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Building back better requires transforming the development model of Latin America and the Caribbean

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN UN Network

Message by the United Nations’ Secretary-General, António Guterres, for the launch of policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean.

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have become a hotspot of the pandemic. In a context of already gaping inequalities, high levels of informal labour and fragmented health services, the most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest.

Women, who make up the majority of the workforce in economic sectors being most affected, now must also bear the brunt of additional caregiving. Older persons and persons with disabilities are at much higher risk of death from the virus.

Indigenous peoples and people of African descent, as well as migrants and refugees, are also suffering disproportionately, as vulnerability multiplies. We must do everything possible to limit the spread of the virus and tackle the health effects of the pandemic.

But we must also address the unprecedented social and economic impacts. The policy brief we are releasing today underlines an array of urgent and longer-term steps to recover better.

It calls on governments to do more to reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. This could include the provision of a basic emergency income and anti-hunger grants. Education has been interrupted across the region. It is critical to prioritize distance learning and the continuity of child-centered services in general.

At the same time, greater international support is urgently needed. I have called for a rescue and recovery package equivalent to more than 10 percent of the global economy. Developed countries are doing it themselves with their own resources.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the international community must provide liquidity, financial assistance and debt relief. Latin American and Caribbean countries – and in particular small island developing States – should not be excluded from global assistance. The international multilateral response needs to be extended to middle-income countries.

We must also tackle the broader structural challenges. Building back better requires transforming the development model of Latin America and the Caribbean. In a region where inequality has become untenable, it means developing comprehensive welfare systems that are accessible to all.

It means creating a fair taxation system, promoting decent jobs, strengthening environmental sustainability, and reinforcing social protection mechanisms. It means regional economic integration. And it means women participating fully and safely in public and economic life.

Finally, building back better demands strengthening democratic governance, human rights protection and the rule of law, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The root causes of inequality, political instability and displacement must be addressed. At a time when too many citizens feel excluded, greater accountability and transparency are crucial.

I express my full solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean as they face these challenges. Solidarity and compassion should be their guide. Together, we can overcome this crisis and build inclusive and sustainable societies for all.

• Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Latin America and the Caribbean – English / Español / Português 

Key numbers

  • Unemployment will surge from 8.1 per cent in 2019 to 13.5 per cent this year – yielding over 44 million people out of work, an increase of more than 18 million from last year.
  • Poverty is expected to jump by 7.0 per cent to 37.2 per cent in 2020 – leaving 230 million poverty-stricken people.
  • Extreme poverty is forecast to rise by 4.5 per cent to 15.5 per cent –representing 28 million people more people in dire straits (96 million in total).


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