Critical Juncture

What are the main challenges to overcome the current regional integration crisis in Latin America?

June 30, 10-11 AM EDT, Virtual Panel Discussion

The offices of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) in New York and Buenos Aires jointly hosted a virtual panel discussion, “Critical Juncture” on the regional impacts of global power shifts, as illuminated by the situation of Latin America.

In the aftermath of year one of the Covid pandemic, in addition to health, education, employment and social emergencies in many countries, we are living through a critical geopolitical juncture, a complex redistribution of global power that is shaking the foundations of the liberal world order. The roots of this critical juncture encompass years of asymmetrical globalization and dismantling of social welfare systems alongside a retraction of liberal democracy. Now an escalating rivalry between the United States and China puts increased pressure on the multilateral system, just as Russia has reemerged as an assertive power and Europe has been missing in action on the world stage. These shifts are making international cooperation more difficult and conflict more likely.

The critical juncture leaves some regions less well-equipped than others to adapt to the transformations under way. The reasons are many, but chief among them in the Latin American region are a set of endemic problems: reducing poverty didn’t eliminate inequality of living conditions; high growth and the commodities boom didn’t solve the region’s competitiveness or innovation challenges; states have been consistently unable to provide for public goods; the judiciaries are politicized; regional institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank and Organization of American States are disrupted by intra-regional political divisions; and both armed and social conflict persists. The authors of a new FES Special Peace and Security Publication entitled Critical Juncture have called this the “Latin American vacuum”.

As food for thought, FES invited authors Mónica Hirst, Juan Tokatlian and Guadalupe González to present their six proposed “escape routes” from the vacuum. The subsequent moderated discussion  featured an open dialogue with country representatives and experts from academia and civil society on how the critical juncture impacts not only Latin America, but also other countries and regions. This event further embraced questions and reflections on: regional emergency responses to Covid, regional peace dialogues, how to address root causes of migration flows, how to strengthen institutions without acquiescing to major powers, and how to boost the voice and engagement of all regions in the multilateral system.

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