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Groundbreaking Conference Sparks Cross-Regional Learning on Development and Poverty Reduction

March 30, 2010

High-level policymakers, internationally recognized researchers, and development practitioners from Asia and Latin America gathered in Lima, Peru this month to share research insights and lessons from successes and challenges in the efforts of both regions to accelerate economic growth and reduce hunger and poverty.

The conference, “Fostering Growth and Reducing Poverty and Hunger in Asia and Latin America: Opportunities for Mutual Learning and Cooperation,” which was jointly organized by IFPRI and Peru’s Universidad del Pacífico, covered five major themes:  overall growth strategy, agricultural growth strategy, macroeconomic policies, trade and investment, and social protection.

“To the best of our knowledge, a conference of this scope—one that compares successes and challenges from the local to the national and regional levels—has not been held before,” said Maximo Torero, Director of the Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division at IFPRI.

Among the high-level policymakers and policy advisors who described their strategies and challenges for combating poverty and inequality while encouraging economic growth were Jose Nicanor Gonzales, Peruvian Minister of Production; Cai Fang, Director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences;  S.K. Thorat, Professor and Chair of the University Grants Commission of India;  and Carlos Furche, Director General of the General Directorate of International Economic Affairs at the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The conference was inaugurated with three powerful keynote addresses. Liliana Rojas-Suarez, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, described the pre-existing, sustainable financial conditions in Latin America that helped the region weather the latest financial crisis.  Mohamad Ikhsan, Special Advisor to the Vice President of Indonesia, discussed the factors that enabled a fast and strong rebound in East Asia, and the foundations needed for strong economies and sustainable growth paths in other developing countries. Piero Ghezzi, Managing Director and Head of Economics and Emerging Markets Research at Barclays Capital, offered a positive outlook on emerging markets, which held up well during the recession, due in part to reduced dependence on external finance and an embrace of macroeconomic stability.

Key lessons emerging from the conference included the importance of: adopting stable macroeconomic policies in both regions; implementing flexible but stable exchange rates in Latin America; maintaining  openness to trade in Asia (but with more restrictions in capital markets); increasing savings levels in Asia and encouraging a similar approach in Latin America; increasing pro-poor economic growth, particularly through agricultural development; improving access to assets for the poor and strengthening local institutional capacity in Latin America; improving national-level political economy in Asia; and supporting a culture of evaluation to identify and implement effective social protection policies that address exclusion, combat inequality, and help break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

The conference represented an initial step toward a long-term goal of cross-regional mutual learning. Future plans include bringing these ideas together in a book, and fostering research networks between the regions.

“There is tremendous potential for this kind of mutual learning to accelerate broad-based economic growth and catalyze further reductions in poverty and hunger,” said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan.

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