Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean: Context, Evolution and Current Situation | 21



Box 1-3. Food as a Human Right
The Millennium Development Goals include cutting world hunger by half by the year 2015. In the document “The Millennium Development Goals: A Latin American and Caribbean Perspective,” the section on eradicating hunger in the region emphasizes food as a human right (UNDP, 2005a). This right is recognized in the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights, which entered into force on January 3, 1976, and to which almost all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are signatories.

Article 11 of the Covenant establishes as follows:

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

(a) To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve
the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;

(b) Taking into account the problems of both foodimporting and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.”

Today, the following countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are signatories to the Covenant: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and
Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.

       The impact of neoliberal globalization on the economy of Latin America and the Caribbean is a very controversial issue. On the one hand, some analysts argue that marketoriented reforms will eventually lead to economically sustainable growth, greater equity and a better standard of living for the population (Lustig, 1995; Sadoulet and De Janvry, 1995; Lederman et al., 2003). Nonetheless, others



argue that globalization is worsening the lives of millions of Latin Americans. The statistics show that although in the 1990s (the decade of structural adjustment programs and neoliberalization) there was moderate economic growth, the number of poor by the mid-1990s was 210 million, i.e., 50 million more than the average throughout the “lost decade” of the 1980s (CEPAL, 1997; Londoño and Szekeley, 1997). On the other hand, the modest increase in economic growth has not decreased inequity in the region, which, for most
countries, is still greater than prior to the 1980s (Birdsall and Londoño, 1997; Korzeniewicz and Smith, 2000).

More than an economic model, neoliberalism has been described as a mode of domination on a national and worldwide scale that stems from the restructuring of capitalist relations (Aguirre Rojas, 2005; Gilly, 2005). In the rural sector, the effects have been favorable for those who were already economically well off, but devastating for the most dispossessed; it has resulted in greater inequality and the continuation of poverty. These inequalities are expressed both among countries and among sectors within each country (Conroy et al., 1996; UNDP, 1999; Stiglitz, 2003). For example, the economic situation that the countries of the Caribbean are facing today, especially in the Lesser Antilles, is critical. The loss of the preferential treatment that had been accorded certain products of the Antilles by the European Union and which was designed to provide economic support to the former colonies will have a devastating impact on these Caribbean countries. The European Union, pressured by the World Trade Organization, will reduce the preferential price it pays for Caribbean sugar (Theodore, 2005).

          In contrast with the neoliberal policies, centrist and center-left governments are drawing up proposals that point to an alternative path of inter-American economic cooperation. For example, the foreign ministers of the Caribbean countries have begun to draw up trade agreements with Mercosur and support the trade initiatives proposed by Brazil, which include technical assistance and cooperation programs in agriculture. Brazil has also offered the Caribbean countries generic drugs to fight AIDS. This is an important step, as the Caribbean is the region with the highest incidence of AIDS after sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, the Petro-Caribe agreement was signed between 13 Caribbean nations and Venezuela for obtaining Venezuelan oil. In addition, regional integration initiatives have taken place such as the “Caribbean Single Market” and the second CARICOMCuba meeting (Theodore, 2005).

Some countries of LAC are also putting up resistance to the negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). At the WTO meeting in Cancún, Mexico, in 2003, the resistance of a coalition of Third World countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Jamaica, brought about the collapse of the negotiations. The main demands of this coalition had to do with the exclusion of agriculture from free trade agreements (Narlikar and Tussie, 2004; Rosset, 2006).

Finally, in the economic context one cannot ignore the role of family remittances. The flow of money in the form of remittances has become a major source of financing for many countries of LAC. In the last 10 years the growth in remittances has surpassed the growth of private capital investment
and development assistance (Acosta et al., 2007). Although this is a trend worldwide, LAC is the region with