Latin American, Caribbean unlikely to meet U.N. anti-poverty goals

Latin American and Caribbean nations have collectively reached several anti-poverty goals set by United Nations members more than a decade ago but are unlikely to reach them all by the approaching deadline, according to a progress report released Monday.

The new annual report of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which sets a global deadline for the end of 2015, shows the region has halved extreme poverty and hunger, as well as the percentage of its population living without clean drinking water and proper sanitation.

The region has not done much to close its employment gap. It also hasn’t reached targets set for primary school enrollment and reduction in the number of slum-dwellers, among the areas where it falls short of the eight MGD goals and scores of measurable conditions.

“We did make a difference, but we still have our homework,” said Keiko Osaki-Tomita, the chief demographer for the U.N.’s statistics division, launching the latest report.

“For the remaining 18 months, we must double our efforts,” she said, adding that Latin America and Caribbean, like other regions, will not hit the remaining targets if trends remain unchanged by the Dec. 31, 2015, deadline.

Globally, the report shows many MDG targets have been met or are within reach by 2015. The U.N. linked that progress to an increase of global partnerships — financial assistance on shared development projects between nations. Those partnerships drive development in countries where governments lack the necessary institutions and resources, said Shantanu Mukherjee, an MDG coordinator for the U.N. Development Programme.

“We really need to stay the course,” Mukherjee said. “We also need to make sure that the partnerships put in place continue to deliver.”

While the report does not explicitly examine the impact of regional violence and insecurity on MDG progress, Osaki-Tomita and other panelists discussing the report on Monday said high poverty rates and school truancy tend to be most stubborn in conflict-affected regions and countries.

Over the last year, the U.N. has twice warned of the impact that violence and insecurity has on the Latin American economy. In November, a panel of development experts cited regional violence as a major hindrance to growth and singled out young Latin American and Caribbean inhabitants as living in the world’s most insecure conditions.

“Hence, it is likely that civil unrest or frequent violence are impediments to MDG progress,” Osaki-Tomita told the Miami Herald.

On Thursday, the U.N. is expected to release new world population figures for 2014 and projections to 2030 for the top 50 most populous urban areas. Mukherjee said population growth has increasingly strained global resources and can halt MDG attainment.

For more than a year, U.N. members have been meeting to discuss a post-2015 development agenda, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, aimed at future-focused economic growth. The MDGs were developed at the Millennium Summit in 2000.