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Of the 700 million people living in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), there are over 150 million people of African descent. Throughout the region, "Afro-Latins", as they are known, suffer disproportionately from poverty and social exclusion.

Opportunities for Afro-Latins to improve their economic and social welfare are undermined by their lack of access to health and social services, general discrimination in public services, including the justice system, and lower levels of educational achievement. Removing the institutional and social barriers confronting Afro-Latins is a critical step if LAC countries are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially halving the region's poverty rate by 2015.



To address the unique development challenges posed by the social exclusion and impoverished conditions of many Afro-Latins, the World Bank's strategy for Afro-Latins aims to:

  • Strengthen the capacity of indigenous, Afro-Latin and Caribbean civil society organizations and communities to play a greater role in the desing and implementation of projects;
  • Tailor the Bank's lending program to address the needs of Afro-Latins;
  • Expand the knowledge base of Afro-Latin issues through analytical work;
  • Forge partnerships with other international agencies and organizations working to improve the conditions of Afro-Latins
  • Strengthen the Bank's capacity to more effectively respond to the needs of LAC of Afro-Latin and Caribbean men and women in the Bank's analysis, lending programs, and policies.

Improving Analysis on Race and Ethnicity

Census and household survey data reveal that race and ethnicity are integral factors in measuring the social exclusion and poverty faced by Afro-descendants. In many countries, there is a strong correlation between race and ethnicity and access to vital social services such as- education, health and social protection services.

While national censuses and household data can help identify social inequities, if improperly designed or executed, they can also hinder attempts to address these problems. As only a handful of countries in the region currently include a category to account for Latin Americans of African descent, there is concern that data used for public policy planning may be unreliable or questionable criteria for establishing race and ethnic identity, and ill-trained census surveyors will continue to marginalize the existence of Afro-Latins.

At the Inter-Agency Consultation on race and poverty sponsored by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Inter-American Dialogue in June 2000, several participants raised the issue of the biases in national censuses which often do not consider the particular racial and ethnic makeup of a country.


The World Bank will continue to invest in operations which address the specific social, economic and cultural needs of Afro-Latin populations, while putting these groups in the "driver's seat" of the project. The Indigenous Peoples and Agro-Ecuadorian Development Project, which is co-financed by the Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is actually managed jointly by the Ecuadorian government and several national and regional indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian civil society organizations and federations.

To improve the effectiveness of policies and programs designed to lift Afro-Latins out of poverty, Afro-Latins must have the leverage to voice their needs and influence the policy design and implementation process. The Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Peruvian Development Learning and Innovation Loan, as well as development projects in Argentina and Bolivia aim to improve the effectiveness of development projects by empowering Afro-Latin organizations and communities to participate in projects.

To this end, the Bank also administers IDF grants for Afro-Latin and Caribbean organizations and communities to strengthen their capacity to influence the design and implementation of public policy. Thus far, ten such grants have been awarded in the LAC region. In addition, Afro-Latin populations will be proactively targeted to participate in Bank-financed projects in the areas of education, health, social protection, environment and rural development.

The role of Civil Society Organizations and Afro-descendants

Civil socielty Organizations (CSOs) in Latin America and the Caribbean continue to play an instrumental role in advocating economic development and poverty reduction issues on behalf of Afro-Latins. Such advocacy for the poor is particularly important in those countries where racial and ethnic minorities have been excluded from policy debates and where the voices of the poor are seldom heard.

Updated August 10, 2009.

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