United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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Latin America and the Caribbean

Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, significant improvements in the definition of environmental policies, the implementation of related programmes, and the passage of legislation have taken place in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Newly established environmental institutions, ministries, and commissions set up to oversee environmental policy and action have greatly assisted policy implementation. These improvements result partly from national commitments to environmental issues and an interest in the principles of sustainable development on the part of both governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and partly from the impetus provided by international financing agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank (UNEP, 1996).

Economic and social changes over the past two decades have also brought policy changes that had implications for the environment. In particular, structural adjustment programmes led Governments in the region to cut social and environmental spending. This has meant the suspension of many Government-supported activities, including the<%0> abandonment of environmental planning in some countries. The pressure to raise foreign exchange has also meant that sectoral legislation (on forests, fisheries, and industry, for example) often did not incorporate environmental criteria, but was instead oriented towards the expansion of short-term productivity. Problems associated with the growth of industrial megacities, such as the lack of adequate waste treatment or disposal, have also been exacerbated by the reduction in public spending (UNEP, 1996).

In some countries, economic liberalization has also resulted in the increased concentration of land tenure in the hands of few landowners. Those with only small landholdings, unable to compete on the new open markets, have been forced to sell their land as a result. This has generated population migrations towards marginal lands and the subsequent expansion of agricultural frontiers (UNEP, 1996).

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