SASE Holds Its 5th Ibero-American Socio-Economics Meeting: Climate Change, Social Inequality, and Health Crisis in Ibero-American Countries

by Javier Baquero

For the past eight years, SASE has held a biennial regional conference in—and on—Ibero-America. The Ibero-American Socio-Economics meetings (called RISE from the Spanish: “Reunión Iberoamericana de Socio-Economía”) are organized in coordination with Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the host institution. These meetings are organized in order to showcase the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking communities within SASE and to highlight the socio-economic problems that affect Latin America and the Iberian peninsula. 

To get first-hand information on the creation and evolution of the SASE/RISE we spoke with Julimar Da Silva (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), an active member in the organization of all editions of the regional congress since its inception. According to Professor Da Silva, the Ibero-American Meeting of Socio-Economics plays a vital role within the SASE and the world of socio-economic studies in general, and its creation opened a very important window for researchers in the region:

RISE was created from the Spanish Language Network (SASE Network M), which is one of SASE’s perennial networks at its annual meeting. As a result of the different meetings, we realised that there was room for the study of the Ibero-American reality from a socio-economic perspective, especially due to the multidisciplinary nature of this area. We also realized that there were many Ibero-American researchers interested in disseminating their research in the framework of a specialized meeting on Ibero-America.

In the same sense, SASE/RISE plays a complementary role within the SASE. The Latin American region has very different socio-economic characteristics from those observed in Europe, North America or Asia. In this region, institutions are volatile and, in most cases, trapped by the particular interests of local elites, which implies the need to construct a specific theoretical narrative in order to try to understand and interpret the region. In turn, due to these institutional differences, in addition to having to reinterpret the analyses used for the rest of the regions, we find problems that are no longer in vogue in the developed world, such as the educational level of the population, levels of poverty, inequality, urban violence or even democratic consolidation.

Finally, within the region itself, there is great heterogeneity between the different countries, which means that each one of them has different social problems, such as ethnic-indigenous issues or political-institutional architecture, which is reflected in political instability.

All these peculiarities mean that this region requires a specific and specialized study that adapts to the constant changes and transformations of its society and productive system. For this reason, this meeting is essential to lay the foundations for the theoretical analysis of Ibero-America, which has not yet been fully consolidated within the academic world”.

SASE/RISE has been developing on this premise since 2013, with each meeting dedicated to a specific topic of study, attempting to address the most pressing research of the time:

  • The first RISE was held at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City. The meeting was dedicated to addressing the social changes being experienced in Latin America, focusing on the relevance of democracy as a form of government and discussing its dynamics and implications for the region.
  • The second RISE was hosted by the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Porto Alegre in 2015. This edition of the meeting addressed development strategies present in Latin America, and the role of the state within these dynamics.
  • The third RISE, in 2017, was held at the Technological University of Bolivar in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. This meeting, in line with the objectives of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focused on sustainable development, attempting to shed light on the region’s future within this framework, where modernization and economic development must take the management of resources into account.
  • The most recent RISE conference was organized at the National University of Costa Rica (UNA) in 2019. This edition addressed the productive transformation currently taking place in Ibero-America. This transition to a new digitalized and automated industry depends to a large extent on the human capital available. Given the educational divergences present in the region, this process is not occurring equally in all countries, which is why this meeting delved into the investigation of the repercussions that the asymmetry of this phenomenon may entail, as well as the problem that this new production model poses with respect to social exclusion.

Following the success of these past editions, the 5th SASE/RISE conference will take place this year from 1-3 December 2021. While the conference was meant to be hosted by the Universidad Nacional de San Marcos in Lima, the oldest university in the Americas, the historic university will instead act as the leading virtual organizer of an online meeting due to the pandemic crisis. Although it is difficult to make up for face-to-face discussion and the possibility of enjoying this intellectual and cultural exchange in an environment as grand as the National University of San Marcos, this meeting is of special interest insofar as we are at a historic turning point in the field of socio-economics. The pandemic has brought to the table a new scenario to be taken into account, given that, until now, analyses had not envisioned an exogenous health crisis that would change social patterns in such a radical and continuous way. This situation has challenged the capacity of institutions, which have had to play a much more relevant role than they have done in recent decades. This has exposed the responsiveness of different countries, shifting the socio-economic analysis toward weaknesses in the system that were not in focus until now, and SASE/RISE offers participants a unique opportunity to learn from and debate with experts from the region.

“The 5th SASE-RISE,” notes Professor Da Silva, “represents a unique opportunity to analyze and debate the new socio-economic challenges that the Ibero-American region is facing now and in the future, derived from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; in addition, of course, to the traditional challenges such as inequality, poverty, gender inequality, sustainability, environment, violence, or economic and social development, all from a theoretical perspective of socio-economics. 

In the last two years, the importance of the state has been observed in a superlative way and the lack of tools, in some cases, of Latin American countries to face a massive crisis, both from a health and social point of view. New problems have also emerged, such as the management of mass migration within the region itself, a phenomenon that has recently taken on greater relevance and which had not been taken as a central part of social science analysis.

On the other hand, the health crisis has also shown the vulnerability associated with historical problems in the region. For example, the high level of informality within the labour market has meant that, in the absence of opportunities for economic activity outside the regulated circuit due to the lack of social activity, many households have been left in a situation of helplessness. 

All these changes in dynamics and the unveiling of latent problems make this meeting particularly relevant”.

On the other hand, while the main theoretical thrust of the conference is socio-economic in nature, the main themes will doubtless be examined from the standpoints of different fields of study in the social sciences, such as sociology, economics, psychology, etc. This is evident in the multidisciplinary nature of the networks:

  1. The State of Socio-Economics in Ibero-America: Methodology of the Social Science
  2. Migration and Urbanization
  3. Historical Heritage and Sustainable Development: Challenges and Perspectives
  4. Technological Innovation, Productive and Commercial Specialization, Labor Relations, Informality, and Precarious Jobs
  5. Deglaciation, Groundwater, and Water Stress: Risks and Disasters
  6. Management, Decentralization, and Local Development: Urbanization, Waste and Agriculture
  7. Drug Trafficking: Social and Environmental Problem 
  8. Gender Gaps
  9. Social Inequality and Poverty
  10. Traditional and Ecological Tourism in Local Development
  11. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Biodiversity 
  12. Pandemic, Global Recession, and Health Crisis 

In keeping with SASE’s interdisciplinary mission, the aim of these networks is to bring together all researchers and approaches in the region, so as to enrich the debate and to take all contributions into account.

In addition to the Networks, there will be lectures by five speakers specializing in the study of the region: 

  • Rolando Cordera Campos (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), expert in political economy and development economics, will give a lecture entitled “Después de la pandemia, desarrollo elusivo” (“After the pandemic, elusive development”).
  • Ricardo Ffrench-Davis (Universidad de Chile), an economist with a long career in the field of social economics, and an expert on the region, especially on the Chilean case, will present the paper “The twists and turns between neoliberalism and inclusive growth: Chile, 1973-2021”. 
  • Félix Ovidio Jiménez Jaimes (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), whose main areas of research are macroeconomics, monetary theory, public finance and growth, will speak on “The Peruvian economic model 1990-2020: effects on the productive structure and technical change”. 
  • Amy C. Offner (University of Pennsylvania), an expert on the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, will provide a different view from that of economists from the perspective of her discipline, and will give a paper entitled “Classifying the mixed economy: the rise and fall of welfare and developmental states in the Americas”.
  • Daniela Magalhães Prates (University of Campinas and UNCTAD) is a researcher in international economics and open macroeconomics, with a special interest in financial and monetary issues and her intervention will focus on “External vulnerability of developing countries in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis”.

What is more, this edition of the conference will include a number of featured thematic panel discussions. Based on the experience of the LATAM Post-Covid Webinar, also organized under the auspices of SASE, these panels will feature relevant specialists for each topic of study, from gender to macroeconomics to collective bargaining, digital technology, and more. This format will not only allow viewers to enjoy the exchange of perspectives between leading researchers in each topic, but they will also be able to participate in the debate through questions that will be resolved by the members of each panel. 

Having said that, Professor Da Silva concludes:
“In summary, the Ibero-American region is in a deep crisis with negative medium-term prospects. It is therefore of vital importance to seek novel and inclusive solutions to the region’s new and old challenges. The 5th SASE-RISE meeting offers a unique opportunity to develop this debate from a socio-economic standpoint, in a multidisciplinary and inclusive manner.”