United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today told officials concerned with Latin America that the world body will continue to provide assistance to the countries of the region as they consolidate progress.
Hailing the region’s overall transition from authoritarian to democratic rule over the past quarter century, Ms. Fréchette told officials attending a conference in New York, “The entire world has a stake in the debate about the fate of democracy in Latin America.”
The subject is on the agendas of the Organization of American States OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other important institutions, including her hosts for the day, the Ebert Foundation and the Security and Peace Initiative, she said.
“Never before have so many countries in the region been democratic. Never before has democracy endured this long. The region is largely at peace, unlike other parts of the world,” Ms. Fréchette said.
Since so many Latin American leaders were formed politically by struggling against authoritarian regimes, they are committed to promoting and protecting democracy, she said.
“And yet, there are worrisome trends,” Ms. Fréchette said.
With the number of people in poverty and extreme poverty in the area having almost doubled over the last couple of decades, Latin America remains the most unequal region in the world, with high levels of unemployment and with spikes in crime and violence that threaten not only citizens’ lives but hamper the growth of such income sources as tourism and foreign investment.
Although democracy has made great inroads, there is disillusionment with the process and with newly propounded economic models, she said.
The challenge will be to consolidate the best of what is happening in Latin America and sustain the vigour with which change is being pursued, while addressing the backlog of need. In this regard, leadership from the ground up is a necessary counterpoint to top-down, paternalistic models, the Deputy Secretary-General said.
She pledged that the “entire UN team” will continue to support the region in its effort to reduce poverty and raise living standards.