Sat | May 15, 2021

Caribbean countries confirm commitment to agenda for tackling COVID crisis

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2021 | 2:59 PM
United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena (contributed photo)

SANTIAGO,  Jan.  16, CMC – The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) says regional countries have confirmed their commitment to the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development (RAISD) for tackling the current COVID-19 crisis and moving towards a transformative recovery with greater focus on equality. 

ECLAC said regional authorities and officials made the commitment during the Fourth Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The event, held virtually, was inaugurated by ECLAC’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena; Luis Felipe López-Calva, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Program; and Javier May Rodríguez, Secretary of Welfare of Mexico, in his capacity as chair of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is a subsidiary body of ECLAC. 

Participating in the meeting were 35 delegations from ECLAC’s member-states and associate members, represented by 18 ministers, two deputy ministers and 15 senior social development authorities. 

“Inequality defines our region. The measures implemented by governments allowed for partially mitigating the social impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” Bárcena said. 

“Social protection systems have a central role to play at this historic juncture,” she added, stressing that, in order to connect the emergency to the recovery, it is necessary to put emphasis on vaccinating the entire population, on expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, on creating jobs oriented towards environmental sustainability, and on expanding regional integration and cooperation. 

López-Calva said that “the path to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean will depend on the institutional capacity to acquire and administer vaccines, on having quality fiscal management, on having access to financing and on being able to establish elements for effective governance,” adding that “the challenge is huge.”

Rodríguez said that the meeting “gives us the opportunity to join forces and boost synergies among the different actors who work on behalf of implementing the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development, with an approach centered on the human dimension and which fosters South-South cooperation. 

“We are calling for prompt consolidation of the 2021 work plan, through which we can obtain solutions on the Regional Agenda’s axes,” he said. “We are convinced of the importance of continuing to work on designing a new generation of social policies that are more cross-cutting, universal and sustainable.” 

In her presentation, “Social Challenges and the Agenda for Inclusive Social Development in the Time of COVID-19”, Bárcena said that, in 2020, the regional countries took 263 emergency social protection measures to confront the pandemic, “allowing them to partially mitigate the social impact of the crisis.” 

She said the cash and in-kind transfers made by countries, which can be found at ECLAC’s COVID-19 Observatory in Latin America and the Caribbean, covered about half of the regional population, with a cost equivalent to two times the annual spending on programs for conditional transfers and social pensions. 

ECLAC said the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development, approved in October 2019 in Mexico in the framework of the Third Regional Conference on Social Development, is a technical and political instrument that promotes implementation of the social dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

It includes 56 lines of action organised around four axes: Universal and comprehensive social protection systems; policies for social and labour inclusion; a strengthened social institutional framework; and regional cooperation and integration.

In the current scenario, ECLAC said officials advocated for concentrating on five proposals: extending the emergency basic income; furthering care systems and women’s labour inclusion; investing 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually in a basic digital basket; negotiating public spending with active fiscal policies; and rethinking social protection systems.

“We want to move towards a welfare state that would guarantee rights and build capacities,” Bárcena said. “The 2030 Agenda and the RAISD are more valid than ever, but they face enormous challenges. 

“We need to build consensus for universal, redistributive and solidarity-based policies,” she said. “No progress will be possible without fiscal and social compacts that enable cohesion and strengthen democracy, with participation and a real sense of belonging for all.” 

During the meeting, ECLAC said participating countries approved the proposed work plan for implementation of the RAISD, discussions on which will continue at the Fourth Meeting of the conference, which will be held virtually in November 2021, with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda hosting and where the depth of COVID-19’s effects on the population will be examined.

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