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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

white_mans_burden
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

Foggy Poverty Stats in Argentina - TBP
Earlier this year, the President of Argentina Cristina Kirchner publicly decreed Argentina’s level of poverty to be among the lowest in the world. While such an announcement should receive admiration and praise from other global leaders, Argentina has instead been put under the microscope for possibly falsifying information about its poverty statistics.

Last week, President Kirchner appeared at U.N. Food and Agriculture meeting in Rome and boasted her country’s supposed impressive poverty numbers. Kirchner was quoted as saying, “Today the poverty rate is less than 5 percent, and the rate of indigence is 1.27 percent, which has made Argentina one of the most egalitarian countries.” Her claims would place Argentina near the top of the list of economically successful countries, but her remarks have come under fire by prominent Argentinean figures for being inaccurate and misrepresenting Argentina’s true economic status.

The Catholic University of Argentina was one of the earliest critics of President Kirchner’s report on poverty citing a study conducted in April of 2014 that reported a 27% poverty rate in Argentina. The University attributed the blame in flawed figures to Argentina’s statistical research center INDEC.

According to an article published by the International Business Times, “critics have long questioned the poverty figures that have been on the books, saying they were based on controversial methodology with manipulated inflation estimates that drove down the calculation of food prices factored into the poverty rate figure.” Thus, Argentina finds itself reporting inaccurate statistics as a result of poor government decisions.

On May 15th of this year, PanAm Post published an article reporting Argentina’s unsuccessful attempt at increasing public spending to reduce poverty levels. An excerpt from the article states that public spending “has been directed to the energy sector, to the payment of public-sector workers, and offering access to pensions and public services to an additional four million people.”

The article also goes on to criticize INDEC for manipulating figures to conceal the accurate poverty rate in Argentina. The article concludes by reporting that between 2011 and 2013, Argentina spent roughly $36 billion while poverty levels remained unchanged. It appears that Argentina’s experiment has failed and it is finally time to admit error and find a new, honest approach to reduce poverty.

– Diego Alejandro Catala

Sources: Blog of the Panam Post: The Canal, International Business Times
Photo: The Guardian

data_collection

Data collection is essential to address public health concerns in the developing world. If a nonprofit or government institution cannot identify risk factors, outbreaks, health trends and vulnerable populations, aid cannot be targeted effectively at the people who need it the most. As Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization puts it, “without these data, countries and their development partners are working in the dark – throwing money into a black hole.”

That is why the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced the Roadmap for Health Measurement and Accountability and a Five-Point Call to Action. These initiatives are meant to encourage the governments of developing countries to strengthen their public health registration systems, with the goal of making health aid more effective while avoiding some of the data-collection pitfalls of the past.

While previous data-collection initiatives, many motivated by the Millennium Development Goals, led to dramatic improvements in public health knowledge gaps, they also had some negative consequences. These were mainly a result of the programs’ tendencies to fragment as well as detract from country-led approaches to data collection.

Jimmy Kolker, assistant secretary for global health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, points out that data collection should not be an “end in itself.” To be effective, governments need to have the political capacity to support, and act on, the data that they collect. In contrast to previous initiatives, the Roadmap and Call to Action are intended to empower countries to develop their own integrated health systems, which should be more sustainable and robust in the long-term.

The Five-Point Call to Action includes some very specific public health monitoring goals. For example, the third point emphasizes a need for adequate civil registration systems, with the goal of registering all births by 2030, as well as registering 80% of deaths and their causes. The reasoning behind being so specific in establishing broad standards is that in the past, data collection efforts were hampered by a lack of coordination; a poor focus on specific health issues also failed to reveal broad trends and strengthen public health systems. Thus, these initiatives emphasize establishing accurate measurements of a few basic indicators, such as births and deaths, as well as having basic reporting and public access mechanisms in place.

The Call to Action calls for adequate data collection and interpretation through modern technology, not just traditional registration systems. Point four emphasizes that by 2020 all countries should have “real-time disease surveillance systems in place, including the capacity to analyze and link data using interoperable, interconnected electronic reporting systems within the country.”

As technology has developed, aid agencies and governments have an ever-growing list of resources that can help them monitor, collect, and interpret health-related data. Up to two-thirds of the world’s population in 100 countries is absent from public registration systems, a gap that must be filled by modern data-gathering and reporting solutions. Mobile technology is an enormous boon to governments trying to build data collection and dissemination systems.

For example, since 2008 Bangladesh, with relatively little funding and prior to the aforementioned initiatives, has managed to strengthen programs for establishing electronic medical records, centralized databases, accessible online resources for data-entry and reporting, and citizen feedback mechanisms. Bangladesh is a great example of how a low-income country can rapidly modernize its public health data resources cheaply and efficiently, a model from which other developing countries might learn, spurred on by the recent initiatives by USAID, the WHO, and the World Bank. Perhaps, with some financial and technical support from these institutions, developing nations can create their own path toward improved public health.

Derek Marion

Sources: MA4Health, World Bank, Devex
Photo: Leaning Forward

FIFA
Qatar has an estimated budget of 62 billion pounds for the hotels, infrastructure, stadiums and other buildings that it needs for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has relied on migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to complete these building projects. However, the work for migrant workers is extremely difficult and many are dying, most likely as a consequence of the harsh conditions that they are forced to live and work in.

Since 2013, Qatar has been under investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, who are worried that Qatar’s migrant workforce is being treated as modern-day slaves. According to a 2013 report from the Guardian, over 4,000 workers will die as a result of the conditions that they are subjected to while they prepare for the World Cup. From June 4 to August 8 in the same year, 44 Nepalese workers died, and half of those deaths were related to heart failure or workplace accidents.

Heart failure and heat strokes are common, since many workers are forced to slave away in extremely hot temperatures—up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit—and are sometimes not given access to free drinking water. This has led to many complaints from workers. More than 80 workers from India died from January to May 2013, and 1,460 complained to the embassy about problems related to labor conditions.

While it may seem like the best solution is for workers to go home, unfortunately, it is not that simple. Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have instituted the kafala system—a system of sponsorship in which migrant workers are not allowed to change jobs or leave the country without a sponsor’s permission. Many sponsors hold the passports of migrant workers, making it impossible for them to leave. Workers are also often jilted out of the money that they were promised, and contracts are sometimes in English or other languages foreign to migrant workers, meaning that workers are forced to sign contracts that they do not understand.

Qatar promised that they would reform the kafala system after the deaths of migrant workers were bought to light. However, as The Guardian states, the system that Qatar plans to replace the kafala with will still ensure that employees are tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which can last for as long as five years.

An estimated 1,200 workers have died since Qatar began to construct its stadiums for the World Cup. However, this week, Qatar’s state news agency has issued a statement claiming that no workers have died during construction for the World Cup. They claim that no workers died while at work, and therefore argue that the assumption that the deaths of migrant workers are work related, is incorrect.

While it is most likely true that not all the deaths of migrant workers are work related, the fact remains that many of the deaths probably are a result of the poor living and working conditions that migrants are forced to face. Qatar is also hesitant to let reporters research the conditions of migrant workers in the country. In May of 2015, they arrested a group of BBC reporters who attempted to do so.

The problems with workers for the FIFA World Cup are representative of larger socioeconomic problems in Qatar. Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. Its growing industry and infrastructure attract migrant workers determined to improve their living conditions by moving to such a rich country. However, migrant workers are treated extremely poorly. They are crammed into overcrowded living conditions of six to eight men in a room, and up to 40 men have to share a kitchen. The living conditions are unhygienic and bathrooms and washers are so dirty that some men are forced to use buckets of water to wash instead.

There are over 1.2 million migrant workers making up the workforce in Qatar. These workers are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. It is especially difficult for migrant workers who work in domestic situations. As the Human Rights Watch states, these workers are normally women, and they are especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as they are sometimes locked in the homes where they work and are not given protection under Qatari Labor Law.

The poor treatment of migrant workers might be an attempt by Qatar to keep its population under control. After all, over 80 percent of the Qatari population is now composed of migrant workers, meaning that 20 percent of the population actually benefits from the riches of Qatar, while the rest are forced to suffer. As one Nepalese migrant worker states, “No one respects our feelings, we are just labor, all people hate us.” Unless Qatar changes its laws and issues drastic reforms, it risks becoming a country where modern day slavery becomes more and more prevalent, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

— Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, BBC, BBC, Business Insider, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Migration News, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: The Telegraph

client power
As paying customers, what do people do when dissatisfied with a service? They register a complaint with the company, and then perhaps try another service. This is the essence of a competitive market. Quality of service is forced to remain high when clients have this power. Is it possible to generate this power when the customer is dependent on public service? In other words, how can development and public projects be made more accountable and transparent with better service provided?

Greater vigilance by government authorities, higher monetary incentives to employees and increased funding for diverse projects can go toward improving service provisions. However, client power can be crucial in making strides toward this goal as well.

When consumers have a strong voice, more can be achieved. A 2004 World Bank development report describes the example of Kerala, an Indian state, where significant success has been achieved in major social sectors like literacy and health care. A part of this success is attributed to informed citizen action and political activism.

Community advocacy groups are indispensable in providing a voice for the poor. In 1994, a civil society organization, or CSO, in Bangalore, India introduced the idea of report cards for public services. Results of these reports revealed corruption, lack of access and other flaws that were actively publicized by the press. These results led managers of public agencies to take measures to improve their services, leading other cities and countries to adopt similar approaches.

In Uganda, CSOs trained community monitors to check the quality of service delivery in order to reduce corruption. In Mexico, groups found ways to access and understand information on public program budgets so as to enable lobbying for budget policy changes. These contributions to public health programs and health equity have been valuable in several places across the globe.

It is remarkable how purchasing power can affect a consumer’s ability to demand better service. The ability to choose and purchase one’s own welfare instills a new level of accountability in the provider.

When Zambian truck drivers contributed to a road fund, they took turns to ensure that no overloaded trucks passed the road and that their contributions maintained this road. In Andhra Pradesh, an Indian state, farmers who paid for their water supply felt that they could hold the irrigation department more accountable.

One way to increase this purchasing power is to provide government subsidies with cash transfers, which goes directly to the families as vouchers. Allowing subsidies or vouchers in public and private arenas will increase competition, thereby creating a natural pressure to provide better quality service. In addition, it gives people the right to choose what is best for them, which can be invaluable in increasing self-confidence. For example, Qatar charities provided families in war-torn Gaza with shopping vouchers, which they could use on food items. This measure preserved the dignity of the beneficiary.

Measures like these could return the power to the consumer, demanding accountability for public service. In the future, it will play a valuable part in implementing pro-poor policies.

Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: Capacity, Relief Web, World Bank, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr

solidarity
The Solidarity Center is dedicated to helping workers around the world build a shared prosperity in both their local and global economies.

Workers who struggle to find safe and healthy job sites as well as family-supporting wages have concerns that far too often go unheard.

This nonprofit aims to help these workers find their voice on the job, working with unions, worker associations and community groups worldwide to achieve equitable and sustainable development.

Since 1997, the Solidarity Center has made it their mission to stand up for international worker rights so that workers can gain the social protections they need to improve their working and living conditions.

With programs expanding across some 60 countries, the Solidarity Center provides workers a range of education and training that focus on the following: worker rights, union skills, occupational safety and health, economic literacy, human trafficking, women’s empowerment and bolstering workers in an informal economy.

In addition, they provide research, legal support and other resources that help build strong trade unions and more equitable societies.

More specifically, the Solidarity Center assists unions with strengthening internal structures, like gender parity, and helping workers recover stolen wages or benefits illegally denied to them. They also connect migrant workers to protective networks to decrease vulnerability. Most importantly, they boost advocacy efforts so that campaigns can go beyond borders.

These examples can be found in a short bullet-point list on the Solidarity Center’s website, where one can also find the annual reports they conduct for each country that they work in.

In addition, the Solidarity Center keeps their news and events up-to-date, a testament to how actively involved they are in their work.

Recently, the Solidarity Center received the biggest testament to their efforts when President Barack Obama spoke at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative about the need to develop young civil society leaders.

The first person that he recognized as a contributor to the development of his community was Solidarity Center’s own Walid Ahmed Ali, a Kenyan social justice activist.

President Obama congratulated him on his work in creating jobs at the Kenya-Somali border for unemployed youth, telling him that he “strives not just for the idea of democracy,” but “to cement the practice of democracy.”

At the Solidarity Center, you’ll find people like Walid Ahmed Ali who do just that. Though not all can be recognized in the same manner, everyone is fully committed to helping working men and women to be a force for democracy and shared prosperity.

If you believe that all people who work should receive the rewards of their work – decent paychecks and befits, safe jobs, respect and fair treatment – then visit the Solidarity Center to learn how you can get involved in creating a more inclusive economic development.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Solidarity Center, ALFCIO
Photo: Bangor Daily News

USICD
The United States International Council On Disabilities is a nonprofit, membership, constituent-led organization committed to promoting the rights of people with disabilities through global engagement and U.S. foreign affairs.

USICD aims to build bridges between American and international disability communities in hopes of celebrating a vision of a world where their rights are protected and advanced.

To ensure this vision, USICD promotes the inclusion of disability perspectives domestically and internationally on a political level—challenging U.S. foreign policy and aid through a wide range of projects and programs.

These program initiatives leverage a membership that reaches organizations and individuals in more than 30 U.S. states and a number of foreign countries.

The following program initiatives are highlighted on USICD’s website:

1. CRPD Education and Advocacy

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD, is an international disability treaty inspired by U.S. leadership that serves as a vital framework for creating global legislation that embraces the rights of all people with disabilities. USICD works to promote the CRPD both in the U.S. and abroad through this campaign.

2. Global Disability Rights Library

This project helps improve the lives of people with disabilities in developing countries by delivering information about their rights to advocates, policymakers and civil society institutions through the digital landscape. It’s a joint effort between USICD and the University of Iowa’s WiderNet Project that has collected a digital repository of thousands of toolkits, best practice materials, advocacy tools and more. Everything is delivered to DPOs (organizations or groups representing persons with disabilities) in developing countries lacking Internet access via a portable hard drive that brings web-like access without Internet connection.

3. Disability in U.S. Foreign Affairs

USICD is dedicated to advocating for disability inclusion through diplomatic initiatives via the State Department, foreign assistance through USAID and through the collaborative initiatives with other government agencies. This program offers news on federal government initiatives focusing on disability inclusion and showcases the work USICD is doing to be a stronger resource to its allies.

4. Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs

USICD strives to develop the next generation of leaders through its internship program that inspires youth involvement in international affairs and development careers. Since 2013, this program has formally engaged USICD’s goal of incorporating a disability perspective in all foreign affairs issues and continues to do so.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: USICD, Progress Illinois
Photo: Evening News 24