Latin America's Global Commitment

September 18, 2022

The saying goes “the train only passes once,” and if you miss it, the opportunity they represent vanishes forever. If we translate this logic into global geopolitics and focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, it is clear what the train is: climate change, digitalization, food security, new business dynamics and smart cities. Missing the train of these great transformations, i.e., not engaging in them actively, would lead to greater lags in practically all socioeconomic indicators.

For various historical reasons (most of them related to complex domestic conjunctures and with lack of regional integration), Latin America and the Caribbean has taken a back seat to the international dynamics and has failed to leverage its competitive advantages, including most notably its rich biodiversity (we are home to 60% of the planet’s terrestrial and marine life); its vast natural resources (49% of silver reserves and 44% copper, for example); and its agricultural potential (we have 28% of the land with potential for agriculture).

The upshot is that the region has had a relatively low impact on global geopolitics and that its voice, its solutions and its successes have not been as resounding as they deserved to be. To change this historical inertia, we need to adopt a more proactive position in global decision-making forums and disseminate the progress we are making every day in our communities, cities and countries. A more active and decisive commitment will also help us to create new international synergies and to rapidly integrate cutting-edge developments taking place in the most advanced economies.

Climate change is one of the most illustrative examples in this regard. An estimated 37% of mitigation needs can be met with nature-based solutions. For example, reducing the degradation and destruction of forests, mangroves and other ecosystems can minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Given our rich biodiversity, we are a key player in preserving global climate stability. The planet needs our leadership to ensure its own survival, and the region must leverage this position to achieve sustained economic growth that will help it overcome structural gaps in poverty, competitiveness and inclusion.

Latin America is also in a position to lead global food security efforts. The world’s population will demand 60% more food by 2050, which offers us an unparalleled opportunity to become the breadbasket of the world. The challenges are numerous and this is still a chimera, but we must start now to realize it. Currently, the majority of production falls on 14 million smallholder farmers with a very low level of access to basic technologies. We need to raise investment to develop and integrate agricultural technologies, improve farmers’ technological know-how and create competitive infrastructure.

Another front in which Latin America is already providing global solutions is the construction of sustainable, smart and environmentally friendly cities. CAF’s Network of Biodivercities, for example, is integrating the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into urban planning and management, to turn cities into a source of growth, inclusion, well-being and progress. According to the World Economic Forum, these types of solutions are, on average, 50% more cost-effective and add 28% more value than traditional activities.

The last area in which the region must raise its voice is digital transformation.  The digital revolution train is not an opportunity, it is an ethical, economic and social imperative. The pandemic opened up huge opportunities, such as the boost to online education, remote work, the boom of e-commerce and the growth of web-based services. However, there are still 172 million Latin Americans without access to the internet, 30% of them in rural areas. Becoming a key player in this area requires more investments in digital infrastructure, more integration to achieve a digital single market, more agile governments and fewer access gaps.

To help the region get on the train of major global transformations, CAF—development bank of Latin America—organized in New York, within the framework of the 77th UN Assembly, the conference “Many Voices, One Region,” a space for reflection with global leaders, heads of state and Latin American Nobel laureates to contribute with experiences and solutions of global scope to help tackle the challenges facing the region on issues such as climate action, biodiversity, energy transition, cities, gender, inclusion or diversity.

To disseminate the Latin American message and solutions, it is imperative that we cultivate a spirit of cooperation and understanding. Only thus will we be able to raise the voice and promote Latin America and the Caribbean’s leadership in the great global transformations.

Sergio Díaz-Granados
Sergio Díaz-Granados

Presidente Ejecutivo, CAF -banco de desarrollo de América Latina y el Caribe-