relations with EcuadorNew Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez recently introduced S.Res. 22 on January 28, 2021, in an effort to declare and strengthen the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Ecuador. Ecuador has had turbulent relationships with other countries but a stable and close one with the U.S. Both countries have promoted democracy and fought the illegal trade in narcotics together since they signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Navigation and Commerce in 1839. Positive relations with Ecuador mean improved economic relations, security and development opportunities in both countries.

What is S.Res.22?

S.Res.22 is a new agreement that updates the Trade and Investment Council Agreement. U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, and minister of foreign trade of Ecuador, Ivan Ontaneda, signed the document in Quito, Ecuador on Dec. 8, 2020. The document updates regulations against corruption in trade and reinforces regulations and processes at the border. It also gives protection to whistleblowers against other crimes like money laundering.

History of US-Ecuador Relations

Ecuador and the U.S. have a long history of good relations. Both have embassies in each other’s countries. The U.S. and Ecuador both work hard to preserve territorial integrity and share resources and harbors. U.S. and Ecuadorian law enforcement work together to address threats posed by transnational crime, narcotics and human trafficking. S.Res.22 references future imports in an effort to promise regulation upkeep with international trade. Both countries have similar goals in areas like democracy, inclusivity, health and education. These shared goals and collaborative efforts maintain positive relations with Ecuador.

Preventing Bribery and Corruption

One specific way that the U.S. and Ecuador plan to update and strengthen trade regulations, as outlined in the press release for the updated Trade and Investment Council, is through preventing corruption. The U.S. and Ecuador plan on drafting regulations to fight against bribery. Financial statements and all monetary records are to be kept current and checked. Both countries will also promote a culture of integrity where the government provides training for border patrol officers to develop honesty and transparency.

Updated Regulations on SMEs

S.Res.22 also aims to affect regulations surrounding small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The U.S. and Ecuador will rely heavily on incubators and accelerators to encourage the success of businesses at the start-up stage. SMEs play a large and significant role in the Ecuadorian economy in that they take up a large portion of the country’s GDP.

The U.S. benefits from a long-term, positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Ecuador. As countries, both have an interest in diplomacy, health and education, territorial integrity and sharing resources. These common goals have maintained positive relations with Ecuador. S.Res.22 seeks to further strengthen relations so that both countries may reap the benefits.

Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Pexels
Ethiopia is on the cusp of completing a development milestone. The United States’ $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be over 500 feet tall and generate more than three times the hydroelectric power created by the Hoover Dam. After its completion, it will be the largest dam in Africa and generate more power than any other dam on the African continent.

Wide-Reaching Benefits

The World Bank’s examinations of this project determined that millions of citizens will benefit from this Ethiopian development milestone. According to the World Bank, nearly 75 million individuals in Ethiopia — approximately 70 percent of the country’s population — lack access to reliable energy sources. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate an estimated 6450 MW of energy to civilians, improve infrastructure and ultimately lead to more modern job opportunities in the country.

Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity claims that the dam is not being built to control the flow of the Nile river politically; rather, it is being built to provide the country with energy development opportunities. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam serves as the flagship of many strides in Ethiopian economic development. Another notable recent achievement is the equitable public transit system in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa.

National Pride

Moreover, Ethiopians are taking great nationalist pride in the development milestone. The country emphasizes that it is paying for the dam itself, without any international help or investment. The country is funding the dam through intense taxation, selling of bonds and a lottery to incentivize citizen investment.

Accordingly, Ethiopia’s progress in The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has positive and negative effects for its downstream countries Sudan and Egypt, respectively.


Sudan expresses a positive view of the dam as it will reduce the amount of flooding farmers endure during particularly high flows of the Nile; the construction project will also contribute to reliable flows of water during the drier seasons. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam construction will also allow for cheaper electricity to be sold into Sudan as the dam is being built close to the Sudanese border.


Egypt on the other hand, is increasingly worried about the Ethiopian development milestone. Egypt is concerned that Ethiopia is placing controls on the Nile, which Egyptians have controlled for millennia. Egyptian officials also worry that Ethiopia now has a tap that could significantly reduce the flow of water into their country.

Egypt’s concerns are justified given that the country is subject to face water shortages as soon as 2025. Officials in Egypt explain that if water levels decrease in Egypt by just two percent, then the nation will lose 200,000 acres of viable farmland, which families depend on for subsistence crop growth.

Given that, the Geological Study of America explains that the Nile’s water levels could drop by 25 percent for up to 7 years as the dam’s reservoir in Ethiopia fills up. As a result, Egyptian officials worry that nearly 1 million of the 100 million people living in Egypt will suffer from changes in the Nile’s water flow.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

At this point, Ethiopia and Egypt are only in the early stages of negotiations as tension between the countries increases. Overall, Ethiopia is not going to stop development of the dam; as a result, diplomacy and collaboration are the only means of solving the contentious issues and preventing a water war between Northeastern and East Africa.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid Package to Cuba
“The changes in Cuba are for more socialism,” reads a sign in Havana. As relations between the United States and Cuba become warmer, this statement reflects how the U.S. aid package to Cuba should strive to protect its notable accomplishments in human development.

An improved U.S. aid package to Cuba is essential, and with it must come certain qualifications and stipulations that benefit both the U.S. and Cuba.

But what exactly should Americans look for in the next set of policy changes toward the island nation? Here are three attributes to support for an improved U.S. aid package to Cuba.

1. Lifting restrictions on U.S.-backed NGOs

It is true that Cuba boasts one of the lowest rates of extreme poverty in the world—1.5 percent in 2006. But despite this achievement, the island still suffers from food insecurity.

With an average monthly income of $20, even a typical Cuban government employee cannot afford meat daily. Milk, cheese or ice cream are reserved as weekly treats, and an aging population means that Cuba will struggle to meet more specific nutritional requirements in the future.

Yet many NGOs, especially those from Europe, must bypass subsidiaries in the United States and look elsewhere for funding. Major funding partners such as the World Bank, IMF and Inter-American Development Bank are blocked due to American veto powers in these institutions. These restrictions limit capacity-building in the agricultural sector.

In the words of one Cuban teacher, this is all too clear: “People want to leave Cuba just because they are hungry.”

2. Funding for Collective Enterprise

Cubans love to share, and one of the ways the island recovered from the fall of the Soviet Union was through its collective (public-private) business. In fact, the number of small to medium-sized firms has grown to roughly half a million since Raul Castro took office.

Raul has also implemented other changes. Private and hybrid firms can now sell services to each other and to government entities. New credit lines are being issued with unlimited ceilings, and decreases in the value of welfare and food subsidies are motivating Cubans to try entrepreneurship.

For instance, at Bella II Beauty in Havana, one esthetician is now making $42 per month instead of the $14 while under government control. Her business is one such worker cooperative.

“The inspector would come and the products that weren’t from here,” she says, “I had to hide them.”

Under the collective business model, workers can now streamline operations to increase profits, with each having say in their decision-making.

To add to this, the Cuban government is cutting back on expenses, as its banks are unable to provide more than $40 in loans to individual citizens. The Brookings Institution estimates that over 500,000 civil service jobs will be terminated in coming years to halt the bloating of public sector employment.

An improved U.S. aid package to Cuba would, therefore, support economic cooperatives with training, technical expertise, and financial resources to continue their growth.

3. Support for the Housing Sector

Every three days in Havana, at least two buildings collapse on average. This statistic sums up the state of Cuban housing: a cramped, expensive and decaying affair.

Over 85 percent of Cubans own their homes thanks to transfer measures that turned renters into owners during the revolution. But there are 11.2 million residents living in 3.9 million homes. This means that Cubans often live with not only their partners, but also their parents and grandparents.

Government estimates indicate that more than 500,000 additional housing units are required to meet demand, but construction is lagging. In order to reach that goal within eight years, the government would need to build 70,000 units per year, compared to its current yield of 16,000.

This is another opportunity for NGOs to offer properly trained labor and grants, especially since mortgages are illegal in Cuba to prevent real-estate speculation. In the words of prize-winning jurist Rodolfo Fernandez, “Housing is for living in, not for making a living from.”

An improved U.S. aid package to Cuba would preserve these unique advances by finding a middle ground between full-fledged capitalism and the more regulated (think: France) vision held by the island’s citizens.

Alfredo Cumerma

Photo: Pixabay

The U.S. developed the Global Health Security Agenda to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats. The goal is to stop outbreaks from ever becoming epidemics. Today’s biological threats include the emergence of new microbes, spread through globalization, drug resistance diseases, accidental release and illicit usage of disease. The latest challenges with Ebola prompted the U.S. to increase funding and aid for the Global Health Security Agenda.

One billion dollars have been donated to expand resources to allow countries to deal with biological threats on their own. Investment is desperately needed in the areas of infrastructure, equipment and skilled personnel. The radar includes 17 countries, bringing the total amount of countries to receive aid to at least 60. Countries in Asia and the Middle East to receive the money include Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Africa will be the main source of attention, with about half of the money being invested there. The money will contribute to improving or creating systems that prevent and mitigate outbreaks–whether they be intentional or natural–that report outbreaks, and that can respond to outbreaks. To accomplish these goals, the U.S. works directly with partner countries’ governments to create a five year plan.

Another part of the Security Agenda is to build African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The African Union stands behind these projects to help promote disease science and research in Africa. There will also be country specific Public Health Initiatives to boost specific countries health agendas and departments.

The one billion dollar investment will aid reaching the health targets set by the World Health Organization and the UN. The Security Agenda works within the global health frameworks to ensure that there is understanding across sectors and countries.

Katherine Hewitt

Sources:, The White House 1, The White House 2
Photo: GEN


The Philippines is the most exposed large country in the world to tropical cyclones. The storms have shaped settlement patterns in the northern islands for centuries and have killed thousands of people, wreaking havoc on rural communities already mired in poverty. A simple yet effective new flood warning system is already saving lives.

In November 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Philippine Partnership for Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas, launched the Agusan Marsh Climate Change Adaptation Project to help 61 villages, including La Flora, increase their resiliency to climate change.

The Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in the Philippines, roughly the size of metro Manila and home to approximately 120,000 people, 80 percent of which belong to the indigenous Manobo tribe. The tribe is dependent on the regions numerous large lakes, forests and rice paddies, which are all essential to the tribe’s way of life. The region’s features are necessary for fishing, farming and wood gathering, however, they also make the land extremely susceptible to flooding. Although its inhabitants are fully aware of the dangers, the rains have increased over the years and the storms that bring them have become more frequent.

Villagers settled along the marshes in stilted homes and floating communities are acutely aware of the flooding that occurs. However, as climate change is fiercely debated but not felt in the largest carbon producers of the world, the problem hits very close to home in the Philippines, with storms intensifying and recurrent flooding destroying lives.

According to USAID, the Agusan Marsh Climate Change Adaptation Project, in addition to educating villagers about adapting farming techniques to environmental changes, has also developed hazard maps using geographic information systems and flood early warning systems. Outreach campaigns taught families how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

In La Flora, USAID introduced a simple flood warning system consisting of color codes painted on houses designed to be easily understood by the whole population, spreading the message about flood severity and evacuation.

The system works using colors. The colors act as watermarks: yellow suggests monitoring weather, orange indicates pre-evacuation measures and red represents full evacuation.

In 2014, the warning system proved valuable when a tropical depression storm swept through the area devastating half a million people. In La Flora, residents adhered to the warning system and although water reached 24 feet almost submerging even the tallest buildings, the entire village of 1,120 survived.

As climate change intensifies and the flood waters rise, with the help of USAID and its partners, those affected most—the indigenous cultures of the low lying islands and marshes—will be more prepared and adaptive to the disasters that will inevitably come.

– Jason Zimmerman

Sources: USAID, United Nations Development Programme,
Photo: Telegraph


history of diplomacy
Diplomacy is a crucial aspect to the success of any modern society, and it has existed since the inception of even the earliest civilizations. But the political activity and history of diplomacy go beyond harboring friendships abroad; diplomacy is used as a pathway to negotiate and exchange ideas, strategies and goods. In an increasingly globalized world, it is easy to see why diplomacy has become such a fundamental aspect of governments around the world.

What began as sending high-ranking officials to foreign entities via ship or horse-drawn carriage has turned into the existence of thousands of permanent embassies worldwide. In the times of ancient Greece and Rome, diplomats were often sent to negotiate issues related to war, peace and commercial tactics. Today, however, diplomats remain in designated countries in order to constantly negotiate issues of peacekeeping, trade, environment and human rights.

In the United States, the history of diplomacy stretches back to the revolutionary period, during which figures like Thomas Jefferson maintained a great legacy by serving as the Minister to France from 1785 to 1789 and as the first Secretary of State from 1790 to 1793. America’s diplomatic relationships during this period were essential, as they gained the U.S. the credibility that it needed coming out of the American Revolution.

While government officials were responsible for maintaining diplomatic relations around the world in the post-revolutionary period, the Constitution was interpreted in such a way that using the taxpayers’ dollars for foreign aid was disallowed. Since then, however, foreign aid has been adopted and convincingly used as a political tool that brings great results to the U.S.

Today, partly as a result of Jefferson’s early diplomatic successes, there are only a small handful of nations with which the U.S. has no relations. At the same time, there has been a ton of political contention over what the focus of U.S. foreign policy should be. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio stated in a speech last year his belief that diplomacy and foreign aid should be the backbone of American foreign policy rather than the precedential focus on military intervention.

Each year, the U.S. doles out approximately $50 billion to foreign aid, with roughly a third of that money going into training, supplying and aiding foreign militaries. If the government pulled just half of this foreign military assistance budget and allocated it to USAID–about $10 billion–clean water could be provided to the world’s entire population.

That $10 billion is half of what the U.S. spends on pet food each year. One-tenth of what Europe spends on alcohol. Solving the issue of global poverty is not a matter of money; it is a matter of priority.

It was said in the U.S. State Department’s 2014 budget proposal, which was approximately $48 billion, that “deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow.” As bipartisan an issue as it may be, being on the same page about American diplomatic efforts can shift a lot of focus toward the foreign aid necessary to maintain everyone’s best interest, solving the poverty that is plaguing billions around the world.

Conner Goldstein

Sources: U.S. Office of the Historian, Huffington Post, NY Times, U.S. Department of State
Photo: NPS

u.s.-africa leaders summit
From August 4 to August 6, the White House is hosting the first ever United States-Africa Leaders Summit. During the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama aims to strengthen ties with Africa’s leaders and engage in conversation on investing in the future of the continent.

The summit, hosts 50 African leaders in good standing with the U.S. and is focused on trade and investment in Africa. They are also discussing food security, availability of clean water and sustainable housing.

With the continent in the midst of a serious Ebola outbreak, some gears may be shifted toward providing reliable healthcare facilities to the millions who suffer from health problems due to impoverished conditions throughout rural Africa.

Healthcare is a hopeful topic of discussion for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, as the healthcare inequality gap proliferates in both countries. In South Africa, healthcare for the impoverished is increasingly difficult to attain, as no one seems to be making the initial investment to build a hospital where effective healthcare can be provided on a public scale.

Another significant highlight of the summit is climate change. Africa’s rural agriculture relies on the rain. In recent years, Africa has suffered from harsher and more frequent environmental changes, and so Obama has opened a dialogue on implementing sturdier agricultural infrastructure to positively impact food security among African nations.

This has big implications for Africa’s impoverished population, as 65 percent of the entire continent relies on agriculture as their source of livelihood. If environmental conditions can be dealt with more productively, agricultural output will increase. This will have real and beneficial effects on conditions by raising wages and lowering the price of food. Thus, Africa’s impoverished population will have greater buying power.

Obama is also hopeful that his discussions on trading partnerships will have a positive impact on job markets in Africa. In doing this, African companies will be seeking foreign investment and will prove that the continent has more to offer than just commodities and natural resources. If significant investment is secured, many tangible benefits will be brought back to American soil, as these companies will be capable of expanding the economy and beginning to employ Africa’s promising youth.

All in all, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit has a lot of potential for aiding Africa’s population.

Conner Goldstein

Sources: UCSF,, The World Bank, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

On June 7, GAP Inc. announced its partnership with USAID to invest in the growth of Burma. The signing ceremony was joined by U.S. Ambassador to Burma, Derek J. Mitchell, and USAID/Burma Mission Director, Chris Milligan.

GAP outlined plans to produce at two factories in Rangoon. By doing so, it will become the first American store to compete in the Burma market. USAID will support GAP Inc. in laying the groundwork for providing growth and economic opportunities.

The partnership is anticipated to provide economic opportunities for women in Burma.

GAP Inc. is in a good position to supply many jobs and opportunities for Burma. They will apply practices such as audits by a reliable non-government organization and make sure that human rights and labor standards are maintained in the factories. This is consistent with GAP Inc.’s attempts to better global working conditions.

GAP Inc. will provide its women’s advancement program, P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement), in the factories in Burma by the end of 2014.

Established in 2007, P.A.C.E., an award-winning program, pursues encouraging female garment workers by providing “life skills education and technical training to help them become more successful both personally and professionally.” GAP Inc. will also collaborate with Indiana University and Hewlett-Packard to cultivate their P.A.C.E. program.

GAP Inc. will disclose any information about its practices in Burma as a part of their pledge to be transparent.

“This is a historic moment for Burma and we are committed to working with the U.S. government and local government alongside local and international NGOs, to help create the economic opportunities that the citizens of Burma so richly deserve. By entering Burma, we hope to help accelerate economic and social growth in the country, and build on our track record of improving working conditions and building local capacity in garment factories around the world,” said Wilma Wallace, Vice President, Global Responsibility, Business and Human Rights, GAP Inc.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Retail Business Review, The Wall Street Transcript
Photo: Asia Foundation

Foreign Aid Dollar
Public opinion about U.S. foreign assistance has remained unchanged for many decades. It is still not unusual for people to choose foreign aid when it comes to deciding where to cut funding to reduce the national deficit.

For decades, pollsters continue to show us how most people think that foreign aid accounts for over 20 percent of the federal budget. In fact, foreign aid accounts for only 1 percent of the federal budget. What is more, of that 1 percent, only half is dedicated to helping the world’s poor.

Despite the limited amount of foreign aid, and the fact that it is always in danger of being cut further, there are several ways in which we can make our foreign aid dollars count. Here are 10 ways to make every foreign aid dollar count; some of which are already being put in practice.

1. Engage recipients of foreign aid as part of the solution.

Instead of treating people in foreign countries as “passive recipients” of money and food, it has been demonstrated that it is much more productive to include them in the process of formulating and implementing poverty reduction initiatives.

2. Transfer some of the responsibilities to local authorities.

Following up with the previous point, another way of engaging with aid recipients is to delegate some of the work to local authorities. Involving local authorities in the design and implementation of aid policies promises to create better results.

3. Use technological advances to improve data management.

Putting to work the many tools available is crucial for gathering data and monitoring the achievements of each aid program. For instance, the State Department launched a website called “dashboard” where all foreign aid programs can be monitored.

4. Create new partnerships and strengthen existing ones with private businesses.

Partnering with businesses and nonprofit organizations provides additional funding sources that helps leverage the small amount dedicated to foreign assistance by the federal government.

5. No private without public.

At the same time, it is imperative not to deviate too much from public funding sources. In the last decade there has been a growing notion that private organizations can gather enough funding for foreign aid. However, according to Paul Farmer, no intervention can be brought to a scale large enough to make a difference without some input from the state.

6. Do independent scientific research.

This is another tool to determine what really works and what does not. More importantly, it is a means to disaggregate politically motivated foreign programs from the ones that would create a real impact on poverty alleviation.

7. Centralize data for better monitoring of aid programs.

Creating an integral database for foreign aid helps identify redundant programs, eliminating waste. In addition, it is an effective way to determine goal-based foreign assistance and monitor the achievements accordingly.

8. Move away from one-size-fits all policies.

In countries with relatively stable governments, it makes sense to implement programs that rely on “country ownership” and more “participatory processes.” However, this might not be possible in countries with governance and corruption issues.

9. Tie aid to goals with measurable results.

This way both donors and recipients can be held more accountable for specific achievements. This will require moving away from generalized goals toward specifying the particular quality and scope for each program.

10. Reassess the way in which foreign aid is allocated based on risk factors.

This last point speaks directly to reassessing expectation. It is important to be realistic when it comes to foreign assistance. Under the best circumstances, there are still many factors that can hinder the progress made in poverty reduction programs. However, studying the risk involved in each case specifically can be a way to improve the chances of success.

There is no single answer to development and poverty alleviation. Foreign aid can be a lengthy and risky business. But using the tools at our disposal and learning from past experience is still a good way to achieve a growing number of successes.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Politix, Foreign Affairs
Photo: The Economist

Africa Rising
This past May, the International Monetary Fund met with Governors and Finance Ministers of Sub-Saharan African nations to assess progress in the region over the last two decades and anticipate challenges for future growth.

Sub-Saharan Africa is considered one of the fastest growing regions on Earth. Last year,  after a recalculation of its gross domestic product, Nigeria surpassed South Africa as the largest economy on the continent, and placed it on par with the economies of Poland and Belgium as the 24th largest economy in the world.

Many countries in the region have benefited from strong economic performance, stronger institutions and higher investment in human and physical capital. However, job creation is low and there are large infrastructure gaps.

Even in Nigeria, per capita income is a low $3,000.

Leaders at the Africa Rising meeting in Maputo, Mozambique discussed ways to solve these issues and ensure that the growth the continent has seen in the past continues into the future. Policies will focus on job creation and diversification, and on correcting the income inequality that accompanied recent economic progress.

Those who attended the Maputo Joint Declaration also agreed on the need for a two-part system of transformation. The first of these is the creation of a strong private sector to create jobs; the second is investment in infrastructure with a focus on transportation and energy.

It is estimated that $90 billion a year is needed to close the current infrastructure gap across the continent.

“Sub-Saharan Africa will need to redouble efforts to harness the opportunities offered by its abundant natural resources and ensure that their fruits are equitably shared,” said Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director.

Despite recent growth, conflict still plagues sub-Saharan Africa, preventing further progress. The activities of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the crisis in South Sudan and a possible recession in South Africa all threaten years of development.

To maintain developmental progress, attendees of the summit agreed that economic policies should be flexible and tailored to each country, especially in the face of conflict. Leaders also expressed appreciation for the assistance of the International Monetary Fund and hoped for continued support in times of need.

The growth of African nations in recent years has allowed them to tap into the sovereign debt market for the first time.

Lagarde said national leaders must be warned of the dangers of racking up too much debt. The International Monetary Fund predicts that debt for sub-Saharan African countries will hide 35 percent of GDP in 2014.

“That is additional financing, but that is an additional vulnerability,” Lagarde said.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that fiscal deficits in the region will be 3.3 percent of the GDP this year. But in its biannual report, the International Monetary Fund also predicted economic growth of 5.4 percent, up from 4.9 percent last year.

It appears that Africa is indeed rising, and if it can withstand internal challenges and global shocks as it continues to grow, the world may also see a reduction in the extreme poverty situation that affects so many of its citizens.

– Kristen Bezner


Sources: Financial Times, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, IMF
Photo: Vacations and Travel