WASHINGTON, USA – In response to the emergency caused by COVID-19, the high authorities of the Joint Summit Working Group (JSWG) met this week for the second time to ratify their commitment in support of the member states of the Americas and multilateralism as an instrument to address multiple challenges facing the region in the post-COVID-19 phase.
With this in mind, the general secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) raised the need to work on a thematic agenda that incorporates the specific demands of regional organizations such as SICA (Central American Integration System) and CARICOM (Caribbean Community).
In a previous session, the OAS general secretariat had already expressed the need to consider the issues raised by the president of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, and the prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, representing CARICOM:
- Access to grant funds for the countries of the hemisphere;
- Access to preferential debt conditions at rates and terms, taking into account the vulnerability of countries to extreme contingencies and not only the criterion of per capita income (a position of many countries in the region, in particular CARICOM);
- Access to rights and the effective exercise of democracy in times of pandemic;
Along the same lines, when opening the meeting on April 29, the OAS secretary general, Luis Almagro, emphasized addressing the problem of food security.
The meeting, jointly organized by secretary-general Almagro and the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne, reiterated the importance of concerted action among international cooperation agencies to address the multiple impacts that the countries of the region will have to face.
Regarding the emergency response, PAHO mentioned being in the process of becoming part of the “Global Supply Chain Task Force,” which will allow it to access supplies and logistics using the PAHO Strategic Fund, a technical cooperation mechanism for pooled procurement of essential medicines and strategic health supplies.
To date, 33 member states in the Americas have signed agreements to use the Strategic Fund and 12 countries are using the fund to access supplies related to COVID-19.
In the fiscal front, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) agreed that an economic contraction is expected this year. Regarding the requests of debt moratoriums, they alerted about its impact on the credit rating that could impact the availability of resources for the region.
At the institutional level, for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), this crisis is an opportunity to strengthen governance and credibility in governments, avoiding weakening democratic controls and expanding social participation in decision-making.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned of the risk of food security due to the fall in food production and stressed the need to implement a collective strategy of the JSWG, taking advantage of the respective capacities of each member institution.
Initiatives of multilateral and regional entities:
- In Central America, it was reported that the Presidents approved the preparation of a “Regional contingency plan,” endowed by a USD 1,900 million Emergency Fund aimed at supporting three areas: 1) construction of hospital infrastructure and medical equipment. This fund has allowed the purchase of 25,000 tests per country; 2) Joint purchases of medicines to take advantage of economies of scale and reduce costs, maintaining intraregional trade; and 3) Mobilize contributions from multiple sectors of society and the economy in support of government measures.
- Other initiatives mentioned include recommendations to preserve and accelerate the supply chain of critical goods and services, activation of contingent and emergency credit lines to inject liquidity into the economy as well as measures to support the recovery phase.
- Several of the efforts mentioned by the entities are being carried out jointly by the JSGW entities. The OECD and the World Bank will jointly launch the publication “First Panorama of Health in Latin America,” to support the resilience of health systems.
- A particularly challenging aspect is the protection of low-income households and informal workers (more than half of the region’s workers). The UNDP and the International Labor Organization (ILO) are carrying out studies of the impacts on the labor market at the country level as well as sectoral as inputs to the countries in the development of employment policies in the recovery phase.
- In the area of occupational safety, the ILO is supporting countries in the development of their sectoral protocols on occupational safety and promoting the tripartite dialogue agenda that enables employers and workers to be linked to decision-making spaces.
- A special reference to the co-responsibility of the private sector in crisis management and recovery efforts is mentioned. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), which highlighted the issue of food security, has held meetings with several multinationals in the region such as Walmart, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Cargil, Bayer, Danone and Corteva to support the post-pandemic scenario. On the other hand, the IDB presented at the meeting the recommendations of the Americas Business Dialogue (ABD) organized by the IDB, on Policies to face the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and mitigate its impacts.
- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is advancing far-reaching interventions that aim to mitigate the serious health and socio-economic effects of the pandemic to encompass COVID-19 mitigation efforts in humanitarian settings and other contexts where people on the move they will probably be seriously affected.
It is expected that this cooperation mechanism will allow for strengthened action in the face of the multiple challenges that governments of the region and the population of the Americas will have to address.
The Joint Summit Working Group is made up of:
- The Organization of American States (OAS)
- The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
- The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
- The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
- The World Bank
- The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
- The Development Bank of Latin America (CAF)
- The Caribbean Development Bank (BCD)
- The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)
- International Organization for Migration (IOM)
- International Labor Organization (ILO)
- United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)