Blog

Working together to find solutions to insecurity | Pablo Ruiz Hiebra

17 Apr 2014

In recent years, public outcry for improved citizen security has led to the introduction of quick, high-visibility solutions to address the problem – solutions such as putting the army in the streets or drafting hasty penal reforms. Unfortunately, results from such initiatives tend to be more questionable than their initial popularity. In light of this, some countries (namely Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, or the Dominican Republic) are attempting to come up with more comprehensive, wide-ranging solutions – solutions combining better coercive capacity of the State with real efforts geared towards the prevention of violence. These countries have succeeded in implementing comprehensive public policies for citizen security, introducing short-term, medium-term and long-term initiatives. Over the last few years, UNDP has supported the development and assessment of such initiatives as one of its priority areas, placing special emphasis on human rights and the fight to end gender-based violence.  I think it would be useful to examine two processes of citizen participation that can serve as a reference for the rest of the region: In Brazil, the call for the first Conference on Public Safety (CONSEG) marked a historic turning point, as municipalities, states, security experts, social bodies and government agencies responsible for citizen  Read More

Toward a proposal for shared parenthood │Carina Lupica

15 Apr 2014

image JULIO LIMPIAS MANAGES TWO JOBS: TAKING CARE OF HIS CHILD AND HEADING AN ECO-FRIENDLY BUSINESS IN BOLIVIA. PHOTO: UNDP BOLIVIA

In the past decade in Latin America and the Caribbean, around 22.8 million women joined the labour market. This advancement has contributed to a labour force today with more than 100 million women. Nevertheless, their labour-force contribution in urban areas (52.6 percent) is still lower than that of men (79.6 percent), and women are still working in low-quality jobs, with negative consequences on their income level and their potential for development. Housework and family care that women still fundamentally provide help explain this. Two main principles underlie the resistance to re-organizing the time men and women dedicate to working in the market and in households. First, men are strongly identified with paid work and women with reproductive work. Second, due to the traditional organization of productive work, there are obstacles to men’s greater commitment to caretaking. Labour laws in the region were established for male workers in an industrial sector working full-time and who are responsible for the family’s financial support; they do not indicate conciliation provisions because they do not consider men responsible for housework and caretaking. The main advancement in labour legislation in the region promoting shared caretaking has been the recognition of the father's right to participate in  Read More

Inequality at the crossroads | George Gray Molina

04 Apr 2014

image Sustainable agriculture in Apúrimac, Peru. (Photo: UNDP in Peru)

After recording a drop in income inequality for the past decade, new data shows the trend has stagnated across Latin America – and in some cases, there has even been an increase in the concentration of income. This analysis is based on the latest revision of household data coming from the  Socioeconomic Database for Latin America and the Caribbean (SEDLAC) and published by the World Bank. The regional Gini coefficient (the index most frequently used to measure income inequality) decreased by an average of 0.94 percent per annum, whereas in 2011 it fell by just 0.33 percent, and by a meager 0.02 percent in 2012. Based on these figures, our UNDP estimates indicate that in six of the 16 countries under review, inequality levels have stagnated between 2010 and 2012. How to account for such stagnation? With no appreciable fluctuations in social transfers or in pensions for this period, the culprit appears to be the labor market, namely the segment of low-skilled workers in the service sectors – sectors that provided most of the new jobs during the economic boom. As growth in earned income is both a benefit to society (leading to poverty reduction) and a cost for businesses (due  Read More

How to enhance the skills of girls, boys and youth | Martín Fuentes

24 Mar 2014

image The Human Development Report Panama highlighted the need to learn to research and develop critical thinking. Photo: UNDP Panama

The 2014 Human Development Report Panama discusses early childhood, youth and formation of life skills. This report examines difficult themes, such as job training, family and education, and whether young people study and/or work. One obvious way to approach life skills in many countries in the region would be to focus on job training, either because the productive sectors require a permanent supply of qualified personnel or because a country is strongly committed to a knowledge-based economy. But concern about job training is important but short-sighted; it is more important to train people who are also motivated to work. Indeed, although applied skills are easier to learn, many employers recognize that it is more important to hire individuals who are creative and take initiative, difficult skills to learn. Therefore, it is important to provide good training in the basic skills of "learning how to learn,” — rather than having a wealth of information, it is more important to know what to look for and where, and to be capable of discerning what is relevant. However, beyond seeing training as basic building blocks with which to construct something more complex, there are a number of key socio-emotional skills that cannot be strengthened  Read More

Democracy: Where are women, youth, indigenous people and people of African descent? | Gerardo Noto

10 Mar 2014

In 2014, Latin America and the Caribbean will hold seven presidential elections, many of which are to be determined by run-offs. Fortunately, in general, our region has become accustomed to holding transparent elections where citizens can freely express their will in electing their representatives to public office. Empowered citizens demand better institutional quality: they call for more and better representation and participation in the processes of shaping and implementing public policies. From the perspective of a citizens' democracy, which UNDP strongly promotes in Latin America and the Caribbean, the right to elect and be elected is a key dimension of political citizenship. Thus, it is important to take the pulse of various sectors of society who participate in the elections, and how the elected representatives reflect the heterogeneity of our societies. Fortunately, there is good news regarding the exercise of voting rights and gender, as women effectively exercise their right to vote. However, there are still major shortcomings regarding the right to be elected. While the region has shown significant progress in recent decades, increasing from 8.2 per cent women’s representation in national legislatures in 1990 to 20.6 per cent in 2010, on average, there are still deep heterogeneities across countries.  Read More

Transgender visibility: The 'AIDS Tchê' initiative in Brazil | Angela Pires

13 Feb 2014

image TRANSGENDER ACTIVISTS IN DOWNTOWN PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL, DURING A MOBILIZATION CAMPAIGN FOR CIVIL REGISTRY CHANGE AND LGBT RIGHTS. PHOTO: DANIEL DE CASTRO/UNDP BRAZIL

The Week of Transgender Visibility recently took place in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with three days of events and initiatives supported within the AIDS Tchê initiative, part of a UN Integrated Plan designed to support the poorest and most remote areas of the country. Porto Alegre is the Brazilian city with the highest incidence rate of AIDS: 99.8  per 100,000, while the national average is 17.9. A recent study from one of the city’s hospitals indicates that seroprevalence among transgender women in Porto Alegre is quite high. "If you look at the data for transgender women living in the metropolitan area of ​​Porto Alegre, we see that transgender women have a 14.5 times greater risk for HIV infection. These findings leave transgender women among the most vulnerable groups to the epidemic," says researcher Brandelli Angelo Costa. Stigma and discrimination against transgender people are regarded as the main fuel for such increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. The violence against their daily basic expression of self leaves them out of the development process, undermines their life choices and excludes them from enjoying basic needs such as formal education, work and health care. As with homophobic violence, transphobic violence remains rampant in Brazil and throughout the  Read More

What can the US learn from Latin America’s declining inequality? | Heraldo Muñoz

01 Feb 2014

image Programmes like Bolsa Familia helped reduce poverty in Latin America (Photo: UNDP Brazil)

As the debate about inequality grows in the U.S., what lessons can be drawn from Latin America, which — although still highly unequal — is the only region that managed to reduce income inequality in the last decade? Despite being the world’s largest economy, the U.S. is the most unequal among the industrialized countries. In 1979, the top 20 percent of Americans received 43 percent of income, while the top 1 percent got 9 percent. Today, however, the top 20 percent of the population captures over 50 percent of pre-tax income, while the top 1 percent receives nearly 15 percent. Meanwhile, Latin America has steadily become more middle-income while reducing poverty.In16 of 17 countries there has been a significant decline in income inequality over the past 10 years. How did they do it? First, nearly half of the decline in inequality can be explained by improvements in household labour income. Economic growth created greater demand for domestic goods, moving more people into the labor force, driving wage increases. This helped reduce the wage gap between college-educated workers and those without a degree. In the U.S., this education gap has increased in recent years. Second, Latin America leads the world in social  Read More

Working for the few: private power over democracy | Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva

24 Jan 2014

image According to a new UNDP report, to be launched next week, income inequality increased by 11% in developing countries between 1990 and 2010. Photo: UNDP PARAGUAY

Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. In a paper released this week, Nick Galasso, from Oxfam America, and I explore the current growing concentration of income and political capture. Firstly: The rich are getting richer, faster. The poorest half of the world's adults, 3.5 billion people, own a total of $1.7 trillion worth of assets. That is similar to the wealth owned by the world's richest 85 people. In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 percent became ever poorer. Secondly: This growing concentration of income and wealth is closely associated with political power and influence. It sounds obvious but it's very easily forgotten. Either through lobbying, campaign finance, or avoiding regulation, the rich exert their power over how the rest of society is governed. In Working for the Few we explore the mechanism by which wealth brings political influence, which in turn breeds greater wealth for a select few. The lopsided influence of the wealthy occurs through different channels. Take the example of Mexico and Carlos Slim. Slim is the CEO and Chairman of  Read More

UNDP strategic plan 2014-2017: Changing with the world | Turhan Saleh

20 Jan 2014

image An aerial view of the city of Sehwan Sharif in Pakistan's southern Sindh Province. Photo: UN/WFP/Amjad Jamal.

We are at a very important moment in modern history, an inflection point, meaning that things are going to be very different in the future than they have been in the past. First, the role that developing countries play in the world – in the economy, science, technology, politics, culture – is changing dramatically. Their importance and influence, which is rising rapidly already, will increase greatly. Second, for the first time in human history, more people are living in cities and towns than in villages. The fastest rates of urbanization are in developing countries, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa. Just think about how this changes our conventional view of where and how people live in the developing world. Third, we have technologies now that are profoundly changing the way we work with each other, relate to each other,  and make and sell things. And the boundaries of these technologies are shifting quickly.    So this is really an incredibly exciting time for development. But there are big dangers: •    Growth and development are not necessarily bringing benefits fairly to everybody, so tensions are rising – and sometimes boiling over –  in a growing number of countries. •    Sometimes the changes taking place are so  Read More

Welcome to a new generation of ‘development issues’ | Duncan Green

16 Jan 2014

image Health problems such as obesity, once more common in countries of the Global North, are increasingly rising in the South, and the development focus for health may need to shift as a result. (Photo: UNDP Fiji)

As I browsed my various feeds over the Christmas break, one theme that emerged was the rise of the “North in the South” on health, or what I call Cinderella Issues: things like traffic accidents, the illegal drug trade, smoking or alcohol that do huge (and growing) damage in developing countries, but are relegated to the margins of the development debate. If my New Year reading is anything to go by, that won’t last long. ODI kicked off with Future Diets, an excellent report on obesity that shows the number of obese/overweight people in developing countries (904 million) has more than tripled since 1980 and has now overtaken the number of malnourished (842 million, according to the FAO). Other key messages include that diets are changing wherever incomes are rising in the developing world, with a marked shift from cereals and tubers to meat, fats, sugar and fruit and vegetables. While globalisation has led to a homogenisation in diets, their continued variation suggests that there is still scope for policies that can influence the food choices people make, particularly in the face of the serious health implications. Meanwhile, the Economist ran a two-page report and editorial on “the new drugs war”:  Read More

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