Ambassadors from Latin America Examine Challenges and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation in IX Summit of the Americas
In an April 5 event, Georgetown Americas Institute (GAI) Founding Director Alejandro Werner moderated a panel discussion with ambassadors from three Latin American countries about the need for regional cooperation on pressing issues in the ninth Summit of the Americas.
On June 20, 2022, the United States will host the ninth Summit of the Americas. Some of the key issues facing the summit include economic recovery, migration, climate change, and the state of democracy. In this discussion, three ambassadors to the United States—Juan Carlos Pinzón (Colombia), Ivonne Baki (Ecuador), and Andrés Durán (Uruguay)—shared their views on the challenges and opportunities in the summit in relation to these issues.
Regional Economic Integration
Andrés Durán, ambassador of Uruguay to the United States, explored the main challenges facing leaders at the Summit of the Americas. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses of social systems in Latin America; underdevelopment continues to plague the region.
“Out of the 35 countries in the Americas, 33 are underdeveloped,” he said. “The key element for the summit is that we need to work on better regional economic integration of the hemisphere.”
Citing his own experience in the private sector, Durán emphasized that the problem in the Americas is not a lack of resources. “Trade and investment are essential for the region’s development,” he said, “To bring better trade and investment policies would be a success at the summit.”
Climate Change and Migration
Ivonne Baki, ambassador of Ecuador to the United States, spoke about the need to create infrastructure that protects the environment. Baki emphasized the importance of reviving interest in the Build Back Better World (B3W), an initiative put forward by the Group of Seven (G7) in June 2021 to promote economic development with sensitivity to climate change.
“If the summit is not successful in putting forward sound policies when it comes to climate change, this will be the last opportunity for us to make lasting change on this issue,” she said.
Juan Carlos Pinzón, ambassador of Colombia to the United States, stressed that the Summit of the Americas should promote regional efforts to address migration.
“If the summit wants to be successful with the issue of migration, it needs to consider three things: the attack on democracy in the region, economic recovery, and climate change. If we exploit our natural resources without being sensitive to climate change, we will be in trouble. Conversely, we need to address migration in tandem with issues like climate change.”
Promoting Democratic Values
All three ambassadors agreed that the Summit of the Americas is an opportunity for leaders to reaffirm their belief in democracy. Increasing autocratic tendencies from leaders in Latin America are causing people to become disillusioned with democracy.
Pinzón advised that those who believe in democratic values need to be realistic about what can be accomplished at the summit.
“There are currently political visions that are very opposing and polarizing in Latin America. It is dangerous to use democratic structures for autocratic purposes,” he warned. “This creates a horrible incentive in the region for others to do the same without the fear of consequences.”
In spite of these recent attacks on democracy, Durán reminded the audience that the Americas is still the most democratic region in the world.
“What we need to do is build on this strong foundation to reaffirm the importance of democracy at the summit.”
Pinzón agreed, observing that the Summit of the Americas “should be about promoting democratic values and free markets as signs of development.”
In closing, Baki noted that populism is increasing in the region because people do not believe in democracy anymore.
“People aren’t believing in democracy because of the economic situations they are placed in. A successful summit will be to meet the needs of the people so that people can say that democracy works. We need young people to be present at the summit who can think outside the box and offer new ideas and perspectives on these issues.”