Does WTO's Aid for Trade Reduce Poverty?
Aid for Trade is a holistic approach to incorporating developing economies into global trade networks by assisting them in increasing exports and market access. Aid for Trade was initiated at the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2005, and the program has since increased its scope to include building production capacity (financial services, businesses, and industry), trade-related infrastructure (communications, energy, transportation), and trade policy and regulations.

When the Aid for Trade initiative began, it was unclear whether it would receive funding or be successful. Now that it has been implemented for over a decade, it is time to reexamine the links between trade, development, and poverty reduction that Aid for Trade aims to strengthen.

The principle behind Aid for Trade is that increased trade should benefit inhabitants of developing countries, whether or not they are directly involved in the program. One Aid for Trade program teaches Ugandan farmers how to grow and process dried fruit to be sold into the European cereal market. The farmers involved should benefit from increased income, market access, and productivity, and Uganda should benefit from increased exports.

Most evaluations of the effectiveness of Aid for Trade programs take place within 18 months of a given program’s initiation. This is not enough time to measure whether the program has truly been successful at reducing poverty in a sustainable way. Additionally, evaluations often do not take into account a program’s impact on those not involved; how did the fruit-growing education program impact farmers who did not receive additional training and support?

A new study on European trade assistance aid, commissioned by NGOs Traidcraft and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, suggests that there may be “hidden losers” to Aid for Trade initiatives. For example, South African fruit growers increased exports to Europe after trade sanctions were lifted. They earned higher wages and improved their standard of living. However, the demand for cheaper fruit also caused some growers to lower wages and to replace full-time employees with temporary, often migrant workers, who did not enjoy the benefits.

The study also found that the majority of trade assistance goes to middle-income countries rather than to the least developed countries (LCDs) that Aid for Trade is directed towards. Little evidence exists to prove Aid for Trade’s effectiveness in reducing extreme poverty; this is likely a result of short-term program evaluations that take place before real impact can be measured, as well as lack of donor interest in, and therefore funding for, impact evaluations.

Overall, there are many obstacles to determining whether or not Aid for Trade has been successful thus far. More thorough, accurate, and long-term evaluations of poverty rates are necessary in order to determine the tangible successes or failures of Aid for Trade.

– Kat Henrichs

Sources: OECD, International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development, The Guardian
Photo: European Commission

Last Tuesday, President of Bangladesh Zillur Rahman passed away in a hospital in Singapore while receiving treatment for kidney and respiratory problems. In commemoration of the late President, three days of national mourning are to take place in Bangladesh from March 21 to 23.

Since the late 1940s, Rahman had led a strong political life, having participated in the Language Movement in 1952, the Six-point Movement in 1966, and the War of Liberation in 1971. After the war, as a member of the Bangladesh Constituent Assembly, Rahman took part in forming the Constitution of Bangladesh and became the General Secretary of the Awami League. Following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, first president of Bangladesh and father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in 1975, Rahman was arrested by the army junta and sentenced to four years in prison. Rahman was a close friend and personal aide of Mujibur. From 1996 to 2001, Rahman was minister in the Awami League government. Throughout his political career, Rahman has played an active role in Bengali nationalist movements and pro-democracy campaigns, and has been a strong advocate for the Awami League. In 2009, Rahman was sworn into office as 19th President of Bangladesh.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry have both expressed their condolences, commenting that Rahman was an integral part of Bangladesh’s birth as a country and transition towards democracy.

Until a new president is elected, Abdul Hamid, the parliamentary speaker, will be acting as president. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls Rahman’s death “an irreparable loss to the country and its people,” describing him as a patriotic leader. Rahman’s body will be flown back to Bangladesh on Thursday.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: National News Agency Of Bangladesh, Global Post, Washington Post

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On March 21, 2013, Congress reaffirmed its support for the Global Fund by passing a continuing resolution that ensures support and funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Even with increased tension within Congress over budget cuts and a very tight budget, Congress has shown it understands how necessary and critical the work done by the Global Fund and its affiliates is in fighting these life-threatening diseases.

The Global Fund has helped combat these diseases and improve health by focusing on development assistance. A large part of its strategy has to do with providing the funds necessary in development and implementation of new technology and interventions that have and will continue to change the trajectory of these dangerous diseases. This funding comes from a lot of different sources, yet, the United States is by far the largest donor. With the US’s aid, the Global Fund is able to finance interventions in more than 150 countries across the globe.

This means that the world is on track to halve the amount of people affected by tuberculosis by 2015 (as compared to the 1990s numbers). Elimination of malaria in many territories is occurring and will continue to occur with the help of the Global Fund. New infections of HIV are on the decline in many countries as awareness and preventive methods are becoming more and more common. With the continued support of the United States – which comes across through Congress’ support of the bill – these numbers will only improve. The number of people affected by tuberculosis will continue on a downward spiral. More and more territories will be malaria free and HIV prevention will be a bigger concern than treating HIV.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Global Fund

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The Canada International Development Agency (CIDA) recognizes the importance of providing basic needs for women and children in Afghanistan. The organization has vowed to give assistance to the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), a humanitarian group that offers health and educational services to impoverished peoples. The decision to support the ARCS came after a trip to Afghanistan during which leaders of the CIDA witnessed women and children living without these basic services. They immediately decided to do something about it. The Afghan Red Crescent Society and Canada International Development Agency will now work together to ensure that those who will most benefit from their help are reached. This begins with re-structuring the ARCS to increase quick response to disasters through a better-organized emergency response team. With Canada’s help, the ARCS will have the capacity to assist in large and small calamities. Both organizations agree they have the potential to save many lives. Over the course of five years, the CIDA and Canadian Red Cross Society will provide financial, advisory, and physical assistance to the Afghan organization. Of course, neither of the groups could be effective without the help of tens of thousands of volunteers working in Afghanistan. Well-trained volunteers are key to successfully administering relief to Afghans. Conrad Suavé, secretary general and the CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, is confident that this partnership will greatly benefit the Afghan people. Suavé states that, “Building community health and disaster response capacity across Afghanistan will allow the Red Crescent to reach more vulnerable communities with life-saving services.” Together, the organizations can offer a better life for many women and children in Afghanistan. – Mary Penn Source: CIDA Photo: National Post

Scientists Use iPhone Microscope to Diagnose Parasites
Consider the public health benefits of having the ability to use an electronic device the size of a mobile phone to diagnose diseases usually requiring expensive lab equipment and logistical support. Well thanks to a group of innovative scientists operating in a remote area of Tanzania, the iPhone microscope could usher in the future of a technologically driven global health policy.

Using nothing more than an iPhone, a flashlight, tape, and a camera lens; scientists were able to use their iPhone microscope to detect parasitic worms in a group of 200 students located on the Tanzanian island of Pemba. Isaac Bogoch, a Toronto-based physician remarked, “To our knowledge, this is the first time the mobile phone microscope had been used in the field to diagnose intestinal parasitic infections.”

Parasitic worms – clinically regarded as Helminth infections – affect nearly 1.5 billion people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By utilizing the iPhone microscope, health care workers will be able to analyze samples quickly and in close proximity to the patient, allowing for immediate parasitic identification and treatment. Thus far, the iPhone microscope diagnoses have been 70 percent accurate, and with greater zoom capabilities and higher resolution, is expected to improve in the near future.

The potential benefits of the iPhone microscope in alleviating global health outbreaks is promising due to its portability and ergonomic efficiency. By utilizing readily available technology such as the iPhone microscope to combat disease, aid workers have found an indispensable ally in the mobile phone market.

– Brian Turner

Source: CNN

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March 24th will be World TB Day, a day to raise awareness of tuberculosis and the numerous TB deaths each year. As the day of awareness approaches, the World Health Organization, along with The Global Fund, have sent out a plea for more funding into medicine research and distribution.

The WHO claims that $1.3 billion is the annual funding required to effectively combat the disease. In 2011 only $0.5 billion was made available for TB research to find a cure. As TB has historically changed to become vaccine-resistant, it is critical that funding continues to come in and grows in volume. Dr. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), is worried by the shortcoming in research funding at a time when the number of medicine-resistant examples of the disease are increasing.

Along with working to increase funding to TB research, the WHO and The Global Fund are trying to make existing TB medications more easily available in the developing countries that are most often effected by the disease. They continue to work with big pharmacy companies like AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Otsuka to lower the cost of medications for people who currently can’t afford them. They are also allying with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, to help address the many issues that surround the efficient distribution of such medicine. Learn more about the efforts of MSF.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: PM Live
Photo: Top News

Will Poverty End in Your Lifetime_opt
According to the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the poorest nations in the world may be brought out of poverty in twenty years if current rates of development continue – a sure sign that foreign aid and global relief programs are working.

Oxford released the study after the United Nations published a report documenting that poverty reduction drives were exceeding all expectations. The study also noted that this was the first time in history that poverty has been beaten back so dramatically and quickly.

This type of shining development is the effect of the investment of foreign aid and development projects in helping communities establish higher standards of living and the infrastructure to help sustain those standards of living. The UN pointed out that trade had become an important factor in improving conditions in impoverished countries such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

As Secretary of State Kerry pointed out during his first address, eleven of the top fifteen trading partners of the United States were once beneficiaries of foreign aid. If advocacy groups continue to work toward sustainable development in impoverished nations, it’s possible a few of these countries will make that list in the coming decades. Among the current countries pushing forward, Rwanda, Nepal, and Bangladesh are the countries in which poverty is declining the quickest, followed closely by Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia. In the three former countries, if poverty continues to decline at this rapid rate, it is projected that the global community can eliminate poverty within the current generation’s lifetime.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The Guardian

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Sir Richard Branson and his wife, Joan, have joined a handful of billionaires who have pledged much of their wealth to charity. Branson joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as the latest billionaire to make such a pledge as part of The Giving Pledge, started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Branson, the UK’s fourth richest person, whose net worth is estimated at $4.2 billion, declared half of his wealth to charity in an open letter in which he also said that he would like to use a majority of his wealth to “make a difference in the world” through “entrepreneurial approaches,” also saying that money and objects do not bring happiness.

The entrepreneur behind the Virgin Group of companies, Branson went on to state that he and his wife realized how little they valued material possessions after a series of disasters caused them to lose a number of personal items, including a house in London that burnt down and one in the British Virgin Islands that was struck by lightning.

Richard Branson asserted that he and his wife would like a portion of their fortune to go towards creating a “healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy.” The Giving Pledge, started three years ago by Gates, has already seen a around 30 additional American billionaires pledge a good amount of their wealth to charity.

Christina Kindlon

Photo: Time

L'Occitane Supports Women's Fair TradeIn honor of International Women’s Day, L’Occitane has created a fair trade soap that supports women in their efforts to achieve economic independence. The soap is produced in Burkina Faso in a completely female-run factory, for which L’Occitane has provided support and training. The company has been working with women in Burkina Faso in efforts to achieve economic emancipation since 2006. By working with Aide et Action, they have helped put in place literacy centers throughout Burkina Faso, resulting in the strengthening of income-generating activity for women.

All proceeds made from the shea butter soap (that retails for just $8) will go towards building literacy programs and centers in Burkina Faso. Every soap bar sold can be considered as donating 3 bricks that will be utilized to build a new literacy center. From soap sales, L’Occitane, with its partners in Aide et Action and women in Burkina Faso, hopes to collect €63,000, which is equivalent to approximately $831,364.5, in the year 2013.

The soap can be seen as something that brings women together and helps empower them separately from their male counterparts. Since 2006, L’Occitane has helped almost 2,000 women become literate and even more (approximately 5,000 more) improve their literacy skills. With the building of even more literacy centers in Burkina Faso, these numbers can only go up.

If interested in buying a bar of soap in support of women achieving economic emancipation, visit L’Occitane’s website.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: L’Occitane Foundation, L’Occitane
Photo: L’Occitane

Paris Declaration on Aid EffectivenessThe Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDAE), drafted in 2005, was born out of decades of experience for what does and does not work when allocating and utilizing aid development money. The principles have gained support across the world and within aid agencies – changing aid practices for the better. More and more aid recipients are creating their own national development strategies and aligning with donor groups to streamline efforts and goals, to ensure qualitative results for every dollar spent.

The five core principles of PDAE

1. Ownership: Developing countries set their own strategies for poverty reduction, improve their institutions and tackle corruption.
2. Alignment: Donor countries align behind these objectives and use local systems.
3. Harmonisation: Donor countries coordinate, simplify procedures and share information to avoid duplication.
4. Results: Developing countries and donors shift focus to development results, and results get measured.
5. Mutual accountability: Donors and partners are accountable for development results.
In 2008 the Accra Agenda for Action was designed and added to the Paris Declaration in order to strengthen and accelerate advancement towards the Paris targets. It proposed four main areas for improvement:
1. Ownership: Countries have more say over their development processes through wider participation in development policy formulation, stronger leadership on aid coordination and more use of country systems for aid delivery.
2. Inclusive partnerships: All partners – including donors in the OECD Development Assistance Committee and developing countries, as well as other donors, foundations and civil society – participate fully.
3. Delivering results: Aid is focused on the real and measurable impacts on development.
4. Capacity development: to build the ability of countries to manage their own development agendas.
– Mary Purcell

Source: OECD
Photo: Flixya