Globalisation Exacerbates Children's Social Ills

Tom Boland (
Thu, 16 Jul 1998 13:43:21 -0700 (PDT)



     By Rey Rodriguez

MEXICO CITY, Jul 6 (IPS) - Economic globalisation has failed to
reduce, and in some cases has even exacerbated, the social ills
plaguing children in Latin America, concluded a Unicef-sponsored
seminar which called for the urgent formulation of alternative models
of development. Marta Mauras, regional director of Unicef (United
Nations children's fund), told the representatives of 19 Latin
American and Caribbean countries participating in the seminar held
last week in Mexico City that the programmes currently applied by the
governments of the region designed to benefit children suffered major
shortcomings and should be revised.

The economic model predominant in the region and the process of
globalisation accompanying it today accentuates the poor distribution
of income, poverty, and unequal access to social services and food
security, Mauras underlined.

Latin America is the region with the greatest disparity in terms of
distribution of wealth.

She added that the improvement of Latin America's macroeconomic
indicators in recent years had not led to a corresponding improvement
in the situation of children.

According to the Inter-American Institute of the Child, 15 million of
the region's roughly 200 million children live in the street and six
million are malnourished. Moreover, 70 percent of the victims of
violence are minors, mainly girls.

''Today we see a resurgence in violence and family and citizen
insecurity which clearly has to do with a model that marginalises and
excludes a large proportion of the population,'' said Maura, who urged
the governments of Latin America to come up with alternative models
for resolving the problems facing children.

Mexico City Secretary of Education and Health, Clara Jusidman, pointed
out that children suffer much more keenly the uncertainty caused by
violence, exclusion, inequity and social, cultural, economic and
political crises, and urged the elaboration of models providing a
safety net for the poorest of the poor.

An estimated one-quarter of the world's children work, many of them in
difficult conditions such as slavery, prostitution or as domestics and
construction or factory workers with meagre pay.

According to International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics, some
17.5 million children in the region work, a large proportion of them
in domestic service, especially in Brazil and Venezuela.

Argentine expert Alberto Milujin with the Colombia-based Unicef office
for Latin America and the Caribbean told IPS that his office advocated
the abolishment of work for children under 12 and that jobs realised
by teenagers entail some formative aspect.

In Brazil, for example, there have been efforts to reduce the number
of children working in the streets by providing vocational training to
help adults in the family obtain better jobs, and by providing cash
bonuses to help children stay in school, he pointed out.

Milujin lamented that social policies in most Latin American countries
are perceived of today as compensation for monetary and economic
policies, which are given top priority.

Another of the problems debated by the seminar was the fight against
corruption which, as the representative of Unicef for Mexico and Cuba,
Jose Carlos Cuentas-Zavala, told IPS, constitutes one of the factors
compromising the state's capacity to protect children.

He also highlighted phenomena which are exacerbated by globalisation,
such as child prostitution and pornography.

Since Unicef has turned its focus away from monitoring state social
policies, it is organising seminars like the one held in Mexico City,
said Cuentas-Zavala, who urged the elaboration of alternative policies
and programmes to counteract the negative effects of globalisation.

But several officials participating in the seminar highlighted major
strides taken in Latin America, especially in terms of providing
healthcare, adequate nutrition and preschool education to chidren
under six.

Mauras underlined the example of Mexico, where major progress has been
made in increasing children's probability of reaching adulthood and
reducing infant mortality and malnutrition.

Unicef consultant Eduardo Bustelo told IPS that it would not be fair
to accuse Latin American governments of doing nothing in favour of
children, even though the common citizen might feel that way.

But he urged governments in the region to fully assume challenges
today ranging from the generation of jobs and increased investment in
educational systems to the implementation of programmes designed to
eliminate child prostitution, pornography and labour.


ARCHIVES  <>  read posts to HPN
TO JOIN  <> or email Tom <>