Socio-Economic situation in Latin America following the Covid-19 crisis – the role of civil society in the recovery process

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Stanovisko EHSV: Socio-Economic situation in Latin America following the Covid-19 crisis – the role of civil society in the recovery process

Key points

The EESC:

  • Notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit Latin America particularly hard, with an above-world-average death toll, extreme pressure on health systems, and an economic slowdown. Around 22 million jobs were lost in the region in 2020: the region has lost more than a decade in terms of poverty reduction and is one of the most unequal in the world. Several effects of the pandemic have been worsened by Russia's war against Ukraine, due to the rise in the price of fossil fuels, agricultural inputs and food.
  • Points out that the health and inflation crises have added to previously existing social exclusion, lack of safety, and a middle class at constant risk of falling into poverty. All this has led to social unrest and a lack of confidence in the institutions, while significant internal migration across the continent has created a humanitarian crisis in certain countries.
  • Considers that Latin America needs a new social contract between socio-economic groups, between regions and between generations. It is vital to strengthen political accountability, to ensure inclusion and protection, to generate quality employment and to foster the green and digital transition. Effective social protection systems and a more sustainable model for financing development need to be created, with fiscally sustainable public expenditure and a more efficient system of tax collection, with a special role for green taxation.
  • Reminds that all this requires a strong citizens' participation, and a real empowerment of young people and women. It is vital to promote an institutionalised social dialogue like that in Europe and to consolidate existing cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee and the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions.
  • Thinks that international cooperation initiatives are key for the post-COVID recovery of Latin America, like in the field of debt relief and restructuring, and above all an approach that goes beyond the old north-south paradigm while adopting new forms of multi-actor and multilevel partnership.
  • Notes that, after the help provided with the COVAX initiative, the EU is now using a set of instruments in its policies towards Latin America, like the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), the EUROCLIMA+ programme, the Global Gateway and the Strategic Compass.
  • The focus should be on the green transition (Latin America being one of the regions in the world most affected by climate change) and the digital transition (that presents a very high development potential), as well as on a sustainable and inclusive development: Latin American countries should comply with the principles of democracy, human rights, and workers' rights as enshrined in ILO conventions, hence the importance of Domestic Advisory Groups (DAGs) in monitoring free trade agreements, including the one with Mercosur whose ratification is needed for the European Union's partnership with Latin America.
  • Europe and Latin America can be partners in an alliance for democracy, sustainability, social justice and multilateralism, to support a recovery that includes civil society, attract investments compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and promote a trade partnership that sets itself apart in terms of its quality and long-term sustainability, in contrast to other, predatory and irresponsible international relationship models.