information and news on accountability.

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

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

What the Pope’s Encyclical Means for the World’s Poor-TBP

In June, Pope Francis aligned himself with mainstream science by accepting the truth of climate change. With the release of his 184 page encyclical that calls for immediate action on climate change, Francis has added a moral scope to the biggest problem that humanity has ever encountered.

In it, Francis cites the mindless drive toward monetary gain and economical shortsightedness as the main reasons humanity is this situation today.

While environmentalists around the world applaud the encyclical as a much needed call to action by country and individual alike, the encyclical also revealed who would be impacted the most by climate change: the poor.

Francis says the poorest have been left in the wake of consumerist ambitions of the richest nations. They are being displaced and disregarded.

He also implores that the countries mainly responsible for the climate crisis have an obligation to help the poorest countries.

Numerous studies back the words of Francis’s encyclical. In 2014, the U.N. Climate Panel released a report that found that global climate change, while affecting everyone, would affect poorer countries more and threaten human security.

The report notes the risk climate change presents to agriculture. As some regions become dryer and hotter, food yields will suffer. In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, Princeton Professor Michael Oppenheimer said that even now, the poorest countries are already struggling to adapt their agriculture methods. If climate change is left unchecked, the lack of food will result in higher prices and competition, thus causing violence and the destabilization of poor regions.

Impoverished countries also face heightened potential for natural disasters. Natural disasters are indeed, natural, and every country is at risk for them. However, the wealth of a country plays a pivotal role in how they are responded to.

When a natural disaster goes through an impoverished region, aid response is significantly slower. More people will end up dying from malnutrition and dehydration than from the actual disaster.

Maarten van Aalst, who directs the Red Cross Climate Center and co-authored the report, said that from 2000 to 2009, the number of natural disasters tripled compared to the same period in the 1980s.

This rise is attributed to climate change.

The poorest countries were already at a disadvantage. With climate change, those same countries may have a harder time climbing out of poverty.

Professors Francis Moore and Delavane Diaz out of Stanford published a study earlier this year noting the relationship between poverty and heat.

Impoverished countries, on average, are located in significantly hotter regions than non-impoverished countries. As mentioned by the U.N. report, agriculture in these countries are already struggling with adapting to the changing climate.

Moore and Diaz note that climate change will lower per-capita GDP in poor regions from 3.2 to 2.6%, making it harder to grow economically. This directly supports the findings in the U.N. report.

Wealthy countries are expected to continue economical growth.

With his encyclical, Pope Francis has not so subtly nudged the developed world to action on the environmental crisis. In doing so, extreme poverty may also be confronted as well.

– Kevin Meyers

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, New York Times
Photo: Grist


data_standardsSetting higher standards for data reporting and compatibility is essential to track and foster progress in initiatives all over the world. That’s why two networks, Development Initiatives and Publish What You Find, are heading a project to develop more universally applicable data standards and help organizations and projects transform their data to match the new standard.

Improving data standards for organizations, particularly those administering aid in countries abroad, will help elucidate the work being done and facilitate collaboration and communication between groups in different sectors. These standards also allow for interoperability, which is defined as the ability for technology and software systems to communicate, exchange data and use this data for researchers to draw conclusions about projects.

Needless to say, higher standards for information will improve the efficiency and speed with which organizations analyze and improve their efforts and also allow them to share their efforts with other groups who can replicate them. Doing so will not only improve the way information it is collected but it will also make it more widely available — improving access to and understanding of the latest projects organizations all over the world that they are engaging in.

In investments directly related to foreign aid, such as those in healthcare, education, agriculture and water access, higher data standards will allow organizations to share the outcomes of their projects with donors who can track the flow of their funding. They can also publicize their findings with other organizations that can then compare and collaborate to find more efficient, cost-effective solutions.

Something as seemingly small as transforming and improving the way with which organizations report their statistics can make drastic improvements to people’s health and way of life all over the world. Examples of this are logging administration and efficacy of immunizations, schools or communities with the highest risks, spread of disease and robustness of food resources. Interoperability allows organizations and donors to link up and improve the work they are doing.

Development Initiatives and Publish What You Find hope their data allows people to make more efficient use of data, whether by directing the flow of funding or improving aid projects. Efforts like these will improve access to information on development flows and therefore their efficiency. This project is ambitious in its design of overhauling sector-level systems, but the change it will bring about will be much broad, influencing the lives of people all over the world.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: Omidyar, Devinit
Photo: University of Mary Washington

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling published “The White Man’s Burden,” a poem that seemingly outlines the necessity for White help to countries that were not, in his eyes, as far along as those in Europe.

Although what initially spawned was colonialism—wherein the African continent was forced to be subject to European powers while living under deplorable conditions—the White Man’s Burden turned into something more: a white savior complex, the need to rescue people of color from what is assumed to be a horrid status.

Many have viewed Western celeb aid to developing countries as just that.

Since movie stars were famous, it has been a commonality for successful stars to go to Africa and Asia to ‘help’ the children and countries. Many see this as a win-win for the celebrities—they get a tax write-off for donating money, they get good press and they ease their conscience.

Celebrities in these countries also affect those in America. When people click on pictures showing celebs like Bono, Madonna and Audrey Hepburn, they admire their charity and the things they are doing.

However, when Americans see these faces among black and brown children in poverty, it can stimulate a savior complex. Although Kipling’s poem influenced the white man’s complex, it has turned into a Western savior complex.

Americans are no strangers to the ‘Africa the country’ phenomenon. Many assume most of Africa is an underdeveloped jungle full of natives who need help. When media only shows the parts of Africa that are in trouble coupled with the infrequency to learning about it in school, many Americans feel the need to save them from themselves and their conditions.

While this condescending attitude may seem harmless on a small scale, it is dangerous on a national scale.

When politicians are discussing sending aid and support, it is often times not done properly, sometimes worsening the situation. Earlier this summer, Pastor Rick Warren urged the Senate to have a different type of attitude towards those stuck in extreme poverty.

By changing the narrative and the education, aid can be properly and respectfully given to countries in Africa, developing mutually beneficial relationships between the U.S. and the East.

Erin Logan

Sources: History Matters, Newser, LA Times, Senate
Photo: The New Yorker

Improving Governments Decreases Poverty - Borgen Project
A country is as strong as their government, and as the world comes closer to ending global poverty, policies in developing nations are beginning to improve. Poor countries are adopting new ways to help the public and, as a result, find a decline in poverty. When people have access to resources like food, sanitation and education, they have a greater opportunity to improve their lives. Although resources are vital to improving governance, it is just as important to establish equal political participation.

The World Bank understands the importance of proper governance and collects data of the progress in developing countries. The data collected includes “Gender Statistics, African Development Indicators, and Education Statistics,” says The World Bank. Keeping track of governments that are improving policies will determine the rate of poverty. Measuring statistics gives a better look at what is working to help improve the lives of those in need.

USAID has taken measures to better the lives of those living in Afghanistan. They have brought safety to the population and voter inclusion for women. “Since 2012, USAID has supported over 1,200 community improvement activities, such as construction of potable water pumps and maintenance for local schools and clinics,” according to USAID’s website. Elections in Afghanistan have greatly improved; representation of women has brought a greater turnout of voters.

Latin America has also experienced economic growth thanks to the efforts of USAID. “Political advances have been notable as well: free elections, vibrant civil society, and responsive governments are mostly the norm,” says USAID. They continue to focus on drug trade, civil rights and natural disasters. However, USAID has improved family planning, revitalization in Haiti and the decline of violence in El Salvador.

The government of a country represents the health and safety that the people are receiving. If development continues to progress, poverty will continue to decline. It is vital that the World Bank continues to track progress and organizations like USAID help those in poor countries.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: World Bank, USAID, USAID 2,
Photo: UN