Latin America and the Caribbean seek to boost social gains, despite progress slowdown

Oct 30, 2014

Helen Clark: "Future progress needs to be fully inclusive of women, youth, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, older people, and people of African descent" Photo: Carolina Azevedo/UNDP

Mexico City, October 29, 2014 -More than 30 officials from Latin America and the Caribbean kick started a two day meeting to discuss how to further expand the region’s social and economic gains and avoid setbacks, despite a recent slowdown in progress rates.

Ministers and specialists working on social development, finance, planning, labor and social security from nearly 30 countries in the region gathered here 30-31 October at the 7th Ministerial Forum on Development in Latin America and the Caribbean debating ways to improve distribution tools and measure the multiple dimensions of progress and wellbeing, beyond income.

The Ministerial Forum, an annual meeting organized in New York by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supported by the Spanish Cooperation Agency, is taking place this year for the first time in Mexico, with the partnership of the Ministry of Development social Government of Mexico (SEDESOL).

After the impressive progress in the region in the last decade, the pace of poverty reduction and inequality has declined, according to recent UNDP studies.

"The situation therefore calls for a focus on inclusive growth and the expansion of social protection," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, opening the event today.

"Further progress has to be inclusive for women, youth, people of African and indigenous descent and the elderly."

Mexico’s Social Development Secretary Rosario Robles stressed that her “government has strengthened the ties of cooperation between UNDP, through SEDESOL, by exposing the core aspects of a new generation of social policies promoted by President Enrique Peña Nieto to enforce the constitutional rights of Mexicans to nutrition, health and employment, "

For UNDP, progress, or peoples’ wellbeing means more than income: health, education, adequate housing are just some of the various elements.

This has already been recognized by countries like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, for example, which are using multidimensional poverty measures as progress assessment. Factors such as how long men and women at home and in the workplace work also of great importance, as well as empowerment and dignity.

“The idea is to have tools alongside income and inequality measurements to fight deprivations in other dimensions, beyond poverty, such as cooking without modern electricity,” said Sabine Alkire, Director of Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative.

“Our aim is not to measure poverty but to eradicate it: So the question is how we can use better policies to produce institutional changes to eradicate poverty.”

Overcoming challenges - After a decade of economic prosperity and reducing poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean from 2002-2012, UNDP has measured a slowdown in such progress rates. According to a recent study, in the past few years the rate of poverty reduction in the region has shown a downward trend.  While the poverty reduction rate (population living on less than less than US$4/day) was approximately 4.4% per year from 2002-2007, in the five subsequent years this rate dropped to only 2.8%.  Moreover, inequality reduction rates decreased in 16 of the 18 countries for which comparable information is available from 2000-2012, with a rate of decline of 0.9% per year.

However, UNDP warns that a lack of social protection could reverse progress in poverty reduction in the region, according to UNDP’s recent study.

Latin American and Caribbean officials are discussing a new a social agenda for the region’s future that includes more ambitious multidimensional progress goals; specific instruments to allow a more progressive distribution of every country´s resources; policies for economic growth with greater social inclusion and the necessary institutional strength to ensure better results in the social policy realm.

“The experiences and knowledge gathered on this journey are significant, and it is important to share them within the region and beyond,” concluded Helen Clark.


“The time to do that is now, as UN Member States design the global development agenda which will succeed the MDGs in the post-2015 era, and as they contemplate how it can be implemented.”

Contact information


Carolina Azevedo: +52-55-2311-6800 y

Ana del Toro: tel: +52-55-4091-2611


Oscar Ramírez Suárez: 53285018 y 53285000 extensiones 52021 y 52006.

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