According to the U.N., poverty-reduction in Latin America has hit a snag.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, recently put out an annual report, showing that 28 percent of the region’s population was living in poverty in 2014. Of those 167 million people, 12 percent were living in extreme poverty.

Economic growth in Latin America has slowed recently. The region registered 1.1 percent growth in 2014—its smallest growth rate since 2009. Alicia Barcena, head of the ECLAC, blamed ineffective policy for much of the region’s woes.

“It seems the recovery from the international financial crisis was not taken advantage of sufficiently to strengthen social protection policies that reduce vulnerability from economic cycles,” said Barcena.

ECLAC has called on regional governments to put mechanisms in place that would improve the region’s resilience in the face of global economic downturns.

“Now, in a scenario of a possible reduction in available fiscal resources, more efforts are needed to fortify these policies, establishing solid foundations with the aim of fulfilling the commitments of the post-2015 development agenda,” said Barcena.

While the regional poverty rate has stagnated, some countries, such as Paraguay (from 49.6 percent in 2011 to 40.7 percent in 2013) and Chile (10.9 percent to 7.8 percent), have made significant progress in reducing their poverty rates. Peru (25.8 percent to 23.9 percent), Colombia (32.9 percent to 30.7 percent) and El Salvador (45.3 percent to 40.9 percent) also made positive progress.

ECLAC’s latest report also showed that while the income-based poverty rate has languished in recent years, multidimensional poverty has indeed fallen significantly since 2005.

According to the report, the percentage of the Latin American population living in multidimensional poverty dropped from 39 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2012.

Despite the current state of relative economic stagnation, preliminary ECLAC projections for 2015 suggest that there is cause for optimism, forecasting a 2.2 percent regional increase.

The ECLAC’s Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will be held in Costa Rica, January 28-29.

– Parker Carroll

Sources: Andina, El Universal, Mercopress, Reuters, Telesur 1, Telesur 2,
Photo: Huffington Post

poverty in chile
The World Bank lists Chile’s economy as high income, but Chile is also ranked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as the country with the most income inequality in the world and as the fourth poorest country among the organization’s 34 member states. The survey by OECD showed that 18 percent of the population gained “less than 50 percent of the countries average income.” One of the contributing factors to this is high-energy costs.

Government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde explains, “We have a structural problem, which is that energy in Chile is very costly, and this not only represents a hurdle for economic growth but also hurts the poor.” Lack of energy sources has driven the cost of electricity over 160 dollars per megawatt an hour. However, a solution has recently been presented to use thermal solar energy in order to reduce poverty in Chile.

Abengoa, the largest solar thermal energy plant developer in the world, has been granted a 1 billion dollar contract to build a 110-megawatt solar tower with storage in Chile. The solar tower will store approximately one eighth the amount of energy stored by the average nuclear reactor, and the location of the plant is in the Atacama Desert, one of the most abundant solar resources in the world. It will be the first project in Latin America of its kind and is expected to meet the residential sectors regional energy demands.

The construction and operation of the plant, named Cerro Dominador, will benefit the commune of Maria Elena by creating 700 temporary jobs and an estimated 2,000 building jobs, as well as 50 permanent positions. Abengoa will be receiving assistance from the European Union, Inter-American Development Bank, German bank KFW, Clean Technology Fund and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

Despite the initial capital costs, the plant is predicted to reduce technology costs to under $100 per megawatt an hour by 2020. Green Tech Media explains, “This would make the plant cheaper than many gas-fired peaking plants.” According to The Guardian, Chile has become Latin America’s leading solar market and is continuing to break ground with their business models and their development of large solar projects without the use of subsidies.

What does all this mean for the poor in Chile? It means that a greater number will be able to afford electricity. Energy poverty is damaging because it limits opportunity and access in what is continually becoming a more technologically advanced world. As Elizade points out, the current high energy costs directly hurt the poor. Increasing the supply of energy in the area will, at least, reduce the cost of electricity.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: World Bank, I Love Chile, The Guardian, Fairfax Climate Watch, Global Issues, Green Tech Media
Photo: Wikimedia

Stethoscope and First Aid Kit isolated
The Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television sent out a circular to news outlets stating that it had passed new restrictions on journalists. It is now against the law for  journalists to write reports from outside their beats or regions. If they want to write a “critical report,” they have to get permission from their employer. Furthermore, journalists are forbidden to set up their own websites.

The authorities claim the new rules were a direct result of recent scandals involving a few journalists participating in extortion and bribery. However, the cases were only related to small local news outlets. Journalists are worried that the government is using these scandals to create more far-reaching restrictions than to simply protect against bribery.

For example, if a journalist writes a report that is outside their region and it involves exposing government corruption or simply makes the government look bad, the authorities can arrest said journalist based on the new rules.

The circular stated, “journalists who break the law must be handed over to judicial authorities and [they] will be stripped of their license to report.” The new rules make it easier to imprison journalists who speak out against the government because journalists often have to write reports using sources from outside their regions.

A Hong Kong-based journalist named Ji Shuoming said that “aggressive investigative journalists will find it hard to write articles without venturing outside their beats or regions.”

These new restrictions are yet another attack on freedom of the press in China. Since the country is already ranked 173 out of 179 countries by Reporters without Borders, this new development further exacerbates an already dire situation. There have been other restrictive rules enacted recently as well.

In 2013, Chinese journalists had to follow rules restricting reports on “rumors.” This means that it is illegal to post any false rumor that is read 5,000 times or shared on social media more than 500 times. Of course, a rumor could be anything the government decides it does not like. The most recent use of this rule occurred this past April, when a Chinese blogger was sentenced to three years for posting a story related to corruption in the government.

Some Chinese journalists remain optimistic though. Despite recent restrictions, many journalists have been able to report on scandalous stories. For example, the magazines Southern Weekend and Caixin have still been able to report on stories that follow the money trail of government officials. They break stories of corruption and other serious issues in Chinese society such as climate change and inequality.

The worry now is whether or not the most recent set of rules will hurt investigative reporting. The following months will show how far the government is willing to go in order to silence journalists and abuse these rules for their own agenda.

– Eleni Lentz-Marino

Sources: New York Times, Foreign Policy, LA Times, Reporters without Borders, Reuters
Photo: Worldcrunch

Patagonia Dam Project
On June 10, 2014, Chile’s government rejected the HidroAysén plan for the creation of five dams across the Baker and Pascua rivers.

For eight years, developers have struggled to complete the Patagonia Dam project. Even after obtaining permits and approval for construction in 2011, opposition from environmentalists at home and abroad continued to hinder development.

Chile’s Council of Ministers chose to overturn the permits for the $8 million project after accepting 35 complaints against it.

Had the dam been completed, approximately 5,900 hectares (14580 acres) would be flooded. The consequences of flooding would have resulted in the relocation of 36 families, the habitat loss of numerous flora and fauna and of the endangered Southern Huemul deer and damage to the local tourism industry. Additionally, to power the dams, over 2,000 meters of transmission lines would need to be laid down, possibly encroaching over protected areas, indigenous community lands and private property.

Another concern was the future implications of the dam. Critics worried over the likely possibility of other projects that would follow considering the scope of the dam.

A large factor that contributed to the government’s decision to reject the proposal was the legal inconsistencies. After evaluation, the permit process was said to contain irregularities and possible charges of misconduct. Many components of the environmental impact assessment were incorrect or failed to fully assess the impact of the dam.

However, the most important factor that led to the rejection of the plan was the civil opposition toward the dam, said Monti Aguirre of NGO International Rivers.

Now that the dam project has been rejected, the question of energy remains. The dam would have met one-third of Chile’s current energy needs. In addition, Chile will need to triple its current 18,000 mega-watt power generation within 15 years. A point of criticism brought up by environmentalists is that most of Chile’s energy costs are required for copper mines, not consumers.

To compensate for the energy the dam would have provided, Chile intends to add new terminals to receive liquid natural gas and invest in energy efficiency and renewable sources. They hope to cut the expected energy consumption of 2025 by 20 percent while also producing 20 percent of the country’s electricity with renewable sources by 2025.

These renewable sources would take advantage of the numerous geographical distinctions that can be found in Chile. Ranging from solar panels in the Atacama Desert to geothermal plants around the many active volcanoes, Chile has a number of possibilities to further expand its renewable energy output.

The rejection of the Patagonia Dam project was a victory for many Chileans. The government’s dismissal of the project demonstrates a conscious awareness and consideration toward its people and their concerns.

— William Ying

Sources: DW, National Geographic 1, National Geographic 2, The Guardian

On June 6, 2014, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile inaugurated one of the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants constructed to date, the Amanecer Solar CAP plant. The solar farm stretches 250 acres across the Atacama Desert, resting on South America’s Pacific coast.

The PV plant, built by technology provider SunEdison, cost U.S. $250 million and was constructed over a period of six months. 310,000 solar panels take in solar radiation, converting the sunlight into clean energy capable of powering 125,000 Chilean households. Amanecer is able to generate close to 100 megawatts, making it the largest solar power plant in Latin America.

Jose Perez, regional President of SunEdison, declared that Amanecer “is just the starting point. We are firmly committed to the future of clean energy production and the development of the energy industry in Chile.” Perez is happy to see Chile diversifying its energy matrix and reducing energy costs through the new PV project.

The Amanecer plant is good news for Chileans. The clean energy produced will be pumped into the country’s Central Interconnected System, which is expected to cause a drop in prices of grid electricity. Solar energy is also much more sustainable than other forms of energy. It is completely renewable. Estimates hold that the plant will introduce 270 GWh (gigawatt hours) of clean energy into Chile’s energy apparatus. The same energy output via diesel would demand 71 million liters of fuel.

The Amanecer Solar CAP project is part of a larger renewable energy strategy being pursued by the Bachelet administration. Currently Chile relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy, including gas, coal and oil, but Chile hopes that by 2025 at least 20 percent of its power will be generated by renewable energy sources. Bachelet’s short term goal is to see 45 percent of new power ventures being rooted in clean energy from 2014 to 2015. The Amanecer project alone has the potential to contribute 10 percent of Chile’s 2014 renewable energy goal.

The Atacama Desert provides a perfect environment for the development of solar energy ventures. In fact, Amanecer is not the only solar project in the area. It is joining the company of the existing 50.7 megawatt San José solar farm. Conditions in Chile are conducive to green energy development, and the government is doing well to embrace this reality. The benefits of investment in clean energy for Chile include lower energy prices, decreased financial burden on people living in poverty, and reduced pollution levels. Cleaner air and fuller pockets represent a policy everyone should feel excited about standing behind.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: BN AmericasEnergy Matters, Renews

Israeli Entrepreneurs
In recent years, Israel has often been dubbed “Startup Nation” – a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. Tel Aviv is ranked the world’s second startup ecosystem behind California’s Silicon Valley, and Israeli entrepreneurs set up around 600 to 700 million new tech companies each year. These entrepreneurs are extraordinary when it comes to implementing creative ideas and raising early stage funding, contributing to Israel’s record of having the largest venture capital industry per capita in the world.

There are certainly explanations for the success of Israel’s startup scene; a well-educated entrepreneurial population, long work hours, strong funding and high employment for new startups can all be seen as contributing factors. But while Israeli citizens are doing an incredible job of setting up their companies, they have not yet established a history of building long-lasting ones. Instead, it is common for Israeli startups to sell out to larger firms after a few years. These larger firms are almost always foreign companies, who quickly acquire the startups and convert them into research and development centers.

Lately, however, the trend appears to be shifting. Israeli entrepreneurs are making efforts to build lasting, full-fledged businesses. Additionally, more Israeli companies are striving to go public in the United States. Around 70 companies listed on the NASDAQ are Israeli or affiliated with Israel in some way – the most out of any other country, with the exceptions of only the United States and China.

Israel is also looking to use its booming startup scene to contribute to global development. A Devex article noted that new companies should focus on pressing issues like poverty and child mortality, emphasizing the need to concentrate “not only on creating the next Waze to help people navigate around traffic, but also to find solutions for some of the world’s most pressing development challenges.”

Currently, 1.2 million people live in extreme poverty, and 19,000 children under the age of five die each day. Many of those deaths are preventable, and Israel’s track record of startup victories could be the answer. Recently, 70 young entrepreneurs, innovators and international development professionals met at the 2014 Israeli Designed International Development (ID2) to discuss entrepreneurship for global development. These 70 people are at the vanguard of social entrepreneurship – designing medical devices to fight cervical cancer, developing online platforms to address high unemployment in rural areas, providing a way for the poor to design and pursue their own community impact projects.

Helen Clark, the head of the United Nations Development Program, was reportedly “blown away” by the entrepreneurial strength of the ID2 participants. And ID2’s venue of choice – Israel – was well-chosen. Israeli entrepreneurs are already making great strides toward development challenges and social betterment. For example, the Chilean government successfully alerted millions of citizens to an approaching tsunami in early April with the help of eVigilo, an Israeli startup that serves as a mass notification and emergency communication platform. With its innovative spirit and entrepreneurial clout, Israel is capable of producing many more social enterprises like this. In time, “Startup Nation” could truly make its mark in global development.

– Kristy Liao

Sources: Devex, Forbes, Wharton, JNS
Photo: Baruch College

Mel Young and Harald Schmied, from Scotland and Austria, respectively, created the Homeless World Cup in 2001 after visiting Cape Town, South Africa for a homelessness conference.

In 2003, Young and Schmied had organized their first Homeless World Cup tournament, which was played in Graz, Austria; to them football (or soccer) is not only a sport, but also a way to “change the lives of homeless people.”

They understand the effects of homelessness, which can make homeless people feel alone and unable to voice their thoughts, causing their lives to be constant chaos.

Football is a release from their usual lifestyle, creates a safe space to build trusting relationships and enables them to be a part of something fun.

By being able to trust others and build skills, the homeless will be able to succeed and learn that they can also apply these lessons to their everyday life and thus change the path they are on.

The ambition of the Cup is to use football as a catalyst to make positive changes in their lives. In order to do so, the organization brings together partners to help give support and teach the homeless soccer skills. During the Cup, homeless people from all around the world will be able to meet and talk to other homeless people from other countries.

This year, the Homeless World Cup will be taking place in Santiago, Chile. The news was made public during a rematch of the 2012 Homeless World Cup Finalists Mexico and Chile.

The Homeless World Cup is partnered up the Futbol Calle, an organization formed by Accion Total, a sports company who specialize in the creation of sports facilities and helping people alter the direction of their lives. Currently, there are 2,000 participants involved in Futbol Calle.

The other partners also contribute to helping the homeless make progress professionally. They provide the access to education, jobs, and if needed, legal advice.

There are also many ways every day people can get involved in helping the Homeless World Cup gain publicity and funds, their website contains a complete packet of fundraising ideas and templates for posters, flyers, and logos. You can find the packets and templates, as well as read several stories from past players on the website and like their Facebook page.

Becka Felcon

Sources: Homeless World Cup, Homeless World Cup, I Love Chile
Photo: Homeless World Cup

Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated on March 11 at the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile. This will be the second time Bachelet is sworn in as president after holding the office from 2006 to 2010. Bachelet, a moderate socialist, will be taking the reins from the current president, billionaire businessman Sebastian Piñera.

In a very symbolic ceremony, the head of the Chilean Senate, Isabel Allende, swore in Bachelet. The two female politicians share a past linked to the 1973 coup of the democratically elected Salvador Allende that carried dictator Augusto Pinochet to power. Bachelet is the daughter of an air force officer who was tortured by the Pinochet regime before dying in custody while Allende is the daughter of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, who committed suicide on the day of the coup.

During her inaugural address, Bachelet made inequality the focus of her speech. She said that although the policies of the Piñera administration had generated economic growth and jobs, Chile could and should be a fairer society.

Other solutions to fight inequality include changing the country’s education system by making it entirely state-funded within the next six years, a response to the student protests of 2011 to 2013 that occurred throughout Chile. Currently, the state funds a paltry percentage, leaving poor households to attend underfunded state universities. Bachelet plans to provide full state funding by increasing the corporate tax rate.

Despite promises to reduce inequality, Bachelet will face difficulty in implementing these proposals. Chile’s economy is slowing down from 5.6 percent growth per year in 2012 to just over 4 percent this past year. Moreover, prices of Chile’s primary product, copper, have fallen, which would dip the country’s economic growth even further.

Piñera leaves with a 50 percent approval rating, while at the end of her first term, Bachelet enjoyed an 84 percent approval rating.

Bachelet will not have any issue pushing her policies through the chambers of Congress, as her New Majority coalition enjoys a healthy majority in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Chileans will also be able to monitor her promises closely since the publishing of a list of 50 proposals she intends to complete within her first 100 days in office spread out across 14 different policy areas.

The widely popular Bachelet has promised to create a more egalitarian society through the promise of free education. Though she has come under fire from critics who say the Chilean economy is losing steam, she remains hopeful that her country can construct a more inclusive environment for its people.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: ABC News, Miami Herald, Slate, Economist
Photo: Khaleej Times

As of next month, Chile will once again call Michelle Bachelet, leader of the popular Socialist Party, its president.

Although she left office with an 84 percent approval rate, Chilean law prohibits presidents from serving consecutive terms. However, in the four years since Bachelet left office, millions of citizens have openly protested for the return of many of her reforms — specifically demanded, are her reforms concerning education, environmental protection and income inequality.

Students are especially excited for Bachelet’s return. Her plan is to raise corporate taxes to 25 percent and use the money to fund the overhaul of secondary and higher education. This is the first step of what Bachelet hopes is a gradual move towards free public universities.

The influence of former president Augusto Pinochet, which ended central control and funding of public schools, left the education system in Chile diminished in quality skewed for the benefit of the elite. The majority of universities there today are private and expensive; and the country has not seen a new public university built in over 20 years.

Bachelet became the first female president of Chile in 2006; she served the traditional four-year term until 2010. She is often considered one of the most admired presidents in modern Chilean history, especially since the end of Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in 1990.

Many of the problems facing the Latin American country today are blamed on Pinochet’s abuse of power. Amongst other things, he is most criticized for ending land reform by selling off the nation’s water. This created a small pocket of economic elite and sparked the growing wealth distribution gap, which Bachelet has dedicated her career to fighting.

Education reform was central to the success of Bachelet’s last presidential term, and throughout her campaign she has vowed to continue it. Early in her first term, in April 2006, demonstrations of high school students broke out across the country, voicing frustrations with the quality and price of their education.

It became known as the “Penguin Revolution,” named for the black-and-white uniforms common among Chilean students.

Bachelet addressed this by immediately setting up an educational advisory committee. The committee, comprised of 81 advisory members from an array of political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds, functioned as a forum for the proposal of education bills.

Many of them were effective by August 2009 under the signing of the Education Reform Bill, which decentralized the system and created new regulatory government agencies.

When Bachelet’s term ended in 2010, students once again found themselves frustrated by their lack of representation within the education system and began protesting against current president Sebastián Piñera. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the streets of Santiago were filled nearly every Thursday with students demanding the reinstating of certain funding and other reforms for higher education.

She recently ran for office a second time, succeeding long-time political rival Evelyn Matthei. Now Bachelet and her education and economic reforms will return to office in March. Her popularity was proven on December 15, 2013 with reports of applause and tears accompanying her acceptance speech in Santiago.

Although the anticipation is high, there are also concerns regarding Chile’s immediate economic future and skepticism surrounding how Bachelet will handle it.

Chile’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, increasing by 5.6 percent last year.

However, there are fears that it will soon begin to slow, since much of its gross domestic product is tied to its primary export copper, which is at risk of declining prices in the global market. Many speculate that copper wealth will be Bachelet’s weapon for the underfunded public schools system, but if the copper market suffers, so will education.

Regardless, Bachelet is still followed by a reputation for charisma, intelligence and understanding of the common citizen. Her constituents widely agree that her future term as the president of Chile will be productive and positive.

As Paolo Bustamente, who admits to voting for Bachelet, said: “Abroad you often hear that this country has been growing and progressing more than others in Latin America, but it can’t just be a matter of growth. We need urgent educational reform, improvements to health and I feel Bachelet can fulfill promises of deep changes this time around.”

 – Stefanie Doucette

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyTimeForbesThe GuardianUnited Nations, CNN, Inter Press Service News Agency, MercoPress