(14 August 2013) Today, authorities from several countries and international experts took part in a high-level panel discussion in the context of ECLAC'sFirst session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo, Uruguay, where they highlighted the importance of a paradigm change in the current development model, with a view to constructing a post-2015 regional agenda.
The panel discussion was chaired by Luis Almagro, Uruguay's Foreign Affairs Minister, and involved Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister, Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, Marcela Suazo, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Meeting participants analysed the region's current situation, which is more resilient than developed economies while also facing many challenges in terms of equality, productivity and sustainability. They agreed on the need for consensus around a development agenda based on equality with a medium-term vision and a clear sequence of events: closing remaining gaps in terms of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), placing people at the heart, and aiming for universal sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Uruguayan Minister Luis Almagro said that the new development agenda should be based on human rights, and should continue the international standards achieved with so much effort in recent years. He stated "Human rights should be recognized in all population and development matters".
Mr. Almagro added that there are inequalities that urgently need to be resolved, such as problems in accessing sexual and reproductive health services, teenage pregnancies (which keep people in poverty), greater empowerment and gender equality, legal gaps in enforcing the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples, recognition of diversity of sexual orientation and protection of migrants.
Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, emphasized that major challenges remain in terms of inequalities throughout the region and within countries, hence the need for specific policies to address these. He also stressed that the sexual and reproductive rights of young people should be protected and promoted. He stated that it was important to increase international cooperation to achieve the aims of the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994.
Mr.Patriota declared that "we must work on the link between social development and human rights, rather than taking it for granted. The post-2015 agenda must be universal and reflect the aims of developed and developing countries alike".
Minister Leslie Ramsammy spoke out in favour of women's sexual and reproductive rights, saying that it was a public health issue. He stated "We can have a better world for our children and future generations if we concentrate on achieving better conditions for children, women, people of various sexual orientations and those with mental health problems. A better world is possible".
Marcela Suazo declared that, 19 years after Cairo, the region is at a historic moment in terms of making progress with a post-2015 agenda and a new development paradigm based on well-being and happiness. She explained that the basic principles that bring together this agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean should be universal and interdependent human rights, solidarity and tolerance among peoples, recognition of equality in diversity and social inclusion without distinction for race, ethnic group or gender identity.
According to Ms.Suazo "The new post-2015 development agenda must recognize that States create the conditions for tackling ongoing gaps in terms of rights. We have a unique opportunity to build a world without exclusion for every man, woman and child".
In her address, Alicia Bárcena underscored the fact that this First session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development of ECLAC is based on women's issues, and this provides the opportunity to find a unified regional voice when presenting to subsequent international meetings. She said "We want everyone to hear loud and clear: it is time for equality in our region. We want the agreements made here to become universal agreements, as they represent civilizing progress".
According to Ms. Bárcena "Much has been done in the region, and there is a rethink under way about the development model. We have the chance to make a structural change for equality". She added that gender equality is the most important, and is the prerequisite for the post-2015 agenda. She stated "the current model is unsustainable. Economic growth is not enough: we must have growth for equality and equality for growth. It is not enough to reduce poverty if there remain structural inequalities based on gender, ethnicity and territory. Social issues are about more than social policy".
Ms. Bárcena cited the need to rethink our destination and implement a deep change in production and consumption patterns. She explained that women's equality, their three forms of autonomy (physical, economic and decision-making) and young people are at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. This is because they are the main social stakeholders who need to be empowered.
ECLAC'sFirst session of the Regional Conference on Population and Development will be held until Thursday 15 August in Uruguay with eight panel discussions on the priority themes of the ICPD Programme of Action beyond 2014: rights and needs of children, adolescents and young people; ageing, social protection and socio-economic challenges; gender equality; gaps in universal access to sexual and reproductive health services; international migration and protection of migrants' rights; territorial inequality, spatial mobility and environmental vulnerability; indigenous peoples, multiculturalism and rights; and Afro-descendent peoples, rights and combating racial discrimination.
At the end of the meeting, co-organized with the Government of Uruguay and held with the support of UNFPA, participants are expected to adopt a series of agreements on these priority themes in the implementation of the Programme of action beyond 2014.