Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chiapas Governor Recognized for Work on MDGs

Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, with more than 14% of its population living in extreme poverty. If you recall, this was also the site of an uprising by a mostly indigenous group,  the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), in the 1990s. The  EZLN, commonly known as the Zapatistas, were protesting massive inequality and poverty and the government's refusal to fully recognize indigenous rights in Mexico.  While the Zapatistas did not force immediate change, they succeeded in bringing attention to the extreme problems of poverty in southern Mexico.

The message was not lost on Juán Sabines Guerrero, who was elected governor of Chiapas in 2006, representing a coalition of three center-left parties. Sabines recognized that one way to even begin to bring Chiapas out of poverty was to implement the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Before he assumed his post in December 2006, the governor said he read a report from UN Development Programme (UNDP) suggesting that most of Mexico had the resources to meet the MDGs.  There were three states where this was not the case, including Chiapas. "It always seemed  a given that our state was at the bottom of the list in terms of human development," said Sabines.  "But it did not have to be this way."

With the assistance of Magdy Martínez Solimán, the UNDP's resident coordinator in Mexico, and the federal government, Sabines implemented a program that would place a high priority on addressing poverty and all its causes. There was strong emphasis on initiatives to improve maternal health, primary education, child mortality, environmental sustainabilty and extreme hunger.

But the effort required more than words.  To put the plan into action, Sabines needed money.  So what did he do?  He made sure that the state budget placed a high priority on programs related to human development.  As a result, the equivalent of US$600 million will be dedicated to a range of social and anti-poverty programs during the coming year.  Read More

UN Confers Special Award to Sabines 
So after four years in office, has the effort worked?

The UN answers that question with  a resounding YES!  On October 27, 2010, the UN conferred the “Más Naciones Unidas en México” (More United Nations in Mexico) award to Sabines, recognizing the breakthroughs his administration has fostered and the actions accomplished in meeting the MDGs.  Read media accounts in English  and in Spanish

Sabines follows in the steps of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who also placed a high priority on the MDGs in an effort to combat poverty in his country.

Here's a quote from Martínez Solimán
Chiapas is now a better place to live in, and the governor’s administration is responsible for this. This is proof...that things can change if we are willing 
The life expectancy of mothers in Chiapas is now longer because we’ve worked to improve human development. Furthermore, the mortality rate of children in the state is now the lowest in the country. Governor Guerrero, Chiapas’ children are now safe, and it’s all thanks to you and your hard work.
But Sabines realized that Chiapas is still a long way from fully eradicating poverty, and he wanted the commitment to continue beyond his administration.  Working with the state legislature in 2010, he ensured that meeting the MDGs became part of the Chiapas State Constitution.  Said Martínez Solimán:
There are many constitutions that support the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, but none has made it a point to incorporate the Millennium Development Goals  
 Read full account

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