(5 October 2012) Today, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, visited the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, where he called for investment and sustainable development to be based on solid principles and to respect the well-being and environmental rights of local communities.
As part of his tour of Chile, Brazil and Argentina, the leader took part in the Seminar on "Investment for economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability" , organized by the European Union (EU), the Government of Chile, the EU-LAC Foundation and ECLAC, which will end today at the headquarters of this United Nations regional commission.
President Higgins was received by the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Bárcena, who highlighted the long and multifaceted career of the President, through which he had become one of the most renowned champions of human rights in his country.
According to Ms. Bárcena "President Higgins has been a strong critic of the hegemonic view proposing a human existence of individual actors in competition with each other, neurotic from an insatiable consumption anxiety, and the myth of market rationality. His has been a brave voice, in the midst of a crisis that stretches the fabric of the European project, to restate the importance of social matters at the heart of this model".
She added "Today we have come to listen to him to renew our hope that it is possible to find a way out of current difficulties by maintaining human dignity as our guide, re-establishing the notion of community in the face of the rule of individual interests".
In his speech, the Irish leader stressed the importance of the upcoming Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union (EU), which is due to be held in Chile in January 2013 on the theme of "Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Social and Environmental Quality Investments". At that time, Ireland will hold the Presidency of the European Union.
President Higgins emphasized the growing social, economic and cultural links that unite the two regions, links that are now fundamental for achieving the aim of promoting a fairer and more sustainable development in this time of immense global economic challenges.
He stated that we are in a time of great change, and it is a change for which we can take charge of. People can take charge of by redefining and strengthening democracy, and taking on board the vast wealth of opportunities to achieve peace, cohesion and security to fight against poverty and rapidly rising inequity (which is a fight where United Nations institutions are so important).
The Head of State of Ireland explained that investment should not be seen as an ultimate good in itself, largely unregulated, but rather as an objective to be realized within the context of public policies that promote social inclusion, innovation, entrepreneurship, social corporate responsibility and stable, transparent legal frameworks that are non-discriminatory and accepted by all.
He also highlighted the legacy of Raúl Prebisch, former Executive Secretary of ECLAC and one of his inspirations, "He was prepared to adapt and change in the light of experience as we must all do now with original insight and courage".
He explained "In tackling the economic crisis, we need new thinking and innovative models. To this end, we should encourage greater critical capacity among policy makers, academics and participation by the public at large using foras such as today's gathering".
President Higgins underlined that progress in cooperation between Europe and Latin America required building on the basis of the wide legacy between both regions: "our commitment to democracy and human rights, our ambition for real social inclusion and sustainable development; our commitment to protect our environment and our rich and inclusive cultural heritage so that it can be passed on intact to succeeding generations".
He concluded by saying that "Our two regions together have the possibility of achieving so much, of putting a great example in place, at a crucial time for humanity".
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