The Closing of the Session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean

On May 8, as reported in a prior post, the biennial session of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) opened in Havana. The post looks at its closing session on May 11.[1]

The 2030 Agenda and Its SDGs[2]

In September 2015, the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 and after 8 rounds of intergovernmental negotiations that included contributions from a wide variety of actors, approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Therefore, the ECLAC embraced that 2030 Agenda with the following SDGs:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

ECLAC’s “The Inefficiency of Inequality”[3]

The session approved ECLAC’s”The Inefficiency of Inequality.” According to its  Executive Secretary, Alicia Bácena, “We believe that equality, productivity and democracy are complementary strategic goods, which cannot be substituted for each other, even more so in a world experiencing sharp economic, political and environmental tensions.”

Equality, she said, “creates inclusive institutions and a culture that rewards innovation and effort, not the social class, ethnicity, gender or political connections of economic actors. In addition, it strengthens the positive democracies that require technical change, economic and political stability and care for the environment, and it enables access to capacities and opportunities on equal footing, in a context of technological revolution.”

“In the global economic framework, equality helps expand aggregate demand and reduce the intensity of domestic and external conflicts by promoting development.” She noted that Latin America and the Caribbean is the world’s most unequal region, with an average Gini coefficient of 0.5 compared with 0.45 for Sub-Saharan Africa, 0.4 for East Asia and the Pacific, and 0.3 for the countries of the OECD.

She added that “tax evasion in the region amounts to 6.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in terms of income tax and the value-added tax alone, while in the social arena gaps in access to education, the high rate of teenage motherhood, and ethnic-racial discrimination continue to perpetuate inequalities.”

There are also notable territorial inequalities between the different socioeconomic levels in aspects such as life expectancy, infant mortality, the illiteracy rate and access to drinking water in the home, to mention just a few. This is compounded by an economic model based on the extraction of natural resources, reduced and low-quality investment in infrastructure, gaps in the obtainment of sanitation, electricity and Internet, as well as the high costs resulting from the destructive effects of extreme climatological events that stem from climate change.

For these reasons, Bárcena emphasized, the task that lies ahead for the region is to move toward sustainable development in its three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. To achieve this, it is necessary to revitalize investment and fully insert the region in the fourth industrial revolution, with a central focus on decarbonization and decoupling growth and environmental impact.

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary underscored that the sum of national actions is not enough; multilateral institutions are needed for greater global cooperation, as well as the provision of global public goods and means of implementation that close gaps in financing, technology and trade. “Our region has an enormous chance to modernize and propose new agreements that close financial, technological and trade asymmetries at a global level.”

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary’s Concluding Comments

 The Executive Secretary also  ratified the session’s granting priority to the future development of the Caribbean countries. She explained that the “small island states are the most vulnerable in the area, due to international financial challenges and the effects of climate change.” In short, “The Caribbean first, we have said it loud and clear.”

Cuba Foreign Minister’s Comments

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez, warned that the attacks on multilateralism are increasingly more serious and new threats are lurking in the region. “The process of implementing the 2030 Agenda poses great challenges for our countries. While there is progress, poverty and inequality are on the rise and financial resources are insufficient. New resources are essential.”  He also commended the important role played by ECLAC, and particularly its Executive Secretary in supporting the countries and following the Agenda.

Cuba Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment’s Speech

Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, said that the 2030 Agenda is “a guide in the fulfillment of the objectives for the sustainable development of the region” and that Cuba as pro tempore president of the organization will support this Agenda and “provide assistance to the most vulnerable countries, with special attention to the Caribbean regions. We do it with a high commitment and awareness of the challenges we face. We need to achieve a better articulation of regional strategies from solid commitments to do better and united.”

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[1] Closing of the ECLAC: Cuba will reinforce the fight against inequality, CubaDebate (May 11, 2018); ECLAC, Foreign Ministers and UN Authorities Defend Multilateralism as a Key Tool for Sustainable Development with Equality (May 11, 2018).

[2] U.N., United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 (Sept. 25-27, 2015); U.N. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sept. 2015).

[3] ECLAC, The Inefficiency of Inequality. Summary; ECLAC, Equality Not Only Promotes Social Well-Being, but Also Contributes to an Economic System Propitious for Learning, Productivity and Environmental Protection (May 10, 2018).