MEXICO CITY- Promoting policies for children's education and protection of the elderly are two of the main challenges Latin American governments will have to deal with in the face of changes in its demographic structure.
Around one thousand experts have gathered to study these challenges at the second meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which began on Tuesday in Mexico City and concludes on Thursday.
The forum, titled "Population Dynamics as an Axis of Sustainable Development: the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development for Reducing Inequalities in the Framework of Human Rights," aims at finding solutions to the evolution of the region's population, which will increase by 87 million in the next 15 years.
It was inaugurated by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who said population data allows the government to "predict, plan and take better decisions."
Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or CEPAL, said it was "very important" to see what the demographic structure was going to be in future, in order to implement measures that anticipate "new needs and risks."
For instance, she pointed out, with 52 percent of the current population of the region aged between 0 and 29 years, it was imperative to invest in children and youth to "break the vicious circle of poverty and inequality," which, according to her, involves placing emphasis on education with a view to productive integration and employment, eradicating violence among youth and achieving universal access to justice.
"Life expectancy has gone up like never before in recent decades, which is putting pressure on systems of social protection, designed much earlier in the '60s," said Barcena.
"Today, the medical expenses of old people are three to five times higher than what they are for the young, which creates a need to be prepared to face the issue of the ageing population," she added.
According to Barcena, one of the main aims of the forum is to get participating countries to approve an operational guide to implement the consensus reached at the first meeting held in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 2013, and a timetable for the measures to be adopted.
The first meeting in Montevideo concluded with a progressive agenda that revised regional policy against abortion, pushed for sex education and women's rights, among other issues.
Apart from discussing ways to put these decisions into practice, the forum will also tackle other priority issues for the region, including indigenous populations, people of African descent, human rights and gender equality.
The meeting is organized by CEPAL in collaboration with the Mexican government and support from United Nations Population Fund.
Prominent experts who will speak at the event are Latin American and Caribbean Demographic Center Director Dirk Jaspers, various deputy ministers, and the daughter of the Cuban president, Mariela Castro, who is director of the National Center for Sexual Education of the Caribbean nation.