Eight ambassadors from Latin America gathered to share their countries' experiences with corporate social responsibility (CSR) at the United Nations in Geneva on 26 September 2013. "CSR is an increasingly relevant and core condition of development," Ambassador Balmaceda of Chile said.
Perhaps the best indication of how crucial CSR has become for economic development is to look at the way governments are embracing the issue. Several Latin American countries have ratified national CSR standards in 2013, making Latin America second only to Europe in terms of the development of its CSR policies, according to a presentation by Professor Dante Pesce of the Catholic University of Valparaíso, Chile. "Many Latin American countries have made CSR commitments at the level of their Heads of State, but more work needs to be done in the area of practical implementation," Professor Pesce observed.
"There are still gaps and inconsistencies, and overall we need to take a more integrated approach," said James Zhan, Director of UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise. "CSR has become a mainstream issue, but it has not yet been fully integrated into mainstream policy instruments, such as investment agreements and capital markets."
The ambassadors seemed to echo his sentiment, as they shared the challenges that their own countries faced. According to a study conducted by the Vincular Center for Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development, only 5 per cent of companies in Latin America reported any CSR commitments on their websites. Political leaders hope that this number will rise with the implementation of their national commitment plans.
As policy innovation and capacity-building can have a major effect on a country's sustainable development strategy, Mr. Zhan expressed hope that future roundtable discussions would address how to strengthen coordination between national governments and United Nations agencies.
"We want to know how the agencies based in Geneva can contribute to this ambitious but necessary challenge, what has been done at the country level, and, finally, identify the steps where we can work together," said Ambassador Balmaceda, whose initiative it was to organize the meeting with UNCTAD.
"Countries like ours, which seek a more integrated, more fair and more sustainable growth, must push forward towards greater corporate social responsibility and be capable of reconciling economic and social development and environmental protection."
Ambassadors present at the meeting included Alberto D'Alotto of Argentina, José Luis Balmaceda of Chile, Alicia Victoria Arango Olmos of Colombia, Luis Gallegos Chiriboga of Ecuador, Efraín Díaz of Honduras, Ulises Canchola Gutiérrez of Mexico, Magaly Traverso-Norton of Peru, and Laura Dupuy Lasserre of Uruguay.
Also in attendance were representatives from the permanent missions of Argentina, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The United Nations agencies participating in the meeting were UNCTAD, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Centre, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The roundtable discussion was co-organized by UNCTAD and the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.