Alicia Bárcena and Jutta Urpilainen | EU and the Caribbean – A new partnership for the future | Comment


Recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is a global challenge. No country, region, continent can tackle it alone. It is therefore right that the European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean strengthen our strategic partnership towards a more sustainable, inclusive and equal world.

The human toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in our regions has been dramatic. As of June 15, 2021, a total of 732,000 people in the European Union and 1,210,000 people in Latin America and the Caribbean had lost their lives.

COVID-19 has also plunged Latin America and the Caribbean into its worst economic recession in 120 years, with more than a third of its 650 million people now living in poverty.

The pandemic amplifies structural challenges through inequality, informality and low productivity. This could undo more than a decade of development progress. Unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to reach over 33 million people, particularly affecting women and young people.

Governments in the region have already made unprecedented budgetary efforts to cushion the blow. Public debt jumped by more than 10 points to reach 79.3% of GDP.

However, tackling the pandemic and stabilizing the economy will mean more spending in 2021.


The European Commission has called for a global stimulus initiative, linking debt relief with investment in the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet Latin America and the Caribbean have so far received limited multilateral support. This is because middle-income countries are not eligible for the Group of 20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative or its Common Debt Framework.

In this context, the European Commission and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) call for a paradigm shift in development cooperation, in accordance with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Classifications based solely on a per capita income criterion do not reflect the full range of multidimensional vulnerabilities, structural gaps and financing needs of a country. Income alone is not sufficient to determine the inclusion or exclusion of countries from global cooperation mechanisms, whether during this crisis or those related to climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

The European Commission and ECLAC will work to renew the bi-regional political dialogue for a renewed partnership based on three pillars.

The first is oriented towards models of sustainable development, with equality at the center. The fight against climate change and the transition to sustainable production and consumption patterns must be a development priority.

The second is to promote a stronger and more inclusive multilateral system. This should include mechanisms to facilitate access to finance for sustainable investment, a strengthened rules-based trading system and a renewed commitment to climate action.

The third, to be effective, is to facilitate access and the development of green and digital technologies.

Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe have a long-standing partnership. We share the conviction that cooperation and partnerships are the main tools in solving global challenges. Now is the time to join forces to shape a better future for all.

Alicia Bárcena is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships at the European Commission. Send your comments to [email protected]

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