ECLAC chief calls for ‘new narrative’ on international cooperation

Alicia Bárcena

PANAMA CITY — The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, has called for a “new narrative” on international cooperation for the region’s development.

In addressing a high-level meeting in Panama City, organised by the European Union (EU), Bárcena said there was need for “rethinking development and generating a new consensus, based on greater regional integration, international cooperation that effectively supports the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean in their transition to development, and investments and industrial policies that favour the environmental push toward more sustainable growth for equality.”

Bárcena was one of the main speakers at the EU’s Regional Seminar for Latin America and the Caribbean, convened by the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development of the European Union (DG DEVCO).

The seminar concluded on Friday.

Bárcena participated in the panel “Opportunities for cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean in the context of the EU Consensus,” along with Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of DG DEVCO; Jorge Familiar Calderón, Vice President of the World Bank; and Mario Pezzini, Director of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Centre.

In her remarks, the ECLAC’s executive secretary said that, “in light of the deep tectonic shifts currently defining globalisation – the technological revolution, the future of work in view of robotics, climate change, geopolitical changes, the crisis of mega-agreements, migration and the aging population – it is urgent that we seek new patterns of production and consumption.

“In this scenario, the United Nations 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a paradigm shift; it is a civilizing agenda that requires better international and regional governance,” Bárcena underscored.
“In this uncertain international context, international cooperation plays a key role, particularly for nations in transition or middle-income countries,” she added.

Bárcena said that currently 85 of the countries in the region are included in this category, “which classifies them according to per capita gross national product (GNP), without considering the deep structural gaps that many of them present.

“These countries have ‘graduated’, so to speak, and are no longer eligible to receive official development aid (ODA), but this does not guarantee their access to other sources of financing and eliminates trade preferences,” she said.

“In the case of small island developing states (SIDS), especially in the Caribbean, the size and isolation of their economies are a significant restriction to the mobilisation of national resources, in addition to their vulnerability to the effects of climate change and debt accumulation,” Bárcena added.

She reiterated that although Latin America and the Caribbean have managed to significantly reduce inequalities in recent years, it continues to be the most unequal region in the world.

Bárcena said that this reduction of inequalities has led to “a transformation in the structure of societies, pulling a large number of households out of poverty.”

She pointed to figures that show that the middle classes are increasing at a greater rate than the average for OECD countries.

“Nevertheless, these middle classes have been left more vulnerable to the setbacks of development, which could return them to a situation of poverty,” Bárcena said.

“As we indicated in our last institutional document, inequality is inefficient in that it generates a vicious circle of low productivity and social exclusion,” she said.

“For this reason, we advocate for a new style of development that ends the culture of privilege, and is based on sustainable transformation and a big environmental push, on productive inclusion with more technology, better institutions that inspire confidence in citizens and, above all, greater equality and universal access to welfare,” Bárcena added.

On the role of international cooperation, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary reaffirmed that South-South and triangular cooperation provide for the protection of the interests of middle-income nations – to bolster the participation of developing nations in global forums on fiscal cooperation, and to address the damaging fiscal competition among countries through integrated regional programmes.

“Therefore, it is increasingly necessary that we strengthen less asymmetrical forms of cooperation,” she said.

Bárcena said that the recent regional “Agreement to Facilitate the Development of Countries in Transition,” signed by the EU, ECLAC and the OECD, is “a tool that opens an unprecedented space for rethinking a new type of development and advancing toward renewed cooperation that must be based on six pillars.”

She identified these pillars as stronger regional dialogue; greater emphasis on cooperation on fiscal policies that allow for the mobilisation of resources, both domestic and international; investment in industrial and technological policies that favour a big environmental push; and improved statistical capacities for better measurement.

The other pillars are focus on gender equality; the opening of spaces for dialogue among governments, businesses and citizens, as well as better coordination with the United Nations system, regional entities and development banks.