Our Perspective

      • Chile's 9/11 shows political freedom is crucial for development | Heraldo Muñoz

        11 Sep 2013

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        Portrait of a child taken in the Juan Pablo II camp in Santiago, Chile. Photo: Nicolas Pinto Tironi / UNDP

        Forty years after Chile’s 9/11, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, many people still ask me: Wasn’t he responsible for the economic miracle that made Chile a success story? After the coup in Egypt in July, a Wall Street Journal editorial argued that "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet," who, it said, "took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy." Indeed, Pinochet personified a disturbing contradiction. He won praise for transforming the economy into one of the most prosperous in Latin America. The main problem for Pinochet's apologists was his brutality and corruption. If only he had modernized Chile's economy without assassinating, torturing and exiling tens of thousands of dissidents and getting caught hiding offshore bank accounts. But the groundwork for Pinochet's economic modernization was laid by his predecessors—under democratic rule. Land reform in the 1960s and early '70s allowed the military regime to boost agroindustry and an export-oriented economy. By 1970 the illiteracy rate was below 10 percent, malnutrition and infant mortality had been declining for decades and Chile had several solid state institutions. The return  Read More

      • Why should companies care about human rights? | Heraldo Muñoz

        06 Sep 2013

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        Businesses must work together with governments and civil society to take protect human rights as they promote economic growth. Above, miners in Brazil. (Photo: Sebastiao Barbosa/UN Photo)

        What led more than 400 representatives of national and multinational companies, governments, trade unions, civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations to gather to discuss the impact of business on human rights? I asked myself this question as I opened the first Regional Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean on the Business Impact of Human Rights in Medellin, Colombia this August. Hundreds of top executives from the mining, energy, oil, food, beverage, banking/finance and agriculture sectors held an open dialogue with local communities, including campesinos and indigenous peoples, NGOs and public sector officials. Certainly the region has grown in recent years, but investments, especially related to extractive industries and land tenure, tend to spark social conflicts. And that's a challenge we all have to tackle together for truly sustainable development in the economic, social and environmental spheres. The United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) recognizes human rights as a central component of human development. And of course, human development is linked to the universal rights to equality, non-discrimination, participation and accountability. So we convened this forum in partnership with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and  Read More

      • Conflict has changed, and this needs to be reflected in the future development agenda | Jordan Ryan

        02 Aug 2013

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        Camp residents in Somaliland displaced due to drought or conflict. (Photo: Stuart Price/UN Photo)

        Ever since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, the global community has focused on addressing the challenges of inter-state conflicts. But in 2013, the face of conflict is changing. Today armed conflicts that cause 1,000 or more deaths per year have declined dramatically. More than 526,000 people still die violently every year, but the majority of conflict deaths occur during internal clashes, as opposed to during wars between states. New forms of violent conflict have emerged to take the place of traditional wars. These include inter-community violence, as in the DRC, Somalia and Syria, and violence linked to crime, as in many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. Today, for every death from a recognized war, there are nine casualties from gang violence and crime. This violence stunts efforts to lift people out of poverty, scars communities and makes women and girls more vulnerable to abuse. As world leaders prepare to discuss the new global agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals from 2015 onward, recognizing the changing nature of conflict and addressing armed violence as a barrier to development have become top priorities. This will demand the building of institutions able to respond effectively to the  Read More

      • Measuring the high expectations of Latin America’s youth | Heraldo Muñoz

        22 Jul 2013

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        Two thirds of young people in Latin America are more optimistic about the future than the present. Photo: Wim Bouden/PNUD Perú

        The increasing frequency of such mobilizations tells us that young people want to actively participate in their society’s development. The first Ibero-American Youth Survey—which we launched with the Ibero-American Youth Organization and other partners on 22 July in Madrid— shows that young people in Latin America, Portugal and Spain expect their participation to increase over the next five years. Institutions should provide formal spaces for this, or protests will become the most effective way for young people to make their voices heard. And the region will waste an opportunity to enhance the quality of its democratic governance. We introduced in this survey the first Youth Expectation Index, based on our decades-long experience in the production of Human Development Indices. This new Index—which reflects young people’s perceptions and subjective values of social, economic and political rights—  revealed the same messages that young people in the region are conveying in the streets: they expect more in terms of reduced corruption, violence, poverty and inequality. The Youth Expectations Index also showed us that two thirds of young people in Latin America have a positive outlook and that they are more optimistic about the future than the present. Young people express more confidence in their  Read More

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

        07 Jun 2013

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        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

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        "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

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        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

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        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

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        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