Mexico’s Crusade against Hunger

January 29, 2013

by Juan Manuel Henao

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, inaugurated to a new sexenio last month, is doing everything in his administration’s power to abate a problem that affects close to 52 million poverty-stricken Mexicans: hunger. 

Well before becoming president, Peña Nieto promised mothers, children and the poorest of communities that he would work to end poverty, inequality and hunger.  During his inaugural speech on December 2, he issued an executive order directing his new social development secretary to implement a program to eradicate hunger across the country. Some 50 days later, he traveled to Las Margaritas, Chiapas, to unveil an ambitious national plan known as La Cruzada Nacional contra el Hambre (National Crusade against Hunger).

The program coordinates the ministries for social development, education and defense to work in 400 of the poorest municipalities across Mexico to provide wholesome nutrition, eradicate childhood malnutrition, educate farmers, minimize post-harvest losses, and implement community hunger eradication programs.

Peña Nieto’s order also creates the Sistema Nacional contra el Hambre (National System against Hunger), which serves as the legal, administrative and bureaucratic manual for dialogue, agreements and action between government agencies, states and municipalities. The program and executive order, however, are not the first to appear in a country which has historically tolerated hunger amongst the ranks. Progressive programs from different presidents and land reforms have given Indigenous and disadvantaged groups crops and food, but a large portion of the population remains unimpacted by such efforts.       

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Tags: Enrique Peña Nieto, poverty, hunger

Chile Most Inclusive Country in Hemisphere, Says AQ Study

April 26, 2012

by AQ Online

With today’s release of its Spring 2012 issue, Americas Quarterly has unveiled a new index that measures social inclusion in the Americas. This ranking evaluates 15 different indicators and compares them across 11 countries in the hemisphere. The variables include a country’s economic competitiveness, percent of national GDP spent on social programs, level of political and civil freedoms, and citizen perception of personal empowerment and government responsiveness in that country.

Out of a maximum of 100, Chile came out on top with a score of 71.9, while Guatemala ranked lowest at 7.5. The index praises Chile’s “consistently high rankings across almost all indicators” and cites “severe inequalities by race and ethnicity” in the case of Guatemala, adding that “Indigenous and Afro-Guatemalans lag far behind” socioeconomically. Uruguay and Brazil ranked second and third, respectively.

For four variables—enrollment in secondary school, percent of population living on more than $4 per day, access to adequate housing, and percent of population with access to a formal job—Americas Quarterly uses data collected by the World Bank in household surveys and disaggregated by race and gender.

According to the index, social inclusion is defined as “the concept that a citizen has the ability to participate in the basic political, economic and social functioning of his or her society. It includes not just economic empowerment, but also access to basic social services, access to infrastructure (physical and institutional), access to the formal labor market, civil and political participation and voice, and the absence of legally sanctioned discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender.”

Access the full results of—and methodology behind—AQ’s social inclusion index.

Tags: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Social inclusion, poverty, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay

Peru’s Development Minister Wraps Up Washington Visit

February 24, 2012

by AQ Online

Peruvian Minister of Development and Social Inclusion Carolina Trivelli yesterday concluded a three-day visit to Washington DC during which she met with Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero, as well as other senior officials from the Departments of State, Education, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. The purpose of Trivelli’s trip was to deepen the U.S.–Peru relationship on economic and social development issues. 

According to State Department sources, Trivelli’s delegation discussed a range of topics including early childhood education, nutrition, women’s empowerment, and boosting social inclusion for Indigenous and other marginalized groups.

An early outcome of Trivelli’s U.S. visit was the announcement of a $1 million commitment by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for a three-year pilot program on early childhood education. Since taking power in 2011, President Ollanta Humala’s government has stressed the need to accelerate and improve assistance to those still living in conditions of extreme poverty. As head of the government ministry charged with achieving poverty-reduction goals, Trivelli hopes to attract increased development assistance from bilateral aid agencies and multilateral donors alike.

Tags: Peru, Development, Social inclusion, Inter-American Development Bank, poverty, Ollanta Humala

Las mujeres tejen esperanza en El Alto en Bolivia

January 3, 2012

by Cecilia Lanza

En La Paz, la ciudad de El Alto incluye una cantidad impresionante de las mujeres empresariales. Pero es necesario explicar primero cómo es la ciudad de El Alto para entender sus logros; tal vez esta anécdota sirva.

Mi hermano mayor vive en Europa hace más de 25 años. De manera que Bolivia es para él un lugar ciertamente ajeno. Aunque de vez en cuando encuentre aquí algunas similitudes con otros países a los que por razones de trabajo viaja. Así, cuando alguna vez llegó a La Paz, como todo viajero lo hace, tuvo que atravesar primero la ciudad de El Alto que es la puerta de ingreso hacia La Paz.

En la primera esquina lo recibió un atolladero de automóviles vetustos, bocineando a cuál más fuerte. La gente cruzaba en medio de los autos, zigzageando, cargada de bultos. Vendedores ambulantes, con sus carritos de fruta y comida, hacían lo mismo. Más adelante un burro también. Y como espectáculo aparte, el chofer de un autobús viejísimo y grandote, se peleaba a puñetes con el dueño de otro automóvil, a vista y paciencia de un policía inerme. Entonces mi hermano, radiante, exclamó: “¡Igualito que en la India!”

Y bueno. Sí. Los mercados de la pobreza suelen tener la misma cara en todo el mundo. Pero también la contracara. Y El Alto, como gran parte de la India, es un gran mercado. Una de sus caras es sin duda la informalidad y el contrabando. Pero la otra es la iniciativa empresarial-industrial en pequeña escala cuyos resultados son exitosos y tienen además rostro femenino.

Tags: Bolivia, Social inclusion, poverty, women

Brazil’s Favelas Grow, Despite Economic Progress

December 22, 2011

by AQ Online

A newly released report by Brazil’s Instituto Brasileiro de Geografía e Estadísticas (IBGE)—the state agency responsible for conducting the country’s census—found that the total number of Brazilians living in favelas has nearly doubled in the last five years to 11.4 million. The trend belies common perceptions that high GDP growth has alleviated widespread poverty in South America’s largest economy.

The report found that the 6,329 favelas nationwide in 2010 are home to approximately 6.0 percent of Brazil’s total population. Nearly half of the shantytowns are located in southeastern Brazil—a region responsible for generating the vast majority of the country’s total economic output.

Reducing poverty and increasing social inclusion in Brazil have been pillars of public policy over the course of the last three presidential administrations. From 1995 to 2005 federal social spending increased by 74 percent in real terms. The IBGE report confirms that despite progress, urban poverty persists even in Brazil’s biggest cities.

In addition, policies to combat violence in favelas through community policing initiatives and law enforcement operations are front-and-center in Brazil. These policies are seen as crucial to the success of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 summer Olympic Games.

Tags: Brazil, Social inclusion, poverty, Favela

UN: Latin America at Lowest Poverty Levels in 20 Years

November 30, 2011

by AQ Online

The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released a report yesterday in Santiago which detailed the marked decline in poverty rates across Latin America since 1990. According to the report, “Social Panorama of Latin America 2011,” the region’s poverty rate fell from 48.4 percent in 1990 to 31.4 percent in 2010. Similarly, the indigence rate decreased in the same time period from 22.6 percent to 12.3 percent.

Despite these encouraging signs of growth, there were still 177 million poor people in Latin America at the end of 2010, 70 million of whom were living in extreme poverty. Alicia Bárcena, executive secretary of ECLAC, commented, “This progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labor markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors.”

The report noted that poverty increased during the 20-year span in Honduras and Mexico, at 1.7 percent and 1.5 percent respectively. The biggest declines were in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay.

In ECLAC’s announcement of the report, the economic body projected that the region’s poverty rate would close at 30.4 percent at the end of 2011—meaning 3 million less people will be living in poverty at the start of 2012 than at the end of 2010. However, due to the increase in food prices, ECLAC expects the indigence rate will rise to 12.8 percent by year’s end.

Tags: Latin America, Social inclusion, poverty

Pobreza en El Salvador: Izquierdas y Derechas

August 24, 2011

by Julio Rank Wright

La superación de la pobreza no es cuestión de izquierdas o derechas, es cuestión de voluntad. No comparto con quienes vociferan que en el mundo hay una gran conspiración de los ricos para explotar a los pobres. Tampoco me identifico con quienes sugieren que a las izquierdas les conviene mantener niveles de pobreza altos como caldo de cultivo para la sobrevivencia de sus postulados ideológicos. La pobreza en El Salvador es una realidad.

La Dirección de Estadísticas y Censos de El Salvador (DIGESTYC) publicó recientemente los resultados de la Encuesta de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples (EHPM) para el 2010. La EHPM arroja datos importantes que se supone deben orientar las políticas públicas, no sólo del gobierno de turno, sino de toda la clase política. ¿Qué nos dicen los últimos resultados? Primero, el 12.6 por ciento de los salvadoreños viven en pobreza extrema, es decir con un ingreso menor a $45.12, lo equivalente al costo de la canasta básica alimentaria. Segundo, el 25.3 por ciento de la población salvadoreña vive en condiciones de pobreza relativa, es decir hogares sin la capacidad de cubrir el equivalente a dos canastas básicas alimentarias. En síntesis, el nivel de pobreza general en El Salvador es del 36.5 por ciento. Los niveles más bajos ocurrieron en el 2006 y pues obviamente los efectos de la crisis financiera mundial del 2008 incrementaron de nuevo los niveles de pobreza.

¿Qué sentido tiene enumerar cifras que seguramente sabremos estimar? Leídas fríamente quizás sugieran que El Salvador es otro país más, que a pesar de haber logrado importantes avances democráticos y de desarrollo, seguirá destinado a la pobreza. Sin embargo, hay una lección más importante que se puede derivar de las cifras y su evolución con el tiempo: para poder superar la pobreza es necesario primero trascender la disputa entre  izquierdas y derechas.

Es urgente encontrar puntos de coincidencia en políticas públicas específicas para reducir los niveles de pobreza. Las diferentes fuerzas vivas del país deben reconocer abiertamente que existen dos amenazas claras para la sostenibilidad democrática del país, y la región: la inseguridad ciudadana, incluyendo crimen organizado y la pobreza. En un escenario ideal no debería de existir retórica ideológica de izquierda y derecha al afrontar realidades que ponen en jaque la viabilidad nacional. La combinación de liderazgos anclados en el pasado, un aparato estatal lento e ineficaz y la ausencia de una visión compartida del futuro entre la clase política, sociedad civil y sector privado nos mantienen en medio de una batalla ideológica.

El contexto electoral es la oportunidad perfecta para que los partidos políticos logren acercar posiciones, sin temor, en temas de trascendencia nacional. En pleno siglo veintiuno hay temas que no deberían ser víctimas de la polarización: acceso a servicios básicos, educación, salud, política energética, competitividad nacional, institucionalidad democrática y prevención de la violencia, entre otros.

La reacción de la sociedad civil salvadoreña ante la crisis de choque de poderes entre los órganos legislativo y judicial unos meses atrás fue ejemplar. Sin embargo, así como se reaccionó apasionadamente ante un decreto legislativo, es preciso reaccionar más enérgicamente contra la pobreza que roba vidas y aplasta sueños.

Julio Rank Wright is contributing blogger to AQ Online. He is from San Salvador, El Salvador, but temporarily living in Washington DC.

Tags: El Salvador, poverty, political system

Education is a Key to Reducing Poverty in Colombia

May 7, 2009

by Anastasia Moloney

Earlier this year, a state-of-the art school founded by the Colombian singer and Grammy winner, Shakira, opened amid much fanfare in her hometown of Barranquilla. Both Colombia’s President Álavro Uribe and Bill Clinton visited the model $6 million school.

The children, many from poor and displaced families, attending the Barefoot Foundation School are the privileged ones. Boasting nutritionists and psychologists on site, sports fields and well-equipped classrooms, the school is the exception, not the norm in Colombia.

The opening of the school should have prompted a much-needed debate about the lack of investment in education and the overall dire state of education in Colombia.  But it didn’t.

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Tags: Colombia, Education, poverty