information and news on accountability.

Foreign Aid TransparencyThe success of foreign aid is often shadowed by misconceptions and myths ranging from effectiveness to large overestimates of how much money is spent on aid every year. In an effort to combat some of these myths, foreign aid transparency has become a central issue both globally and domestically. Understanding where funds are being spent is important to donors and citizens as will be explained below. Keep reading for a few facts about foreign aid transparency and where you can find more information on how your nation’s dollars are being used to provide aid to the developing world.

Why Transparency Matters

Transparency includes knowing how much money is spent, where it is spent, who spends it and the overall impact and results. Global foreign aid transparency matters because as nations try to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, this measure will act as the foundation for aid effectiveness and accountability. Aid transparency is important to donor and recipient governments as well as civil society. As citizens who pay taxes, it is reassuring to know exactly where foreign aid funds are being spent and this transparency encourages greater support for foreign aid.

In order to coordinate aid efforts and prevent donors from spending more funds in certain areas and less in others, transparency is key. When donor countries and nonprofits share what they have already spent or are planning to spend, other donors can coordinate their funding off of these numbers and reduce overlap. It is important for donors to research and discuss their funding plans with other nations to achieve greater impact with their limited resources.

Recipients of aid benefit from transparency as well because it is often difficult to know how much aid is given and where it is spent in their own countries. This, in turn, makes it more challenging for governments to decide how much of their own budget to spend on certain problems. Additionally, when aid recipients are not able to show foreign aid money in their budgets or plans for the country, it is much more challenging for citizens and parliaments to hold leaders accountable and corruption can become an issue.

Increasing Accountability with the Aid Transparency Index

One way transparency has improved in recent years is through Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Index. This organization uses research and advocacy to improve transparency mainly through the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The IATI commits donors to publish all foreign aid data under a common standard that can be compared and accessed easily.

The 2018 Aid Transparency Index was recently launched on June 20. It is the only independent measure of aid transparency among major development agencies and governments making it a valuable tool for foreign aid. This year’s index evaluates 45 countries on a scale from very good to very poor transparency.

This organization uses a relatively complex and detailed methodology for monitoring transparency and scoring agencies. For the most recent Index, 35 indicators were selected that drew upon IATI standards and whether they were upheld. These indicators were then weighted and split into five categories. Organization planning and commitments to transparency are 15 percent of the score, finance and budgets are 25 percent, project attributes, development data and performance are equally split into 20 percent of the score as well. The website also includes a comparison chart on how agencies have improved or declined and extensive reports explaining the Index’s findings.

How to Evaluate a Country’s Transparency

The Index is one very detailed way citizens of major donor countries can easily check their country’s score and whether or not their aid agencies are being transparent. One must simply click on the agency they are interested in to view scores in each category, how they have changed in recent years and recommendations for years to come.

Besides the Index, for individuals in the U.S., there are currently two separate dashboards for USAID and the State Department to share where aid dollars are spent. These can be found at ForeingAssistance.gov and Foreign Aid Explorer. This year, the U.S. was included in the “good” category on the Aid Transparency Index meaning there is still room for improvement.

In 2016, Congress passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) that established requirements for these agencies to publish foreign assistance data. One final provision suggested that USAID and the State Department combine their data into one dashboard by the end of the fiscal year 2018. It is yet to be seen whether this will happen or not but it could be one way of boosting U.S. foreign aid into the very good category for next year’s index.

These are some of the ways that aid transparency has improved in recent years and why it is such a crucial issue for donors, recipients and civil society.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Police Accountability in Rwanda
Police accountability promotes stability in nations and increases safety in security. Directly related to reducing poverty, police accountability mechanisms assist community members, specifically the poor and disempowered, to politically mobilize and exercise agency over the future.

In the context of Rwanda, corruption and brutality have been historically prevalent; however, massive improvements have been made in safety and security. Today, Rwanda has one of the highest ratings of citizens’ evaluation of safety, corrupt police officers have been largely eradicated and a strong partnership has been established between the citizens and their protectors. Police accountability in Rwanda is consistently improving and measures have been taken to reduce corruption.

History of the Rwandan Genocide

In order to understand the context of police accountability in Rwanda, a brief background of the genocide that occurred in the 1990s is necessary. Before the genocide, Rwanda’s ethnic makeup was dichotomized: a large majority (around 85 percent) identified as Hutu, and the minority remaining were Tutsi. When Belgium colonized Rwanda, they put the faction of Tutsis in positions of power to rule over the Hutu.

Tensions continued to be exacerbated, even before the colonial rule ended. A Hutu revolution occurred in 1959 that caused over 300,000 Tutsis to flee and eventually resulted in Rwandan independence. Racialized violence continued for years until extremist Hutu leaders began slaughtering Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), consisting of mainly Tutsi refugees, responded with reciprocal violence, which continued until finally a coalition government was formed.

During the genocide, an estimated 800,000 were murdered, a majority of which were Tutsi. Much of the violence of the genocide was gender-specific, and it is reported that in the course of 100 days over half a million people were sexually assaulted. The aim of this violence was to tear apart communities, and it succeeded in that.

After-Effects of the Genocide

After the genocide, Gacaca courts were established in an effort to promote truth-telling and create a unified state. Gacaca courts, in the short term, disrupted women’s efforts to reestablish normal social relations in local communities, and in the long term delivered justice for some and established at least a partial truth about what happened, but many Rwandan women and men felt they were denied justice.  

These courts were flawed in their process of acknowledgment and straddled the line between restorative and punitive justice in many communities. The Rwandan government aimed to keep down mass incarceration levels after the genocide, and the Gacaca courts seemed like a good solution.

There were many shortcomings of the Gacaca tribunals. Several recent accounts of the courts’ performances reveal an egregious lack of due process protections, damaging the fairness of punishment as well as the prospects of reconciliation, according to leading scholars. Many judges of these courts, usually village elders, received minimal training and no lawyers were involved in the trials. Reports of false testimony were common and sentences neither followed a system nor were consistent.

Many Rwandans, nevertheless, served time in prison due to the determinations of these judges. Some have even said that these courts are an example of when a society so strongly yearns for reconciliation, citizens put justice before truth.

The legacy of these tribunals, and the tension that still exists for many Rwandans, led to the corruption and brutality that was perpetrated by the police in the early 2000s. Extrajudicial executions, meaning killing prisoners without legal process or judicial proceedings, were common and frequently made the news.   

Improved Police Accountability in Rwanda

Much has changed since then. Reform and a focus on security and accountability have been successful, and in Transparency International’s latest survey in 2017, Rwanda was ranked sub-Saharan Africa’s third least corrupt country. 200 police officers who were implicit in extrajudicial executions and implicated in corruption were dismissed from duty and the government has been hailed as one with no tolerance for corruption.

Police accountability in Rwanda has been condemned by leaders, and Rwanda police spokesperson Theos Badege said there would be “no mercy” upon corrupt officers in the police. “It is a national policy to ensure zero tolerance to graft,” Badege said, adding that accountability and integrity are among the core values expected of police officers while on duty. The past does not define this nation; instead, it helps shape the nation’s brighter future.

– Jilly Fox
Photo: Flickr

How Improving Governance Helps Growth in Developing Countries
It’s all too true that in most developing or vulnerable countries, local or national governments are tyrannical and corrupt. These governments have a propensity to abuse power, favor the rich and ignore the oppressed. However, by improving governance in the developing world, there is hope that unethical practices will be removed and replaced with unprejudiced laws that will fairly benefit everyone.

Problems Surrounding Corrupt Government

Numerous problems surrounding nefarious practices in underdeveloped countries stem from a lack of morality, discriminatory systems and misuse of power. The World Bank reports that in vulnerable countries, a disparate sharing of authority is a common problem that causes countries to stay in a state of impoverishment rather than move toward more progressive procedures that would allow for quicker growth and sustainability.

Unfortunately, it’s easier for the already-powerful leaders to resist change rather than consider the development of new policies for improving governance to benefit the whole society, regardless of economic class.

Additionally, there are many other factors that contribute to shady practices in the governments of developing countries. One of these practices is patrimonialism, which is defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a “political organization in which authority is based primarily on the personal power exercised by a ruler, either directly or indirectly.” This means that too much power can easily be granted to one person or group of persons (oligarchy), rather than having different governmental branches to limit what can and cannot be done.

What Steps Can be Taken Towards Improving Governance?

In a patrimonialistic society, the land or state is “owned” by a leader, granting that person the freedom to do as he, she, or they please. This power structure contributes to the cycle of poverty — wealthy land is distributed to the other wealthy people, allowing those choice few to access the best schools, homes and healthcare; on the other hand, the slums are given to the lower class, eliminating chances to thrive in a fair economy. Ultimately, this system halts economic growth for all the citizens.

The OECD Observer gives two good examples of a patrimonialistic society; the first being Morocco, where admittance to bureaucracy protects access to economic benefits, and the next being in the Philippines, where political sovereignty can be bought and sold.

Citizen-Based Elections

A great way to combat corruption, poverty and improve economic growth is by initializing citizen-based elections. According to USAID, more than half of the world’s populace live under only partly free governments, which limits their civil liberties, causing the inability to freely engage in politics. In democratic elections, the people are granted a voice in choosing who they wish to run their government.

USAID easily lays out the course for democratic elections. The steps include freedom of speech, association and assembly; elections as an essential tool to bolster political openings and cooperation; assembling advocates and describing different political platforms to the public and encouraging political debate.

Education

Another step toward improving governance is creating equal educational opportunities for all people. A large problem in the political sphere of third-world countries is the lack of education that causes many citizens who live in poverty to not fully understand politics; in turn they lack the skills to actively participate in events such as elections or assemblies.

Not only will education improve political understandings, but it will create jobs and give students the skills needed to be seen as valuable by future employers, improving economic growth and sustainability. With higher education comes higher knowledge and realization, skills that permit citizens to see and understand what areas in their countries need change.

Public Policy and Building Democracy

One of the best ways to promote better government is through improving public policy and actively working on building a democracy. In the developing world, the people and citizens are often ignored, and their opinions are thought to be arbitrary and unimportant to those high on the political spectrum.

However, in a democratic society, the people get to vote in elections for issues such as industrial projects and new laws. To help aid in understanding public policy and democracy, The World Bank created the Governance Global Practice, which aims to initiate trust between the government and the people.

Despite all of the concerns facing governments in third-world countries, these nation-states are not hopeless. Many countries work towards improving governance and government practices. In fact, organizations such as The World Bank, USAID and the United Nations provide hope for those searching for a better quality of life, and thereby foster countries to work towards a brighter future.  

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in the Democratic Republic of CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the second-largest country in Africa. With approximately 70 percent of its population living in rural areas, the large and mineral-rich land has shown immense potential for sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The development of agriculture and other sectors in the DRC have been hindered by the simple fact that the country has been healing from more than 15 years of war. This has unfortunately created serious infrastructure and systematic issues that have tested the nation’s business environment.

The agricultural sector contributes 18 percent of the DRC’s GDP and accounts for about 60 percent of labor, yet it still fails to establish food security and create enough revenue and sustainable jobs. Nearly half of Congolese people live below the poverty line, and the nation must import more than 70 percent of the food it eats.

Malnutrition still remains one of the leading causes of death among the population, with iron-deficiency being the second most common cause of disability. Infant mortality exists at 3.3 percent and life expectancy remains low, with more than half of the country’s inhabitants being under the age of 20.

Recently, the World Bank authorized additional credit of $75 million to Congo for the Agriculture Rehabilitation and Recovery Support Project. This funding is expected to increase agricultural production and improve crop promotion and animal products for many agricultural households.

The Congolese government backs this project with the hope that it will lower rural poverty by 2020 through establishing and streamlining systems used for agricultural production, progressing nutrition and food security and mobilizing backing from both public and private sectors. The additional funds will also hopefully be able to increase activities that acknowledge issues such as nutrition-sensitive activities, climate-smart agriculture and job generation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has also developed numerous projects to strengthen the capacity for food security and nutrition and to develop sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, such as:

  • Supporting the development of an irrigation system tied to a priority investment program, which will contribute to the use of water for agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
  • Endorsing the creation of the national seeds policy, in order to support the government in developing a system for the manufacturing, preservation and control and distribution of high-quality seeds.
  • Putting into action the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the area of cultivation and forestry, a project proposal to be submitted to the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to contribute to the reduction of emission and increase forest carbon stocks.

With so much fertile land at its disposal, this country has the potential to feed the whole of Africa. But in order for sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be achieved, farmers must have access to ample financial services and strong infrastructure.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

How US Sanctions Can Effect Accountability for Human Rights Violations Abroad
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was imprisoned in Moscow. He was convicted of aiding tax evasion in 2008 and died in custody in 2009. Surprisingly, though, his legal troubles did not end there. In a trial in 2013, a Russian court further convicted Magnitsky of tax fraud–four years after his death.

Magnitsky’s death was more than just an untimely demise of a 39-year-old lawyer. While he is said to have died of acute heart failure and toxic shock caused by untreated pancreatitis, Magnitsky had been severely beaten while imprisoned. In fact, his colleagues even insisted that the convictions against him were falsified in order to obstruct Magnitsky’s own accusations of massive tax fraud by Russian officials.

An investigation into the lawyer’s death was opened in November 2009, only to be dropped in March 2013 with the conclusion that Magnitsky had been legally arrested and detained, as well as denying claims that he had been tortured and had been denied access to medical attention.

The United States passed a law in 2012 in Magnitsky’s name that imposed sanctions against Russian officials who were thought to be responsible for serious human rights violations. The law froze any U.S. assets held by these officials and went so far as to ban them from entering the United States.

In 2016, Congress took an important step in addressing global accountability for human rights violations by expanding the earlier Magnitsky law to the Global Magnitsky Act. The new act allows the executive branch of the United States government to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights violations or corruption, as well as those officials who abetted or were complacent with such violations.

The Global Magnitsky Act acts as a deterrent, warning foreign officials that unlawful violence could result in serious repercussions from the United States government. Additionally, the act offers incentives to foreign governments for improving mechanisms to increase accountability for human rights violations. By working with the U.S. on human rights violations and corruption investigations, leaders from other countries can voice their contempt for human rights abuses in their own countries.

The effectiveness of these sanctions can be seen in Russia’s response to their imposition. As a result of the global embarrassment inflicted on the country following the enactment of the law, the act has become a fixation for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The act continues to endorse accountability for human rights violations in various cases around the world on the recommendations of senators as well as a group of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.

Richa Biplane

Photo: Flickr

SUN Movement
Malnutrition accounts for nearly half of all deaths among children under five. While the majority of these deaths occur in Africa and Asia, the loss of human life due to hunger and malnutrition is a global burden. Malnourished children are more likely to get sick, suffer from abnormally severe symptoms of common illnesses and die from otherwise preventable illnesses. Thankfully, organizations such as the SUN Movement work to reduce this hunger-related child mortality rate.

Malnutrition and Infection

The link between malnutrition and infection can create a cycle wherein poorly nourished children have a weaker immune system, which in turn deteriorates their nutritional status. Malnutrition can also stunt a child’s growth, predisposing them to cognitive disabilities.

Hunger and malnutrition take a particularly severe toll on the developing world, where one out of six children (about 100 million) are underweight, one in three children are stunted and 66 million children go to school hungry.

The SUN Movement

Scaling Up Nutrition, or SUN Movement, is a worldwide campaign to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. SUN aims to unite governments, the United Nations, civil society, researchers, donors and business into a cohesive movement to improve global nutrition.

Focusing on the goals established at the 2012 World Health Assembly, SUN movement identifies four strategic processes as the major institutional changes needed for scaling up nutrition worldwide:

  1. Endorsement of National Nutrition Policies that Incorporate Best Practices. Newly enacted laws and policies should reflect proven interventions while paying special attention to women and their role in society.
  2. Sustained Political Commitment and Establishment of Functioning Multi-stakeholder Platforms. Improving nutrition requires a political environment grounded in multi-stakeholder platforms. The dialogue around hunger and nutrition should be open, for different groups to share the responsibility of scaling up nutrition throughout the entire world.
  3. Alignment of Actions Across Sectors and among Stakeholders. The country plans to improve nutrition should reflect frameworks of mutual responsibility and accountability among stakeholders.
  4. Increased Resources for Nutrition and Demonstration of Results. Multiple sectors and stakeholders should increase financial resources for the implementation of plans to improve nutrition.

Each participating country is required to meet state-specific goals and objectives for scaling up nutrition before they can partake in SUN Movement events, like the Annual Global Gathering. This event is where government leaders and multi-stakeholder groups meet to collaborate, share progress, learn from each other and offer new practices for improving nutrition.

SUN Movement has several mechanisms for maintaining oversight and staying on track to achieve its goals. The SUN Networks align resources and foster collaboration, the lead group provides strategic oversight and enforces accountability and the executive committee represents SUN Movement at the international political level. There is also a secretariat and multi-partnered trust fund.

SUN Movement acts like the United Nations for Hunger and Nutrition, with clear guiding principles to achieve goals through cooperation and collaboration. The multifaceted structure of SUN Movement accurately confronts the varied nature of hunger and malnutrition, making the organization an important player in the fight to improve nutrition worldwide.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

Australia’s RefugeeAustralia founded their offshore Nauru Detention Center for asylum-seekers on the Pacific island Nauru in 2001. It closed for a brief period in 2008 while the Australian government built detention centers on the mainland, but Nauru eventually reopened for refugee-processing in 2012.

Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without a valid visa are transferred to either the Nauru or Manus Island Detention Center, where they spend an average of 445 days behind bars.

Australian law dictates that there is no limit on the length of time a refugee may be held in a detention center.

This militarized system of dealing with refugees is designed for the ease of processing on staff.  It is also easier to sell to other countries as “effective” rather than identifying and adapting the Australian refugee system to current changing global migration patterns.

Despite criticism that its refugee system is inhumane, the Australian government’s methods in their detention centers are often envied and copied by other countries, particularly because of the hostile mood toward refugees in recent years.

In contrast to Germany, which accepted over one million refugees in 2015, Australia placed only around 13,750 refugees in their Humanitarian Program in the 2015-2016 year.

Recently, the Nauru Detention Center, in particular, has come under scrutiny since the release of around 2,000 staff incident reports from the Center. These detail, among other things, sexual and physical abuse of refugees as well as self-harm among refugees.

In July 2015, there was an average of one incident of a refugee self-harming every two days. These “incidents” ranged from slashing wrists or overdosing on pills to self-immolation.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton stated in a press release that refugees lied about the incidents of sexual abuse at Nauru Detention Center and deliberately self-harmed in order to garner sympathy and speed up their immigration process.

Though the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has resisted holding a royal commission on the state of Nauru Detention Center, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs called for immediate action on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, calling the Detention Center’s methods illegal and immoral.

Three non-governmental organizations have also petitioned the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse to investigate Nauru, based on the released reports of abuse.

Because the reports on the maltreatment of Nauru Detention Center prisoners were released so recently (first published by The Guardian on August 10th, 2016), there is no current information on whether the Australian government plans to close the detention center or allow it to remain open. There is also a dearth of information on what solutions the government will propose to fix the allegations of sexual and physical abuse to refugees.

Until the mistreatment of asylum seekers at Nauru Detention Center can be investigated thoroughly, proposed solutions are based on testimony alone. These solutions include improved living conditions, faster processing, and more visitations between refugees and any relatives/loved ones who live on the mainland.  An increase in healthcare, especially mental healthcare, for those living in the detention center is also a proposed solution.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Korea
A quick economic recovery after the end of World War II and the signing of the Korean War Armistice in 1953 has mitigated growing rates of poverty and hunger in South Korea. Poverty, however, is a particular threat to the elderly population in South Korea, which has been aptly named the “forgotten” generation.

According to a 2011 report by the government-funded Korea Labor Institute, 48.6% of the country’s elderly — individuals aged 65 and over — struggled with relative poverty. Relative poverty, as opposed to absolute poverty, is defined as earning 50% or less of the median household income.

More recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that approximately half of the country’s elderly were living in poverty in 2015. This poverty rate has been considered the highest among the 34 nations studied by the OECD.

Pastor Choi Seong-Won has been an organizer of a weekly mobile-kitchen for 18 years. He has helped to alleviate the economic hardships of the elderly homeless by providing lunches over the weekends. Seong-Won told CNN that the reason for this emergence of elderly poverty and hunger in South Korea “is the more than two years of serious economic crisis in Korea, along with the global economic downturn. Wealthy people will be fine no matter the situation, but people going through economic struggles say now is a really difficult time.”

Other local churches in Korea have fed 300 to 500 seniors as they lined up for food. However, charitable meals will not solve the problem of elderly poverty and hunger in South Korea alone.

Bernard Rowan, professor of political science at Chicago State University, also discussed the causes of poverty in the Korea Times. Rowan cites population growth among the elderly in Korea shifts in cultural traditions as causal factors. Traditionally, Korean culture has placed great emphasis on respecting seniors. The present-day lifestyle, however, has left many parents and grandparents to find work for themselves.

“That may include their emotional lives too,” Rowan explains. “A great many live incredibly alone.”

A Rise in Suicide Rates

Yet, these rates in poverty among the elderly have not only affected hunger in South Korea but have also contributed to higher rates of suicide. According to Statistics Korea, 50.3 out of every 100,000 Seoul citizens 60 years or older took their lives in 2014, the highest rate among all Korean age groups.

Seventy-year-old Seong Young-sook expressed her struggles to a CNN reporter saying, “I feel that my generation is being forgotten.” She continued, “I tried to kill myself next to my husband’s grave. Someone discovered me and I survived.”

Given that elderly poverty and hunger in South Korea are both affecting suicide rates, strategy and swift action are key to alleviating the problem.

Brainstorming and Enacting Solutions

In order to relieve elderly hunger in South Korea, the government recently updated its 1988 national pension system, now offering a “basic pension” retirement program. This expansion targets the poorest seniors and provides them with less than $200 a month.

The government plans to reach 90% of the population over the age of 64 by 2060.

Rowan also shared strategies to help reduce poverty among the elderly. The author suggests increasing the number of employment and volunteer opportunities for Korean elders in order to tap their knowledge and experience as well as continue to engage the demographic.

Kim Bok-soon, author of the Korea Labor Institute report, also offered a similar solution that goes beyond the pension program. He believes that the government’s labor market policy should be revised to accommodate elderly workers.

Public officials must continue to take action to alleviate elderly hunger in South Korea as well as high suicide rates.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

The Power of Partnerships
“Together, we can make a difference.”

It sounds cliché, but in the world of humanitarianism, partnerships have been shown, again and again, to be key in fighting global poverty and injustices.

Of course, it occurs on an organizational level all the time. In the humanitarian community, organizations intersect in countless ways. At the end of almost any humanitarian website, there is a tab at the bottom called “Partnerships,” “Partners,” or “Work with Us.”

When one organization has the expertise to improve education opportunities, another has the educators on the ground, another has the finances, and another has the technology to create school supplies that are more affordable or efficient; a partnership can be massively beneficial.

Pooling resources to unite for a common goal means that more help can be brought to where it is needed most.

Historically, partnerships have occurred between countries in order to achieve common political, economic and sometimes humanitarian, goals.

Often, these arise out of necessity: wartime, natural disasters, disease epidemics, and so on. But when partnerships arise out of foresight, crises can be handled more efficiently and existing programs and policies can be improved.

An example is the countries united in a commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, which have been implemented over the last fifteen years to a largely successful degree.

In the partnership between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Save the Children, there are five key elements: programming, research and development, joint-advocacy, employee engagement and cause-related marketing.

The Partnerships page of CARE, an organization whose mission is simply “to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world,” is divided into sections: foundations and trusts, corporate partners, humanitarian partners, institutional donors, and research and technical partners.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a part of the UN Secretariat. Its mission is to bring together humanitarian groups to make sure that responses to emergencies are coordinated and coherent.

partnershipsIt works with governments, regional organizations, and groups at the national and international levels in order to make sure that the people who need help are getting as much as they can as quickly as possible.

These are all examples of the many ways that partnerships can be utilized. There are so many different aspects to any heartfelt mission, so organizations can connect in ways that the average person might never have considered. When opportunities are considered critically, the possibilities are endless.

It can all start to feel a little bit like alphabet soup sometimes: The IRRI works with HRDC, SKEPs, and a company called PRIME. UNAIDS cosponsors include UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, and UNODC.

But here is what lies at the core of it all: organizations are coming together, communities are coming together, and individuals are coming together to make a difference and to do what is right. With technology increasing the rate of globalization, partnerships are easier than ever to form, and this should be taken advantage of.

It can serve as a lesson to anyone about the importance of coming together.

For any individual who looks at everything that is wrong with the world and says, “But what can I do?” because their resources and the scope of their influence are limited, he can ask, “What do I need in order to make a difference?”

From there, he can reach out to other individuals and groups who have different resources to offer, who have a different sphere of influence, who can help the person to make the kind of impact that will really be worthwhile.

“Partnership” is a word that can mean so many things. It offers forth a range of possibilities that are almost infinite. Humanitarian groups are one of the most important examples of how much more can be achieved through communication and the formation of connections.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Care, OCHA 1, IRRI, OCHA 2
Photo: Pixabay1, Pixabay2

Sugar_Support_Program
When it comes to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), the United States’ sugar subsidies may not leave a sweet taste.

Touted by the U.S. government as a deal intended to alleviate barriers to fair trade amongst 12 countries lining the pacific rim, the TPP has met considerable backlash in congress this summer.

Many in Washington on both sides of the aisle have alleged that the TPP is full of deals that favor US corporations in lieu of global interests—especially when it comes to the global sugar market.

As the Obama administration was drafting the TPP, which is said to focus on redoing trade barriers such as tariffs and strict market controls between Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and the US (among others), the sugar lobby was also tightening their hold in Washington.

The sugar support program currently protects the interest of growers in the United States by heavily inflating the costs of domestic sugar. The going world price for sugar is 10.94 cents; the price in the United States is more than double that, at 24.45 cents according to the August 2015 future commodities market.

Logically, this might seem as if it would actually help foreign sugar growers in places such as Mexico. If they are able to sell their cane at a lower price the US should present an readily available market.

Instead, there is a great deal of red tape that surrounds sugar importation into the United States: less and less foreign sugar is allowed to make it into the United States every year, which can spell catastrophe for the exports of developing countries

“Mexico struck a preliminary deal in October to send less sugar to the U.S.,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “The U.S. is the world’s fourth-largest sugar consumer and relies on its imports, most of which come from Mexico.”

What does this mean for the future of economic development in places like Mexico? As it stands, Mexico produces more sugar than it consumes increasing the necessity of selling the surplus on the global market.

Under the existing agreement, 300,000-to 400,000 tons of sugar sit idly in Mexican storehouses, doing nothing to help spark the Mexican economy. Since the NAFTA regulations were imposed (reaffirming U.S. sugar support) the number of people living in “food poverty in Mexico has grown from 18 million” to 20 million, according to Foreign Policy in Focus.

TPP, in theory, should eliminate the NAFTA tariffs and regulations. In practice, however, the sugar lobby continues to write enormous subsidy-saving checks in Washington.

“We can’t compete with our hands tied,” said mill owner Juan Cortina, who is also the head of Mexico’s sugar chamber. “The United States offers its sector certain benefits and we should have the same. If not there is no level playing field.”

In light of the previous NAFTA agreements, the U.N. has warned that the TPP could “aggravate global poverty” as trade deals worth about $300 billion are negotiated behind closed doors.

Now, in 2015 the doors are open, and the ever-powerful United States sugar lobby is public for everyone to see.

Emma Betuel

Sources: WSJ, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Herald Tribune, Spartanburg Herald Journal, San Diego News, Foreign Policy In Focus, Washington Post
Photo: MOMA