Avoiding Taxes
Some people may not realize it, but avoiding taxes can hurt more than the government–it actually negatively affects those living under the poverty line the most.

Some large businesses can get away with paying fewer taxes through the use of tax havens. Tax havens allow these businesses to sneakily conduct business through other countries that have extremely low tax rates to legally avoid paying taxes. For example, Associated British Foods was suspected of using tax haven conduct to avoid paying enough tax money to Zambia that could have put 48,000 children in school. Two other major companies were also accused of denying the Democratic Republic of Congo an estimated $1.36 billion.

According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, avoiding taxes severely hurts poor people living in developing countries, and these nations lose three times more money as a result of tax havens than they receive in aid each year.

Tax havens are one of the largest invisible obstacles that affect poverty, and they are difficult to regulate because they are difficult to find. Not all companies that conduct business in multiple countries are using tax havens, and it’s tough to tell from what a company reports if it is utilizing any tax haven subsidiaries. Combined with the idea that tax havens can significantly increase a business’s profit, it will be difficult to find and stop these companies from denying tax money to the nations that need it most, but it can be done. Next month the G8 will meet to talk about some of the world’s most pressing problems, and hopefully tax havens will be on the discussion list.

Katie Brockman

Source: The Guardian

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In an effort to help people understand what it means to live below the line of poverty, the Global Poverty Project organizes an annual campaign to raise funds and awareness for the 1.4 million people living in poverty around the globe. While the campaign strives to gain funding, it is also dedicated to helping people understand what a life of poverty means. Participants live for five days on the equivalent of about $1.50 USD. Since the beginning of this year, 20,000 individuals have taken the challenge alongside the GPP and a dozen partnered nonprofit organizations across three continents. This year the campaign took place from April 29 to May 3 in Canada, The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and The United States. However, the GPP is taking donations till May 31 and the challenge is open to anyone that wants to do it year round.

In the United Kingdom, living below the line means living on £1 for five days. One couple, Jenna and Stuart Wills, fine dining enthusiasts, share their experience on living below the line. In a country where one pound, approximately $1.50 USD, doesn’t even buy a bus ticket, a sandwich, or elderberry cordial, the couple knew it was going to be rough.

At the beginning of the week, the couple decided to buy the cheapest staple foods they could find, rice and noodles, but realized that they had spent more than half of their five day budget. Consequently, it was difficult to spread the remainder of the budget over the rest of the week. The organic, fair-trade and costly foods that the Wills’ usually dined on was set aside and bargain buys that weren’t quite as delectable were their only alternative. The couple learned to plan grocery-shopping trips to stores and markets close to closing time in order to buy foods that were to expire soon and slashed in price. As the days wore on, lack of luxury food items as simple as coffee took a toll on the couple in high tempers and mood swings.

While the challenge was difficult at times, the couple admits that what they endured for five days is nothing compared to true poverty. They recognize that they have never once wondered when they would eat next, they bragged about their bargain finds on Facebook, and went about their daily lives. Whenever they felt a bit hungry, they had the option to put another piece of bread in the toaster. The couple raised £435 for their chosen charity, Oxfam, and have taken the challenge as an opportunity to appreciate what they have and spread the word about extreme poverty around the world.

– Kira Maixner

Source Birmingham Mail , Live Below the Line US
Photo MSN Food UK

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When discussing the issue of hunger and global poverty, most immediately think of foreign aid and intervention from donors as being the main solution to the problem. What seems to be disregarded is the power of those living in poverty and the influence of those in power in impoverished countries. Now, leaders in Africa are working to end hunger internally. A recent conference brought together delegates from five African nations with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization to develop an effective way to eradicate hunger in Africa.

FAO looks to form innovative partnerships in Africa to “build on experiences and stop the suffering of the estimated 23% of all Africans who remain undernourished”. While the organization’s program, Unified Approaches to End Hunger in Africa, will work to provide greater access to water, food, and education, the program builds off of the already increased production of goods and “consistent political will” in many developing African countries.

Countries like Angola and Ethiopia have running social protection and national development plans, promoting domestic agriculture and provision of water as well as infrastructure improvement. Services including microfinancing and “cash-for-work public infrastructure programs” work to accelerate development in order to end poverty. These internal programs work to create stable societies and economies that are more conducive to greater production in order to advance the protection of their citizens.

While partnership and foreign aid are incredibly important forces behind eradicating extreme poverty around the world, they are by no means the only work being done. It is necessary to take into account the work being done by these people that are often portrayed as hopeless and helpless by the media; they are far from it, and are working to end global poverty just as resolutely internally as developed countries are externally.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: All Africa
Photo:Radio Netherlands Worldwide

cape-town-international-airport
Skytrax- a UK based company that specializes in airline and airport research- recently ranked the top airports in the world. South African airports have topped the list in Africa, and have outdone many other countries, the United States included. The Skytrax survey covered 12 million people and surveyed them about their opinions of 39 different aspects of airport travel from staff to hotels, to shopping. The survey covered roughly 400 airports, and of those 400 airports, only three made the top 100 list, and all three were from South Africa.

Cape Town international airport was ranked as the best airport in Africa, and came in 22nd place overall. The Cape Town Airport was also ranked highly for having excellent staff and is ranked as the top airport for airports with 5-10 million passengers yearly.

Also in South Africa is Durban King Shaka International Airport. Durban King Shaka was ranked as the second best African airport and came in at 26th globally. It is the highest ranked airport for fewer than five million passengers annually, has the second best staff in Africa, and is the best regional airport in Africa. Both airports also increased their rankings from the previous year by five and nine points respectively.

The third place African airport is Johannesburg or Tambo International Airport ranking at 28th globally, improving three places from the previous year. For airports with 10-20 million passengers it is ranked 9th globally and it has the best airport hotel.

Impressively, all three South African airports beat Dubai International Airport and Sydney airport, as well as every American airport for this year’s ranking. These rankings indicate significant improvements to air travel in the developing world. South Africa’s commitment to their airports indicates an improving level of commerce and economic stability. While South Africa was the only country to break into the top 100 list, it is a sign of improving regional and continental improvements in airline infrastructure and travel.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source How We Made It in Africa
Photo Drive South Africa

admiral-james-loy-uscg
Admiral James Loy wrote a piece for Defense News in which he defended US funding for international aid. He explained why international affairs spending should not be cut. The article was titled, simply, “Don’t Cut International Affairs Spending”.

When Admiral Loy joined the military, our foreign policy and worldview was defined by nations who wanted to do us harm. This made American foreign policy strategy simple and straightforward, however, times have changed. The Admiral plainly states that in order to secure our country, it is absolutely critical for us to invest in development and diplomacy alongside our defense systems.

In his opinion, our international affairs budget is absolutely necessary. He believes that exact budget is responsible, in large part, for protecting our national security at home. He devoutly feels that our International Affairs budget should remain a part of national security, and that cuts to the budget would jeopardize investments and progress in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

This budget, he says, promotes our security by addressing complex threats around the world in the form of global pandemics, infectious diseases, and instability as a result of food shortages and natural disasters. This funding allows the United States to prevent conflicts before they even occur.

The minuscule amount of our budget spent on international affairs (only one percent!) provides a massive return on investment. Admiral Loy believes our international spending not only limits our military spending abroad, but it also protects the lives of US soldiers.

Admiral James Loy stated that, as a country, Americans must be aware of our position around the world. We need to provide potentially unstable countries reason to see us as friends and not foes by assisting them in building a better way of life. We must work to ensure developing countries have access to economic growth, clean water, encouraged rule of law, and that we help stop the spread of preventable diseases.

Admiral Loy, like many other top US military officials, understands the importance of foreign aid and foreign spending. Foreign aid is an investment in our future. It will provide a return larger than the initial investment. Admiral Loy’s final parting words stated that, “a strong and effective International Affairs Budget is essential to our national security, and this must continue to be a priority for our nation moving forward.”

Admiral James Loy served as commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998-2002, and deputy secretary of Homeland Security from 2003-2005. He currently serves as a co-Chair of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

– Caitlin Zusy

Source: U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

the-rockefeller-foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation supports work that expands opportunity and strengthens resilience to social, health, economic and environmental challenges. The foundation aims to promote the well being of humanity and is based on a set of core values.  These values include leadership, equity, effectiveness, innovation, and integrity. The foundation actively takes steps towards their vision of a better world, while inspiring others to join them. They work to create fair and equal access to resources and networks, which include all people and perspectives. They attempt to use efficient and creative processes to accomplish their long and short-term goals, working to transform the lives of people and build social relationships.

The Rockefeller Foundation strives to move innovation from idea to impact. The organization has a 100-year history of innovation, intervention, and influence. The Rockefeller Foundation is aimed as tackling four main goals: revaluing ecosystems, securing livelihoods, advancing health, and transforming cities.

The Rockefeller Foundation is working to revalue ecosystems through climate change programs, sustainable employment in green economies, and environmentally sound economic development. They realize that environmental degradation, while affecting the entire global community, disproportionately impacts the world’s poor and vulnerable.

They are working to secure livelihoods through projects aimed at food security, sustainable transportation, and poverty reduction through digital employment among others. The Rockefeller Foundation understands the importance of this issue as entire groups of people can be threatened by economic stresses worldwide, such as migration from rural to urban centers, unemployment and underemployment, and others. Their programs aimed at advancing health include initiatives focusing on transforming health systems, working towards improving food security, monitoring global diseases, and others. They work to incentivize individuals, communities and governments to address their problems, and to contribute to healthy societies.

Finally, the Rockefeller Foundation is working to transform cities through embracing urbanization to catalyze equity. They realize that this shift towards urban areas necessitates improved urban planning, as well as modified health and economic well-being strategies. The Rockefeller Foundation has funded projects working towards improving public transit, climate change strategy, and city dialogues among others.

The Rockefeller foundation strives to take philanthropic efforts to improve the world. Their work focuses on U.S. and global initiatives to ensure their core values are met and that globalization lends all human beings an equal opportunity to succeed.

– Caitlin Zusy

Source: The Rockefeller Foundation

Ami_Vitale_Guinea_bissau_life_expectancy_photography_international_Affairs_USAID_disease_global_health_opt

In the United States, the average person will live to be 78 years old. In that time, they’ll likely get married, have children of their own, have a long career and then spend roughly 13 years in retirement. For most of us, this seems like the natural progression of life. In many places around the world however, many people won’t live to see the day they become grandparents and the idea of retirement is just a pie in the sky.

What does low life expectancy tell us?

The World Bank defines life expectancy at birth as the number of years a newborn can be expected to live, assuming no change in the living conditions of the country present at birth. When life expectancy in a country is low, it indicates a lack in some of the basic necessities required to live a long, healthy life.

This often includes things such as clean drinking water, nutritious food, hygienic living conditions and adequate health care. But in some cases, it is far more complicated than that. AIDS related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa for example, have been driving down average life expectancy for decades. Conflict, war and genocide also contribute to a shorter average life span.

The following is a list of 10 countries with the lowest life expectancy numbers on the planet, the 10 worst places to be born. For comparison, life expectancy in the United States was 48 in the year 1900.

10. Mozambique

Life expectancy: 50 years

9. Chad

Life expectancy: 50 years

8. Zambia

Life expectancy: 49 years

7. Afghanistan

Life expectancy: 49 years

6. Swaziland

Life expectancy: 49 years

 5. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Life expectancy: 48 years

 4. Central African Republic

Life expectancy: 48 years

3. Guinea-Bissau

Life expectancy: 48 years

 2. Lesotho

Life expectancy: 48 years

 1. Sierra Leone

Life expectancy: 48 years

These figures express the importance of global health initiatives undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other health actors on the world stage. Many government health ministries and non-governmental health organizations are also stepping up to meet these challenges. These efforts are imperative for global development and their continued persistence can eventually lead to long and healthy lives for people in these countries.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Sources:World Bank, Washington Post, Berkeley
Photo:Alexia Foundation

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Martin Ravallion of World Bank argues that countries with an average income above $4,000 dollars could resolve their own domestic poverty crisis by taxing residents who earn more than $13 a day. Laurence Chandy and Geoffrey Gertz of the Brookings Institution suggest a way to complement Ravallion’s plan, which would end extreme poverty completely. They estimate that by 2015, there may be only 586 million people living below the absolute poverty line, and suggest that the world’s wealthier countries could aid those unable to fix their own economic situations, for only $40 billion dollars. We could live in a world where none of our nearly 7 billion neighbors is forced to face the dehumanizing reality of absolute poverty, for less than the annual budget of New York City.

So what’s the catch?

Unfortunately, what Ravallion, Chandy and Gertz suggest is only a theory. Tracking the exact number of people in need of help would be impossible, therefore estimating the exact cost of helping is impossible. There are less exact ways to monitor a household’s income, such as tracking ownership of assests such as bicycles or land, but no precise method.

So, since we can’t assign concrete numbers, let’s assume that it would actually cost much more than the theoretical $40 billion proposed by Chandy and Gertz. Let’s be conservative and double it. No, for argument’s sake, let’s go even higher; let’s estimate $100 billion dollars. $100 billion sounds like much more than the world’s wealthier countries would be willing to contribute to end another country’s struggle, right?

Now consider that in President Obama’s 2013 fiscal budget, foreign aid accounts for around 1% of our country’s federal spending. That 1% equals about $70 billion dollars.

The bottom line is this; eradicating extreme poverty is possible, and it can be accomplished for a fraction of a percent of our Gross Domestic Product, if we can just unite with other countries and attack this problem as a team. One world, one mission: end absolute poverty.

– Dana Johnson

Sources: Foreign Policy, National Priorities
Sources: Echwalu

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If you’ve ever received a handmade sweater on Christmas from Grandma, you know how much octogenarians love to crochet.

Well, believe it or not, crocheting can be more than just entertainment for the elderly (or the crafty Pinterest fiend). Thanks to Krochet Kids International, now grandma’s favorite past time is improving the lives of women in northern Uganda and Peru by offering them hope and opportunities for self-empowerment.

That’s right, crocheting.

Krochet Kids International began as three high school friends, Kohl, Travis and Stewart, in Spokane, Washington, who enjoyed crocheting. In Kohl’s words “though it was not a normal hobby for high school guys, we reveled in the novelty of it”. A local paper nicknamed them the Krochet Kids and the name stuck.

In college Stewart spent a summer in Uganda where he encountered whole communities of people who’d been living in government camps for 20 years after the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) ravaged much of the northern half of the country.  Opportunities to make a living or improve their lives were nonexistent and most were trapped in dependence on the government camps and aid. After Stewarts returned, the three realized the difference they could make by teaching women in Uganda their beloved hobby. With this skill and the products they would create, they could lift themselves out of poverty and provide for their families.

To date, over 150 women in Uganda and Peru are Krochet Kids and are receiving ongoing support, education, and mentorship. Apiyo Kevin is one such woman. When asked what her favorite thing about crocheting is she replied, “crocheting has greatly helped me to forget my husband’s death. Besides, it has provided me with an employment opportunity that has drastically improved my income.”

Each of Krochet Kids’ colorful beanies and scarves has a small tag bearing the name, scrawled in blue ink, of the Ugandan woman who made it.

Fore these women, crocheting isn’t simply a hobby. It provides them with the self-confidence that comes with learning a new skill, an opportunity to heal, and most importantly, an income.

Because three high school friends decided they wanted to make a difference in the world around them, women in Uganda and Peru and consequently those who depend on them, are beginning to lead better, more fulfilled lives.

– Erin Ponsonby

Source: Krochet Kids
Photo: Granny Funk

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In a 2013 paper published in the World Bank Research Observer, Martin Ravallion hypothesizes two possibilities in answer to the question, “How Long Will It Take to Lift One Billion People Out of Poverty?” In a pessimistic scenario, only factoring the developing world outside of China, he estimates that it would take 50 more years to achieve the task of lifting a billion relying on less than $1.25 per day. In a more optimistic scenario, he estimates that poverty reduction for a billion people could be achieved by 2025-30. At present, there are about 1.2 billion people globally subsisting on $1.25 per day.

Ravallion reasons that the optimistic scenario is possible if we continue with “staying-on-the-path” as seen in the 20 years between 1990 and 2010 in which the developing world halved its poverty rate. At this pace, it could be halved again in ten more years. This is not only because of China and India’s growth. Since 2000, gross domestic product (GDP) in the developing world has grown by 6% a year. The highest rates of GDP growth over the past decade have been in East Asia (8%), South Asia (7%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (5%) — “the three regions which account for the bulk of absolute poverty” globally. Ravallion’s findings defy the theory that developing countries are stuck in a poverty trap.

Ravallion points out that there are multiple solutions for lifting a billion people out of poverty such as fostering rapid economic growth, avoiding major financial and agro-climatic crises, and assuring that poor people are able to participate fully in that growth through access to schooling, health care, employment, and financial resources. The most sustainable solution for poverty reduction will vary from country to country and hence strategies to combat poverty should be derived at the country level.

But of course, why wait until 2025? If each country were given a boost in resources from foreign aid, each could expedite their poverty reduction efforts. Currently, the U.S. only contributes less than one percent of its federal budget to foreign aid.

– Maria Caluag

Source: World Bank
Photo:Tumblr