ECLAC: Multilateral cooperation in the Caribbean vital

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation and commitments on fiscal, technological and financial matters in complying with the 2030 United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development in the region.

In addressing a high-level dialogue organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, emphasized the need to channel investment toward green sectors, and fight tax evasion and avoidance.

In the context of the escalating risk of a global trade war, Bárcena urged regional countries to focus on implementing the 2030 UN Agenda as “a top priority,” with particular emphasis on financing and technology.

“This includes channeling investment toward sectors that have a low carbon path and are environmentally sustainable, as well as fighting tax evasion and avoidance,” she said.

ECLAC’s executive secretary underlined the need to create new compacts between the public and private sectors in advancing towards compliance with the 2030 Agenda and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She said that, while the voluntary national reviews and efforts being made by countries are very important, “there are many relevant issues at the regional and global levels that require the attention of all, particularly the design and implementation of measures, policies and strategies for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.”

Bárcena said one of these is tax evasion and avoidance in Latin America and the Caribbean, “which has reached US$340 billion dollars, or 6.7 percent of regional gross domestic product (GDP).

“This is not a national problem. Tax evasion is a very serious problem in many of our countries,” she stressed. “It is urgent that we put an end to the culture of privilege.

“We need for big transnationals to pay, because public services are not provided by private companies but rather by the states that finance them,” she added.

Bárcena also pointed out that governance of the natural resources of Latin America and the Caribbean is needed, “which involves, among other things, transnational companies paying taxes in the places where they make their earnings.”

In addition, the senior United Nations official raised the alarm on the situation of middle-income countries that cannot obtain concessional financing.

“We do not want official development assistance, but we need a transition before graduating,” she said, stating that, of the 33 countries that comprise the region, 32 are considered middle-income countries.

That is, they are “on the path to development,” Bárcena said.

She called for measuring what the impact of the globalization of technology will be on Latin America and the Caribbean, and indicated, as priority issues, the investment in infrastructure and “gaining clarity on the blurry lines between trade and services.”

At Trinidad and Tobago’s Mission to the UN in New York, ECLAC’s executive secretary met with the ambassadors and permanent representatives of various countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to the United Nations, where she reaffirmed the strategy known as “The Caribbean first,” which ECLAC has been promoting in recent months.

There, Bárcena renewed her commitment to the Caribbean and vowed to continue making strong calls for supporting the countries of the sub-region in all international forums, “so that they can overcome the vulnerabilities that afflict them, and advance in a determined fashion toward the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s SDGs.”

Among those present at the gathering were Pennelope Beckles, the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to the global organization, and diplomatic representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, CARICOM, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, in addition to Diane Quarless, director of ECLAC’s Sub-regional Headquarters for the Caribbean (located in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago).

“‘The Caribbean first’ strategy arose from the enthusiasm and expressions of solidarity toward the sub-region during the second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, held in Santiago, Chile last April and where Caribbean participation was very powerful,” Bárcena said.

“On that occasion, it became clear that the unique combination of circumstances that these countries face can weaken their valiant efforts to achieve sustainable development,” she told delegates.

She added that this strategy seeks to put the focus on the persistent challenges to development in the Caribbean, raising the levels of national and regional support in the quest for solutions, giving primacy to the issues that critically affect the sub-region in all of ECLAC’s forums, galvanizing financial help and technical assistance to address its priorities, and promoting greater participation of the entire Caribbean in the Commission’s meetings and initiatives.

In her address, Bárcena also presented the main conclusions of ECLAC’s report, “The Caribbean Outlook,” which provides data showing the Caribbean’s current vulnerability in economic, financial, social and environmental terms.

She also referred to the initiative of swapping debt for climate change adaptation — a proposal made by ECLAC in late 2015 — as “an innovative strategy that implies taking advantage of concessional flows to transform the sub-region’s debt into a source of investment in resilience, while, at the same time, reinvigorating growth and promoting the transformation of its economies through investment in projects for adaptation and green industries.

“At ECLAC, we have committed ourselves to supporting the Caribbean in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, ensuring financing through cooperation agencies, providing technical assistance to governments, so that follow-up of these goals be included in national development plans, strengthening local statistics offices, and organizing gatherings to facilitate peer review with a sub-regional approach,” Bárcena said.

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