Opinion: Women are the future

Written by Mauricio Vivero, Executive Director of the Seattle International Foundation. Translated by Lara Sepulveda-Machado. Originally published in Spanish in Contrapoder.

For Guatemala, economic development depends on the partnerships between the private sector and women. An inclusive business environment that strengthens the economic inclusion of women creates progress to eradicate gender-based violence and simultaneously generates economic stimulus.

The rates are alarming. Guatemala is one of the most dangerous places in the world for women. In 2013 alone, the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) reported that more than 700 women were killed. This led the World Health Organization to condemn the country for gender-based violence, calling it an epidemic.

Guatemala has one of the worst rates of violence against women, after South Africa and India. Furthermore, it is characterized for having one of the highest inequality rates in the region. Guatemala is ranked 133 out of 187 countries by the Human Development Index, holding the penultimate place in Latin America, before Haiti.

What does violence against women and inequality mean for the largest economy in Central America?

According to the “Doing Business” ranking, Guatemala was amongst the ten countries last year that is making the most progress to improve its business climate. However, this does not mean the country has improved its development policies focused on women.

This topic was the focus of conversations at the recent World Economic Forum held in Panama. As Director of Latin America at WEF, Marisol Argueta de Barrillas stated, the governments of the region “face significant challenges to maintain these achievements and move toward sustainable growth and social cohesion.”

It is well documented that women are the most important resource for growing economies. Societies that focus on the creation of public policies that promote gender equality are more prosperous and less violent.

Governments in Latin America see public-private partnerships as means to increase access to transportation, housing and new sewage systems for marginalized communities. Why not create a public-private partnership framework that promote women’s social inclusion and strengthens their participation in the formal economy of Guatemala?

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The Humanitarian “Cold War” Crisis at Our Doorstep


Written by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation. Originally published on the Huffington Post Impact blog.

Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea has some U.S. policymakers dusting off the Cold War playbook. Looking at Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine and the slew of speeches flung back-and-forth between the White House and the Kremlin, they recall a not-so-distant history when the problems of countries and regions were understood not on their own terms, but rather through the narrow lens of superpower rivalry. Some of the rhetoric we hear today has echoes of that perspective.

For some observers, our neighbors in Central America in particular, this comes as no surprise. Seeing Central America through a narrow lens has been a longstanding problem that continues to this day. At one time, the U.S. government saw every issue in the region as part of a proxy battle with the Soviets. U.S. involvement in Central America’s internal affairs — including covert operations, CIA-engineered coups, and cozy relations with repressive governments — was justified by the need to prevent the spread of communism in our hemisphere.

But the end of the Cold War didn’t stop U.S. policymakers from seeing Central America through a narrow lens; the focus merely shifted away from communism and toward the drug war.

Today’s U.S. policy in the region has one focus: to stop drug-trafficking organizations that State Department and Pentagon officials alike consider a matter of national security because they stimulate drug abuse and violence in the United States, undermine democracies in the region, and can potentially finance terrorists. During the past decade, the United States has militarized the war on drugs, not only training law enforcement agents in Latin American nations, but also involving their militaries and pouring money into radars, planes and ships. At $20 billion dollars, it is the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War.

Read the rest of the article on the Huffington Post here.

Indigenous women fall through the cracks in Latin America


According to a new report release by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), indigenous women in Latin America continue to face great institutional discrimination and difficult access to employment as compared to indigenous women in other parts of the world.

The report was presented to a group of over 180 women representing indigenous groups in Asia, Africa, and Australasia. The study breaks up indigenous women in Latin America into two groups, those living in urban centers and those living in rural areas.

When combined with endemic poverty rates, women in rural areas were twice as likely to die from childbirth. In Puno, Guatemala, an area populated by indigenous Quechua and Aymara the rate rose by an additional 45 percent in 2011.

Access to education improved dramatically as compared to the year 2000 where about 50 percent of indigenous youth, both girls and boys, were not in the education system at all.

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Americas Quarterly Launches second annual Social Inclusion Index


Photo: Americas Quarterly

Washington D.C.  – On July 24, the America Society/Council of the Americas held a pre-publication briefing of the second annual Social Inclusion Index, to be released in summer issue of the Americas Quarterly.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index evaluates 16 countries in the Western Hemisphere on access to public and private goods by race/ethnicity and gender, attitudes toward empowerment and government responsiveness, and the protection of basic civil, political, and human rights.

The Index adds three new variables and four additional countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama), as well as new data on race and gender pertaining to women’s rights, LGBT rights, and financial inclusion. The publication of the Index was supported in part by the Seattle International Foundation.

At the event, AS/COA leadership provided an overview of findings and analysis of results for women and LGBT rights, financial access, and comparison to homicide rates in Central America. A discussion followed, with input from regional experts from the Inter-America Development Bank (IDB) and The World Bank. Introductory Remarks were given by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation.

To view the webcast of the pre-publication briefing please click here.

The 2013 Social Inclusion Index will be available starting July 31 at www.americasquarterly.org/socialinclusion2013 .

For more information, visit http://www.as-coa.org/issue-category/social-inclusion-development

Kerry attends OAS summit in Guatemala; drug policy tops agenda


The Organization of American States (OAS) held the 43rd general assembly from June 4-6 in Antigua, Guatemala.

One of the most important issues on the agenda is reevaluating alternative strategies to the current US-backed war on drugs.

Prior to the beginning of the annual event, the OAS published a groundbreaking report advocating for decriminalizing some drug use. This is a move that was first proposed last year by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina himself.

Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based organization that advocates for reassessing the US’ stance on preventing narcotics trafficking said the report “presents four possibilities for how drug policy could evolve in the Americas, most of which break from the current U.S.-led approach. The report is the first of its kind, providing a thoughtful and detailed visualization of alternatives to the existing drug prohibition regime.”

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SIF convenes key leaders to discuss collaboration in the region

Fernando Carrera, Secretary of Planning and Programming (SEGEPLAN) – Government of Guatemala and Helen Mack, Founder of Fundación Myrna Mack participate in the opening plenary on Guatemala at the Central America Donors Forum, held at Microsoft Headquarters on June 19, 2012.

To view photos from this event, click here

On June 19, 2012, over 130 donors and development experts working in Central America gathered at the Microsoft headquarters for SIF’s Central America Donors Forum. This event provided a unique opportunity for learning and deeper engagement on priority issues, successful models, and opportunities for networking and co-investment in the region.

Representatives from the IDB, U.S. Department of State, USAID, foundations, and Central American civil society leaders lead panel discussions around critical issues such as women’s rights, civil security, investing in youth, and opportunities for collaboration. For the complete agenda and list of participants, please click here.

Michael Solis of OYE Adelante Jovenes writes about the event in the Huffington Post Impact Blog:

“At the second annual Central American Donors Forum in Seattle, Julieta Castellanos spoke about the threats facing Central America. Among them, she cited rising homicide rates in what is now considered to be the most dangerous region on earth outside of a warzone. She focused on Honduras, a nation “in crisis” that currently ranks first among the world’s most violent countries….” To read the full article about the event in the HuffPost, click here.

To read about the event on KPLU’s Humanosphere, click here.

About the blog:
This blog was created to support the Central America Network and encourage dialogue around relevant research, news and poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
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