As the second phase of the partnership between ESCAP and the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation of Colombia (APC Colombia) draws to a close, unique opportunities for in-depth exchange between Latin America and Asia and the Pacific have been facilitated. Established in August 2022, the partnership has promoted policies for inclusive and sustainable economies in countries through learning and exchange across the two regions.
To this end, a diverse group of policymakers and industry leaders from Ecuador, Chile and Colombia convened in Delhi to participate in a study tour from 1 to 6 November 2023, focused on advancing investment in superfoods and indigenous foods. Participants comprised members of ESCAP’s Community of Practice (CoP) for Policy makers on the Green Transition of Business
As part of the programme, delegates participated in a roundtable discussion on South-South Complementarities in Indigenous Superfoods and Alternative Proteins hosted by Invest India. The event facilitated constructive conversations on attracting investments and promoting circular food systems, and the potential of superfoods and alternative proteins in driving the green transition in agriculture. Participants explored the role of specific government policies in catalyzing business transitions towards a green economy, echoing the global call for more initiatives and measures that inspire the private sector to pursue sustainable development.
Delegates went on to participate in the Inclusive Business in Agriculture and Food Systems National Investment Dialogue, co-hosted by Invest India and ESCAP. The dialogue underscored the role of inclusive business models in creating positive social and environmental impacts while enhancing competitiveness in agriculture and food sectors, as well as the need for supportive policies to scale up inclusive business models in the region.
South-South collaboration and knowledge exchange is critical in catalyzing the adoption of innovative approaches and strategies to promote sustainable agriculture. "The experience of participating in the study tour has benefitted my work in that I could broaden my network both in Latin America and India. It also allowed me to learn from the experiences of other countries and identify opportunities to apply in Chile," said Daniela Acuña, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Studies and Policies at the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile.
Building on the success of this exchange, a further opportunity to bring together policymakers from both regions was facilitated in Cambodia, with a focus on financial inclusion. Hosted by the National Bank of Cambodia from 29 November to 1 December, the second study tour to be facilitated by ESCAP and APC Colombia brought together delegates from Central Banks and related Ministries from Bhutan, Cambodia, Colombia, Fiji, Malaysia and Nepal. Participants engaged in an intensive three-day programme of workshops and site visits designed to enhance cooperation and collective learning around women's financial inclusion.
Participants zoomed in on the particular constraints faced by women and solutions and policy approaches being leveraged to address these challenges. Discussions centred around sex-disaggregated reporting, client protection frameworks to support women, financial literacy, strategies to enhance women’s access and usage of digital financial services, leveraging industry engagement to address women’s financial exclusion, and the development of roadmaps and action plans to accelerate women’s financial inclusion.
Speaking during the opening, Rupa Chandra, Director of the Trade Investment and Innovation Division at ESCAP, underscored that “effective South-South cooperation can push forward this important agenda, enabling policy makers to avoid duplication of efforts and common pitfalls, share lessons learned, scale up what works, and accelerate progress towards an inclusive financial system.”
Echoing this sentiment, Paula Franco, head of the Financial Inclusion group from the Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia noted that “cooperation and building a community can play a key role in designing and implementing sound and evidence-based policies. Moreover, sharing knowledge and experiences from both regulators and Financial Service Providers is a great way to drive innovative ideas to promote financial inclusion. Financial inclusion with a gender perspective requires engagement from the private sector, so it is important to balance regulation and other kinds of incentives to catalyse the process.”
Reflecting on her key takeaways from the programme, Wati Seeto, Manager of Financial Inclusion and Market Conduct at the Reserve Bank of Fiji noted that “the study tour facilitated the opportunity to measure how far we have come in relation to other CoP members, share our successes and learnings and learn from successes and challenges faced in other countries. There is real value in sharing and learning from others.”
The meaningful exchanges and lasting relationships fostered through the partnership between ESCAP and APC Colombia are expected to contribute to catalyzing transformative policy approaches across Asia and the Pacific and Latin America, empowering participating policymakers to apply lessons learned to address inequalities and build more inclusive and sustainable economies in their respective countries.