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Continuity of government and operations in Latin America and the Caribbean during emergency situations and disasters
Continuity of government and operations in Latin America and the Caribbean during emergency situations and disasters
Emergencies and natural disasters or from anthropic origin could provoke the interruption of public institution and society operations, demonstrating the vulnerability of government operations, provision of essential public services (water, energy, communications) and protection of population in vulnerable situations. In this context, COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the need of improving strategic and operational plans to face potential catastrophic events of this kind. In these circumstances, it is desirable that countries have public policies directed to address these adverse situations, securing the stability and continuation of public institutions and the provision of public services to affected population in vulnerable situation. Social and economic costs of damages from natural disasters are usually a heavy burden for the economy of our countries. Social and economic development of our region could be hampered because of natural disasters, especially if countries do not adopt policies to mitigate their negative impacts. For this reason, the concepts of Continuity of Operations and Continuity of Government are outlined as useful public policies to mitigate the effects of risk situations. The concept of Continuity of Government (COG) sets up protocols, procedures and legislation, which helps countries to secure their essential operations in circumstances of catastrophic events. On the other hand, Continuity of Operations (COOP) concept contributes to secure the functioning of public institutions and society before a crisis situation or facilitates the immediate restoration of substantial activities. Experience shows that in the region of Latin American and Caribbean it is required to strengthen the protocols, procedures and legislation to secure the Continuity of Government in case of breakup of the command chain and governance, and the provision of essential public services. It is equally important to keep the cooperation and coordination among local institutions inside the country, and with neighbouring countries at the outside, in order to maintain the operation of governmental institutions, the support to private sector institutions, and the provision of public services to their citizens, especially health services. Continuity of the Government concept emphasizes the importance of readiness and response before disasters, as rescue and salvage operations, and medical care of victims. At the same time, It is stressed the need of restoration of crucial and essential public services and the maintaining of public safety and order, for which it is decisive to have a basic level of continuity of operations and institutionality that allows the functioning of public and private organizations, in order to avoid the collapse of the State and its public institutions and to ensure that private sector can support and complement recovery actions. These scenarios will demand the existence of protocols to make sure that officials and authorities are capable to assume their roles during the emergency and could anticipate alternative posts, endowment of equipment, and fast access to required communications and technology and the protection of vital governmental information. Readiness of social protection institutions, and social security institutions too, before catastrophic situations, is imperative to guarantee a basic level of protection and welfare among the population. For this reason, plans and protocols of COG and COOP must include the social services and benefits institutions, in order to boost a fast economic and social recovery of a country affected by natural disasters. The response to situations of emergency and disaster must be comprehensive. The process of planning, strategy and assistance requires strategies that facilitate and secure the operative and institutional continuity of social actors and institutions, in order to deal address the risks. These elements are expressed in protocols or operation plans.  Elaboration of Protocols ensured that institutions are in capacity to identify their critical functions and essential tasks; that authorities and officials are capable to assume their roles during the emergency, and they know their interdependence with other organizations, especially from the private sector; and to define which positions will assume the authority delegated by the institution´s leadership, in order to address specific tasks. Planning process ensures the functionality of a country, protects their economic stability and provides a comprehensive public safety level to the population. On the other hand, social protection tries to guarantee that population is able to satisfy its basic needs, through financial resources or specific services. The essential purpose of any social protection institution is to protect the population and to make secured and resilient communities, capable of deal, operate and recover from adverse situation, for which it is imperative the readiness of this key sector. In conclusion, governmental institutions must maintain their response capacity before catastrophic situations. For this reason, it is imperative to establish public policies which include advance foresight and the reduction of elements of surprise on unfavourable incidents, mainly in social security and protection, which is closely linked to governments but to the private sectors too. The institutions will be better prepared to deal with disaster situations if they already count with programs and protocols.

May 18, 2021

Promoting substitutes and alternatives to plastics for clean waters and sustainable economic development in the Caribbean Basin
Promoting substitutes and alternatives to plastics for clean waters and sustainable economic development in the Caribbean Basin
More than a hundred years since the first breakthroughs in plastics, these have become ubiquitous in our lives: Plastic pens and scissors with plastic handles come in plastic blister packs, which we take home in plastic bags, and there we place them next to a computer and a cell phone, whose plastic cover encases a plastic circuit board. In much of our planet today, it can be hard to look in any direction without finding anything made of plastic. This material is extremely useful; it is also, unfortunately, greatly hazardous to our health, our livelihoods, our food system, and our natural environment, and increasingly so, as a century of waste accumulates in our landfills, oceans and streets. New research by UNCTAD has helped us understand the scale of the issue at hand: More than 336 million tons of plastics were traded in 2018 alone, representing about $1 trillion, a significant 5 percent of world trade. A key problem is that about 75 percent of all plastic produced in history has become waste,[1] showing the low waste disposal and recycling capacity of most countries.[2] Furthermore, unless this is halted, plastics production is expected to quadruple in the next thirty years, largely due to industry growth in Africa, the Middle East and developing Asia. These problems particularly affect coastal areas, due to their dependence on sectors such as tourism and fishing—sectors especially hurt by plastic bottles washing up on idyllic shores, by plastic bags and abandoned fishing nets choking valuable fish and reducing marine biodiversity, and by microplastics inserting toxins into the marine (and even terrestrial) food system. Island and coastal countries are especially vulnerable to these dangers due to, among other reasons, limited space to dispose of waste. However, there is an opportunity for the countries in the region, by reducing dependence on plastics and developing emerging industries of alternatives to plastics, to protect themselves from these environmental hazards to which they are especially vulnerable, to protect their main sources of livelihood, and to create useful employment and economic development. Some alternatives may provide accessible opportunities for the sustainable development of Latin American and Caribbean nations. These include glass, ceramics, natural fibres (coconut, palm), pulp (paper, cardboard), and even organic waste such as bagasse and corn husks. Furthermore, new alternatives are constantly under development, and may provide the region with the opportunity to enter the production of entirely new materials based on pre-existing raw materials. These alternatives may not develop unless political leadership is exercised towards this end. The successful development of industries to produce alternatives to plastics (whether raw materials or finished products) would benefit from consistent trade policies, industrial circularity, effective waste management policies, and incentives for the production of sustainable substitutes. Coordination of private enterprise, civil society and all levels of government, as well as global coordination, is necessary if the nations of the region expect to join the market for alternatives to plastics. Aware of the dangers faced and the opportunities available, some nations in the region have already implemented measures that contribute to the transition of their economies towards alternatives to plastics. For example: Barbados banned certain single-use plastic objects, including containers, cutlery and straws, as well as some types of plastic bags; Belize issued regulations concerning plastic bags, straws, and containers made from expanded polystyrene; Guyana banned the import and use of expanded polystyrene objects. Such measures help create conditions where the development of alternatives becomes necessary, thus driving economic activity towards the search for and development of substitutes. Those nations that choose this path might discover that, by joining the global movement towards a circular economy early, they will find an opportunity for their prosperity and wellbeing. [1] United Nations (2019). Advancing Sustainable Development Goal 14: Sustainable fish, seafood value chains, trade and climate. See: https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2576 

April 29, 2021

Rural digital connectivity: A key challenge for the development of Latin America and the Caribbean
Rural digital connectivity: A key challenge for the development of Latin America and the Caribbean
Digital technologies have transformed the economic and social life of humanity. Business models, labour markets, the media and government action have undergone drastic changes driven by advances in digitization, to such an extent that quality access to connectivity networks is decisive to secure the most essential services and enjoy the benefits of the development process. These technologies have enormous potential to foster greater social inclusion and drive economic growth. Their widespread use, especially the mass access to the Internet, has been an enabling factor for the emergence of new productive sectors, the significant reduction in transaction costs and the creation of conditions for greater citizen participation in its relationship with the State. With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, their benefits have been even more evident, facilitating capacity building to reduce the spread of the virus and contain its economic and social costs. However, despite all advances in access and quality of connectivity, the current juncture has also exposed the huge digital gaps that prevent a significant portion of the world population from inserting into the new normality of telework and tele-education. World Bank figures show that only 40% of the global population has access to the Internet, just 20% have high-speed broadband connection and just over 27% do not have a cell phone. The picture is even less encouraging for lower-income households, where more than 71% lack access to the Internet and 21% do not have access to a mobile phone. In the context of Latin America and the Caribbean, CAF statistics (2020) show that 32% of the population does not have access to the Internet. In this connection, ECLAC figures report greater impact in rural areas, where 77% of households are offline, while in urban areas this proportion is reduced to 23%. In addition, IICA, IDB and Microsoft (2020) point out that only half of countries in the region have a digitization agenda and 67% of schools do not have sufficient connection speed. Based on this pattern of access to digitization, the effects of technology on productivity, on the generation of better opportunities for overcoming poverty and on political stability have been less than expected. Gaps have eroded the digital dividends of lower-income populations located in remote areas. In the particular case of rural areas, improving access to connectivity networks can lead to significant changes in the living standards of its inhabitants, allowing progress in productivity, greater provision of social services, increases in public sector capacities, and higher quality jobs. To materialize all the benefits of digitization, the region must face a wide range of challenges, including: a) extending access to affordable and quality connecting platforms with greater deployment of infrastructure; b) updating policy frameworks to boost digital economy development; c) accelerating the implementation of digital agendas; and d) promoting training in digital skills for the intensive use of tools. The future will be more digital, even more so after the pandemic. In view of this situation, countries in the region must activate international cooperation mechanisms, regional integration and public-private collaboration as platforms for building joint strategies and learning successful practices. This meeting is a contribution in this direction.

March 25, 2021

Latin America and the Caribbean's response to the Covid-19. Lessons learned, challenges to face
Latin America and the Caribbean's response to the Covid-19. Lessons learned, challenges to face
The emergence of COVID-19 has posed a huge challenge for the world, in particular for the Latin American and Caribbean region. According to the UN Report on the impact of COVID-19 on the region, prior to the pandemic, the region's development model already faced serious structural limitations: high levels of inequality, balance-of-payments constraints and exports concentrated in low-tech sectors, recurrent exchange rate and debt crises, low growth, high levels of informality and poverty, with this health crisis exacerbating the situation by deepening inequalities and disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to be the cause of the region's biggest economic and social crisis in decades, with very negative effects on employment, combating poverty and reducing inequality. Governments in the region were forced to deal with the pandemic, which affects all sectors of society through containment measures to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigation measures to manage the impact and alleviate its effects. They reacted to the emergency in all areas, redefining plans and re-seizing resources to respond to the health, economic, social and environmental crisis, took steps to strengthen the capacities of health systems, protect the most vulnerable, and support the economy to avoid collapse. As pointed out in OECD's study "An overview of government responses to the crisis", the scale of this effect and the possible recovery in the coming years will depend on the ability of governments to revive their economies while mitigating health challenges. The pandemic has highlighted the chronic shortcomings of state action and offered a great opportunity to strengthen the region's responsiveness and correct existing dysfunctions. One year after the onset of this crisis, it is necessary to evaluate the results and consider long-term policies. That is why the OECD, SELA and PAHO have considered it important to conduct an online seminar, in order to present the region's response to the COVID-19 crisis in the social, economic, health, and governance field, which can serve as a starting point for an analysis of what was done, what was no longer done, what was done well, and what should be improved. Participants will also address the issue at the heart of everyone's attention today: vaccines. How the countries of the region have considered access to vaccines and how they plan to bring it to all their inhabitants. Recovery will depend on the ability of governments to revive their economies while addressing the public health crisis, which means that the vaccine is accessible to all.

February 12, 2021

How to recover the tourism sector after the covid-19 pandemic?
How to recover the tourism sector after the covid-19 pandemic?
The Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region has immense tourism potential based on its environmental resources, its natural and sociocultural, as well as one of the greatest biodiversity on the planet, characteristics that promote it as a place to visit. These are resources that many of its countries have used in the productive transformation of their economies and development strategies when designing their public policies. The tourism industry has been a driving force for growth in Latin America. It generates employment, improves the quality of life of peoples by promoting their well-being, and therefore contributes to the eradication of poverty. Thanks to it, many LAC countries promote sustained and inclusive economic development, full and productive employment, as well as a commitment to the sustainable use of their maritime and terrestrial ecosystems. For recipient countries, tourist activity has many advantages. First of all, it is a source of currency that helps their balance of payments. Moreover, they cover different areas they often mean a source of income from which much of the population benefits; and it is an industry that does not need much time to be developed and usually bears fruit immediately. Such a reality has been severely affected by the adverse effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism has virtually been paralyzed globally, causing serious economic consequences in the hotel industry, airlines, transport companies, restaurants and accommodation services, among others. As a result, the region's development processes have been seriously compromised, particularly the tourism sector, a vital source of resources especially for Caribbean countries. The threat to the tourism sector is serious. Not only the incomes of workers and companies in the sector are affected, but also the national foreign exchange income and external account balances, with the situation being particularly difficult for small countries specializing in the sector, and serious implications for their Gross Domestic Product. Aside from being an area affected by the global economic downturn in 2020 due to the COVID-19 impact, tourism must face border closures, restrictions on people’s mobility, a slow full-fledged restoration of international transit of people and goods, and voluntary isolation of a large number of people. All of this seems to indicate that recovery is likely to take longer than desired. Also, the economic activity derived from tourism can have a high impact on the environment. In addition to encouraging greater promotion of tourist destinations, sustainable development of the region should be encouraged by safeguarding the environment. In this connection, ecotourism is proposed as a new way of continuing tourism activities as a source of resources, while raising awareness of the need and importance of conserving the environment for future generations. Sustainable tourism recognizes that the protection and improvement of local resources, respect for the human factor and proper management must be at the heart of economic and environmental sustainability and development, as indicated by the Charter for Sustainable Tourism (1995). Special attention should be paid to the new climate change perspectives and the concerns and direct effects, mainly on the coasts and islands. Undoubtedly, the economic activity of tourism is a factor that contributes to fulfil the sustainable development goals and objectives set out in the 2030 Agenda, as agreed by the United Nations (UN) in 2015. These objectives include (i) ensure sustainable consumption and production; (ii) take urgent action to combat climate change; (iii) guarantee the conservation and sustainably use of oceans, seas and marine resources; and (iv) promote the sustainable use of Terrestrial Ecosystems. However, such scenario requires contingency plans to promote a responsible recovery of the sector of tourism as soon as sanitary conditions permit. Measures are needed to alleviate the situation in the sector, either through the conclusion of international agreements, or by encouraging greater promotion of tourist destinations in the countries of the region, or by promoting an environmental preservation and conservation scheme. The revival of tourism activity is an urgent issue to address. The economies of many LAC countries depend on this source of resources. With this virtual seminar, SELA hopes to contribute to the reflection and exchange of constructive ideas on possible solutions for the recovery of the tourism industry in the region in the short and medium term, including perhaps an exchange of experiences and best practices with other more regions that have made progress on the subject. This meeting also provides an opportunity to raise awareness among policy-makers that the measures to be taken should highlight the need and importance of preserving the environment for future generations, and promote a form of tourism in which good environmental conservation practices are implemented. With this initiative, the Permanent Secretariat aims to open up a space for the generation of discussions and debates in the search for solutions for the hotel industry, with the public and private sectors contributing their viewpoints, so as to expand the scope of responses to the crisis caused by COVID-19, with the ultimate purpose of achieving well-being of the communities.

October 15, 2020