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Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean Approve ECLAC’s Proposal to Fuel a Transformation of the Region’s Development in the Wake of COVID-19

The United Nations regional commission’s thirty-eighth session concluded today with a ceremony led by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed; the Permanent Representative of Guyana to the UN, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett; ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena; and Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister, Rodolfo Solano.

28 October 2020|Press Release

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Closing ceremony of ECLAC's 38th session
Closing ceremony of ECLAC's 38th session.
Photo: ECLAC

The thirty-eighth session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) concluded this Wednesday, October 28, with countries’ recognition of the work carried out by the United Nations regional commission and their approval of the proposal presented in the document Building a New Future: Transformative Recovery with Equality and Sustainability, in which the Commission calls for forging a new, post-COVID-19 future in the region through a transformative development recovery, with greater equality and sustainability.

ECLAC’s most important biennial meeting – which was held virtually for the first time – wrapped up its debates today with a ceremony featuring the participation of Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Permanent Representative of Guyana to the UN and Chair of the Group of 77 and China; Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; and Rodolfo Solano, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, which is the country that now holds ECLAC’s presidency for the next two years.

A total of 800 people participated in the three-day event, of whom 400 were government delegates; 55 were from UN agencies, funds and programs; seven were representatives of regional organizations; and 300 were from civil society. In addition, 24 Ministers of Foreign Affairs and 19 deputy ministers were present on the session’s panels. In all, the meeting’s transmissions drew more than 40,000 views via ECLAC’s various online platforms aimed at public dissemination.

As the session came to a close, the representatives of 43 Member States and 9 associate members of ECLAC attending the event approved 14 resolutions in which they urge the Commission to continue its work collaborating with Member States on a comprehensive analysis of development processes geared to the design, monitoring and evaluation of public policies, and to keep providing operational services in the fields of specialized information, advisory services, training and support for regional and international cooperation and coordination.

In particular, they approved the “San José Resolution” – in honor of the capital of Costa Rica, the country that served as host of this session even though it was entirely carried out by virtual means – in which the countries of the region welcome the integrated approach to development that has marked the thinking of ECLAC since its inception, and the relevance of the issues examined, and express support for the general tenor of the conclusions set forth in the position document presented by the Commission. Furthermore, it instructs the organization to conduct studies and formulate public policy proposals in the countries, in close cooperation with their policymakers, with a view to supporting the building of national capacities for the achievement of sustainable development.

In her speech, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, thanked the Government of Costa Rica for chairing the meeting and congratulated ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, “for her incredible leadership and commitment to the Latin America and Caribbean region.”

“On Monday, the UN Secretary-General (António Guterres) rightly praised ECLAC’s pioneering role in pushing for a more inclusive understanding of sustainable development. This week has proven once again that ECLAC has truly established itself as the regional think tank of the UN Secretariat in the region and as a key regional forum for policy dialogue,” she highlighted.

Mohammed indicated that the negative effects of COVID-19 in the region’s countries have constrained government responses to the urgencies of the pandemic and, in the medium term, undermine their capacity to build back better. “In this sense, the United Nations, and ECLAC in particular, have put many bold and innovative proposals on the table, such as an emergency basic income for the most vulnerable, tax exemptions and grace periods for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, a basic digital basket, a new political and fiscal compact to ensure universal social protection and a green energy transition in the region, among others,” she stated.

“Over the past three days, we have heard the bold efforts that many countries of this region are undertaking to face the immediate impact of COVID-19 and to maintain the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the blueprint for their medium and long-term efforts. This gives us great hope,” Mohammed indicated. “Building back better means putting equality and environmental sustainability at the center of the recovery.”

Meanwhile, Ambassador Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett congratulated Alicia Bárcena for the groundbreaking analyses that ECLAC continues to deliver, including the document presented at this session. “We must center our thinking on some critical actions as we chart the way forward, putting increasing emphasis on implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the importance of financing for development, which is one of the focuses of this meeting,” she stated.

Such actions include building policy coherence and institutional capacity, access to financing (which is critical to the global recovery and economic growth), the need for international financial institutions to adopt new approaches to risks and to reduce the pro-cyclical nature of financial flows to countries, and forging trusted development partnerships, with support from the UN Development System.

“The 2030 Agenda provides the framework to respond effectively to current challenges. To complement national actions, regional organizations like ECLAC play an important role in applying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the regional context,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.

In her closing remarks, Alicia Bárcena thanked the Government of Costa Rica for its leadership during this session and its vision and commitment for the next two years at the helm of ECLAC. She also praised the Political declaration on a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery, which the Foreign Ministers of the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean signed in the framework of ECLAC’s thirty-eighth session.

“There is broad consensus that the pandemic has exposed the inequalities and fragilities of the region’s countries. In this context, the international community must take into account the specific problems faced by middle-income countries in the region and by small island states in the Caribbean. We must bear in mind the structural gaps and the situation of vulnerability that have been exposed by COVID-19,” Bárcena emphasized.

“We have submitted for your approval a bold proposal, with evidence, with scenarios for managing this complex time of enormous challenges. Perhaps the most profound element is the firm call to change the development model and redouble efforts aimed at a post-COVID-19 recovery guided by the principles of inclusive development, equality and sustainability,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary told participants.

“The document that we presented is a realistic and necessary document for action, which responds to the urgent needs of Latin America and the Caribbean. We want to reiterate that emerging from this crisis will require transformative leaderships and a capacity for dialogue and for forging political and social compacts that amass broad coalitions to guarantee universal access to health care, to social protection, to employment with dignity. A change in production and consumption modes is needed in order to build Welfare States,” Bárcena added.

“Building back with equality and sustainability is the way forward. This will necessitate social and political compacts to ensure that these objectives become State policy, with the participation of communities, businesses, women and young people. At the same time, new forms of global governance are needed to provide global public goods, such as universal health care (a coronavirus vaccine for all), climate security and protection of the atmosphere, financial stability, peace and human rights protection,” Alicia Bárcena stressed.

Finally, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, Rodolfo Solano, also thanked ECLAC and its Executive Secretary for the meeting’s success in the context of this new, virtual reality. He indicated that the session’s debates pointed to the need to restore axioms of the social compact: solidarity, cooperation, the fight against inequality, inclusion and innovation. “These are the guideposts along the way for our work over the next two years,” the Foreign Minister specified.

“Multilateralism, solidarity and international cooperation are the only real way out of this unprecedented crisis, and they must become the center of our work. That is what the Secretary-General, António Guterres, indicated, and we share this view. The maxim of leaving no one behind must inspire the decisions that our countries take in the future, in fulfillment of development commitments and those of the 2030 Agenda,” Solano sustained.

“No transformation will be possible without the component of fresh resources from international financial institutions. But these resources cannot come with the same conditions that are required today; instead, it will be necessary to foster longer maturities, lower interest rates, and more extended grace periods. In this effort, ECLAC can support countries in building the narrative that explains their fiscal obligations in terms of the transformative commitment to arriving at well-being based on the criteria of the common good,” he stated.