Interview with Atilio Borón, Laureate of the 2009 José Marti Prize: “In Latin America, three major challenges call for action”
In an interview for SHSviews (n°25, July-September 2009), the Argentinian political scientist Atilio Borón, former Executive Secretary of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), and winner of the UNESCO International José Martí Prize 2009, explains how the social sciences contribute to meeting the challenges that Latin America is facing within the context of the international crisis.
“Currently, Latin America must face three major challenges that call for the implementation of concrete measures.
The first challenge is directly linked to the economic crisis and the management of its consequences. In this case, it is necessary to ensure that the costs of the current international crisis are not borne by the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies, who are the traditional victims of structural adjustment policies implemented to cope with the consequences of economic crises.
The second consists in significantly improving the functioning of our democratic regimes by assuring the universal distribution of its goods and services such as education, health, housing, social security, and even recreation. Meeting this challenge is all the more necessary if we want to uphold our democratic standards and avoid frustrations linked to the expectations that this promise holds, which could lead to the establishment of authoritarian regimes in Latin America.
Lastly, the third challenge is to pose strict limits on the processes of commodification of the environment which are at the root of the ecological damage that affects Latin America today. Open-cast mining, the destruction of natural resources, the irrational use of water, the contamination of rivers and groundwater and further still, the growing development of monocultures to produce agro-fuel are all factors which, if they are not counteracted, could produce a true “ecological holocaust”.
Furthermore, it is all the more urgent to take action in this domain because 50% of the biodiversity and fresh water of the planet is concentrated in this region of the world.
It is necessary for not only all the governments of Latin America, but also for those of industrialized countries, to commit themselves to meet these three challenges in a concrete manner”.
Interview by Coraline Bardinat