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Regional cooperation in Latin America

Progress has been made in Latin America over the last 20 years. At the same time, many countries have weak institutions, high levels of corruption, massive inequality and a lack of respect for human rights. Sida's regional work in Latin America includes strengthening respect for human rights, improving conditions for migrants and ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources.

Progress has been made

Increased access to education

More and more young people in the region have access to education, especially girls and young women. The gap in educational attainment between rural and urban areas is steadily narrowing.

Poverty has been reduced

The region’s economies have improved over the past 20 years and poverty has been reduced. However, the pandemic has led to a sharp economic downturn with increased unemployment and poverty in many countries.

More natural resources protected

The percentage of land and water areas protected has increased, even though natural resources are under great pressure. More than 5 million square kilometres are marine protected areas. That’s 130 times more than 20 years ago.1

Challenges remain

Societies with gender inequality

Gender equality is lacking on many levels. The region has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Women often do most of the unpaid work in the home. Gender-based violence is widespread. 2,3

Rainforest and loss of biodiversity

Deforestation in the Amazon and other parts of Latin America accounts for more than 40 % of global tropical deforestation. The threats to those working to protect the environment are the greatest in the world, with Colombia the worst affected.

Democracy is under siege

Freedom of expression is under attack in several countries in Latin America. Journalists are being threatened and the number of journalists murdered of journalists is increasing.5 Corruption is widespread and has worsened in several countries in the region over the last decade.6

Development cooperation in Latin America

Although there are major differences between the countries of Latin America, the challenges are similar. Weak institutions and corruption contribute to the often low level of trust in democracy among citizens. In many parts of the region, people are protesting against political decisions, and for reforms and greater transparency.

Latin America is home to much of the world’s biodiversity, but increasing deforestation is causing this to decline rapidly. Unevenly distributed land access and land-grabbing contribute to conflicts.

The region is home to more than 800 indigenous and traditional ethnic groups.

Human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality

Civil society and social movements have a long tradition in Latin America. They organise and promote rights issues relating to the environment, indigenous peoples, LGBTQI people, women, trade union rights, democracy and peace. In some countries, it has become more difficult for civil society to operate. Threats, attacks and murders of human rights and environmental defenders are common. In recent years, gender equality activists have gained visibility and impact for their issues, but at the same time resistance from conservative groups is increasing.

Sida supports regional projects that strengthen democracy, freedom of expression, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), access to justice, respect for human rights and protection for human rights defenders.

Increasing respect for human rights

Sida supports the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. When national courts have not been able to resolve an issue, it can be referred to the Inter-American Court. This contributes to fairer judgements and respect for human rights in the region. Sida helps to increase the capacity of the court and during the pandemic, thanks to Sida’s support, the court was able to hold more hearings virtually.

Inter-American Court website

Support for human rights

Sida supports the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which empowers people and organisations in Latin America to claim their rights, act on human rights violations and monitor how countries implement court decisions. The OHCHR also provides technical assistance to state institutions to strengthen their efforts to guarantee people’s rights and freedoms.

OHCHR website

Strengthening the right to sexual and reproductive health

Access to sexuality education, contraception and health services related to sexual and reproductive health is often limited. Several countries in the region have laws that severely restrict or prohibit abortion. This makes unsafe abortions more common and exposes women to significant health risks.7 Sida is working with the regional organisations Ipas and Fòs Feminista to improve access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and to improve laws and policies on abortion in the region.

Environment, climate and sustainable use of natural resources

Latin America is home to 60-70% of the world’s biodiversity, 30 % of its freshwater, and some of the most fertile soil types. The Amazon is home to more than ten percent (about three million) of the world’s species. Deforestation is alarming and biodiversity is declining.

Latin America’s population is increasing and is expected to have grown by 18 % by 2050.8 Increased consumption, together with climate change, is driving loss of biodiversity.

Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate, partly to make way for crops, pastures and mines. This is affecting climate and weather, both in the region and globally. Latin America is vulnerable to natural disasters. Climate change is contributing to the displacement of people.

Enhancing biodiversity, mitigating the effects of climate change and combating poverty

Preserving biodiversity and protecting ecosystems is essential for people to lift themselves out of poverty. It is also important for societies to successfully withstand, manage and recover from crises and stresses such as climate change and natural disasters. Sida cooperates with the EU, development banks, intergovernmental stakeholders, civil society organisations, research institutions and Swedish stakeholders.

In 2022, Sida will launch new partnerships focusing on:

  • Promoting conditions required for sustainable use and management of transboundary natural resources
  • Limiting climate impact and increasing resilience to climate change
  • Improving conditions required for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and its ecosystem services

Migration and development

Political, economic and social challenges are contributing to Latin America experiencing the largest refugee and migration crisis in the region’s history. Many people have been forced to flee Venezuela, as well as Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. There are many internally displaced persons within the countries. Violence, lack of human security, climate change, natural disasters and social conflicts also contribute to the refugee situation. Many migrants and displaced persons have their fundamental rights violated.

Integration for migrants

Since 2014, nearly 6 million migrants have left Venezuela, many as refugees.9 Sida supports projects that contribute to the integration of Venezuelan migrants. A key objective is to increase their income opportunities, both as employees and as self-employed. The project is implemented by the UN migration agency, IOM.

About the work in Venezuela on IOM website

Vocational training and decent jobs

As a migrant, it is often difficult to find a job with decent conditions and a living wage. Sida supports the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which provides Venezuelan migrants and refugees with jobs in Colombia, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Vocational training in the host countries is part of the project. Sida supports public employment services to better match people with job vacancies. In addition, the project improves labour market information systems and data on labour migration.

ILO website

Updated: October 6, 2022