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Keys for a Sustainable and Democratic Development in Latin America

“Achieving sustainable development with social inclusion is one of the greatest ambitions in Latin America today.”

Courtesy of Jaimie Garreta

Latin America’s vast geography contains great wealth as well as endless cultural, linguistic and historical diversity. While Latin American countries may face common challenges, finding solutions to these problems is a process as varied as the region itself. It will be imperative for the next U.S. President-elect to understand this fact and respond accordingly.

Challenges such as extreme poverty, illiteracy, endemic illnesses, inequality, insecurity, and violence require consistent and timely responses both nationally, and on a sub-regional level. It is because of the recent effort to find sub-regional solutions in Central America and the Caribbean, the Andean region, and the Southern Cone that our hemisphere, has entered into what many call “the century of new regionalism(s).”

When looking to solve problems, many nations turn to their immediate neighbors for help, thereby generating new opportunities for development. Collaboration with other countries makes response efforts more effective and sustainable, allowing for greater equality and social inclusion. These types of collaborative sub-regional efforts have proven themselves to be powerful responses to the persistent problems that come along with underdevelopment in a nation or region.

Achieving sustainable development with social inclusion is one of the greatest ambitions in Latin America today. The basis for this is the fulfillment of the type of sub-regional efforts discussed above. Sub-regional cooperation will lead to the consolidation of young democracies, making them more manageable and helping them respond to the basic needs of their people. In this way, more developed nations can act as both engines of progress and buffers against political and social antagonism.

Integration, cooperation and collaboration will ensure civilized behavior both in and among nations. As countries’ economies, societies and politics become more intertwined, the potential for conflict decreases, and with it the need for higher defense expenditures. Peace among nations allows governments to concentrate on tackling the real issues, such as corruption and underdevelopment—confronting the many consequences of social tension more effectively.

The need to increase protection of the environment and develop renewable and clean alternative energy sources is also closely associated with sub-regional integration. As countries grow closer economically and socially, they will become more aware of and dependent on shared resources. Furthermore, as countries’ environmental fates become increasingly linked, it will be important for the more developed nations to contribute to the transfer of clean technologies. In the end, these technologies—which are often less costly than many others—have a lower impact on our ecosystem. Some of the challenges we will face include: global warming and river pollution due to cellulose waste, land desertification due to the use of intensive planting methods, and the disappearance of forest land due to systematic and uncontrolled logging. There is much that developed countries in our hemisphere can contribute by providing tools, experience and policies.

The transfer of clean technologies will also help our nations avoid the kind of pollution and waste that often accompany traditional development strategies. At the same time, by protecting our immediate ecosystem we will be able to ensure sustainable development for our citizens and greater health and environmental safety in our region and throughout the rest of the world.

The new U.S. president should be aware that strengthening and refining multilateral institutions is an important task for all of the Americas. Not only will it make our continent’s development more predictable, but it will also make it safer. Developing solid institutions allows us to resolve important controversies between nations (for example the conflict between Colombia and Ecuador) and generate permanent mechanisms to address some of the region’s toughest issues such as endemic illnesses, malnutrition, lack of public safety, drug trafficking, and gang violence.

Strong institutions are also a good bet for peacekeeping in the region. They lay the foundation for the kind of cooperation that directly reinforces both our hemisphere’s development and our relations with the rest of the world. An approach that encourages democratic governance will be a healthy foundation for a new U.S. policy toward Latin America, enabling us to address some of the region’s chief problems such as illiteracy, extreme poverty, inequality, and violence. Efforts on both national and sub-regional levels must be encouraged. Bilateral agreements must therefore incorporate sub-regional integration.

Prudence and good judgment on the part of more developed countries create a general framework that encourages developing countries to coexist democratically, rejecting the kind of behavior that does not fit the standards for solid democratic relations. Moreover, it will help us reduce the violence that is still endemic in many parts of Latin America. A Washington policy that recognizes the importance of sub-regional democratic integration will create the strongest conditions for democratic cooperation among all the countries in our hemisphere.


Tags: Environment, integration, Social inclusion, Sustainable development, U.S. President-elect
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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