Living Conditions in Saint LuciaThe beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Gangs in Guatemala
Guatemala is a Central American country, home to volcanoes, rainforests and gang violence. Guatemala is ranked as one of the most violent countries in the world, sitting alongside Honduras and El Salvador. These three countries have been named the Northern Triangle, known specifically for their gang violence. Here are 10 facts about gangs in Guatemala.

10 Facts About Gangs in Guatemala

  1. Origin of Gang Activity
    After Guatemala’s civil war in 1996, there were a plethora of retired and unemployed men with easy access to weapons. The most notable groups to emerge from the postwar era became known as illegal clandestine security apparatuses (CIACS). CIACS are composed of several ex-generals and former high-ranking intelligence officers. The CIACS are still operational, assisting in drug trafficking, the making of false passports and contraband. CIACS are especially powerful gangs because of their close connections to the government. CIACS members are typically former war veterans with connections to government officials. This allows CIACS to corrupt the government to get away with federal offenses.
  2. Persistence of Violence
    Corruption and a weak, underfunded institution lend their hands to the persistence of violence. Tax revenues in the Northern Triangle are among the lowest in the world. Guatemala’s gross domestic product stood at 12.4 percent in 2016, which was straining public services such as police resources and health care facilities.
  3. Immigration
    Gang violence is one of the main reasons Guatemalans flee their country. With violence, forced gang recruitment and extortion, the Guatemalans are seeking asylum in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The four countries have seen an increase in asylum seekers since 2008, but most migrants hope to settle in the United States. In 2015, more than 80 percent of immigrants who settled in the United States fleeing from violence.
  4. Police Involvement
    In any society, police are expected to assist in the maintaining of public order and are responsible for handling criminals. In early 2000, Guatemalan laws defined the word “gang” in broad terms. This ultimately resulted in the mass incarceration of anyone fitting the description. A 2014 article from InSight Crime states Guatemalan prisons are at a “280 percent capacity.” The massive overcrowding epidemic makes prisoners susceptible to control the prison. According to the Public Ministry, 80 percent of Guatemala’s extrusions are perpetrated by incarcerated prisoners.
  5. U.N. Involvement
    In 2007, the United Nations enacted the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The organization investigates and prosecutes criminals believed to have infiltrated state institutions. Proving successful, the U.N. met with Guatemala’s attorney general in 2015 to investigate corruption schemes in Guatemala.
  6. U.S. Involvement
    Because of the surge in migrants in 2005, the Bush administration enacted Operation Streamline. This was a zero-tolerance policy that would criminally prosecute and deport anyone crossing the border illegally. In its last year, the Bush administration passed a security package for Mexico and Central America known as the Merida Initiative. Mexico then left the Merida Initiative, and it was renamed the Central America Regional Security Initiative. Through CARSI, the U.S. was able to funnel money into Central America and up to $1 billion was provided to improve governance and police force.
  7. Gang-Related Homicides
    According to a recent U.N. Development Programme report, Latin America and the Caribbean saw a 12 percent increase between 2002 and 2012. These two places are the only regions in the world that saw an increase in homicides. Homicides became categorized as an “epidemic.” There are three working theories as to why homicides have increased in Guatemala. One theory identifies street gangs as a cause, which is the case for Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City. A study done by the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop in Guatemala found 40 percent of those polled in Guatemala had concerns with extortion. The UNDP examined the violence in Guatemala between 2004 and 2007. They noticed the victims changed their phrasing from “gangs” to “common thieves” mainly due to media coverage of the issues.
  8. Youth Gangs
    In 2017, the 18th Street gang was involved in a riot that killed three police officers. Thirteen suspected gang members were detained for possession of firearms, including a grenade launcher, an assault rifle and several small-caliber weapons.
  9. Gang-Affiliated Crimes
    Aside from the extortion and possession of firearms, Guatemalan gangs are also involved in poppy cultivation to meet the demand for heroin in the United States. Moreover, they are involved in human trafficking and kidnapping, among other criminal offenses.
  10. Gang Hotspots
    A great deal of gang activity takes place in Guatemala’s capital city, Guatemala City. In 2016, the Guatemala National Police reported approximately 4,500 homicides, 5,800 aggravated assaults and over 3,500 missing people.

With gangs in Guatemala continuing to plague and terrorize the country, Guatemalan residents are forced to flee to other countries for safety. Although a vast majority make it to their destination, the threat of eliminating asylums poses another obstacle for Guatemalans seeking safety.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Google Images

fight against modern-day pirates
For the fishermen and industry workers that transport goods throughout the waters of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, pirates are an everyday encounter. These criminals steal millions of dollars, kidnap crew members and capture the goods being transported. For these workers and many others, it is a constant fight against modern-day pirates.

Transporting goods across ocean waters is one of the easier ways to get the product to the buyer.  An estimated 90 percent of all African exports and imports are moved across high seas, and the shorelines often become a target due to the large amount of good shipped. For example, the number of incidents in the Horn of Africa doubled in 2017 from 2016. Attacks also rose in 2016 with a total of 94 incidents off the west coast of Africa. It is clear that pirates seek out and target these high trafficked shipping areas.

When pirates board ships, they not only steal the goods that are being transported but also kidnap the crew members and hold them for ransom. In 2016, Somali pirates released 26 Asian crew members that were held for five years, releasing them once the ransom was paid. It is estimated that between the years 2005 and 2012, $339 to $413 million dollars were paid to pirates in ransoms off the Somali coasts. The average haul for these pirates comes out to just about $2.7 million, which usually comes out to about $30,000 to $70,000 for each person. Those that operate in the Gulf of Aden usually make $120 million in net profits. Studies also point to outside investors frequently help to ‘fund’ these pirate attacks and who then receive a cut of the payment after.

There are many different ways that governments, organizations and individuals are uniting to combat the damage caused by pirates. Some governments are focusing on unregulated fishing which allows local fisherman to thrive. Doing so provides long term, sustainable careers for locals who may otherwise turn to piracy. Shipping companies have also implemented several anti-boarding devices and armed contractors to deter pirates. Some ships have collapsible electric fences that act as a barrier between the ship and pirates, and tear gas and orange smoke flare canisters are sometimes placed along the side of boats. These preventive measures fight against modern-day pirates, help keep the crew members safe and are now lowering these attacks.

With anti-boarding devices, armed contractors and the creation of employment opportunities, pirate attacks are now lowering in numbers. While there is still work to be done, the fight against modern-day pirates has produced encouraging results.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

Red Notice
Interpol was founded as a means to coordinate law enforcement agencies, allowing for the international pursuit of criminals, thwarting the wild-west cliché of outlaws crossing the border and escaping justice. The notice system is the primary tool of that coordination. While each category of notice has its own color code and significance, Red Notices are by far the most famous. Akin to an old-school wanted posters, Red Notices serve as a request from one member country to another asking for the location, arrest and, ultimately, extradition of a wanted individual.

Bill Browder Case

This system provides a valuable service to the whole world. However, it has come under the criticism for the way in which repressive governments have been able to use it to target political refugees. Labeling peaceful protestors, journalists and dissidents as criminals and tricking law enforcement into extraditing them to suffer sham trials and grim fates. Nations like Russia, Turkey and China have been able to do this virtually free of consequence.

The name Bill Browder has become synonymous with Red Notice abuse. Mr. Browder is a prominent critic of Russia, having been instrumental in the creation of the global Magnitsky Act, named after Browder’s lawyer who was murdered after exposing corruption in the Russian government. As recently as May 2018, while giving a talk in Madrid, Browder was arrested by Spanish authorities. Two hours later, after the intervention of Interpol’s General Secretary, Browder was a free man. By his count, “this is the 6th time that Russia has abused Interpol in his case.”

Other Specific Red Notice Cases

While Mr. Browder’s case has received international attention, many others never caught public attention. Baran Kimyongür, a Turkish activist, interrupted an exchange between the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and the Turkish foreign minister in 2000. Later, the Turkish government gave a Red Notice for him, holding this act as proof of his connection to a terrorist organization. Kimyongür has been arrested three times by the authorities in Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Each government refused to extradite him due to the lack of any proof as well as the human right to self-expression.

Another hidden tragedy is that of Dolkun Isa, a renowned activist and member of the World Uyghur Congress. After fleeing China, now living as a German citizen, Mr. Isa has been subject to a Chinese Red Notice abuse since 2003. The resulting travel restrictions have hobbled his advocacy work to promote Uyghur self-determination. This and many other cases have been collected in a report published by the Council of Europe, an official U.N. observer.

Massive Increase in Red Notices

Each Notice is supposed to be reviewed before publication. Yet, stories like these illustrate the shortcomings of that process. The number of Notices has almost tripled over the past decade, growing from 5,020 to 13,048 by the time of the 2017 Annual report. With such a dramatic shift in volume, the potential for missteps and need for reform come into greater focus.

Each Interpol officer serves as a representative of his home government. Now, after the surprise resignation of Meng Hongwei, the recent election of Kim Jong Yang gives this organization a sorely needed opportunity to improve on the reforms made in 2016 and the organizations’ desire to create safer and more transparent processes.

– John Glade

Photo: Flickr

Venezuela
What began as an economic recession in Venezuela has quickly escalated into a humanitarian crisis where one must fight to survive. Venezuela is steadily becoming the most violent country in the world. At least 28,479 deaths of a violent nature occurred in 2016, and the nation currently holds a homicide rate of 91.8 for every 100,000 people. The hunger crisis and the fact that 82 percent of its population is living in poverty could be linked with the growing rate of crime and violence in Venezuela.

Conditions Leading Up to the Violence

In 2014, Venezuela was struck by an economic recession caused by the decline in oil prices – Venezuela’s primary export. Its biggest shortfall came with the collapse of Venezuela’s currency when the price of imported goods swelled and the country was forced to limit the number of goods brought in. Staples like toilet paper or rice were often impossible to find, and when one did locate them, such essential products were often too expensive to buy. A shortage in even basic medicines and medical supplies began causing serious concerns.

The Borgen Project was fortunate enough to interview Venezuelan national and Ph.D. student, Maria Alemán. She described the scene, “Picture a supermarket or a grocery store when there is a snow storm in one of the southern states. You go in and everything is empty. There is nothing. That’s how it is there 24/7.” This lack of imported goods has created panic and a hunger crisis in Venezuela. With the widespread panic, Venezuela was faced with having to put strict regulations on many goods available for purchase. “If you get to the store and they are regulating an item, let’s say you want to buy two gallons of milk because you have a big family. Well no, if they are only allowing you to buy a gallon, then that is all you get,” Maria explains.

Lack of Jobs and Resources is Creating Chaos

The collapse of Venezuela’s economy affected the job market. Many businesses’ closed or took their business out of the country, leaving families to struggle with the cost of rising food prices with no source of income or not nearly enough income. “People are starving because the price of food is too expensive, even with a monthly salary,” Maria defends. As conditions grew dire and many were met with the challenge of feeding themselves and their families, crime in Venezuela rose at an epidemic rate. The Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (VOV) reported a 14 percent increase in violent crimes from 2012 to 2013. In 2015, 17,778 people were murdered in Venezuela; however, the VOV revealed that those numbers were as high as 27,875.

Maria recalls a shift in the nature of the crimes as desperation fueled robberies with the threat of violence. “Thieves started to go find knives and guns because there was no other way people were going to go and give them their stuff. People got so upset that they had no choice but to start killing people to actually feel threatened. It’s even worse now because people are having to kill to survive.” With no other resources available, the population turned to violence, either in an effort to attain resources or to protect oneself from others trying to take resources.

If things couldn’t seem any worse, the increase in crime and violence running rampant in the streets of Venezuela was a catalyst for the formation of several crime organizations who have taken to exploiting the hunger of young people to get them to participate in criminal activities, which is only adding to the rising crime rate.

Efforts to Decrease Crime and Violence in Venezuela

While Venezuela has implemented a subsidized food program that benefits 87 percent of Venezuelans, it hasn’t done much to slow the hunger-induced crime sprees. Maria says, “people receive boxes from the government with some food products like rice, flour, etc., but not everyone gets the same products in their boxes. The contents of a single box aren’t enough for a family of four.” Clearly, the government needs to find other solutions than providing a small amount of food per family.

Other attempts to alleviate the situation were raising the minimum wage to 34 times the previous amount and minting a new currency (the “sovereign bolivar”) to replace the “strong bolivar.” Unfortunately, new currency or no, businesses cannot afford to pay the new minimum wage set by the government and are laying off employees or, in the worst case scenario, closing down. There have been attempts by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to act as a mediator between the people and the government amidst the protesting, but no demands have been met. Although the situation is bleak, the hopes for successful negotiation may be the only way to end the crisis in Venezuela.

Although crime and violence in Venezuela have been commonplace in the past, current living conditions in Venezuela have escalated the crime to new heights, creating a harsh reality many are facing in order to survive. Without the basic means of survival such as a livable wage, job security and even access to basic resources, Venezuela will continue to see a steadily climbing crime and murder rate.

– Catherine Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Criminalization of Human Rights WorkIn June, the Hungarian government passed a series of laws titled “Stop Soros.” The laws advocate for the criminalization of human rights work as they make the act of aiding undocumented immigrants illegal. Breaking this new law will result in up to a year imprisonment.

Hungarians have been made to fear immigrants overwhelming the country and changing its culture. Hungary’s action is in response to a new European Union (EU) migrant relocation plan. This plan would see the spread of more than 150,000 asylum seekers throughout EU member states, thus easing the strain on countries such as Italy and Greece.

Hungary is not the first country to legislate the criminalization of human rights work, however, it demonstrates the struggles NGOs face and the challenges that are being met across Europe in the face of the immigration crisis. It also substantiates the growing tensions between governments and the negative sentiment that groups have toward immigrants.

The Impact of the Criminalization of Human Rights Work

The act of aiding the victims of human rights violations is being delegitimized. By criminalizing aid to migrants, it deters people in need of assistance and those seeking to assist. The fear of prosecution is imminent. This further alienates the two populations, natives and refugees, and encourages the close-minded views of natives.

Violence against human rights workers has been on the rise. In 2016, 288 aid workers were targeted for violence, resulting in the death of 101 human rights defenders. In 2017, more than 300 human right workers were killed in 27 countries. The rise in targeted attacks against those speaking up against human right violations must not go unnoticed, yet many of the perpetrators go unpunished.  

A Message of Intolerance

The criminalization of human rights work also sends a message to society of intolerance and creates an environment for xenophobic sentiments to fester. Hungary passed the law that largely targets immigrants from Muslim countries, such as Iraq and Syria. In 2017, Hungary rejected 2,417 asylum seeker applicants while granting protection to only 321 people.

Hungary fears the dilution of its Christian values. A fenced border was constructed to ensure no illegal entry into the country. There seems to be no regard for the safety of the migrants and refugees who are fleeing their homes not out of choice, but out of necessity. Hungary is not ready to become a multi-faith and multi-cultural country.

European Response

EU countries and NGOs have implored Hungary to not pass laws in contradiction to European law. In regards to Hungary, the European director of Amnesty International, Gauri Van Gulik, stated, “It is a new low point in an intensifying crackdown on civil society, and it is something we will resist every step of the way.” Others have voiced similar concerns. The primary solution to laws such as these being passed is to push back against institutional intolerance, which has been steadily on the rise among European countries toward refugees and migrants.

One of the major challenges to human rights is the lack of value and recognition given to it. There must be a promotion of a culture that publicly acknowledges the role of human right activists. The great increase in immigrants to Europe has tested the humane response to conflict and suffering. This may not be the last example of the criminalization of human rights work.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Burkina FasoOftentimes, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa. Major journalist outlets like the New York Times or the Guardian usually only take note of terrorist or militia attacks in the country or diplomatic exchanges like when Burkina Faso most recently tied itself to China after renouncing connections to Taiwan.

How the Media Misrepresents Burkina Faso

The New York Times’ website portrays how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, with articles that carry headlines like “Militants Carry Out Deadly Attacks in Burkina Faso” or “Gunmen Kill 18 at Restaurant in Burkina Faso.” This is not to say that the Times only report these negative events, as it also has an article titled “U.S. Pledges $60 Million for Antiterrorism Force in Africa” with Burkina Faso being cited as one of the beneficiaries.

In the past year, the Times published three articles about violence, two neutral-leaning articles about diplomacy with China and Taiwan and only 1 positive article, which was about France returning artifacts to the country. Overall, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso through its tendency to post negative articles.

The Death Penalty

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is by not covering the improvements the country has made, especially about humanitarian issues. As of June 1, 2018, Burkina Faso outlawed the death penalty with Justice Minister Rene Bagoro stating that the passing of the new law allows for “more credible, equitable, accessible and effective justice in the application of criminal law.”

While the country’s last known execution was in 1988, Burkina Faso hasn’t used the death penalty for 30 years. However, the passing of the law strengthens the country’s humanitarian resolve. This new parliamentary decision has been applauded by groups ranging from Amnesty International to the Catholic Church, which demonstrates that human rights movements are progressing in the country.

Clean Water Access

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is with the country’s access to clean water. In 2015, UNICEF reported 76 percent of the rural population and 97 percent of the urban population had access to clean drinking water, meeting or exceeding the country’s water-related millennium goals. Compared to neighboring country Ghana’s 66 percent rural access and 88 percent urban access, Burkina Faso is a leader in the region.

Access to clean water is one of the biggest problems in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa, where North African countries lead the charge with 92 percent safe water coverage in 2014 as reported by the U.N. However, 40 percent of the 783 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa go without clean drinking water. This is a major problem for Africa, but one Burkina Faso has been ahead of the curve on.

This improvement can be heavily attributed to the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which is a state-run utility company that began operating in the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is a “capable state company with the ability to absorb external funding effectively.” The World Bank also says Burkina Faso is a model country in Francophone West Africa in regards to its water capabilities.

Despite how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, there have been improvements in the small West African country, as shown in humanitarian and clean water improvements. While there is a still a long way to go for Burkina Faso in regards to humanitarian efforts and overall infrastructure, it is still important to acknowledge the progress that has already been made.

– Dylan Redman
Photo: Flickr

International Drug Trade
Drug trafficking operates on an international level and involves numerous individuals and groups, or cartels. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, drug trafficking is a “global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances, which are subject to drug prohibition laws.

Drug Trade Touches Many Impoverished Countries in Different Ways

Afghanistan, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, is also one of the largest producers of opium. As violence has taken over the region since the mid-1980s, causing turmoil and rising costs of living, farmers have increasingly turned to growing opium poppies as a more lucrative option than producing food. Heroin is then produced from the opium and internationally trafficked. Trafficking to Europe takes place along the Balkan and northern travel routes from Afghanistan to Russia and western Europe. These two markets combined have an annual value of approximately $33 billion per year. The other top heroin producers in the world are Myanmar and Laos.

Cocaine is primarily produced in South American countries such as Columbia, Bolivia and Peru. The majority of the drugs trafficked from these places end up in the United State and Europe. In 2008, it was estimated that almost 17 million people worldwide were cocaine users, similar to the number of people who abuse opiates on a global scale. North America made up 40 percent of that population and Europe approximately 25 percent.

The magnitude of the problem resulting from the international drug trade for other countries, such as Mexico, is evident when examining the statistics associated with violent crimes related to drug trafficking. In 2011, there were more than 50,000 drug-related murders. That number has climbed to 200,000 drug-related murders since 2006. The competing cartels initiated the violence throughout Mexico and are therefore the predominant cause of economic insecurities and instability throughout the nation.

The issues associated with the drug trade have a ripple effect on those outside the cartels as well, worsening the overall problem. Extreme poverty to the point of not being able to buy food is experienced by about 30 percent of the population in Mexico as a result of drug cartel activity, with an estimated 40 percent facing basic poverty in terms of lack of healthcare and education. Mexican citizens who may otherwise be honest, law-abiding workers may succumb to the temptation of the drug trade, as what may appear to be their only option for survival.

Global Cooperatives Work to Counter International Drug Trade

Moreover, governments abroad are rife with corruption. As such, the stabilization of the economy for the masses is less of a priority than increasing the personal wealth of those benefiting from the illicit drug trade. Accordingly, poverty ensues. To address these concerns, in 2003, the Paris Pact Initiative was enacted into law as a means to combat the global illicit drug trade. The Paris Pact has 58 participating countries and 23 organizations.

The Vienna declaration of 2012 resulted in the development of four pillars designed to work towards finding solutions in the fight against the international drug trade, specific to the illegal trafficking and sale of opiates.  The first pillar is to strengthen already existing regional initiatives. The second pillar is to detect and block financial flows linked to the trafficking of opiates. The third works to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals used in illicit opiate production. The final pillar is to reduce the abuse of such drugs through a multi-faceted approach. This initiative has been implemented in phases thus far.

The international drug trade is not operating unnoticed by any means. However, the power that the leaders behind the scenes have and the wide user base makes the fight against this type of crime particularly complex. Of greater import, the mobilization of the groups involved and their presence in every corner of the globe creates further difficulties. With that in mind, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has made great strides in raising awareness and addressing each area of the drug trade that causes problems for the rest of society. The most recent Vienna Declaration of the Paris Pact Initiative is a thoughtfully devised, comprehensive approach to creating a safer world, especially for those already subjected to the harsh realities that poverty as a byproduct of the international drug trade creates.

U.S. Partnerships Important to Continuing Progress

The United States plays a key role in leading other countries to monitor and deter criminal activity related to the sale and trade of illegal substances through the work of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. As a result of the United States’ partnership with other countries, a collaborative approach is made possible in combatting this significant societal problem because of the sharing of information and resources cross-continentally.

Other aspects that are associated with the illegal trade of illicit substances that involve financial matters, such as money laundering, are addressed by this department as well. An additional benefit of this collaboration of departments throughout the world is that it holds other countries accountable for monitoring illegal activity through their own governments or agencies and thus acts as an incentive to ensuring safety. The bureau also provides assistance to countries that may need extra resources to control criminal activity. Through this ongoing assistance, the world can continue to make progress towards resolving this multi-faceted global issue.

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

effects of poverty

Poverty stretches across the globe affecting almost half of the world’s population. Its effects reach deeper. Uniquely connected to different causes, the effects of poverty are revolving—one result leads to another source leads to another consequence. To fully understand the effects of poverty, the causes have to be rooted out to develop strategies to end hunger and starvation for good. Let’s discuss some of the top effects of poverty.

Poor Health

Globally, millions suffer from poverty-related health conditions as infectious diseases ravage the lives of an estimated 14 million people a year and are of the top effects of poverty. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. Here are the top diseases commonly linked to poverty.

  • Malaria: Malaria is urbanely referred to as the poor man’s disease, as more than a million people living in poverty die from it each year. Caused by a parasite, malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria affects the lives of many in 97 countries worldwide.
  • Tuberculosis: Often referred to as TB, tuberculosis is a bacteria-borne disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, targets the lungs. It also affects the kidneys, brain, and spine. When discussing the effects of TB worldwide, it must be broken down by burden—high burden TB and low burden TB—all of which has to do with the number of cases that impact a country. High burden TB affects more than 22 countries, as low burden TB accounts for 10 cases per 100,000 people in a geographical location.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This infection attacks the immune system and is contracted by contact with certain fluids in the body. If HIV is left untreated, certain infections and diseases can take over the body and cause a person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Thirty-six million people in the world have HIV/AIDS. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, one in five adults live with HIV or AIDS.

Continuing the fight against poverty through economic expansion will help eliminate poverty-related illnesses and raise the value of health in poor communities.

Crime

There’s an old adage that says, “If a man don’t work, he don’t eat.” That’s not the case for a large number people living in poverty. Lack of economic opportunity leads to impoverishment which then leads to crime.

Global unemployment is at a high point. One hundred ninety-two million people around the world are jobless. In some parts of the world, mainly poor parts, unemployment standings will drive this number higher. In a study done on youth in the Caribbean, it was determined that joblessness fueled criminal activity in those aged 15 through 24.

Because of the struggles in the Caribbean job market, the murder rates are higher there than in any other region in the world. The crime rate affects 6.8 percent of the Caribbean population against the world average of 4.5 percent, calculating the global rate per 100,000 people.

People who live below the poverty line and don’t have access to sufficient economic opportunity, live by any dangerous means necessary.

Lack of Education

There is a direct correlation between low academic performance and poverty. Children who are exposed to extreme levels of poverty have difficulty with cognitive development, speech, and managing stress, which leads to adverse behavior.

In the country of Niger—the most illiterate nation in the world—only 15 percent of adults have the ability to read and write. Eritrea follows on the heels of Niger: with a population of 6 million, the average person only achieves four years of school.

In these poor locations, young adults and children have to leave school to work to help provide additional income for their families. Other children don’t have access to education due to decent schools being too far for them to travel to. On the other hand, schools nearby don’t have enough materials and resources to properly educate children. The conditions of the schools are just as poor as the children’s living conditions.

Where there’s poverty, there’s lack of education, joblessness, and poor health. The key to destroying the top effects of poverty is to attack the causes. More funding is needed for programs such as Child Fund International—a program that brings resources to children in poor communities. The International Economic Development Council supports economic developers by helping them create, retain, and expand jobs in their communities. And then there are the international efforts of the World Health Organization that fights to bring vaccinations and health-related resources to impoverished communities suffering from the infectious diseases of poverty. With these efforts along with other strategies, we can continue making strides to end the effects of poverty. 

– Naomi C. Kellogg