CONFERENCE INTRODUCTORY REMARKS & KEYNOTE
SESSION I: ECONOMIC RECOVERY FROM COVID-19 & THE FUTURE OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT
According to the IMF’s June 2020 World Economic Outlook, the economy of Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to contract by 9.4 percent as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. High levels of economic informality and inequality complicate the ability of governments to provide stimulus packages to their citizens, which is vital as many in the nascent middle class are at risk of slipping back into poverty. As the pandemic response exposes the key priorities of governments and citizens and vulnerabilities to economic and social stability, the region’s governments will be forced to revisit the social contract with its citizens. In the near future, stunted growth and disrupted supply chains will change the economic landscape, presenting new challenges as well as new opportunities. Panelists will discuss the varying roles of governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, and NGOs in a post-pandemic equitable economic recovery, as well as the challenges for the region moving forward.
SESSION II: SUCCESSES & FAILURES: HEMISPHERIC HEALTH SYSTEMS SEVERELY TESTED
The Covid-19 pandemic has tested every health system in Latin America and the Caribbean, revealing numerous limits and fragilities that have contributed to the World Health Organization designating the region as the epicenter of the virus on June 1. Government responses to the virus ranged from draconian restrictions on free expression and movement to outright dismissal and denial of its adverse impacts, with different policies contributing to varying infection rates and death tolls. Across the region, women and members of marginalized groups have borne a disproportionate share of the burden while being structurally excluded from inadequate public health infrastructure. Domestic and international organizations will have to play a variety of roles in facilitating regional and hemispheric coordination on health responses to Covid-19 and potential health crises of the future. Panelists will discuss the efficacy of responses of countries policies and health systems, the varying impact of the pandemic on countries’ health systems, and the post-pandemic landscape through the lens of public health.
SESSION III: A CONVERSATION ON CORONAVIRUS, CLIMATE CHANGE & THE ENVIRONMENT: WHERE DOES LAC STAND?
Though Covid-19 is the first major pandemic in a century, the World Health Organization warns that the shifting global temperature patterns resulting from climate change could worsen the spread of disease in the coming decades. Even before the pandemic, the economic implications of climate change were impossible for governments to ignore. The advent of climate migrants from drought-afflicted Central American countries and increased risk of weather-related disasters in the Caribbean, among myriad other challenges, require that domestic and international institutions incorporate climate consciousness into their policies addressing the pandemic and the economic recovery. As Covid-19 reshapes the roles of governments and individuals in protecting their surroundings, there exist unprecedented opportunities to transform the relationship between economic growth and environmental protection. Panelists will discuss the relationship between climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as avenues for reshaping the environmental policy agenda moving forward.
SESSION IV: HOPES & HAZARDS: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN THE REGION
The Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on the digital divide across Latin America, especially as people rely more heavily on technology to communicate, study, work, and access finances. Though there are inarguable benefits of expanding access to digital technologies, especially as the region looks toward recovering from the pandemic, they also present numerous risks and threats. As Latin American countries focus on strengthening their technological infrastructure, they must also prepare to respond to cybersecurity and privacy issues from both foreign and national actors. This will require governments to innovate their outdated regulatory frameworks to incorporate dynamic technological advances. Panelists will discuss the roles of the public and private sectors in deploying digital technologies in different areas, including education, health, financial services, and international trade and their role in promoting the economic recovery of the region.
SESSION V: PANDEMIC POLITICS: IMPACT ON DEMOCRACY & RULE OF LAW IN LATIN AMERICA
Differing government responses to the Covid-19 crisis have highlighted the corrosive influence of populism and authoritarianism across the region, in addition to exposing the weaknesses of regional and multilateral cooperation. In many countries, these trends were seen before Covid-19 — the pandemic has only accelerated such tendencies. Especially as cases of corruption and price gouging associated with public health spending emerge throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, public trust in institutions is reaching its nadir. Panelists will discuss the political impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on its impact on the rule of law, democracy, and transnational collaboration.
SESSION VI: US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: IMPLICATIONS FOR LAC
Though Latin America has often been overlooked among other US foreign policy interests, transnational threats such as climate change and global health crises highlight the importance of hemispheric collaboration. Actors throughout the region should expect distinct foreign policy approaches depending on which of the two presidential candidates wins in November. Additionally, different US policies regarding issues such as immigration, climate, trade, and multilateral organizations will impact the United States’ neighbors throughout the hemisphere. Panelists will discuss the similarities and differences between Democratic and Republican policies towards Latin America and its regional impact.