Sustainability# Millennium Development Goals – Latin America

The Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000 through an agreement adopted by all 193 United Nations members, and some international organizations. The parties chose 8 goals to be achieved by 2015. The goals are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and, finally, to develop a global partnership for development. The latest information available comes from The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011. In the present text, the focus will be on the results achieved by Latin America.

Goal 1 – Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

In general, the worldwide indicators for poverty indicate that most regions in the world are on track to meet the target. Excepted Caucasus, Central Asia and Western Asia, all other regions have improved their results since 1990. Particularly, Latin America had 11% of the overall population living with less than 1,25 USD a day in 1990, whereas at the end of 2011 this figure is 7%. In all developing areas across the world, that percentage reduced from 45% to 27%. Regarding the number of children under five years old who are underweighted, the data available refers to Latin America & Caribbean, and dropped from 10% to 4%. The main reason for this is the economic growth experimented by many countries in the region, especially in the 2000’s. After a decade of liberalization and marked by trade deficits in most countries during the 90’s, many countries reached a more stable situation, allowing governments to invest in social policies. The Brazilian “Fome Zero”, a program which main goal is to eradicate the hunger in the country, is an example of a well succeeded action.

The only point to be taken into consideration is that the reports always rely on percentages, which means that the results might not be as good as it seems to be in absolute figures. In Latin America, population grew from 355 million in 1990 to about 462 in 2008 (IEA, 2011). Besides that, there are huge differences in the performance of each country, regardless the overall region indicators, “hiding” problems faced by specific countries. For instance, in 2008, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay had more than 30% of the population living under the poverty line.

Goal 2 – Achieve universal primary education

The developing countries have had a good performance in terms of primary education in the last 20 years. In Latin America & Caribbean, the primary school enrolment achieved 95%, 2% more than the figure observed in 1990. The differences among countries are also noticed in this situation, but with less impact than in the first case.

Goal 3 – Promote gender equality and empower women

The gender equality in the world had a significant improvement during last decade. Contrasting with Africa, Oceania and Western Asia, Latin America, Caucasus, Central Asia and South-Eastern Asia are the only regions that have achieved the gender parity for primary education, according to the UN standards. In the case of secondary education and tertiary level, women surpassed men and are the majority in the classrooms.

Regarding the access to paid work, the situation improved a lot since 1990, when the woman participation was about 36%, reaching 43% in 2009. The proportion of woman holding political positions increased, but still reveals a big inequality. In Latin America this figure rose from 15% in 2000 to 23% in 2011 and the situation in the whole world is even worse (14% in 2000 and 19% in 2011). Developed countries are a little better, but it remains a challenge to be faced by all countries.

Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality

According to the UN report, the child deaths have been steadily reduced. In Latin America and Caribbean, the under-five mortality rate decreased from 52 deaths per 1.000 live births to 23. The urbanization and the advances in medical knowledge have played a decisive role on this. The ratio of rural to urban under-five mortality is 1.7 for the region, which means that a child who is born in a rural household is still in disadvantage, and this data is confirmed by data provided for other regions in the world, regardless the development level it is. Another important statement in the report is that the mother’s education is critical for the child survival, since in Latin America, for instance, a child from a mother with secondary education is at least 3 times more unlikely to die than others.

Goal 5 – Improve maternal health

Despite the improvement evidences, pregnancy remains a big risk for women health in developing regions. Data from 2008 reveals that Latin America has a ratio of 80 maternal deaths per 100.000 live births, which represents a great advance comparing to the information collected in 2000 and 1990 (99 and 130, respectively). A decisive factor resulting on this improvement is the proportion of skilled attendance at birth, that rose from 70% to 90% between 1990 and 2009. The pregnant women counting on at least minimal care, represented by skilled health personnel during pregnancy, rose at a similar rate, from 77% to 95% during the same period, as well as the proportion of women attended four or more times, which is the recommendation, that rose from 69% to 84%. The participation of adolescents in the total number of births is still a problem in Latin America, despite its reduction. The concerns about family planning has also risen in Latin countries, since 74% of the women in reproductive age use any contraception method, compared to 72% in 2000 and 63% in 1990. The number of women who have an unmet need for family planning is of about 9%.

OBS: Adolescent = 15 to 19 years old, General data is for women aged 15-49 years old.

Goal 6 – Combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases

This is probably the indicator with the most substantial differences between regions in the world. Despite this, the newly infected population is decreasing, and the availability of antiretroviral treatments combined with the widespread of preventive infection mechanisms reduced the total deaths. Sub-Saharan Africa has the worst performance on this, whereas Latin America has a performance similar to the developed regions. The incidence of HIV/Aids in this region is of 0.03 per year, per each 100 people aged 15-49. Of the total population infected in Latin America, 51% was receiving proper treatment in 2009, which is a great improvement compared to the 39% observed in 2004. Besides that, the medical knowledge is contributing to prevent the mother-to-child transmission. About 53% of infected women receive treatment during the pregnancy. In the case of malaria, there is also a concentration in Africa. In its turn, tuberculosis has decreased its impact on mortality, and in 2009 there were 3 deaths per 100.000 population. The reduction in tuberculosis mortality is an example of a well succeeded international strategy applied worldwide with the support of UN.

Goal 7 – Ensure environmental sustainability

This is the indicator Latin America is performing worse, significantly impacted by the results of South America, which lost about 4 million hectares per year of forested areas between 1990 and 2010, even though the rhythm of deforestation is decreasing. The gases emissions, despite the economic crisis faced recently, are steadily rising. From 1990 to 2008, Latin America and Caribbean increased their emissions by 70%, reaching 1.7 billion of metric tons of equivalent CO₂ in 2008. A sign that a change can be done is the goals achieved by the Montreal Protocol, which was implemented to avoid the emission of ozone-depleting substances, and by the end of 2009 had reduced those emissions in 98%. The protection of ecosystems is another huge problem faced by countries. Despite the increasing number of protected areas, the global tide of extinctions remains a major challenge. Regarding water availability, Latin America & Caribbean are not in a risky situation, but taking into account the inappropriate management of the resources, promoting pollution and other problems, this scenario can change in the future. In this sense, the access for potable water is critical and nowadays about 7% of Latin America population lack access to improved sources. The access to sanitation facilities is increasing, reaching 80% of the population, compared to 69% in 1990. Again, the urbanization has contributed to this change, and rural areas remain in disadvantage in terms of sanitation.

Goal 8 – Develop a global partnership for development

Aid disbursements of developed countries have risen significantly, but it’s proving to be not enough. European Union countries, who promised to allocate a minimum of 0.51% of their Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance (ODA), are complying with part of their commitments. While countries such as Luxemburg, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and UK surpassed their targets, Spain, Germany, Portugal, among other, didn’t do the same. Concerns about protectionism in developed countries are still on the table, but especially for agricultural products there is a breaking barriers trend. Particularly for Latin America, a huge challenge was to pay the debt originated along the second half of last century. It has reduced, and in 2009 Latin countries and Caribbean committed 7.2% of their exports revenues with external debt service, compared to 21.8% in 2000.


United Nations 2011. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011. United Nations, New York.

United Nations 2005. The Millennium Development Goals Report – A Latin America and Caribbean Perspective. United Nations, Santiago.

International Energy Agency 2011. CO₂ Emissions from Fuel Combustion – Highlights. International Energy Agency, Paris.


D.P.#4: Conclusions about the limited vision adopted by governments

After presenting some ideas that seem to clearly influence the government’s decision making process, particularly the local and short term approaches, in this blog I intend to complement the logic with some other brief considerations about the combined result of the theories presented comparing with the Club of Rome’s predictions and illustrate these ideas with a few examples.

So firstly, proving what was affirmed by the Club of Rome, it’s clear that the humankind is overexploiting the world’s resources and the so called development is not being achieved. The emersion of some developing countries coincides with the crisis in some of the developed ones, indicating that the current prevailing economic model can’t afford having the whole world in a high level. And instead of analyzing the reasons for this and how could we be put on the right track, the previous mentioned local and short term visions make them to overlook any limit imposed by our planet. The solution in the vision of most governments is to push up these limits to meet our consumption, whereas the logical response would be to accommodate our consumption to the limits. Furthermore, we justify everything with our capacity to innovate or to adapt, and keep growing, in a sense that each day the innovation and adaptation levels required increase. Hence, we are always above our limits and unfortunately there is no evidence of change.

Supporting this theory, there are voices rising across the world. Lovelock (2009) approaches the overexploitation of resources in a very interesting way, taking the Earth as a living organism and showing how we are developing a disease in this organism. In his turn, David Attenborough, a well known British broadcaster and naturalist, presents brilliantly how the impact of population growth is already depriving million of the people to have access to basic needs, such as water, food and energy. In his documentary titled “How Many People Can Leave on Planted Earth?”, the evidences presented show that we are already above our capacity, and increasing the population will deteriorate even more our world and our capacity to inhabit it. Going beyond the basic needs on the consumption topic, Friedman (2008) argues that the point is not only that the population is growing, but it’s growing envisioning a way of life that our planet can’t afford. Illustrating this, it’s like the Chinese people claiming to have the same access to goods as the Americans do.

As we see, there are people talking about limits, although this discussion doesn’t reach the public political debates. The influence of the local and short term approaches adopted by governments is clear in this sense. Inspired by the development level reached by some European countries and the United States based on massive consumption and overexploitation of resources, most developing countries are encouraged to go in the same way, even though the model has proved to be unsustainable in the long run and exclusive, which means that it cannot be achieved in a global scale. It’s not rational and it’s not ethical, since even if it achieves its expected results, it happens at the expense of people of other places in the world as well as the local next generations, who will have to face problems that we are constantly leaving to be dealt with in the future.

As an example of this irrational behavior, we could go deeper on the motivation that leads some countries to reject climate change tackling measures, as if these measures were a luxury that it’s possible to decide to apply or not. The preferences for local goals make them take these agreements as harmful for their economies, what wouldn’t be accepted by local people and by the lobbyist companies, while the short term approach leads them to consider only the immediate results, even if the cost of addressing this problem later, if it’s still possible, will be much higher than it is now. Unfortunately there are people that will be affected by decisions, but the survival of many others can rely on this.

Another example is the adoption of tax barriers to protect a local industry by developed countries. It is extremely harmful for developing countries, which cannot compete and are deprived of participating in the global market. The impact is the poverty cycle perpetuates in those countries, showing clearly the exclusive focus on local problems of some of developed ones. However, the barriers also damage the local development in the long run, sharing the cost of subsidies and other policies through the citizens, discouraging innovation and competition, among other collateral effects. It’s a general overview of this policy. Sometimes, the policy can provide positive affects that offsets the bad ones in governments’ vision, but most of the times they are inefficient and irrational, bringing out the local and short term approach used by them.

Taking into account everything that has been presented so far, the solutions seem to be out of our reality. But, actually, they can be summarized by applying the rationality in our decisions. Rationality that must work in favor of humankind welfare. All those decisions based on limited approaches are irrational and generally at the bottom line their result is harmful for everybody. In order to change this, it’s critical to have an overview from the world as a whole that allows people to think about global and long term goals. Even though it seems to be far from out reality, as I had sad in a previous post, the empowerment of an organization such as the United Nations could have this effect, if it’s able to participate in the process of setting the goals to be achieved by local governments.



Friedman, T. 2008. Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America. Farrar, Straus Giroux, New York.

Lovelock, J. 2009. The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning. Allen Lane/Penguin Books, New York.


Documentary – “How Many People Can Leave on Planted Earth?” – Available at


12 smart grid startups to watch in 2012

Energy Efficiency in Brazil

Even though there were related programs running in Brazil before it, the national energy efficiency has become much more important in the recent years. At the beginning of the last decade, the country suffered with several electrical blackouts and with a electricity shortage that undermined the economic growth.

Since then, the government adopted a law to impose consumption limits to electrical devices and reinforced the existing PROCEL (National Program for the Energy Saving). Considering that energy efficiency refers to the maximum conversion of primary energy into electricity or performance, I could mention also many other programs created to promote alternative and more efficient sources of energy.

But if I have to highlight one well succeeded program implemented in Brazil, I would mention the Labeling Program, implemented under the context of the PROCEL. According to this program, which is voluntary at the beginning, the manufacturers rate their electrical devices according to a consumption scale of efficiency. After the maturation of the segment, it becomes compulsory. Examples of products already labeled: lamps, freezers, TVs, electrical taps, showers, air conditioning devices, among others. On the right we can find an example of a label used in Brazilian fridges.

The importance of this program and the thing that differentiates it from some others is the participation of the customers. In most countries in the world, the prevailing market economy has given much power to the companies, that sometimes has the power to decide whether they want or not to implement projects that benefits the environment or national issues such as the energy supply security. But once the customers are involved and have the power to compare and decide what product they want to buy, companies are forced to improve their methods and invest more money on research and development of new technologies.


D.P.#3: The motivations behind government’s short term thinking: is there a way to change?

In the latest post, the analysis of government’s role on development promotion focused on the preference for local results, without any concern about the global result. Basically, the motivation behind most of the political decisions seems to be the combination of that with another factor that has been extensively studied by political psychologists: the prevalence of short term considerations over long term ones. Recalling the graph presented in the book «The Limits to Growth», we see clearly that these 2 elements were in the basis of the Club of Rome’s warnings.

As well as the local one, the short term thinking has one strong psychological component, which is potentiated by the political systems all over the world. The first well known studies regarding time preferences were conducted by economists. For instance, Menger (1871), considered founder of the Austrian School of Economics, affirmed that there is always a difference between the consumption of a product according to the time it happens, since there is a certain level of uncertainty about the satisfaction provided by the same choice if it’s not taken at the present moment but in the future. Later on, psychologist Richard Herrnstein came up with a theory of choice known as “matching law”. Other psychologists, such as Howard Rachlin and David Laibson, summarized the main idea of the matching law with the hyperbolic discounting model, which describes the way that people value outcomes along the time. According to this theory, people’s perception of value decreases rapidly for small delayed periods and slowly for longer periods. Ainslie (1991), presents as an example to make it clear: “a majority of adults report that they would rather have $50 immediately than $100 2 years later, but almost no one prefers $50 in 4 years over $100 in 6 years, even though this is the same choice seen at 4 years’ greater distance” (regardless inflation and other economical considerations). A non economic example presented by Chapman (2005) showed that most people don’t have good habits in terms of cancer prevention because the costs of these measures are immediate, whereas the benefits are delayed.

In politics, the idea is the same. People apply a very high discount rate for future rewards in terms of political decisions, so even measures with a low cost of implementation seen to be worthless if their benefits come in a further time. However, individuals don’t necessary apply the same discount rate for future rewards and some politicians, as decision makers on behalf of people, could think differently. But then the electoral factor is brought out. Politicians are discouraged by their peers and by their political willingness to undertake measures with a long term result if their costs to the voters occur immediately.

It’s disappointing to realize that countries are acting only now or are not acting at all to face problems identified a long time ago. The cost of these actions when the problems become urgent is much higher than it would be if it was done in a preventive way, and the benefits are not the same. It has a lot to do with the so called sustainability; however it is still evident the barriers to promote it or even to understand what sustainable development is. This idea was the basis of the Club of Rome’s warnings and almost 50 years later governments are still reluctant on accepting this.

To conclude, unless countries change their short term vision, most of the economic, social and environmental problems in the world will be reinforced and the future costs to face them will be much higher. The democracy and its transitory tenures, despite their many positive considerations, have a huge influence on this, and people as voters should value long term results rather than short term populist measures. The political systems could also be improved, implementing long term goals and enforcing the legislative power, which often doesn’t have reelection constraints and is able to set long term policies. If nothing changes, we will be exchanging the uncertainty about the future for the certainty of reaching a dead end.


Ainslie, G. 1991. Intertemporal Choice: Derivation of “Rational” Economic Behavior from Hyperbolic Discount Curves. American Economic Review, vol. 81, pp.334-340.

Ainslie, G and Haendel, V. 1983. The Motives of the Will. Etiology Aspects of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Charles C. Thomas, Springfield.

Chapman, G. 2005. Short-Term Cost for Long-Term Benefit: Time Preference and Cancer Control. Health Psychology, vol. 24, n. 4 (suppl.), pp. 41-48.

Menger, C. 1871. Principles of Economics. Braumüller. Austria.

Rachlin, H. and Laibson, D. 1997. The Matching Law: papers in psychology and economics. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachussets.


companies’ actions as a result of protests – advertisement to be launched in 2012

D.P.#2: The impact of limited approaches on development goals

In my previous post, I presented the idea that governments not only ignored the Club of Rome warnings and recommendations, but also acted in the opposite way, constantly trying to promote the economic growth at any cost. The result is was a rising inequality in the world, pretty much as predicted by the group. As motivations that lead politicians to behave in this way, I mentioned the preferences for local and short term results, instead of global and long term achievements. These features were brilliantly summarized in the graph below, taken from the “Limits of Growth”.

As we can see, people’s perspectives are concentrated on the next weeks within the familiar sphere, and the importance of the situation decreases as we move toward bigger social groups and longer periods. There are some motivations that clearly influence this behavior, and in this text I’ll explore those related to the closer groups, focusing on geopolitical issues.

The first thing to have in mind is that there is an important psychological regarding this behavior. As studied by Gustav Le Bon, Sigmund Freud (1992), Abraham Maslow (1943), among others, humans, as most of other animals, need to feel that they are part of a group, like family, community, country or any other social group with a shared interest or feature. There are many ways people behave in order to manage this multiple identities. Brewer (2001), a prominent contemporary psychologist, presents an approach in which people “segregate different group identities to different domains so that multiple identities are not activated at the same time (e.g., adopting national identity in the international arena, occupational identity when economic interests are at stake, and ethnic identity in the cultural domain)”. Another psychologist, Tajfel (1974) states that these feeling of belongingness to each of the several groups we are usually part of, may come from the distinctiveness we want to have from other groups or from the fact that the external group are perceived as common threat.

The combination of the theories above, explain a little bit the idea of why humans’ social groups tend to think locally and be concerned exclusively about the problems that are closer to them or to the groups they belong to. Stronger the ties with the group members are, more concerned people are about its issues, as we saw in the graph above. Applying the theory for politics, an explanation for the politicians’ the local-oriented vision emerges. Besides the fact that they are leaders of huge groups, usually there is a strong necessity for them to have their power legitimated by people, through elections. Voters are expecting them to act in favor of their groups, and if the concerns about a common good result in a situation worse for these groups, even if it’s based on short term considerations, they will be punished in the polls.

Despite this situation, a few things have changed in the world during the latest times, resulting in changes on this approach in a global level. Firstly, the globalization brought people closer, exposing even more the common features we share with people around the world and tightening the knot we have among different regions or groups. Secondly, countries realized that the negative outputs of other countries in terms of economic, social and environmental issues affect directly their own performance. This was what Jay Forrester and his students called negative loops within a system that affects the outcome of the system as a whole, in the context of the System Analysis studies used afterwards by the Club of Rome.

To conclude, it’s important to mention that economic crisis in the developed countries moved us a few steps back in this positive path we can see for our common future. Anyway, initiatives such as the global warming fighting agreements, that now are expected to count on every country in the world, shows that we are able to think globally and get a better common result for our societies. The participation and enforcement power of organizations such as the United Nations seem to be critical on this track, as long as they assure promoting equal treatment to people and countries all over the world.



Simmons, MR 2000, Revisiting the Limits to Growth: Could the Club of Rome have been correct, after all?. Available at:,club_of_rome_revisted.html

Freud, S 1922, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 6th edn (1949), The Hogart Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis, London.

Maslow, AH 1943, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 370-396.

Brewer, MB 2001, The Many Faces of Social Identity: Implications for Political Psychology, Political Psychology, International Society of Psychology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 115-125.

Tajfel, H 1974, Social identity and intergroup behavior, Social Science Information, Sage.


MKT: videoblog

video blog – Fabio

#DP: New business models

hey everybody, in one of last DP classes, we talked about the protests against the way private companies do business and one of the most studied cases in this area is about Interface, a carpet company based in the US. I’m sharing here a link to a 3 min. interview with the CEO of the company, which is very interesting… this interview was included in a documentary called «The Corporation», which is awesome for those who like the topic about the role of corporations in our world

Environmental Economics and Accounting – Case «steel company x fisherman»

1. Can you suggest any criteria that could be used to decide on who has the right to use the river?  The factory, the fishermen, both?

All people must have equal access to natural resources, so if the steel company is polluting the river and impacting on the fisherman activity, there are two basic ways to fix this. The first one, which in my opinion is the most efficient and correct, is to force the steel company to undertake measures in order to avoid the river pollution at levels it can not afford, regarding its capacity to maintain its ecosystem balanced.

The other possibility would be to pay compensation fee to the fisherman. But it would not be the best one, since we have to take into account that probably not only the fisherman is being affected by the river pollution, but also the whole environment balance in the region.

2. Can you propose any instrument or agreement to solve the problem?

Therefore, the instruments I would suggest is to pay for the environmental services provided by the river through a cap and trade system, but if the pollution is beyond the “cap”, a legal instrument should be applied by an enforcement institution. This «cap» has to be settled based on scientific data, proving that up to a certain level of pollution, the ecosystem of the river keeps balanced. I wound’t use taxes because it would not assure that the pollution would be below the «cap», which is crucial for the river ecosystem.

Este sitio web utiliza cookies para que usted tenga la mejor experiencia de usuario. Si continúa navegando está dando su consentimiento para la aceptación de las mencionadas cookies y la aceptación de nuestra política de cookies, pinche el enlace para mayor información.plugin cookies

Aviso de cookies