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Consumption consumes you | George Gray Molina

10 Jan 2014

image CASIMIRA SANCHEZ PREPARES PIECES OF GYM EQUIPMENT AT A PLANT IN MEXICO CITY. A UNDP PROGRAMME TO STRENGTHEN SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES INCREASED THEIR ACCESS TO NEW MARKET TECHNOLOGY. PHOTO: LUIS ACOSTA/AFP FOR UNDP

Scott Fitzgerald used to say about alcohol: “First, you take the drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you”. The same thing could be said about consumerism as a way of achieving social status and recognition. First, let’s  look at a few facts. Consumerism is the engine driving growth in Latin American economies. It represents 59% of the GDP in Brazil, 66% in Mexico, 69% in Chile, 77% in Honduras and 88% in the Dominican Republic ,so more than two thirds of the economic growth in Brazil, Mexico and Chile over the past twelve months. Consumerism also led to a significant reduction in poverty  and favored the emergence of the middle class in the region. Today, most of the population is no longer “poor” in the statistical sense of the term, but “vulnerable” as they work in precarious labor markets yet enjoy higher levels of income and purchasing power than before. Secondly, let’s look at some areas of concern. Consumption is intrinsically linked to high levels of liquidity, easy access to credit, and household debt. Household debt has increased throughout the region: According to Morgan Stanley, the ratio of household debt to income is 60%, in Brazil, the ratio stands at more than 30%,  Read More

Why Latin America and the Caribbean matter for the Post-2015 Agenda | Alejandra Kubitschek Bujones

09 Jan 2014

image CHILDREN WITH ACCESS TO EDUCATION

Latin America could emerge as one of the most influential regions in the negotiations on what will follow the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015. First: The politics - As discussed in the recent UNDP-commissioned, NYU/Center on International Cooperation (CIC) independent report, A Laboratory for Sustainable Development? Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Post-2015 Agenda, Latin America has successfully captured the most important positions in the bodies engaged with the post-2015 framework. This gives the region a unique opportunity to lead and influence the outcome of post-2015 negotiations. Colombia currently presides over the Economic and Social Council, Bolivia heads the G77 group of nations, and Antigua and Barbuda will hold the Presidency of the General Assembly until the 69th session. In addition, Brazil currently leads the World Trade Organization; and the COP 20 climate negotiations will take place in Lima, Peru. Second: The lessons and experience - Latin America has served as a laboratory for designing and implementing innovative sustainable development approaches. The region has developed some of the best-recognized development programs, combining poverty reduction with social inclusion. Successful cash transfer schemes, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, Mexico’s Oportunidades, and Chile’s Solidario have played an important role in increasing  Read More

Boosting transparency and accountability policies in Latin America | Gerardo Berthin

19 Dec 2013

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One of the main challenges undermining human development and democratic governance in Latin America and the Caribbean is the lingering perception of corruption, particularly bribes. This jeopardizes the potential of public policies as important means to promote greater equality and human development. For example, people make a direct correlation between the perceived corruption and the quality and effectiveness of public services in a given country. In November 2013 the Fifth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC ) took place in Panama City with more than 1,500 Member States delegates, in addition to representatives from civil society, academia, the private sector and media outlets. To date, the UNCAC has been ratified by 169 states, and in Latin America only half a dozen of countries are not part of the convention. UNDP and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have been boosting efforts to better understand how UNCAC parties have been designing and implement transparency and accountability policies. The region and the entire world still lack further studies to assess the impact of coordinated anti-corruption policies and the role of specialized agencies in preventing. That’s how this first attempt to systematize anti-corruption  Read More

Pasando de la transparencia a la rendición de cuentas en la lucha contra la corrupción | Patrick Keuleers

13 Dec 2013

image Partido de futbol de Boca Juniors en Argentina, Campaña Anticorrupcion del PNUD y UNODC (foto PNUD Argentina)

La corrupción es un importante cuello de botella para el desarrollo sostenible: hace que las inversiones públicas y privadas no lleguen adonde son más necesarias, multiplica los costos y distorsiona la asignación de los recursos y las prioridades. Esta es la conclusión esencial que podemos extraer de las conmemoraciones del Día Internacional contra la Corrupción, celebrado el 9 de diciembre pasado, y de la V Conferencia de Estados Parte de la Convención de las Naciones Unidas contra la Corrupción celebrada recientemente en Panamá y a la que tuve la oportunidad de asistir. La lucha contra la corrupción ha sido una de las áreas de trabajo de nuestra cartera de gobernabilidad democrática que más rápido, y con mayor éxito, se han ido expandiendo. El Banco Mundial estima que la corrupción puede llegar a absorber hasta el 17% del PIB de un país. Nos podemos imaginar cuál podría ser el impacto a la hora de lograr los ODM para la fecha prevista de 2015 si solamente el 10% de esos recursos pudiera reconducirse hacia el desarrollo… A través de la Encuesta Global MYWorld, más de 1,5 millones de personas han identificado como una de las máximas prioridades del “Mundo que quieren” la necesidad  Read More

Political quotas for women: Myths & facts | Elizabeth Guerrero

09 Dec 2013

image Salvadorian parliamentarians celebrate the approval of the new law that addresses violence against women (Photo: El Salvador Legislative Assembly)

Women still comprise only 21.4 percent of members of parliaments (MP) around the world. While Latin America has more than 24 percent of women MPs — one of the highest shares in the world — the region still has a long road to travel towards gender parity. The provision of quotas — an idea that began in Europe and has spread to other continents — has effectively been used to boost women’s political participation, adopted as a temporary measure to encourage political parties to nominate a minimum percentage of women. This may take place as a voluntary action by political parties or through law-driven measures which push parties to nominate a certain number of women candidates. Yet several myths remain: Myth 1: "Quotas contradict the principle of equality before the law" This argument is based on the assumption that men and women actually have the same opportunities to run for elections. But that simply does not reflect reality. In many countries women can vote, but they cannot be elected. Evidence shows that women and men do not share the same opportunities to be appointed candidates because women face a number of barriers to be nominated by political parties. Therefore, the idea  Read More

Latin America: The paradox of economic growth hand-in-hand with citizen insecurity | Heraldo Muñoz

12 Nov 2013

In recent years, Latin America has set the stage for considerable advances in two areas: economic and social progressand crime. Despite the headway that has been achieved in terms of growth and improvements in health, education and the reduction of poverty and inequality, Latin America has become the most dangerous region in the world. In fact, in this region, homicide rates exceed the "epidemic" level, with more than 10 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants.   This is one of the conclusions reached by the Regional Human Development Report, “Citizen Security with a Human Face: Evidence and Proposals for Latin America,” which we have recently made public. The finding that insecurity is a shared challenge and simultaneously an impediment to social and economic development in all Latin American countries resulted in our dedicating two years of research in order to assess the problem and suggest a number of remedies that would improve public policy as and when required.   The report highlights the fact that Latin America has witnessed low-quality growth, based on consumption and withinsufficient social mobility. The deterioration of citizen security is also related to demographic trends caused by rapid and uncontrolled urban growth as well as by changes in family structure and deficiencies in the school system:  Read More

Hurricane Sandy one year on: What have we learned? | Heraldo Muñoz

26 Oct 2013

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This week marks Hurricane Sandy's first anniversary. Most media attention will understandably focus on the destruction and suffering caused when Sandy struck the United States on October 29 last year, killing more than 110 people and causing more than $50 billion in damages. But what is likely to get less attention is that the US was just the last of many stops on the hurricane's tour of destruction. Beginning on October 24, Sandy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, rumbled across the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other countries before finally reaching the eastern seaboard of the US. The impact on this region was enormous. In Jamaica, most of the country was left without electricity, and public infrastructure suffered damages valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Nearby Haiti was even more exposed, with at least 50 dead and millions affected. Cuba, where the storm reached peak intensity, was left with at least $7 billion in damage, including to more than half of the housing in Santiago de Cuba. And one year on from Sandy, there are many lessons that we should learn from those living in the Caribbean, a region regularly tested by the Atlantic hurricane season.  Read More

Social and political transformation can only be achieved with young people’s participation | Heraldo Muñoz

17 Oct 2013

Latin America and the Caribbean has around 156 million people between the ages of 15 to 29, which means that 26 percent of its population is young. However, only 1.63 percent of deputies and senators in 25 parliaments in the region are 30 years old or younger, according to a recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) assessment. More worrying still is the fact that women still lag behind: among the few young parliamentarians just 32 percent are women.  Having so many young people is an opportunity for any region. But in the case of Latin America, this demographic advantage coexists with unequal opportunities for its youth, which is reflected in low voter turnout among young people and a political representation crisis that feeds the recent social mobilizations. This confirms the need to boost efforts to meet young Latin Americans' demands and needs, and to recognize their capabilities and roles in promoting democratic change.     In this context, more than 22 young parliamentarians from 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean signed a pact to expand political participation of the youth of the region during a recent meeting in Brasilia, organized by UNDP, Brazil’s National Youth Secretary and the Ibero-American Youth Organization,  Read More

Guatemala: Proud to be a Mayan | Juan de Dios

04 Oct 2013

image Victims' memorial museum in Guatemala City. Photo: UNDP Guatemala

I am a Mayan from Guatemala. Though I am proud to be an indigenous person, discrimination against us is a serious problem. Especially in the private sector and in the government, we rarely reach high-level positions and are often seen as a source of cheap labour. I come from a family of people who were displaced by conflict. When I was nine or 10 years old, my father was persecuted and tortured by the military during Guatemala’s civil war, which lasted between 1960 and 1996 and destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom were indigenous Mayans. During the war, 45,000 Mayans were abducted by security forces and “disappeared,” 200,000 families were displaced and 2.5 million children became orphans. After my father was tortured, my family, including my seven brothers and sisters, was forced to move to a new region. However, our troubles were not over. We were thrown out of our new home once again because the government planned to build a hydroelectric plant. When we resisted leaving our homes, the government labeled us enemies of the State and began organizing massacres of women, children and newborns, which nearly wiped out our communities in 1981 and  Read More

Colombia: Still a long way from home | Debora Barros

04 Oct 2013

image Like the Wayuu, the Tule people of Colombia also deal with discrimination and violation of human rights, an experience shared by many indigenous people. Photo: B. Heger, UNHCR

When rebel forces killed the women in my community, our lives changed forever. In my culture, as an indigenous Wayuu in Colombia, women are sacred. We are the ones who transmit our language, traditions and lineage to future generations. To kill a mother is to kill the culture and the life of a community. As a child, I grew up without fear. I played in the desert with my cousins without any feeling of danger. It was a wonderful time. I became a happy, smart and organized woman and was chosen by my community to study law at university. When I came back during vacation, I would explain western music and traditions to the members of my community. But on 18 April 2004, rebels came and attacked my village. They raped, beheaded and killed the women by making grenades explode in their faces. It is too horrible to speak about. When we return to our destroyed village, we cry as if it had happened yesterday. Nine years later, we still don't know why this happened. But the 102 families in community have remained strong and united. With help in advocating for our rights from organizations like UNDP, we have convinced mayors  Read More