Representatives of Civil Society Evaluate Implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the Region Prior to the Fifth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development
The Civil Society Participation Mechanism in the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development met virtually on Sunday, March 6, to exchange ideas, experiences and proposals regarding implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region’s countries, giving special consideration to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to adapt the responses of governments and society as a whole.
The Meeting of civil society from Latin America and the Caribbean, entitled “Social dialogue as an instrument for the design, implementation and monitoring of inclusive and sustainable recovery policies,” took place prior to the start of the Fifth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development on Monday, March 7, in San José, Costa Rica.
Participating in the civil society meeting’s opening session were Christian Guillermet Fernández, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica; Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and representatives of the Civil Society Participation Mechanism, Mabel Bianco and Bárbara Jiménez.
Deputy Foreign Minister Christian Guillermet Fernández indicated that the region faces enormous challenges to properly fulfilling the 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that the signs of war make them even more difficult. At the same time, he expressed a commitment “to continue supporting the active and significant participation of civil society in this process.”
“We hope that the Forum’s outcomes have a real impact on the actions being carried out at a national and regional level. It is important to never lose sight of the impact on people, on that person who is in the countryside, who is in the city, those women, children, older persons, people with disabilities, Afro-descendants, vulnerable groups, indigenous populations. They are the ones who must drive our actions,” the Costa Rican authority stated.
Meanwhile, Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, highlighted the path tread by civil society organizations since the first meeting of the Forum in 2017 in Mexico City. “Society’s participation has always been robust, representing around 20% of all those attending,” she said.
In her welcome remarks, Bárcena analyzed the current socioeconomic panorama in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region of the developing world most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. “We are living through a very complex time, with major asymmetries between the developed world and developing countries,” the senior UN official said, reiterating that Latin America and the Caribbean must overcome the structural gaps that keep it from achieving development with equality. The current model – the main characteristic of which is to reproduce inequality in all its forms – is unsustainable, she stressed.
Bárcena indicated that in 2021 the region experienced a “short-lived recovery” of GDP (6.2%), since growth is expected to decelerate to 2.1% in 2022, according to ECLAC’s projections. In addition, the extreme poverty rate increased to 13.8% of the population (86 million people), marking a setback of 27 years, amid inflationary pressures that affect precisely the poorest people, she warned, adding that “104 people in our region have the wealth equivalent to 11% of GDP.”
Government recovery plans must give priority to employment for women, who have been the most affected by the pandemic, she sustained.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary asked civil society to support the Plan for Self-Sufficiency in Health Matters, developed by ECLAC and approved in 2021 by the countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which seeks to strengthen the production and distribution of medicines, and especially vaccines, in the region. “We want to achieve the dream of having a regional regulatory agency, articulating consortiums to produce vaccines in the region and moving forward on joint procurement,” she stated.
“This necessitates that we have a vision of regional integration that is much more pragmatic, less politicized, where we can truly have our own voice, which has been missing in all the forums. Multilateralism is going through a very delicate time, of great precariousness. In addition to vaccine-related nationalism, today we are living through a conflict that is showing us that there is money for weapons, but not for development. Our region could be a big loser in terms of international cooperation,” Bárcena asserted, calling for fortifying regional systems and structures along with civil society organizations.
“We have to create different governance mechanisms. The Escazú Agreement (on access to information, public participation and justice in environmental matters in Latin America and the Caribbean) demonstrates that civil society has to be at the negotiating table, articulating treaties that will be central to it in the future,” she emphasized.
In her remarks, Bárcena also noted with feeling that she is ending her time at the United Nations in Costa Rica, which is precisely where she began her journey as a member of civil society, founding and running the non-governmental Earth Council. “I know about the difficulties you face when trying to carry out such a complex and important agenda as the Agenda 21 was in its time. Today it is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she said.
“When I conclude my term as Executive Secretary of ECLAC on March 31, I will continue working with you, civil society, on what has been our dream: to be able to eliminate the structural constraints, change the unequal power relations, change the development pattern and continue fighting for the well-being of all. We are social fighters, we are political fighters. We must not forget that people outside are asking us what we are discussing, what we are achieving,” she stressed.
Mabel Bianco of the Civil Society Participation Mechanism took the opportunity to thank Alicia Bárcena for her leadership and imprint, and her steady support of civil society while at the helm of ECLAC. “All of us at the mechanism have appreciated ECLAC’s leadership and how we have achieved this articulation,” Bianco said. She also agreed that “today, amid this crazy but cruel war, is when dialogue is most needed. The region must supply itself, no one is going to cooperate with us at this time of crisis.”
The Fifth Meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development will take place on March 7-9, 2022 in San José under the Presidency of Costa Rica and the auspices of ECLAC. The objective of this gathering is to analyze the progress on regional implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Participants in the Forum will include high-level government delegates from the region’s 33 countries and representatives of United Nations system agencies, funds and programs, of international financial institutions and development banks, regional and subregional integration bodies, civil society, parliamentary institutions, academia and the private sector, both from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as other regions of the world.
The civil society declaration is scheduled to be read at the Forum on Wednesday, March 9 at 1 p.m. local time in Costa Rica (GMT-6).