Achieving the Millennium Development Goals with equality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Progress and challenges
United Nations, under the coordination of Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary; and Arturo León, Consultant.
This document sets out the main findings of a review of the countries' progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals contained in the 2010 inter-agency regional report on the Goals in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main policy messages, analyses and conclusions included in the report, which was coordinated by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, are the outcome of a joint effort by specialized agencies, programmes and funds of the United Nations operating in the region.
In accordance with the guidelines handed down by the Secretary General and the United Nations General Assembly following adoption of the Millennium Declaration in September 2000, all the United Nations bodies with operations in Latin America and the Caribbean have, from their respective perspectives and mandates, sought to assist the countries of the region in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Within the framework of the Regional Coordination Mechanism, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes have prepared various proposals and reports that provide a common vision of the problems facing the countries in their efforts to advance with the development agenda and to formulate policy guidelines and concrete proposals that help to overcome these problems, bearing in mind the specific realities in the different countries of the region.
The first regional report, which represented the first phase of this joint study was entitled: The Millennium Development Goals: A Latin American and Caribbean Perspective and was published in September 2005 at the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Since that date the document was adopted by the national authorities and agencies as the conceptual framework for their operational actions in the context of the United Nations Development Group. In response to their appraisal, the United Nations system in the region has continued to promote activities for monitoring fulfilment of the Goals.
More detailed, specific reports have been prepared on each of the internationally agreed development goals contemplated in the Millennium Declaration. Since 2006, four documents were prepared on the Goals and targets relating to gender equity, the right to health, environmentally sustainable development and the need to generate productive employment and decent work.
This regional inter-agency report, which was started in August 2009, is a second comprehensive assessment of the region's progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. With ECLAC as the coordinator, this study, like the 2005 report, was prepared with the close collaboration of 17 agencies: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The joint work and exchange of ideas throughout the preparation of the document enabled the agencies to make substantive contributions from their respective areas of specialization and in each of the chapters, which revealed the synergies between the different Millennium Development Goals. In this way, it has been possible to include the most up-to-date information on the different Millennium indicators and to construct databases for evaluating progress and lags in the region in relation to each of the goals.
The preparation of this second report coincided with that of the ECLAC session document entitled: Time for Equality: closing gaps, opening trails, which was presented in Brasilia at the thirty-third session of the Commission, which took place from 30 May to 1 June 2010. The central idea underlying this document is that social equality and economic vibrancy which transform production patterns are not mutually exclusive and that the major challenge for the countries of the region is to find synergies between these two fundamental dimensions of development. This assertion is based on the conviction that "the market/State/society equation prevailing for the past three decades has proved incapable of responding to the global challenges of today and tomorrow" ECLAC, 2010b). In this way, the first regional UNDP report on human development in Latin America and the Caribbean, Actuar sobre el futuro: romper la transmisión intergeneracional de la desigualdad maintains that it is not sufficient to tackle poverty: the focus must be on eliminating inequality. These two reports argue that the region's political priority must be to reduce inequality through policies that break down the mechanisms that perpetuate it. Such policies would include redistribution strategies, improving the quality and efficacy of political representation, consensus-building, fiscal reform and policies that give hope to the most underprivileged groups in society.
The consensus emerging from this vision of development resulted in more weight being given in the document to the issue of equality in all its different dimensions: equality of rights -as the normative framework for equal opportunities- reducing gaps in order to achieve effective equality and consideration for the well-being of future generations through sustainable development. The latter refers to the dimension of intergenerational equality which calls for structural changes in patterns of production and consumption and in public policies.
With respect to the first dimension, an explicit effort was made to include the rights perspective in the document. The contributions of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) were instrumental in achieving this. As indicated in chapter I, this rights perspective compels us to consider equality in terms of guaranteeing minimum criteria for the entire population in respect of each of the dimensions of wellbeing contemplated in the Goals.
Bearing in mind that Latin America is still the region with the most acute income inequalities in the world, this report underscores the need to take steps to close the gaps that exist in various dimensions in all countries in the region and which result in the exclusion of indigenous peoples, in instances of territorial segregation, in inequality between the sexes and in socio-economic inequalities in general. All of these inequalities are a consequence of inherited inequalities as well as the main mechanism whereby they are passed on from one generation to the next.
The second thread running through this document concerns the six-year period 2003-2008, which was characterized by an accelerated pace of progress towards fulfilment of the Goals thanks to high economic growth, a moderate reduction in the high levels of income inequality and a sustained increase in social public spending, aided in most countries by more abundant fiscal revenues. The macroeconomic policies implemented in that period were geared towards reducing fiscal deficits and funding social programmes, which helped in varying degrees to speed up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.
The complex situation ushered in by the global crisis put paid to this boom period and the pace of progress it had sustained. The drastic change in external conditions observed in 2008 and the different scale of the repercussions in different countries make it difficult to project medium-term scenarios and unrealistic to imagine that the pre-crisis trends could be prolonged up to 2015. In the next five years, shortage of liquidity at the international level, weaker inflows of official development assistance and the contraction in external demand due to constraints in the developed countries will hamper progress towards the targets. The prospect of attaining the Goals agreed in 2000 and of enforcing the rights contemplated in the global development commitment embodied in the Millennium Declaration is becoming increasingly uncertain.
For the above reasons and since the full impact of the crisis, especially on extreme poverty and hunger, was not known at the time of writing, caution must be exercised in reviewing progress up to 2008. The more uncertain outlook means that equality must be the central concern in the development agenda and that the region must consider forging closer trade ties with other international partners on the basis of environmentally sustainable development. At the same time it must advance unreservedly towards more effective South-South cooperation.
The development prospects of the countries of the region are contingent on fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals and targets. We at the United Nations have put our heart into monitoring advancement of this cause and proposing alternative public policies for addressing the difficulties inherent in the challenge. It is therefore with great pride that we submit this Report 2010, which, we are sure, will be a valuable input for our countries.
Alicia Bárcena Executive Secretary Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Coordinator of the Regional Coordination Mechanism
Heraldo Muñoz Assistant Administrator United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Coordinator of the Regional Development Group