COVID-19 Keeps Indian Laborers in Debt BondageBonded labor is a form of modern-day slavery in which a person is forced to work to pay off a debt. Laborers are paid very little and have no control over their debt. In India, debt bondage aligns with the caste system to keep the lower castes (called Dalits, or Untouchables) impoverished. While this is a fate that could befall anyone, there are more safety nets in place for higher caste workers than for Dalits. COVID-19 keeps Indian laborers in debt bondage and has worsened the conditions.

Bonded Labor in India

Bonded labor is common in South Asian countries, despite it being banned in India in 1976. According to a 2018 survey, more than eight million people live in debt bondage in India, though experts estimate the actual number to be much higher. Most laborers work in India’s booming textile sector but bonded labor exists in every industry.

The conditions under which bonded laborers work are abhorrent. Men, women and children work 14-hour days with no breaks, and the treatment is brutal. Women and children are often victims of sexual exploitation. Dissent is met with harsh punishments. This includes vicious beatings and an increase in the debt owed. In 2014, a group of bonded laborers tried to escape their captors; two were caught and had their hands cut off as punishment.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Bonded Labor

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of debt bondage in India. As millions of migrant laborers were forced to move during the pandemic, factory owners scrambled for cheap labor to keep production going. Many companies recruited child laborers with promises of steady employment until the country reopened.

Moreover, many states in India have loosened labor laws to offset the effects of COVID-19 at the expense of the laborers. Punjab and Gujarat amended their Factories Act, which increased the work hours to 72 hours each week. Rajasthan has increased working hours from eight per day to 12. Uttar Pradesh has exempted companies from almost all labor laws for the next three years, including the ones related to occupational safety, health, working conditions, contract workers and migrant laborers. As a result of its secondary consequences, COVID-19 keeps Indian laborers in debt bondage and further restricts laborers the freedom to escape.

In July of 2020, GoodWeave International, an organization dedicated to fighting bonded labor, conducted a study on the effects of the pandemic on forced labor risks. Since the start of the pandemic, workers are three times more likely to report owing a debt to a contractor due to reduced income.

Child Laborers

In addition, more children have been working during the pandemic to help financially support their families. CEO of GoodWeave International Nina Smith said, “there were 152 million child laborers around the world making products we purchase every day prior to the pandemic, down nearly 40% since 2000, according to the International Labor Organization.” However, while before the pandemic eight out of 10 children were in school, data suggests they will not all return when schools reopen. This is because their families have become dependent on their income.

Bonded labor perpetuates the cycle of impoverishment. When children miss school to work in factories, they are denied the chance to elevate themselves through education. When adults must put their money toward paying off insurmountable debts, their quality of life cannot improve.

Solutions

There are many non-governmental organizations working to solve the problem of bonded labor. The International Justice Mission (IJM) works to rescue people from slavery and help victims get back on their feet. In 2020, IJM supported rescue operations that saved 15 people from a spinning mill, six from a cotton thread factory and three from a garment factory. Clement David of IJM said, “the only way to curb [bonded labor] would be for the government to conduct surprise checks and regular raids to prevent owners from employing child laborers. Also, a comprehensive rehabilitation package for unorganized workers and the vulnerable sector is the need of the hour for families to stop sending their children to work.”

GoodWeave International’s 2020 study also reported on solutions to end the practice of bonded labor. It reports that NGOs must deliver direct aid to vulnerable populations and support essential workers getting documentation to receive relief. Companies must also play a role by supporting on-the-ground relief efforts and building consumer awareness of adverse labor conditions. Governments must strengthen labor laws, subsidize transportation for migrant laborers and build awareness of existing relief channels.

Bonded labor is a reality for millions of people in India, but it does not have to be. With the combined efforts of the Indian government and NGOs, this practice can be ended in favor of fairer working conditions.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Uncovering the Struggles and Successes of Argentinian Jews
While Argentinian Jews make up only 0.7% of the population, they have faced significant economic hardship and anti-semitism over the last few decades. Pre-COVID-19, more than one-quarter of the population lived below the poverty line. Additionally, lingering anti-semitism and an economy in a recession have made it nearly impossible for educated Jews to find high-paying jobs.

“Poverty affects Argentinians in general, not only Jewish people, as well as the economic ups and downs, [but] maybe the economic crisis and the inflation affects mostly to Jewish people because many of them are business people who see their businesses, incomes and savings damaged,” Sabri Toker, the coordinator for Onward Israel in Argentina, told The Borgen Project.

COVID-19 Deepens the Poverty Line

In 2020, Argentina faced a significant increase in poverty as COVID-19 deepened the country’s economic crisis. Due to strict lockdowns, Argentina’s poverty rate spiked to between 46% and 47% by the end of June 2020. This is in comparison to just 35.5% in the second half of 2019. The poverty line, drawn at $193 per month, is the reality for many of the 3.5 million people who experience lay-offs during the pandemic.

The pandemic has particularly impacted Argentina’s Jewish community as well, and expectations have determined that much of the community will make aliyah, or emigration, to Israel in 2021 due to economic concerns. In Argentina, a large part of the Jewish population falls into the middle class and has assimilated into Argentinian life. Like most of the country’s middle class, the country’s faulty economy harshly hit this subset. Under President Mauricio Macri, the economy has faced sharp inflation and the devaluation of the peso, which pushed 3.7 million Argentinians below the poverty line in a single year.

A History of Hardship

Anti-semitic attacks were frequent in Argentina prior to World War I. Then, Argentinian Jews faced pogroms following the Russian Revolution; in January 1919, hundreds of Jews experienced beatings and others burned or stole their property. Unable to find government or military work, Jews worked as farmers and shopkeepers. They lived modest lifestyles until the rise of Nazi sentiment in the country.

The rise of Nazism further limited employment and education opportunities for Argentinian Jews. On top of that, many lived in a state of fear and poverty. Argentine Presidents José Félix Uriburu and Agustín Pedro Justo led pro-Nazi regimes prior to World War II. This sentiment continued under Juan Peron, who allowed Argentina to become a safe haven for Nazis. Since Peron’s presidency, 45,000 Argentinian Jews have moved to Israel to escape anti-semitism and the economic struggles associated with low-skilled jobs. In 1960, Israeli agents captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, which increased anti-semitism in Argentina. During a military junta called the Dirty War, hundreds of Jews suffered kidnap and torture.

Discrimination Contributes to Poverty

Anti-semitism reached new heights following two terrorist attacks under President Carlos Menem. Firstly, the Israeli Embassy bombing in 1992 killed 32 people. And secondly, the suicide van bomb attack on Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in 1994 killed 87 people.

“We have discrimination in every environment we are involved in: Secondary school, university, at work, on daily life. It is not usual and an everyday thing, but it exists,” Toker said. “In my opinion, the Jewish community lost a lot of cultural aspects mostly in the last decades of the 20th century.”

By 2002, 24.8% lived in poverty, with an additional 7.5% of Argentinian Jews living in extreme poverty. During this time, banks like Banco Patricios and Banco Mayo collapsed, taking with them millions of dollars that the Jewish community owned. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing many middle-class Jews below the poverty line. Very few Jews hold leadership positions in the military, foreign ministry, or judiciary. Efforts to reduce anti-semitism have picked up over the last decade, but anti-semitic attacks on rabbis and synagogues, including on the country’s chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in 2019, have not gone away.

Assisting Argentina’s Vulnerable Jewish Populations

President Alberto Fernández has worked to strengthen ties with Israel, hold terrorist groups accountable and rebuild the country’s Jewish population. After Argentina signed a decree that added Hezbollah to the registry of terrorist organizations, Argentina adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which sends a clear message that it will not tolerate any form of anti-semitism, including in the workplace.

Created in 1991, Fundación Tzedaká has worked to improve living conditions and job opportunities for Argentina’s impoverished Jews. More than 600 volunteers, 6,500 donors and almost 100 professionals dedicate themselves to the organization’s cause. The Fundación gives food aid to vulnerable families and offers healthcare and nutrition programs. Additionally, it provides housing subsidies and gives training and educational resources to vulnerable youth. In 2020, the organization launched the Guesher Assistance Program. The Program specifically assists people unable to afford food, housing and health needs during the pandemic.

One of Argentina’s Jewish community centers, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), and the Argentine Jewish Schools Federation (FEJA) have also been instrumental in helping sustain schools in Argentina’s Jewish School Network. With many Jewish schools operating only part-time, concerns exist that school desertion could become a major issue. This is particularly concerning to the community as a similar phenomenon occurred during Argentina’s economic crisis two decades ago. AMIA and FEJA encourage monetary contributions to ensure that students not only receive proper education but also remain in the system. Because of this, students have the option to pursue more advanced studies.

Holding On and Moving Forward

Argentina’s Jewish community retained many of its cultural traditions despite its assimilation into the broader Argentinian middle class. “Nowadays we have places run by Orthodox, others by Conservative, others by Reform, every Jew has the possibility of choosing where to go, what to do, what to leave aside,” Toker said. “Those who really want to maintain cultural aspects do that because they want to leave to their children what they received from their grandparents.”

Despite lingering anti-semitism and increasing COVID-19 hardships, Argentinian Jews have not lost their culture. They continue to seek employment and fight against those who have for so long have suppressed their growth.

– Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating Childhood Poverty
Compassion International is a child-advocacy ministry that pairs people with children living in areas of extreme poverty in order to release those children from all of poverty’s aspects. What makes the organization so unique is its strict focus on children, with the hopes of eliminating poverty in their lives by the time they reach adulthood. Its impact has been massive with a high success rate: children in its programs are 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities and 40% more likely to finish secondary education. Moreover, they are more likely to spend thousands of hours in safe programs. The organization that is garnering recent attention from professional athletes has been working toward eliminating childhood poverty for years.

How Compassion International Began

Rev. Everett Swanson founded Compassion International. He was troubled by the masses of war orphans he saw living on the streets in South Korea. Another morning, Rev. Swanson saw city workers throwing rags into the backs of trucks, which turned out to be the frozen bodies of the orphans on the street. When Rev. Swanson returned to the United States, he told people of what he saw and encouraged them to donate so they could sponsor the orphans and work toward eliminating childhood poverty. Within 10 years, Compassion International helped 108 orphanages and homes in South Korea by donating funds to purchase rice and fuel.

Compassion International’s Mission

The nonprofit uses a ministry-based program in order to release children from poverty. This includes helping with child development, which the organization believes will provide the children with the skills to succeed. Compassion International’s programs begin as early as when the child is in the womb, aiming to eradicate poverty from their lives by young adulthood. Primarily, the work it does is through child sponsorship, but it has implemented initiatives that help babies and mothers in order to develop future leaders and meet critical needs as well.

The Fill the Stadium Initiative

Compassion International works with thousands of churches in 25 countries across the globe. One initiative it is running in the United States currently is the Fill the Stadium initiative. Due to COVID-19, 70,000 children and their families who are in Compassion Programs are in extreme poverty. Athletes such as Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum and Jaccob Slavin have donated and joined the leadership team, encouraging fans to donate if able. The recommended donation amount is $500, around the same price as a game-day experience for a group of four. About $500 provides a year’s worth of essential food, nutritional supplements, hygiene essentials and medical screenings for COVID-19 for a family and their children. So far, the Fill the Stadium Initiative has “filled” 47,587 seats to provide essential care and support for these families in crisis, raising $23 million from athletes and national leaders. Due to COVID-19, a halt to in-person sporting events has occurred. The hope is that the money a family would spend on a game would go toward those in need instead.

Former Quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and team member for the initiative, Carson Palmer pledged to donate $300,000 and challenged others to match his donation. “This is an incredible opportunity for American families to help children who are in dire straits and truly fighting for their lives,” said Palmer in an interview with Fill the Stadium.

A Look into Compassion International’s Impact

In 2020, Compassion International surpassed $1 billion for the first time in the history of the ministry. That year alone, Compassion International served 2.2 million children across 8,000 frontline partners. Since 1952, the sponsorship programs have impacted the lives of over 4.2 million children.

Because of the work of Compassion International, partners across the world have obtained access to hygiene kits, lifesaving surgeries, academic scholarships, classes, bathrooms, emergency food and water, electricity and countless other life-saving services. The organization will continue to strive toward eliminating childhood poverty, and especially aiding children the pandemic has hit hard.

– Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating Poverty in MozambiqueLocated on the southeastern coast of Africa, Mozambique is home to approximately 29.5 million Mozambicans. With a 52% female and 48% male population growing at a rate of 2.5%, high child mortality rates, increased 12.6% HIV prevalence, low life expectancy and low literacy rates, Mozambique is struggling with most of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Mozambique ranks 136 of the 162 countries measured by the Sustainable Development Index. The first SDG is eliminating poverty in Mozambique.

Poverty in Mozambique

According to Mozambique’s Household Budget Survey, 46.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. There exists multidimensional poverty measured by the quality of family, nutrition, education, work, health, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), resulting in 46% of children 17 years and below living in poverty.

The country’s location makes it vulnerable to many natural disasters that often stunt its economic growth, making it difficult to eliminate poverty in Mozambique. Mozambique faces a combination of tropical and dry climates, an abundance of natural resources ranging from renewable energy sources to agro-ecological regions, forests and wildlife. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate fell from 7.4% to 3.7% between 2007 and 2017 as a result of drought, flood and cyclone natural disasters.

Barriers to Eliminating Poverty in Mozambique

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought an additional burden to Mozambique, coming just as the country was recovering from major economic shocks related to its recent debt crisis and the devastating 2019 cyclones. Since the onset of the pandemic, Mozambique has already experienced a 4% decline in its economic growth expectations with significant adverse effects on its already struggling economy. Mozambique is expected to feel the lasting effects of this shift in the coming years, facing even larger external and fiscal financing gaps than previously anticipated. Further, there is concern that large numbers of Mozambicans are on the verge of re-entering poverty, erasing much past progress and setting the country back on the SDG to eliminate poverty.

One of the main barriers to eliminating poverty in Mozambique is its long-standing exclusion regarding gender and other vulnerable groups and regional public policy imbalances. In order to have sustainable poverty reduction, Mozambique must give special attention to eliminating these key issues.

Current Efforts and Solutions

The Nation Basic Social Security Strategy (ENSSB) was developed to help achieve the government’s five-year plan (2015-2019) to implement actions aimed at reducing poverty and vulnerability. Between 2016 and 2024, it seeks to ensure impending economic growth is of benefit to all its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable. A strategy based on the Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the U.N.’s SDGs, the ENSSB was designed to build an efficient and effective social security system in Mozambique. It directly aims to sustainably support and strengthen Mozambique’s most impoverished population’s capacity to defend themselves against social risks such as violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination, and social exclusions due to their elevated vulnerability.

The World Bank Group (WBG) currently supports a wide and diverse lending portfolio for the benefit of eliminating poverty in Mozambique. Focusing on Mozambique’s most vulnerable and underserved populations, the WBG has lent its resources to 27 operations with contributions of $3 billion funded by the International Development Association (IDA). The International Finance Corporation additionally has existing investments of up to $176 million, with $15 million in advisory services alone as of June 2020. The WBG’s portfolio consists of two Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency exposures of up to $89.1 million as well.

Such large and varied contributions and investments have the following primary goals: diversification for economic growth and development, human capital development, and increased sustainable development, prosperity and resilience.

COVID-19 Relief Support in Mozambique

As a result of the onset of the pandemic, Mozambique is struggling with a growing fiscal gap and economic fallout. In order to prevent deepening long-term economic effects, the WBG approved a $100 million grant from the IDA on October 22, 2020. This funding aims to mitigate the pandemic’s adverse impact by providing emergency government financing, supporting affected businesses and households and improving fiscal sustainability reform.

This effort of the WBG will serve as part of its existing plans to aid Mozambique in post-crisis recovery in the form of improving health services, access to water and sanitation, extending social protection and labor, improving business, job creation and retention and economic management. These goals will help push Mozambique forward, improve Mozambicans’ quality of life and lift people out of poverty. These investments will be implemented through a two-pronged approach. First, the health sector will be addressed, along with social security, safety and water access for all Mozambicans, with a particular focus on the urban poor and vulnerable populations. Secondly, supporting small and medium enterprises’ (SME) access to financing and liquidity will help catalyze economic growth in the financial sector and industry reform and strengthen Mozambique’s fiscal and debt framework.

Though Mozambique has faced many setbacks in its economic development in recent years, the above strategies will hopefully set the country on its way to achieving the very first Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating poverty in Mozambique.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

the debt crisisBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate was expected to drop to 7.9% in 2020. But, according to the president of the World Group Bank, the pandemic may cause more than 1.4% of the world’s population to fall into extreme poverty. Since March 2020, these countries have seen lower export prices, less capital and remittance inflows and shrinking tourism revenue. Many low-income countries are facing limited resources and weak institutions that prevent them from supporting their economies. Furthermore, the debt crisis has only worsened the economic situation of developing countries during COVID-19.

The Global Debt Crisis

Half of low-income developing countries entered the pandemic with high public debt. The U.N. hoped to raise $10.19 billion to help the poorest countries during COVID-19 but only managed to raise $2.8 billion. With 150 million people threatened to fall into extreme poverty, experts are worried about the long-term economic effects of the debt crisis.

The debt crisis is becoming increasingly more destructive in many countries. The borrowing of money is occasionally controversial because citizens are not always aware of the purpose of a loan or its terms and conditions.  Sometimes these loans are used to benefit a small group of people in the country. In 2020, low-income nations were expected to pay at least $40 billion to service debts. The 76 countries with the lowest incomes owe at least $573 billion in debt. These economies are forced to handle massive amounts of debt while facing rising domestic demands, dwindling tax revenues and shrinking economies.

Consequences of Defaulting on Debt

Failure to repay a debt, including interest or principal on a loan, is called debt default. According to research from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), waiting to restructure debt until after a default is associated with larger declines in GDP, investment, private sector credit and capital inflows. Several studies have suggested that debt crises result in a substantial drop in economic growth. For example, failure to repay debts will decrease a country’s rating. Debt defaults affect a country’s ability to borrow money, exclude countries from international capital markets and increase borrowing costs.  Furthermore, since international debts have to be paid back in the creditors’ currencies, it could force governments to mine their natural resources to generate hard cash, thus continuing harmful environmental practices.

The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)

The World Bank has proposed a new idea for countries suffering from “unsustainable” debt. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) is a tool that global institutions have created to stave off the debt crisis, which would allow countries to pause debt repayments to creditors interested in participating. According to The New Humanitarian, if all eligible countries join the initiative, it will free up approximately $11 billion for social spending by governments. Those who sign up for the DSSI will be expected to open its books, reveal its debt and refrain from taking more commercial loans on the side. Debt intervention for the poorest countries is, however, not a new idea.

The debt crisis affects a wide group of people, many of whom already face extreme poverty. The Debt Service Initiative may be expanded at future World Bank meetings. According to analyst and executive director for global policy, David McNair, “Countries need money now to respond to the pandemic and the quickest way to do that is to basically stop debt repayments.”

Pausing Repayments to Prioritize Pandemic Recovery

The debt crisis demands attention, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic interferes with access to resources while highlighting weaknesses in developing countries’ institutions. The World Bank is focused on using a new initiative to pause repayments in hopes of freeing up money for social spending. The initiative will also steer countries away from the consequences of debt default, such as declines in investments, capital inflows and lowered ratings. The goal is to see leaders in developing nations using the pause from payments to access resources necessary for solving prominent issues in the country.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

G20 Initiatives to Support the Global EconomyThe G20 is a group of 20 leading nations (19 countries and the European Union) that gather for high-level discussions on macro-financial, socio-economic and development issues on a global scale. Together, they comprise almost 90% of global GDP and 80% of global trade. This year, the G20 summit will be held from November 21-22, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Supporting the Global Economy Amid COVID-19

This October, the G20 highlighted the importance of prioritizing the global fight against COVID-19 and doing “whatever it takes” to support the global economy. As part of their plan to bring COVID-19 under control, the G20 has pledged to invest upwards of $5 trillion to support the global economy. This is in response to the widespread economic consequences of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

The U.N. has previously spoken out about the importance of the G20 coming together to develop a plan for tackling the novel coronavirus. In March 2020, the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the G20 directly in New York, saying that “solidarity is essential, among the G20 and with the developing world, including countries in conflict.” He added that the pandemic requires a “war-time plan to fight it.”

“While the liquidity of the financial system must be assured, our emphasis must be on the human dimension. We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to protect jobs,” Guterres continued.

Guterres also called for debt relief, economic and social support to developed countries and a stimulus package.

Solutions to Support the Global Economy

To support the global economy as a whole, the G20 will likely be required to heed the aforementioned requests from the U.N. Additionally, economic forecasts show that developing countries are at much greater risk of economic anxiety due to the socio-economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in contrast to developed countries which are already showing signs toward economic recovery.

The G20 has now also agreed for the first time on a “Common Framework” to handle low-income countries facing debt, which is a monumental step forward for global debt relief. This framework is expected to be finalized at the November meeting.

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the IMF has commented on this achievement. “I am encouraged by G20 discussions on a Common Framework for Sovereign Debt Resolution as well as on our call for improving the architecture for sovereign debt resolution, including private sector participation,” said Georgieva on October 15, 2020.

The G20 has also agreed to extend the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) by six months. This means it will now freeze official bilateral debt payments until the end of 2020. The G20 has also stated that another six-month extension will be considered in April. This is significant progress from the G20’s past stance regarding the global debt agenda.

Katherine Musgrave
Photo: Flickr

Global COVID-19 Response
President Joe Biden’s selection of Dr. Rochelle Walensky to run the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be instrumental in strengthening the agency’s global COVID-19 response moving forward. By strengthening the agency in three key ways, Dr. Walensky will benefit the CDC’s pandemic response both at home and abroad.

3 Ways Dr. Rochelle Walensky Will Benefit COVID-19 Global Response

  1. Dr. Walensky’s previous work improving access to HIV testing brings hope that, under her leadership, the CDC will strengthen the global COVID-19 response by determining effective testing measures and increasing access to testing. Scientists continue to call for increased testing to effectively manage and control the spread of COVID-19 as the number of confirmed cases remains uncertain due to insufficient testing worldwide. Dr. Walensky has received international recognition for prior work on cost-effective HIV testing, care and prevention. Her previous research has emphasized the importance of providing treatment to those living with HIV while also highlighting the need for greater access to HIV testing in order to reduce the spread of the disease. Given Dr. Walensky’s knowledge and experience demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of increased access to HIV testing, expectations have determined that she will similarly advocate for more accurate COVID-19 testing as the head of the CDC.
  2. A study by Dr. Walensky and other researchers demonstrates the need for greater investments in overall vaccine distribution if countries hope to control the spread of the coronavirus through immunization. While Dr. Walensky’s expertise in HIV prevention will prove to be essential as COVID-19 vaccines become available, growing concerns exist regarding vaccine distribution in low-income countries. The wealthiest countries have purchased the two leading COVID-19 vaccines, threatening to delay access to vaccines in poorer nations. This situation could be devastating for developed and developing countries alike, as even countries that achieve herd immunity could be vulnerable to outbreaks if the world’s poorest countries do not bring the virus under control. While the researchers’ research centers on vaccine distribution within the United States, the concerns they present apply to vaccine distribution in developing countries, where proper investments in vaccination campaigns will be necessary to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to all people. By placing these concerns at the forefront of vaccine distribution, the CDC under Dr. Walensky will benefit the agency’s ability to assist vaccination campaigns internationally.
  3. Dr. Walensky’s colleagues and mentors have praised her for her ability to bring cultural sensitivity to her work, a practice that will endure as she leads the CDC. Her previous work has equipped Dr. Walensky with the experience necessary to provide tailored knowledge and COVID-19 support to developing countries within the respective contexts. With limited COVID-19 funding, the CDC will benefit from Dr. Walensky’s guidance, as she recognizes the importance of addressing underlying factors that contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including poverty and the living conditions of the impoverished. Additionally, others know her for her effective communication within underserved and marginalized communities.  By improving adherence to CDC guidelines in communities that have historically experienced exclusion or mistreatment by Western medical professionals, Dr. Walensky will further benefit the CDC’s response.

Although the CDC has previously lacked in its ability to respond to the pandemic both domestically and internationally, Dr. Walensky’s leadership will benefit the global COVID-19 response by strengthening the agency’s focus on adequately combating the virus globally. Her prior experience and research insights will help shine a light on those at risk of being left behind.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

The Benefits of Giving, How Generosity Can Improve Your HealthNow more than ever, the world needs more compassion and generosity. Many are suffering mentally and emotionally as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic—and one possible way to alleviate this is to show kindness to others. According to experts, generosity can have a positive impact on individuals’ well-being. There are many benefits of giving, improving the health and financial well-being of not only the receiver but the giver too.

How Generosity Improves Emotional Health

The concept of “helper’s high” refers to the positive emotional response one experiences after performing an act of generosity. According to experts, this emotion is associated with “greater health and increased longevity.” A recent study has proven that acts of altruism trigger activity in the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), a part of the brain that is linked to the brain’s reward system.

During a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, the giving and receiving parties can benefit from generosity. Another study found that different types of generosity can have different effects on individuals. The researchers found that performing generous acts for those close to us can reduce activity in the amygdala, a part of the human brain associated with stress and anxiety.

However, they also found that less targeted actions, such as giving to charity, also trigger activity in the ventral striatum, a region associated with compassion and care in mammals. Time and time again, studies have shown that acts of kindness toward both your loved ones and strangers can improve your mental and emotional health. Thus, it is especially important during this unprecedented time of crisis to find ways to show kindness.

How Giving Can Improve Your Financial Well-Being

On top of reducing one’s own stress and emotional turmoil, there are financial benefits of giving. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have struggled as a result of business closures, limited job opportunities and a struggling economy. Although it may seem counterintuitive to donate money to others when finances seem scarce, there are both practical and mental benefits to giving.

Under the current federal COVID-19 relief provisions, donating money can provide more tax breaks than ever before. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act for short, allows individuals up to $300 in charitable contribution deductions. It also raised the limit on charitable contributions from 60 to “up to 100% of 2020 adjusted gross income,” if the deductions are itemized.

The financial benefits of giving do not just end at tax deductions, though. Financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz believes that charitable contributions are important to reformulate the ways in which we perceive money. Money should be spent wisely, and that includes putting it toward causes and issues that one cares about.

Ways to Give

During the COVID-19 pandemic, generosity, compassion and giving are especially important. There are also more ways than ever to help, both big and small. One easy way is to complete small tasks such as grocery shopping or making care packages for your loved ones who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. There are also ways to support your community such as by making and distributing cloth face masks or by collecting and donating food for those in need. An even simpler way to help is through donations. There are many around the world who are suffering as a result of the ongoing pandemic, so now is a great time to give to causes you care about.

Individuals suffering from extreme poverty can be more susceptible to COVID-19 and can suffer more from the pandemic’s socio-economic consequences. The Borgen Project is accepting donations so that it can do as much as possible to make this issue central to American foreign policy in the future. Donating will not only help those who need it the most but the donator too.

– Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr 

Estee Lauder Aiding COVID-19 Relief EffortsWhen Estée Lauder founded her makeup company in 1953, she sought to revolutionize the cosmetic world. From essential bath oils to perfumes, Lauder transformed her dreams into a multimillion-dollar company. Recently, this retail empire stepped beyond the makeup counter and did its part to aid global COVID-19 relief programs. Lauder grounded her company in “the spirit of giving,” and the Estée Lauder Companies Charitable Foundation (ELCCF) sought to honor their founder’s values. ELCCF recognized “the strain” COVID-19 placed on impoverished communities, so its members developed a response plan. Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 Response kept these communities in mind by assisting developing countries, frontline workers and global healthcare employees.

Starting in March 2020, Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 Response includes supporting Doctors Without Borders, non-governmental organizations, BeautyUnited and manufacturing hand sanitizer to contribute to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Supporting Doctors Without Borders

To launch their global COVID-19 relief campaign, Estée Lauder donated $2 million to Doctors Without Borders. Doctors Without Borders—also referred to as Medecins Sans Frontieres—developed a specialized response to the virus by supporting “under-resourced and highly impacted countries.”

Estée Lauder’s donation will go a long way as Doctors Without Borders currently works in 70 countries worldwide. Doctors Without Borders provides quality care to vulnerable and at-risk community members: “elderly people in nursing homes, homeless people and migrants living in precarious circumstances.”

Doctors Without Borders also seeks to improve infection and prevention procedures in healthcare centers by funneling personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers in developing countries. By funding Doctors Without Borders’ programs, Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 Response assisted workers and patients in Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Niger and Syria.

Funding NGOs Worldwide

Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 Response focused on assisting non-governmental organizations in China, specifically the Red Cross Society of China, Give2Asia and the Shanghai Charity Foundation. Estée Lauder sought to help the former epicenter of the virus recover and even provided additional donations to the China Women’s Development Foundation, supporting female front-line workers.

In the Middle East and Africa, Estée Lauder assisted Oxfam International’s work in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. ELCCF even extended its relief efforts to Latin America by awarding grants to Mision Huascaran in Peru, Panama Solidario, Unibes in Brazil, Cruz Rojo in Mexico and the Waldorf Foundation in Colombia. Estée Lauder donated $3.2 million to these NGOs, providing “flexible funding in this time of need.”

Endorsing BeautyUnited

As part of its COVID-19 response campaign, Estée Lauder partnered with 40 other beauty brands and celebrities, like Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and Drew Barrymore as part of BeautyUnited.

BeautyUnited’s “industry-wide effort” also supports frontline health workers. This “special coalition” of beauty moguls and cosmetics corporations specializes in providing PPE to doctors, nurses and essential workers in the developing world. As part of BeautyUnited, Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 response moved beyond monetary donations to provide “life-saving” medical equipment.

Manufacturing Hand Sanitizer

After donating $15 million to relief efforts and joining BeautyUnited, Estée Lauder wanted to do more. Given the scarcity of hand sanitizer at home and abroad, Estée Lauder worked with Jo Malone London, another cosmetics brand, to manufacture hand sanitizer in their U.K. factories. As the pandemic escalated, hand sanitizer became a hot commodity; one Estée Lauder wanted to share with the rest of the world.

Estée Lauder’s COVID-19 Response went above and beyond the expectations of a traditional cosmetics company. The future remains uncertain, but ELCCF will continue to assist impoverished countries throughout this health crisis. Echoing their founder’s giving spirit, Estée Lauder is prepared to meet new and “emerging needs” and will continue to “prioritize medical and emergency” response efforts.

– Kyler Juarez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons