(January 28, 2015) The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) presented today an economic and social panorama of the nations that make up the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) during this group of countries’ III Summit, which is being held in Costa Rica.
Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, spoke at the meeting’s plenary session on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The gathering was led by President Luis Guillermo Solís of Costa Rica—the country that currently holds CELAC’s presidency—and was attended by other heads of state and senior authorities from the group’s 33 member countries.
As a contribution to CELAC’s III Summit, Bárcena provided participants with a document by ECLAC that summarizes the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean of economic, social and population-related matters, as well as foreign investment, trade and gender equality.
The senior United Nations official emphasized that the study is part of a series of publications with which ECLAC has accompanied the growth process of CELAC, in particular: First Forum of China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC): Exploring Opportunities for Cooperation on Trade and Investment, which was distributed in Beijing this year; Natural Resources: Status and Trends Towards a Regional Development Agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean, prepared for CELAC’s II Summit held in Havana in January 2014; and the Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication in CELAC by 2025, developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with contributions from ECLAC and the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).
Bárcena said that the Economic and Social Panorama of the CELAC 2014 shows that Latin America overall grew just 1.1% last year, which marks the slowest expansion since 2009, although growth figures were greatly varied among countries. However, this modest performance did not affect the unemployment rate or harm spending or public investment in proportional terms.
At the same time, she added that the cycle of high commodities prices, which is reaching its end, does not appear to have been taken advantage of sufficiently to strengthen social protection policies that reduce vulnerability in the face of economic cycles.
In the social realm, Bárcena said there is concern about an incipient trend showing stagnation in the pace of poverty reduction, a phenomenon confirmed in ECLAC’s annual report Social Panorama of Latin America 2014, released this week by the Commission.
“The challenges are latent, the region still needs profound structural changes to advance on the path of equality and prosperity for all,” the organization’s Executive Secretary stated.
She added that this current year will bring important challenges for CELAC, such as the approval in the next United Nations General Assembly of a post-2015 development agenda that is universal, interdependent and indivisible, and in which all countries—no matter what their degree of development—must be jointly responsible for its fulfillment, based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities.
Other milestones will include the International Conference on Financing for Development, ahead of which ECLAC and the Chilean government have convened a regional consultation about development financing in Latin America and the Caribbean (which will be held at ECLAC’s headquarters March 12-13), as well as the II CELAC-EU Summit, scheduled to take place in Brussels in July.
“CELAC is the most important political achievement in the region in recent times and ECLAC, through all of these contributions, reiterates its commitment to this Community’s consolidation and success,” Bárcena concluded.