MDGs 2015: Latin America needs equality and environmental sustainability | Heraldo Muñoz

05 Apr 2013

children in Uruguay 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 with governments to assess progress at the state and municipal levels. For example, this has led Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, to adopt the MDGs as guidelines for local-level poverty reduction and other social programmes, resulting in improvements in education and health.

We have 1,000 days to close the remaining gaps. But this is also a critical moment to discuss a development strategy that works for the region in the coming decades—with equality and environmental sustainability as crucial elements.

The region needs to transform development and consumption models, with countries taking hold of their full potential as biodiversity superpowers. Food production, disease control, pharmaceuticals manufacturing, and tourism, among others, all make the case for sustainable business investments.

Despite the challenges ahead, the region showcases that change is possible if governments, civil society and the private sector are willing to embrace it with a common goal: achieving human development for all.

Talk to us: What steps can be taken to tackle development challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean?

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