CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Human Development

Human Development

Despite recent improvements, Latin America continues to be noted for its high levels of poverty and inequality as well as its protracted dependence on primary exports. The balancing of economic development and social policies has been a constant theme in the region, yet it has been accomplished haltingly, and to varied degrees across countries. The vaunted promises of economic liberalization in the 1990s stoked the expectations of the masses, mobilized politically in the advent of concurrent democratization processes. But the reform process, incomplete as it was, failed to deliver on those promises. The result was a general repudiation of liberalizing reforms and a dangerous disenchantment with the institutions of representative democracy. Most countries then shifted towards a greater preoccupation with strong institutions and active state participation in social policy. This participation took different forms, ranging from conditional transfer programs targeted to the most vulnerable social sectors, to far-ranging proposals for twenty-first century socialism. Together with strong economic growth most of these programs brought significant reductions in poverty and broadened the ranks of an emergent middle class. Inequality also registered progress, though not universally. Questions remain, however, regarding the sustainability of these gains. Strong demand for commodities, mainly from China, has lessened incentives to seek diversification of productive structures. If the current uncertainty affecting global growth lowers this demand, the consequences to economic growth in the region could be adverse. While macroeconomic prudence is well established in most countries (with Venezuela and Argentina as possible exceptions) and debt burdens are generally low, currency flows are resulting in the appreciation of exchange rates which are hurting export competitiveness. Slow productivity growth in most countries also limits growth. Coupled with meager tax revenues, this restricts the capabilities of states to invest in the human and physical capital necessary to foster equitable and sustainable development in the long-term.

Key general research questions in this area include the following:

  • What, if any, will be the dominant paradigm guiding economic reform?
  • How can the region overcome the obstacles to governability posed by the new inclusiveness of its political systems?
  • How can states foster greater human security without democratic reversions?
  • How do the efforts of states compare in the fight against poverty and inequality? Are there standards of measurement?
  • How can states prioritize their use of resources to maximize human wellbeing?
  • How can state capacities be bolstered to deliver the requisites of strong and sustainable increases in human development?
  • What can states do to foster innovation, productivity, and overall competitiveness?
  • How can states move their productive structures away from natural resource dependence?

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Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay

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Join the Environmental Studies Program and the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University in welcoming Daniel Renfrew, West Virginia University, who will giving a talk titled Life without Lead: Contamination, Crisis, and Hope in Uruguay on Thursday, February 21 at 5:00 PM in the Stone Auditorium as part of the EVST Focus on the Environment (FOTE) Speaker Series.

Life without Lead examines the social, political and environmental dimensions of a devastating lead poisoning epidemic. Drawing from a political ecology of health perspective, Daniel Renfrew situates the Uruguayan lead contamination crisis in relation to neoliberal reform, globalization, and the resurgence of the political Left in Latin America. He traces the rise of an environmental social justice movement and the local and transnational circulation of environmental ideologies and contested science. Through fine-grained ethnographic analysis, this book shows how combating contamination intersected with class politics, explores the relationship of lead poisoning to poverty, and debates the best way to identify and manage an unprecedented local environmental health problem.

Daniel Renfrew is an associate professor of Anthropology. He received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Binghamton University, State University of New York in 2007. Dr. Renfrew joined the WVU faculty in Fall 2008 after a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Towson University. Dr. Renfrew’s research interests span the environmental, urban, critical medical and political anthropology sub-fields, and his research draws from and contributes to interdisciplinary scholarship on political ecology, social movements, science and technology studies, and Latin American studies. His research has focused in particular on anthropological and political ecological analyses of environmental conflicts.

CIPR Speaker Series Critical Issues in Democractic Governance welcomes Sara Niedzwiecki

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Join the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies in welcoming Dr. Sara Niedzwieckia as part of the spring speaker series Critical Issues in Democratic Governance, on Friday, February 22, in 110A Jones Hall. Dr. Niedzwiecki will give a talk entitled Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America. Social policies can transform the lives of the poor and marginalized, yet implementation often limits their access. By examining variation in political motivations, state capacity, and policy legacies, it explains why some social policies are implemented more effectively than others, why some deliver votes to incumbent governments while others do not, and why regionally elected executives block the implementation of some but not all national policies. This analysis combines case studies with statistical analysis of conditional cash transfers and health policies in Argentina and Brazil.

The event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.

Dr. Niedzwiecki is an assistant professor of Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (2014). Her research focuses on comparative welfare states, multilevel governance, and Latin America. She is interested in the process through which social policies are formed and implemented in Latin America and beyond. Additionally, she studies the territorial structure of government, with an emphasis on the measurement of the authority of regional governments across countries.

Dr. Niedzwiecki’s forthcoming book examines the conditions under which social policies are successfully implemented in decentralized countries. More specifically, she examines how politics and capacity at state and local levels shape the implementation of healthcare and Conditional Cash Transfers. It draws from extensive fieldwork conducted in Brazil and Argentina.

David Smilde to join TULASO and debate team to discuss Venezuelan politics and US involvement

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Tulane Undergraduate Latin American Studies Organization (TULASO) and the Tulane Debate Team are proud to present a debate on the recent political crisis in Venezuela on Tuesday, February 26th at 8:00 PM in Jones 102. Professor David Smilde, the Charles A. And Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations and a Senior Fellow for the Washington Office on Latin America, will be participating in the event. Professor Smilde will be providing his expertise to give a background on Venezuelan internal politics while the debate will focus on U.S. involvement in Venezuela.

All are welcome to come view and learn from the debate as well as enjoy some delicious Latin American food.

Email Sofia Zemser at szemser@tulane.edu for additional information.

Follow TULASO on Facebook and Instagram (@tulanetulaso) to stay up to date on upcoming events.

Exiles within Exiles: The Extraordinary Life of Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary

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Join us in welcoming James N. Green for a talk entitled Exiles within Exiles: The Extraordinary Life of Herbert Daniel, Gay Brazilian Revolutionary on Wednesday, February 27, at 4:00 PM in Jones Hall 100A.

The talk is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Christopher Dunn.

James N. Green is the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Professor of Modern Latin American History and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Director of the Brazil Initiative at Brown University. He received his doctorate in Latin American history, with a specialization in Brazil, at UCLA in 1996. He has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and lived eight years in Brazil. He served as the Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University from 2005 to 2008. He is a past president of the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) and served as the President of the New England Council on Latin American Studies (NECLAS) in 2008 and 2009. He is currently the Director of Brown’s Brazil Initiative; the Executive Director of the Brazilian Studies Association, housed at Brown; and the Director of the Opening the Archives Project.

The event is sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and the Department of History.

Critical Issues in Democratic Governance: Spring 2019 CIPR Series

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Latin America faces major threats to democratic governance, but there are also new opportunities for grassroots mobilization and social policy expansion. In Critical Issues in Democratic Governance the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research will host speakers to discuss emerging issues that have surfaced in democratic governance in the region. In Brazil, the AIDS movement constructed a powerful new advocacy coalition, with coordination between bureaucrats and activities. In Argentina and Brazil, there are sharp contrasts in the social welfare policies that governors and mayors have implemented, with profound consequences for livelihood of the poor and marginalized. Finally, the outbreak of violence across Latin America, under democratic regimes raises questions about how criminal organizations compete for influence over transnational illicit networks and infiltrate the state.

Spring 2019 Schedule

February 8, 2019
State-Sponsored Activism: Bureaucrats and Social Movements in Democratic Brazil
Jessica Rich, Marquette University

February 22, 2019
4:00 – 6:00 PM
Greenleaf Conference Room in Jones 100A
Uneven Social Policies: The Politics of Subnational Variation in Latin America
Sara Niedzwiecki, University of California, Santa Cruz

April 5, 2019
Homicidal Ecologies: Illicit Economies and Complicit States in Latin America
Deborah Yashar, Princeton University

Please RSVP to cipr@tulane.edu.