By Erika Marie Brünker Zumbado - International Relations Student

For the past decades, development has revolved around sustainability, changing from it being a wanted extra to a solid need. From the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations to the Paris Agreement and other treaties, discussions and agreements held on the matter, the world has been encouraged, or even obliged to break centuries of patterns and walk towards a sustainable and mindful future through green development. Latin America, an underdeveloped region, especially struggles with this type of development. Since the region is already behind industrialized and powerful countries, development as a whole is tougher, and adding the current social, economic, political and health crisis most Latin American countries are facing makes the task seem impossible in the near future.

Historically, even though the whole continent was colonized roughly at the same time, development-wise, there is an enormous difference between the north and the south. Regardless of this being a global trend, in the particular case of the American continent, the colonization and independence processes had a direct impact on the success of their development, having polar opposite cases, such as the United States of America and Haiti. Thankfully, the gap between north and south hasn’t slowed down the Latin American region of engaging in making their development sustainable. These countries have showed a remarkable commitment to sustainable development, from formulating the SDGs to actually implementing them. In this matter, Costa Rica has become a leader, with a world-known reputation of being a green country.

Dolefully, a change so serious in a region with a lack of certain tools and opportunities makes the challenge bigger. A sustainable economy involves all areas of society, since individuals, governments and companies have their own role in its success. At the same time, sustainability needs to be present everywhere, from waste management, infrastructure, energy and fossil fuels to tourism, economy and policy. Among the main challenges Latin America faces is the fact that the region’s exports are mainly natural resources and products produced in a pollutive way. The previously mentioned challenge is quite relevant, since these countries economically depend on their trade with developed ones, and if them changing their processes into more sustainable ones harms this trade in any way, their little economic stability would be compromised.

At the same time, Latin America is in constant need of foreign investment opportunities, but the necessity of innovation and job openings in each country often leads governments into leaving the sustainability factor aside. As a possible solution, Alicia Barcena (2016) mentions that this needs to be addressed through “new public and private investment portfolios geared towards reducing infrastructure and energy gaps, and adopting cleaner patterns of production and consumption with low-carbon objectives”. A new, stronger and sustainable legal framework is long due in Latin America, not only for future investment and innovation, but also for social protection and labor policies. Lastly, the social factor also plays an important role in the success of sustainable development. Through education and awareness, both current and future generations can put their grain of sand towards sustainability, while also demanding structural changes in their countries.

At the end, is achieving sustainable development going to be hard for Latin America? Yes. Will it be harder than for developed countries? Also, yes. But even without their already successful development, tools, funds and opportunities, Latin America has been able to excel its expectations regarding green development. Countries, such as Costa Rica, have become an example in the whole world, not only in the developing world, creating a well-deserved reputation. Ultimately, the future of the world is a green one, countries no longer have the option of doing it the “old way”, which is why I believe Latin America can not only achieve green development, but be successful at developing themselves sustainably, since this often forgotten and neglected region has had instability and crisis in repeated occasions, yet they are still standing.


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Barcena, A. (2016). How Latin America can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. World      Economic Forum.     the-sustainable-development-goals/