Latin America economy: Latin America makes continued progress in human development

The Human Development Report 2013, released on March 14th by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), highlights the advances made by Latin America in human development – with, mostly notably, many millions of people lifted out of poverty and similar numbers propelled into the middle class. Although challenges remain in further reducing income inequality, which remains widespread, and in ensuring environmental sustainability (given the damaging impact of environmental threats on development), the report praises the region’s success in what are considered the main human development drivers, namely state proactivity in development policies, greater integration with global markets and innovative social policies. 

The report, which features the latest calculation of the human development index (HDI), focuses on the rise of the South in the global economic and political stage, facilitated by impressive gains posted by around 40 developing countries in human development since 1990 – with increases in their HDI value significantly larger than predicted for countries that were at a similar level of HDI value in 1990. Brazil, Mexico and Chile were part of this group of countries, together with Ghana, Rwanda and Uganda in Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh and India in South Asia, Tunisia in North Africa, and China, Laos and Vietnam in East Asia and the Pacific.

The rise of Latin America

Latin America has been part of the global trend observed over the last two decades or so whereby developing countries have become an increasingly important global growth engine (according to UNCTAD, developing countries’ share of world merchandise trade and output increased from 25% and 33% to 47% and 45% respectively between 1980 and 2010). At the same time, developing countries have tried to gain a bigger say in international decision making and global governance institutions (the creation of the Group of 20 being an example). The rise of the South has gone in most cases hand in hand with important attainments in human development, with Brazil, Mexico and Chile at the forefront of this trend and Latin America expected to be home to one in ten members of the global middle class by 2013 (as compared with only 2% for Africa). Brazil, in particular, has succeeded in reducing the level of extreme poverty, from 17.2% to 6.1% between 1990 and 2009, thereby achieving four of its eight Millennium Development Goals in advance of the 2015 deadline. It is on its way to achieving the remaining eight goals on time.

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