Poverty 'continues to be an immense challenge'Monday, November 15, 2010
'Latin America is the most unequal region in the world,' UN's director
The United Nations Development Programme director for Latin America, Heraldo Muñoz, said that fighting poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean will demand serious and sustained effort despite major steps toward improving lives in the region.
Muñoz remarked that "unfortunately, our countries are champions in inequality at a global level, although some countries, such as Brazil, Chile, and others have made progress."
Furthermore, Muñoz remarked that "Our region (LatAm) is the most unequal in the world and it cannot expect more. Inequality has a negative impact on people, the economy, and society as a whole," he added, and continued: "Which is why we believe that inequality should be a political priority in the agenda of the region's countries."
Muñoz also considered that "the food and economic crises have meant setbacks in poverty alleviation", and added that "it is necessary to recover good levels of equality, education, health, and create instruments that efficiently reach the poorest populations and strengthen the effectiveness of policies."
"Although the human development index for Latin American and the Caribbean has increased by a third since the year 1970, it's actually well below the world average. We have countries with important achievements, but in the last 40 years, no country in the region has made it to the Top 20 with the best human development."
"Inequality is an important obstacle for the full development of our countries," Muñoz assured. "Of the 15 most unequal countries in the world, 12 are in Latin America, and that is unacceptable."
He added that poverty "continues to be an immense challenge" in a region in which one of every 10 people still faces multidimensional poverty, whereas in Europe and Central Asia, this occurs in one out of every 33 people.
"We have made progress in reducing poverty, but this is not enough," he pointed out.
Based on the new Human Development Index adjusted for inequality (HDI-I), the leading country in the region is Uruguay (the least unequal, occupying the 41st place), in front of Chile (43), and Argentina (55). But even though it is the “most equal in the region, Uruguay is still under the most unequal country in Europe”.
Asked about the situation of democracy within the region, Muñoz stressed that there is "a quality problem that goes against democracy within the region, plus the existence of weak institutions."
The UN official also warned that the region should start "using the G192 now that it's chaired by Argentina, plus the world's current situation demands multilateralism to be renewed as opposite to the new protectionist trend seemed world widely", and concluded, "the G20 is Ok, but most important for the region is the G192 since there are global problems that need the attention of all UN members."