A call for articulating policies for growth, productive development and the labor market with social policies, and for strengthening the social institutional framework and governance of decision-making in a framework of regional cooperation with a view to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was made today by government authorities and international officials at the inauguration of the Fifth Session of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The event – organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Government of Chile and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – will be held through this Thursday, October 5 in person at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile. It also contemplates the holding of the UNDP’s XV Ministerial Forum for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The opening ceremony featured remarks by José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Samantha Marshall, Minister of State within the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Social Transformation and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda; Javiera Toro, Minister of Social Development and Family of Chile; and Linda Maguire, the UNDP’s Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“For Social Development Ministries or their equivalent to achieve their broad goals for inclusion and social protection, it is important to have a comprehensive view that would articulate policies for growth, productive development and the labor market with social policies,” contended José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, who advocated for a solid and also flexible social institutional framework, capable of responding to changes and cascading shocks, with proper regulatory frameworks, well-defined mandates, a clear social regime and a robust organizational model, with effective human resources policies and sustainable financial resources.
Poverty in the region, he said, remains at high and unacceptable levels. According to ECLAC’s projections, 32.1% of the region’s population (201 million people) was living in poverty at the end of 2022 and 13.1% in extreme poverty.
In her capacity as outgoing Chair of the Fourth Regional Conference, Minister Samantha Marshall of Antigua and Barbuda referred to the environmental and social challenges affecting the countries of the Caribbean and the Latin American region as a whole, and she ratified her country’s commitment to the Conference, “which has served to hold a constructive dialogue and share lessons learned,” and its Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development. In this regard, she expressed confidence that the agreements reached at the gathering in Santiago will be capable of being transformed into concrete actions and notable improvements for all citizens.
Chile’s Minister of Social Development and Family, Javiera Toro, stated: “As a country we are very proud to be hosting this conference, which has importance due to the global, and of course regional, context of slow economic and social recovery from the effects prompted by recent crises in the lives of individuals, families and communities. This scenario must capture our attention and efforts to attain improved national social development policies, in close association with international cooperation in the social, regional and bilateral arenas. And today we see that we have a shared aspiration: to work for a more equitable and just region.”
Meanwhile, Deputy Regional Director Linda Maguire indicated that “the UNDP advocates for designing universal, inclusive and fiscally sustainable social protection systems that promote growth. The overlapping shocks have revealed structural challenges, but they also represent an opportunity to rethink social contracts and collectively manage risks. In a context of mistrust and multiple pressures, effective and inclusive governance is crucial for promoting citizen participation, accountability and trust in institutions. In addition, a financial architecture that prioritizes resolute and sustained investment in the SDGs is needed, focusing on how and where resources are spent and who benefits.”
In a special message, Paula Narváez, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations in New York and President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations, warned about the “critical juncture” at which the world and the region find themselves. “The discussions in the coming days represent an opportunity to consolidate Latin America and the Caribbean’s leadership and dedication in the pursuit of inclusive, equitable and resilient societies,” said Narváez, who urged countries to “stay at the forefront” and participate actively in the 2024 Summit of the Future and the World Social Summit in 2025.
During the event, ECLAC presented the position document Institutional Frameworks for Social Policy in Latin America and the Caribbean: a Central Element in Advancing towards Inclusive Social Development, which analyzes the state of the social institutional framework in the region’s countries, examines comparative experiences and seeks to define some paths to follow to strengthen capacities and thereby improve the quality of social development policies.
A decade of low growth and the economic slowdown are hindering progress towards inclusive social development, the document states. In the 2014-2023 decade, when average economic growth was just 0.8%, average growth in the number of people employed was 1.3%, marking the lowest level in 70 years.
In the region, 47.9% of workers are employed informally and women represented 69.8% of all inactive persons in 2022, the publication noted.
According to ECLAC’s data, a high proportion of households lives in conditions of vulnerability: in 2021, nearly 60% of Latin America’s population was in the low-income stratum, meaning it lived with income below 1.8 poverty lines, and nearly 80% had income below three times the poverty line.
Some of the topics that will be addressed over the three days of this Conference – created in 2014 – include the financing of universal social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean; capacity building in Social Development Ministries; opportunities and challenges of the single window service approach; integrated information systems for decision-making; and the challenges of governance and cooperation in times of cascading crises.