Colombia has succeeded in achieving UN Millennium Development Goals of poverty reduction in advance of its target, halving levels of poverty it little more than a decade.
UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator for Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild, celebrated this achievement though acknowledging challenges ahead over the next fifteen years in reducing the gap between those vulnerable parties; namely those in rural zones, the indigenous and afro-Colombia populations and young women.
Overall Colombia has achieved goals of reducing overall poverty from 50% in 2002 to 28.5% in 2014, lifting 6.7 million above the poverty line.
Additionally, levels of extreme poverty fell from 17.7% (2002) to 8.1% (2014), improving the lives of 3.5 million who ceased to be considered extremely poor.
Major regional differences
“Huge differences in welfare levels between population groups and regions remain. While 1 in 4 Colombians in urban areas are affected by poverty in rural area is 1 in 2.”, revealed Hochschild.
Some 13 of 48 million Colombians remain in poverty and 3.7 million are still in extreme poverty.
Colombia’s poverty levels since 2002
Huge inequality between regions means that much of this poverty is concentrated in rural zones, in particular the coastal provinces in the Pacific and Caribbean regions of Choco, Cauca and La Guajira.
Hochschild noted that areas with typically higher proportions of indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations with poverty rates over 50%; five times the rate witnessed in the capital city.
The UN report revealed in these regions just 6% have access to sewerage and saninitation, against 90% of the urban population.
Some 47% of rural Colombians do not have access to water, greatly contrasting the 97% in urban areas with access to water supplies. This basic life necessity is available to half of the urban population in the northern department of Choco, and just one third of those inhabiting rural zones.
The bulk of the 8,000 annual infant deaths (those under 5 years) is reportedly concentrated to the rural zones, despite halving numbers nationally since the creation of these goals at the turn of the century.
The UN Millennium Development Goals recognized information technology and communications as an important driver for development. Not only does this close social gaps, enabling democratization of knowledge but it facilitates communication between geographically marginalized populations.
Currently 45% of urban households have a computer, but in rural zones this is just 8.7% (2014). Additionally in urban areas 4 in 10 have internet access, in rural zones this is 4 in 100. As a result ICT has become a tool of divergence enhancing the productivity of the most advantaged and widening the gap between the country’s most vulnerable.
In support of suffering rural zones the UN representation described the necessity of formalizing access to land, improving agricultural potentials, expanding technological assistance, the provision of public goods and required improvements in infrastructure.
Victims of the conflict
When analyzing trends on a global level the UN noted conflict as the largest threat to human development, noting “fragile and conflict-affected countries typically have the highest poverty levels”.
Notably, the most suffering are the displaced population; victims of Colombia’s ongoing internal conflict against the country’s extremist leftist rebel groups, neo-paramilitary illegal organizations and drug traffickers.
The poverty rate in the country’s displaced is 3 times the national average, in this group the level of extreme poverty is 4 times the national average.
Hochschild noted the advancements of peace negotiations with the country’s guerrilla force, the FARC, the arrival of which will “open doors” for Colombia. Through the adaption of public policies at a national and local level he claimed the “vision of a Colombia at peace with sustainable development.”
“To build a peaceful country is the challenge of this generation of Colombians” claimed the UN representative.
Hochschild recognized the reduction of the enormous gap in poverty across the rural and urban zones as a key challenge for the future. This focus is reportedly in line with the national initiative Development Plan Colombia and is prominent within the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
According to Hochschild, Colombia needs “new alliances and synergies involving all sectors of Colombian society, from different state institutions, civil society, through academic centers in the country and especially the private sector will also be necessary. Everyone has a role to play to realize the achievement of new objectives for sustainable development the world is proposed.”