With Covid-19, It’s High Time for New Social Compact in Latin America

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In the context of covid-19’s alarming propagation in Latin America, FIDH and 22 of its member organisations publish a paper today sounding the alarm that inequality risks intensifying while poverty could rise to levels not seen in a decade. FIDH and and its undersigned member organisations call on Latin American governments to kick-start a new social compact that prioritises redistributive fiscal policies, suspends external debt and interest, and fights corruption, so that resources can be captured and harnessed to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the pandemic’s new epicentre, not only has Latin America’s death toll risen; hunger has skyrocketed. In the region, over 50% of the population—around 140 million people—work informally.

This informality makes families’ household economies precarious, even more so when stay-at-home orders curtail their income, having repercussions on their ability to feed themselves, pay rent or mortgage payments or other basic needs. Public policies must prioritise actions aiming to prevent the health crisis from becoming a full-blown food crisis.
Furthermore, access to water, which is directly tied to the virus’ spread, is cause for worry in the entire region: 65 million people do not have access to water and soap, with rural areas being the most affected.

The region’s high covid-19 death toll has given visibility to the dismantling of the public health system, the precarious nature of health workers’ jobs, and the lack of medical supplies such as ventilators and hospital beds. In Latin America, medical centres are concentrated in urban areas, leaving many rural residents disadvantaged and vulnerable.

In many countries in the region, there have been corruption scandals about improper use and embezzlement of funds meant to purchase medical equipment to fight the pandemic.

At this critical juncture, when the pandemic’s course can still be changed, FIDH and its member organisations warn against the serious risk that the pandemic’s impact on extreme poverty and inequality could become permanent. Now is a key moment that must be seized to undertake a momentous policy shift.

While many governments have ordered the provision of economic and food assistance to needy citizens, the measures adopted are insufficient and suffer from problems including slow delivery and lack of transparency in how assistance is allocated. What’s more, medium-term policies are benefitting the business sector and the richest individuals, to the detriment of those who are most disadvantaged—thus deepening socioeconomic inequalities.

Before this complex backdrop, FIDH and its undersigned member organisations present a series of short-term and medium-term recommendations aiming to counteract covid-19’s exacerbation of poverty and socioeconomic inequalities impacting vulnerable populations, to pave the way for a more just and equitable society in which human rights are of utmost priority.

Among the paper’s recommendations: redistributive fiscal reforms to fight aggravation of inequality and combat the rise of extreme poverty; for example, the implementation of universal basic income financed by taxes on significant wealth, allowing for the full enjoyment of human rights; the suspension of external debt and interest, and the cancellation of those deemed illegitimate, odious, and illegal; and finally, greater monitoring of public expenditures combatting the pandemic to prevent resources earmarked for the needs of vulnerable populations from vanishing due to corruption.

Without an overhaul of Latin American nations’ social compact, the region will come out of the pandemic poorer, more unequal, and backsliding from the social advances of the past 15 years.

Prioritise life over debt: in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, Latin America requires a new social pact
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  • Co-signatories

    Undersigned organisations:

    1. Centro de Capacitación Social de Panamá (CCS)
    2. Centro de Derechos y Desarrollo (CEDAL)
    3. Centro de Investigación y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CIPRODEH)
    4. Movimento Nacional de Direitos Humanos (MNDH, Brazil)
    5. Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos (ILSA)
    6. Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos – CNDH-RD
    7. Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH)
    8. Fundación Regional de Asesoria en Derechos Humanos (INREDH)
    9. Justiça Global (Brazil)
    10. Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Humanos Perú Equidad
    11. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH)
    12. Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (LIMEDDH)
    13. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador (CDHES)
    14. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
    15. Observatorio Ciudadano
    16. Corporación Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo (CCAJAR, Colombia)
    17. Centro de Acción Legal en Derechos Humanos (CALDH)
    18. Centro Nicaragüense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
    19. Programa Venezolano de Educación – Acción en Derechos Humanos – PROVEA
    20. Comité de Acción Jurídica (CAJ)
    21. Acción Ecológica
    22. IDHEAS-Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos, A.C. (Mexico)
    23. Réseau national de défense des droits humains (RNDDH, Haiti)

  • Attached documents

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