The Latin America and the Caribbean region has made positive progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, albeit with differences among nations associated mostly with the progressive appropriation of the goals in each country, as well as adaptation to specific circumstances. However, there was a moment of stagnation and even reversal of some positive trends, during the economic crisis, making it harder to achieve the MDG targets.
Although significant progress has been made, the region continues to face problems in meeting all the targets, due to familiar challenges associated with historical obstacles to development in the region: low levels of secondary education coverage; very poor quality and relevance of education content overall; the inability to generate decent and productive work for all; persistently high levels of inequality that impede social cohesion; the marginalisation of population groups due to racial-ethnic, gender, and socio-economic inequities; and the failure to empower women and foster their economic and physical autonomy.
Highlights of progress towards achievement of the MDGs
Hunger and Food Security
The entire region has made significant gains towards eradicating hunger, since the proportion of people suffering from hunger in the region reduced from 15.3 percent to 6.1 percent between 1992 and 2014.
Within the same period, the total number of people living with hunger has declined in the region, from 68.5 million to 37 million. In other words, more than 31 million women, children, and men overcame undernourishment in those 20 years.
However, there are large disparities in the percentage of people suffering from hunger between the two regions. Although the prevalence of undernourishment in Latin America is less than 5 percent, that of the Caribbean is at 20 percent.
The entire region has made impressive strides towards increasing access to primary education, with the adjusted net enrolment rate increasing from 87 percent to 94 percent between 1990 and 2015. That said, most of the progress was made before 2000. Additionally, there are disparities between the two sub-regions. In 2015, the projected net enrolment rate in primary education is 95 percent in Latin America compared to 82 percent in the Caribbean.
The region has achieved parity in primary education between boys and girls. There are more girls enrolled in secondary and tertiary education than boys. In 2015, Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world where gender parity in secondary education has favoured girls.
Women in the region take part in paid employment nearly as much as men, with women holding 45 out of every 100 wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector in 2015: this is the highest proportion among all developing regions.
The proportion of women in parliament is also the highest among the developing regions, and even higher than the average proportion in developed regions. The share of seats held by women in single or lower houses of national parliament increased from 15 percent to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. The average share in developed regions is 26 percent.
Under-five mortality in the region reduced by 69 percent between 1990 and 2015, dropping from 54 deaths per 1,000 live births to 17. This means that the region reached that two-thirds MDG target.
Maternal mortality remains high in the region. 2013 data indicates that there were 190 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the Caribbean compared to 77 in Latin America.
The proportion of pregnant women in the region with access to at least four antenatal care visits increased from 75 percent in 1990 to 97 percent, making it one of the highest among all developing regions.
The region has made slow progress towards reducing adolescent childbearing, with a high adolescent birth rate of 73 births per 1,000 girls in 2015.
The Caribbean region made considerable gains towards reducing the incidence of new HIV infections, declining by 56 percent between 2000 and 2013. Latin America, on the other hand, showed slow decline, with 44 percent of the population living with HIV – the highest among all developing regions.
Despite the establishment of forest laws and policies, the regions continues to suffer massive deforestation, with the largest net loss occurring in South America between 2005 and 2010, when 3.6 million hectares were lost per year.
However, the percentage of protected areas increased from 8.8 in 1990 to 23.4 in 2014.
The region reached the drinking water MDG target in 2010, with the proportion of the population with access to improved water source increasing from 85 percent in 1990 to 95 percent in 2015.
The proportion with access to improved sanitation facilities increased from 67 percent to 83 percent between 1990 and 2015, bringing it very close to reaching the target.
The region is one of those with the lowest prevalence of sum conditions, and the proportion of slum dwellers reduced further from 29 to 20 percent between 2000 and 2014.
The Latin America and the Caribbean region has the largest number of nations that have achieved a number of MDG targets. Adolescent pregnancy is one of the biggest problems in the region, and is considered a political concern. Many argue that the state must implement effective public policies without influence from conservative power groups controlled by traditionalists.
As the regions prepares to implement the SDGs, they must be ready to apply a more participative, holistic, and universal approach.