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GEO Year Book 2004/5  
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Latin America and the Caribbean


The region remains vulnerable to natural hazards. The wider Caribbean Region was hit once more by storms and hurricanes with a higher number of victims than in previous years. There was also the occurrence of the first major scale cyclone in the South Atlantic, and continuation of human-induced fires with strong effects on biodiversity, air quality and climate.

Key Facts

  • Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest inequalities in the world. The poorest 10 per cent get only 1.6 per cent of the total income, while the wealthiest 10 per cent get 48 per cent.
  • The region is now 75 per cent urbanized. There are 409 million people in the cities and 127 million in the rural areas. In rural areas the poor make up almost 40 per cent of the population, considerably higher than in urban areas.
  • Some 47 per cent of the regional land area is covered by forests. The future of the forests in the region is hardly promising. Nearly 57 per cent of the Cerrado, a dry forest in Brazil, has disappeared already and if current conditions prevail, it could disappear totally by the year 2030.
  • Protected areas constitute a high proportion of the total area: 13 per cent in Mesoamerica, 28 per cent in the Caribbean, and 20 per cent in South America. It is estimated that only 6 per cent of the marine areas in the Caribbean are protected effectively.
  • More than 60 per cent of coffee and 50 per cent of soy beans in the global market come from the region. Cultivation of soy has become a key cause of agricultural land encroachment on natural areas in tropical and subtropical regions of South America.
  • Organic agriculture has made headway: the region has at least 5.8 million certified hectares - 24 per cent of the world's total. Argentina has the largest certified organic cropland in the region (and the second largest in the world after Australia).
  • All the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, except Grenada, Guyana, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, have signed and/or ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants which entered into force on 17 May 2004.

Sources: CEPAL 2003, Chape and others 2003, De Ferranti and others 2003, Dirven 2004, FAO 2004, FAOSTAT 2004, GEO Data Portal, Machado and others 2004, UNDESA 2004, Willer and Yussefi 2004


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