Photo: A. Rubio.
Rebeca Grynspan / Ibero-American Secretary General
Mateo Herrero. Madrid
Rebeca Grynspan (Costa Rica, 1955) in an economist and sociologist. In 1986 she joined Óscar Arias’ Government as deputy minister for the Treasury, and between 1994 and 1998 she served as minister and vice-president. Her trajectory led her to become Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). When she took charge of her post as Ibero-American Secretary-General, in April, she began a tour of the region. In her office in Madrid, she displays the photographs with heads of State, and chancellors that she visited during those months. Optimistic, her joy is contagious, on 8 and 9 December, she will make her debut at the XXIV Ibero-American summit in Veracruz, Mexico.
What proposals have you made to the heads of State that you visited?
They have all reiterated their desire to renew the Ibero-American Summit. My message was well received by them: the Ibero-American community, a very successful venture, has to change because Latin America now is different from what it was in 1991, and the relationship with the Iberian Peninsula have to be more horizontal and symmetrical. There will be a different quota distribution, to pass part of the funding, which at the moment is paid by the Iberian Peninsula, to Latin America. Finally, we must have set goals, to give this Summit in Veracruz a great deal of content.
What are those goals?
In educations, a programme of academic mobility and an accreditation platform to push forward the recognition of academic qualifications. In culture, currently the spine of the Ibero-American space, not only arts, but also, for example, rescuing the manner in which society relates to itself. In social cohesion, small and medium enterprises have been very important, for whom we will be offering a proposal for an independent arbitration mechanism, and the activities of the Business Forum.
“I don’t believe it possible, or desirable, to have a single hegemonic project for the region”
You call for a “common voice” for Latin America. Could the appearance of new regional organizations become an obstacle?
Latin America is a plural region, with different social, political and economic systems. I am glad that the CELAC exists to bring together all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, because it can fulfil a role that we aren’t. I do not see that Latin America’s natural path is the hegemony of one institution, such as the EU in Europe. I think that greater economic integration in the region is desirable, and it will be carried out by companies, not governments.
What does “the second generation of public policy” which you support consist of?
Latin America has carried out macro-policies in the past, but we still need to delve into microeconomic policy. Macroeconomics can’t push the region’s production matrix to the level we want it. This has to do with the investment in science and technology. Education will be the central axis, but it is not enough.
In Brazil and in other countries, people have taken to the street demanding better public services and greater dignity. Will we be seeing more demonstrations like that if governments don’t move forward?
This is the challenge of the future. These demonstrations are welcome. It is a show of the vitality of Latin American democracy. There has to be an institutional response to the demands of the people, who are calling for quality, responsibility, accountability, improvement in public services and governability. The institutions tend to delay when faced with these demands, and that needs to be fixed.
Could this be Latin America’s decade?
Not this one, because it is a decade of deceleration, and governments will need to be more efficient to face the challenges we’ve spoken about. The past decade was Latin America’s, the only continent which not only reduced poverty, but also inequality.
It is also true that Latin America was far behind.
Latin America had tried all the combinations between equity and growth. A decrease and lowering in inequality; a growth and heightening of inequality. What had never happened before was that inequality had grown and lowered. It happened because there was redistributive action from the State, which was very efficient. Inequality decreased in 15 of 17 countries studied in Latin America.
Should Latin America have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council?
The Bretton Woods institutions should be reformed. There are emerging powers and regions that are not adequately represented in the IMF, in the World Bank and in the UN.
One of your objectives is to launch an Erasmus grants programme for Ibero-America.
That is my dream. If we could build a programme of student, teacher and researcher mobility, it would be an important contribution to the Ibero-American space. In contrast with Europe, it is not a question of having a centralised programme, but of developing a platform for anyone who wishes to finance academic exchanges.
Spain has lost the centrality it had in the Ibero-American space. Is it adapting to its new role?
I think so. Spain has taken up the Latin American commitment. It is no longer a one way relationship, it goes both ways. It is no longer Spain that receives Latin American immigrants; it is now Latin America that opens their arms to many Spaniards. Same can be said for investments. In the 1990s, Latin America was not a safe region for investment; Spain believed in it, and they did well. Today we see that multi-Latin companies come to Spain to enter into the European markets and this has benefited Spain.