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Glaring social inequalities impede Latin American, Caribbean development - UN

Glaring social inequalities impede Latin American, Caribbean development - UN

With poverty affecting 44 per cent of the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean and social inequalities among “the highest in the world,” a senior United Nations official has called for coherent and effective programmes and domestic and external financing to remove these obstacles to the region’s development.

“In the current context of globalization, competitiveness is crucial for growth and development,” the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf, told senior government officials attending the agency’s 28th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in Guatemala City yesterday.

“However, productivity should not conceal the inequalities of access to economic factors and the inequalities of income that affect millions of inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean, especially those living in rural areas,” he said, noting that the richest 5 per cent receives 25 per cent of income, compared to 13 per cent in developed countries.

Latest figures show poverty rising to 64 per cent in rural areas, with more than 74 million rural poor, but Mr. Diouf noted that the proportion of undernourished fell from 13 per cent in 1990-1992 to 10 per cent in 1999-2001.

“If the countries continue their efforts to combat food insecurity, this proportion could fall to 6 per cent by 2015,” he said. “The initiatives undertaken by individual countries, notably the ‘Zero Hunger’ programme of Brazil and the ‘Campaign against Hunger’ recently launched by Guatemala, are very encouraging developments.”

The weeklong conference will decide the main thrust of the work to be carried out by FAO’s regional office during 2004 and 2005 in a bid to consolidate gains and remedy shortfalls as part of the global effort to halve hunger levels by 2015.