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Latin America makes pact to fight global inequalities

Researchers and social movements across Latin America have joined forces to push for and collaborate on reducing gaping global social and economic inequalities and environmental destruction, particularly in the global south.

More than 2,800 experts from Mexico to Argentina, including lawyers, economists, environmentalists, Indigenous and Afro-descendent community leaders and other activists, have signed the Ecosocial Pact of the South.

The pact comes at a time of exposed and exacerbated inequality in Latin American as a result of Covid-19. Five of the 10 countries with the highest transmission rates in the world are located in Latin America. The UN estimates more than 41 million people will lose their jobs in the region and has warned extreme global poverty will exceed 83 million people.

Moreover, deforestation has increased, putting ecosystems and indigenous communities in jeopardy. Activities like illegal logging and mining did not stop during lockdowns but often increased.

“Indigenous and Afro-Latin American peoples are exposed to a new wave of extermination; patriarchal and racist violence and femicides have increased. Meanwhile, powerful groups both old and new are taking advantage of the [pandemic] to make sure that “the return to normality” or “the new normal” does not deprive them of their privileges,” say the organisers.

The agreement lists nine alternative policy proposals for communities, local governments and public institutions to adopt in order to achieve social and environmental justice across the region and “alter the balance of power.”

The list of proposals includes building post-extractivist economies and societies; prioritising food sovereignty, local health care systems and autonomous local societies; and rethinking local communication networks to provide real alternatives to dominant corporate media.

But the Pact, according to organisers, is not a list of demands addressed to the governments of the day. “Instead, it is an invitation to build collective ideas, agree on a shared path to social change and provide a basis for shared struggles in all the different sectors of our societies. It calls together social movements, territorial, labour and neighbourhood organizations, communities and networks, but also alternative local governments, parliamentarians, magistrates or public servants who are committed to change, to alter the balance of power by means of plebiscites, proposals for legislation, and many other strategies that can make a real impact and enable members of society who are organized and mobilized to impose these changes on existing institutions.”

The Pact does however include proposals that will inevitably require participation from governments and institutions, like cancelling external debt, ensuring a universal basic income, and renegotiating terms of trade to create more sovereign international integration.

As the Ecosocial Pact of the South points out, several traditional institutions have already proposed alternative ideas that would have once been considered extreme and unviable, which gives room for optimism.

The UN has called for writing off $1 trillion (£73bn) of world debt and the economic agency ECLAC has proposed implementing a universal basic income. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) meanwhile has advised governments to introduce a wealth tax and, earlier this year, called on equity investors to pay more attention to climate change.

Authors of the pact will continue to meet and discuss more concrete policy options and what next steps to take. Different country chapters have been launching throughout August, so signatories can focus on the processes and policies most relevant to that country.

Take Action

Lockdown proved we can live without unbridled consumption. The kind of consumption that the West has been used to is causing environmental destruction and threatens life itself on the planet. Never has there been a better time to reassess your relationship with consumption. From the diet you choose, to the clothes you buy and the car you drive, it’s time to think about the impact everything you consume is having on the most vulnerable and our environment.

We should also take time to learn and understand the threats facing the most vulnerable in our society. The poorest in our world, usually in the Global South, are suffering the worse effects of climate change already. Knowing their struggles can help us all be part of the transformation necessary.

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