Eradicating Poverty in All its Forms is the Greatest Challenge Today and Constitutes an Indispensable Requirement for Sustainable Development
Delegates from the 33 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean reaffirmed today in San José their commitment to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ensuring that no one is left behind, including its Goals and targets, which are of an integrated and indivisible nature and conjoin the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – at the conclusion of the Fifth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, which was held in the capital of Costa Rica.
At the meeting – which brought together nearly 1,200 people, more than half of them in person – the countries also stressed that the 2030 Agenda is people-centered, universal and transformative, and that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest challenge the world faces and constitutes an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. That is why it is crucial to reach those furthest behind first and to empower those who are in situations of vulnerability.
The three-day event featured the participation of 260 registered delegates, as well as 230 representatives of the United Nations System (among them, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, Amina Mohammed, who is the global entity’s second-ranking authority), 21 officials from intergovernmental organizations, 19 from financial institutions and 22 from cooperation agencies, along with more than 300 representatives of civil society, academia and the private sector. They were joined by the thousands of people who followed the meeting via social platforms and the public transmissions of the sessions.
The fifth meeting of the Forum concluded with a ceremony presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, Rodolfo Solano Quirós, and the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, who received a heartfelt tribute for her nearly 14 years at the helm of this United Nations regional commission, a post that she will leave on March 31.
“Today we say goodbye to Alicia Bárcena, a partner in this fight for Latin America and the Caribbean’s well-being, to a friend, almost an accomplice… but the legacy that we have built along with her and that is an invaluable asset to our region must remain, be further developed and put into practice,” Minister Solano stated.
His remarks prompted a standing ovation by the delegates that lasted several minutes, in appreciation for the tireless work of ECLAC’s Executive Secretary.
In addition, and in the framework of the Forum, the Government of Costa Rica, through its President Carlos Alvarado, awarded Bárcena the Grand Cross Silver Breast Star of the National Order of Juan Mora Fernández, which is the highest distinction that the country confers on foreign nationals, for her outstanding work in defense of the protection of the environment, equality and human rights. The government indicated that this “award (was) granted for her work in defense of citizens’ rights from the forums for regional dialogue or technical cooperation to the Executive Secretariat of ECLAC, where, with great national pride, we can say that she was the first woman to hold such high office.”
This tribute was also enshrined in the document that brings together the conclusions and recommendations of the Forum, in which the participating delegates expressed their deepest appreciation to Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, the first woman to hold that office, for her dedicated service, tireless work, leadership and support to the region, in a career spanning more than 20 years at the United Nations, to advance sustainable development, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the establishment of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development in 2016.
In his remarks, Foreign Minister Solano summed up the main work of the Forum and shared 12 key concepts that arose out of the debates: fostering peace, dialogue and active participation, as the path to sustainable development; reducing the large economic, social and environmental gaps and asymmetries between countries and within countries; access to innovative financing so that Latin America and the Caribbean can roll back the crisis; cooperation and transition so that the countries of our region are not left out of cooperation and of access to concessional finance; a recovery that would be truly transformative, based on science, and that would be sustainable, green and blue, inclusive, just, innovative and resilient; rendering visible our region’s biodiversity; climate change, to which our region is highly vulnerable; new social and economic compacts so that the recovery can be sustainable; gender equality; the care society; regional integration, greater political dialogue and, above all, unifying our voice vis-à-vis the international community; and aspiring to a new multilateralism that would make sustainable development the first priority and include the reconfiguration of the international financial architecture.
“This Forum is an example of how we can take advantage of our voice on United Nations platforms to meld priorities and concerns that we have as a region. ECLAC is a privileged space due to its invaluable technical input and rigorous analysis, in the framework of which we are promoting an agenda that responds to the consensuses we have achieved regarding how we imagine that future – sustainable, inclusive, innovative and resilient,” Minister Solano indicated.
Meanwhile, in her closing remarks, Alicia Bárcena emphasized that the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development is the space that allows the region to speak with its own voice, to recognize its rich diversity while at the same time encouraging shared aspirations and making them converge.
She also highlighted the presentation of the fifth report on regional progress and challenges in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, entitled A decade of action for a change of era, which presents specific proposals in four areas: strengthening multilateralism, particularly with regard to financing for development; improving implementation of productive, social and environmental policies of national and regional scope; building up the resilience of institutions; and overcoming conflicts through agreements and compacts.
The participating delegates noted this report with appreciation in the Forum’s final document of conclusions. They also commended the 28 countries of the region that have already presented voluntary national reviews at the ministerial segment of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and the 8 countries preparing to do so in 2022 – of which 4 are presenting a second or third review – and they highlighted the commitment and leadership shown by these countries in their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly by integrating it into their national strategies and adjusting their institutional arrangements.
In remarks to bid farewell, Alicia Bárcena indicated that in her 14 years at the head of ECLAC she dedicated her efforts to “gathering data, unveiling numbers, building arguments on the basis of rigorous analyses to demonstrate that the structural anchor that inhibits our just development is the brutal weight of our distinctive trait: inequality,” she said. “We did not stop at the diagnosis. With an attentive ear, with our eyes open to the data and to the needs of our region’s countries, we have tried to build proposals, to give ourselves the analytical and public policy tools to move forward, with full respect for the sovereign will of each of our countries, along the path of our urgent emancipation.”
“This has been an extraordinary period for me. The young woman I was some time ago became aware early of the unfair order laid out before her eyes. The flame of rebellion was lit then. The woman that I am today is thankful that this flame continues to burn, and I have the secret hope of having spread that same fire to others,” Alicia Bárcena stated upon saying goodbye to the Forum’s attendees.
The document of conclusions and recommendations approved by the delegates – which will be taken to the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development of 2022, which is held under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – also recognizes the entry into force (on April 22, 2021) of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Escazú Agreement, and invites the States parties to participate in the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Agreement (COP1), which will take place on April 20-22, 2022 in Santiago, Chile.
Likewise, it recalls the importance of the Political declaration on a sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean, approved by the Foreign Ministers and high-level representatives of the region gathered virtually on the occasion of the thirty-eighth session of ECLAC, which was held under the Presidency of Costa Rica on October 26-28, 2020.
With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, the document underlines that governments have the primary responsibility for adopting and implementing responses that are specific to their national context, as well as for mobilizing the necessary resources to do so. In this context, it emphasizes that the recovery from the pandemic should enhance and support development policies in Latin America and the Caribbean, foster investment in innovation, research and development, as well as renewed regional solidarity and cooperation.
Furthermore, the delegates call for a global coordinated multilateral response to address the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on sustainable development, as well as the policies needed to address the current economic downturn and future depression, to begin economic recovery and to minimize the negative effects on livelihoods, while striving to get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
On the same grounds, it stresses the need to grant special dispensation to the vulnerable countries of the region with regard to the actions of credit rating agencies and the measures necessary to achieve debt sustainability and reduce the indebtedness of developing countries.
The delegates also reiterate the call to further address the specific development needs of middle-income countries through, among other things, innovative financing for development. In this regard, they invite ECLAC to continue gathering information on the impact of losing access to Official Development Assistance (ODA) and concessional finance on development gains as countries attain different income levels, including through, but not limited to, the development in transition approach, and on how the international system and national governments can ensure that the development gains associated with higher income are sustained in countries that are transitioning towards sustainable development.