OECD, Paris, 1 June 2016
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you today to the official launch of the new OECD Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Program. This achievement has been a longtime aspiration for Chile and Mexico, the only two Latin American OECD member countries thus far.
We would like to highlight the strong support given by Spain and Portugal to this initiative and thank all OECD Member countries, which have unanimously agreed to formally establish a high level and strategic platform for the exchange of experiences and policy discussions between our region and the OECD.
The cooperation between the Latin American and Caribbean countries and the OECD is not new.
Mexico and Chile are members since 1994 and 2010 respectively, and now Colombia and Costa Rica are both in the accession path. Moreover, Brazil is a key partner of this organization, Peru has a country program and ten Latin American nations –including the mentioned ones- are members of the OECD Development Center.
In addition, the Latin American and Caribbean Initiative was launched in 2009 and more recently, in november 2014, the OECD participated in the IX Pacific Alliance Summit. These actions clearly show the interest of the region and the OECD to get closer.
In 2015, we agreed that this year will be the perfect moment to launch the Latin American and the Caribbean Regional Program; it’s time to organize all the programs our countries have with the OECD, and give them the necessary approach to ensure a sustainable development path.
As you well know, the LAC region was able to combine robust economic growth with social progress between 2003 and 2013. More of the 10% of the region’s population was lifted out of poverty, but after a full decade of rapid growth and important progress in reducing poverty, in 2014 our region grew less than the average of OECD countries. This trend continued in 2015.
We know that Latin America needs to boost growth in order to keep reducing poverty, which still affects 28% of its population. But it also requires growth with better policies, structural reforms and a sense of environmental awareness.
We need to reduce the levels of inequality in the region, Latin America remains as the most unequal region in the world. Thus, our countries should aim at increasing productivity while ensuring social inclusion, in order to recover high and sustained growth.
To complete this picture, in addition to the challenges of productivity and social inclusion, we need strong institutions and good governance.
We have gone far in terms of democratization, but our citizens demand more transparent and innovative institutions. In some cases, these demands have evolved at a faster pace than the response of governments, posing an important challenge in terms of institutional reform and improving government practices. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Latin America, but it certainly affects the region in a unique way.
For our countries, the OECD is a key partner that promotes inclusiveness as a strategic element by proposing policies to provide equal opportunities for all and reduce inequalities of income, gender or race, and we are pleased to be launching this program that will help us as a region focusing in three main pillars: productivity, social inclusion and public governance.
The horizontal collaboration between OECD Directorates will bring to the Program a combined expertise in a broad range of subjects such as education, skills, labour, taxation, investment, trade, social protection, gender, planning, budgeting, public governance and impact evaluation, simultaneously addressing the three pillars of the Program.
We expect the OECD to do what it does best: facilitate a dialogue among peers based on evidence and expert analysis, so as to find solutions for shared challenges. This Regional Program, still in the design stage, is of and for Latin America and the Caribbean; hence our views and vision on priority areas and the most relevant modalities of collaboration are fundamental.
Regarding strategic planning, we would encourage the OECD to adopt a selective approach. The OECD has expertise in a wide range of policies, yet we would suggest that in order to achieve optimal results the Organization should focus its efforts on the needs expressed by LAC countries, as well as on the feasibility of the projects to be implemented.
The work program between the OECD, Latin America and the Caribbean should encourage two approaches: policy dialogue and data collection. These tools should be enriched and updated for our region. In parallel, OECD members can learn from and build upon the implementation of effective public policies by LAC countries.
In addition, we expect the program to collaborate with regional partners, and gain from their knowledge and political capital in the region. Regional institutions like the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Ibero-American Secretariat (SEGIB) and the Organization of American States (OAS) are already cooperating with the OECD and have established solid working relationships.
Collaboration between these institutions will certainly increase the relevance of the LAC Regional Program.
The current moment is crucial. The challenges faced by Latin America and the Caribbean countries, as well as the international commitments we are increasingly taking on in the areas of climate change, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and gender equality, among others, require us to adopt the best and most appropriate public policies.
We have made progress but there are still important gaps in our development. This is why Chile and Uruguay, with the support of many of our neighbors, are seeking a reappraisal of the decision to “graduate” countries in our region from the DAC’s list of development aid recipients.
Finally, as a Member of the OECD and a LAC country, I would like to reiterate Chile’s commitment to our region and to ensure a coherent and consistent strategic approach to relations with the Organization. We seek to create and build on the synergies between the views, experiences and perspectives of LAC Countries and the Organization’s best practices, evidence-based analysis and peer review exercises. Chile is ready to continue working in this direction and to co-chair the LAC Program with this aim in mind.