Sharing development experience between Latin America and Africa: OpEd by the UNDP Administrator, Ms. Helen Clark

More than 40 social development ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa are gathering today and tomorrow in Brasilia to discuss how both regions can exchange experiences and increase co-operation to end poverty.

The UN Develpoment Programme (UNDP) is proud to be the facilitator of this historic gathering.

It takes place less than a month before the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. There, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations will gather to discuss how to build a more sustainable future—a crucial challenge for developing and developed countries alike.

Helen Clark is UNDP Administrator and former Prime Minister of New Zealand

It is clear that countries can no longer afford to grow first and try to clean up later. Or grow first and try to become more equitable later. Growth divorced from advances in human development and without regard for the environment will not sustain advances in human development, and will damage the ecosystems on which life on our planet depends.

Two weeks ago, UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report on food security was launched in Nairobi with the President of Kenya. Despite sub-Saharan Africa’s significant rates of economic growth, hunger continues to affect nearly a quarter of its population – which adds up to more than the entire population of Brazil.

Last year, countries in the Horn of Africa experienced their worst food security crisis in more than 20 years. In the Sahel, just two years after the last severe food security and nutrition crisis, a combination of drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation, and, in some countries, instability and conflict is requiring another large scale crisis response. Latest estimates suggest that more than 15 million people are directly affected, with the crisis yet to peak.

More than 30 years ago, Nobel laureate and architect of the human development paradigm Amartya Sen challenged the notion that famine is caused simply by a decline in the food supply. He argued that famine is a consequence of poorly functioning institutions, the lack of rule of law, and limited access to markets or affordable food. He also noted that where governments are responsive and inclusive, famines are unknown.

UNDP’s report calls for a comprehensive approach to building food security, encompassing lifting agricultural productivity, prioritizing nutrition in public policy, empowering women, and building resilience to adversity. Around the world we work to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of governance and to promote the rule of law.

There is much experience to share between Latin America and Africa on the eradication of poverty and hunger, and not least through social protection systems. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia programme has been widely praised, and now its expansion is also attracting great interest. Brazil’s aim is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2014, and it is making considerable progress to that end.

This week’s discussion at the Fifth Ministerial Forum for Development convened by UNDP will encourage even greater co-operation between the nations of Latin America and Africa. South South co-operation and exchanges highlight development solutions which, adapted to national contexts, can help nations achieve their goals. It can also do much to help global progress on the economic, social, and environmental strand of sustainable development.

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