What inequality looks like
As the 21st century began, Mexico and Central America were in the midst of a major transformation. Electoral systems were making political participation a reality for millions, and governments were launching significant institutional reforms. The region seemed ready to leave its history of dictatorship and authoritarianism behind. While progress has been made on some fronts, the work of ensuring equality for all members of society remains unfinished.
Across the region, wealth has increased significantly for a few, while opportunities for the majority contract. Weak regulations and systemic shortfalls have slowed economic growth and enabled the exploitation of natural resources, jeopardizing the livelihoods of rural and indigenous populations. Low minimum wages and lax labor standards mean it is increasingly difficult for poor families to make ends meet. Yet in the face of these many challenges, the region itself holds the key to shifting the balance, reducing corruption, and upholding the rule of law.
Governments that work for all
Given the magnitude of the region’s challenges, government must be at the center of any solution. Government at all levels must serve the broad public interest, not just a small elite, and ensure that everyone is treated equally under the law.
Low-wage workers and poor, rural communities (and, within those, indigenous peoples, women, and youth) are the most significantly disadvantaged groups in the region. So it is important for governments to establish and enforce adequate labor conditions, ensure that rural communities have access to public and natural resources—particularly land and forests—and implement policies that allow these communities to thrive. With change driven by a strong and diverse civil society, independent media, and creative thought leaders from a range of sectors—local communities, government allies, businesses, universities, and civil society organizations—the region can become a more just and inclusive place for all its people.