SELA’s work programme defies socioeconomic lag in LAC

December 14, 2021

On Tuesday, 30 November 2021, the Regular Meeting of the XLVII Latin American Council of the Latin American Economic System (SELA) passed the Work Programme for 2022-2026

In a hybrid meeting, representatives of all the 25 Member States of the Latin American Economic System (SELA) approved a brand-new multi-annual plan within the budget and under the organisation mandates with a view to alleviating the current crisis. The new Work Programme for 2022-2026 is intended to empower the region to dodge the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic and make it more resilient. A focus is put on novel institutional options for improved public policy making and the best practices.

The new Work Programme of SELA and its three thematic areas – economic recovery, digitalization and social development – entails specific goals and objectives within a set of key programmes for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ambassador Clarems Endara, the Permanent Secretary of SELA, explained that the proposed activities form part of the thematic areas for capacity building. “The role of the Permanent Secretariat is noteworthy in this implementation through three lines of action: articulator, enabler and propositional, ready to offer an output with added value as far as public policy making is concerned,” he said.

“Furthermore, this Work Programme has ample powers for its implementation, granting it flexibility for its execution, in line and in cooperation with multiple stakeholders at the global and regional levels. Thus, by means of greater and better integration, Member States will attain the Sustainable Development Goals and the Permanent Secretariat of SELA will comply with its foundational objectives and purposes,” Ambassador Endara noted.

Economic recovery

With the pandemic outbreak, the regional scenario in 2020 shrank by 7.0%. While the forecast for 2021 is somewhat benign following the steps taken by governments to invigorate key sectors of the economy, the region has not put an end to the economic standoff. “The countries agree on the need of economic recovery,” Ambassador Endara said.

“There are approximately 30 million new poor in the region and almost 13 million SMEs shut down during the pandemic,” Ambassador Endara said, adding that Member States agree on dealing with the economic issue precisely in view of the indicators.

In this way, economic recovery as a thematic area through the implementation of the programmes of economic integration, trade facilitation and SMEs is pivotal to speed up reactivation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The programme of economic integration involves a project on institutional convergence and cooperation for integration, including two activities: measurement of integration processes and round tables of the chairs and secretariats of regional integration mechanisms. Both of them aim at making headway with this area.

The programme of trade facilitation will be developed through the projects of the network of digital and collaborative ports and trade encouragement in Latin America and the Caribbean. The purpose is to favour public policy making to reduce costs, remove commercial barriers, open up to new markets and find a niche for the regional trade in global markets.

The programme of SMEs introduces a project on productive articulation for the enhancement of SMEs, and a second project for seizing the opportunities of the industries of cultural and creative goods and services. The purpose is public policy making to leverage production sectors, nail down business models and develop new markets for regional SMEs.


Ambassador Endara can see many assets in the use of digital technologies. To his mind, “They favour competitiveness, democratize the access to information and reinforce the public sector skills, ending up in greater economic growth, higher levels of well-being and better opportunities for all.”

Nonetheless, he lamented that the materialization of these benefits “has not been possible” due to the digital gap that excludes those who lack access or abilities for their utilization. “As a matter of fact, on a global scale, inequalities have deepened, social mobility has come to a standstill and productivity has dwindled.”

In the specific case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the digital gap is glaring. Around 32% of residents lack internet access, the connection speed in 67% of schools is insufficient and 50% of countries do not count on an advanced digitalization agenda.

The thematic area of digitalization is meant to be a vehicle for better economic and social results. Hence, there is the need to spur digital inclusion in the region, advance connectivity and increase productivity and competitiveness levels through the lines of action of infrastructure and digital conversion.

The programme of infrastructure by means of the implementation of the projects on reduced costs of roaming services and improved digital connectivity in rural areas delves in the following objectives: (1) Identify the best regional and international practices in terms of digital connectivity, with an emphasis on rural areas. (2) Enter into public-private partnerships on behalf of regional digital connectivity. (3) Facilitate the efforts at regional cooperation to develop digital connectivity projects.

Social development

SELA pursues the optimization of indicators concerning living conditions in a sustainable and resilient manner through the initiatives of cooperation, training, agreements and exchange of the best practices.

“This Work Programme of SELA has been built upon the consultation with Member States in order to power this niche, where the organization boasts a huge potential as the executive arm of major regional policies,” the Permanent Secretary noted.

The thematic area of social development is to be implemented through the programmes of sustainable and resilient development, comprehensive management of disaster risk reduction and climate change, and an overview of human mobility.

The programme of sustainable and resilient development envisages the projects of technical support for cooperation and sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and capacity building for public servants.

The strategic goal covers the improvement and dissemination of the necessary knowledge to undertake social development policies in the regional public sector and further cooperation upon the implementation of the circular economy.

The programme of comprehensive management of disaster risk reduction and climate change encompasses a project for the set-up of a prevention fund for disaster risk reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a second project on comprehensive management of disaster risk reduction, both intended to establish regional structures to diminish vulnerabilities, effectively respond to the events of emergency and take care of the most sensible populations through the social welfare system.

Finally, the programme of an overview of human mobility has been conceived to capitalize on the development opportunities offered by migration, understood from an overarching standpoint involving the countries of origin, transit and destination. This programme would be effective through the project on migration and development.

Restructuring SELA

As part of decision making at the Regular Meeting of the XLVII Latin American Council of SELA, Ambassador Endara also referred to the passage of the “Project on Restructuring SELA” as a need arising from the structural deadlock, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Undoubtedly, the priorities are different and, in view of the challenges faced by international organizations, they should be adjusted to the needs of their Member States, and to their technical and financial capabilities, in order to consolidate as an actual and tangible input in the tasks entrusted by, and under the principles laid down in, the [Panama] Convention establishing SELA,” the Permanent Secretary reasoned.

“To attain this goal, we need to have clear guidelines in relation to the way to be taken in the thematic areas and the internal structure of the Permanent Secretariat, but also based upon the following grounds: the proposed changes may not affect under any circumstances whatsoever the annual quotas set for the membership, and the work programmes of SELA for the future shall be conceived as an annotated agenda, to attain measurable, useful and concrete results, for the purpose of addressing promptly the needs of Member States,” he said.

The Permanent Secretary of SELA mentioned that the most recent restructuring dates back from April 2003, under Decision 440. “Sure enough, there is a different reality 18 years later.”

Key topics: consejos latinoamericanos