We are now more connected than ever. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other apps are part of our daily lives. They allow us to share experiences, move closer to each other, and keep us informed.
Nonetheless, there is also a connection that is not from a virtual world but it is instead from a physical reality. This is the connectivity that brings countries together through bridges, highways, and energy networks that provide electricity to millions of homes, and improve lives.
In contrast to social networks that attract thousands of users in just one day, a physical connectivity is built with time, skills, planning, teamwork, political will, and above all, large investments.
An example of this is the large border between Ecuador and Peru, which was a conflict zone for many years. However, when peace agreements were signed, a compromise for a Binational Plan was made, for the development of an interconnected road network between the two countries.
This is how the new bridge between the cities of Huaquillas (Ecuador) and Aguas Verdes (Perú) came about. It has not only helped on improvements to the tourist industry, transportation, and on the reduction of informal exchange; but it has also become a true icon of peace between the nations.
As you can see from this, it is hard, but not impossible. Since 2009, South American countries have been working together to be better connected and more integrated. For the first time, the governments of the region have sat on the same table to plan and implement key infrastructure projects for the region’s integration.
Yet, where should we start? Following their similar characteristics, the territory was organized in different Axes of Integration and Development that go beyond national borders. The priority projects for each axis are part of the Portfolio of Integration Infrastructure Projects, which is a portfolio with 593 energy, communications, and transportation projects; and with an estimated investment of 182,000 million dollars.
Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (COSIPLAN-IIRSA)
This task has been supported by the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (COSIPLAN-IIRSA), within the framework of UNASUR, which receives technical and financial support from the IDB, CAF, and FONPLATA. The Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean (INTAL) coordinates the work of these three institutions and facilitates the implementation of their work programs.
One element that contributes to the reduction of the inequality gap and promotes an inclusive development are the joint ventures in infrastructure.
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay coordinated efforts to start a multimodal transportation network comprised of roads, waterways, cargo trains, among other works. This project is now growing alongside with the regional trade, and it would not have been possible without the cooperation and collective efforts of all parties involved.
The same applies to the 26 steps of border area that Chile and Argentina prioritized along the Andes Mountain Range. These highly complex works increase connection alternatives, and deepen the social, cultural, and economic link between the countries.
None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the commitment of the planning and public works officials, and many other government departments that worked together to strengthen the hardware of integration. This built the bases of the framework for regional development.
The physical integration is an essential pillar on which the union of South America settles. It is the legacy of our founding fathers, who envisioned South America as one land that goes beyond borders, and with strong foundations that allow us to get closer each passing day.