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Latin America & Caribbean

For forests, a change in attitude in favor of indigenous communities

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | Português
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank
In 2015, more than 500 million hectares of forests were held by indigenous peoples.  Despite the increase in forest area designated for and owned by indigenous peoples in recent decades, governments still administer 60 percent of these forest areas while firms and private individuals administer 9 percent. Pressure exerted by indigenous peoples over the past few decades has led to a 50 percent increase in forest areas recognized as being owned or designated for use by indigenous communities. The greatest strides have been made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where indigenous peoples control 40 percent of forest land. Similar trends have been observed in other regions across the globe.  

For the indigenous peoples who have always lived in the forests, these areas represent their space for cultural reproduction, food production, and spiritual security. For governments and companies, forests contain major assets for food production, economic development, security, climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, water, minerals, and gas extraction. Added to these divergent views on forest ownership and use is the proliferation in recent decades of conflicts over territorial control and forest resources. Growing international demand for commodities (minerals, hydrocarbons, soybeans, and other basic agricultural products) has fueled greater economic activity linked to the development of forest resources. However, this progress has come at a price: adverse environmental impacts, the reclassification of spaces, and the dispossession of the rights, interests, territories, and resources of indigenous peoples (ECLAC 2014).  

In this context, a question arises: What is contributing to the behavioral change, both at the country and global levels, which leads us to conclude that a reversal in the situation has begun?

In Bolivia, being female and Indigenous conveys multiple disadvantages

Caren Grown's picture
Florina Lopez spoke movingly about her experience of double discrimination, being both Indigenous and a woman, at the recent launch of the new World Bank Group report, Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century. Lopez belongs to the Panamanian Indigenous Guna people and has spent decades working for Indigenous movements, starting at the community level and now coordinating the regional Network of Indigenous Women's Biodiversity.

She is one of many Indigenous women in Latin America who have dedicated their lives to creating more inclusive societies. While it is important to acknowledge that not all Indigenous groups and not all women have the same experiences, the concept of intersecting identities helps explain the concept of  "additive" or "multiplied disadvantage" (or advantage). Individuals are part of multiple social structures and roles simultaneously, and these structures interact and influence experiences, relations, and outcomes. 

The intersection of gender and ethnicity, for example, can deepen the gaps in some development outcomes. Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-first Century explains that, while Indigenous Peoples' access to services has improved significantly, services are generally not culturally adapted—so the groups they are meant to benefit do not take full advantage of them. In Bolivia, where more than 40 percent of people identify themselves as Indigenous or Afro-descendants, according to the 2012 Population and Housing Census, indigenous women face a higher risk of being excluded. Further, according to a 2014 Perception Survey on Women’s Exclusion and Discrimination, all women feel discriminated against in different aspects of their lives, with Indigenous women particularly affected.
 

How does intersectionality and discrimination play out in education and health?

Access to education in Bolivia has improved considerably in recent years. Today, overall primary schooling completion rates and secondary school enrollment rates are similar for boys and girls. Yet major gender gaps persist among Indigenous and rural students.

In urban Bolivia, females are less likely to finish secondary school than males.  In urban areas, an Indigenous female student is about half as likely to finish secondary school compared to a non-Indigenous male student. But an Indigenous rural woman is five times less likely than a non-Indigenous urban man to complete secondary school (see graph, based on Census 2012):
 


Many factors prevent girls from attaining higher levels of schooling in Bolivia, including domestic care work, early pregnancy, and the need for income.  But girls who persist in secondary and higher education face other barriers:  one in five female students aged 15 to 24 report having experienced discrimination in academic environments: 25 percent of Indigenous women versus 18 percent of non-Indigenous women.

The situation is similar in terms of access to key health services.  According to household survey data (2013), while almost all non-Indigenous women in urban Bolivia give birth with either a nurse or a doctor present, that is the case for only 6 out of 10 Indigenous women in rural Bolivia. While this may be explained in part by Indigenous women’s preferences to use traditional parteras, the difference in access rates may also in part be driven by perceived discrimination. According to the Perception Survey, 20 percent of Indigenous women report having experienced discrimination when seeking care, compared to 14 percent among non-Indigenous.

Investments in education and health shape the ability of men and women to reach their full potential, allowing them to take advantage of economic opportunities and lead productive lives. Limited access to these kinds of investments not only adversely affects an individual’s opportunities, but may have significant costs for entire communities and economies.

Inclusion must be front and center on the development agenda. More and better information—both qualitative and quantitative—is needed to highlight the persistent issue of overlapping disadvantages. This will allow us, ultimately, to do much more to expand every person’s capacity to participate fully and equally and achieve his or her potential. As Florina Lopez said earlier this month, "Without the effective participation of Indigenous women in society, it will be difficult to eradicate the poverty and extreme poverty that we live in."

Lead pollution robs children of their futures

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.

Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.

These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL).  So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs. 

Making the 2030 sustainable development agenda work for fragile and conflict affected states

Anne-Lise Klausen's picture

At a technical meeting of the g7+ group of fragile states, participants from Haiti to Timor Leste gathered with a mission: to sift through the many proposed indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and select 20 indicators for joint g7+ monitoring.
 
Hosted recently in Nairobi by the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, it was the first time that 17 out of 20 g7+ members were present, including senior officials from the National Statistics Offices and others. West African countries were particularly well represented. Their discussions were passionate: “We were mere spectators to the Millennium Development Goals. Now we want to actively push our specific challenges to the center of SDGs implementation,” said one.  “Our motto is that no one is left behind,” said another.

A new strategy to address gender inequality

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français | 中文
The evidence is clear: When countries value girls and women as much as boys and men; when they invest in their health, education, and skills training; when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses—the benefits extend far beyond individual girls and women to their children and families, to their communities, to societies and economies at large.

Migrant or refugee: What’s in a name?

Xavier Devictor's picture
What is the difference between an economic migrant and a refugee? In principle, the response is clear: economic migrants are essentially people in search of opportunities for economic betterment, while refugees are fleeing a peril for their lives and their specific status is defined under the 1951 Geneva Convention.In the face of such despair, traditional mechanisms for managing economic migration simply do not work, while refugee law does not apply.

Experts, communities convene to develop evidence-based approaches to prevent intimate partner violence in Honduras

Amber L. Hill's picture
The communities of Choloma, La Ceiba and el Progreso in Honduras all had one question in common:  "When can we get started?"

"We want solutions that work and we want them now," said a community leader from La Ceiba during a meeting with national and international experts on the adaptation of an evidence-based intervention to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Honduras. La Ceiba is one of the cities most affected by violence in Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 deaths/100,000 people. More specifically, rates of violence targeted towards women and girls are also alarmingly high:
  • A total of 27% of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15; some regions have rates up to 40%.
  • Similarly to other countries around the world, the vast majority of the perpetrators are intimate partners or ex-partners.
These statistics clearly demonstrate the need for interventions that seek to affect the root causes that underlie gender-based violence in Honduras.
 

Growing resilient forest landscapes in the face of climate change

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Andrea Borgarello for World Bank/TerrAfrica

Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
 
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.  And it is going to get warmer.
 
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend.  Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago.  So there is progress, just not fast enough.
 
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
 
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries. 

The resilient brain and its crucial role in human development

Dorota Chapko's picture
Young children in Uzbekistan play with mind-stimulating games. Photo: Matluba Mukhamedova / World Bank


​Did you know that investments in early childhood are crucial for achieving the brain’s full developmental potential and resilience?
 
Jim Heckman, Nobel Laureate in economics, and his collaborators have shown that strong foundational skills built in early childhood are crucial for socio-economic success. These foundational skills lead to a self-reinforcing motivation to learn so that “skills beget skills”. This leads to better-paying jobs, healthier lifestyle choices, greater social participation, and more productive societies. Growing research also reveals that these benefits are linked to the important role that early foundations of cognitive and socio-emotional abilities play on healthy brain development across the human lifespan.

Brain complexity –the diversity and complexity of neural pathways and networks— is moulded during childhood and has a lasting impact on the development of cognitive and socio-emotional human abilities.

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