|Ecuador Pushes for Greater South-South Cooperation and Stronger Public Disability Assistance Policies|
|Written by Nathan Singham|
|Monday, 02 June 2014 16:08|
Earlier this month, during a speech at the 35th biannual conference for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, General Secretary, Alicia Bárcena stated, “cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean is at a turning point, as the region still needs aid, but is also able to provide aid.” The General Secretary’s statement is largely reflective of a new reality in which Latin American governments are both recipients and providers of aid and cooperation. This is particularly true in the case of Ecuador. The most recent report published by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB) found that Ecuador was the largest recipient of bilateral south-south cooperation projects in Latin America. However, the report also noted that Ecuador has become an increasingly important provider in bilateral cooperation projects, specifically in the area of social assistance programs, which accounted for 35 percent of all south-to-south projects carried out by the Ecuadorian government.
In 2007 Ecuador created the Technical Secretariat for International Cooperation (SETECI). One of SETECI’s key policy objectives has been promoting initiatives to increase south-south bilateral collaboration. In its efforts to do so, last year, SETECI published its annual international bilateral cooperation brochure, which identifies potential areas for collaboration. Ecuador’s Technical Assistance Catalogue contains a total of 69 cooperation projects including an Ecuadorian lead initiative offered to Latin American governments interested in providing assistance to disabled populations. (According to the World Health Organization only 3 percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean living with some form of disability have access to rehabilitation services.) The program invites representatives from different countries to exchange ideas on ways to support people with disabilities.
The training is based on two programs that are already operating in Ecuador: the Manuela Espejo Mission and the Joaquin Gallegos Lara Mission. The former program was launched in 2009 by the Ecuadorian government (with help from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments) to collect information about individuals living with disabilities. The study found that nearly 2.43 percent of persons with disabilities required government assistance. As a response to the findings, the government founded the Joaquin Gallegos Lara Mission, which addresses the needs of the mentally disabled population throughout the country. The Joaquin Gallegos Lara Mission provides a $240 monthly stipend and life insurance to caregivers of people with disabilities. In addition, the program offers individuals with disabilities training in health, hygiene, disability rights and social security. By 2013, 230,199 people had received assistance as a result of the initial program.
Due to help from the Ecuadorian government these programs have been replicated in Uruguay and El Salvador. The Ecuadorian government has also provided assistance to the governments of Peru, Jamaica and Haiti. A 2012 report by ECLAC estimated that 12.4% of the Latin American and 5.4% of the Caribbean population, on average, live with at least one disability.
Two weeks ago, at the sixty-seventh session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, the Ecuadorian Health Ministry held discussions concerning the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2014-2021 Disability Action Plan (DAP) which was proposed by the Ecuadorian delegation and was approved at this year’s WHA. The plan will predominantly focus on assisting regional WHO member countries with less-advanced disability and rehabilitation programs. DAP will be carried out by the WHO in conjunction with regional governments and multilateral integration organizations such as: Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Central American Integration System (SICA), Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). These organizations and regional governments (Ecuador in particular) will facilitate cooperation, discussion of mutual problems, and the exchange of ideas among countries.
Health related cooperation projects have become an increasingly important part of regional south-south cooperation. According to SEGIB, in 2012 health projects made up 11.3 percent of bilateral cooperation activities. This is especially true in Ecuador where health related cooperation projects comprised one-fifth of total projects received. As Ecuador expands its level of participation in regional cooperation activities it will continue to be an important ally for countries in the region that seek to strengthen public disability policies.