Wednesday 8. April 2020
#158 - March 2013


EU-Latin America: rethinking development policy


Should we view development policy solely as a means of economic recovery or rather from the perspectives of sustainability and viability?

The vitality of the emerging economies is starting to redefine the balance of decision-making powers at international level. The crises in finance, food and the environment have brought into question the viability of the dominant economic model based on growth and pinned to agro-industrial and mining development: a major predator of Earth’s natural resources and generator of profit to the detriment of justice, equality and respect for human rights. It raises huge economic, social and environmental challenges and demands a complete remake of - or, at the very least, some soul-searching into - our current economic system.


This is the context for the drawing up of the Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Investments of Social and Environmental Quality established between the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) during the top-level bi-regional summit held on 26–27 January 2013 in Santiago de Chile in Chile. The aim of this agreement was to renew and deepen the strategic partnership between the two regions with regard to promoting “investments of social and environmental quality”. In order to eradicate poverty and promote equality, particularly gender equality, it is vital to encourage “sustained and inclusive economic growth” (§17) of the countries in the region, all the while “protecting the environment and promoting social equity and inclusion” (§39), thanks to productive investment that respects all three dimensions of sustainable development (§39). The green economy is one of the most important tools available for achieving sustainable development and poverty eradication (§40): and the Latin American Investment Facility (LAIF) mechanism is its strategy which will enable the encouragement of the investment so much needed by the beneficiary governments and public institutions in Latin America.


Even though the CIDSE (the international alliance of Catholic development agencies) has welcomed the emphasis placed on the importance of including these social and environmental dimensions in investment promotion - and is delighted that the Declaration has mentioned that some countries and regions have recognised the rights of nature (§42) - we still have concerns about the central role awarded to the private sector in development through the progress of the green economy. In fact, according to the CIDSE, the concept of the green economy is fraught with problems. Not only does it fail to address the structural causes linked to our development model based on growth, consumption and measuring GNP, but it also fails to incorporate the dimensions of social equity, instead considering the environment as a source of investment potential. The recent trade agreements ratified between Peru, Colombia and Central America and the EU are good examples of the predominance of economic interests over human and environmental rights between countries and regions which are inherently imbalanced at the economic level. But supporting sustainable development and poverty eradication requires us not only to incorporate the three pillars of sustainable development and to respect the human rights of the citizens and communities most affected, but also calls into question the economic models that rely on growth measured in terms of GNP. Instead, we should give priority to locally sustainable approaches and technologies with the goal of obtaining substantial social benefits for all citizens.

Pursuing this argument even further, it would be a good idea to call into question the concept of development aimed at economic recovery which is not viable from the ecological point of view; we should propose social and economic alternatives that would be based on the concept of viability.


Finally, CIDSE welcomes with satisfaction the setting up of a bi-regional dialogue on the issues relating to gender equality which will be entrusted to a high level organisation created for the purpose. Social justice can only be accomplished if equality between men and women is fully established. After all, its basic tenet is respect for human dignity.


Cayetana Carrion

Programme Cooperation Officer, CIDSE


Translated from the original text in French



Many studies show that the quality of life does not really increase beyond a level of GNP per capita ranging between $US 1000 and $1,500. The goal of any viability policy should therefore be to stabilise the world economy around this average level and to redirect human activity towards business activity sectors, production methods and trade exchanges that are compatible with a globally balanced eco-system.  See “Pour une politique de la viabilité ”-  Xavier Ricard, CCFD-terre Solidaire, January 2013.


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Note: The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Jesuit European Office and COMECE.