The 10th Ministerial Forum discusses how to reduce systemic discrimination and structural inequalities, which continue to prevent many from participating in society in a meaningful way. Our Administrator delivered the keynote speech. Photo: MIDES Panama

Panama City, September 12, 2018 - More than 200 global and regional experts in sustainable development and top government officials from Latin American and Caribbean, including three vice-presidents and around 40 ministers, kicked off the two-day 10th Ministerial Forum for Development in Latin America and the Caribbean today to discuss new ways to reduce inequalities and boost gains in the social, economic and environmental fronts.

At the Forum "Partnerships for the reduction of structural inequalities within Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework" top officials are sharing challenges and best practices to leave no one behind, including traditionally marginalized populations in the region, such as indigenous peoples and afro-descendant populations. The event is organized by the Government of Panama with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

In the past decades the region has reduced inequality, particularly income inequality, which decreased at almost one percentage point per year between 2003 and 2010. This was particularly impressive in a period in which income inequality increased in almost every other part of the world. However, after 2010 inequality reduction stagnated in the region. Increases in educational attainment have failed to translate into improved productivity and better wages. More investment in social protection programmes helped many to rise above the poverty line. But many marginalized groups are still lagging behind. The 10th Ministerial Forum discusses how to reduce systemic discrimination and structural inequalities, which continue to prevent many from participating in society in a meaningful way.

"The leadership of governments in the creation of policies is essential, but at the same time, it is necessary to build alliances among all the actors of society, including the private sector, which allows accelerating progress with innovation, transformation and balance among the three pillars of development, and also achieve it reaching the most disadvantaged layers of society, "said the President Juan Carlos Varela of the Republic of Panama, opening the X Ministerial Forum.

"Last year, 82 percent of the wealth created went to the top 1 percent. The widening gap between the world’s richest and poorest people represents lost opportunities and inequity for millions around the world, and it makes tackling poverty even harder, " said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.  "Inequality is a huge challenge around the world, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it is not inevitable. By working together with governments on the right mixture of policy solutions, we can shrink this gap between rich and poor and give back the opportunities that have been lost."

In order to measure people´s well-being beyond traditional income measurements and target social policies to effectively reduce in its various dimensions, the Government of Panama has adopted the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) at the national level, with the collaboration of the Oxford University´s Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), UNDP and the World Bank. To complement this effort, during the 10th Forum the Government of Panama launched today its MPI for Children and Adolescents, the first in the region, with indicators of water and sanitation, health and nutrition, education and information, and protection and recreation, as a key step to achieve the 2030 Agenda and not leave anyone behind.

The Conference also marks the Second Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, a subsidiary body of ECLAC.

"As we indicated in our document 'The inefficiency of inequality', equality is a necessary condition to move towards a development model focused on closing the structural gaps and technological convergence, with higher levels of productivity and economic and environmental sustainability," said Laís Abramo, Director of the Social Development Division of ECLAC. "Inequality, on the other hand, is unfair, inefficient and unsustainable. It involves costs in productivity and in the dynamic efficiency of the economic system, as well as in social development. It generates institutions that do not promote productivity or innovation and reproduce the culture of privilege that reinforces a set of intersecting inequalities (socioeconomic, gender, ethnic-racial, territorial and throughout people’s life cycle), which constitute a core obstacle to sustainable development.”

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