Saudi Arabia
King Salman of Saudi Arabia traveled to Indonesia in March to promote economic ties, and the visit sparked some discussion on the current state of inequality in Saudi Arabia. The cost of the trip was estimated at $18 million, involving six Boeing passenger jets and a military transport aircraft, which held two electric elevators and a limousine.

The Saudi family is the richest in the world, worth an estimated total of $1.4 trillion, predominately due to its assets in petroleum. However, Saudi Arabia is still relatively poor; with 20 percent of people living in poverty, the problem of income inequality in Saudi Arabia is quite evident.

Despite an annual oil revenue of more than $200 billion, most Saudis lack adequate housing, healthcare, sanitation and education. Author Karen House highlights these issues in her book On Saudi Arabia. Most of the oil revenue flows right into the hands of the royal family. At least 80 percent of the revenue in the Saudi treasury comes from petroleum, but the average Saudi citizen does not benefit from those gains. The central government in Riyadh, where the royal family is settled, receives most of the oil profits. This sustains a strong monarchy and keeps the majority poor and powerless. The public simply has no say in how the government spends its money.

Moreover, with so much revenue coming in from oil, the government is still unable to provide jobs for its citizens. Saudi Arabia provides one in four barrels of oil exported around the world, yet 40 percent of Saudi youth between twenty and twenty-four are unemployed. The unemployment is partly due to the fact that 90 percent of all employees in the private sector are foreign workers.

The consequences of having a corrupt government are highlighted in times of chaos. In January 2011, during the Cairo revolution, the city of Jeddah flooded because the monarchy failed to establish basic protections against the weather. Ten people died due to improper sewerage and drainage. The inadequate preparation was blamed on corrupt businesses and the government stealing money from both sewer and drain-related construction projects.

Education in Saudi Arabia is of a poor quality and tends to exclude females. The government restricts the economic opportunities of women, who are denied the same rights as men. The lack of economic freedom also correlates with the high rates of poverty, as 40 percent of Saudis live in poverty and at least 60 percent cannot afford a home.

Saudi Arabia is one of the richest nations in the world, yet the majority of the population lacks basic amenities. The poverty rates show clear income disparity in Saudi Arabia and it needs to be further addressed.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AustraliaPoverty in Australia is a fact of life for many residents. The country is one of the wealthiest developed countries in the world, but that does not mean the country doesn’t have poverty. Even though the country’s economy has grown in the last two decades, there are still issues of poverty in Australia.

 

What to Know About Poverty in Australia

 

  1. Child poverty is rising in Australia. Almost 30 years ago, then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke promised that “No child would live in poverty by 1990.” Unfortunately, that promise has not been fulfilled. According to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), more than 730,000 children are living in poverty, which is about one in six children in Australia. Child poverty in Australia has also increased by two percent in the last decade.
  2. One in four Australians who apply for homelessness services are indigenous. Indigenous people make up only three percent of the overall population in Australia, so race and diversity are a factor in someone’s earnings.
  3. The people most likely to be part of the lowest 20 percent income group are the elderly, single parents and indigenous people.
  4. One person in the top 20 percent has 70 times more income than someone in the bottom 20 percent. There is huge economic inequality in Australia, and the gap continues to widen in both wealth and opportunities. This inequality is also a global issue since the world’s top one percent own more than the bottom three billion people in the world.
  5. Young people aged 15-24 are the most likely to be unemployed. A January 2016 report studying Australia’s poverty suggested that the youth unemployment rate was more than twice the overall unemployment rate.

Australia’s government has been trying to solve the problem by creating more jobs, but there are more ways that economic equality can be achieved. Some solutions include free education and healthcare for everyone, affordable housing, and having everyone pay a fair share of taxes.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Preparedness InnovationsWhen the Ebola virus broke out in 2014, the world was ill-prepared to respond. In all, there were more than 15,000 confirmed cases and 11,000 deaths. Although the outbreak was concentrated in West Africa, a handful of cases reached the United States and Europe. With the rise of globalization and intercontinental travel, the next epidemic could easily become a pandemic.

To combat this danger, a multinational coalition is needed. The formation of such a group — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is backed by the governments of Norway, India, Japan and Germany. These countries are partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to invest in vaccines to prevent diseases that have the potential to cause the next great epidemic.

Given the cost-efficiency of immunization programs, the development of vaccines is an effective component of epidemic preparation. With an initial fund of $460 million, CEPI will be well worth the investment. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Lione lost approximately $1.6 billion in GDP in 2015 alone. A worldwide pandemic would be drastically more costly; the World Bank estimates a flu pandemic would cost $3 trillion globally.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will initially focus on three viruses: MERS-CoV, Lassa and Nipah. These viruses are among the diseases identified by the World Health Organization that warrant prioritization. For each virus, CEPI hopes to develop at least two vaccines. This head start is critical, as vaccine development is a long, arduous process. On average, a vaccine takes about 10 years to reach the market, and epidemics take far less time to spread.

Although CEPI is a major step in the right direction, a more comprehensive strategy is necessary to control a potential pandemic. As shown by the Ebola outbreak, a global surveillance system is needed. In addition, vaccines cannot prevent all cases of disease; treatment development is also needed. The current members of CEPI have demonstrated admirable initiative in showing the world that everyone is a stakeholder concerning global health.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

 Poverty in Canada

As a wealthy country with an abundance of natural resources, it may come as a shock that Canada suffers greatly from poverty. Women and children are the two major groups affected by poverty in Canada, as a result of unemployment and other barriers that stand in the way of financial stability.

Poverty in Canada Facts

    1. According to the national report “Let’s End Child Poverty for Good,” the rate of child poverty in Canada increased from 15.8% in 1989 to 19% in 2013. Campaign 2000, a nonpartisan network of 120 organizations against child and family poverty, works with the federal government on the Canada Child Benefit, which will hopefully reduce child poverty by 50% in the next few years.
    2. Child poverty rates are nearly double for indigenous children and new immigrant families, at 40%.
    3. One in seven Canadian children resides in a homeless shelter, which are environments that can lead to higher rates of mental and physical health issues.
    4. Compared to other developed countries, Canada’s poverty rate is higher than most, ranking 23 out of 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
    5. More than 1.5 million women live on a low income, and 21 percent of single mothers raise their children in poverty. The Canadian Women’s Foundation works to advance women’s conditions by finding ways out of poverty and helping them build a solid foundation that includes stable housing, childcare and employment skills.
    6. The child poverty rate is highest in Toronto at 27%, according to the 2014 report, “Divided City: Life in Canada’s Child Poverty Capital.” Montreal follows with 25%.
    7. Two hundred thousand people are homeless in a year, costing the Canadian economy $7 billion each year.

Poverty in Canada is a significant issue, but not one that is impossible to solve. Various organizations dedicated to addressing the problem have helped those who have experienced major setbacks return to normalcy, to the point where they can live sustainable lives and provide for their families.

Mikaela Frigillana

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10 Ways to Respond to Ethnic Cleansing in South Sudan
More than two decades after at least 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda, the situation seems poised to repeat itself in the world’s youngest country. More than one million people have fled South Sudan since violence erupted in the country in 2013, creating the largest mass exodus of any Central African conflict since the Rwandan genocide. In light of a new U.N. declaration that the country is on the brink of disaster and that ethnic cleansing is under way, it is imperative that the international community responds differently than it did in 1994. Here are 10 ways that the international community — from leaders to citizens — can respond to ethnic cleansing in South Sudan.

  1. Impose targeted sanctions and an arms embargo
    The United States has pushed for sanctions and an arms embargo against South Sudan, but the U.N. vote on such measures has been pushed back following opposition from Russia, China and others. However, this measure is imperative as it is the simplest and most effective way for the international community to curb ethnic cleansing in South Sudan.
  2. Establish a death toll
    Ivan Šimonović, the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, stressed the importance of a death toll in 2014. He said public information had the power to “deter continued violations of human rights” and keep communities informed. “Only reliable reporting can help them to reconcile, knowing that both sides have been involved as perpetrators as well as victims,” he said.
  3. Deploy regional protection force
    The U.N. approved the deployment of a regional protection force in August, and South Sudan finally agreed to the deployment in late November. In an editorial for Al Jazeera, three South Sudanese writers stressed the importance of this force, and suggested that its powers included “monitoring, disarming and demobilizing any armed group targeting civilians”.
  4. Establish a hybrid court
    Human rights organizations have expressed concerns that the focus on ethnic cleansing in South Sudan will allow perpetrators of crimes such as destruction of property, rape and murder to go unpunished. Amnesty International has urged the African Union Commission and the South Sudanese government to establish a hybrid court so that all crimes are appropriately prosecuted.
  5. Ensure that new tools and structures put in place to prevent genocide are followed
    World leaders must put structures in place to ensure an effective response to genocide. In the U.S., President Obama had the Atrocities Prevention Board created to facilitate a multilateral response to atrocities and genocide globally. But it is the job of citizens to ensure that these structures function as intended.
  6. Establish an early warning system
    According to Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, an early warning system will help prevent further genocides and ensure that countries are able to respond quickly and effectively when a nation is showing warning signs characteristic of genocide.
  7. Confront Power Vacuum
    Experts believe that the perceived power vacuum that will be left after president Obama leaves office could be a trigger for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan. It is the job of the new administration to confront this vacuum and ensure that the security of human rights remains a global priority.
  8. Keep pressure on political leaders to respond to the crisis in South Sudan
    Congressional leaders must continue to fight to hold human rights abusers to account, and promote peace, by passing bills like the recently-approved Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
  9. Members of the U.N. Security Council- Prioritize genocide prevention in South Sudan
    The United Nations must continue to monitor and prioritize the situation in South Sudan, offering aid, guidance, and resolutions in pursuit of peace.
  10. Media- Prioritize genocide prevention in South Sudan
  11. In 1994, the media failed to give the Rwandan genocide adequate coverage. The media must not make that same mistake by failing to report on the situation in South Sudan.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Education in France
Education in France is known globally as both competitive and exceptional when it comes to giving students a quality learning experience. This is because the French government and the French people understand the importance of education, thus they continue to provide substantial money towards their education systems. Though the French continuously values their education, issues such as failing to help students and an archaic university system are weighing down the quality of education in France.

For French children, education in France begins in kindergarten (maternelle) at an incredibly young age. Fifty-two percent of French children are enrolled in kindergarten at age 2 while 100 percent of children begin kindergarten at age 3. However, elementary school is only compulsory for children at the age of 6.

French primary schools are notorious for long school hours while simultaneously having fewer school days. It is estimated that French children spend approximately 900 hours a year in school which is more than any other European nation. Since vacation days are a national value in France, French school make up for lost time with additional school hours.

At 16, secondary education is not compulsory and French kids can decide whether to continue their education or leave and join the workforce.

French high school (lycée) or also known as secondary education, is for French children 16 years or older. During their time in high school, French children are not only taking their mandatory classes but are simultaneously studying for the Baccalauréat or Bac. The Bac is a final exam that qualifies students for university studies.

The Bac takes a total of six days to complete and unlike many exams, the Bac does not contain any multiple choice questions. Rather, the Bac tests oral and written proficiency in multiple subjects. Reports indicate that fewer than 20 percent of all students fail the Bac.

Despite the complexity of the Bac, almost all citizens are prideful of the Bac and refuse to modify it. During the month of June, newspapers and periodicals are teeming with discussions about the Bac. Many intellectuals in the country even discuss the Bac in relation to subjects such as literature and philosophy.

After high school, education in France is divided into a dual system of Universités and Grandes Ecoles. Universités in France are globally known to be exceptionally diverse and inclusive. Over 12 percent of the student population in Universités are foreign students. Additionally, any student who passes the Bac is already admitted to any university in the country. Currently, France has around 84 universités with free tuition for students.

In France, Grandes Ecoles are considered separate from the overall university system. This is because Grandes Ecoles are specialty schools for careers in mainly science and business. Grandes Ecoles try to provide a simulation of the job market which universités simply cannot do.

In France, there are about 250 Grandes Ecoles with each being relatively free, substantially funded and well adapted to the current job market.

However, Grandes Ecoles are immensely selective which makes entering any Grandes Ecoles fiercely competitive amongst pupils.

Though France provides a well-rounded education for its citizens, issues such as failing to help students and an outdated university system continue to detriment the overall quality of education in France.

Education in France has slowly drifted away from providing aid to children to neglecting the overall wellbeing of children. In French high schools, teachers are only present to teach their classes and then they leave. Teachers with office hours are almost non-existent which further alienates the instructors from their classes. As a result, it is often recorded that teachers tell students that they are zeroes (nuls).

A quote from one of the authors of “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong”, Jean-Benoit Nadeau states that “An outstanding feature of French education is the authority of teachers. The French don’t regard childhood as an age of innocence but see it as an age of ignorance. Children must be set straight and corrected.”

This type of psychological abuse has many psychologists linking this emotional mistreatment from school to child development. Child defenders that deal with already abused and battered children even claim that this emotional abuse can further detriment childhood development.

Education in France is also suffering due to an archaic université system. Universités in France are slowly losing the prestige that they once had due to competition from U.S. universities. The reasoning behind this loss of prestige stems from the fact that unlike U.S. colleges, French universités do not make connections to the job market and inadequately prepares students for life after school.

As a result, less funding is being placed in the French university systems. A reduced amount of funding has led to overcrowding and a 50 percent dropout rate in the first two years of university studies.

Furthermore, universities in France are on a sharp decline as students attending Grandes Ecoles are gradually increasing.

The French government is steadily improving education in France through a set of reforms. In 2008, new legislation allowed universities to become autonomous. By allowing universities to become autonomous, these schools now have the ability to control more of the budgets and finances of their institutions. Increased budgetary autonomy has positively impacted the flexibility to raise donations through private investors as well as appoint professors as they see fit.

Not to mention, the French government is also encouraging universités to form joint structures. Joint structures allow universités to merge amongst themselves as well as with Grandes Ecoles. Joint structures are theoretically going to reverse the lost prestige of French universities as well as attract prospective foreign students.

French Minister of National Education, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has commented on France’s recent education reforms as moving in the right direction with further efforts on reducing inequalities and school failure rates.

Without debate, the French education system is a unique and engaging system that provides a satisfactory education for its citizens. Yet, obstacles such as child mistreatment and a revamped university system are serious obstacles that need to be overcome in order to better advance the quality of education in France.

Shannon Coble

Photo: Flickr