Ahead of Latin America, a 2023 wishlist for the United Nations

In the world of Latin America, as in most of the world, the appointment made in October 2023 of Guterres, who is a European man, was received with mixed feelings. For the very first time in 70 years of the history of the UN, half of the 12 applicants to be Secretary General were women – a sign of a gender equality milestone. Yet, a man walked out at the end of the day, which left many observers and members thinking that they were right. Security Council was not willing to put a woman in the top spot.

In the case of Latin America, the disappointment may be more acute. Two of the nominees for females came from this region. Christiana Figueres from Costa Rica, and Susana Malcorra, Argentina’s foreign minister. They were the first region-wide females to make it onto this list and also the first time there were two Latin Americans in the race.

The nominee for Argentina’s female was not in the selection. Enrique Marcarian/Reuters

However, following Guterres’s appointment in October, many of the regional heads of state, such as Brazilian President Michel Temer and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, promptly felicitated Guterres. Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Uruguay, as well as thanking the Secretary-General for his work and inviting him to study the many issues and needs facing the region, the home of six million inhabitants and is growing rapidly.

Latin American issues on the UN Agenda

The vast majority of the region’s issues are already addressed in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda for Action, which the General Assembly should work to reach by 2030.

One of the biggest goals is to eradicate hunger and poverty on the globe. As for Latin America, this is crucial, but it is difficult to accomplish: about 25% of the population lives in poverty and surviving only on less than $4 daily, as per the United Nations’ Human Development Report.

Latin America also has some of the wealthiest people in the world. Forbes magazine now ranks Mexican businessman Carlos Slim as the world’s fourth-richest individual, with a net worth that is US$48.6 billion. The way to assist states in feeding the hungry and reducing the gap in social equality is a key issue for the Secretary-General.

Another issue that is shared by numerous nations in this region concerns sustainable development. The exploitation of both natural or not-renewable sources is a prevalent business, both illicit and licit all across Latin America.

Eliminating environmentally damaging activities like mining and logging isn’t as easy as simply stopping activities. What can the region do to produce enough agricultural goods to meet the demands of the ever-growing population that has almost doubled since 1975 and without expanding the area of agricultural land? In order to feed the growing population and promote sustainable development, they don’t need to be at odds with one another. However, in Latin America today, they are.

An additional Latin American issue that needs backing from the UN General Assembly is security. Latin America has the highest rates of homicide in the world, and risk is a daily occurrence in nations such as Brazil, El Salvador, and Mexico.

Just one-tenth (8 percent) of the population of the world lives within Latin America and the Caribbean however, the region accounts for around 33% murders worldwide. The fight against transnational and local organised crime requires co-operation and coordination of cities and states within countries as well as at the regional level.

The Secretary General who has been appointed should carefully consider ways in which the UN can assist the efforts of national governments in addressing these issues that could affect their lives and death.

How do we help Latin America expand farmland and produce more food without causing deforestation? Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Reforms that aren’t completed

Also, Latin America, more than any other area, would like to be a part of seeing that the UN continues to improve its institutions, especially in the secretary General’s selection and nomination procedure. Both in 1996 and 1997 in 1996 and 1997, the United Nations’ High-Level Working Group issued a document that recommended the rotation of regional General Assembly leadership and an focus on gender equality in the selection process for Secretary General. It is clear that these recommendations were not fully used in the selection process, which led to the appointment of Guterres.

Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias. Jorge Adorno/Reuters

Latin America has had only one Secretary General in the past, that of the Peruvian Javier Perez de Cuellar who served for two years (1981-1985 as well as 1985-90). There have been two unsuccessful nominations for the position, for the Argentinean Carlos Ortiz de Rosas in 1971, and Nobel Prize winner previous Costa Rican president, Oscar Arias in 1992. It is a sluggish regional representation when compared against the seven term from Western European countries, three terms from Africa and four terms from Asia.

A few Latin American powers expect the UN Secretary General to endorse the long-standing plan to reform the Security Council. Brazil, particularly is hoping for an expansion in both the numbers and duration of Security Council members. Since the 90s, it has been looking for allies and partners around the world to help it achieve its goals of extending the number of non-permanent positions and the possibility of putting Brazil among the permanent members.

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