A Special Partnership With the UN: A Latin American Perspective | United Nations (2023)

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About the author

Heraldo Muñoz

Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz is the Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations. He was President of the Security Council in January 2004 and Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Al-Qaida and the Taliban in 2003 and 2004. He also served as Minister Secretary-General and Deputy Foreign Minister in the administration of Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

Latin America is the region in the developing world where democracy is now almost universal.1 Its roots, however, are weak. Latin America has a population of approximately 550 million people, of which about 44 per cent live under the poverty line and 18 per cent are affected by extreme poverty. The socio-economic inequality is admittedly the greatest in the world. Both realities encapsulate the greatest challenges facing the region.

I have selected nine priority areas, which, if addressed, could make a difference in the lives of millions of peoples in the region; in each area the United Nations should play a role, either at the centre of the effort or as a facilitator.

A right to democracy. The relationship between human rights and democracy has been dealt at length in doctrine and practice. Democracy is founded on the primacy of the law and the exercise of human rights. In a democratic State, no one is above the law and all are equal before the law.2 When the Organization of American States General Assembly met in 1991, it approved the "Santiago Commitment to Democracy" and Resolution 1080, both landmarks in the development of what I called the "emerging right to democracy" in the Americas -- a growing acceptance that democracy can and should be defended through peaceful collective action; all participating countries had democratically elected governments. The continued existence of democracy cannot be taken for granted, even though there are legitimate collective instruments to act multilaterally to impede or reverse abrogations of democratic rule. Most countries of Latin America are attempting to consolidate democratic gains and have successfully resisted coup attempts; but the situation in the region is more complex than a simple division between democracies versus dictatorships.

Democracies must deliver to their citizens. Though economic growth is fundamental to address people's demands, well-focused social policies to create equal opportunities are fundamental for democratic governance. It is necessary to work for an integrated and well-coordinated system of democracy promotion and defense at a global level. It seems desirable to attempt coordination, and identify sets of instruments and measures for fostering democracy while differentiating according to the degree of consolidation of democracy in the country. In short, we need to get the United Nations more actively involved in promoting the right to democracy. Recommended measures should go beyond the prevalent approach of rescuing democracy once it has collapsed. The United Nations should become a proactive agent in the dissemination of democratic principles.
Development. At the top of the Latin American development agenda is the need to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty and inequality are at the core of the region's concerns. Nobody disputes that countries are primarily responsible for their own economic and social development. This has been eloquently stated in the Monterrey Consensus, though industrialized countries have to implement their commitments in relation to official development assistance and other areas.

The development of innovative financial mechanisms that contribute to the mobilization of resources for development should be encouraged. Chile, with Brazil, France, Norway and the United Kingdom, launched, on 19 September 2006, the International Drug Purchase Facility, which aims to provide long-term access to quality treatment at the lowest price for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.3 The Doha Round of multilateral negotiations should address the issues of importance for developing countries and result in a stronger multilateral trading system. The United Nations should take into account the specific needs of middle-income countries, since the highest proportion of these countries (79%) lies in Latin America. The Intergovernmental Conference on Middle-Income Countries, held in March 2007 in Madrid, produced important insights on their situation.

Implementation of human rights standards.The implementation of human rights nowadays is less a problem of having international standards than a question of compliance with those standards. There is a need to put the emphasis on implementation rather than standard-setting activities. Universal ratification of human rights instruments, as well as the withdrawal of reservations to them, remains a pending task. Other areas deserving attention are the development of two concepts that were included in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document: the notion of "responsibility to protect", in particular its preventive aspect; and the incorporation of "human security" into the UN agenda. Of course, standard-setting and developing new institutions will still be needed. A case in point is the draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Also, once the Human Rights Council concludes its work regarding its rules of procedure and methods of work, it should focus its attention on the implementation of human rights. The universal periodic review would be a key mechanism to foster an era of implementation.

Social inequality. As a Latin American, it is very difficult to accept that the region has the most unbalanced distribution of resources in the world. According to the World Bank, the richest one tenth of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean earns 48 per cent of total income, while the poorest tenth only 1.6 per cent.4 It recommended societies to undertake deep reforms of political, social and economic institutions, improve access by the poor to vital services and assets, especially education, and deliver income transfers to poor families and vulnerable groups.

I share the view that only with more and better democracy can Latin American societies achieve greater equality and development.1 This places high expectations on domestic democratic processes to deliver solutions. In turn, the implementation of commitments of the World Summit on Social Development -- poverty reduction, employment creation and social integration -- should not be forgotten. Public policies should continue to address the needs of vulnerable groups, i.e. children, youth, older adults, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples.

Gender equality. According to a World Bank study, women in Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant improvements in education and access to the labour market. However, it also indicates that there is much to be done with regard to poverty, social exclusion, reproductive health care and protection against domestic violence. Another finding showed that women, especially older women and heads of household, are more vulnerable to poverty.5

One of the most salient developments in recent years has been the election in 2006 of the first woman as President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet. Key regional issues to resolve are education, participation of women in the labour market, salary divide, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. Targeted public policies and national equality plans should be the way to implement international commitments. The United Nations should facilitate the compilation of best practices, gathering information, and help States implement standards and commitments.

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Corruption. Corruption diverts resources away from activities that are crucial for development, poverty eradication and the fight against hunger. Studies have shown a relationship between corruption and poor levels of governance. On the other hand, citizens have the right to hold their Governments accountable to avoid corruption. Many countries in Latin America suffer this phenomenon. Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index gave the region 3.4 points out of a total of 11, where the higher numbers indicate lower levels of corruption.1

The fight against corruption should be one of the top Latin American priorities in the coming years. Countries in the region should ratify the 2003 United Nations Convention against Corruption and implement effective measures at the national and local levels to prevent and combat corruption. The importance of international cooperation in this regard cannot be overemphasized. Most Latin American countries are parties to the 1996 Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

Climate change and environmental protection. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming is unequivocal and most likely caused by human activity. This report serves as a stark reminder that climate change is a serious and long-term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe. Leaders should act accordingly.

The fight against terrorism and crime. The fight against terrorism requires the implementation at all levels of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted by the General Assembly on 8 September 2006. Likewise, transnational crime has spread in Latin America and is a major problem in many urban centres, detracting from development efforts. The United Nations has installed capacity to cooperate more with the region in this regard.

The situation in Haiti. The only country in the region that is currently on the UN Security Council's agenda, Haiti needs the engagement and long-term support of the international community. Council resolution 1743 (2007), unanimously adopted on 15 February 2007, demonstrates the long-term commitment and vision of the United Nations concerning this Latin American country. The role of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is instrumental in this regard.
1 Democracy in Latin America. Towards a Citizens' Democracy. UNDP, 2005.
2 Universal Declaration on Democracy, adopted by the Council of the Interparliamentary Union in September 1997.
3 This solidarity contribution consists of nationally applied and internationally coordinated airline ticket tax. At the Africa-France Summit (Cannes, February 2007), 18 African States joined this initiative.
4 Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean: Breaking with History? 2003.
5 Challenges and opportunities for gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2003.

The UN Chronicle is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

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Documents and publications

The UN at Work


What is the relationship between the US and Latin America? ›

Most of Latin America is still part of the Organization of American States, and remains bound by the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance also known as the Rio Pact, which provides for hemispheric defense, with the exceptions of Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, all of which withdrew ...

What are the 5 organs of the United Nation explain the duty of each organ? ›

The United Nations is comprised of five main organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, and the International Court of Justice. Historically, a sixth main organ, the Trusteeship Council, played a significant role in the process of decolonization.

How many countries in Latin America United Nations? ›

There are 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean today, according to the United Nations. The full list is shown in the table below, with current population and subregion (based on the United Nations official statistics).

What is the main goal of the UN *? ›

The main objectives of the United Nations are the maintenance of international peace and security, the promotion of the well-being of the peoples of the world, and international cooperation to these ends.

What is the idea that Latin America and the United States should work together? ›

The idea that the United States and Latin America should work together came to be called Pan-Americanism.

How does the US benefit from Latin America? ›

It is the United States' fastest-growing trading partner, as well as its biggest supplier of illegal drugs. Latin America is also the largest source of U.S. immigrants, both documented and not. All of this reinforces deep U.S. ties with the region—strategic, economic, and cultural—but also deep concerns.

How many countries are not in the UN? ›

How many countries are in the world in 2022? According to Worldometer there are 195 countries in the world as of 2022. However, of these 195 countries there are two that are not member states of the United Nations.

What is the role of the United Nations in preventing conflict among nations? ›

The United Nations plays an important role in conflict prevention, using diplomacy, good offices and mediation. Among the tools the Organization uses to bring peace are special envoys and political missions in the field.

What is the most important organ of the United Nations? ›

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.

What countries are excluded from Latin America? ›

Latin America is often used synonymously with Ibero-America ("Iberian America"), excluding the predominantly Dutch-, French-, and English-speaking territories. Thus, the countries of Belize, Guyana and Suriname, as well as several French overseas departments, are excluded.

What are the five Latin countries? ›

Profiles of select Latin American countries:
  • Argentina. One of Latin America's largest countries in terms of land area, Argentina spans more than 2,780,400 km² (1,073,518 mi²) and is among the most biodiverse countries on Earth. ...
  • Brazil. ...
  • Costa Rica. ...
  • The Dominican Republic. ...
  • Puerto Rico.

Why do we call Latin America? ›

Latin America consists of Mexico, the Caribbean and most of Central and South America. In these countries, residents speak mostly Spanish and Portuguese. These two languages are classified as Romance languages, which are derived from Latin. So hence the name Latin America.

How has the United Nations changed the world? ›

The United Nations promotes and strengthens democratic institutions and practices around the world, including by helping people in many countries to participate in free and fair elections. The UN has provided electoral assistance to more than 100 countries, often at decisive moments in their history.

› stable ›

WHEN the governments of the Latin American states were taking part in the negotiations leading to the founding of the UN, they could hardly have done so with no...
The UN is an international organisation of sovereign states, containing nearly every country in the world. Only independent states may become members of the UN....

United Nations

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › United_Nations
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › United_Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations ...

Why did US become involved in Latin America? ›

During the late 1800s, the U.S. sought to expand its economic interests by developing an economy overseas. This sentiment would help expand the support for the Spanish-American War and Cuban liberation despite the U.S. previously establishing itself as anti-independence and revolution.

Why did the United States become so involved in Latin America? ›

They believed that it was their destiny to expand their territory and spread their beliefs across the world. The United States viewed Latin America as a savage place that needed saving. Americans believed that they were helping people.

How has Latin America influenced the United States? ›

The Latino population has had an impact not only on the demography of the U.S. population, but also on other aspects of U.S. society. This can be seen, for example, in the increasing popularity of Latin American food and music and in the prevalence of Spanish-language signage, advertisements, and media.

What are the main reasons the US intervened in Latin America states? ›

  • ▪ Three major reasons: Economic = wanted to.
  • dominate trade with. L.A. countries. Political = wanted.
  • America-‐style democracies in L.A. Security = Wanted the.


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