EULAC Focus panel discussion on SDGs

18. Jun 2018


On June 6th the EULAC Focus project (H2020) invited to a panel discussion in Vienna on the SDGs and their relevance for the future of the relations between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The Panellists were:

Adam Tyson, Head of Cooperation with North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, DG Research and Innovation, EC
Alan Cobley, Vice Chancellor at the University of West Indies (UWI)
Karin Fischer, Head of Department for Policy and Development Research, University Linz (JKU)
Moderation: Barbara Göbel, Director at Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (IAI)

The panellists all emphasised that the SDGs are a very valuable framework for the relationship between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean to 2030. Adam Tyson phrased it more clearly by saying that the SDGs influence almost everything that the EU does. The SDGs are unique in committing developing and developed world likewise to achieving sustainable development in an integrated approach and by means of global partnership. The EULAC Focus project contributes by looking at a subset of this partnership, which allows developing targeted interventions in support of SDGs. The three panellists had different recommendations for topics that could be taken up by the EULAC Focus project.

Alan Cobley pointed out that the EU-LAC relationship is far from being secure and remains a relationship of unequal power. For the Caribbean he stressed the importance of resilience (as the region is severely threatened by natural disaster) and equality in connection to the SDGs. The Anglophone Caribbean has the lowest rate of enrolment in tertiary education in the hemisphere and the consequences are persistent inequalities and reproduction of elites as well as youth unemployment and crime. Education and pathways for young people through the education systems must therefore be a policy priority, also in terms of local capacity building for pushing targeted interventions linked to the SDGs.

Karin Fischer raised the topic of slavery and historical injustice, which is often consciously forgotten in debates about current socio-economic problems in former colonial States in LAC. Another topic for collaborative EU-LAC research is impacts of neoliberal reforms that strongly affected LAC in the 1980ies and has nowadays similar implications for the European periphery. Europe might learn a great deal from LAC by studying measures for reducing income inequalities, as LAC was the only region in the world which made a serious leap forward in the last decades related to this goal. Linking decent work, economic growth and ecological concerns is clearly another topic of immediate relevance in the bi-regional dialogue.  

Adam Tyson strongly recommended using the SDGs as a clear policy framework that helps EU researchers to cooperate with researchers from LAC. Countries that are on the forefront of scientific research must be convinced to the SDGs are also interesting for them. At the same time, projects like EULAC focus can contribute to provide evidence that research cooperation with LAC makes sense for the EU. The EU-LAC Common Research Area (CRA) has identified numerous topics that are of high interest for both regions (e.g. personalized medicine, neglected infectious diseases, urban mobility, earthquake forecasting, etc.). The SDGs demand that researchers come out of their thematic silos and join forces for paving the way for transformative action.

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Tags: Latin America, SDGs, sustainability

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