Blog

The world’s two top economic powers turn to an emerged Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

07 Jun 2013

image Participants in a micro-credit and skill-training programme in Bolivia tend to a sweet-onion harvest. Programmes like this one have helped thousands in Latin America emerge from extreme poverty. (Photo: UNDP Bolivia/Bolivia Produce)

In the last six weeks, United States President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and President of China Xi Jinping all have visited Latin America and the Caribbean. Far from being a coincidence, the leaders of the world’s first and second largest economies are turning to a transformed Latin America and the Caribbean—defined increasingly by opportunity, growth, democracy and optimism. Yes, it’s the economy. In 2012, U.S. exports to the Caribbean, South and Central America totaled $205 billion, compared to $110 billion in exports to China. US exports to Mexico alone reached $216 billion last year. The bottom line is that Latin America has already emerged—and is not tied to any particular external partner. Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest economy; Argentina, Brazil and Mexico hold seats in the G-20; Chile and Mexico have joined developed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Over the last decade, it has become a region of middle-income countries growing faster than the global average, reducing trade deficits thanks to a commodities boom , improved investments—and to growing domestic markets. The region has lifted 58 million people out of poverty and into the middle class since 2002. And despite some setbacks, the region  Read More

Indigenous peoples’ political inclusion enriches democracy in Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

23 May 2013

image "Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions." - Article 5 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (UN Photo)

One of the most significant roles of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is to help boost indigenous peoples’ political participation. It is crucial to ensure that all people participate in political life and are active decision-makers—especially indigenous peoples. This is essential to overcome historical inequalities and discrimination. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are approximately 50 million indigenous peoples, about 10 percent of the total population. In Peru and Guatemala indigenous peoples account for almost half of the population, while in Bolivia they are more than 60 percent. Even though in Mexico indigenous peoples cover only 10 percent of the total population, Mexico and Peru contain the region’s largest indigenous population: about 11 million people. Mexico, for example, is advancing the ‘coexistence’ of indigenous peoples’ legal systems with the national legal system. It is not an easy process. The indigenous peoples’ representation at local and national levels, including dispute resolution methods, can differ widely and also spark tensions. However, indigenous peoples have shown that they are aware of how modern democracies work, as well as the limitations imposed to their political participation. For this reason, indigenous peoples have been adapting their traditional knowledge systems and their institutions  Read More

Stopping violence against women | Marta Vieira da Silva

29 Apr 2013

Life isn’t easy for women – anywhere in the world.   I grew up in Dois Riachos – a poor, remote town in the north-east of Brazil. Our family didn’t have much money; my mother worked hard to raise me and my two brothers and sister by herself. We couldn’t even afford a football – if we had bought one, we would have gone without food.   At the age of 7, I knew I wanted to play football for the rest of my life. But being a girl, the path wasn’t straightforward. Everyone from my brothers to the other boys on the field tried to stop me from playing. I was lucky enough to have the support of visionary people who helped me fulfill my dream of being a professional footballer.   So many women don’t have the opportunities I did.   Every year, 2 million women and girls are trafficked into prostitution, forced slavery and servitude.   Up to 60 percent of women experience some form of physical or sexual abuse during their life – and as many as half of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 18.   This kind of violence is happening on all corners  Read More

MDGs 2015: Latin America needs equality and environmental sustainability | Heraldo Muñoz

05 Apr 2013

image Children in Uruguay, where a maternal and infant health programme has drastically improved health markers for children by providing the poorest populations with healthcare, nutritional training and food. (Photo: UNDP Uruguay)

One thousand days from the 2015 target date, Latin America and the Caribbean is well on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty has been reduced to the lowest levels in three decades. Child mortality has dropped and we are fighting diseases, with some countries spearheading innovation in universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care. The commitments made 13 years ago led the region to fine-tune some groundbreaking social policies which, along with rapid economic growth and job creation, helped lift millions from poverty while reducing inequalities. But Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most unequal region in the world—and the most violent. Moreover, too many women still die in childbirth and countries need to boost gender parity in employment and parliaments as well as access to education and reproductive health services. Sanitation must also be improved and more needs to be done to reverse forest loss. In addition, average MDG achievement for countries with historical inequalities is insufficient. In the Brazilian states of São Paulo and Piauí, or in the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Chiapas, MDG achievement rates are considerably different. To tackle such disparities, UNDP and other UN agencies have been partnering  Read More

Violence, crime still plague Latin America | Heraldo Muñoz

31 Jan 2013

image More than 1,000 judges, clerks, prosecutors and police officers in Haiti received training in technical areas of criminal investigations, sex crimes or judicial inspection. Photo: UNDP Haiti

Latin America now enjoys stronger, better integrated economies and more solid democracies than it did 20 years ago. The region is more prosperous and less poor. But epidemic crime and violence threaten to undermine recent gains and demand urgent, innovative public policy solutions. From 2000-2010, homicide rates across the region rose by 11 percent while declining in most regions worldwide. In countries with data for 1980-90, robberies have almost tripled over the last 25 years. One in 10 robberies involves violence, usually with firearms. On a typical day in Latin America, 460 people are victims of sexual violence, usually women. A recent poll found people in Latin America and the Caribbean least likely in the world to feel safe in their communities, with slightly less than half of residents reporting in 2011 that they feel unsafe walking alone at night where they live. That poses a fundamental problem in furthering development. Why open a business only to have it robbed by armed gunmen? Why send a daughter to school if she risks assault along the way? Why such insecurity in a region whose economic and governance indices are moving in the right direction? UNDP’s forthcoming Human Development Report for Latin America  Read More

Beyond mountains, Haitians see a brighter future | Heraldo Muñoz

11 Jan 2013

image Young women entrepreneurs in Haiti received a US$500 grant for the development of their business. Photo: UNDP in Haiti

“Beyond the mountains, more mountains,” one Haitian proverb goes, in a nod to the outsized challenges this half-island in the Caribbean has faced for as long as anyone can remember. Topping that list is the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, displaced 1.5 million, and racked or razed some 300,000 buildings. The quake took its deadliest aim in Haiti’s hyper-urbanized capital, causing indescribable ruin and destroying roughly 80 percent of the country’s economy. But Haitians are accustomed to scaling mountains. Government, private sector, and international organizations are working with families and communities to rebuild the country and revive its economy. Women, who head almost 50 per cent of households, are playing a leading role. Keeping Haitians and their communities as protagonists of the recovery process is fundamental. Within neighborhoods, community members themselves set priorities for rebuilding homes and infrastructure through community platform meetings, with specific attention to the unique risks facing city-dwellers—strengthening the social and communal bonds that bolster post-crisis resilience by an order of magnitude. To enable families to take charge of repairing and rebuilding their homes themselves, UNDP has established community support centres to help strengthen damaged homes in the Haitian capital, where 30,000 people have benefitted  Read More

What we owe our youth | Heraldo Muñoz

16 Oct 2012

image More than 30 youth organizations, young leaders and governmental counterparts will participate in a meeting in Mexico City to boost the involvement of young people in politics in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Photo: UNDP Mexico)

Today we kick off a three-day meeting in Mexico City to boost the involvement of young people in politics in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 30 youth organizations, young leaders and governmental counterparts will participate. This is a crucial issue—and not only in Latin America. Almost half the world's population is under 25 and more than one third is aged 12-24. This fact, along with social and economic inequality among youth expressed in recent social movements like the Arab Spring, Spain’s 15M, Mexico’s YoSoy132 movement and the student protests in Chile reaffirm the need to address the young generation’s demands and recognize young people’s critical role in promoting social change. Of the 600 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean more than 26 percent are aged 15-29. This is a unique opportunity for the region’s development and for its present and future governance. The UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Reports have shown that young people have enormous potential as agents of change. But despite Latin America’s remarkable progress in reducing poverty and inequality—and its strides toward strong democracies with free and transparent elections—​​income, gender, ethnic origin, or dwelling conditions are all decisive barriers to young citizens’ rights.  Read More

Every day in every country – should be and can be a day without violence | Helen Clark

21 Sep 2012

More than half a million people die violently every year - in armed conflicts; from criminal activity; and from violent attacks in their own homes. An estimated 1.5 billion plus people live in countries affected by war, violence, and/or high levels of crime. The absence of peace exacts a terrible toll. Armed conflict terrifies communities and makes development progress very difficult. Deep inequalities may be reflected in levels of violence – and will be exacerbated by it. For example, women and girls, who suffer discrimination in many places, are disproportionately affected by armed conflict. War increases their economic and social vulnerability. Yet it is possible to tackle these challenges decisively, and UNDP sees progress being made in a number of countries in which we work. For example: · This year El Salvador recorded its first murder-free day in over three years. Murders there have fallen by an average of 12 per cent since the introduction of gun-free zones; · Liberia is on the road to recovery from many years of civil war, 2013 will mark a decade of peace there; and · In Angola, an arms amnesty led to the surrender of more than 76,000 illegal weapons. These examples all show  Read More

Improving human development among indigenous peoples: The Chiapas success story | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

22 Aug 2012

image Indigenous peoples in Chiapas, one of Mexico’s poorest states, have seen improvements in human development after the adoption of MDG-focused social policies. (Photo: UNDP Mexico)

In many ways, history has been hard on the southwestern state of Chiapas, home to Mexico’s largest indigenous population. Poverty has been persistent, with the state lagging behind on most socio-economic indicators.    In recent times however, Chiapas has led the way in setting an agenda to improve the life of its citizens. In 2009 the state adopted the Chiapas-UN Agenda and amended its constitution, making it the first in the world to mandate a Millennium Development Goals-guided social policy. As a result, addressing poverty and its causes became a priority in Chiapas, with a strong emphasis on initiatives to improve health, education, environmental sustainability and extreme hunger. Following this constitutional amendment, public spending from the government at the federal, state and local levels followed the MDG priorities, producing some impressive results in a short period of time. Chiapas experienced progress in education, measured by literacy and enrolment rates from 2008 to 2010. During the same period the state also had the fastest improvements in life expectancy at birth. Many indigenous communities of Chiapas were at the origin of the Zapatista uprising in the 1990’s, which succeeded in obtaining new rights for indigenous peoples but also divided and displaced much of  Read More

Sharing development experience between Latin America and Africa | Helen Clark

29 May 2012

image Cash transfer programmes – such as Brazil’s Bolsa Familia – target low-income households, help reduce poverty levels, and increase access to education and health services.

More than 40 social development ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are gathering this week in Brasilia to discuss how both regions can exchange experiences and increase co-operation to end poverty. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is proud to be the facilitator of this historic gathering. It takes place less than a month before the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.  There, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations will gather to discuss how to build a more sustainable future—a crucial challenge for developing and developed countries alike.   It is clear that countries can no longer afford to grow first and try to clean up later. Or grow first and try to become more equitable later.  Growth divorced from advances in human development and without regard for the environment will not sustain advances in human development, and will damage the ecosystems on which life on our planet depends.   Two weeks ago, UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report on food security was launched in Nairobi with the President of Kenya.  Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s significant rates of economic growth, hunger continues to affect nearly a quarter of its population  Read More

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