Uruguay: A Great Opportunity for Change

2 Nov 2009
Uruguay: A Great Opportunity for Change

Uruguay is one of the eight pilot countries of the UN Reform and the only high middle income country with the highest levels of human development in Latin America. According to the Human Development Report 2007/2008, Uruguay ranks 46th among the 70 countries classified as having “high” human development. However, a complex process of social change along with a severe economic and financial crisis in 2002, put the once “small model country” in trouble.

In recent years, unheard of levels of poverty (half of the children born in Uruguay come from poor or extremely poor households), demographic stagnation and emigration have put the country before an abyss of unexpected challenges, making the social and economic foundations of Uruguayan society vulnerable.

However, social investment efforts in Uruguay are supported by the country’s solid institutional framework, and its existing capacities form a fertile ground for innovation. Relatively small efforts can therefore still make a significant contribution in Uruguay.

Catalyzing innovative interventions

The Uruguay One UN Programme’s eleven joint programmes, funded through the One UN Coherence Fund, provide a unique opportunity for the Government of Uruguay and the UN System to team up and address many of the challenges facing the country. One of the best examples of this is the joint programme on “Development of tools for environmental monitoring”, where UNEP and UNESCO have worked closely with numerous Government offices to support environmental protection through the development of monitoring instruments that incorporate socio-economic, environmental and territorial indicators. To reach these goals, many organizations – public, private and civil society based – were called upon to share their own diverse indicators. The project allowed the unification of scattered information, which resulted in a true road map for decision and policy-making in all areas, environmental, productive and social. The information, which will be made publically available, will be updated regularly and will be included in the cartographic base, also initiated by the project.

Another revealing example is the Project “Support of the modernization processes of public management”. As part of its activities, numerous Citizens’ Centers have been established in strategic locations. Their aim is to improve access to people of scarce resources or living in unpopulated areas, a wide range of services and public information, helping them to fulfill their rights. As in most other cases in the country, a relatively small external investment has enabled the Government, with the support of the UN, to address considerable challenges.

The benefits of collaboration

The eleven joint programmes of the One UN Programme have shown that appropriate strategic actions can generate major changes, and considerable results can be achieved with relatively few resources.

Many of the problems faced by middle income countries are caused by the inabilities and inadequacies of the State as an institution. Civil and social fragmentation and lack of innovation are two of the daily aspects to be overcome.

A challenge with added values

Recent efforts made in Uruguay to address some of the country’s key social and economic shortcomings, particularly through the “One UN Programme”, have resulted in a wealth of lessons learned and knowledge that can be drawn upon, both locally and globally. Some of these include:

a)   Global lessons. Locked in their own contradictions, middle income countries require supplementary assistancethat will enable them to reach a higher level of development. Results of intervention in Uruguay, can apply to a vast range of middle income countries.

b)   Innovation lab. Uruguay is a real-life laboratory for possible actions towards development, where the country’s characteristics and dimensions allow the implementation of experimental or avant-garde programmes, which, after being appropriately evaluated and adjusted can become the foundation for future cooperation models.

c)    One UN. Being a pilot opens a pathway for developing new scenarios for cooperation and programming. “Delivering as One” makes possible the joint presence of all expertise of the entire UN System. From the perspective of the UN this means a common voice in discussions with the Government and the knowledge of diverse agencies working together to canalize resources appropriately through the One UN Coherence Fund.

d)   Public coherence. Similarly, as seen from the Government, the joint programming and the harmonization efforts made possible through the “One UN Programme” has also enabled the Government to become more coherent. A “One UN” also implies a “One Government”, with shared objectives, inter-institutional discussions and agreements, plural consultations, as well as coordination of activities, mandates and efforts.

e)   Social potential. Uruguay’s history of solid institutions and democratic values turn it into a reference of policies. Furthermore, because it is located at the heart of an increasingly interconnected Southern Cone, it is reasonable to think that the accomplishments made in Uruguay could have an impact in many countries in the region.

f)    Goals are possible to reach. The “One UN Programme” in Uruguay has proven that results are within reach. Failure to continue this effort might not only hamper the ability to reach the goals of the specific projects, but also seriously jeopardize the possibility of the country reaching wider development and human rights standards.

For more information on the Uruguay One UN Coherence Fund, Click here

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