Latin America needs serious action to achieve poverty-cutting goals

08 Sep 2010

UNDP official cites ‘uneven’ progress in region

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fighting poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean will demand serious and sustained effort from numerous quarters despite major steps toward improving lives in the region, a senior United Nations official said here Wednesday.

A decade after world leaders agreed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), “efforts to achieve them have yielded some positive results, although progress in Latin America and the Caribbean has been uneven across the goals, and across and within nations,” said Heraldo Munoz, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Assistant Administrator and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General.
 
“Everyone should be reminded that the MDGs matter in middle-income countries, even more so since the food and economic crises have meant setbacks in poverty alleviation,” Munoz, also UNDP’s Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, told a roundtable discussion of the 2010 MDG Report on Achieving Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Presentation of the report at today’s event at the Organization of American States (OAS) comes ahead of a summit in New York later this month to review and accelerate progress towards the MDGs by the globally-agreed deadline of 2015.

The 2010 Latin America and Caribbean MDG report, Munoz said, “helps us to highlight the areas where progress has been made, but perhaps more importantly to pin down those areas around the region where progress needs to be accelerated and efforts doubled, and which countries need to accelerate the pace towards the goals.”

“There are some targets that have not advanced at the desired pace, and in some cases are unlikely to be met, mostly those related to quality and coverage of education, some dimensions of gender equity—particularly in the political sphere—maternal health and mortality, and the persistent threat of HIV/AIDS.”

Munoz spoke at the OAS event along with the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Alicia Barcena, and US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela.

Economic Crisis Slowed Progress
The report, initially released in July, was prepared within the framework of a UN coordination group of 18 agencies, funds and specialized bodies working in the region, including those represented at the Washington, D.C. roundtable. It finds that much progress has been made by the region as a whole in achieving the MDGs — especially in reducing extreme poverty — during the six years (2002-2008) before the global economic crisis.

Latin America and the Caribbean enjoyed relatively high economic growth rates at the time, with several countries improving income distribution, raising per capita public social expenditures, and applying macroeconomic policies that cushioned the blow of the crises when they struck.

But the report also said several countries must expedite progress if they are to achieve the MDGs.

The report emphasizes a rights-based perspective and the reduction of gender, ethnic, socio-economic and territorial inequalities. It analyzes the post-crisis scenario in the region and addresses productive employment and decent work, environmental sustainability, innovation, the technology gap, and South-South cooperation.

The region as a whole has progressed 85 percent in reaching MDG goal one - halving extreme poverty. Latin America could achieve this objective by 2015 if it continues to progress at the same rate: Brazil and Chile have already achieved this goal, while Peru is close to doing so.

But the 2008 economic crisis could pose a major setback for other countries, having halted the trend of the previous six years, in which extreme poverty dropped from 19.4 percent to 12.9 percent. Poverty, further, is greater among children, women, indigenous peoples, those of African descent, and people who live in the countryside.

The MDGs were adopted by world leaders in 2000 with a deadline for achievement by 2015, include goals and targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, environmental degradation, and the global partnerships.

For more on the report, go to eclac.org 

To read UNDP's First Human Development Report for Latin America & the Caribbean

To watch Webcast from the Organization of American States (OAS)

Contact Information

Sarah Jackson-Han
UNDP Washington Office
Tel.: +1 202 3319130
Fax: +1 202 331 9363
Mobile: +1 202 907 4613
sarah.jackson-han@undp.org

Pablo A. Basz
UNDP Regional Center for Latin America & the Caribbean
+507 305 4864
pablo.basz@undp.org