Ten years of the Montevideo Consensus: Navigating poverty and inequality in an ageing region

In November 2023, the ECLAC policy leaders convened in Santiago, Chile, to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Montevideo Consensus. Regional Director for the Americas, Diego Aguilar reflects on this meeting, and the importance of funded National Dementia Plans to ensure social protection for the ageing population of the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

In Latin American and Caribbean countries, not only age, but also poverty, are the biggest risk factors for dementia. Surprisingly, only eight countries in the region have consolidated National Dementia Plans and many of these are unfunded. Despite civil society’s efforts to raise awareness, many governments are still ignoring dementia in a rapidly aging region, even though the clock is ticking for the WHO Global Action Plan on the public health response to dementia, due in 2025. 

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) the region is navigating turbulent waters characterized by socioeconomic crisis, labor informality, inflationary pressures and slowing investment. This has resulted in a decline in well-being and an increase in poverty rates, accentuating the multiple and interrelated inequalities present in the region for centuries. 

A decade after its adoption, the Montevideo Consensus has served as a guiding light to consolidate the human rights approach with a gender, intercultural and intergenerational focus in public policies in Latin American and Caribbean countries. This unique and cutting-edge document, signed in 2013 in Uruguay, has undoubtedly visualized regional inequalities related to socioeconomic status, age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, migration status and disability. However, there is much work ahead. 

During the 10th Anniversary of the Consensus, The Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Centre (CELADE), the Population Division of ECLAC, organized a side event on public policies for Older Persons with delegates from civil society and the governments of Cuba, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. Veronica Montes de Oca presented her research on best practices in the region and ADI contributed to the dialogue, highlighting the demographics that show that dementia is a key issue in care policy. Furthermore, ADI raised the importance of risk reduction in tackling the projected rise in dementia cases across the region, the issue of stigma that still surrounds the condition of dementia, and the necessity of National Dementia Plans as part of the region’s policies for development and population. 

People aged 60 or older are among the population groups that have been historically marginalized and excluded in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2023, it is estimated this group accounts for 14% of the total population, 91.6 million across the region, of which 50.8 million are women and 40.8 million are men. This group is expected to increase faster than any other age group, reaching 25% of the population by 2050. 

Care plays an essential role in all societies. Throughout the life course, all people depend on the care of others, and as the world’s population grows and ages, the demand for care increases. The majority of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have adopted this society of care approach after the Montevideo Consensus and the recent Buenos Aires Commitment (2022), adopted by ECLAC countries to promote care policy in the region. Yet tangible results are still scarce.  

On the tenth anniversary of the Montevideo Consensus, a meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean convened in Santiago, Chile. One of the main concerns raised during the convention was accelerated population aging and the assurance of social protection. Delegates agreed on the necessity to consolidate public policy that encourages the development of social security, health and education services, entitlements, and to incorporate care into social protection systems.  

Indeed, the necessity of public policy that assures social protection is especially crucial for palliative and long-term care. 

The ECLAC region truly faces many challenges in the years ahead. Tools such as the Montevideo Consensus, local care policies and National Dementia Plans, can transform the reality of millions of people and reduce the global cost of dementia on the world economy, which is forecasted to double, reaching a staggering figure of 2.8 trillion US Dollars. However, this will only happen if governments take action with the impulse of civil society.  The clock is ticking, but there is still time left to ensure that no one is left behind. 


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