Australian crowdfunding site, ChipIn, is being used to raise money to provide rural Indian slums with solar powered lights. ChipIn has joined forces with Pollinate Energy, an NGO dedicated to providing sustainable and renewable energy sources to rid India of energy poverty. Pollinate Energy’s goal is to crowdsource funds to support the purchase of five franchises that will sell solar lamp kits for tent slums in Bangalore, India.

Pollinate Energy’s goal is to provide the community members with a month-long training program, initial hardware, and continuing support systems to ensure long-term success – as opposed to simply providing members of the community with solar lamps.

Crowdfunding has rapidly gained in popularity in recent years, and has become an efficient way to fund renewable energy projects in supporting energy-poor communities in developing countries. Pollinate Energy says that the funding is needed, as they found nearly “3,400 families without power in a 6-mile radius.” Information released by the government backs up these numbers, with a recent report citing that 1 out of every 6 urban Indian lives in a slum, a majority of which are not even connected to the power grid at all.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Clean Technica

At the Women in the World Summit earlier this week, Angelina Jolie paid tribute to Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in October because of her activism on educating girls and women. Jolie also pledged $200,000 to an educational fund that will provide money to build a girls school in Pakistan.

The Malala Fund, which will be directed by the girl, is set to build a school large enough for 40 girls to attend. In a video played at the conference, Malala told the audience that she hopes the 40 girls educated at her namesake school will turn into 40 million girls, and said it was the “happiest moment of her life.”

In her tribute to Malala, Jolie told the audience of her story and how the Taliban set out to silence Malala and her message, but only “made her stronger.” Other stars to appear at the Women in the World conference include Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, and Eva Longoria. Christiane Amanpour was also in attendance and moderated a panel on “The Next Generation of Malalas,” where she spoke to two young Pakistani girls also advocating for girls’ education.

Christina Kindlon

Source: CBC News

Water cooperation was the theme of this year’s World Water Day. There is a higher need to access of water and security of water resources especially with the estimated population increase which suggests that by 2050 there will be 9 billion people in the world. Thus, dependency on water will continue to be a major source of concern, especially when taking into account that each individual holds the power to affect others’ access to clean water because each individual can pollute and/or waste water.

Some concerns and challenges include that water is needed in every aspect of life; for example, the growth of the agricultural industry and service sectors depend on access and availability of water. However, in addition to maintaining the availability of water, there is also a need to decrease pressure on the excess disposal of water, especially for economic development. Water should be used in relation to its “biophysical limit.” Water also faces the threat of “commercialisation,” where water markets dictate that access to clean and safe water depends on the ability to pay for it. Thus, there should be a push for more water rights for poor communities.

Hence, water cooperation would lead to many benefits: “social harmony in water allocation and increasing human welfare.” Cooperation can prevent conflicts and competition over water access, can promote water use efficiency and better water management. Cooperation can occur between municipalities and private providers in order to “stimulate resource mobilisation.” Also, industry and government must cooperate to efficiently mobilise finances for water projects.

Water cooperation calls for an “inclusive and innovative approach.” The main goal is to sustain the growing population, preserve water availability and access, promote peace and security and mutual respect, and ultimately maintain economic growth. After all, water is truly the elixir of life.

Leen Abdallah

Source: The Hindu
Photo: Google

A billion people in the world suffer from hunger or malnutrition. While most of the world’s hungry live in places with high rates of extreme poverty, such as Africa and the Middle East, many also live here in the United States. Some consider a billion hungry people the definition of a global food crisis. Others say that things could get much worse. Either way, hundreds of social, agricultural, and humanitarian organizations are working to alleviate hunger and improve food security in the world’s most vulnerable regions.

Over the last five years, droughts, extreme temperatures, and unusual weather in some of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, including the US, have caused prices for wheat, corn, soybeans, and other food staples to increase dramatically. This has led to higher prices for many food products, especially animal products. As usual, the world’s poor have been most affected by the increase in prices. For those who either spend a substantial amount of their income on food or rely on subsistence farming to feed themselves, a certain increase in the price of food directly results in ongoing hunger and food insecurity.

Different crops affect various populations in distinct ways. Rice and wheat are the two major cereal staples in the diets of the world’s poor. Therefore, as long as those prices remain stable, a global food crisis can be averted. While increases in the price of corn will affect gas prices and meat prices, this will not necessarily contribute to a global food crisis. Most corn grown in the US is either manufactured into ethanol or fed to livestock, and the world’s poorest people cannot afford to buy much meat or gasoline in the first place.

However, a low yield of one crop can put pressure on the production and export of other crops. When the corn crop suffered in 2012, this caused an increased demand for wheat as livestock feed. This demand drove up the price of wheat, and reduced the supply of wheat available for export to places such as the Middle East, where much of the population relies on imported wheat for sustenance.

Economists and food experts warn against overreacting to high prices, as panic can create tighter restrictions and more problems. In order to begin to solve the global food crisis, we must focus not on what has gone wrong, but on what can be done to increase agricultural yields, implement sustainable farming methods, improve consumer access to affordable, healthy food, and help more of the world’s poor achieve food security.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has recommended that structural causes of food insecurity be addressed through the complementary techniques of short-term emergency aid and long-term sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: World Bank

Hillary Clinton's Book on Foreign Policy Coming in 2014
If Hillary Clinton’s not traveling the wold as Secretary of State, or running for president, or looking over legislation as a member of Congress, or raising a family, then she is writing a new book. According to Simon & Schuster, Hillary Clinton has a book on American foreign policy coming out in 2014. Simon & Schuster president and CEO, Carolyn Reidy, said that “Hillary Clinton has redefined the meaning of ‘trailblazer’ in every phase of her career on the world stage, as First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and notably, as an author.”

In framing her thoughts on foreign policy, Clinton will be pulling from her personal experiences, especially as Secretary of State. This position provided Clinton with many first-hand, and occasionally dramatic, experiences that give her a unique perspective of American foreign policy laws and legislation and how they directly affect other countries and the United States’ relationship with these other countries.

The news release from Simon & Schuster provides greater detail on the nature of Clinton’s book, which will also include her thoughts on American leadership in the future world, the important role of girls and women to the global and developing economies, as well as her opinions on the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Libyan conflict. Her thoughts on the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime in Libya will be insightful in the face of the many critiques from the Republican party.

The book, which has yet to be named, is expected to be published in June of 2014. It could be an indicator of whether or not Hillary Clinton will be running for president in 2016 as it highlights her credentials and states her opinions and thoughts on how to handle foreign policy and the future direction of the United States.

– Angela Hooks

Source: NY Times
Photo: CNN

On May 7, 2013, Sotheby’s will auction a painting from Madonna’s art collection, in its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. The sale of the Fernand Léger’s “Trois femmes à la table rouge – Three Women” painting is estimated at $5 to $7 million, and all proceeds will benefit the Ray of Light Foundation to support girls’ education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries.

“I have a great passion for art and a great passion for education. In conjunction with Sotheby’s, I would like to share these two passions. I cannot accept a world where women or girls are wounded, shot or killed for either going to school or teaching in girls’ schools. Let’s change the world!” commented Madonna.

In Afghanistan, just 12 percent of women are literate and it is estimated that only seven girls to every ten boys are able to attend school. In Pakistan, which has one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in the world, it is estimated that there are more than three million primary school-aged girls unable to attend school.

The Fernand Léger painting was done in 1921, at the height of his Mechanical Elements series. Over time, Léger’s rendering of female subjects became increasingly abstract and this painting on auction is an example of his unique Cubist moment. Madonna is taking this valuable piece of art, and turning it into an even more valuable catalyst for social-good.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Look At The Stars


Since 1945 the United Nations has established the contemporary global, obligation to address the economic and social well-being of ordinary citizens. A very new concept when written into their charter: “The United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of progress and development in the economic and social order.”

Over time, for at least economists and policy makers, this development agenda has become synonymous with “improving economic opportunities through increased production of goods and services.” The implicit assumption is that economic growth will increase quality of life standards, life expectancy, improve nutrition and health.

Since 1945, there have been impressive advancements in the elimination of extreme poverty, but still many professionals wonder how to accelerate growth even more throughout the world – particularly in Africa and South Asia, two regions with a great number of poor. The issue has prompted economists and policymakers to analyze the importance of several factors, policies and institutions, finding six factors for successful development:

1. Social inclusion – With a healthier and more educated population, nations can enjoy a more effective economic and political life. Illiteracy is a major barrier to participation in the economy. Without widespread education, citizens are more easily manipulated by un-just governments – allowing for the empowerment of counter-productive leadership.
2. Quality management – Governments must manage their national macro-economic environment; if there is no over-arching/holistic governance, the nation loses its credibility both in private sector business, and the citizenry. The “political capital” of a country cannot be wasted, and moreover, if public resources and urgent needs are not continually addressed, then the country falls into a burden of “catch up” where they are always behind in development, comparatively.
3. Transparency and accountability – Transparency is essential to prevent corruption and financial fraud, and promotes citizen participation. Experience shows that trust in one’s government encourages citizens and businesses to pay their taxes, thus advancing development and social services. Companies invest and expand more, creating greater confidence in the government and a “virtuous circle” of development ensues.
 4. Technology and innovation – Economic production is no longer just about capital and labor, now knowledge and innovation are just as important. It has been proven that technology gaps can explain the disparity in productivity between different countries. Technological adoption, knowledge dissemination and information communication technology (ICT) are imperative for national competitiveness.
5. Economic opportunities – Increasing the access and use economic resources to citizens is imperative. Free and open access to markets can contribute significantly to development; access to goods, labor and financial markets for personal use, production and exchange; especially the promotion of small-businesses.
6. Administrative Infrastructure – Business and society often come down to bureaucratic needs:  issuance of licenses, permits, birth certificate, passport, filing taxes, starting a business, registering a title, property rights, contract settlements, foreign trade authorization, hiring an employee, use the public health services, etc. The efficiency of bureaucracy is pertinent to advancing greater and more equal access to public resources.
 – Mary Purcell

Source: ITC


Introduced in the last few months of the 112th Congress, S. 3436, or better known by its short title “Afghan Women and Girls Security Promotion Act of 2012” was written by Senator Robert Casey Jr from Pennsylvania and co-sponsored by seven others senators including California’s Feinstein, New York’s Gillibrand, and Texas’ Hutchinson to name a few.

The well written and detailed bill was in response to the slow removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. As the process will continue until 2014, the bill requires the Department of Defense to take multiple precautions and implement specific strategies to ensure the safety and vitality of women and girls in Afghanistan. With less American troops patrolling local areas, it will be important to train the Afghan National Army and Police, as well as educate male civilians on the proper treatment of females.

Although the bill is currently dead, one can only hope it will be reintroduced to the newest Congress. In accordance to the 2012 Strategic Partnership Agreement, President Karzi agreed to “ensure and advance the essential role of women in society so that they may fully enjoy their economic, social, political, civil, and cultural rights.” Making this statement a reality has proven difficult.

One of the main indicators of a successful transition of authority to Afghanistan, according to this bill, would have been an increase in the number of women in the Afghan National Army and Police force. While the Afghan government had set a goal of three percent female composition in its police force and 10 percent in the army by 2014, it has not even come close to reaching either of those percentages. The bill also calls for creating separate female facilities to make the work environment more tolerable and to illustrate the seriousness by which the Afghan government has in implementing its ANP and ANA goals.

Other indicators of a successful transition are the mobility of Afghan women, the attendance rate in schools for girls, participation in local governments, ease of access to social services, and the rate of violence against women in communities. To monitor the data on this, the bill also called for a Civilian Impact Advisor on the Joint Afghan-NATO Inteqal Board to be assigned by the D.O.D.

Thankfully, the bill recognized the fact that it is not just signing agreements and monitoring tangible evidence that is going to help bring stability to Afghanistan. As the security of women is a huge aspect of preventing further conflict and maintaining peace, a call to a cultural awakening for both genders will have to result. It is therefore important for Afghanis to realize the benefits of the inclusion of females in everyday society, be it in the classroom or in the armed forces.

Despite its death in Congress, there is hope that a similar bill will rise in the 13th Congress with more sponsors and more success.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: The Library of Congress
Photo: blogspot

NEAT Nepal Blog_opt
After a decade of armed insurgency by Maoists, tension in Nepal has increased making some impoverished areas more susceptible to insurrection. The Nepal Economic Agricultural and Trade Activity (NEAT), a USAID funded program, has addressed this problem with a new campaign which involves circulating agricultural training materials throughout impoverished communities in Nepal.

By attempting to decrease poverty, reduce conflict and improve lives, NEAT has targeted the illiterate and semiliterate with training materials. The program is working with 67,510 food insecure and disadvantaged households in 20 districts. Combining photos and written descriptions, the 263,000 pieces outline different ways to increase the quality and quantity of 13 different crops and three types of livestock.

The effect of this type of aid is not only a stronger economy in rural and impoverished areas of Nepal, it is also an improved resistance to insurgency and other roots of violence.

This program falls in line with USAID’s newly implemented efficiency program, USAID Forward, which works toward cutting its global footprint. Programs such as NEAT are made from Nepali people who can more easily assess their country’s problems and work toward a sustainable solution.

Thus far, NEAT has helped Nepali farmers increase their household incomes by a total of $8.5 billion,, with 99 percent of them reporting that they had increased access to markets for their crops. The project is slated to close in August 2013.

– Pete Grapentien

Photo: Nepal Santoshs

It is predicted that by 2015 China will decrease the number of its citizens living in poverty by 50 million. Other developing countries are taking note of China’s success and, with the help of foreign investment, hope to employ the same methods. With its growing economy and monetary assistance, China is, by example, taking a leading role in foreign aid and assisting the developing world.

China’s representative for the World Food Programme, Brett Rierson, explains how China used a bottom-up method of alleviating poverty. The Chinese government focused on aiding poor farmers by implementing policies that permitted farmers to keep a higher percentage of their profits and allocating foreign investment and technology to small villages. Investment in infrastructure, as well as improving nutrition education, women’s health, and agriculture production, are also factors responsible for China’s success story.

A majority of China’s aid goes to countries in Asia and Africa. These developing countries can mimic China’s strategy by investing in infrastructure and farming communities. Deborah Brautigam, director of the international development program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, reminds us that it was China’s decision to invest in agriculture that helped reduce poverty, not just foreign assistance. African countries have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty, but it depends on how they invest the money they received from foreign aid.

China formerly received foreign aid from Western countries and is now ready to begin investing in other developing countries. With China’s help, the United Nations is on track to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

-Mary Penn
Source: SCMP
Photo: The Guardian