While the Americas have made significant progress in the last decade, the challenges posed by poverty and inequality persist in a region with the world’s largest income gap between rich and poor. In recent years, the countries of the region have tackled this problem with new energy an creativity, developing innovative ways to address the many factors that contribute to poverty-with meaningful results. Several Latin American countries are considered pioneers in adopting policies and initiatives designed to promote and strengthen social protection.
The Organization of American States (OAS) through its Secretariat for Integral Development (SEDI) supports and facilitates these efforts through high-level political dialogue, multi-lateral cooperation activities and collaborative networks, among the latter, the Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN), launched in September 2009 under a mandate from the Fifth Summit of the Americas and the Social Development Ministerial Forum.
Since its establishment, the IASPN has fostered a dynamic community of practice and learning around social protection issues. The network allows governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders to interact, both virtually and in person, in order to share information and experiences on an ongoing basis.
Working within a network environment allows collaboration to take place in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways, across borders and sectors and areas of expertise. The ideas and partnerships that grow out of such exchanges have the potential to produce real change and benefit people in tangible ways.
This kind of collaborative interaction was evident at the Third Workshop on Social Policy and International Cooperation, held in 2012 in Santa Marta, Colombia, with more than 50 participants from 13 Latin American countries. Through an interactive format, countries presented information on a variety of social protection initiatives to address the needs of different segments of the population, whether schoolchildren or unemployed youth or families belonging to particular ethnic groups. Additionally to address the pressing demand for integral and comprehensive approaches to poverty reduction, a growing number of countries are utilizing the Poverty Index to get a more precise picture of this complex problem.
The Santa Marta event confirmed that the field of social protection continues to mature and develop, and that there is ample space for growing regional cooperation as well as to expand the dialogue which began in Santa Marta and create productive synergies.