Latin America and the Caribbean requires new social and fiscal pacts to build universal, inclusive, resilient and sustainable social protection systems that allow facing the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and the generalized context of disasters in the region, representatives in the inauguration of the Fourth Meeting of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean co-organized virtually by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) and the PUnited Nations Development Program (Pnud) next to Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The regional meeting was opened by Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development and the Blue Economy of Antigua and Barbuda; Javier May, Secretary of Welfare of Mexico; Luis Felipe López-Calva, Undp regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean; and Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of CepaL, who later presented the document Disasters and inequality in a protracted crisis: towards universal, comprehensive, resilient and sustainable social protection systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean presents us with a unique opportunity to reflect honestly and critically and evaluate the progress made in our countries and in the region in terms of social protection. We must not take this opportunity for granted, ”said Minister Dean Jonas of Antigua and Barbuda.
He called for being “proactive and innovative” to achieve a transformative recovery within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.
During his speech, the minister not only warned about the high vulnerability of the Caribbean countries to the effects of climate change, in a context of high indebtedness, but also about the generalized increase in inflation, with great impact on the most disadvantaged populations , he warned. To face these challenges, it is necessary to promote strategic trade between the countries of the region and transform social protection systems to move towards more inclusive and egalitarian societies, he remarked.
The Secretary of Welfare Javier May also highlighted the work carried out by the Regional Conference on Social Development since the Third Meeting held in 2019 in Mexico City, when the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development (ARSDI). The current context of crisis, he said, makes it necessary to propose new public policies for social protection, which include agile methods of rebuilding territories and that are focused on people’s lives. In his opinion, the countries of the region should review the ARSDI given that “the critical nodes of social development are not static and we have the historical responsibility to address the causes of poverty, social emergencies, violence, marginalization, racism and injustice ”.
An example of your country’s commitment to regional cooperation to face these challenges is the creation of a fund for comprehensive response to disasters, formalized on September 18 during the last Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Community of States. Latin Americans and Caribbean (Celac), whose Presidency pro tempore is exercised by the Government of Mexico, explained May, who handed over the Presidency of the Regional Conference to Minister Dean Jonas of Antigua and Barbuda.
In these times of high uncertainty, effective governance is key to managing risk. This requires a new social contract that can collectively manage risks and with a sustainable and universal protection system for a more resilient and equitable economy, and that fosters productivity, “he said. Luis Felipe López-Calva, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNDP.
“The pandemic has become a multidimensional disaster,” said Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of ECLAC. Started as a health emergency, it quickly turned into the worst economic crisis in the last 100 years, with severe impacts on women; girls, boys, adolescents and young people; and indigenous and Afro-descendant populations. But this is not the only cause for alarm in the region, clarified Bárcena.
“So are disasters of geological and hydrometeorological origin and the effects of climate change,” he emphasized.
The Fourth Meeting of the Regional Conference on Social Developmentl it is carried out in a general context of disasters, the senior international official warned and mentioned the droughts that are having serious consequences in the Central American Dry Corridor, the Paraná basin or the Southern Cone and the devastating hurricane season that has hit the Caribbean, as well as the continuous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
This is an ideal occasion to amplify the voice of the Caribbean and its specificities, challenges and lessons learned, placing the subregion at the center of social development in the region ”, highlighted the highest representative of ECLAC.
According to Bárcena, COVID-19 put at the forefront the importance of developing universal, inclusive, resilient and sustainable social protection systems, to achieve a transformative recovery with equality and sustainability. For this, he reiterated, new social and fiscal pacts must be carried out.
The social pacts should be oriented to promote the culture of equality and give legitimacy to structural reforms and transformative policies with a rights approach, to thus achieve a society of care, with cohesion and participation, as a permanent part of the democratic culture, he stated. Fiscal contracts must finance social investment with financial sustainability, with progressive tax policies that allow increasing collection from those who concentrate the greatest wealth, he said.
“The region must persist in its efforts towards robust social institutions, financial sustainability of social protection systems, regional integration and international cooperation,” Bárcena concluded.