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In recent years, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, under the direction of President Hugo Chávez, has made giant leaps in the realm of social development. With social programs such as the Bolivarian Missions, Venezuela has made tremendous progress in areas such as health, education, and poverty. Through what President Hugo Chávez terms 21st Century Socialism[1], Venezuela has been able to fix many of its domestic issues. Many of the social policy pursued by Chávez and his administration were jumpstarted by the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals that Venezuela and 188 other nations agreed to in September 2000.[2] In each of the goals, Venezuela has made improvements, and at this rate, will meet all eight of the goals by their 2015 deadline.

Social Development[edit]

When Venezuela, along with 188 other nations, agreed to the Millennium Development Goals, each country pledged to use social policy to achieve each of the eight goals. Venezuela has been able to make substantial progress in all of the goals and will reach all of the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline.[3] The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Ali Abdessalam Treki, stated “What Venezuela has achieved with regards to the Millennium Development Goals should serve as a model for all other countries."[4]

The country has allocated much of its government spending on social policy. From 1999-2009, 60 percent of government revenues focused on social programs.[3] Social investment went from 8.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1988 to 18.8 percent in 2008.[5] Through this social spending, Venezuela has been able to stay on track to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

Millennium Development Goals[edit]

In 2000, the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals, eight goals that combat social problems in our world today.[6] The eight goals are as follows: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development. In the last decade, Venezuela has made substantial progress in relation to the Millennium Development Goals. At the September 2010 UN Summit, Jorge Valero, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs stated: “Venezuela has achieved the majority of the Millennium Development Goals.”[3] As of now, Venezuela is on target to meet all of the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger[edit]

  • Target 1A: Halve the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day
  • Target 1B: Achieve decent employment for women, men, and young people
  • Target 1C: Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

The percentage of people living in extreme poverty was 29.8 percent in 2003 and decreased to 12.5 percent in 2006, the year Venezuela officially met the first target of this goal.[7] The percentage of those living in extreme poverty continued declining and in 2011 was 6.8 percent.[8] The overall poverty index was 49 percent in 1998 and lowered to 24.2 percent in 2009.[9] In terms of unemployment, Venezuela has been able to lower the rate to 7.5 percent in 2009 in spite of the global financial crisis.[3]

In relation to hunger, under-nutrition was lowered drastically from its 1998-2000 level of 21 percent to its 2005-2007 level of 6 percent.[3] Between 1998 and 2010, Venezuela’s food production increased by 44 percent.[8] In 1991, the population that was undernourished was 10 percent and decreased to 7 percent in 2007.[10] The percentage of children under the age of five who are moderately or severely underweight decreased from 6.7 percent in 1990 to 3.7 percent in 2007.[10] Infant malnutrition in children below five years of age decreased from 7.7 percent in 1990 to 2.9 percent in 2011.[11]

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education[edit]

  • Target 2A: By 2015, all children can complete a full course of primary schooling, girls and boys

The total net enrollment ratio in primary education for both sexes increased from 87 percent in 1999 to 93.9 percent in 2009.[10] The primary completion rate for both sexes reached 95.1 percent in 2009, as compared to 80.8 percent in 1991.[10] In 2005, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declared Venezuela free of illiteracy.[8] The literacy rates of 15-24 year olds in 2007, for men and women, were 98 percent and 98.8 percent, respectively.[10] The free government program, Misión Robinson, is largely responsible for Venezuela's success with literacy rates. Since starting in 2003, the program has taught more than 2.3 million people to read and write. The program has also focused much of its attention on reaching out to geographically isolated and historically excluded members of the population, including indigenous groups and Afro-descendents.[12] Through improvements in primary education and literacy, Venezuela is on target to achieve this goal by the year 2015.[7]

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women[edit]

  • Target 3A: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015

Gender equality in the education sector has already been achieved, with a ratio of 103 girls for every 100 boys registered in schools.[7] In university education, women’s participation increased by 1.46 percent in 2009, and there are now more women enrolled in university than men.[8] Elias Eljuri, President of Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics, stated that Venezuela ranks second after Cuba in university enrollment.[11]

In the working sector, the percentage of women in the non-agricultural workforce has increased from 35.44 percent in 1994 to 41.96 percent in 2009.[3] The percentage of seats held by women in the national parliament has increased to 17 percent in 2011 from 10 percent in 1990.[10] At the time of the September 2010 UN Summit, four of Venezuela’s five branches of government were led by women (the legislature, judiciary, electoral authority, and citizen’s branch).[3]

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality[edit]

  • Target 4A: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

In 2008, the children under-five mortality rate was 16.35 per every 1,000 births, a 49 percent decrease from 1990.[3] The infant mortality rate decreased from 28 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 16 per 1,000 live births in 2010.[10] Through the Misión Barrio Adentro, the infant mortality rate is on track to be reduced to the rate of 8.6 per 1,000 live births in 2015.[8] In addition, the percentage of one year olds immunized against measles has increased to 83 percent in 2009 from its 1990 level of 61 percent.[10]

Goal 5: Improve maternal health[edit]

  • Target 5A: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
  • Target 5B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

In 2008, the maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births was 68.[13] The current contraceptive use among married women 15-49 years old increased from 58 percent in 1993 to 70.3 percent in 1998.[10] The Venezuelan government has implemented a multitude of policies and programs aimed at accelerating progress on this goal: Proyecto Madre, Misión Barrio Adentro, Misión Niño Jesús, and the National Sexual and Reproductive Health Program.[7] Misión Niño Jesús, known as Mission Baby Jesus in English, aims to provide better attention to pregnant women. The program attempts to improve hospital infrastructure, increase the availability of medicine, provide health education for pregnant women and young children, and construct prenatal care houses.[14] The Venezuelan government has increased the total expenditure on health as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the years. In 1996, the level was 3.5 percent and has risen to 6.0 percent in 2009.[15]

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases[edit]

  • Target 6A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
  • Target 6B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
  • Target 6C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

The number of primary health care physicians treating HIV/AIDS and other diseases has increased from 1,628 in 1998 to 19,500 in 2009.[8] The prevalence of tuberculosis per 100,000 people has decreased slightly from 51 in 1990 to 48 in 2010.[15] The number of people receiving free antiretroviral therapy increased from 1,059 in 1999 to 25,657 in 2008. Spending on HIV has exceeded US $230 million.[7] The tuberculosis treatment success rate has increased from 68 percent in 1994 to 83 percent in 2008.[10]

In terms of malaria, during the period lasting from 1995 to 2004, the malaria mortality rate ranged from 0.10-0.36 deaths per 100,000 people. Almost a third of these deaths were children.[16] The Venezuelan Ministry of Health is intensifying efforts to reach all sectors of the population in order to reduce the prevalence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.[17]

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability[edit]

  • Target 7A: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs; reverse loss of environmental resources
  • Target 7B: Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
  • Target 7C: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (for more information see the entry on water supply)
  • Target 7D: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum-dwellers

As the environment continues to be one of the most prominent topics in government today, Venezuela has taken an active approach to achieving the seventh Millennium Development Goal. The Ministry of People’s Power for the Environment will receive $675 million from the 2012 national budget to develop policies, strategies, plans, and actions aimed at boosting environmental conservation and education.[8] Roughly 73 percent of Venezuela’s territory is covered with natural areas under protection. The country ranks second behind Ecuador in the amount of protected area.[18] In 2006, President Hugo Chávez launched Misión Arbol, a program that attempts to combat the deforestation of Venezuela.[19] Through this project, 22,000 acres of trees have been planted.[7]

Venezuela has one of the highest biodiversity richness levels in the world. The nation is ranked in the top 10 countries with the highest biodiversity on the planet.[20] Venezuela has some known 2,356 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles. Out of these, 13.3 percent are endemic, meaning they exist in no other country, and 5.6 percent are threatened. There are over 21,000 species of plants in the country, and 38.0 percent of them are endemic.[21]

The proportion of people with sustainable access to safe drinking water increased from 68 percent in 1990 to 92 percent in 2007, well above the target of 84 percent.[5] The proportion of the population using improved sanitation facilities increased to 91 in 2005 from 82 in 1990.[10]

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development[edit]

  • Target 8A: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system
  • Target 8B: Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
  • Target 8C: Deal comprehensively with developing countries' debt
  • Target 8D: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable, essential drugs in developing countries
  • Target 8E: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications

In dealing with debt, Venezuela's debt service as a percentage of exports and net income from abroad has decreased from its 1990 level of 19.6 percent to 10.5 percent in 2004.[22]

Venezuela has been at the forefront of making available the benefits of new technologies to its citizenry. In 1990, the number of Internet users was minimal. By 2010, 35.63 percent of Venezuelans were Internet users.[10] In fact, the number of Internet subscribers has increased six fold.[7] Programs such as the National Technological Literacy Plan, which free software and computers to schools, have assisted Venezuela in meeting this goal.[23]

The number of fixed telephone lines per 100 inhabitants was 7.56 in 1990. The number increased to 24.44 in 2010.[10] In 2000, 2,535,966 Venezuelans had landline telephones. By 2009, this had increased to 6,866,626.[3]

The Bolivarian government has also started an aerospace program and put into orbit the first Venezuelan satellite, called Simon Bolivar.[8]


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