Media Center

Press Release


  October 9, 2003

A high-level meeting continued today on Margarita Island, Venezuela, with ministers and other senior officials responsible for anti-poverty programs in Organization of American States (OAS) member countries discussing strategies to redress poverty and inequality in the hemisphere.

Inaugurated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and OAS Secretary General César Gaviria Wednesday evening, the High-Level Meeting on Poverty, Equity and Social Inclusion will conclude on Friday with a hemispheric declaration underscoring the region’s pressing socio-economic problems while reaffirming the member states’ political will to combat them.

President Chávez opened the meeting stressing that “without freedom, equality and democracy there is no justice.” He renewed his administration’s commitment to tackle poverty and, alluding to Brazilian President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s commitment, said “Venezuelans are saying ‘no to hunger,’ and ‘no to poverty’.”

The Secretary General, meanwhile, observed that “poverty has always been a pressing problem in our region—an inexhaustible source of pain, frustration, upheavals, revolutions and deferred dreams.” He argued that this meeting would help ensure that hemispheric integration and the campaign against poverty “deliver the more democratic, more just hemisphere that our citizens demand and deserve.”

According to Gaviria, the state as well as multilateral financial agencies have a role to play in ridding the region of this scourge. “The state must be vigorous and efficient in its management control; provide the private sector an opportunity to build infrastructure and engage civil society in social programs in a transparent manner; and create conditions that are conducive to foreign investment,” the Secretary General asserted.

Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS Jorge Valero, who is Chairman of the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CEPCIDI), said the “historic” Margarita conference is the first time that poverty is the focus of discussion by the hemisphere’s nations.

Also addressing the opening session, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Enrique Iglesias argued that poverty has increased in the Americas over the past three years, and urged the governments to give the issue greater priority. Poverty is caused by, among other factors, bad distribution of wealth, inefficient public spending, and lack of investment in education, according to Iglesias.

Venezuela’s Health and Social Development Minister, Roger Capella, outlined his government’s achievements in social development, notably an increased number of children in preschool, lower illiteracy rates and expanded health services. “The war on poverty cannot continue to be merely rhetoric in official pronouncements,” he stressed.

Organized under the auspices of the OAS/CEPCIDI, the meeting is also drawing participation by experts from the United Nations, the World Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the Latin American Economic System (SELA), among other international organizations. In today’s debates, panelists from these and other institutions are offering perspectives on the poverty challenge in the Americas. They are also discussing the need to integrate economic and social development policies.

Other issues being discussed include methodology problems arising from definitions and ways of measuring poverty as well as lessons learned from anti-poverty programs that involve joint efforts by the government, civil society and the private sector.

Reference: E-194/03