LAURENTINO CORTIZO COHEN, President of Panama, said the pandemic has struck all nations equally, revealing deeply rooted inequalities. The path forward must be guided by solidarity. “Our decisions today matter,” he insisted. For its part, Panama is working to build an inclusive and sustainable future. He drew attention to his call for a national dialogue, with a view to taking wise decisions that would outlast any Government. Titled “The Bicentennial Pact: Closing Gaps”, it acknowledges that all must contribute to creating a country that is more inclusive and united. Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called it “a great opportunity”.
Acting with foresight, Panama procured safe vaccines for the entire population, he continued, and is now only weeks away from achieving collective immunity. However, the goal must be global immunity. The Government has prioritized delivery of food and basic inputs to those who lost their income due to the pandemic, and coordinated a plan which transferred funds to those in need either through digital vouchers or the distribution of food to those in hard‑to‑reach areas. Since March 2020, it has evolved into a social relief plan with shared responsibility, he said, noting that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) cites Panama as one of two countries which reduced extreme poverty indices in 2020.
He pointed to irregular migration as another challenge, stressing that more than 80,000 irregular migrants crossed into his country in 2021. It received 800 migrants in January, a figure that increased to 30,000 in August, with most of them from the Caribbean and Africa. Providing them temporary shelter, medical assistance and food, Panama dedicates a large part of its limited resources to these tasks. He called on the international community to act quickly, in a coordinated manner and with requisite resources to anticipate a humanitarian crisis of grave proportions. “This is the responsibility of all of us,” he emphasized. “And it must happen now.”
On climate change, he said it is time to dispense with disbelief. “What more do global leaders need to understand this very tragic reality?”, he asked. Noting that Panama is one of three countries classified as carbon neutral, he said it also has the best maritime and air connections in Latin America, and understands that “what is good for the planet, is good for the economy”. It is a global blue leader, participating in an effort to protect 30 per cent of the world’s oceans, a goal it achieved nine years before 2030. In closing, he championed a road map marked by solidarity and human rights, and “broad and honest dialogue” in efforts to bring about peace, provide vaccines to all nations and preserve health. “Enough with our promises,” he said. “The time has come for truth, […] action. Panama is doing its part.”
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