"We reaffirm our support for the mandates and commitments undertaken at...the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (New York, 2000)...and the High-level Plenary Meeting of the Sixtieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly (New York, 2005) as a fundamental condition for the sustainable development of our countries." - Fourth Summit of the Americas, Declaration of Mar del Plata, November 2005
In November 2003, a conference was organized in Brazil to promote political consensus around the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Latin America and the Caribbean. The outcome of this meeting was the Brasilia Declaration, signed by heads of state, parliamentarians, senior officials, civil society, and the private sector. The declaration reinforced the partnership principle inherent in the MDGs and spelled out the responsibilities of governments, legislators, civil society, and the international community.
The concept of economic, social, and cultural rights with a special emphasis on the right to health is a political commitment expressed in the "Protocol of San Salvador”. Building on this concept, the Summit of the Americas Process, through its High-Level Hemispheric Head of State Meetings held every four years, and the Resolutions and Plans of Action they produce, have made clear that the MDGs are the centerpiece of development and the promotion of health in the region.
While the Americas seem to fare well in comparison with other Regions of the world, analyses have suggested that no country in the region is likely to reach all of the MDG targets. Indeed, some of the greatest challenges for the countries of the Americas lie within the health area, along with the reduction of poverty.
The region as a whole is on a good track for meeting the goal of reducing hunger, infant malnutrition and mortality, access to safe drinking water and gender equity in education. However, progress varies enormously between countries, therefore it is important to look beyond regional averages and focus on the most vulnerable groups and the worst areas. Regional advancement towards the goals in some areas has not been sufficient, and efforts must be maintained on poverty reduction - especially as an adverse pattern has developed where the countries with the highest poverty rates tend to improve less.
Another challenge is maternal mortality, as efforts have not yielded the expected outcomes. While the region has seen an increase in the number of children of all genders attending elementary school, there is still a long road ahead before universal primary education becomes a reality. It is necessary to make further efforts to move ahead on basic sanitation and environmental sustainability. Within this context, health plays a pivotal role that assists and strengthens all efforts in poverty alleviation. For the Americas, the MDGs constitute a historic opportunity to attain the highest level of political will to target efforts to reduce poverty and therefore improve health.