The EU-LAC Foundation organised a high-level dialogue with numerous ministers, representatives of the European Commission, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), and civil society as a side event to the 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 68) on 14 March 2024. The report of this dialogue shows that all political authorities present have spoken out in favour of a bi-regional pact. What is more, programmes and instruments through which such a cooperation could be facilitated and supported at the EU level (e.g. EUROsociAL programme, Team Europe Initiative (TEI) ‘Inclusive and Equal Societies’) have also been put at the table.

What is the background of the Bi-regional Pact for Care?

Two essential initiatives on the European and on the LAC side in 2022 provided the impetus for the strengthened cooperation between the two regions in the area of care: 

(1)    the ‘European Care Strategy’ adopted in September 2022, as well as the ‘Recommendations on the Revision of the Barcelona Targets on early childhood education and care and on access to affordable high-quality long-term care’, adopted by the European Council in December 2022, set out an agenda to improve the situation of both caregivers and people in need of care. This agenda aims to guarantee quality, affordable, and accessible care services, with better working conditions, gender equality, and work-life balance for caregivers. Those efforts contribute to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Union 2030 headline targets on employment, skills and poverty reduction. 

(2)    the ‘Buenos Aires Commitment’, agreed upon at the XV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in November 2022, which recognises care as a right of people to care, to be cared for and exercise selfcare. It includes measures to overcome the sexual division of labour and move towards a fair social organisation of care, in the framework of a new development model that fosters gender equality in the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development and to move towards a care society.

Throughout 2023, numerous actors - civil society organisations, parliamentarians, and international organisations - took up this impetus and developed it further. At the EU-LAC Gender Equality Forum organised by the EU-LAC Foundation, which took place in Berlin on 11 and 12 May 2023, participants suggested ‘exploring new modalities of cooperation for the development of joint bi-regional pacts, such as a bi-regional pact for care’. 

Participants invited by the EU Commission to the ‘EU-LAC Forum: Partners in Change: Youth, Civil Society and Local Authorities’ on 13 and 14 July 2023 in the run-up to the EU-CELAC Heads of State and Government Summit picked up on this thread and recommended in their declaration to ‘promote a bi-regional pact for care based on the European Care Strategy and the Buenos Aires Declaration on the Care Society’. 

Similarly, the parliamentarians attending the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EURO-LAT) in Madrid from 24 to 27 July 2023 signed a commitment to promote gender equality, which calls for ‘strengthening bi-regional cooperation to guarantee the right to care, care and self-care in equal and quality conditions, thus promoting the consolidation and financing of comprehensive care systems in all Latin American, Caribbean, and European countries’. 

Key elements for a common care agenda

EU member states and the CELAC states not only share a general commitment to social rights, social justice, human rights, and gender equality, but also aligned interests regarding the design of comprehensive care policies and systems. Political leaders in both regions also face significant challenges (e.g., in relation to the recognition of care work, fiscal sustainability of care policies, professionalisation of the sector) and - importantly - they can learn from each other. 
In our view, a joint agenda for care could therefore include the following lines of action: 

- Comparative studies and analyses to provide systematised, evidence-based on care-related issues, offering diagnosis and specific policy recommendations on topics such as: 

  • Time use in care. 
  • Investment required to close the gap between the supply and demand of care services for different populations, as well as prospective analyses of positive economic impacts that such investment generates. 
  • Maternity, paternity, parental leave regulations and their conditions of application. 
  • Regulations and working conditions of care workers and their link to female migration flows in both regions. 

- Exchange of advances and effective practices in the design of care policies, systems, programmes, assessing their respective impacts as well as replicability in the countries of each region and options for scaling up such experiences. Themes of interest would include: 

  • Policy and regulatory frameworks in the field of care. 
  • Mechanisms and institutional architecture of policies and comprehensive care systems. 
  • Quality standards for early childhood education, care services and long-term care for dependent persons. 
  • Care training and professionalisation strategies. 
  • Instruments for financing care policies and systems. 

- Promote subregional, regional, and multilateral cooperation programmes through North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation modalities, that advance gender equality and care policies and systems as well as the necessary cultural change for the gender and social co-responsibility between State, private sector, families, communities and between women and men. 

These lines of action are certainly not exhaustive but could constitute approaches towards a “Pact for Care” to which all stakeholders advocating for the Pact – the academic communities, civil society groups, local and national authorities, international cooperation agencies, regional, bi-regional and international organisations and banks, could contribute, leveraging their respective expertise and knowledge, resources and capabilities. Conceived in this manner, a comprehensive agenda for care between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean would constitute a strong counterweight amidst shrinking spaces for democracy and human rights and pervasive, gender, economic and social inequalities, and operate as a positive guidepost of a renewed multilateral international agenda.

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