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Regional Dialogue is Indispensable for Strengthening Social Protection Systems in the Region, Authorities and Specialists Stressed

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22 March 2024|Press Release

A high-level dialogue on inclusive social development policies was inaugurated by ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, and senior officials from Costa Rica, Chile and Honduras.

Social development authorities from 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries and international officials asserted the role of dialogue and regional integration for furthering inclusive social development policies and strengthening social protection systems in the region, during a high-level event held on March 21, 2024 at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.

The Dialogue on Inclusive Social Development Policies in the Region: Strengthening Social Protection Systems in Latin America and the Caribbean was inaugurated by José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Jeannette Jara, Minister of Labor and Social Security of Chile; Yorleny León Marchena, Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion of Costa Rica; José Carlos Cardona, Secretary of State in the Office of the Social Development Secretariat (SEDESOL) of Honduras; Paula Poblete, Undersecretary for Evaluation at the Social Development and Family Ministry of Chile; and Thomas Schmitt, Minister, Head of the Economic and Cooperation Section at Germany’s Embassy in Chile.

In his remarks, ECLAC’s highest authority analyzed the three development traps in which Latin America and the Caribbean is caught: low growth; high inequality and low social mobility; and low institutional and ineffective governance capacity. But, he emphasized, “it is not enough to make assessments and point to what ‘must be done;’ special attention must be put on the ‘how.’ That is why ECLAC is working more intensely and systematically on how to improve public policy governance.”

“The pandemic demonstrated the centrality of social protection systems and their institutional framework for producing timely and sustainable responses. One of the central mechanisms were the social records that enable identifying the population that could potentially receive social benefits. We have major challenges in the region in this area. As long as digital social protection advances, it is pressing that we address issues such as expanding the coverage of these records, and making progress on digital inclusion,” said José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs.

The senior UN official underscored that in order to make progress on the targets and goals of the 2030 Agenda and the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development – approved in 2019 at ECLAC’s Third Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean – it is urgently necessary to strengthen cooperation and integration on distinct social protection components.

“We believe that Latin America and the Caribbean can move towards identifying shared targets and standards on, for example, social investment in strategic non-contributory social protection benefits,” said José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, stressing how important it is that “these efforts contribute to preparations and can be incorporated into the position the region will adopt at the 2025 Second World Summit for Social Development, convened by the United Nations.”

During the inauguration, authorities from Costa Rica, Chile and Honduras agreed on the need to continue promoting dialogue and the exchange of experiences to tackle shared challenges such as the eradication of poverty and high levels of social vulnerability due to the effects of the pandemic and the cascading crises.

The regional context, they indicated, is marked by demographic trends such as the population’s ageing, by growing migration flows, by the already palpable impacts of climate change and by a series of weaknesses affecting institutions, infrastructure and technology.

They concurred that countries face pressing challenges such as expanding pension coverage (both contributory and non-contributory), including independent and informal workers, expanding programs such as school meals and strengthening social records, to name a few.

ECLAC has proposed that, in order to move towards universal, comprehensive, sustainable and resilient social protection systems, the region must address at least three challenges: (i) close the structural gaps in coverage, sufficiency and financial sustainability of these systems; (ii) reverse the impacts of the pandemic that have widened these gaps, in particular those related to the increase in poverty and extreme poverty and inequalities; and (iii) prepare for a complex future and a risk structure that is being reconfigured.

The event drew representatives of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru and was held in the framework of the ECLAC-BMZ/GIZ project entitled “Transformative Reactivation: Overcoming the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean,” financed by German Cooperation. The dialogue also took place in the context of the preparatory work for the next meeting of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which Chile is currently chairing.