World News – BORGEN http://www.borgenmagazine.com Humanity, Politics & You Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:30:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 The Intersection of Poverty, Crime and Inequality in Nigeria http://www.borgenmagazine.com/crime-and-inequality-in-nigeria/ Wed, 18 Apr 2018 14:30:57 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126497 SEATTLE — A young woman in Bauchi State, Nigeria, had her legs cut off by her machete-wielding husband. Adamu Hussaini Maidoya claimed he did it to prevent her from ever leaving their home. He was never punished. Crimes of this magnitude are not rare. Nigeria continues to be a patriarchal country with large income, gender [...]

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SEATTLE — A young woman in Bauchi State, Nigeria, had her legs cut off by her machete-wielding husband. Adamu Hussaini Maidoya claimed he did it to prevent her from ever leaving their home. He was never punished. Crimes of this magnitude are not rare. Nigeria continues to be a patriarchal country with large income, gender and social inequalities. And where there is a large schism in equality, there is crime.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter, and yet, 100 million of the country’s 185 million people live on less than $1 a day. Oil exports continue to grow the country’s economy, but these mass fortunes are settling in the pockets of a few. From 2004 to 2010, Nigeria saw the number of those living in poverty increase from 69 million to 112 million people, while at the same time, the number of millionaires increased by 44 percent. According to Oxfam International, it would take $24 billion to eradicate Nigeria’s poverty. That’s $5.9 billion less than the net worth of the five wealthiest individuals combined.

Compounding its economic inequality, Nigeria experiences huge gaps in gender inequality as well. It is estimated that of the 78 million women that live in the country, 54 million of them are poor. This number is even more disturbing when noting that 60-79 percent of women make up the rural labor force. These figures explain why some view women as Nigeria’s “hidden resource.” However, due to its patriarchal system, they often lack the resources necessary to climb out of poverty, such as education, healthcare, protection and political involvement. The Global Gender Gap Index ranks Nigeria 125th out of 145 countries.

There have been many government programs aimed at alleviating poverty, crime and inequality in Nigeria. The National Accelerated Food Protection Program in 1972 was devoted entirely to funding agriculture. In 1985, there was the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure. Others came along: Green Revolution, Operation Feed the Nation, the National Poverty Eradication Program. These programs have had limited success, as the issue is more systemic and psychologically ingrained.

Even with the variety of poverty alleviation programs, corruption continues to impede progress. Transparency International has ranked the Nigerian government 136th out of 176 in its corruption index. Deliberate measures have been taken to ensure income disparities. Resources are often spent in unfair and inefficient ways. The budget routinely allocates the smallest amount of funding for necessities like education, healthcare and protection. Multinational corporations and large businesses benefit from large tax waivers, holidays, loopholes and a regressive tax system – a system in which the burden of taxation falls on poorer companies and individuals.

In 2016, Nigeria had 125,790 crimes reported; more than 45,000 of those were against individuals. The country is consistently ranked as having one the highest crime rates in the world. The issue of crime and inequality in Nigeria suggest that certain social deviant theories are at play.

Robert K. Merton, a sociologist, developed strain theory in 1938. Strain theory suggests that when poorer people perceive inequality, they feel less of a commitment to social norms. They still strive for social acceptance, but their beliefs of how to attain their goals may not fit within a standard social model. For example, a Nigerian man who sells drugs to feed his family, or a teenager who steals money to by himself a new set of clothes, simply to not appear so poor.

Unfortunately, as these actions grow and seep out into the world of the poor, a label becomes them – a drug dealer deemed nothing more than a drug dealer, a thief no more than a thief, poor no more than poor. Labeling theory suggests that they will become repeat offenders, as society has forced these identities upon them. When labels like these persist in a patriarchal society, it becomes clear how and why the dynamics work the way they do. The high crime rate in Nigeria indicates an angry acknowledgment of the conspicuous and overt consumptions of the wealthy.

Despite the current situation, there are indications of improvements and signs of hope. In 2014, the Nigerian Economic Report showed a positive short-term economic growth and estimates continued macroeconomic stability. In 2017, the World Bank announced its plan to give $1 billion to support Nigeria’s Power Sector Recovery Program. These developments can help alleviate poverty and reduce inequality if managed properly. The path to solving crime and inequality in Nigeria may be slow and full of obstacles, but if Nigerians continue to break from their labels, no more young wives will have to lose legs to large knives.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Flickr

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Efforts to Alleviate the Tibetan Refugee Crisis in India http://www.borgenmagazine.com/tibetan-refugee-crisis/ Mon, 09 Apr 2018 08:30:25 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126349 SEATTLE — The Tibetan refugee crisis continues to remain one of the most crucial regional issues concerning South Asia. The problem stems from a combination of historical and political grievances that continue to have dire impacts like mass migration and internal and external displacement. The problem is also inextricably linked with the present geopolitical relations [...]

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SEATTLE — The Tibetan refugee crisis continues to remain one of the most crucial regional issues concerning South Asia. The problem stems from a combination of historical and political grievances that continue to have dire impacts like mass migration and internal and external displacement. The problem is also inextricably linked with the present geopolitical relations between China and India.

Waves of Migration

The origins of the Tibetan refugee crisis can be segmented into three parts: the first, second and third waves. The first wave was catalyzed by People’s Republic of China Chairman Mao Zedong’s reunification campaigns between 1949 and 1950, where the Chinese army invaded Tibet and crumbled the autonomous rule and independence enjoyed by the people. With the threat of persecution, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to Dharamshala, a town now well known as the residence of the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration.

During the second wave of the conflict in the 1980s, there was another exodus of Tibetan refugees fleeing political turmoil. The third wave was stimulated by the renewed surge of Tibetan refugees arriving in Dharamshala every year.

Current Struggles of Tibetan Refugees

About 3,000 individuals make treacherous journeys across the Himalayas through Nepal and India annually. A further 100,000 continue to reside in both formal and informal settlements in India. The Sonamling settlement in the district of Leh in Ladakh and is home to one of the largest populations of Tibetan refugees.

Due to the sheer magnitude of the Tibetan refugee crisis, Tibetan refugees are vulnerable, as they lack rights to ownership, property, citizenship and education. A majority of them are deemed stateless by the Indian government, and the Chinese government does not affirm their refugee status. The preservation of Tibetan language and culture also faces insurmountable pressure owing to the ongoing conflict.

Containing the sheer influx of Tibetan refugees still continues to be a priority for the stakeholder groups involved in remediating the Tibetan refugee crisis. Host governments have thankfully refrained from resorting to the practice of refoulement and are accommodating Tibetan refugees. The cooperation and collaboration of neighboring countries has achieved a certain degree of success.

Indian and American Efforts to Ease the Tibetan Refugee Crisis

In order to bolster the social positions of the people, the Delhi High Court recently declared that Tibetan refugees born in India between January 1950 and July 1987 would be given Indian citizenship. In accordance with the Citizenship Act, they will be granted the right to have an Indian passport to ensure greater ease of travel.

Moreover, the Indian government has also aided in improving the refugees’ right to quality education by earmarking ample amounts of funding for schools. These institutions are wholly subsidized by the government and provide free education to young Tibetans in need. In 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government provided ₹400 million to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee for a period of five years.

The next phase in easing the Tibetan refugee crisis could begin with more social progress for this vulnerable group such as providing employment and driver’s licenses, as well as improving access to financial services and other essential welfare benefits. Court orders are emphasizing the adoption of the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy of 2014, especially at the state level in India.

In September 2017, two U.S. Congressional committees approved the channeling of $17 million to Tibet with the aim of providing aid to preserve the culture and assisting with development initiatives, smoother governance and other key institutions.

The Tibetan refugee crisis exposes the level of turbulence and persecution that still continues to endanger lives, especially in the wake of the Syria and Rohingya refugee crises. With more cooperation and collaboration between important stakeholder groups, effective solutions will have a greater chance of materialization in the near future.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

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The Ascent of Democracy in Ghana http://www.borgenmagazine.com/ascent-democracy-in-ghana/ Mon, 02 Apr 2018 14:30:13 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126304 SEATTLE — Nestled inconspicuously in the subregion of West Africa lies the nation of Ghana. Although it may not stick out on a map, the country of 28 million people has garnered significant attention in recent decades for its remarkable, albeit methodical, transformation. Once known officially as the Gold Coast because of its natural resource [...]

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SEATTLE — Nestled inconspicuously in the subregion of West Africa lies the nation of Ghana. Although it may not stick out on a map, the country of 28 million people has garnered significant attention in recent decades for its remarkable, albeit methodical, transformation. Once known officially as the Gold Coast because of its natural resource deposits, the nation has seemingly discovered something far more valuable than its mineral namesake: stable democracy. In doing so, democracy in Ghana has helped stabilize its institutions and develop its economy, providing improved prospects for its people and something of a blueprint for its neighbors.

To some, Ghana serves as the archetypal sub-Saharan nation. It has endured a sordid colonial past, a protracted battle for independence and the endemic challenges of a nation too long deprived of functioning institutions. About two decades ago, however, Ghana began to change. By focusing on installing the precepts of democracy in Ghana and taking a holistic approach to economic development, it has slowly and quietly become one of the continent’s greatest success stories.

Dating back to 1992, Ghana has experienced free and fair multi-party elections for president and its national legislature. When, in 2012, the results of a close presidential race were challenged, the Supreme Court upheld the results, an event Freedom House heralded as “underscor[ing]the consolidation of democracy and respect for rule of law”. In perhaps the greatest stress test of nascent democracies, presidential incumbent John Mahama lost his reelection bid in 2016 and the ruling party ceded power, marking the third transition of power without major incident.

Many consider the recognition and protection of political rights and civil liberties equally as important as elections. Ghana has ensured the freedoms of expression, movement and association, has an independent judiciary and affords women all the legal protections men have. Although political corruption persists and there are barriers to business ownership and property rights, Freedom House considers its institutions to be robust enough to identify democracy in Ghana as strong.

On the economic front, Ghana has also made substantial progress. To overcome its economic anemia, the country has benefited from organizations like the World Bank, which has provided a much-needed influx of capital assistance. Of the 43 initiatives sponsored by the World Bank as of 2017, three in particular stand out, revealing the nation’s emphasis on diversified development by prioritizing healthcare, human capital accumulation and fiscal policy.

The Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Project attempts to improve the utilization of community-based health and nutrition services for women and young children. So far, the program has already increased the number of births with a health professional present, and has continued to work to provide children with malaria nets and important nutrients. With the Secondary Education Improvement Project, Ghana’s Ministry of Education is increasing access to schools for girls in rural communities. And through the Economic Management Strengthening Project, the Finance Ministry seeks to institutionalize a functional, transparent process for public investment that can help allay concerns over public debt and inflation.

These development efforts have yielded quantifiable dividends. The poverty headcount, measured by the percentage of citizens making less than $1.90 per day, has been slashed from 47 percent in 1991 to 24.2 percent in 2012, according to World Bank statistics. This means that millions of Ghanaians have wrestled free from abject poverty’s stifling grip. More too can achieve their aspirations as Ghana continues to develop and other nations and NGOs continue to assist.

Ghana’s economic and democratic adolescence has not been without growing pains. Its record of achievement should not be overlooked, however. Once a stranger to democracy, Ghana now glistens with the institutions that make it the envy of its African neighbors. Once exploited, the Gold Coast is now emulated as the gold standard of African democracy.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr

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Government Plan Promotes Refugee Integration in Italy http://www.borgenmagazine.com/refugee-integration-in-italy/ Mon, 02 Apr 2018 08:30:35 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126294 SEATTLE — It is no secret that the European migrant crisis has hit Italy hard. The country’s government and society have had a difficult time keeping up with refugee integration in Italy after the recent economic crisis. It is estimated that Italy is now home to more than 180,000 refugees. The majority are living in [...]

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SEATTLE — It is no secret that the European migrant crisis has hit Italy hard. The country’s government and society have had a difficult time keeping up with refugee integration in Italy after the recent economic crisis. It is estimated that Italy is now home to more than 180,000 refugees. The majority are living in and around Rome. Doctors Without Borders estimates that up to 10,000 of these refugees are living in inhumane conditions. In its most recent election, fringe party anti-immigration stances began to seep into mainstream Italian political parties.

This distress is nothing new and has been seen around Europe. Hungary closed its border with Croatia in an attempt to stem the flow of refugees. For many, it is not the fear of foreigners that cause this political backlash but the fear of losing their culture. Countries on the southern and eastern borders of the European Union are most affected by the migrant crisis and the culture scare due to the Dublin regulation, which states that a person seeking asylum in the EU must apply in the country they first arrive in.

In 2017, the Italian government passed the National Integration Plan to aid refugee integration in Italy. The plan is seen as a compromise and an attempt to stop the rise of anti-immigration ideology. Many politicians in the 2018 Italian elections ran on an anti-immigration platform. Once this plan is fully enacted and its results begin to show, it is hoped that the anti-immigration rhetoric will disappear.

The plan to aid refugee integration in Italy is funded by the Italian government and the European Union. It is designed to target 75,000 people with EU refugee or subsidiary protection status, meaning they are unable to return to their country of origin or home country due to fear of persecution or death. The National Integration Plan is a two-way street. Refugees will get more help finding jobs and suitable housing, while Italy and its people will feel that these refugees are becoming active members of their community, instead of a drain on a struggling economy.

A key component of the National Integration Plan is teaching the Italian language. By teaching Italian to refugees of all ages, the government hopes to increase refugee integration in Italy. After the refugees learn Italian, it will be easier for them to participate in their community. The second major component of the National Integration Plan is promoting “active citizenship”. The Italian government hopes to curb Islamophobia by fostering goodwill and communication between refugees and the Italian communities in which they live. Young refugees will begin to communicate with young Italians, mutual respect will begin to grow and future generations will have a better understanding of each other.

An example of the plan in action can be found in a little town nestled at the bottom of the Dolomite mountain range. In 2017, in the town of Belluno, four African refugees were interviewed by The Local Italy, an international news organization. They found the four men cleaning the grounds of an old military barracks that the government planned to turn into a cultural center. Refugees have also been working in the town, cleaning parks and the city center.

When asked, many refugees say that they feel as if they are participating in the community and giving back in a small way. They also feel good that they have something to do with their day as they go through official channels to find stable work. The program has been underway in the town since 2014, and thus far the mayor and some of the population have been happy with the results.

While they are provided for through government aid separate from the program, they receive no pay for their work. To some, this may sound as if the Italian government is taking advantage of their labor. In the end, hopefully these people will be proven wrong. It is all part of helping with refugee integration in Italy.

High unemployment and lack of economic growth affect Italians and refugees alike. Hopefully, mutual understanding and a government keen on fixing the economy rather than blaming refugees can help to strengthen bonds. Refugee integration in Italy, sponsored by the Italian government, can help to build and strengthen those bonds. In the coming years, the benefits of this program will be seen throughout Italian society.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

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Preventing Corruption in Foreign Assistance to Ukraine http://www.borgenmagazine.com/preventing-corruption-in-foreign-assistance-to-ukraine/ Thu, 29 Mar 2018 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126108 SEATTLE — Ukraine is a major recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, and is planned to receive $203,780,000 in funding in 2018. With corruption running rampant, Congress is tasked with ensuring the integrity of foreign assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine’s public sector is one of the most highly corrupt governments in the world. According to Transparency International’s [...]

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SEATTLE — Ukraine is a major recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, and is planned to receive $203,780,000 in funding in 2018. With corruption running rampant, Congress is tasked with ensuring the integrity of foreign assistance to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s public sector is one of the most highly corrupt governments in the world. According to Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranked 130th out of 180 countries, scoring 30 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being most corrupt.

Amidst a war-torn Donbas in eastern Ukraine, the developing nation depends on foreign assistance now more than ever. That is why Ukrainian economists, nationals and U.S. officials have spoken out about the best practices in foreign assistance to Ukraine.

Minimize Corruption

Out of the 19 USAID programs in Ukraine, five are dedicated to fighting corruption. Reducing the potential of corruption in aid itself is a crucial part of anti-corruption efforts.

“In my view, Ukraine is politically sick and it is sick fatally because the name of its sickness is [corruption]. As any type of [sickness], this one is also incurable. One cannot eradicate corruption. One can only try to minimize it,” said Vladimir Zakhvataev, a prominent Ukrainian lawyer and author who has published various legal treatises in Ukraine.

Partner with NGOs

Anti-corruption proponents are calling on the U.S. government to reconsider how aid is delivered.

“In my opinion, the only acceptable aid to Ukraine is the one where the relevant foreign sponsor or government takes the trouble of fulfilling the relevant project himself, i.e., without releasing money to Ukrainian officials,” stated Zakhvataev, who believes Ukrainian’s officials’ only motive is winning electoral races.

“The challenge is always in the execution,” said former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his nomination, suggesting the U.S. should avoid giving grants directly to the hands of other governments, but rather partner with credible NGOs to execute aid projects.

Maryan Zablotsky, president of the Ukrainian Economic Freedoms Foundation, suggested similar ideas in a Forbes editorial.

Use Information Technology

If you can trace corruption, you can stop it.

Volodymyr Omelyan, Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, was recently appointed by USAID as a partner against corruption. Omelyan is developing a blockchain to track and fine international cargo, preventing resales on the black market. The use of blockchain technology will prevent inspectors from manipulating the e-cabinet, thwarting bribery and corruption.

Still, more research is needed, as deep-seated corruption is difficult to pinpoint. “Sadly, we don’t have survey evidence of corruption specifically involving businesses involved in aid contracting,” said Charles Kenny, a director with the Center for Global Development.

Increase Government Transparency

Ukraine has begun to “follow the money” of its powerful bureaucrats.

Its politicians have recently been exposed due to laws such as “On the Prevention of Corruption,” adopted in October 2014 by the Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament. The law requires public declarations of income and expenses by public servants. According to USAID, this was one of the few measures the Rada took to prevent corruption. The exorbitant financial disclosures resulted in shockwaves of anger across Ukraine, where poverty is widespread.

Encourage Political Accountability

Despite the new legislation, Ukraine’s wealth reporting system has been hedged with corruption in and of itself.

In November 2017, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) filed a criminal case against the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK), its sister agency. NABU’s allegations state NAZK officials slowed the progress of wealth reporting legislation to cover up their receiving of “undue benefits in especially large amounts, combined with the extortion of such benefits.”

One month later, on December 6, 2017, the Rada filed a bill allowing Parliament to dismiss the head of NABU.

The same day, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Michael Carpenter, tweeted, “If the Rada votes to dismiss the head of the Anticorruption Committee and the head of the NABU, I will recommend cutting all U.S. government assistance to Ukraine, including security assistance. This is a disgrace.”

On December 7, 2017, only one day after Carpenter threatened foreign assistance to Ukraine, the bill was withdrawn from Parliament’s consideration.

“[Foreign aid] is a permanent source of temptation for the Ukrainian officials who have built up a very efficient network of corruption and who covet [foreign]aid because its use is poorly controlled and because it can be easily pocketed,” Zakhvataev said.

Restore Justice

Having practiced law in Ukraine for 45 years, Zakhvataev is a major proponent of fixing its justice system.

“Regarding the current justice system in Ukraine, it is hopeless. Its members are bogged down in corruption. Wallowing in briberies themselves, they eagerly set free those who pocket billions from the state budget and, when captured, lavishly share these millions with the judges.”

The USAID’s current anti-corruption program involves creating a special court to fight corruption under the “New Justice Program,” involving a partnership with NAZK, the Rada and the president’s office.

“Another acceptable and very important aid to Ukraine would be the aid in the area of education of the young generation of Ukrainians who will govern the country in the future,” said Zakhvataev. A focus such as this can encourage future generations to resist corruption and expose it where it remains, hopefully leading to the decline of corruption in Ukraine.

– Alex Galante

Photo: Flickr

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Syrian Civil War Enters New Phase in 2018 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/syrian-civil-war-2018/ Tue, 27 Mar 2018 08:30:52 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126054 SEATTLE — As the Syrian Civil War enters its fifth year in 2018, the humanitarian emergency in the country remains a serious issue. Despite gains made by U.S. and Russian-led coalition forces during the battles of Aleppo and Raqqa, the final stages of the war are crucial with regards to the protection of civilians, refugees [...]

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SEATTLE — As the Syrian Civil War enters its fifth year in 2018, the humanitarian emergency in the country remains a serious issue. Despite gains made by U.S. and Russian-led coalition forces during the battles of Aleppo and Raqqa, the final stages of the war are crucial with regards to the protection of civilians, refugees and displaced individuals who face the threat of poverty, human rights violations and mass displacement.

Since 2011, more than 400,000 individuals have lost their lives in the conflict. A total of 5.5 million people are refugees, and a further 6.1 million continue to be displaced from their home cities. Due to heavy bombing in many parts of Syria like Aleppo, Homs and Daraya, a further 400,000 civilians still remain trapped in major rebel enclaves throughout Syria.

Recently, the Syrian Civil War has become the battleground for a number of different fronts, including U.S. coalition forces, Sunni Arab groups, Russia, the Syrian Democratic Forces and other key regional players.

Moreover, infrastructure is largely in decline in many disputed areas of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta, Afrin, Saqba, Zamalka, Jobar, Hamouria, Kafr Batna and Douma. In the city of Jobar, 93 percent of the buildings have been devastated due to air strikes and more than 75 percent of civilians in the city have been forced to flee their homes.

The humanitarian crisis is causing considerable food shortages as well. According to a report by the BBC, the price of bread in Eastern Ghouta is now 22 times the national average in Syria.

In addition, based on Red Cross findings, Eastern Ghouta is in dire need of emergency and medical services despite the many initiatives being conducted by Doctors Without Borders. Eastern Ghouta, a major site of war crimes in recent years, including the 2013 chemical weapons attack, is home to 400,000 people and is a major contributor to the country’s GDP.

Overall, at this juncture, mitigating the negative effects of the Syrian Civil War is of vital importance. The restoration efforts in important cities begin with repairing critical infrastructure and repairing water and electricity services.

Additionally, channeling aid to the front lines in Syria is particularly important, yet dangerous given the intensity of the air strikes by rebel and government forces. To counter this hindrance, collaborative efforts with the government should be a priority so that important humanitarian aid convoys can reach civilians with greater ease.

Aid emergency services are often under insurmountable pressure due to bombardment by coalition forces, and conditions must be made smoother and safer in the future. The U.N. still seeks approval from the government to provide 40 trucks of humanitarian contributions to the town of Douma.

As a cessation of hostilities and a final solution to ending the Syrian Civil War remains elusive with a collapse of a recent U.N. brokered 30-day truce, Russia has recently declared a temporary “pause” to ensure the safe passage of humanitarian aid into the country and combat the omnipresent threat civilians face in many disputed areas. If the “pause” continues to be upheld, the many trapped civilians will be able to leave besieged areas faster.

Despite the alleged diversion of foreign aid over the years, it could still remain an effective temporary short-term measure in some ways, given the magnitude of the conflict. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would be utilizing the recently created “humanitarian corridor” to channel aid to Syria.

To conclude, the success in addressing key issues regarding humanitarian aid and assistance to Syria will pave the way for further steady progress. As key towns and cities are recaptured and liberated, rescue operations and restoration initiatives can be undertaken with greater ease in the near future.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

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Alleviating Poverty in Cuba and the Road to Development http://www.borgenmagazine.com/alleviating-poverty-in-cuba/ Mon, 26 Mar 2018 08:30:43 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=126037 SEATTLE — An island nation located off the coast of the United States in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba is an important socialist economy in Latin America with great economic and financial potential. Despite steady economic recovery over the past few decades, poverty in Cuba still exists, owing to deficiencies in infrastructure, healthcare, transport, food security [...]

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SEATTLE — An island nation located off the coast of the United States in the Caribbean Sea, Cuba is an important socialist economy in Latin America with great economic and financial potential. Despite steady economic recovery over the past few decades, poverty in Cuba still exists, owing to deficiencies in infrastructure, healthcare, transport, food security and housing.

According to a report by Reuters, Cuba’s sugar industry has grown by 22.6 percent, and its agricultural sector has expanded by about 4.8 percent.

Cuba’s recent history has been clamorous due to the revolution that took place between 1953 and 1959. Since the late Fidel Castro came to power during this period, the country has been governed by a planned or command economic model, with minimal amounts of private ownership and an overall centralized economic planning system. The socialist system in Cuba has been criticised for its financial mismanagement.

However, over the years, weaknesses in the bureaucratic system, coupled with low productivity and efficiency levels, have exacerbated some of the country’s economic and financial hindrances.

Owing to Cuba’s almost overreliance on agriculture as its primary export, trade has been severely influenced by the growth of primary industries. This has somewhat diminished the returns and values gained from a majority of Cuba’s main exports as compared to other countries.

Over the years, the U.S. embargo and international economic sanctions have diminished the strength of trade and aggravated poverty in Cuba. The country has been deprived of access to important goods and services. Recent efforts to form a renewed and normalized relationship between the United States and Cuba may be important to boosting Cuba’s trade capacities in the future.

Moreover, Cuba also suffers from a problem of an aging population. More than 20 percent of the population is already above the age of 60. Fertility rates are also low due to the changes in the population and the imbalance in demographics.

Poverty in Cuba is also impacted by the country’s high Gini coefficient value due to the prevailing income inequality. A high proportion of the country’s income is generated by a very small portion of the population.

Unfortunately, the rate of poverty in Cuba is also not official. A 1996 government study concluded that over 20.1 percent of the people living in the country seemed to lack basic necessities. Extreme poverty rates in the country remain a pressing issue due to low real incomes.

Since the 1990s, improvements in education in Cuba have been increasing the level of development in the country. Given the socialist model of the country, education and healthcare are subsidized by the government. Boosting literacy rates and ameliorating the quality of public education are some of the key priorities of the government.

In order to address some of the financial issues in the country, the government is planning to regulate the exchange and currency rates. Cuba’s current dual currency and exchange rate system is resulting in many inefficiencies in the system and impacting the solvency of foreign reserves for state-owned enterprises in the country.

Due to Cuba’s financial and social bulwarks and the economic crises that have befallen Venezuela, many question the socialist framework the country is built on. Many countries in Latin America have been governed by socialism for decades.

To conclude, alleviating poverty in Cuba is essential for the long-term economic development of the country. The solutions to some of the country’s major problems lie in solving its economic, financial and social issues.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

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How Wildlife Conservation Can Alleviate Poverty http://www.borgenmagazine.com/wildlife-conservation-can-alleviate-poverty/ Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=125892 SEATTLE — A fact little acknowledged in the human world, the prosperity of mankind is intertwined with the prosperity of wildlife and the animal kingdom. While overpopulation rates have skyrocketed in the past century, so have animal extinctions. Overpopulation is plaguing developing countries, and new problems are being faced in nature. The depletion of water [...]

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SEATTLE — A fact little acknowledged in the human world, the prosperity of mankind is intertwined with the prosperity of wildlife and the animal kingdom. While overpopulation rates have skyrocketed in the past century, so have animal extinctions. Overpopulation is plaguing developing countries, and new problems are being faced in nature.

The depletion of water supplies, deforestation, imbalance in ecosystems, natural disasters, lack of resources and animal extinctions all have dangerous and costly consequences for developing nations. These issues add to the cycle that is mother to child poverty and reinforces overpopulation, therefore adding to natural dilemmas as well as social problems. In recent studies, scientists have found that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty.

An important part of protecting species is shielding their habitats from obliteration with actions such as forest protection as well as freshwater and ocean conservation. The loss of these regions and natural areas result in the loss of vital resources such as clean water, a staple necessary for all life, not just endangered species.

The natural world and its animal kingdom consist of necessities for human life, called “ecoservices”, further enforcing the fact that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty through natural sources. Ecoservices can include clean water, weather stabilization, clean air and food. These ecoservices were estimated to amount to $33 trillion in 1997, which is almost double the value of the entire global economy.

World Wildlife Fund completed a project in Dongting Lake, China, in which it paid nearby farmers to help restore the lake and its health. This not only created jobs, but once the project was complete, the health, nutrition and stability of the community increased. For example, farmers who had lost their houses in floods were able to rebuild due to the new stability and health of the ecosystem.

This community thrived due to the newly restored biodiversity: new agricultural jobs appeared, nutrition improved thanks to the healthy plant life and ecosystem and it was able to help nearby communities. Biodiversity and conservation help natural resources prosper, which allows communities to do the same, once again proving that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty in communities.

When a country has water security, for example, the country’s health increases, and accordingly, it gains more workers able to contribute to the economy. Clean water is therefore an ecoservice because of the important role it plays in society and a country’s economy.

When the economy thrives, the country is able to establish better school systems, manage national health more effectively and gain security that can result in not only citizen safety, but also global tourism to the area, adding to the economy that much more. Something as simple as clean water sources can affect the entire developing world, reinforcing that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty.

Economic development, especially in poor rural areas, depends on the health of the environment it is residing in. Scientists have found that conservation can alleviate poverty in many different environments. Forests stabilize weather patterns, helping communities avoid natural disasters such as floods or droughts, therefore protecting their crops and human lives.

Forests affect human hunger through weather stabilization, and the disappearance of one key species can affect the entire forest. If one of those species is endangered, or a species that it is dependent on is endangered, the entire biodiversity of the forest can collapse, and will result in disasters such as nationwide hunger.

Conservation of habitats, which save endangered species, ensure biodiversity. Studies have shown that ecosystems that possess a wider range of diversity among species are the most stable. Stability in ecosystems brings stability to humans and in the process reduces poverty. Wildlife conservation is one of the most powerful ways to alleviate poverty in developing countries through the means of conserving its diverse population of species. Every time a species goes extinct, the diversity of a habitat decreases.

Every species plays a large part in an ecosystem just by interacting normally, and has the power to destroy an environment with its absence. It is critical to the safety of the communities that are dependent on the resources it can provide that not only the environment remains secure, but that the residing animals do as well. Saving endangered species means saving their environments, which in the end saves mankind as well. Conservation can alleviate poverty, and it is time humans treated it as such.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

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Trickery and Escape: Stories of South African Human Trafficking Survivors http://www.borgenmagazine.com/human-trafficking-survivors/ Wed, 07 Mar 2018 09:30:49 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=125470 SEATTLE — Human trafficking is an internationally illegal act that is impacting the lives of victims worldwide. These traffickers are known to defraud women, men and children, especially young girls, and coerce them into oppressive situations. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation. The Large Number of Human Trafficking Survivors in South [...]

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SEATTLE — Human trafficking is an internationally illegal act that is impacting the lives of victims worldwide. These traffickers are known to defraud women, men and children, especially young girls, and coerce them into oppressive situations. The most common form of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.

The Large Number of Human Trafficking Survivors in South Africa

In South Africa, campaigners and organizations claim that 30,000 children are smuggled into the nation yearly. Most cases of human trafficking in South Africa include sex trafficking, child labor, domestic servitude, organ smuggling, forced surrogacy, illegal child adoptions and debt bondage.

South Africa has become known as a source, transit country and destination for human trafficking victims. Human trafficking mainly happens between regions and externally across South African borders. Within South Africa, human trafficking victims are targeted in economically disadvantaged territories, such as the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape and the Free State.

Putting an end to trafficking will not be achievable unless action is taken towards altering the conditions that leave people vulnerable and open to exploitation. Distributing information and establishing a greater recognition of these acts through advocacy and sharing the stories of those who have survived such circumstances can stop human trafficking. These are the stories of two South African human trafficking survivors.

Grizelda Grootboom’s Story

Grizelda Grootboom was only 18 years old when she was tricked by someone she thought was a friend and was sold into sex trafficking.

As a child, Grizelda lived in a shelter in the Mother City. She had big dreams of becoming a singer, an actress or a dancer. However, all that changed when one of her close friends died violently. She began abusing drugs and hanging out on the streets.

When Grizelda turned 18, she was considered old enough to look after herself and had to leave the orphanage. With nowhere to go, Grizelda contacted one of her friends who she met during one of her drug sessions, not knowing this friend would later lead her down the path of destruction.

It did not take much time for Grizelda to get caught up in this world of deception and abuse. She was repeatedly locked up‚ drugged‚ beaten and raped. One night after refusing a client‚ she was beaten so badly that she woke up in a Johannesburg hospital a month later.

After being released from the hospital, times were tough as she moved from one shelter to the next, but Grizelda tried as much as possible to stay away from the temptations of taking clients and rebuild her life.

Grizelda has been surviving for years and now helps other trafficking victims. Her story has caught the attention of many worldwide, and she has been able to use this attention to publish a memoir, and even received an invitation to address the U.N. General Assembly.

Nomsa’s Story

Nomsa’s story began when she first entered an ordinary taxi on an ordinary day in one of South Africa’s big cities. When she got inside, the driver pointed a gun at her and drove for almost 30 minutes until he came to a sudden halt.

Another vehicle approached from behind with men inside. They dragged her out of her seat and threw her in the trunk of their car, where two other girls laid inside.

Despite being drugged, Nomsa was able to jump out of the car and flag someone down for help. The young South African woman promptly informed the authorities about her ordeal and told them of the other girls who had also been kidnapped.

But the reactions from the police were indifferent. They did nothing. Aside from the disinterest of the police, Nomsa was not offered any medical assistance or counseling. In fact, she receives calls from unknown numbers on a daily basis, which she believes to be from the trafficking syndicate.

Nomsa is one of the few human trafficking survivors that was able to escape before her fate turned into something far worse.

It is crucial to involve human trafficking survivors, like Griselda and Nomsa, in a global plan to fight trafficking because of their firsthand knowledge of the issue. No one should fall prey to these traffickers and it is imperative to keep those that are vulnerable safe.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

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The Importance of Sustainable Agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis http://www.borgenmagazine.com/sustainable-agriculture-in-st-kitts-and-nevis/ Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:30:16 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=125425 SEATTLE — With a population of about 60,000 people, the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are not just a tourist destination anymore. The country’s combined landmass of around 104 square miles makes sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis tricky because space is limited. Tourism makes up a significant part of the region’s gross domestic product, [...]

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SEATTLE — With a population of about 60,000 people, the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are not just a tourist destination anymore. The country’s combined landmass of around 104 square miles makes sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis tricky because space is limited. Tourism makes up a significant part of the region’s gross domestic product, but unfortunately, nearly 80 percent of the profits leave the island and the people reap none of the benefits. But the growing global demand for agriculture could change everything.

In a growing global economy that demands more food, smallholder farms produce 80 percent of the food in the developing world. Around 2.5 billion people rely solely on small farms and what they can produce.

“World hunger went from 1 billion to 800 million [people starving]between 2000 and 2015,” according to Kevin Meehan, a professor at University of Central Florida (UCF) assisting Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC) in St. Kitts. He added, “Nearly all of that 20 percent drop was accounted for by small farming.” He helps the CFBC manage sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis that is affordable and easily teachable.

Meehan advocates, teaches and generally aids locals on the island, from sharing plant seeds to giving car rides, all while balancing his professorship at UCF in Orlando, Florida. He worked to establish a hydroponic shade house on the CFBC campus, along with seven organic gardens and bucket hydroponics in Nevis.

Hydroponics and the diversification of sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis are what Leighton Naraine, a colleague of Meehan at CFBC, believes in. The growth of multiple crops greatly improves food security; currently, the country imports agricultural products it could grow itself, but cannot due to plantation farming of single-crop agriculture. This style of growing has debilitated small business farms.

Naraine reasoned that the agricultural sector hinges on the “individual success of farmers or enterprises,” with “national or regional success” being based on individual “productivity, sustainability, competitiveness and flexibility.”

Hydroponic systems help with the diversification process but are not mandatory. Five crop types with five kinds of livestock are considered “optimum production”. Integration of livestock with agriculture is a relatively new endeavor that maximizes productivity.

Integrated farms are farms where the waste generated by each production stage is used by other stages that need it. Naraine is developing this complex form of sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis, commonly known as aquaponics, where fish feed off hydroponic plants and their waste is used as fertilizer.

“We have definitely established ‘proof of concept’ but the issue of wider uptake is still an open question,” Meehan explained.

Many farmers of sustainable agriculture in St. Kitts and Nevis are not convinced hydroponic agriculture is the way to go, despite it being an important addition to the CFBC curriculum in 2014. Many farmers still grow using the plantation, single-crop style.

Dr. Naraine hopes more farmers will work with the Ministry of Education and help expand the hydroponic plan. Dr. Meehan thinks overhead funding from the top would help get the word out most. “What we need is for government [organizations]to put money into loan/grant programs to encourage everyday people to get into hydro[ponics].”

The past efforts by the government to help have found only marginal success due to consistent infrastructural challenges, environmental disasters or some combination of both.

Stuart La Place, a biology professor at CFBC and colleague to Meehan and Naraine, believes the risk is worth it for farmers. Fish as agricultural livestock are expensive initially, but are highly profitable over time. La Place is working with Naraine and Meehan to inform locals about the importance of hydroponic and diversified farming.

But regardless of profitability, they will not transition if they cannot afford to. Without more sustainable systems, the diversification process is difficult, and, without diversity, St. Kitts and Nevis continues to import expensive goods instead of growing them, plunging the country deeper into economic despair.

Meehan is hopeful. “Startup cost is an issue. But we also encourage using alternate local materials and scaling to an affordable size.”

With changing demands and circumstances, this transition process is beneficial to St. Kitts and Nevis. Many Caribbean islands are faced with similar economic agricultural problems. La Place and Naraine both spread their message and teachings at CFBC and mentor students and farmers in need of this vital information. One of La Place’s students even has a hydroponic system and is preparing to integrate aquaculture with the hopes of starting a profitable enterprise.

The professors also spread their knowledge beyond the islands. Meehan is working on a mobile application for smartphones to help hydroponic farmers, while Naraine and La Place lecture on the importance of sustainable agriculture to help food security.

La Place believes in a simple mantra based on a basic principle, and he says it all the time: “The many should feed the many.”

– Toni Paz

Photo: Pixabay

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