listed five policy measures proposed by ECLAC to address the liquidity needs and debt problems of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean: expanding and redistributing liquidity from developed countries to developing countries; strengthening regional cooperation by increasing the lending and response capacity of regional, subregional and national financial institutions, bolstering ties among them; carrying out an institutional reform of the multilateral debt architecture; expanding the set of innovative instruments aimed at increasing debt repayment capacity and avoiding excessive indebtedness; and incorporating liquidity and debt reduction measures into a financing for development strategy geared towards building forward better.
In addition, she laid out three concrete proposals for driving a recovery with financial stability: expanding the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) to vulnerable middle-income countries such as those in the Caribbean and Central America; debt relief for the Caribbean; and the creation of an international mechanism for sovereign debt restructurings.
Meanwhile, Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre, highlighted that ECLAC’s statistical work helps everyone, due to its ability to transform the global and universal statistical agenda by giving it meaning and a crucial grounding: to promote a strategy for sustainable productive development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jolita Butkeviciene emphasized that in the current reality, we need to create positive narratives that inspire changes in the development paradigms. She added that the partnership between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean must be a permanent source of positive narratives, for both regions as well as globally.
The twentieth meeting of the Executive Committee of the Statistical Conference of the Americas continued this afternoon with analysis of the various challenges faced by national statistical systems in the region relating to the impact of COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery.