pact_aid_is_going_to_lose_usaid_international_aid_global_poverty_opt
Pact is a United States based non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on developing communities in regions of the world plagued by health crises, resource dependence, and extreme poverty. Its unique operating procedure partners donors with local communities in such regions as Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. Pact was founded in 1971 to oversee the distribution of small-scale USAID grants to development assistance organizations.

Pact’s three core values of (a) local solutions, (b) partnerships, and (c) results, put people at the center of their approach. With over 10,000 local partners, Pact customizes its system for every community. For example, Pact leads a development project in Ethiopia funded by USAID. It involves local and federal governments, NGOs, and nonprofits to provide health treatment and formal education for nearly 50,000 kids and adults.

The NGOs focus on local solutions, allowing vulnerable populations to take responsibility for the aid they will receive. Capacity development is highly prioritized in the regions served by Pact; local governments are developed, infrastructure is improved, and effective governance systems are formed.

Partners with Pact, small and large organizations alike, are also assured of progress with tangible success. Pact publishes a yearly report, called “Measuring Pact’s Mission,” where six different impact areas are examined. These impact areas include health, livelihood, natural resource management, and state-society engagement.

While accountability and effectiveness are frequent concerns of NGOs, Pact is the first USAID partner to publish its program data to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). IATI aims to provide information about NGO spending and its measurable results. While the Initiative is relatively new – the first annual report of IATI was published at the end of April 2013 – it promises a clear picture of where aid money goes.

Pact works in more than 25 countries worldwide, and its program services are incredibly diverse. These programs include formal schooling for children in several African nations, the improvement of health care for HIV/AIDS patients in the Ukraine, and the responsible micro-financing of productive enterprises in Myanmar. Pact’s holistic view of global development and its commitment to aid transparency make the organization a prime example for other development-focused NGOs.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Sources: Pact, International Aid Transparency Initiative
Photo: Pact Facebook

School_Meal_programs

In addition to recognizing the importance of universal access to education, policymakers have begun to recognize the importance of having meal programs in schools. The U.N. World Food Program has put together a “State of School Feeding Worldwide Report” this year that emphasizes the need to focus attention and resources on increasing the efficiency of school meal programs.

In a sample of 169 countries, all attempted to provide a meal program in some capacity. However, some of the meal programs are highly inefficient, particularly in countries where children could benefit most from receiving food at school. In low-income developing countries, only 18% of children receive consistent meals.

38 countries have expanded their meal programs in an effort to offset child malnutrition while an additional 21 have instituted meal programs since 2000. However, there is still a long way to go with only 1 in 5 children receiving a meal at school everyday, an overwhelming percentage of whom live in developing countries.

Having effective meal programs is a key step in ending poverty. Alleviating hunger allows children to take advantage of educational programs. Meal programs in school can have a huge impact on children’s physical development, health, and mental acuity. Something as small as a meal at school everyday can lead to increased productivity later in life to help end the perpetuation of poverty and hunger.

Key Facts from the State of School Feeding Worldwide Report:

  • Roughly 1 in 5 children receive a meal at school every day.
  • For every $1 spent on food programs at least $3 is received in economic benefit.
  • School meal programs are least prevalent in the poorest countries.
  • In some developing countries meal programs are more expensive than the cost of education.
  • The cost of meal programs varies greatly from country to country from as little as $56 per year up to $370 per year.
  • Assistance funding is indispensable – it accounts for 83% of investment in meal programs in low-income countries.
  • Meal programs are a key step in reducing poverty. Removing hunger allows a child to take advantage of educational opportunities.

– Zoë Meroney

Source: UN News Centre,UN World Food Program
Photo: Mission2014

Education_in_developing_countries

Five philanthropic organizations joined together in 2012 to commit millions to improving secondary education opportunities for children in developing countries. The MacArthur Foundation along with The MasterCard Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies Services, Human Dignity Foundation, and another donor formed “The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education.” The Partnership was formed as one of the key supporting efforts behind “A Global Compact on Learning”, an education initiative developed by the Brooking Institution’s Center for Universal Education.

The Partnership believes that educational attainment has far-reaching benefits from improved health to increased productivity. In the first call for applications, The Partnership received more than 500 proposals and committed over $8 million to funding 19 different educational projects.

Organizations such as International Child Development Initiatives, Educational Initiatives, and Build Africa received grants to implement projects aimed at providing secondary education to all youth in developing countries. Projects focus on everything from assessing teacher effectiveness to implementing new technologies to best methods for transitioning students from primary to secondary school. In addition, secondary education for girls has been identified as a key step in ending poverty.

In 2013, The Partnership will commit an additional $10 million in funding with several key areas in mind. Grants will focus on “increasing demand for secondary-level learning, improving teacher skills, promoting employment-relevant skills, and promoting alternative education models.” New approaches to education and innovation in learning will be the primary backbone to this year’s funding.

– Zoë Meroney

Source: MacArthur Foundation

brazil_president_dilma_rousseff_africa_debt_opt

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff recently announced that her country would offer several African nations almost a billion dollars in foreign aid. According to Ms. Rousseff’s spokesman, most of the aid offered will be in the form of debt forgiveness:  Brazil will cancel almost $900 million in African debt accumulated in the past 40 years.

Over the last ten years, Brazil‘s trade with Africa has increased fivefold, though the country’s increasing investment in Africa has not always been positively received. Mining operations in Mozambique by Brazilian MNC Vale and Australian Rio Tinto were blocked in April when community members displaced by the companies staged protests.

The debt forgiveness offer shows Brazil‘s increasing ties with Africa, in no small part due to the continent’s rich supply of natural resources. “To maintain a special relationship with Africa is strategic for Brazil‘s foreign policy,” Ms. Rousseff’s spokesman told reporters.

Countries benefiting from this cancellation include Congo-Brazzaville, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. These countries have rich resources of oil, coal, and natural gas, each reason for further economic development in Africa.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: BBC
Photo: Photo

Google Blimps
Some companies provide food to people in countries who need it, others may donate supplies to build homes or schools, and some may send doctors or medical supplies to help the sick. Google is taking a different approach, using their technology skills to bring the internet to Africa via blimps.

The company’s goal is to connect nearly 1 billion people across Africa and Asia to the internet with high-flying blimps and balloons. The Google blimps are beneficial because they can cover a wider area while remaining cost-efficient. Google has created an ecosystem of smartphones that are low-cost with low processing-power, and the signals are carried by the balloons. Google also is asking the local government regulators for permission to use television airwaves for their project, because these waves are better at transferring signals through buildings and across large areas of land than traditional WiFi infrastructure.

Google isn’t the first to propose a plan that uses balloons and blimps. Afghanistan already uses blimp technology for surveillance purposes by scanning wide areas that wouldn’t be possible or as simple with other forms of ground technology. The U.S. military is also involved in cloud-type projects involving blimps, and the Army uses them for communication. Instead of using traditional satellites to communicate back and forth with troops on the ground, which is very expensive, they use Combat SkySat balloons.

Google has begun a trial launch of their blimps in South African schools to test how well the new technology performs.

Katie Brockman

Source Forbes, Wired

millenium-development-goals-end-poverty
With the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals set as the end of this year, the final results will be mixed. Some targets have been met, while others have fallen short. Regardless, having the development goals in place has undoubtedly led to tangible progress on all fronts.

A U.N. panel, co-chaired by British prime minister David Cameron and the presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, last week released a report outlining a set of new goals with a target of the year 2030. These goals are based on the original Millennium Development Goals, and are listed as follows:

  1. End poverty
  2. Empower girls and women and achieve gender equality
  3. Provide quality education and lifelong learning
  4. Ensure healthy lives
  5. Ensure food security and good nutrition
  6. Achieve universal access to water and sanitation
  7. Secure sustainable energy
  8. Create jobs, sustainable livelihoods, and equitable growth
  9. Manage natural resource assets sustainably
  10. Ensure good governance and effective institutions
  11. Ensure stable and peaceful societies
  12. Create a global enabling environment and catalyse long term finance

There are certain ‘absolute’ goals, including the elimination of poverty and universal access to water and sanitation. With the previous target of halving extreme poverty successfully reached ahead of schedule, the goal now is to eliminate that remaining 20% of the world living below the line.

One conspicuous absence from the goals is a specific commitment to addressing economic inequality. Even as extreme poverty is being reduced globally, the gap between the richest and poorest citizens of the world is widening. Consumption by the lowest billion amounts to 1% of global figures, while the richest billion account for 72%. With this gap constantly widening, it’s doubtful whether goals to eliminate poverty can ever truly be met. Wealth redistribution would an effective tool at addressing the poorest parts of society.

These revised development goals will be presented by the panel at the U.N. General Assembly in September, with the intention of agreeing on a clear yet ambitious framework, and allowing time for its implementation by the beginning of 2016.

– David Wilson

Source: The Guardian,UN

Poverty_reduction_success

So much of the emphasis in judging the quality of life of a country, or its progress, focuses on death. The numbers tell how many people die; how many of the dead were mothers, how many were children, the most fatal diseases, the most deaths by violence, etc. Christopher Murray, a Harvard researcher, took issue with this standard of measurement. While he agreed that death was a powerful indicator of a country’s welfare, he also saw a major oversight in using it as a yardstick. To Murray, it was important not solely to focus on the dead, who we can do nothing for, but also examine the quality of life of the living. Not only to think of how to keep people alive, but also to ensure they are living well.Murray’s viewpoint was to revolutionize metrics. He spearheaded the shift from measuring mortality to the implementation of the DALY measure – Disability-Adjusted Life Year.

In simplest terms, the DALY measures the number of years a population lives with a disability, adjusting its productivity accordingly (as a major psychological or health problem will undoubtedly decrease a worker’s effectiveness), as well as measuring the impact of shorter life expectancy (often which is related to the disabilities in the DALY). ‘Disability’ in the term covers a wide arrange of conditions, among them pain, arthritis, mental illness such as depression and PTSD, disfigurement and major diseases. A highly sophisticated system, the DALY is weighted to measure the impact of conditions on younger members of a population more than older members to give a more accurate measure of  impact on the economic potential of a given population (as the young are seen to have more potential than the aged because of longevity, energy, new skills, etc.).

Measuring the global burden of disease this way has yielded surprising – and often controversial – results. Yet this data is promising and exciting in that it shakes our current system and demands attention to issues that have so far been neglected. For example, depression and suicide are found to be more damaging than tuberculosis or cirrhosis, and one of the fastest-growing diseases is glaucoma. The DALY’s results have not been welcomed by all, however. When first introduced after measuring international statistics, many countries were graded much lower than on an objective mortality scale, and hotly contested the results.

The importance of metric systems in foreign aid is steadily increasing: in a world where every dollar could be used in many different ways, expenditure on aid and social programs needs to be  well justified, with potential for results from investment. When asked about the use of DALYs to give an accurate picture of the state of global health, Murray stated, ““People walk around with a mental map that’s different for every one of us. A real map has got to be a better guide.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: Discover Magazine
Photo: Change

Sequestration

Se·ques·tra·tion (n) /ˌsēkwiˈstrāSHən/: a four-syllable word that hasn’t been part of average American vocabulary for long. Now the term is ubiquitous, even blamed for a vast number of completely unrelated problems. High gas prices? Must be sequestration. Long wait time on a business license? Probably the sequester. Got a flat tire? That darned sequester is to blame.

So what is sequestration? Etymologically speaking, the verb “sequester” itself derives from the Latin sequester which meant “trustee” or “mediator.” It has links to the root sequi (“to follow”), but by early 16th century the word “sequester” meant “to seize by authority, confiscate.” Today “sequester” also carries a similar meaning to “isolate” or “withdraw.” In budget contexts, sequestration implies withholding funds normally disbursed.

For the United States government, the Sequester was a massive set of budget cuts enacted by The Budget Control Act of 2011. This Act contained provisions that if the United States Congress could not formulate and pass a federal budget by a certain date, these massive budget cuts would occur across most departments and agencies (about 50/50 between defense and domestic spending). Other countries have proposed and enacted similarly drastic spending cuts to balance their budgets, but have typically called those measures “austerity policies.”

Congress’s threat of sequestration was supposed to incentivize compromise on reducing deficit in the federal budget. After all, those who support a large defense budget would hopefully work harder to come up with a budget to keep this funding intact; those who support high amounts of domestic spending would fight tooth and nail to pass a budget to avoid those cuts.

Multiple attempts to compromise were made on both sides of the aisle, but in the end Congress was unable to agree, and the government plunged over what many called “the fiscal cliff.” Many saw this as the point of no return for Congressional compromise — or, rather, the lack thereof; others winced at the blunt nature of the cuts but expressed support for the step towards a balanced federal budget. For invaluable foreign aid programs, however, the sudden budget cuts threaten to hurt many more people than just Americans.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: CNN,Online Etymology Dictionary,USA.gov
Photo: Esibytes

World_food_program

During international crises, the media often publishes striking images of planes unloading bags and bags of food to distribute to those in need, or air-dropping supplies. Often, these are from the World Food Programme, a branch of the United Nations that focuses entirely on providing food and easing malnutrition in at-risk and needy communities worldwide.

Formed in 1963, the WFP was initially started as a three-year experiment after the director of the U.S. Food for Peace Program spoke of the need for a larger, multilateral food assistance organization. Its success was such that after two years, it was expanded into the branch it is today. In 1994, it adopted a mission statement, a first for any U.N. organization, which established its focus as the following:

  • Use food aid to support economic and social development
  • Meet refugee and other emergency food needs, and the associated logistics support
  • Promote world food security in accordance with the recommendations of the United Nations and FAO.

The WFP’s programs are not limited to the direct distribution of food. It has expanded to provide food vouchers, implement food for work programs for the poorest members of society, buying food directly from developing countries to support local farmers, and providing food specifically to sufferers of HIV and TB (for whom proper nutrition is especially important.)

Like UNICEF, WFP has attracted significant attention, also in the celebrity sphere. Actress Drew Barrymore, an ambassador for the programme, donated $1 million towards its efforts. Football stars Ronaldinho and Kaka, alongside names like Penelope Cruz, Rachel Weisz, and Sean Connery have also supported the WFP’s efforts.

The WFP’s impact is indisputable: in 2011, it provided close to 4 million ton of food to nearly 99 million people, alongside their other growing programs. They have one of the best track records for aid agencies in terms of cost effectiveness, with their administration costs reported to be only around 7%. And they are funded entirely by donors and governments who provided an impressive 3.73 billion dollars in 2011.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: World Food Programme
Photo: Wikipedia:World Food Programme

Macklemore_&_Ryan_Lewis
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a fairly new artist/producer group that has quickly risen to fame through their popular song, “Thrift Shop.” Criticizing mainstream media, consumerism, and popular culture, this hip-hop group has a lot in common with the work being done at The Borgen Project. Raising these questions is essential to understanding not only the condition of the United States, but also the state of the world.

Gaining considerable exposure within the music industry in the past year, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have release their full-length album The Heist, hitting the number one spot on iTunes.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are proud to be from humble beginnings, and proud to support the “alternative” lifestyle of anti-consumerism. Deciding not to sign with any record label, the group is completely independent and produces their own music with their own flare.

Thinking under the lens of global poverty, “Thrift Shop”  raises a number of ethical concerns. On one hand, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are criticizing the United States culture of consumerism. A lyric from the song explains:

“They be like “Oh that Gucci, that’s hella tight”
I’m like “Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt”
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition
…I call that getting tricked by business”

Here, the group brings attention to the arbitrary nature of clothing, calling out branding as mere print on some cloth, and propose, throughout the rest of the song, that spending 99 cents on an otherwise expensive jacket is a much better option.

Alternatively, we look that the main hook of the song with a somewhat critical eye in relation to global (rather than only domestic) poverty:

“I’m gonna pop some tags
only got 20 dollars in my pocket
I’m, I’m I’m runnin’, looking for a come up”

All humor aside, the group is bringing attention to the fact that $20 for clothes is considered insanely cheap in the United States. However, while American consumers think that they are being frugal, $20 is far more than most people in the world make in one year. That much money, in much of the world, could be used much more effectively to feed a family. However, while monetary value is relative—what may be cheaper in the U.S. is expensive elsewhere—Macklemore & Ryan Lewis advocate for frugal living no matter what the exchange rate, leaving the quality of their beats far from impoverished.

– Kali Faulwetter

Sources: Rap Genius
Photo: MTV