UNDP warns that poverty, exclusion, violence are destroying Guatemalan youth

24 Jul 2012

Ciudad de Guatemala  –  According to the National Human Development Report 2011-2012, Guatemala, a country of opportunities for youth?, developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and launched on 23 July, Guatemalan youth are victims of poverty, exclusion and violence, and their opportunities for short- and medium-term development are diminished.

The report highlights unresolved issues that the state has with respect to its youth, which represents 70 per cent of its 14.7 million inhabitants. Malnutrition, illiteracy or low levels of education, unemployment or informal employment, and the lack of documentationlimit youth’s abilities to exercise citizenship, and forces migration and violence.

Extensive data also shows that the lack of public policy in providing development opportunities for youth has excluded nearly a million people under the age of 18 from Guatemala’s educational system. Furthermore, at least four million youth face serious limitations due to exclusion: 25 per cent of Guatemalan youth lack access to formal education or decent work; the life expectancy of 12 per cent of men and 6 per cent of women is 30 years of age; and 52 per cent live in poverty.

United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative René Mauricio Valdés explained that youth “are not the future but the present of Guatemala,” thus it is of concern that they have become victims of violence and exclusion.

The report also states that 10,000 adolescents and youth live on the fringes of society, and are members of gangs or groups involved in drugs, crime and violence. In addition, data on maternal mortality serve as an indicator of the conditions of inequity and inequality for youth:  among adolescent girls of 15 to 19 years of age, the rate is 77.9 per 100,000 live births, and among girls of 10 to 14 years of age, it is 219.1.

“This report provides food for thought so that we may continue move ahead. We must address the lack of strong institutions. We must understand that the youth are expecting answers,” stated Pérez Molina, the President of Guatemalaupon receiving a copy of the report.

The President announced that his efforts will focus on ensuring that Congress approves, without delay, the National Law on Youth, an initiative presented more than five years ago, which contains the legal framework to support public policies on youth.

The Report specifies that “while Guatemala does not have national legislation on youth that would provide financial aid to create institutions, there is the risk that each governmental administration will continue to design national policy instruments that will never become operational.”

Young people, warns the report, need basic opportunities to enjoy what society, the market or the state offer them. Generally, access to these opportunities increases according to the level of political, economic and social development. Opportunities include "the rights to identity, health, life and safety, the opportunity to learn, access to education and information and communication technologies." The report also highlights the opportunity to participate freely in political and social life, the right to be a citizen with all that this entails, and access to work, which contributes to self-sufficiency.

The UNDP study this year on Guatemala showed a Human Development Index of 0.58 – about 0.02 points higher than that obtained in 2010 – and was second only to Haiti in Latin America & the Caribbean.