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SDG Scorecard: Latin America becoming more equal

Inequality has long been a major social problem across Latin America – as Brazil’s favelas demonstrate Inequality has long been a major social problem across Latin America – as Brazil’s favelas demonstrate Donatas Dabravolskas
14 Jun
Latin America and the Caribbean experience the highest levels of inequality in the world – however, the rate is falling. Yet there is considerable progress required to get other Sustainable Development Goals on track before 2030

First it was sub-Saharan Africa which was graded, then it was the Asia-Pacific region. Now the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Development Progress team has turned its attention, for the third and final scorecard, to Latin America and the Caribbean, assessing to what extent this part of the world is on (or off, as the case may be) track to hit the 2030 targets set out by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Unlike the other regions, Latin America and the Caribbean scored most highly on Goal 10 (Reducing inequality), where each country was rated specifically according to how it was achieving target 10.1 (Progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average). Both Central and South America scored the maximum ‘A’ rating for 10.1, showing that overall they are on a path towards achieving this target. While the Caribbean countries have some progress to make in order to hit 10.1 by the target date, they did at least match Latin America with a solid ‘B’ rating for both Goal 1 (Ending poverty) and Goal 7 (Providing access to energy). As a result, over half the countries in the region look set to reduce extreme poverty by more than 80 per cent, based on current trends, while all countries across the region could achieve almost universal energy access by 2030.

‘Latin America and the Caribbean has made very impressive progress on reducing inequality,’ says report author Tanvi Bhatkal, Research Officer with ODI’s Development Progress. ‘It is the only region we reviewed that is on track to reach the target on income inequality – globally this target needs a reversal of current trends. However, today it remains the most unequal region globally and, given slowing economic growth, greater efforts will be needed to advance these gains.’

LAC Scorecard FINAL WEBScorecard grades indicate: (A) Meets the target, (B) More than half way to target, (C) More than a third of the way to target, (D) More than a quarter of the way to target, (E) Little to no progress, and (F) Reverse direction of current trends (Image: Development Progress/ODI)

Consistent with the previously analysed regions, the worst performing targets across Latin America and the Caribbean all graded a very poor ‘F’, signifying a need to completely reverse the current trends. These goals included:

  • 14.2 (Sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems)
  • 13.2 (Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning)
  • 12.5 (Substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse)
  • 11.1 (Ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums)
  • 16.1 (Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere)

Furthermore, there remain a number of gaps in the data for this part of world as a result of missing, incomplete or unreliable data. For example, assessing progress towards target 5.3 (Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation) was more difficult than for other goals because, as Bhatkal explains, ‘only about half the countries in Central and South America, and only one in five in the Caribbean, had data.’

‘Substantial data gaps exist across the Caribbean,’ she continues, ‘with less than half of countries having adequate data for targets including ending extreme poverty, ending hunger, ending child marriage, reducing income inequality and reducing violent deaths. This is a challenge to tracking progress.’ However she does stress that ‘the Central and South America sub-regions generally had good data on the targets under consideration’, meaning that only Goals 8 and 9 (Economic growth, and Industrialisation respectively) needed to be left almost blank.

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