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Help Starts Young

Here’s another post for our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! This week you can learn about Child Poverty throughout the world and the efforts being made to help the fight against child poverty and child labor so that future generations can develop. You can also check out our past blog posts to learn about more global topics: “A Historical Moment For Genocide”, “Two Sides To Invest”, “An Undefined Grasp Of Failure”, “A Necessary Priority”, “A Reform For The World” and “The Rural Challenge”. Check back next Monday for another blog post!

About 45 % of children in Latin America and the Caribbean live in a state of poverty.

his means that child poverty affects nearly 81 million children and adolescents in these regions of the world! As defined by the UN General Assembly in 2007, child poverty is “the deprivation of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation, and protection”. Nutrition is immensely important in a child’s life for lack of it can cause damage in early childhood and have harmful long-term effects on the child’s health. Despite this, about 30 million children are born each year with impaired growth due to poor nutrition. Possible solutions to unhealthy diets include proper education on healthy eating habits and income support (healthy food tends to cost more than unhealthy substitutes).

Education, including that learned in school and from one’s social interactions and environment, can be a means of escaping poverty because it improves the chances that the child will have a good income and be able to afford the necessities denied him/her by poverty. Unfortunately, a child’s ability to receive a quality education is largely based on the family’s finances, seeing as how an education costs money. Sadly, a family’s low financial status increases the chances of the child being forced into child labor so as to help support the family and himself/herself. While working as a child can make school for the individual possible (working for the money that will fund their education), child labor can also be a means of a child getting stuck in poverty by hurting the child’s health or keeping him/her tied down by low-skilled work. However, child labor that offers the child the ability of a formal education or out of poverty and is not dangerous to the child is not the worst option. As a country, it is important to determine the nature of the child labor before completely banning what may, in fact, be helping.

A range of factors contributes to child poverty. An example of such are the natural disasters that constantly plague the Caribbean, leaving the countries in disrepair and economic strife. The fact that children are not represented in policies to the same extent as adults also allows child poverty to prevail because they are not being protected by laws or governments. Despite the various contributors to child poverty, one theory remains quite evident: the failure to effectively end child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean produces a cycle of hardship that passes on to generations while further limiting the future opportunities for these children.

United Nations milestones such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (adopted in 1989) and the establishment of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1946 have made great strides to dealing with and eventually ending child poverty. Defined by UNICEF, the Convention is “an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years old”. The Committee on the Rights of the Child ensures that countries are working towards “ensuring that all children have access to education and healthcare, the ability to reach their potential and abilities, grow up in a positive environment of love and happiness, and benefit from protection and assistance”. UNICEF has participated in much humanitarian work aimed at child poverty and works through TACRO (UNICEF’s regional office for the Americas and the Caribbean) to support and work with other organizations like the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization in order to advocate for good nutrition practices in Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall, although child poverty remains an issue of international affairs, the UN and its organizations continue to work towards the cease of this epidemic.

-Amanda

Two Sides To Invest

Check out our newest blog post for our Get Educated, One Topic At A Time blog series! Learn about Foreign Direct Investment and its effects on Latin America and its economy. Don’t forget to check out the first two posts of this series as well, “Creating A Road To Democracy” and “A Historical Moment For Genocide”. Check back next Monday for another post!

This fall at the UNAGB Regional Model UN Conference, the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) will be debating foreign direct investment into the region. Today, Latin America accounts for 10% of the global FDI stock.

Investment spending by foreign multinational corporations in the region was worth USD$ 85 billion in 2010. Foreign direct investment not only creates capital through Greenfield investments, but also technological and other positive spillovers that have been vital in accelerating the economic growth of booming economies of Brazil, Mexico and others in the region. However, it is most important to analyze and discuss whether the economic growth has led to an increase in the quality of living of all people in the region.

Historically, foreign corporations have economically exploited the region since the colonial era. Spanish and Portuguese settlers forced indigenous people to mine silver and cultivate sugar so that the natural resources of the region could be shipped back to Europe. To some critics, colonialism in Latin America did not end with the revolutions that brought independence to the region—it has merely changed in form, from military power to economic power, into neocolonialism. The American corporation United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita, owned entire regions of Guatemala, gaining even more power than the local government. With its military force back by the U.S., domination of banana plantations, and control over railways and other infrastructure, the United Fruit Company was named “the octopus” by the local people and ultimately caused the many problems with underdevelopment, crime and violence that the impoverished country still has to deal with today.

With the NAFTA agreements to create maquiladoras in 1993, over a million Mexicans started working at thousands of industrial factories along the U.S.-Mexico border, manufacturing products from apparel to auto parts for American, Japanese, and European corporations such as General Motors and Samsung. Lax regulations on these factories have caused harmful effects on Mexico’s environment. Employees are paid minimally for working up to ten hours a day. Increasing competition with other newly industrializing countries in recent years has caused many maquiladoras to shut down, causing unemployment for hundred thousands of workers. Foreign direct investment brings both positive and negative effects to the region.

Foreign direct investment has increased the competitiveness of the Latin American economy, fostering an increasing number of regional corporations that are starting to go global. “Multilatinas” like Petrobras and more are climbing up on the Fortune Global 500 list. ECLAC will be presenting its annual Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, a report of the region’s economic performance country by country, at its headquarters in Santiago, Chile this Wednesday, July 13.

-Miriam