By Jonathan Ambrogi, on behalf of the Latin American Forum, sponsored by the GJA-GJA Innovative Initiative Fund.
On 4-5 February 2019, the 8th edition of the Edinburgh Latin American Forum took place at the Informatics Forum and the Business School in Central Edinburgh. The event kicked-off at 10am with an opening speech of the University’s Principal, Professor Peter Mathieson, expressing his wish to keep strengthening the University’s ties with Latin America, which is one of the aims of the forum.The first session covered Water Security and featured an interesting speech by Dr. Castro arguing for a stronger role of the state in addressing hazards created by water scarcity. Representatives from Coventry University took a more scientific approach in explaining sustainable drainage in Brazilian slums. The Honduran Ambassador to the UK and Head of the Latin American Diplomatic Corp reassured the audience of the role his government was playing in reducing poverty and water scarcity for Honduras’ most vulnerable groups.
Following a short coffee break with Argentinian homemade pastries, all the guests and participants moved to the Business School were guests enjoyed a true Brazilian lunch with Feijoada and Cheese Bread. There was no time for post-lunch drowsiness given that two extremely interesting and insightful sessions followed on food security and then political stability and migration. The Ecuadorian ambassador of the UK gave the audience some personal insights and learnings from how his country is managing the Venezuelan migration crisis and the challenges looking ahead.
The Global Compact on Migration was critically analysed by Dr. Paz Zarate, highlighting both legal and practical issues such as the non-binding nature of the agreement. In both occasions the panellist expressed their delight in receiving many good question from the public which kept the discussion flowing and in constant evolution. After a long day of panel discussions, networking and critical thinking, participants closed-off the day with a wine reception to further exchange their ideas and contacts.
The second day of the forum looked as promising as the first one, and the day was started again with delicious Argentinian “facturas” and lots of coffee.
The first session of the day covered neo-extractivism and regional development in Latin America. Manuela Picq and Antonio Celia disagreed in their optimism and challenges posed by extractivist industry, but nonetheless created a positive atmosphere by respecting each other’s points and using a solid dose of humour in their responses.
Tom Gatehouse introduced to the audience Latin America Bureau’s newest book on “Voices of Latin America”, counting true, unfiltered stories of Latin America’s most important figures in the struggle for conservation of the Amazon and indigenous territory. After a delicious lunch of Colombian “Tamales”, guests continued the day tackling foreign direct investment and trade. The university’s very own Julia Calvert drew from her research and gave an interesting speech on case studies of mining transnational corporations operating in Latin America, stressing how many issues are multifaceted and are more complex to assess than at first view.
The last session of the forum covered sustainable entrepreneurship, with His Excellency David Gallagher, Ambassador of Chile to the UK and David Mora speaking on the topic. Mr. Mora spoke about his wide ranging experience in business and entrepreneurship and talked about the growing number of sustainable entrepreneurs in Latin America. In particular, the audience was made aware of the “B Certificate” that is expanding in the region and serves as a great quality seal for socially and environmentally friendly businesses.
The conference was ended with a speech of the President of the committee Max Aantjes, followed by a well-deserved whisky tasting sponsored by the Scottish Whisky Association. he Centre for Contemporary Latin American Studies also awarded £100 to the best PHD research poster. The forum received excellent oral feedback throughout the two days, and our feedback collection will help us to assess this year’s merits and areas of improvements for the future.
Some quotes from the feedback received so far include:
“The forum was excellent. the topics dealt with were very sensitive and topical
I think it’s an example for everyone
I returned very happy”
“The Forum was very friendly, just the right side of informal, just the right side of formal. The audience was engaged and lively, coming up with some challenging and interesting questions. I enjoyed the panels as a means of discussing topics, and the breaks during the day were long enough to be able to network. The whole thing was a triumph.”
“It was refreshing to exchange views with the participants in this new edition of the Forum, in particular with the undergrad and graduate students. Congratulations on such a well organized and smooth running event”
“It was inspiring and motivating to talk with students and experts on the challenges on food security Latin America is facing. I also learned a lot from the experts and discussion on migration and water security in Latin America in the other panels.”