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Remarks at the Inter-Agency Consultation on Race in Latin America (IAC) 2002 Annual Meeting

David de Ferranti
Vice President
The World Bank
Washington, DC
June 18, 2002

Thank you for inviting me to the Inter-Agency Consultation (IAC) on Race in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Thank David Brandling–Bennett and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) for hosting this event. Thank IAC Secretariat, members of the IAC, and civil society and government representatives for making this meeting possible.

The IAC is at a critical turning point. It is moving from exploring the issues of race in our region, to making policy recommendations for action-specific policies and recommendations for clearly-identified problems.

When we look at the situation of Afro-descendent people in the Americas, one theme leaps out above all others. It is exclusion. This is the overwhelming fact that constitutes our challenge. How can growth deliver development to people who are excluded from the start?

Exclusion is the result of different factors, which often reinforce one another. These factors include discrimination, geographic living arrangements, access to services such as health care, education, and economic opportunities. Race, language, ethnic origin seems to be very much at the foundation of poverty. Together, they produce and reinforce exclusion.

For Afro-descendent people in LAC, exclusion means:

    ØShorter life expectancy. Life expectancy among Afro-Colombians is 10-30% lower than the 60-65 years national average.

      ØHigher infant mortality. In Peru, infant mortality rates in Provinces with high concentration of Afro-Peruvian is certainly too high. In Piura, for instance 93 out of every 1000 afro-Peruvian children die before reaching the age of 5.

      ØMore frequent and widespread illness. In Honduras, estimates indicate that Afro-descendent Garifuna population has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of 8.4 per cent; the national average is estimated at 1.4 per cent.

        ØHigher rates of illiteracy. Afro-Colombians and Afro-Brazilians are far behind in national literacy averages. 43 per cent of rural Afro-Colombians are illiterate compared to the 23 per cent for the rest of the rural population. In Brazil the situation is not better. When compared with other population groups, 25.5 per cent of the Afro-Brazilian population do not have access to primary education.

        ØLower Income. The median income for Afro-Brazilians is US $ 348.94 half of what other groups are able to make. As the slide shows, the situation is even more troubling when it comes to gender differences. Afro-Brazilian women earn even less, US $ 230.92

        Exclusion means living in neighborhoods and regions without services such as health care and schools, or with sub-standard services where they exist.

        Exclusion means living in degraded environments, without access to clean water, or proper sewerage, which leaves people more vulnerable to disease. In the Caribbean Coast of Colombia, only 69 per cent have access to clean water as compared to 79 per cent nationally; the difference in access to sewage system is also striking: Only 38 per cent of the population in the Caribbean coast have adequate means to dispose waste.

        Exclusion means not having access to schools, not having acquired the training and skills to be able to choose one's job, and having to take the jobs no one else wants.

        So exclusion means a cycle in which these characteristics repeat themselves through generations, and in which poverty, location, gender and class act to reinforce and multiply more exclusions.

        This is a human rights issue, in which excluded people are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential as human beings.

        But it is also a development issue, in that those who are excluded are denied the opportunity to contribute fully to the development of the society of which they are a part. And their societies, by excluding them, are denied the wealth that they would create if they were not excluded.

        We are talking about a lot of people. In Colombia, for example, over 26 percent of the population—10 million people—are Afro-descendents.

        A recent study (by the IDB) on Social Exclusion in LAC showed that ending social exclusion would result in a major economic expansion in many countries.

        · In Bolivia, ending exclusion would result in an economic expansion of 36.7 percent.
        · In Brazil, it would expand the economy by 12.8 percent.
        · In Guatemala, it would expand the economy by 13.6 percent.
        · In Peru, ending exclusion would result in economic expansion of 4.2 percent.

        Exclusion entails huge human costs---poverty, misery and indignity for the excluded. It also costs those societies who exclude, as they cannot compete effectively if they handicap themselves by not using the full potential of all their people.

        There is good news in that we now have some of the tools we need to end exclusion.

        The UN Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, held last year in South Africa, set a new agenda for governments and multilateral agencies to address the ties between race, poverty and social inclusion. This agenda recognizes that discrimination and social exclusion not only affect the opportunities for development of the excluded groups, but also affect the performance of the wider economy and the processes of democracy and governance. Social inclusion, along with poverty reduction, are two of the key development challenges of the 21st century.

        This is also consistent with the decision in September 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly to adopt—unanimously—the Millennium Declaration. That Declaration includes a series of poverty reduction and development goals, which nations and international development agencies, including the World Bank, have agreed to support and achieve by the year 2015.

        These Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary school education, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS and other major diseases.

        LAC, because of its state of development, has the potential to reach many of the MDGs. But there is one major obstacle that threatens that potential. It is exclusion. That is why your work is so important. I would urge the Inter-Agency Consultation to embrace the challenge of the Millennium Development Goals. That means working to ensure that the Afro-descendent populations in the LAC region move towards achieving the MDGs in 2015, keeping pace with the rest of the population.

        The MDGs are ambitious. Because discrimination and exclusion have multiple, cumulative causes and effects, no single institution or agency can, by itself, end them. A concerted effort is needed from all donor organizations, governments and civil society groups to reach these goals. The improvement of social and economic conditions of Afro-descendent populations has to be part of the agenda.

        Just two weeks ago the IDB, the World Bank, PAHO and UNDP signed a letter of intent committing to working together and coordinating efforts to support client governments to reach the Millennium Development Goals. Uplifting the living conditions of Afro-descendents in the region is certainly seen as part of this concerted effort. NGOs, and community organizations working in support of the betterment of the lives of Afro-descendents are crucial actors in this endeavor.

        The IAC is in a position to add value to the individual efforts, strengths and expertise of each organization. Over the next two days, I am sure you will be discussing how the IAC can play a pivotal role in helping the region and Afro-descendents to reach the minimum standards proposed by the MDGs. The IAC, as a coalition of institutions, holds the capacity to mobilize extraordinary resources to make inclusion possible. It is a space to exchange information, methodologies and tools for mainstreaming the needs and concerns of Afro-descendent communities, and is key to helping to strengthen the dialogue among members, decision-makers and civil society organizations.

        I would like to outline four areas in which the World Bank, as an active member of the IAC, is making progress towards reducing disparities between Afro-descendent and other populations and, I believe, contributing to the achievement of the MDGs. They are: data collection; health and education; capacity-building; and research.

        First, data collection. In eleven LAC countries, questions on race and ethnicity are now included in the national population censuses. This was a direct result of the "Todos Contamos I" Conference, supported by the World Bank and IDB, in Cartagena, Colombia in November 2000. The conference was led by the government of Colombia's National Institute of Statistics and has resulted in one of the most detailed compendiums of information on population, race and ethnicity ever published in the region. A second conference—"Todos Contamos II"—will be held in Lima in September 2002. It will take stock of what has been achieved in demographic data collection and analysis, as well as provide new guidelines for the future.

        Second, education and health. The World Bank, IDB and PAHO are all initiating efforts to ensure inclusion of Afro-descendent populations in the programs and projects that they support or finance. At the World Bank, we are reviewing our education portfolio in Brazil and Colombia to assess their impacts on Afro-descendent populations. We'll use that assessment to discuss with government counterparts ways we can improve access to and quality of education services. Eventually, we expect to do a similar review of Bank-financed health projects.

        Third, capacity-building. We have earmarked internal Bank funds for this and we have obtained grants from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Holland. This is being used to support community initiatives in education, institutional development, and leadership training and legal assistance for Afro-descendent women.

        Fourth, research. We are making special efforts to ensure that our ongoing regional research agenda and our country-level analytical work in poverty assessment and human and social development addresses exclusion based on race and ethnicity. We plan to publish in the coming months the results of a new study on poverty and social exclusion which will include new information on Afro-descendent and indigenous groups. We are also planning a future Flagship publication in our region on poverty and inequality which will also include attention to issues of race and ethnicity.

        As Jim Wolfensohn has said, the key development challenge of our time is the challenge of inclusion. That is, the challenge to reduce disparities across and within countries and promote equitable access to the benefits of development regardless of nationality, race or gender.

        You are on the front lines of this struggle. I am heartened by the focus you are bringing to this issue, by your enthusiastic and difficult questions, by your efforts to come up with challenging agendas. I am also confident that together, along with the governments and peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean Region, and especially by building on the efforts of Afro-descendent people themselves, we will make a difference.

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