Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may finally be on its way. With nearly four million people killed since the outbreak of the war in 1998, the DRC is one of the deadliest countries on earth.

Although some kind of comfort and lull may have briefly calmed the residents of the DRC, the recent attack in November by the M23 rebel group had taken over the provincial capital of Goma. Following the attack, a series of riots and chaos erupted around the city, concerning peacemakers and leaders and raising serious questions about the stability in Congo.

There has been a U.N. report that the M23 rebel group was supported by Rwanda, but President Kagame denied the accusation to CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour. In their interview together, Kagame told Amanpour, “It’s a big ‘no’ on the issue of saying that I am accepting this kind of responsibility, but what I am accepting is that people can work together to find a solution to this problem that affects Rwanda [and] also affects the Congo.”

Congo’s conflict has seriously threatened development. Considered as the deadliest and one of the poorest countries in the world, the emphasis on peace has become a key to the leaders and peacemakers of the DRC and other nations.

Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon stated, “Peace is really now at our reach in the whole of the DRC. If M23 rebels did not have external support to come and destabilize both territories, by now, we would have had peace and security in the whole of the DRC.”

While peace cannot be obtained overnight, Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon is currently striving for peace by pursuing further diplomacy at the United Nations, in the United States and in Washington, D.C.

Jada Chin

Source: CNN

mozambique flood
Heavy rains last month have caused a destructive flood in the southern part of Mozambique. The forecast predicts more heavy rain and a high risk of continued flooding. On February 11, the U.N. Emergency Humanitarian Fund has allocated $5 million to distribute life-saving resources and assistance to more than 150,000 people displaced by the flood.

The flood during this rainy season has killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of homes and crops. The funds from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will be used to provide essentials such as food and shelter, medical care, and water and sanitation.

The large scale of the disaster calls for more aid and funding, however. OCHA has announced that $10 million has been allocated for the emergency in a news release. For now, $2.3 million will be distributed to the World Food Program, over $1 million to UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration and $820,000 to a joint UNICEF/U.N. Population Fund/WHO project.

This allocation is only the first step. CERF aims to solicit $30.6 million from the international community to continue the flood relief efforts, ensuring a quick recovery.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: Business Recorder

Kids in war-torn Darfur playing soccer with a ball made from crumpled trash bags, encircled with twine was the catalyst for Tim Jahnigen’s invention of the indestructible soccer ball.  His compassion for these kids who had suffered so much, but still had the spirit to play and thrive, compelled him to create a ball that would never wear out, never deflate, and never need a pump. His idea remained in the concept stage until Sting provided the support necessary to start the One World Futbol Project.

With Sting promoting the indestructible soccer ball, soon Chevrolet came on as the founding financial sponsor for the project, and now these supper soccer balls are distributed around the world. Through the group’s  “Buy One, Give One” program, for every ball purchased they will donate another to an organization working with disadvantaged communities, including refugee camps, conflict zones, disaster areas, and inner cities. Overall, 100 organizations help to distribute balls in 120 countries – a symbol for kindness, caring, and compassion that does make us all One World.

– Mary Purcell

Source: You Tube

agroforestry- big
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has presented a new guide for governments and NGOs to promote agroforestry, a farming practice that benefits both the farmers and the environment, ensuring food security in a sustainable way. Agroforestry involves planting trees with crop or livestock rearing, integrating agricultural and forestry technologies, which results in a more effective and sustainable use of land.

The FAO has suggested that agroforestry could alleviate poverty and urges countries to promote this practice. The nature of agroforestry requires coordination between various government sectors from development to agriculture and forestry. Because of the complex nature of methods of this practice, policies and legal constraints often inhibit it. In its guide, the FAO illustrates how agroforestry can be incorporated into policies, accommodating various specific environments.

The FAO guide advocates for raising awareness of the benefits of agroforestry, creating incentives, and reforming regulations that restrict or impede the practice. Using Costa Rica as an example of a success story, the FAO guide reveals how the country has planted more than 3.5 million trees on farms in less than a decade.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: UN
Photo: World Agroforestry

The media is constantly overflowing with updates on technological advancements and products, but their emphasis is truly reflective of the most important aspect of our changing world. Technology, as the humanitarian world has seen in the past decade or so, is not just a luxury for consumers in the first world. In fact, perhaps the greatest use of technology has been in developing countries.

Last week, the now-former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a small ceremony for the newest collaborative initiative coming out of the Department of State called “The Open Book Project”. Along with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), MIT, Rice University, and the non-profit Creative Commons, among other educational organizations, The Open Book Project strives to extend open educational resources (OERs) to the Arab world in their native language.

While many countries are familiar with OERs, which allow free access to non-commercial users to legally license material for educational or research purposes, translating American textbooks and materials into Arabic is a huge step towards providing much-needed information in an area that does not have adequate access to the best universities or schools.

Websites such as KhanAcademy.org or Coursera.org are priceless tools for young children and adults alike who want to learn more or further their knowledge. In the Arab world, where education can be limited by wealth, geography or gender, The Open Book Project hopes to break these boundaries. This is much more than a technological program; it can and should be seen as an example of “educational diplomacy”. It is a promising relationship between the United States and the Arab League as they come together on the issue of improving the opportunities for young people around the world.

Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, the Arab League’s envoy to the U.S., sees The Open Book Project as “a huge step forward in the Arab-American relations”. By presenting themselves as supporters of increasing education and access to such resources, not only will the United States be improving its public image but more importantly, it is making huge strides in terms of addressing the many issues surrounding global poverty. Education is the main key to achieving success no matter what country someone lives in. By opening up this portal to documents, textbooks, lectures, research and other types of media, The Open Book Project will help people around the world to become productive and active members within their own communities.

Deena Dulgerian

Source:U.S. Dept. of State,Voice of America


For those of you who are not familiar with crowd-funding, please let me invite you to try it. Basically, any individual anywhere in the world can easily go online and make a direct financial contribution to another specific individual across the globe to support their needs.

One of the first huge success stories in this practice is Kiva.org, a non-governmental online organization that helps facilitate loans between lenders (like you) and borrowers in developing communities. The borrower, through the help of an independent community group in their area, posts their name, photo, business idea and desired amount of money to start their own business. The money is then collected online and given as a loan – it’s micro-financing from one regular person to another. Generally it’s a small amount of money (perhaps under $500) that can make the difference between someone who is starving, and someone who is immediately pulling themselves out of poverty. Each lender on average contributes $25, and literally within minutes of posting the loan request and bio, the borrower is fully funded.

Since starting in 2005 Kiva has mobilized 883,289 lenders, raised an estimated $398 million in loans, is now operating in 67 different countries and has repaid 99 percent of all money distributed.

A different type of funding group is Samahope.org. They raise money online for surgical treatments in Zambia and Sierra Leone. Again, anyone can go to their site, view the bios and pictures of individuals in need and then make a direct payment to help whomever they specifically want to. The women being supported by this service all suffer from fistula and are in need of medical services. Fistula is a result of prolonged labor during childbirth when tearing in the skin can cause infection and incontinence. It is very much a result of poverty and lack of healthcare and is almost nonexistent in developed parts of the world. The condition is often debilitating and also carries with it strong taboos that further alienate the sufferer.

These sites and other crowd-funding groups allow regular people all over the world to pool their money and collectively bring about real life change for individuals in the most remote regions of the world. It’s fast and easy, any amount of money can be given, the impact is immediate and your sense of having made real change is compelling… Try it.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Kiva, Samahope


Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former U.N. official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the U.N.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the U.N Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the U.N.’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the U.N. in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the U.N. heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders

At the age of 18, Natalie Warne became a symbol for young activists everywhere. Inspired by Invisible Children, the documentary about Joseph Kony and how he forced children to become soldiers for the Lord’s Resistance Army, Warne interned with the Invisible Children movement and eventually showed how being young is no obstacle to changing the world.

Warne, along with other interns with Invisible Children, was working to bring awareness to a bill that would make it American policy to go after Kony and the LRA. Her efforts brought her to the Oprah studio where the Invisible Children movement advocated for the bill. Ten days later, the bill was introduced into Congress. And a year later, the bill was signed into law.

People will remember most that moment she got to appear on Oprah. However, she points out that what made their movement a success was not what was shown on television but what happened behind the cameras. She talks about the people who showed up to support the cause of Invisible Children even when it rained, the other interns that planned other events, and even a family that bought a hundred boxes of pizza for the supporters. These are people that didn’t do it for the glory but for the goal. “The moment isn’t a movement,” she said. “What fuels a movement is the anonymous extraordinaries behind it.”

She leaves us with the message to chase after our dreams and not let youth stop us. “In the small anonymous monotonous every single day acts, I have to remind myself to be extraordinary.” she said.

“It is the acts that make us extraordinary. Not the Oprah moments.”

– Rafael Panlilio
Source:  TED

Rich Edward KabzelaIn 2008, Duncan McNicholl did a fellowship in Malawi. Upon returning home, he reacted strongly to photos of organizations that depicted a rather distorted version of people living in rural Africa. In 2010, he returned to Malawi to work with the Water and Sanitation team and came up with an idea for a photography project called Perspectives of Poverty with the goal of showing the people of rural Africa in a different light.

By taking two different photos of the same person, one as the symbol of poverty and the other at their finest, McNicholl wanted to change the way we perceived the people who lived in rural Africa. Organizations, in pursuit of funding, tend to depict those living in these areas as the typical symbol of poverty, “a teary-eyed African child, dressed in rags, smothered in flies, with a look of desperation.” Having had firsthand experience living in these regions, McNichol “felt lied to” finding these photos incomplete, inaccurate and outrageous.

“How had these photos failed so spectacularly to capture the intelligence, the laughter, the resilience and the capabilities of so many incredible people?” he writes.

Pictured above is Edward Kabzela, an area borehole maintenance mechanic of the Chagunda Village in Malawi. Besides being an area mechanic, Kabezla also takes part in other business ventures such as growing tobacco and owning a basket weaving business. McNicholl writes that Kabzela is “a great example of how little a thatched roof says about someone’s livelihood.” Upon hearing about how some photos portrayed his village of Chagunda, he commented that when NGOs come they take pictures of “only people who are dressed poorly.”

McNicholl is unsure of what Perspectives of Poverty will look like when it is done and will continue taking photos like these to possibly put on exhibit.

– Rafael Panlilio
Source: Water Wellness

Ashok Bharti inciting Bangladesh Crowd

Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) has a vision to eradicate global poverty. The organization is encouraging more dialogue and conversation about the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDGs) which came to fruition in 2000 and will expire in 2015. With two years left until the expiration of the MDGs, questions about the effectiveness of the Millennium Declaration Goals have been asked. The world is a very different place than it was 13 years ago. GCAP Global Council Co-Chair, Amitabh Behar explains, “Since the Millennium Declaration was drafted in 2000, our world has changed dramatically.”

Many people feel that by having early discussions the strength of the movement to end poverty will only grow. Having conferences such as this one in Dhaka, Bangladesh will bring to the forefront the main issues which need to be addressed in two years to assist in the process to eradicate global poverty. “I hope that your deliberations here in Dhaka will help shape a new world where justice, peace and equity will be the core of development,” Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the gathering. During the conference in Dhaka, one of the main topics addressed has been new solutions to eradicate global poverty.

One GCAP member at the conference believes once everybody is included and social exclusion is a concept of the past, the strength of the movement to end poverty will intensify. GCAP Global Council member Ashok Barti stated, “We want poverty and hunger to be eradicated from this world. Focusing on inequalities alone is not likely to address this issue. We need to keep exclusion at its center. The agenda of inequality in post-2015 needs to be focused on exclusion.”

Amitabh Behar believes that in order to make the end of poverty a reality, society must not be afraid to follow dreams and push to make this happen. Behar expresses, “We have often ended up with very pragmatic approaches [to development]. If we don’t bring back dreams to our narratives, it is unlikely we will have a fair and just world.” Seeing that organizations such as GCAP are pushing global poverty to the forefront two years before the United Nations conference commences is a positive step in the process to eradicate global poverty.

Varsha Dougba

Source: Huffington Post