COVID-19 Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean: No. 44
In this context, the action of the EEAS – European Union’s diplomatic service is fundamental. A key aspect of the work of the EEAS is its ability to have a strong working relationship with the United Nations (UN) and other International Organizations. The EEAS is based in Brussels but it relies on an extensive network of EU diplomatic presence worldwide.
The EEAS, United Nation Refugees Agency (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM), launched on December 18, 2020 a new initiative in 11 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The joint initiative will assist communities most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic by providing greater access to social protection services and support to lessen the pandemic’s socio economic impact and enhance efforts for long-term recovery.
The interventions also aim to strengthen the national health response by improving the access and inclusion of refugees and migrants in national health responses, while enhancing social cohesion with host communities through positive interaction and improved sensitization on Covid-19.
The importance of the dialogue and collaboration across Latin America and Caribbean countries, the international community, such as OECD, and the EU in the current context of Covid-19 crisis is also shown in the area of the digital transformation. Digital transformation can help Latin America and the Caribbean region recover more quickly from the COVID – 19 crisis, according to the Latin American Economic Outlook (LEO) 2020: Digital Transformation for Building Back Better.
The LEO is a joint annual publication produced by the OECD Development Centre, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) and the European Union (EU).
Another strategic tool of EU-LAC partnership is the European Union – Latin America and Caribbean Foundation created in 2010 by the Heads of State and Government of the European Union and CELAC. Its Members are the Member states of the EU and CELAC as well as the EU itself. In general terms, the EU-LAC Foundation provides a platform for them to meet, communicate and debate ideas on moving the two regions forwards by bringing them closer together. Its activities feed into the intergovernmental dialogue, in line with the bi-regional Action Plan. The Foundation was created to make the relationship more dynamic and inclusive by gathering scholars, non-governmental organizations, economic actors, government representatives and others to exchange their views. It was entrusted with the mission of strengthening and promoting the strategic bi-regional relationship, enhancing its visibility and fostering active participation of the respective civil societies.
Following its mandate to foster the visibility of and promote debates on priority issues for the bi-regional agenda, the Foundation has organized a series of webinars to compare and share national and regional experiences on how to face the crisis related to Covid-19 and to discuss the challenges that it entails for bi-regional relations.
Six main topics have been discussed in the webinars which took place from 27th April until 15th June 2020:
- How are Regional Organizations responding to the pandemic and what opportunities for cooperation exist;
- Challenges for social cohesion & sustainable development: the Agenda 2030 after Covid-19;
- A new multilateralism in the Covid-19 era;
- Scientific cooperation for the management of pandemics;
- Pandemic and infodemic: experiences of journalists in the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean;
- Tackling climate change in the era of Covid-19.
A report has been presented as a written compilation of the series of webinars which saw contributions from a group of experts from regional bodies, United Nations agencies, multilateral development banks, EU-LAC governments, academia, media and non-governmental institutions from the regions of LAC and the EU.
The webinar on “Circular Economy in the COVID-19 Era: Challenges and Opportunities” took place on 24th November 2020 and a written report has also been presented. The potential of a circular economy for a green recovery post Covid-19 and the importance of global cooperation were emphasized.
The EU-LAC Foundation has also conducted another series of webinars and keynote lecturers addressing the effects of Covid-19. The video recordings were in total length available and took into consideration the following aspects of the pandemic crisis:
- How does the international reorder look like from Mexico. Implications for EU-LAC relations;
- What to expect of EU-Latin America relations in turbulent times;
- Is ‘strategic autonomy’ a response to the international crisis;
- Geopolitics meets values: EU-LAC relations before and after Covid-19;
- Dilemmas and challenges for Latin America in the Post-Pandemic Period;
- Why should the European Union be of relevance for Latin America and the Caribbean;
- Challenges of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe in the post pandemic;
- How do we prepare for the gradual and selective exit from confinement at domestic work;
- European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean relations in the face of Covid-19.
On August 2020, a new initiative was launched (now incorporated into the Eu-LAC Foundation’s annual calendar of activities), which has as its main purpose to receive essays on topics of relevance to the bi-regional partnership, especially academic papers by young researchers aimed at increasing the visibility of this partnership and promoting mutual knowledge. For the 2020 edition, the theme chosen was “The New Multilateralism in the era of Covid-19 from the perspective of EU-Latin America and the Caribbean relations”.
The common thread running through the work is the shared vision of young researchers on the challenges of revitalizing and modernizing bi-regional relations, as well as the commitment to multilateralism as a way not only to renew these ties, but also to rebuild a better post-Covid-19 world.
As part of its activities to promote the debate on common strategies related to the EU-LAC bi-regional association, the Foundation also publish a “Newsletter” that provides a multi-stakeholder space for dissemination of information on the topics on the bi-regional agenda; and encourages young researchers to work on EU-LAC relation. In particular the Newsletter 10/2020 focused on opinion articles and Foundation publications on “Climate change in times of COVID”.
It is worth to mention EU-LAC Newsletter 8/2020 which covered opinion articles and Foundation publications on what are the roles of multilateralism and cooperation in the global efforts against the Covid-19, but also on the role that both the two regions, EU and LAC, are called to play during and after the pandemic.
The Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation (JIRI)
Another strategic tool of scientific cooperation is The Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation (JIRI). The European Union cooperates with The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on Science and Research through JIRI, established in 2010.
The JIRI brings together the countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Member States of the European Union and the European Commission.
Naturally, Covid-19 has recently been discussed within JIRI. The EU – CELAC JIRI meeting on Science and Technology, held virtually on 30 October 2020, discussed the importance of science and innovation cooperation on Covid-19. The cooperation is especially aimed at ensuring global access to medicines, vaccines, and medical equipment.
Following that meeting, the EU-CELAC Common Research Area for the 2021-2023 period was defined in the “Draft 2021-2023 Strategic Roadmap for the implementation of the Brussels Declaration and EU-CELAC Action Plan on Science, Technology and Innovation”.
Regarding Covid-19 in the ‘Global Challenges’ pillar – Health section of the draft, it states that the two parties consider sharing “the challenges related to the epidemiology of Covid-19, infectious diseases and pandemic prevention” crucial. In the document they also underline the need to promote open science for the current health challenge, for example through sharing data repositories, such as the European COVID-19 Data Platform.
International Urban Cooperation Programme of the European Union for Latin America and the Caribbean (IUC-LAC)
Another aspect of the cooperation between European Union and LAC Countries on the Covid-19 pandemic deals with city governance. Local administrations are playing a very important part during the outbreak due to the fact that they have to manage the issues related to the welfare, health and safety of their citizens.
This cooperation takes place in the framework of the International Urban Cooperation Programme of the European Union for Latin America and the Caribbean (IUC-LAC) This program gathers mayors of more than 400 cities to participate in local initiatives aimed at reducing the spread of the new coronavirus Covid-19.
EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Technical Assistance Programme against Transnational Organized Crime)
Cooperation between European Union and LAC Countries also deals with crime issues. EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Technical Assistance Programme against Transnational Organized Crime) is an international cooperation programme funded by the European Union that covers the whole criminal justice system. Regarding Covid-19 the EL PAcCTO team is facilitating the exchange of information, knowledge and experience with the aim of reducing the impact of the pandemic on prison systems.
During the last EL PAcCTO Steering Committee held on 13 July 2020, the Covid Channel was launched. This is a communication channel for security forces, justice representatives and prison systems in the two regions to exchange information in different areas affected by the health crisis, like prison policy, management and traffic of medical waste, crimes against minors online and corruption in public procurement.
To make the work of the Covid Channel more effective, a space has been created on the EL PAcCTO website where all the information that has been creates by the programme to strengthen the fight against organised crime during the pandemic has been collected. So far, 5 videos, 19 news items and 6 opinion articles have been published on this website.
By Ginevra Peruginelli, Sara Conti, Chiara Fioravanti (IGSG-CNR, Italy)