Concert Goers AIDS Activists Fight Global Poverty
Last year, thousands of people came together in Manhattan’s Central Park to enjoy some of the biggest names in music. It cost concert goers nothing. The catch? Donate time and effort to signing petitions, sharing content, tweeting at companies, and pledging support to organizations working in tandem with the Global Citizens.

With this conversion of activism into tangible benefits, Global Poverty Project CEO Hugh Evans has created a new type of activism in which 60,000 people are mobilized into action while having the opportunity to experience the live music they love. This type of involvement matches the participants’ own interests with those of NGOs and the bottom billion around the world.

As the likes of Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys, Band of Horses, and K’naan graced the stage with their sets last year, they ended with a collaborative version of “Rockin’ in the Free World,” with assorted members from the bands. After such a lineup it seems hard to improve.

Yet, this is exactly what has happened. The new lineup is even more impressive than before as the Global Poverty Project and Global Citizens have acquired headliners like Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, and Kings of Leon. And it’s not just performers.

This year’s festival on September 28th will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. The UN’s highest ranking figure, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will be in attendance at the concert.

Other big names in attendance include the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, and three U.S. Congress Members. But it doesn’t end there. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian President, will receive the Global Citizen Movement Award for her efforts on women’s rights. Her presenter? The face of activism, Bono of U2.

Bringing such a cast to a festival has incentivized activists and Evans is capitalizing on it. His most recent idea aimed at focusing social media to pressure Trojan, Durex, ONE, and Lifestyles condom companies to commit 2% of profits to family planning worldwide. If a participating activist was to tweet at a condom company they would receive 5 of the 8 points necessary to receive a ticket for this blockbuster concert.

As 222 million women and girls are without access to contraceptives, family planning, and sexual education, profits will go towards providing these important services for 120 million of these women. The funds raised will go towards “It Takes Two” and other family planning initiatives.

Access to family planning and contraceptives allows women around the world to understand their own fertility and provides them with alternatives to childbearing. This can help prevent childbirth at a young age and promote their continued education and success.

– Michael Carney

Sources: The Daily Beast, NYT, ABC News, Global Citizen
Photo: Old Gold And Black

levi_strauss_foundation
When one thinks of Levi’s, the images of blue denim and jean vests comes to mind. As an iconic American brand that has revolutionized the world of fashion, it’s safe to say a Levi Strauss & Co. item is a staple in many closets. However, when taking a break from stitching and sewing, Levi’s works towards something for which it may not be as famous–philanthropy.

The Levi Strauss Foundation was founded in 1952 and works to advance the human rights and well being of people living in the developing world by tackling important social issues such as HIV/AIDS, workers’ rights, and asset building. The independent and private organization bases its mission on the Levi Strauss & Co. company values, which are originality, integrity, empathy and courage.

The Levi Strauss Foundation works to change the course of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic as one of its main goals. In fact, in 1982 the organization was the first U.S. corporate foundation to bring awareness to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. Since then, it has raised about $45 million for service organizations that deal with the disease in over 40 countries worldwide. By addressing HIV/AIDS as a human rights issue, the Levi Strauss Foundation has been able to provide assistance to people affected by the disease, as well as funding risk-reduction education for populations that are at high risk to contract it.

Additionally, the organization works to improve workers’ rights in the apparel and textile businesses by funding programs that educate workers and factory managers on labour rights and responsibilities, as well as improving the health of workers. The Levi Strauss Foundation also holds asset-building workshops for workers so that they can learn how to save for long-term goals and eventually break the poverty cycle. The organization also provides factory-level dispute settlement procedures and legal aid to workers, should they need it.

The foundation also partners with several organizations to reach its goals such as AIDS Care China, an organization that tackles the stigma and discrimination that AIDS patients in China face, as well as La Cocina, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that works to help women of disadvantaged businesses start their own food businesses. The organization also takes a global public stance on its issues by getting the international community involved. It has formed relationships with institutions such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World, as well as several NGOs, in order to get its platform across on the global stage.

The Levi Strauss Foundation’s newest initiative is the Pioneers in Justice project which provides grants to future social justice leaders who are committed to improving several social justice issues in their communities such as civil and human rights initiatives, advocacy, and policy change.

By taking a stance on issues in which it believes, Levi’s has proven that it should not only be known as just a clothing brand, but a clothing brand that looks beyond the denim and upholds its responsibility to workers, human rights, and the world.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: Levi Strauss, IHRFG, NPIN
Photo: PXLeyes:vysakhk

why_is_africa_poor
In terms of living standards, Africa has been rated as the poorest part of the world since the year 2010. It is home to the majority of those living in poverty, meaning those who survive on less than $1 per day. It is estimated that 47 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population lived in poverty in 2008, according to a 2012 United Nations study.

In an interview, the deputy director of the Africa Program, Richard Downie, discussed the current and future state of the African economy.

What exactly do you do at the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies)?

RD: I’m deputy director of the Africa Program. I conduct research on U.S. foreign policy issues and interests in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In your opinion, why is Africa so poor?

RD: First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that Africa is riding the wave of a prolonged period of economic growth. So there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. But it’s true that many Africans remain poor. There are many reasons for this, but I would argue that the most important one is poor governance. While governance standards are slowly improving, a minority of African leaders remain more interested in lining their own pockets than providing for their people. This is a particular problem in countries with rich endowments of natural resources. Unfortunately, the revenues from oil and other lucrative resources end up funding the lavish lifestyles of politically-connected elites in the capital city rather than helping to lift a broader mass of people out of poverty.

What factors have contributed to Africa’s economic state and how could they have been avoided?

RD: Poor governance is the most important one. The main responsibility lies squarely with African governments themselves. But international donors have not been resolute in putting pressure on African governments to do better. Too often, they’ve been content to disburse the money and consider their job done. In some countries, this approach amounts to complicity in funding corruption.

What things can be done to pull Africa out of poverty?

RD: We should support initiatives that provide African citizens with the tools to hold their governments to better standards of behavior. This would include offering training, education, and assistance to—among others—civil society organizations, the media, legislatures, judiciaries, and political parties.  If empowered, these institutions can play an important watchdog role in exposing corruption and building a constituency for good governance.

However, we shouldn’t place the entire onus on Africans. There are things that Western companies and institutions can do to promote good governance in Africa. One of the most important is to do something to track down and stop illicit financial outflows from Africa, which dwarf the amount of aid that flows into the continent.

Do you believe that foreign aid helps or hurts the African economy?

RD: It can help, if it’s given in a responsible, targeted way, accompanied by strong accountability mechanisms. But it won’t be—and shouldn’t be—the main way to lift Africans out of poverty. Many African countries have enough resources to address the needs of their people. It’s what they do with these resources that matters.

In addition, the transformative impact of trade and investment will be more important than aid in delivering economic growth to Africa in the long-term. Again, the key factor is how the wealth is used.

Is there anything else you think would be useful in regards to the African economy and poverty reduction?

RD: As you know, Africa is incredibly diverse, with some very good performers, some very bad ones, and a lot somewhere in the middle. It’s important not to adopt blanket approaches to the continent because what works in one place might not be relevant or successful in the next.  In general, I think it’s important when thinking about our relations with Africa to look beyond the traditional donor-recipient dynamic.  We need a more mature relationship with Africa that takes account of the improving economic landscape on the continent–a relationship of equals that is grounded in enhanced trade and investment.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: CSIS.orgWorldHunger.org
Photo: ChildSob

Bahrain Security Forces Beat Children All Day
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that Bahrain security forces are routinely detaining children and subjecting them to cruel treatment that may rise to the level of torture. Information from victims, families, and human rights activists suggests that the authorities are holding children for long periods of time, during which the children are beaten and threatened with torture. Many of the children being detained have participated in anti-government protests that began during the Arab Spring in 2011.

The European Parliament has responded to the situation in Bahrain by issuing a resolution denouncing the government’s actions and urging it, “to respect the rights of juveniles, to refrain from detaining them in adult facilities, and to treat juveniles in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Bahrain is a party.” The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that participatory nations protect their children from ill treatment and torture and provide prompt access to legal assistance for detained children.

In one account, the brother of a detained child said that police showed up at a pool party on September 5 and arrested 14 people, including nine children between the ages of 15 and 17. His brother was among those arrested. On the day after the arrest, the child was able to contact his family and recount the details of his detention. According to his account, he and the other children were blindfolded and beaten before being taken into custody. While detained, they were intimidated and pressed to admit to a September 1 attack on police officers. On September 11, the boy’s family had yet to see him, and he did not have access to a lawyer or social worker.

Other reports suggest that child victims have been illegally detained, beaten, threatened with rape and even burnt with cigarettes. Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW said, “The Bahraini authorities need to look into these allegations and immediately call a halt to any arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of children.” The HRW report urges Bahraini officials to conduct independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of child torture and illegal detention. For those children that are detained, officials should notify families and allow the children access to legal representation.

The Bahraini security forces’ abuse of children is part of a larger crackdown on protesters that are demanding political reform in the country. The constitutional monarchy does not appear concerned with allegations of human rights abuse. Since July, Bahrain’s parliament has urged King Al Khalifa to toughen punishments prescribed by the country’s 2006 anti-terrorism laws.

– Daniel Bonasso

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, RT
Photo: The Guardian

Climate Change Global Conflict
In discussions about global climate change, the discourse tends to be obscured by questions about the merits of scientific inquiry. With 97 percent of climate scientists arguing that human activity has played an integral role in the rise in global temperatures, it is not difficult to make an educated assumption as to which side of the argument is in the right. For many, the constant back and forth of this argument further obstructs meaningful discussion on the consequences of climate change.

To be sure, without adequate education on the issue, or education in general, critical thought will be effectively obstructed. The predominant portion of the public does not understand the scientific underpinnings of the discussions, so it is not surprising when they take a perceived authority’s word as true. For this very reason, where Fox News has a vested interest in denying climate change, their viewers are significantly less likely to view the issue as important.

While the purported effects of climate change are varied, in this article, we will focus on one particular social effect, the effect of climate change on human conflict.

In a joint study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University, researchers found a direct, precipitous causal link between increases in temperature and human conflict. In the course of the study, the researchers omitted various confounding factors such as history and culture and instead focused on violence over time. Through observations as simple as aggression in baseball pitchers up to civilization-ending conflict, the study indicated a direct causal link between a rise in temperature and human aggression.

Focusing principally on crop production, the research model sought to determine the effect of climate change on agriculture, and from there, the effect of crop production on human conflict. After much number crunching, the researchers found “the magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate towards warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4 percent and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14 percent.”

Taking into consideration prevailing expectations of an average of a two to four standard deviation rise in global temperatures, the researchers’ model predicts a 60 percent rise in intergroup conflict and 15 percent rise in interpersonal conflict by 2050. Understandably, it is within our direct interests to stem the rise of violence, whether it is intergroup or interpersonal. With a scarcity of resources, people will tend to divorce themselves from prevailing societal norms and tend towards more instinctual means of sustenance acquisition.

Moving forward, the study prompts us to take the reins in not only mitigating a rise in temperature, but also in developing pragmatic policy.

– Thomas Van Der List

Sources: Washington Times, NASA
Photo: Wired

Corruption Millenium Development Goals MDG UN United Nations
The Millennium Development Goals are set to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people by 2015, as 180 leaders agreed in 2000.

The eight goals range from policies on education and health to gender equality and the environment. With two years remaining, Transparency International, the global anti-corruption organization, will be convening a panel to discuss why strong anti-corruption policies are necessary in helping to accomplish these goals. The event will be co-hosted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the UN Development Program. As of now, the Millennium Development Goals do not include any commitments toward anti-corruption, and the panel will examine why these policies should perhaps be included.

Transparency International does not believe these goals will be reached if anti-corruption policies remain excluded from the list. According to their website, “Corruption and good governance were not included in this list, one of the reasons why Transparency International believes many of the eight goals will go unmet.”

Perhaps the best way to ensure the goals succeed is to maintain good governance in all the included sectors–education, health, and water, etc.–working together to prevent corruption. Access to information and participation from the citizenry is necessary in allowing the people to monitor and ensure fair governance.

Niger proves as an example that governance and corruption cannot be forgotten in the fight against poverty. This February, judicial authorities arrested about 20 doctors who were suspected of embezzling a donor’s funds after an investigation of some USD $1.5 million donated between 2007 and 2010. The donor, an alliance called GAVI, is demanding that the misused funds be returned. Because certain services will be halted without these funds, Nigerian children in need of health services suffer.

It is clear that all the Millennium Development Goals are related to each other in one way or another. And to accomplish them accordingly, it is vital that the policies can work off one another. Poverty, gender violence, and the like, cannot be combated if corruption still exists.

Sonia Aviv

Sources: Reuters, Transparency International, The World Bank
Photo: PhotoPin

donkey_developing_world
Yes, donkeys.

Largely neglected from mainstream discourse, donkeys have been sorely underrated as significant contributors to the process of development. There are currently about 44 million donkeys across the world, with half in Asia, about a quarter in Africa and the rest mainly in Latin America. Within these countries, donkeys are most often used for transport and agriculture, yet their social and economic benefits frequently go without recognition.

The donkey is a multi-purpose animal, able to carry out a wide variety of tasks under very limited circumstances. Donkeys are fast learners, surprisingly strong (they can carry loads about half their body weight), resistant to many diseases, have a long working life, require little water, and are easy to manage. Most importantly to many animal owners in developing countries, donkeys are much cheaper to purchase than oxen, horses and other animals used for working purposes. Further, donkeys are able to withstand heat and dry conditions, but find difficulty with cold and wet climates, making clear their relevance to developing nations.

While traditional agricultural practices in the global South have changed considerably as a result of modernization and globalization, donkeys still play a central role in providing for the livelihoods of many small-scale farmers. Their roles differ from country to country and farm to farm, but in general, donkeys help increase farmers’ productive potential and positively contribute to their well-being.

In addition, there has been growing global awareness of the role of donkeys in changing gender power relations. Women have experienced increasing access to ownership of donkeys, which they often use to fulfill household needs that are otherwise more difficult to accomplish. Since women are able to contribute more to the family unit, they are experiencing increasing status within traditional family structures. Read: donkeys are helping to empower women.

Yet despite the donkey’s vital economic importance to people in developing nations, these animals are still looked upon as indicators of backwardness and underdevelopment. This devaluation of donkeys by the process of modernization has sorely limited the donkey’s potential, all in the name of keeping up to date in a globalized world. Will the day of the donkey ever come?

– Tara Young

Sources: Animal Traction, Agricultures Network
Photo: Kiva Fellows

Green_Cross_International_20th_Anniversary
According to the World Bank, by the year 2050 the planet’s GDP will reach $200 trillion a year. The world’s population will also pass 10 billion, and we will need three earths to provide the resources necessary to sustain our current way of life.

Since its founding in 1993 by former Soviety leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Green Cross International has been working to define a sustainable and secure world future, seeking solutions through dialogue, mediation and cooperation.

By analyzing and responding to combined challenges of poverty, security, and environmental degradation, Green Cross International hopes to “help ensure a just, sustainable and secure future for all by fostering a value shift and cultivating a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility in humanity’s relationship with nature.”

In Green Cross’s 20-Year Report, Gorbachev notes that “the burning issues of climate change, the water crisis, the situation in the Middle East, and the overall state of the global security system, we can see that we clearly need to intensify our efforts.”

Green Cross is particularly concerned with environmental and sustainability issues, and has recently begun making forays into China. They have launched a task force on climate change and is developing a road map in the hopes of resolving the situation of dimishing resources.

Businesses in the U.S. and Europe have begun implementing energy-saving policies, while the layperson can participate by thinking more closely about how we live, how we consume, and how we can live differently. Even slight symbolic changes, such as unplugging unused appliances and avoiding drinking bottled water, can make a significant difference when enough people participate.

– Michael DeZubiria

Sources: South China Morning Post, Green Cross International

Beijing_air_quality_pollution_opt
In the wake of numerous high-profile corruption and pollution cases in China, concerns about the environment  and social issues have been on the rise, according to a recent survey by the US-based Pew Research Center between March and April 2013.

Nearly half of all respondents list air pollution, food safety, and the gap between the rich and poor as “very big problems,” showing significant increases from 2012. More than half of respondents also described political corruption as a significant concern, an issue highlighted by this year’s trial of former Chongqing Communist Party leader Bo Xilai.

Overall, the survey illustrates the evolving set of priorities of the Chinese people. As the Chinese economy strengthens and the middle class grows, concerns about the environment and consumer safety move to the forefront, and more people become concerned that the nation’s economic growth unfairly benefits the wealthy and politically connected.

Concerns about food safety and water pollution followed headlines about thousands of rotting pigs floating down a river through the center of Shanghai, as well as stories about tainted infant formula and other products.

Chinese citizens are far more optimistic about the national economy, with 80% saying they expect the economic situation to improve over the next 12 months, but the Chinese government has been increasingly alarmed by social unrest caused by environmental issues and public health threats. This month, a slew of pollution measures were unveiled in Beijing with the hopes of curbing air pollution by 25% by 2017.

– Michael DeZubiria

Sources: Pew Research Center, Reuters, South China Morning Post

 

seamus_heaney
Seamus Heaney, one of the most talented and renowned poets of the 20th century, passed away on August 30th.  The recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, Heaney has been lauded as the greatest Irish poet since W.B. Yeats. Indeed, his works are so widely read that, before his death, his collections made up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in Britain.

Readers familiar with Heaney’s poetry, especially his later works, know that he often used the political strife of Northern Ireland (his birthplace) as inspiration. To categorize Heaney as a political commentator, however, would be to limit unjustly the scope of his talent and interests. In his earlier collections especially, scenes of pastoral beauty take precedence, and throughout his work as a whole the discerning reader can find an unceasing curiosity in the human condition.

His profound interest in what it means “to be” was not merely evoked in philosophical ruminations.  Heaney was an avid supporter and patron of Concern Worldwide, a humanitarian organization founded in Ireland whose mission is to reduce global poverty. His poetic musings on the human condition translated into a tangible humanitarian concern.Throughout his involvement with the organization, Heaney donated his time, money, and talent to help promote a cause that he believed to be of the utmost importance.

In a foreword that he composed for Believing in Action: Concern, the First Thirty Years, he addresses the issue of global poverty while paying homage to those who have dedicated their lives to combating it. Using a metaphor of the immune system, Heaney notes that “art work and aid work have a statutory purpose, they are evidence that we are here for good but no guarantee that good will always carry the day.”

With the eloquent ease of an accomplished poet he extols “those who have chosen to live at that high level where they are bound to keep facing the challenge–clear, noble and exhausting,” a challenge that can bring them “into regions that often lie equidistant from the Gap of Danger and the Slough of Despond.”

Though his humanitarian interests are decidedly lesser known to the general public than his literary achievements, Heaney’s basic philosophy was the same for both. He once said in an interview with The Paris Review, “I have begun to think of life as a series of ripples widening out from an original center.”  He was referring to the fact that no matter how much one may change, the original essence of being never loses its influence. Taken more broadly this statement can be seen as reflecting his attitude towards humanitarian work. In the quest to reduce poverty, the “original center” is those individuals and organizations that make it their priority to help those who cannot help themselves. The beginning of the “series of ripples” is the people whose lives they change for the better.  As the ripples become larger, they represent change on a national and on a global scale.

As reflections on Heaney’s incredible life and work continue to pour in from every side, his interest in helping the world’s poor should not be forgotten. Rather, it should be taken as an inspiration; let the widest of ripples be aspired to in the fight against global poverty.

– Rebecca Beyer
Feature Writer

Sources: Concern Worldwide, BBC, The Paris Review, The New York Times