Incorporating Race and Ethnicity into the UN Millennium Development Goals

2007 Race Report

In 2000, all UN member countries pledged to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—a set of social development targets to be reached by 2015. The targets include cutting by half the percentage of persons living on less than one dollar a day, providing every child with primary education, reducing child mortality by two-thirds, slashing maternal mortality by three-quarters, and halving the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. The MDGs themselves are silent on the question of race, but the declaration of the World Conference against Racism, adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean countries, urges states to close the social gaps caused by racial discrimination in such MDG target areas as illiteracy, primary education, infant and child mortality, general and reproductive health, and access to safe drinking water. Aside from Brazil, however, where statistics have been collected for years, the lack of reliable data on African descendants and indigenous groups has made it difficult to design and implement remedial policies to address discrimination in Latin America.

Measured by global standards, most of Latin America is made up of middle-income countries—many of which will reach a significant number of the MDGs with little difficulty. But, in nearly every case, these countries will leave most of their Afro-descendant and indigenous populations behind. Brazil, for example, appears likely to meet five of the seven MDGs, but the country’s Afro-descendant population will be excluded from this accomplishment. The challenge for Brazil and other nations is not merely to achieve the MDGs; it is to reach them for all racial and ethnic groups.

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