Information and stories on development news.

The World Alliance of Cities Against PovertyOne voice may not always be enough for the world to hear, but when a community of more than 900 cities joins together to combat and confront development challenges such as global poverty, being heard is a guarantee. The World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) is a network of more than 900 cities, some of them located in nations such as the United Kingdom, Turkey, Ethiopia, among many more. This vast number of cities collaborate together to mobilize change with individuals, governments, and anyone willing to bring a helping hand into confronting and ending global poverty.

When a community comes together, there is the power of partnership and collaboration to depend upon. With this strength magnified, the ability of the network to make strides in development is multiplied.

When a city wants to join WACAP, they don’t only envision an improvement in their own communities, but an open opportunity to help fight urban poverty everywhere. This is the idea of cities helping cities. The cooperation between the cities is a vision of strengthening development. In the mission of WACAP, this vision is comprised of sustainable development in the urban context, understood through economic, environmental, and social dimensions.

Poverty kills thousands and leaves many people leading lives of constant despair and struggle. In order to create hope for these people living in poverty-stricken cities, WACAP is in an enduring partnership that will work to alleviate their suffering and build community networks that people can rely on.

Jada Chin

Source: WACAP

Myanmar_US_Treasury_Banks
Last week, the United States announced that it would lift sanctions on four of Myanmar’s largest banks in hopes of continued economic development in the country, and as a reward for continued improvements in the country’s political system. As sanctions are lifted, the banks will now have access to the United States’ financial system and have the opportunity to interact with U.S. businesses and citizens. The four banks that will benefit, according to the Treasury Department, are the Myanmar Economic Bank, Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank.

The Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, stated, “Increased access to Burma’s banking system for our companies and non-governmental organizations will help to facilitate Burma’s continued social and economic development.”

Although most restrictions have been lifted, there are still mechanisms in place that allow the U.S. government to monitor the banks in case of a negative change in recent political reforms. In a similar gesture last summer, the U.S. Treasury began allowing U.S. companies to deal with Myanmar by way of investing and administering other financial assistance – as long as all transactions were recorded and disclosed.

This trend has continued for the last two years, as the European Union along with the U.S. have backed away from conditional restrictions regarding Myanmar’s political situation, which included the release of political prisoners.

Myanmar officials stated that previous sanctions had prevented the country from growing its economy and eradicating widespread poverty.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Reuters

 

 

Can Soap Operas Help Fight Poverty?While the era of the soap operas may be coming to a close in the United States, in many Arabic countries soaps are becoming more and more popular. This increase has come from the unusual mix of American melodrama characteristics (love, family turmoil, deceit, etc.) with cultural values that audiences can identify with.

Surprisingly, soap operas have a history of influencing impoverished communities for the better. In South Africa, a soap opera addressed safe sex and it was found that the viewers of the soap were four times more likely to use condoms than non-viewers. In Mexico City, a soap opera aired that discussed the issue of child literacy. This caused enrollment in literacy programs to skyrocket throughout the entire city.  Even in Colorado, many low-income families increased their child’s health insurance after viewing a soap opera discussing child health problems.

One of the ways in which soap operas can aid in the fight against poverty is through awareness. With such a large audience, a soap opera could be an incredible tool used for spreading awareness about social, health, and economic issues facing impoverished communities. In this way, altering the content of a soap opera to contain relevant content for viewers would only increase ratings.

Although the effectiveness of soap operas being used as an educational tool isn’t full-proof, the idea of altering soap operas, at least slightly, to educate impoverished communities on governmental and social issues seems like an effective strategy to raise awareness about social issues, injustices, and aid in the struggle against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Al Jazeera

Does International Aid Help Or Not?
In the never-ending debate about whether international aid helps or not, Al-Jazeera’s Counting the Cost gets four experts’ insight. Will Ruddick, a young scholar at the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability who has spent time in Kenya, argues that such resource-rich countries might not need as much as 300 million dollars in food aid every year. He argues that it’s not the aid itself, it’s the Western economic model which has been proven inefficient when it comes to international aid and development.

Ruddick thinks that a new economic model is needed, one that’s similar to the Swiss model, where there are monetary innovations to reach the goals of sustainable development. He says that micro-finance lending and entrepreneurial models are causing more social stratification thereby amounting to more debt. Ruddick suggests policies that move to something that creates more networks and communities, an implementation that involves the local affected and recipient communities.

In Keyna, there is a wide dependence on anti-retroviral drugs for HIV as opposed to development. Ruddick argues that there should be more of a push from international aid organizations to help these people develop the needed drugs locally; aid and development aren’t necessarily linked. Networks must be encouraged and created to help local people help each other. According to Ruddick, Kenya is exporting 3 billion dollars worth of food to Europe, and yet every year, with the consistency of food aid to Kenya, people are still underfed and starving.

In Jerusalem, Palestine, Dr. Nora Murad argues that “aid” is subsidizing the Israeli occupation that it’s allowing the Israeli army to occupy cost-free because every time a road, a school, or a hospital is destroyed, the international community pays for it rather than have the Israeli army replace it. Thus, in places like Palestine, the international community needs to politically intervene to better implement any aid that goes to Palestine. “The Israeli occupation costs the Palestinian economy 6.8 billion dollars per year,” Dr. Murad argues. She also argues that recipients of aid, in her case she’s talking about Palestinian communities specifically, should have control over their own development resources and be able to make development decisions.

Alan Duncan, the British minister of state in the department of international development, argues that they don’t deal directly with untrusted governments, they focus on the “real economies” of “real people,” that they are the “engine of development,” and such a development is precisely what his department is pushing for. He explains that the private sector is so important and that the existent aid model isn’t flawed, and that they “underpin the basic building blocks of an agricultural economy,” to help the underdeveloped internal economy of Africa. In regards to Palestine, he says that the kind of aid that goes to Palestine is to equip the Palestinian Authority to be a future government, the development is thus working in such specific political circumstances.

The head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, Emma Seery, comments by saying that her organization is more focused on development than aid, they focus on policies in an effort to put an end to extreme inequality. So the question is this: we know that foreign aid helps, and that poor countries are appreciative of this gift but are the right policies being implemented to sustain growth and development? Is there a need for a new more efficient economic model?

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Al Jazeera
Photo: Google

Listen to the Poor

In 2010, Armando Barrientos had a plan: just give direct money and resources to the poor, no need for the expensive aid industry. The argument made calls for community involvement, by directly transferring money to the poor. In this way, the recipients have a chance to decide what to do with that money. According to Barrientos’ argument in the Guardian, this model is being implemented in several countries including Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and India. These countries provide “regular transfers of money to households in poverty with the aim of improving their nutrition, making sure children go to school and ensuring expectant mothers have regular check-ups.” Nevertheless, these same social transfer programs are difficult to set up without the help of the international community.

This year, the aim is a little higher; The Guardian posted an article discussing these social transfer programs in a broader light. The goal is to know how the poor and affected communities feel about these programs, if the programs actually help or detract the communities, and how the recipients can make better use of these money transfers. Recently, governments and aid donors have been more interested in involving the recipient communities in the decision-making, monitoring, and evaluating of “social protection programs.” Although the very concept of money transfers has generated positive results and is appreciated in several countries including Palestine, Mozambique, Yemen, and Uganda, monetary transactions are not sufficient enough in order to meet people’s basic needs.

Additionally, the access to cash transfers is confusing and alienating as the extremely poor either: do not know how to become eligible for funds, how to apply to receive funds, or are stuck on waiting lists for too long. Cash transfer recipients are reluctant to complain about such conditions regarding long waiting and the insufficiency of cash because the recipients are afraid to be regarded as “troublemakers,” which may cost them their access to funds altogether.

It is more efficient and effective to include the recipients in the decision-making process since the money directly affects them and their communities. It is also ethical, “people have a right to a say over what affects them.” The poor need a voice that will be listened to in order to improve social protection and cash transfer programs, making aid more effective, fair, and beneficial to the global community.

Leen Abdallah
Source: Guardian

Human Development Report Shows Progress
The Human Development Report is an annual publication by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is essentially a report that shows how well countries are doing economically. The UNDP compiles its list using information they collect on categories from income and literacy levels to gender rights and longevity. The 2013 report, which is slated to be officially released on March 14th, is said to show great progress in 40 countries that are lifting their people out of poverty. There are a few of the expected countries on the list, such as the emerging superpowers of China, Brazil and India, but the progress goes well beyond these three.

The list is controversial in many circles. Some of the critics argue that the numbers are simplistic or misleading, and can be dramatically misinterpreted with by reading a slight change of the criteria. The focus on material well being rather than any psychological factors are also a point of contention. These critiques are common of any of the myriad of tools that turn the vibrancy of human life into a series of easily digestible numbers. In any case, the Human Development Report has long been a good indicator of global trends and areas that need to be worked on.

While the news of progress worldwide is a good sign, there are still advances to be made. Notably, none of the ten countries of sub-Saharan Africa are on the list. Some of the countries in the Middle East such as Afghanistan, Myanmar and Yemen also continue to struggle. However, the large group of countries that have made the list this year will begin to make themselves heard on a global scale, which can only help to bring up the struggling countries around them.

– Sean Morales

Source: Toronto Star

The Sanitary Importance of ToiletsHow is poverty fought? Well, there are many different approaches that are currently being tried and some may seem more self-explanatory than others. For example, there are micro-lending, education aid, anti-corruption efforts, and attempts to create jobs and industry. But what about sanitation? Specifically, what about the toilets?

Toilets, and the access to toilets and established sanitation standards, are actually a very, very important issue in much of the developing world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2010 that 2.5 billion people worldwide didn’t have access to a toilet. The lack of toilets can lead to many serious sanitation problems; exposed fecal matter can lead to any number of a long list of diseases and can cause infection, lead to dysentery, and provided a breeding ground for many parasites.

More than reducing levels of infection and disease, however, the sanitary importance of toilets offers an increased sense of dignity. The people living without toilet access are not all living in rural areas. Many live in city slums and must go about their business without the luxury of privacy. The availability of toilets is even shown to increase the school attendance of teenage girls, who may not go to school during their menstrual cycle. The non-governmental organization Charity Water works to provide clean water and sanitation in the developing world. Increased access to toilets has been one of their goals for years. Check them out here!

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Charity Water
Photo: The Guardian

Tapping Into African Economies
On both sides of the American political spectrum, certain wariness exists about the economic powerhouse of China. Especially in the news right now, many of our politicians are brainstorming ways to keep up with and hopefully outpace Chinese growth. However, one of the secrets to China’s success might be its interest in working with developing nations.

Spring is inching closer and with it comes the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday in which families visit friends to refresh and strengthen friendships. China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi took this opportunity to visit China’s African trading partners on February 20.

According to The Economist, the growth of developing African economies is set to outpace their Asian counterparts by 2015. The Chinese government took notice of the opportunity presented by African markets years ago and has forged a strong partnership with many developing African nations. Through tapping into African economies, African countries are able to export their natural resources to China, which the Chinese then use to manufacture into their own exports.

China has taken notice that the development of Africa provides additional opportunities for China to strengthen its economy even further. Perhaps it is this investment in developing and impoverished nations that provides an economic edge to China in today’s changing global marketplace.

With the majority of our top trading partners being former recipients of U.S. aid, the United States has a previous history of success with turning impoverished nations into valuable business partners. By continuing this legacy and cultivating opportunities to decrease poverty in Africa with firm business relationships, we’ll be tapping into a pivotal market that China has been benefiting from for years.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Xinhuanet.com
Photo: cntv.com

Microsoft Aids in African Economic Development

This month, Microsoft introduced a new program in Africa in hopes of becoming a stronger component in African economic development. According to the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative website, “the goal [of the initiative] is to empower every African who has a great idea for a business or an application and to turn that idea into a reality which in turn can help their community, their country, or even the continent at large.”

Economically, Microsoft is looking to capitalize on the promise Africa holds and improve Africa’s global competitiveness. The Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative has four plans that it is working to accomplish by 2016:

1. Provide African youth with tens of millions of smart devices

2. Bring 1 million African SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) online

3. Help provide additional skills to 100,000 members of Africa’s current workforce

4. Help 100,000 recent graduates develop employability skills and then help 75 percent of these graduates find job placements.

Fernando de Sousa, the General Manager of Microsoft’s 4Africa Initiative, commented that Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to empower a generation. This gives insight into the motive behind Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative and shows how accomplishing its plans will contribute to Africa becoming more globally competitive.

In their effort to accomplish these plans, Microsoft has created a new smart device called the Huawei 4Afrika that will come fully loaded with specific applications designed just for Africa. The phone will be available in select areas at first and will be given to students attending universities, developers, and people who have never owned a smart device in order to guarantee them access to devices that are affordable and have the most advanced technology. This will give them opportunities to collaborate, connect, and have access to online venues and markets.

Efforts have also been made on the educational and small business side. Microsoft has invested in an educational platform that leverages both online and offline learning devices called Afrika Academy. They have also invested  in a pilot project with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and a Kenyan Internet service provider to improve technological access in Africa and provide low-cost, high-speed broadband. An SME Online Hub has also been created that will aggregate available services to help SMEs expand their business within their community, as well as further out.

Further, de Sousa believes that “the 4Afrika Initiative is built on the dual beliefs that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.” This works to the advantage of the entire world as technological advancement plays a key role in many aspects of life globally, including health care and living standards; making Africa more accessible makes business deals easier to conduct.

– Angela Hooks

Sources:Fight Poverty, Microsoft 4Afrika, Business Fights Poverty
Photo: Microsoft 4Afrika

Teenager Helps Residents of a Garbage DumpWhile most teenage girls her age are reluctant to take out the trash, Courtney Quigley is begging her parents to return to Guatemala City to help the poverty-stricken residents of a garbage dump there. In the past, Courtney has worked with Potter House, a nonprofit which helps the 11,000 people living in the garbage dump. Out of that population, 6,500 are children.

According to the Lake Zurich Patch, Courtney first fell in love with Guatemala when she was nine and her family took a trip to build playgrounds with Kids Around the World, an organization whose primary goal is to provide safe play equipment for children who find it difficult to be “just a kid.” Courtney describes the garbage dump as being 40 acres filled with trash and yet the children somehow manage to stay positive and in high spirits.

While her family has been on other mission trips, Courtney has fallen in love with Guatemala. She was able to return in 2011, meeting a family of seven who lived in a 9 x 10 shack. One of the children, a 15-year-old girl, was pregnant and Courtney decided that something needed to be done to help improve their living condition.

To help, Courtney and her friends are hosting a “Hope’s in Style” fashion show fundraiser on February 24 at the Garlands Center in Barrington, Illinois.

Although she is now living in the United States, the memory of the children in Guatemala still remains vivid in her mind.

“There is nothing here that is hopeful, but when you shake hands, hug, and talk to people, they are so full of hope, so full of faith,” Courtney said. Their determination to make the best of their situation is what inspires her to keep moving forward.

 – Pete Grapentien

Source: Lake Zurich Patch