- Latin America and the Caribbean is a land rich in cultural and ethnic diversity and yet, it is the most unequal region in the world.
- While indigenous peoples, women and African?descendants have their own unique history, they all confront discrimination and marginalization which are dramatically reflected in vital spheres of life:
o They have low levels of political representation
o They lack access to quality and culturally appropriate social services
o They remain largely invisible in official statistics
o Wage and earnings gaps between these groups and more privileged groups persist
o They are more exposed to the risks associated with working in the informal economy
o Indigenous peoples and African?descendants rank consistently lower in indicators measuring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals
• Cultural and ethnic diversity are important in their own right—diversity adds richness to the tapestry that is the Americas. As Maya Angelou, the great U.S. poet, put it: “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” And, I would add, their culture or gender.
• Beyond the intrinsic value of diversity, let me state the obvious: we cannot weave an economic tapestry of more rapid growth and less poverty if without enfranchising and empowering all of the peoples of the Americas.
• To become a leader among multilateral institutions addressing strategic issues of gender and diversity, the Bank must to continue increasing its
• capacity and technical expertise at headquarters and country offices to develop innovative and participatory approaches that will make a real difference in people’s lives.
• In response to this challenge, I would like to share with you some important steps the IDB has taken in the last year:
o The Bank approved the Gender and Diversity Fund, a US$10 million initiative that seeks to expand the Bank’s capacity to eradicate the structural conditions that generate inequality and discrimination and eliminate the barriers that perpetuate exclusion. In fact, we are the first MDB that put its own resources in a fund for those purposes.
The Fund represents a strategic tool to address the multi?faceted and cross?cutting nature of the issues confronting indigenous peoples, Afro?descendant communities and women and men in positions of disadvantage resulting from gender?based discrimination and inequality.
A parallel Multi?donor Gender and Diversity Fund has already secured an additional $ 6 million in contributions from the governments of Norway, Canada, the UK, Austria and others.
o Under the leadership of the Gender and Diversity Unit, the Bank is updating its 1987 Operational Policy on Women in Development. The new Gender Policy will establish the need for IDB borrowing member countries and Bank’s staff to identify salient gender issues, to consult with women and men, and to ensure their equal participation and benefit from Bank supported operations.
o The Gender and Diversity Unit is also spearheading the preparation of the second Bank?wide Gender Mainstreaming Action Plan. The Action Plan will be linked to the implementation of the Bank’s updated Gender Policy and will identify strategic opportunities and concrete actions for enhancing the Bank’s attention to gender equality issues.
o The Board of Directors recently approved new funding for the Program for the Support of Women’s Leadership and Representation (PROLEAD). PROLEAD is the first fund launched by an international financial institution specifically aimed at advancing women’s political empowerment in the LAC region. After ten years in operation, PROLEAD has a well?established reputation as an important resource for fostering women’s leadership and political participation, as well as for strengthening civil society organizations.
o Last year, during the event of Vital Voices Global Partnership held in Buenos Aires, the Bank announced a strategic partnership with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative to support and promote women entrepreneurs in the region. Today, this initiative has been materialize: The Multilateral Investment Fund has partnered with MiBanco in Peru to help over 100,000 women?led microenterprises to create profitable and growing businesses through training, networking, mentoring, and access to capital.
• To further the implementation of the IDB's Operational Policy on Indigenous Peoples and Strategy for Indigenous Development, the Bank is instituting several key initiatives that will improve its capacity to respond to indigenous peoples' priorities.
o First, the Office of Evaluation and Oversight (OVE) is carrying out an independent evaluation of Bank investments in indigenous peoples between 1994 and 2009. This evaluation will provide us important lessons learned to shape our future work.
o During the IDB’s recent Civil Society Meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, the promotion of greater participation of indigenous peoples and African?descendants in future IDB?civil society consultations and in country policy dialogues was included in the final “Roadmap” agreement. We now need to make this operational.
o Finally, the Bank has launched new partnerships with the private sector and committed itself to supporting indigenous peoples and climate change.
• Following up on the Action Plan from the UN World Conference against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, the Bank is developing two mapping projects aimed at measuring the effects of social exclusion for policy makers and the public and strengthening the region's institutional capacity to address discrimination.
• We are confident that these initiatives will foster new opportunities for effective investments.
• I hope this have given you a sense of the importance to the Bank of our work on gender equality and diversity issues. But there is another piece of the puzzle. If the Bank is to do a good job serving our clients, we ourselves must become a more diverse organization—and an organization which values diversity.
• Valuing and promoting a diverse workforce allow us to get more skillful and versatile teams, and also helps us to better understand a respond to the expectations of our clients. Consistently research shows how groups of people of different backgrounds make better and more innovative contributions than homogeneous groups. So diversity and inclusion is all about driving organizational results.
• Gender equality and the focus on underrepresented groups (namely afro and indigenous descendants) are targets that will be reflected not just on the human resources agenda, but across our entire leadership team business goals.
• Our institution understands that social and economic development requires diversity and inclusion as key yardsticks of effectiveness. The objectives of this conference are to bring positive changes in how IDB addresses gender and diversity as part of our day?to?day operation and our human resources policies and programs.
• To achieve these goals we wish to learn from the renowned experts and engaged participants addressing and discussing in the plenary and topical roundtables. We wish to draw on existing professional networks and perhaps build some new ones.
• Our leadership commitment on this topic, reflected by the conference title “Setting the tone from the top”, is meant to show how IDB’s management team is fully engaged to participate in this joint effort and drive our Bank to become a truly diverse organization.
• I want to finish by encouraging you to “Think out of the Box” and “Look inside Yourself” to come up with innovative and creative ideas and proposals to accelerate our path to become a leading example of diversity and inclusion for Latin America and the Caribbean.