Mexico's poorest state tackles extreme poverty through budget shifts

22 Sep 2010

The people of Chiapas are the first in the world
to have their constitution based around the
eight Millennium Development Goals
(Photo: UNDP)

NEW YORK - Nearly US$600 million from the budget of Mexico’s poorest state of Chiapas is to be dedicated this year to local programmes aimed at tackling extreme poverty.

Following amendment of the state’s constitution last year, public spending for Chiapas, home to 14 percent of the country’s population living on less than US$1.25 per day, will be directed to a range of social and anti-poverty projects.

The constitutional changes guide Chiapas state and local authorities in the 2010 appropriation of US$590 million to combat poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality and to protect the environment.

When it was launched in July 2009, the constitution was the first in the world to be based around the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed internationally in the year 2000 and are being reviewed this week at a high-level United Nations summit in New York.

With the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other UN agencies, the Chiapas government revised three articles of the constitution using MDG-related language to accelerate development progress in the state.

Chiapas, with a population of 4.3 million, is the site of the well-documented Zapatista uprising in the 1990s and has been the focus of development studies professionals and conferences around the world for more than a decade.

The majority of the state’s approximately 2.8 million extremely poor residents are farmers, and about half of those living in extreme poverty are urban dwellers. In recent years the state’s maternal mortality rate has been the highest in Mexico.

Actions under the new constitution include changing state laws and institutions that relate to MDGs, for example, helping to balance the number of male and female members of public office and strengthening laws against gender-based violence and discrimination.

Changes to articles in the constitution also increase the share of public funds to municipalities with the most extreme forms of poverty which the government aims to cut by half before 2015, in accordance with the first of the MDGs.

The MDGs are eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015.