Two weeks before the 193 Member States of the United Nations approve the sustainable development agenda for 2030 in New York, ECLAC concludes in a report that Latin America and the Caribbean achieved several key objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Although these goals were formulated in a limited way, their results are the starting point to address new Sustainable Development Goals that will be more ambitious, comprehensive and universal.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), from 1990 to 2015 countries in the region have made important progress on reducing extreme poverty, hunger and infant mortality, incorporating girls into education, and ensuring access to safe drinking water, but they must make greater efforts to reduce maternal deaths and greenhouse gas emissions, among other indicators.
“The new 2030 agenda represents an advancement versus the MDGs, moving to a more holistic, collaborative, interdisciplinary and universal view whereby development must be oriented towards closing structural gaps with environmental sustainability, to achieve greater equality,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, highlighted regarding the report entitled Latin America and the Caribbean: looking ahead after the Millennium Development Goals.
The MDGs were approved in September 2000 by 189 United Nations Member States and constituted the roadmap for development during the last fifteen years.
According to the document, the region achieved the first MDG, oriented towards eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, since between 1990 and 2015 it managed to more than halve the proportion of people whose income is below one dollar—4.6% lived with less than $1.25 dollar per day in 2011, compared with 12.6% in 1990—as well as the proportion of people suffering from hunger, which fell from 14.7% in the two-year period of 1990-1992 to a projected 5.5% in 2014-2016. Additionally, today’s figures for labor participation and unemployment are at their best levels in 20 years.
Regarding the second MDG, devoted to achieving universal primary education, the net enrollment rate at that level in Latin America and the Caribbean is estimated at 93% as of 2015, while, in the case of Latin America, around 92% of young people between 15 and 19 years of age have finished a complete cycle of primary education. Nevertheless, in neither of these cases (regarding access to and completion of studies) has the goal of universality been achieved. Meanwhile, the level of illiteracy among people from 15 to 24 years of age in the entire region decreased to 1.7% in 2015 from 6.9% in 1990, although functional illiteracy continues to be a matter of concern.
Inside the third MDG, on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, the region achieved the goal of guaranteeing girls’ access to primary, secondary and superior education, although this has not translated into an equivalent improvement of their situation in the labor market, where they participate less and receive lower salaries than their male colleagues. In the political sphere, the proportion of women in national parliaments grew to 27.4% in 2015, close to the threshold established for achieving that target (30%).
Latin America and the Caribbean also achieved the fourth MDG, since it reduced by two- thirds the deaths of children under 5, which fell from 54 to 18 per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2013, although in that latter year there were still 196,000 deaths among children of this age group. Meanwhile, the region managed to almost completely eradicate measles at the beginning of the 2000s, and in 2013 most countries had achieved immunization against that disease of more than 90% of infants under 1 year old.
In the framework of the fifth MDG, which aimed to improve maternal health, the region still shows high levels of maternal mortality and adolescent births. In 2013 there were 85 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in Latin America and the Caribbean, which indicates a 39% reduction versus 1990, far from the proposed 75%. In addition, in the region there are 75.5 live births among mothers aged 15-19 for every 1,000 women of that age group. That said, there has been progress made in family planning, prenatal care and births attended by skilled health personnel.
The sixth MDG referred to combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Latin America is lower than the global average (0.4%), but this figure rises to 1.1% in the Caribbean, the second highest rate after sub-Saharan Africa. All in all, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region of the world that has the greatest coverage of antiretroviral treatment. In addition, it has advanced in the control of preventable infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.
With regard to the seventh MDG, relating to ensuring environmental sustainability, Latin America and the Caribbean emitted 7.7 tons of greenhouse gases per capita in 2012, above the global average of 6.7 tons. However, it reduced the consumption of substances that deplete the ozone layer and increased protected terrestrial and marine areas (from 4.9% in 1990 to 13.3% in 2014). It also achieved the target of sustainable access to safe drinking water (95% in 2015) and nearly achieved the one referred to the use of improved sanitation facilities.
Within the eighth MDG, related to the creation of a global partnership for development, the document emphasizes that Latin America and the Caribbean went from receiving 14% to 7.6% of total global official development assistance (ODA) between 1960 and the current decade. This can be linked to the trend among donors to give priority to low-income countries, to the detriment of middle-income nations, which are a majority in this region. Presently, ODA flows to Latin America and the Caribbean are smaller than foreign direct investment (FDI), remittances and portfolio flows, but they continue to be important for several smaller lower-income countries.