At a glance: Costa Rica

XIV Latin American Summit: Investing in education to break the poverty cycle

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© UNICEF Costa Rica/2004
UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg (left) speaks to Costa Rican Head of State, Abel Pacheco

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, 20 November 2004 –   Under the theme Educar para progresar (‘Education for progress’), heads of state from Latin America, Spain and Portugal met at the XIV Latin American Summit, held here from 19 to 20 November. UNICEF was also present, and called for an increase in social investment to ensure that all children in Latin America are able to attend school. The goal is to break the vicious cycle of poverty that denies individuals their rights and the opportunities they need to develop.

“There is still a lot of poverty in Latin America and education is the fundamental step to change this trend,” said the Costa Rican Minister of External Relations, Roberto Tovar, commenting on the theme of the Summit.

UNICEF estimates that 4 out of 10 children do not finish elementary school in Latin America.  According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (known by the Spanish acronym CEPAL), between 72 per cent and 96 per cent of poor families have some children with less than nine years of formal education.  This pattern repeats itself across generations, creating a cycle of poverty.

In the concluding statement of the Summit, heads of states committed themselves to promote, in various multilateral forums, the testing and implementation of innovative financial mechanisms to help support education budgets. These mechanisms include the conversion of a percentage of debt services for investment in education. Also included are other initiatives that could help obtain additional financial resources for education budgets.
 
“It is fine that creditors reduce the debt in exchange for investment in education, but if it does not happen, this should not be an excuse for countries not to increase social investment,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg.
 
Mr. Kastberg reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment to support governments in Latin America in the design of follow-up mechanisms and tools.  These will serve as monitoring systems for the goals set at the Summit and the decisions taken at the Conference of Ministers of Youth.
 
Since 1991, the annual Latin American Summits have served as a platform to consult and reflect on issues of interest to the member countries. Among countries that participated at this year’s Summit were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, el Salvador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela.

In addition to attending the Summit, UNICEF also participated in the preparatory conference of ministers of youth that took place on 18 and 19 October in Costa Rica.  The final declaration of the preparatory conference was presented at the Summit.  The declaration by the ministers called for joint efforts to prevent and reduce the causes of child and adolescent vulnerability.


 

 

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