Interview: Victoria Marina Velásquez de Avilés
How can SICA capitalise on its commercial agreements with multilateral organisations in the region?
VICTORIA MARINA VELÁSQUEZ DE AVILES: SICA focuses on its communitarian and supranational nature in order to strengthen social cohesion and quality of life among its peoples. The path we have chosen is a constant, gradual process of regional integration, with the support of intergovernmental institutions and cooperating partners. Such support has facilitated a legal and institutional framework that goes beyond the economic dimension, touching social, cultural, environmental, political and institutional aspects.
SICA cannot capitalise on its commercial agreements if these fail to help the agendas of the region and member countries complement each other in ways that raise life standards, defend cultural diversity and enhance educational opportunity. Effectiveness with these agreements means more than improving trade balances; it implies understanding how economic policy can help strengthen human and labour rights. To this end, such agreements should foster solidarity, cooperation and alignment of common goals.
What role can Japan and other Asian countries play in the development of Central American economies?
VELÁSQUEZ: Asian economies can play a very relevant role in creating wealth in Central American economies through trade, with special attention to social development. Free trade agreements must include cooperation components that allow knowledge and technology transfer in order to add value to Central American products and incentivise the more vulnerable economic sectors. Asian technical and financial cooperation in Central America’s integration is characterised by high levels of social awareness and promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises. These partners are among the strongest believers in strengthening gender equality, promoting sports and culture, developing mathematical thought, preventing natural disasters, creating new technologies and enhancing public administration. To strengthen cooperation with Asia and other regions, SICA has created the Management, Coordination and Information Support Mechanism, which sets procedures and lines of action for SICA to strengthen its management, negotiation, coordination, approval, execution, follow-up, evaluation and information.
How can integration help meet challenges like poverty, social exclusion, health care and security?
VELÁSQUEZ: Challenges like security and wealth distribution must be tackled through greater integration. The need to bring the benefits of this closer to society requires constant exercise of political and institutional innovation. This has led, among other things, to SICA’s Regional Health Policy, aimed at improving workplace health, social investments, the environment and the economy, and to the Treaty on Democratic Security, part of the Central American Security Strategy.
What will also help combat these challenges is the development of a knowledge-based society. Governments can play an important role in fostering this, especially in developing the ICT sector, which can benefit key sectors such as education, health and security through provision of electronic services.
From a legal standpoint, such challenges are being approached at a regional level through the Tegucigalpa Protocol. This agreement, the most important one achieved by SICA members, was adopted to form a strong, regionally integrated legal community, and is complemented by many other agreements and treaties with the approval of regional secondary legislation. The result is a regional corpus juris that becomes relevant to the consolidation of community law and order.
The aspirations of SICA members are the result of the profound links that unite Central Americans and enable them to take full advantage of their multiple synergies. The challenge in Central America is to integrate with a sense social cohesion between its countries’ peoples, and in ways that will strengthen their capacities to complement regional and national agendas, with the goal of reducing social and economic gaps.
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