Can Aid For Trade Reduce Poverty?In 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO) launched its Aid for Trade initiative, which works to reduce poverty in developing countries through trade. In most developing countries, supply-side and trade-related infrastructure problems hinder the ability to participate in international trade. The Aid for Trade initiative works to educate governments on the potential for trade to work towards development.

The World Trade Organization has managed to raise $200 billion worth of funding for the initiative that will go towards resource mobilization, the mainstreaming of trade into development plans and programs, regional trade integration, private-sector development, and the monitoring and evaluation of Aid for Trade. Emphasis is placed on gathering support and resources to counter constraints that deter trade in developing countries. Aid for Trade works on the assumption that “a rising tide floats all boats,” meaning that as national wealth increases, the poor will profit as well.

Some NGOs, however, question the viability of this method in reducing poverty. A study was commissioned by Traidcraft and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development to look into the real impacts of these projects on the poor. Saana Consulting reported that most of the funding had gone to middle-income rather than low-income countries. They had also found that the program had little impact on the poor, calling the assumption that it will have an effect “a leap of faith.”

Donors have admitted that impacts are indeed difficult to track. Adaeze Igboemeka, head of Aid for Trade at the UK Department for International Development, concedes that there is indeed a lack of information, as the programs impacts on poverty are seemingly indirect.“The assumption,” Igboemeka said, “is – and there is a lot of evidence to support it – that if a country is able to trade more, it will grow, and that will create jobs and increase incomes and lead to poverty reduction.”

The consensus seems to be that, generally, trade is good. However, for now, there is not enough information and time to accurately project its impact on poverty reduction.

– Rafael Panlilio

Sources: The GuardianWTO

UN Highlights Technological Innovation and African Development
An often overlooked factor that underpins the sustainability of development in a nation is the ability to be innovative in the fields of science and technology. Recently, at a United Nations meeting in Tanzania, senior UN officials repeatedly stressed the importance of technological innovation and African development as key in moving past the 2015 millennium development goals and well into the future.

Of the many beneficial consequences of a robust science and technology sector, none is felt more than the long term effects they have on overall growth and job creation. Innovative Green Farming has produced thousands of new startups across much of the developed world, so too have the various technological enterprises built by well funded post-graduate researchers at various universities and laboratories. By harnessing the entrepreneurial power of science-based sectors, technological innovation and African development can work in tandem towards a sustainable economic future. In regards to the need for more innovation in Africa, President of ECOSOC Nestor Osorio remarked that “Innovation is the essence of our modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies. Greater efforts are needed to build partnerships among government, private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations and the international community, to promote and spread innovation for sustainable development in Africa.”

By utilizing the minds of the African populace, technological innovation and African development can be used to not only pull much of the people out of chronic poverty but also solve the food security and logistical challenges of the continent. By bringing to light the amazing potential of economic prosperity and a greater quality of life through the science and technological sectors, Africa can dramatically reduce poverty levels and standards of living well into the future.

Brian Turner

Source: UN News
Photo: Guardian

Opposition-Led Northern Syria Lacks Foreign AidOpposition-led northern Syria, which is controlled by rebels, are receiving little to no aid. Most of the aid is going to territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, thereby creating resentment and tension with those who are designated to receive the aid. Unfortunately, the U.N. adheres to al-Assad’s rules, which restrict access to territories run by the opposition. Although Syrian refugees in government-controlled areas are receiving ample aid and are cared for by the U.N., those in opposition-led areas lack food, fuel, blankets and medicine. However, the U.S. is using independent non-profit organizations to contribute generously to help deliver these necessities to the opposition-controlled areas.

According to a U.S. diplomat involved in Syrian policy, U.S. involvement through these non-profit independent groups must remain confidential to protect staff in Damascus who are still working under al-Assad. Thus, many Syrians living in opposition-led areas have no idea that the West is contributing to their aid. In the struggle to deliver aid to these areas, eight U.N. aid workers have been killed, demonstrating the complexity of fully providing aid where it is needed. The unfortunate reality is that Assad’s government is still recognized by the U.N. and is supported by Russia.

A Syrian director of the aid office in Sawran asserted that aid should be given to the people, not to the government. Many officials from these non-profit groups are arguing that as the conflict is getting worse, it is getting harder and harder to deliver assistance to opposition-controlled areas. There is also a huge amount of aid coming into Syria from Gulf countries but, again, the majority of it is to aid the Syrian opposition in its war against Assad and not to meet humanitarian needs.

In times of such desperation, many people are sleeping “crammed in leaking tents without heat or electricity. They crowd like cattle in metal chutes.” They receive two meals a day, sometimes one, or none at all. Children are said to “slosh through muddy puddles” in big sandals, so big that they fall off their feet. Recently, during a shoe donation campaign, the refugees ended up burning the shoes as firewood while desperate for heating fuel.

The medical group in Syria is requesting the international world to cross the Turkish border and deliver aid. Currently, the Turkish government is providing a refugee camp for Syrians outside of the Northern rebel-controlled border. These camps are equipped with heat, electricity, and other necessities. Additionally, schools with therapists are provided for refugee children to help them deal with post-traumatic stress.

Leen Abdallah

Source: New York Times

India Receives More Focus from the World BankThis week, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim said that the World Bank will dedicate more resources to ending poverty in India’s most destitute regions as part of an initiative to end poverty worldwide within a generation.

Kim asserted that reaching the goal to end global poverty within the near future could only be achieved by increasing support for India’s poorest seven states, where over 200 million people continue to live without proper nutrition, education, or healthcare.

Although the World Bank already gives nearly $3 to 5 billion annually to India for development purposes, Kim said that a larger percentage of the existing aid would be redirected towards the seven states in India that are the most in need, with no new additional aid being given. These seven states contain only half of the approximately 400 billion people throughout India who live in extreme poverty; meaning that they live on less than $1.25 per day. Two of the states included, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are two of India’s largest states in terms of population, which is a contributing factor in why India is receiving the increased focus from the World Bank.

Kim went on to acknowledge India’s gains in development and poverty-reduction thus far, saying that progress there holds beneficial guidance for the World Bank and other development institutions. India is one of the World Bank’s largest beneficiaries, having received over $26 billion in aid from the institution within the last four years.

Kim also stated that “We have to be smart about fighting poverty – we have to have economic growth because without growth you can’t lift people out of poverty.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: Gulf Times

Aid money is not just about hand-outs, it is more and more about igniting and fostering long term, self-sustaining development projects. A key tactic in this is providing training and support for small-business ventures that lead to self-employment and job growth.

One such project funded by the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Trade Center (ITC) and the UN, called Ethical Fashion, makes handbags, accessories and clothing for world famous designers. This project was conceived by Simone Cipriani, an Italian shoemaker, who saw no reason why Italy’s model of fashion production could not be recreated in Kenya, and places like it. Mr. Cipriani sought out unemployed and underemployed women with experience in basic beadwork and tailoring, and with training he turned the small idea into a profitable company. Ethical Fashion had sales of $900,000 in 2012, and employs 1,200 women full time. Their wages have gone from about $2 a day to nearly $8, and this income then circulates back into the community and further expands economic growth.

This project is indicative of social-entrepreneur projects and international aid programs that are spreading all around Africa and the developing world. Desmond Tutu started his own fellowship program in South Africa, to promote this entrepreneurial solution to poverty and hardship. With funding from the UN, international foreign aid, and private companies, Tutu’s fellowship now spearheads organizations and businesses across Africa, making marked improvements in the communities they serve.

Gbenga Sesan, a Tutu Fellow, started his own company in Nigeria, where 90 percent of graduates are unable to find full-time jobs. His company targets these unemployed but highly skilled individuals. Many of them come from disadvantaged communities, and could easily get pulled into petty crime and theft in order to provide for themselves. But Mr. Sesan, working in one of the poorest slums in the country, provides them with IT training and entrepreneurial skills, connects them with internships and local employers, and helps them start their own small businesses. Since he started his work in 2007, and has since helped to improve the lives of over 13,000 young Nigerians.

Stories like these are endless, and the focus on job creation is ever expanding as precedent shows real progress in third-world development. To learn how this type of foreign aid helps the US economy and US jobs, click here.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Economist, The Guardian
Photo: Huffington Post


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with U.S. technology and communications giant, Cisco, to provide Burma with two new technical education centers. The two Cisco Networking Academies will provide valuable skills in information and communications technology to the developing nation, and provide citizens with job-ready abilities to bolster the country’s growing information and communications tech (ICT) industry.

The USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, has said that technology infrastructure can create stable and continued economic growth and development, and that “ICT can expand economic opportunities, transform public service delivery, and provide more opportunities for citizen engagement.”

Cisco has been a continual partner of USAID, having established networking education centers in over 165 countries, which have provided relevant skills for entry-level careers in ICT while also developing other valuable general career abilities including “problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.”

In Burma, Cisco has agreed to donate the equipment needed to start the two Networking Academies and the training for 15 faculty members. Sandy Walsh, Director of Cisco’s Social Innovation Group, said that Cisco is dedicated to providing education to help continue technological development in “emerging economies,” and that the academies will aid Burmese citizens in gaining career skills needed in the 21st century.

Three additional American tech leaders, including Intel, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard, participated in a technology delegation to Burma, also led by USAID, in hopes of continued collaboration that will increase internet access and promote digital literacy and government openness. The partnership between USAID and Cisco hopes to create alliances with American tech companies, the local government, and the private sector to increase “social and economic development” using technological resources.

 – Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID
Photo: VOA

Environmentally Sustainable Cattle GrazingThe traditional cattle grazing process is often extremely hard on local ecosystems, resulting in both a decrease in the nutritional efficacy of soil and the availability of native grasses. However, a rancher in Panola County Mississippi has devised his own ingenious system of sustainable cattle grazing that might finally be able to bridge the gap between cattle rearing and environmental stewardship.

Thanks in part to the coordination of the Research and Educational to Advance Conservation and Habitat (REACH) program of Mississippi State University, rancher Dunwood Gordon has effectively shifted the paradigm for the future of sustainable cattle grazing. Unlike the traditional method of allowing the cattle to roam free over the pasture, Gordon utilizes a system of 23 gated paddocks spread out over a 200-acre grassland. This “intensive grazing” method allows them to rotate from paddock to paddock every few days to forage on native grasses. Additionally, the placement of water fountains at the gate opening encourages orderly drinking, which cuts back on the cows’ tendency to congregate and socialize. In regards to the paddock system, Gordon remarked that “In this system, the cow’s manure and urine is spaced out uniformly over the paddock, and that cuts down on the amount of fertilizer I need to apply to that pasture.”

Innovative farming practices such as this serve to bring together the disparate ideas of sustainability and cattle grazing and work to redefine the previously thought mutual exclusivity of the two goals. Furthermore, by local universities and farmers cooperating towards a shared purpose, breakthroughs such as sustainable cattle grazing are inevitable and will benefit both parties for generations to come.

– Brian Turner

Source Mississippi Agricultural News

Energy Independence Through Genetically Modified BacteriaIn a concerted effort to find a realistic solution to the energy independence problem plaguing the globe, huge amounts of research funding have been invested in finding alternative forms of energy. Of several promising methods put forward thus far, none have had the potential both for energy independence and sustainability than that of butanol production through bacteria.

Swedish researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm recently conducted a study that utilized genetically modified bacteria to produce butanol, a hydrocarbon that could be utilized as an effective fossil fuel. The bacterium – known as Cyanobacteria – was altered using DNA recombination technology to change its metabolic properties to produce butanol instead of its usual algae dependent byproduct. Furthermore, once various environmental challenges are worked out, the industrial production of the bacterium produced fuel is expected to commence in less than a decade. In regards to the energy independence gleaned from such a process, a researcher remarked that “Fuel based on Cyanobacteria requires very little ground space to be prepared. And the availability of raw materials- sunlight, carbon dioxide, and seawater- is in principle infinite.”

This exciting new frontier in genetically engineered bacteria has almost universal applications and can be harnessed to produce an important alternative to the energy-intensive ethanol fuel production. This is great news for the future of energy independence both at home and abroad and shows how much quantitative results can be gleaned from greater scientific funding.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily

UN Warns Environmental Threats Increase PovertyA report released by the UN warns that the number of people in extreme poverty could rise by 3 billion in 2050 unless immediate action is taken to combat environmental threats.

The 2013 Human Development Report had stated that more than 40 countries have shown significant improvement on health, wealth and education with rapid increases in Brazil, China, India as well as many other developing countries. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty, or living on $1.25 a day or less, had fallen from 43% to 22% from 1990 to 2008. This is attributed to significant successes in poverty reduction and economic growth in China and India. In response to this statistic, the World Bank has said that the Millennium Development Goal of decreasing extreme poverty by half by 2015 was ahead of schedule.

However, the UN had also reported that if environmental challenges such as climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution were left unaddressed, human development progress in the poorest countries could come to a halt and possibly be reversed. Environmental threats and ecosystem losses are worsening the living situations and hindering the livelihood opportunities of many poor people. Building on the 2011 edition of the report arguing for sustainable development, the UN warns that unless coordinated global action is taken to combat environmental issues, the number of people in extreme poverty could rise.

“Environmental threats are among the gravest impediments to lifting human development,” the report says. “The longer action is delayed, the higher costs will be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Flickr

FAO Encourages Food Security in North Korea
With their recent posturing and threats of nuclear destruction to both South Korea and the United States, North Korea has been a hot topic of many newspaper headlines and evening news programs. Surprisingly though, little attention has been paid to the chronic lack of food security in North Korea, an issue that the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has been trying to address for years.

The gross human rights violations of Kim Jong-un notwithstanding, North Korean civilians have been the greatest casualty of the failed agricultural and food reapportionment policies of the government. By shutting out much of the international community, including various NGOs and aid workers, progress has been slow in devising a realistic solution to the problem of food security in North Korea. The most recent FAO mission report on food security in North Korea is startling, with both soybean oil and vegetable production down dramatically, raising concerns that were highlighted by mission leader Kisan Gunjal when he remarked that “The country needs to produce more protein-rich foods like soybean and fish and to put more effort into growing two crops a year so a more varied diet is available for everyone.”

However, there were bright spots on the horizon as annual staple food production has been growing over the past couple of years, effectively mitigating the amount of acute malnutrition in the population. Overall, the FAO was satisfied with the improvements their targeted aid has made in specific areas, yet considerable headway still remains in combating children’s vulnerability to shock and pregnant and nursing mothers’ levels of malnutrition. DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl commented on the status of food security in North Korea when stating that while harvest figures were optimistic, “the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming” as there are still about two million children in the country who are in need of healthy, balanced diets.

Brian Turner

Source: FAO News
Photo: Time