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April 24, 2013 marked the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman government. Each year, hundreds and thousands of supporters march and protest throughout countries such as a Georgia, France, Germany, Iran, and, of course, the United States. They call for not only recognition from the Turkish government of the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians, but also reparations such as the return of ancestral lands to Armenia as well as redrafting the border lines set in Woodrow Wilson’s 1920 Treaty of Sévres.

While 43 states in the U.S. recognize the genocide, President Obama himself has refused time and time again to refer to the event by its intended name, ‘the Armenian Genocide’. His conflict come from obvious political issues and concerns with America’s relationship and alliance with the Turkish government.

Despite his lack of efforts to recognize a significant historical event, many Congressmen and Senators stand strong with the Armenians. Congressman Adam Schiff from the 28th District in California (including areas of the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Burbank, and northern Los Angeles suburbs) stood in front of the U.S. House recently and spoke in Armenian, commemorating the genocide. Throughout the years, Schiff has proven to be a voice for the Armenian communities he serves in the capitol.

What is tragic about the situation, not only about the actual killings from 1915-1923, is the way a modern-day republic such as Turkey is able to deny its actions. Many Turks come out to counter-protest Armenians on the remembrance day, not only rejecting their family stories and proofs, but going so far as to claim that things were the other way around, where Armenians in Anatolia killed Turks.

When it comes to the most horrific atrocities committed in the 20th and 21st centuries, including but in no way limited to the genocides in Rwanda, against Native Americans, the Circassian Genocide, that of the Chechens, the Kurds, Tibet, Congo, and countless more, there should be no option for denial. In an age where it even seems silly to argue over petty political procedures and media-made alliances, countries should be held responsible for accurately depicting their histories.

Humanitarian abuses occur around the world on a daily basis. When passionate activists have quite literally exhausted themselves and their resources, the battles are left to the politicians. If they are not given a political or economic motive to make those changes, it is up to the people they service to verify their desires and requests to do so.

– Deena Dulgerian

Photo: Armenian National Team

In late 2012, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) created a documentary about women living in developing countries called Half the Sky. This documentary examines the lives of many women in third world countries who have suffered through rape, prostitution, slavery, violent marriages, and other forms of oppression. By interviewing numerous women, Half the Sky is able to construct a common bond that promotes a sense of connectivity for all women and all humanity. Eva Mendes is one of the celebrities participating in this eye-opening project.

While the documentary takes the viewer to many different parts of the world, like Cambodia and Vietnam, Eva travels to Sierra Leone to talk to women about empowerment and to raise awareness of violence against females.

The film advocates women in leadership roles who advocate for women victims of rape and physical abuse. In one instance, a woman, who was abducted at the age of 13 and forced into prostitution, now provides shelter and counseling for girls who escaped from similar situations. Eva Mendes also had the opportunity to interview a particularly inspirational woman who had the courage to press charges against the men who raped her.

Half the Sky focuses on how women are fighting back against gender-based violence and paints a relatively optimistic future. Although in some societies female violence is still the norm, many women are attempting to create and implement the concept of women’s rights. It may be a long battle in some countries, but, as Eva Mendes notes, even small progress is worth celebrating.

It is easy for some documentaries to merely show story after story about women who have suffered from violence; Half the Sky is a different kind of documentary. It shows the viewer that even in the midst of discrimination and struggle, these women are able to overcome their past experiences and emerge ready and eager to help other women. These women refuse to be silent and submissive. That is something that every gender and nationality can relate to.

– Mary Penn

Source: policymic
Video: You Tube


As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grows, wouldn’t it be great if consumers could have clear indicators of which companies and products were part of this beneficial social movement? There is – B Corp Certification.  A concept introduced five years ago, B Corp is “like the Fair Trade label but for a whole company, not just a bag of coffee,” said co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.

The organization certifies companies once they have met standards of social and environmental performance and have changed their bylaws to take into account the impact of their decisions on the environment, community, and employees. “Increasingly there are businesses that want to create value for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders,” said Andrew Kassoy, another of B Corp’s founders. “These companies are competing not just to be best in the world, but best for the world.”

About 650 companies have embraced the status so far, including Patagonia, Etsy, and most recently Ben & Jerry’s, one of the original socially driven companies (now owned by Unilever). Mr. Kassoy called the Ben & Jerry’s news a “big deal,” and hoped Unilever’s decision to pursue B Corp certification would “influence other multinationals” to do the same.

David Griswold, the founder of Sustainable Harvest, a Portland-based coffee importer, knew from the beginning that he wanted to start a project to help others. But he also saw challenges to the success of starting a non-profit – not being able to “reach scale.” They needed significant investment from the beginning to accomplish their mission, and they needed money to grow. “It was only when my company grew, and I began to reinvest my earnings in coffee communities abroad, that I saw I could really make a difference.” He said he felt that a for-profit business would work best for his goals.

B Corp certification helps with giving “legitimacy” to for-profit businesses that want to prove their moral sincerity, especially when trying to partner with non-profit foundations to increase their community development.  It also helps explain to investors why they operate as they do to secure more capital, and allows consumers to make educated buying choices.

Devin Hibbard, a B Corp supporter and owner of Beads For Life – a non-profit that operates “very much” like a business, says, in the end “it’s all about poverty eradication” through commerce.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The New York Times
Video: You Tube




Breakfast giant Kellogg is committed to creating brighter futures for global citizens and outlines plans to accomplish that goal in its 5th Annual Global Corporate Responsibility Report.  W.K. Kellogg aspired to not only create breakfast cereal, but to improve people’s lives through food and philanthropy.  Each year, Kellogg highlights their efforts at creating brighter futures through their Global Corporate Responsibility report. This report outlines Kellogg’s efforts aimed at the marketplace, workplace, environment, and community, as well as their global efforts to fight world hunger.

Breakfasts for Better Days is Kellogg’s global hunger initiative. According to the report, 1 in 8 people around the world face food insecurity each day.  Through Kellogg and Kellogg’s Corporate Citizenship Fund, the company has committed to donate 1 billion servings of  cereal and snacks to children and families in need by 2016.  Breakfast is what they do best and by providing servings of breakfast to children around the world, Kellogg is playing a role in fighting global hunger worldwide.

In addition to the work being done to fight global hunger, Kellogg is also committed to reducing water use and waste to landfill in their plants. The UK plant was able to reduce their water use by 26% in 2012. They have launched new products with higher fiber, protein, and nutritional content and will continue to create food that is healthy to improve the health of all citizens.  Lastly, to further promote breakfast and hunger relief programs, Kellogg’ has donated $52+ million in cash and products to organizations worldwide.

Kellogg is committed to be socially and fiscally responsible in the world of business and it is striving to use their platform as a breakfast manufacturer to fight global hunger and improve the lives of global citizens. The full report is available here. Kellogg will make a one-time donation of up to $10,000 to the Global FoodBanking Network for every person who provides feedback on the report. Simply send an email by Nov 1, 2013 to [email protected]

Check out the report and send an email. It’s an easy way to contribute to the cause through advocacy and involvement and encourage businesses to continue to fight global hunger.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Wall Street Journal
Photo: Kellogg

Poverty is no match for combating hunger and undernutrition, something that some of the world’s poorest countries are proving to be true according to data collected by the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index. Some of the poorest countries are staying true and strong to their political commitment to tackle the issue, which many economically strong countries are failing to do. These countries have the funds and means to address the issue, yet they fail to put forth the initiative to adequately address it.

Hunger and undernutrition affect people all across the world, in nations poor and rich. Thus, it is necessary for governments and people to be completely committed and put forth an effort to combat hunger, saving lives, improving quality of life, and allowing people to fully reach their capacities – both socially and economically.

The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) “ranks governments on their political commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition… to provide greater transparency and public accountability by measuring what governments achieve, and where they fail, in addressing hunger and undernutrition,” according to their website. Its data comes from 45 countries located across the globe and, according to the lead HANCI research, Dr. Dolf te Lintelo, the point is to “shine a spotlight on what governments are doing, or failing to do, towards addressing hunger and undernutrition.”

African countries, such as Malawi and Madagascar, were amongst the top countries showing “high commitment” to solving the problem of hunger. Yet, many African countries with robust economies, such as Nigeria and South Africa, showed very little commitment, bringing into question what seems to be the motive behind improving their economies as there has been little done to help those that are under-nourished and hungry.

The HANCI website goes into great detail as to which countries have high commitment and which countries fail in their commitment efforts, as well as interactive tools that allow people to explore the data. Visit it here:

– Angela Hooks

Sources: AllAfrica, HANCI
Photo: Hunger and Nutrition Blog

Citizens of the world are less and less supportive of capitalism solely based on maximizing short-term profits. More and more companies are acknowledging their obligation to all the participants in their business, from the shareholders, to the employees, to the communities they operate in. Unilever is one such company, realizing and owning their need to contribute to the societal welfare and environmental impact for the countries it operates in. They want to propose a new model of capitalism that focuses on the long term, in which companies try to solve social and environmental problems and give equal importance to the needs of communities, as well as their shareholders.

Unilever has over 400 brands worldwide under its umbrella, ranging from foods to household cleaners, including Lipton, Knorr, Dove, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; sold in almost every country, with two billion people using a Unilever product every day. Their huge distribution network enables them to make huge changes on a massive scale.

They have developed a range of initiatives that both help people as well has support their business’s growth. One focus is on hygiene, where public health specialists advise that the most effective intervention is to encourage hand washing at key times of the day – before and after eating, etc. Unilever developed the brand Lifebuoy with a marketing strategy based on campaigns to educate mothers and children to adopt this simple gesture. Trial programs in Mumbai, India have shown that, compared to control groups, those who benefited from the change in behavior were 25% less likely to suffer from diarrhea and were less absent from school for medical reasons. The campaign is now being expanded to Southeast Asia and Africa. It has a triple advantage – the consumer is healthier, the company sees a decline in health care costs for its employees, and Unilever benefits from increased sales of soap.

Unilever’s greatest impact is within the agricultural sector. Worldwide, the company purchases 12% of the world’s black tea, 3% of the tomatoes, and 3% of the palm oil. They have committed to halve their environmental footprint by 2020, and source 100% of their agricultural raw materials sustainably while enhancing the livelihoods of people across their value chain.

A third sphere of influence is in economic development through engagement and strengthening of their small-business affiliates. Unilever is connected with more than one million small farmers alone. They are able to work directly with the farmers to improve their productivity through a partnership with local and international organizations, expand their distribution efficiency, and train them in new techniques. Oxfam estimates the number of small-businesses that Unilever touches is more than half a billion, and improving their lives and businesses is an effective way to reduce poverty.

And, this April 9th – you can get free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, as they “give back” to their communities all over the world.

– Mary Purcell

Source: UN ITC

Since 1945 the United Nations has established the contemporary global, obligation to address the economic and social well-being of ordinary citizens. A very new concept when written into their charter: “The United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of progress and development in the economic and social order.”

Over time, for at least economists and policy makers, this development agenda has become synonymous with “improving economic opportunities through increased production of goods and services.” The implicit assumption is that economic growth will increase quality of life standards, life expectancy, improve nutrition and health.

Since 1945, there have been impressive advancements in the elimination of extreme poverty, but still many professionals wonder how to accelerate growth even more throughout the world – particularly in Africa and South Asia, two regions with a great number of poor. The issue has prompted economists and policymakers to analyze the importance of several factors, policies and institutions, finding six factors for successful development:

1. Social inclusion – With a healthier and more educated population, nations can enjoy a more effective economic and political life. Illiteracy is a major barrier to participation in the economy. Without widespread education, citizens are more easily manipulated by un-just governments – allowing for the empowerment of counter-productive leadership.
2. Quality management – Governments must manage their national macro-economic environment; if there is no over-arching/holistic governance, the nation loses its credibility both in private sector business, and the citizenry. The “political capital” of a country cannot be wasted, and moreover, if public resources and urgent needs are not continually addressed, then the country falls into a burden of “catch up” where they are always behind in development, comparatively.
3. Transparency and accountability – Transparency is essential to prevent corruption and financial fraud, and promotes citizen participation. Experience shows that trust in one’s government encourages citizens and businesses to pay their taxes, thus advancing development and social services. Companies invest and expand more, creating greater confidence in the government and a “virtuous circle” of development ensues.
 4. Technology and innovation – Economic production is no longer just about capital and labor, now knowledge and innovation are just as important. It has been proven that technology gaps can explain the disparity in productivity between different countries. Technological adoption, knowledge dissemination and information communication technology (ICT) are imperative for national competitiveness.
5. Economic opportunities – Increasing the access and use economic resources to citizens is imperative. Free and open access to markets can contribute significantly to development; access to goods, labor and financial markets for personal use, production and exchange; especially the promotion of small-businesses.
6. Administrative Infrastructure – Business and society often come down to bureaucratic needs:  issuance of licenses, permits, birth certificate, passport, filing taxes, starting a business, registering a title, property rights, contract settlements, foreign trade authorization, hiring an employee, use the public health services, etc. The efficiency of bureaucracy is pertinent to advancing greater and more equal access to public resources.
 – Mary Purcell

Source: ITC

The Syrian Civil War has led to hundreds of Syrians fleeing out of the country. While this has helped them escape from the dangerous fighting and uncertain living that is prevalent in Syria today (to a large extent), it has also led to an array of problems as outside countries try to feed, house, school, and protect Syrian refugees. For many surrounding countries, there is no question as to whether help and support should be provided to refugees. Rather, the question comes in the form of from where. Where will the money come from to provide the necessities of food, education, and housing?

This is where the UN has stepped in, overcompensating for promised funding from Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates that has failed to appear. Yet, with its current spending, the UN fund is running low and borrowing heavily. The results of this type of spending will not only have heavy consequences for future aid for Syrian refugees but for other areas in which the UN provides funding as well.

On its current track, the UN Food Programme is projected to spend $1 billion a year, at a rate of $18 million a week. Yet, only half of this amount is actually being raised from donor countries according to Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP. The UN Food Programme, Cousin says, is “borrowing money from other areas of the organisation.” The UN is calling for Gulf countries to step up and provide the funding they promised to ensure that Syrian refugees continue to receive support and aid. In January, when the UN was appealing to many countries to pledge aid support, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates each promised $300 million. Yet, in the months since the pledge, none of this money has surfaced leaving the UN, and the UN Food Programme specifically, in a very tough spot.

The WFP funding crisis comes at a very difficult time in the Syrian War as it is approaching its third year and Syrian refugee numbers continue to rise. There is much tension among host countries as they try to compensate for increases in population and provide humane and sanitary living quarters. Protests have broken out in countries such as Turkey resulting in military police intervention. The funding crisis only makes this more difficult as there is less money to ensure safe and humane practices.

The push for collecting aid from Gulf countries has become a top priority of the UN. Without more money, humanitarians are worried that more and more outbreaks and protests could occur in host countries leading to more stress in an already stressful situation.

-Angela Hooks
Source: Financial Times
Photo:NBC News

Bill Gates Responds to Skepticism of Foreign AidUS foreign aid has recently been thrown into the debate of where to cut government spending. Many Members of Congress have expressed doubt as to the effectiveness of foreign aid and the United States’ responsibility of providing foreign aid to third world countries. In his annual letter, Bill Gates wrote a response to these many concerns asserting that foreign aid works and the United States should continue funding this vital program.

Bill Gates begins his argument by addressing concerns that foreign aid is ineffective and only goes into the hands of the corrupt. By using the example of an organization he supports, GAVI Alliance, Gates is able to explain the specifics of foreign aid in a way that is often ignored. GAVI uses all of the donations it receives to provide vaccines to developing countries. Gates reiterates that the organization does not send cash to these countries, only vaccines. This is one way nonprofits and USAid can bypass possible corrupt political leaders.

Another way GAVI ensures its funds are not wasted is by only operating in countries that have provided evidence of a strong enough immunization system to administer the vaccines to a majority of children. These countries are required also to pay a percentage of the cost of the vaccines. Gates reminds us that China was once a recipient of such aid and now pays the full amount for vaccines. He also stresses how methods for measuring accountability and effectiveness have greatly increased and countries failing to meet certain criteria no longer receive assistance.

Not only are assistance organizations addressing corruption and government accountability, but studies have also shown these organizations to be achieving their goal of reducing global poverty and hunger. GAVI has contributed to the decrease in children dying each year (down by one quarter) by providing 370 million children with vaccinations. That means 2.4 million children’s lives have been saved in about thirteen years, since GAVI was created in 2000.

Gates acknowledges that there is still some corruption when dealing with foreign aid, but that does not mean the US should stop sending assistance. Foreign aid is working, and eventually recipient countries will build their economies to the point where they no longer require aid. The implications of such development mean a larger market for US products and a more secure world, not to mention drastically better living standards for formerly impoverished people.

Bill Gates calls for US politicians to be the moral leaders of the world. Such actions will not only ensure international respect but also international influence. He urges the US to follow the example of Britain and other countries devoted to foreign aid and continue funding for foreign assistance programs.

– Mary Penn
Source: Daily Mail
Photo: Gates Foundation

Mercy Corps and Transparency
Mercy Corps, a Portland-based organization, has been working to fight poverty since 1979. The organization that began as a small group of individuals, led by founder Dan O’Neil, originally raised funds to help Cambodian refugees. It is now ranked as one of the most fiscally responsible aid organizations by Charity Organizer.

Mercy Corps deserves praise for two main reasons. First, just like any other organization, the result matter. Mercy Corps works to find the most efficient and innovative strategies to help struggling communities around the world. Recent projects have included disaster relief efforts in Japan and Haiti after the countries’ devastating earthquakes, working with nine separate microfinance organizations around the world, and focusing on important issues such as food security, economic opportunity and health.

The second reason that Mercy Corps has become so well respected is the organization’s no-holds-barred approach to transparency. Many donors are skeptical about where their money is going when they give. Such skepticism isn’t unreasonable, especially after reading reports of money that are stolen or have gone missing during major aid drives. What is so impressive about the approach that Mercy Corps takes? All of their information is easily found on their website for anybody to review. They reveal their IRS forms, annual financial reports, and future plans right on their website. Mercy Corps is just one more great organization that is working hard in the fight against world poverty.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Mercy Corps