United Nations’ Influence in Central American Poverty

A longstanding goal of the United Nations has been to reduce poverty in emerging nations, and so-called Third World economies.

While there is still a long way to go, its commitment to redress poverty in Central America is an example of working toward that goal.

They are trying, particularly in the volatile political environment of Central America, to walk the fine line between interventionist welfare-based strategies, and neo-liberal approaches that are growth-based. Part of the problem is that while growth is a necessary part of any resolution to the problem, the very nature of the populace (poor and relatively immobile) makes it almost impossible to take advantage of the opportunities that growth provides. Therefore, another essential part of any strategy is a targeted safety net.

There are four main exit paths for rural poverty: Family farming, growth-led strategies, urban migration, and welfare (also called social protection). Further, it is integral to the success of any mix of the above strategies to have the government in alignment and participating in market regulation, developing human capital, providing infrastructure, and providing public services, all of which reduce the cost of getting the poor engaged in the marketplace.

About half of the 35 million people in Central America live below the poverty level.

The United Nations’ role seems, however, to be largely advisory, although the United Nations Conference on Trade amp; Development is a player in developing strategies. Any reductions in the actual poverty levels seem to be largely the results of the World Bank, combined with public and private think tanks and organizations, such as the International Finance Corporation, the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Secretaria de Integración Económica Centro-americana, The Latin American and Caribbean Economic System. The Andean Community, the Andean Development Corporation, USAID, the European Commission, the UK Department for International Development, Regoverning Markets, La Fundación para el Desarrollo Sostenible en América Latina, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, Oxfam International, Christian Aid, SME Congress of the Americas, the Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Latin American Centre for Competitveness and Sustainable Development, the Latin American Trade Network, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, the Levy Economics Institute: Gender Equality and the Economy Programme, Centre for Trade Policy and Law (Carleton University, Ottawa), and the International Gender and Trade Network.

In conclusion, while the United Nations is definitely a player, other organizations have taken the real lead in reducing Central American poverty and increasing economic growth.