Fighting Corruption in the Northern TriangleThe Northern Triangle, consisting of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, is home to some of the highest levels of political and economic instability in the world. The nations of the Triangle (Or NTCA, Northern Triangle of Central America) are characterized by high rates of poverty and gang violence. Subsequently, this is exacerbated by rampant corruption, from local to national levels. This instability, along with the hazards of living in a poverty-stricken region, has led to an increase in the outflow of migrants from the Northern Triangle into the United States.

Nevertheless, things are getting better. With the Northern Triangle having received more international attention in recent years and immigration issues leading American political discourse, the underlying problems of the region are coming to light. Some U.S. and United Nations’ programs are successfully circumventing government channels to provide aid directly. However, other initiatives are attacking the problem of corruption at its source. Fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle requires a longterm method addressing the economic insolvency of these countries. Here are five ways the world is fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle.

5 Ways the World Is Fighting Corruption in the Northern Triangle

  1. Guatemala and the CICIG
    Guatemala hosts one of the most effective and successful anti-corruption NGOs in the region. The U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity (known as CICIG, per its Spanish initials) was implemented in the early 2000s to address the rampant corruption sprouting up in the wake of Guatemala’s civil war. The commissioner, Iván Velásquez, is a distinguished veteran of Colombia’s criminal justice system, where he worked to expose links between paramilitary groups and public officials—an identical background to the types of corrupt practices that burden Guatemala’s public sector.
  2. Identifying Criminal Ties to Government Officials in the NTCA
    In a list released in early May 2019, the U.S. Department of State has named over 50 senior government officials in the NTCA as guilty of corruption. This list includes officials in the orbit of all three countries’ presidents, some of whom are direct relatives. Representative Norma Torres (D-CA) noted that the release of the list was a step in the right direction, forward progress for the Trump administration recognizing the severity of corruption in the Northern Triangle. While many of the anti-corruption bodies operating in the NTCA need international backing to be as effective as possible, the State Department’s list indicates the U.S. has not completely voided its assumed role as stabilizer in the Western Hemisphere.
  3. Slow but Steady Progress in El Salvador
    Like the rest of the NTCA, El Salvador ranks low in global measures of corruption and impunity for government officials. However, the country’s most recent attorney general, Douglas Melendez, made it his mission to attack the systemic and embedded corruption permeating the government. While he was recently forced out of office by the national legislature, Melendez successfully prosecuted three former presidents and his own predecessor as attorney general. His failure to secure reappointment reflects both El Salvador’s closed-door (and thus inherently political) process of selecting an attorney general, and a backlash of the country’s political elite against his progress fighting corruption.
  4. Experts Discuss Corruption and Human Rights in the NTCA
    In May 2019, a panel of experts led by the nonprofit, Inter-American Dialogue, discussed the current initiatives fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle, and how they could benefit from expanding their focus to include human rights. Guatemala’s CICIG was brought up, as was the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). A major point of emphasis was the commonalities across all three countries, specifically the way in which corrupt kleptocratic networks are indirectly committing human rights violation by embezzling money earmarked for public services. The discussion lauded the work of CICIG and MACCIH in Guatemala and Honduras, respectively, and emphasized the need for a similar external agency in El Salvador.
  5. MACCIH Brings its Twelfth Major Case to Court in Honduras
    The Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) has been operating since April 2016, presumably inspired by the success of CICIG in Guatemala. Unlike CICIG, which is a U.N.-backed Commission, MACCIH is organized by the Organization of American States, an international charter that was created in the late 1800s. Through the OAS, MACCIH can share investigation data with other member states, which is particularly effective when investigating transnational organization—namely, drug cartels. In May 2019, MACCIH brought forward its twelfth integrated case, this time addressing a federal-level scheme to launder millions in cartel money.

Fighting corruption in the Northern Triangle is not linear. Pushback from political and business elites has been a significant problem both for MACCIH in Honduras and for El Salvador’s nascent anti-impunity work. This is to be expected of any anticorruption initiative, however, as it deals with the removal of power and resources from officials that abuse them. Flagging programs within the member states of the Northern Triangle only emphasize the need for robust foreign support, which the U.S. continues to provide.

Rob Sprankle
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migration of peopleDr. Ermitte Saint Jacques is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Florida. Her primary focus is the transnational migration of people and globalization. Dr. Jacques sat down with the Borgen Project to discuss the state of the migration of people and some of the misconceptions that follow in their paths.

Limited Economic Opportunities

Dr. Ermitte Saint Jacques has found in her research that the migration of people provides benefits for both the migrants and the countries involved. “Many people migrate for a livelihood,” said Dr. Jacques. “If people can’t seek a livelihood in their own country, they travel abroad.” Migration enables people to maximize their opportunities. When prospects aren’t working out in one country, they have the capability to go to the next.

Many migrants return to their home countries after finding successful jobs; it’s often seasonal and not permanent. For example, in 2017, 4.4 million people immigrated to a country within the European Union. Of that, two million migrants were from non-EU countries. However, more than three million reported leaving the EU that same year. As of Jan. 1, 2017, non-EU immigrants made up only 4.2 percent of the EU population.

Supply and Demand

Businesses demand the need for workers, and migrants fulfill some of these demands. “It’s important to recognize the contribution immigrants have,” said Dr. Jacques. “Some immigrants come to open businesses, some come to be laborers.” Often, those who are here as laborers, fulfill an important function that might otherwise go unfilled. Many misconceptions about laborers revolve around them taking important jobs from citizens or living off of government aid.

“We need to push back against the rhetoric of migrants coming to steal work, get on welfare, etc.,” said Dr. Jacques. “Everything can cross borders except people, and that’s very problematic. Mobility for people is a problem.” Dr. Jacques hopes more countries will follow suit with the European Union’s policy on open borders and the Schengen Agreement. Signed in 1985, the Schengen Agreement eliminates internal borders to enable migrants to travel freely among countries in search of economic opportunities. Only four of the 26 members of the Schengen Agreement are not part of the EU.

Poverty and Migration

Poverty poses a problem in that it hinders many people’s ability to migrate because they simply don’t have the funds to leave. So, impoverished people often lack the opportunities that migration offers. People who don’t have the resources to migrate either need a social network that can provide access to the ability to migrate or they must enter a cyclical travel and work pattern. They travel as far as they can and work for a bit before traveling again until they finally end up where they want to be.

“We are not talking about people fleeing turmoil or fearing for their life,” said Dr. Jacques. “They are not refugees or seeking asylum. They are typically economic migrants seeking work.” Migrants are different than immigrants. Immigrants move from one country to another to live; whereas migrants typically move from one country to another for economic reasons, and often, the move is temporary.

People emerge from poverty by seeking better opportunities elsewhere, and migration enables them to do so. It is an investment for those who are struggling. “Migration is necessary for people to escape from the horrendous cycle of poverty and finally be able to maintain a livelihood,” said Dr. Jacques. The more people understand about the migration of people, the easier it will be to dispell the misconceptions.

Jodie Filenius

Photo: Flickr

Development Through Economic StabilityThe U.S. currently sends more than half of its exports to developing countries. Supporting development through economic stability in these nations, as well as at home, has become crucial.  With more of these exports going to developing countries, supporting economic development in these struggling areas is symbiotic, as reducing poverty creates opportunities for all.

Fostering development and reducing poverty in these countries can go hand-in-hand with supporting business domestically. Thus, the action both in the U.S. business and political communities has begun.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce staunchly supports an international affairs budget known as the “Function 150” account. This account, representing less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget, funds diplomatic advocacy for policies that open markets to foreign and U.S. business.

The Effect Of International Aid

This form of aid works to stabilize foreign economies through trade. It allows the U.S. to provide not only funding for global development, but also an incorporation of these developing countries into the U.S. market.

By relying more on the U.N. and NGOs for health, education and humanitarian programs, USAID can focus on multilateral development banks to foster structural economic programs. Diplomatic support for these programs in developing nations, which consume more than 50 percent of U.S. exports, will help sustain the U.S. economy as well as stabilize struggling foreign economies.

Economic stability is a vital piece of the development and sustainability agenda that Congress has been putting into place for years now. Although it is not the only solution, funding international economic stability can reduce poverty by promoting business and providing jobs both internationally and domestically.

The Plan For The Future

On March 13, 2017, an executive order for a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing gave the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 360 days to present a plan to the president.

By June 30, all federal agencies were to submit a drafted plan to the OMB and by the fall to include such plans in their 2019 budget submissions.

A reorganization of the national budget allows for the creation of an independent cabinet-level department for the international budget that would emphasize multilateral development banks as one of the vital aspects of international sustainable development. This department would allow funding to be allocated in whatever direction the donor wanted.

By supporting development through domestic and international reform and reorganization can not only promote global economic and trade opportunities, but also reduce poverty through economic business trade. It is the promotion of development through economic stability.

Tucker Hallowell
Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan Is PoorDespite an influx of international aid, 39 percent of Afghans live in poverty, and this number is increasing. A shocking 1.3 million more people are poor in Afghanistan today than in 2012. Why is Afghanistan poor? The country has experienced conflict since the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. Political transitions within the country also cause insecurity. Most households in Afghanistan are not established enough to cope with economic shocks or natural disasters. About 20 percent of Afghans live just above the poverty line and slight economic shocks could drive them into poverty.

One answer to the question ‘why is Afghanistan poor?’ is that the economy is too small for the growing labor force. Many workers are illiterate and looking for low skilled jobs, but there are not enough of these types of jobs. In 2016, Afghanistan’s GDP growth was 1.2 percent. While this was an increase, it is not enough to bring workers out of unemployment. Economists estimate that GDP growth needs to be eight percent to successfully employ the Afghan work force. Unfortunately, continuing conflict and insecurity within the country makes this growth unlikely.

Rural Afghanistan is poor due to its dependence on agriculture and informal labor markets. Low investments and natural disasters have hurt the agriculture market that most Afghans depend on for employment. Natural resources necessary for successful agriculture are lacking in Afghanistan. Compared to its population, there is little farmable land. Precipitation is scarce and there is insufficient irrigation infrastructure. In addition, the country has faced multiple debilitating droughts since 1999.

In rural areas, small-scale farmers and herders, landless people and women who are heads of households bear the largest burden of poverty. Women in Afghanistan face increased inequalities because they have less access to education and health services. A lack of skills or a medical condition can keep women out of the workforce. Widows account for a large population of the poor in Afghanistan. Due to fighting within the country, there may be over one million widows in Afghanistan. Most of these women have children to support. Unfortunately, the patriarchal society excludes them from many social and employment opportunities, so most become beggars.

Many countries and organizations have poured aid into the country. However, it does not seem to be helping. The inequality between the rich and poor in the country is increasing. Much of the aid went to build schools and hospitals, increase public services and repair infrastructure. While these human services are important, the agriculture sector continues to struggle, and rural households don’t have protection from economic shocks. In addition, the government did not always distribute funds fairly throughout the country.

Why is Afghanistan poor? Afghanistan is poor due to continuing shocks to the country, and it is necessary to build programs to insulate households from economic instability.

– Sarah Denning
Photo: Flickr

Italy's Birth RateItaly’s birth rate has continued to drop, according to the most recent report from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT). This is the second year in a row that the national number of births has dipped to fewer than half a million. The birth rate is currently at 473,438.

In 2015, the country saw its fertility rate plunge to its lowest since the Italian modern state was formed in 1861. The national average birth rate of 1.35 children per woman is significantly less than the average for women across the European Union at 1.58.

Political analysts have cited the spikes in poverty and unemployment rates among the youth as possible factors that may have spurred the decline of Italy’s birth rate. Even though the birth rate has been steadily decreasing since its peak during the 1960s, it has fallen significantly years after the 2008 global financial crisis. From 2008 to 2013, Italy passed through its longest and deepest economic recession; as an effect, the national unemployment rate grew from 5.7 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014.

The aftershocks of the recession hit young Italians the hardest. As the country starts its path towards economic recovery with increasing in small increments of the GDP and a gradual decrease in the unemployment rate, Italy’s youth fall deeper into poverty. A 2017 report from Caritas, an Italian Catholic organization focused on social development in the country, reveals that one out of 10 young Italians are now poor, a stark contrast from the two percent poverty rate in 2007. Moreover, close to one of five young Italians are neither employed nor in the workforce, almost double the EU average at 11.5 percent. Youth unemployment, consistently high since the economic downturn in 2008, is still at 37.8 percent, the third-highest in the European Union.

The youth who are more fortunate to be employed, often either have irregular contracts or earn significantly less than their older colleagues. According to the Employment and Social Developments in Europe (EDSE) review published by the European Union (2017), 15 percent of Italian employees aged 25 to 39 have irregular contractual work, while workers aged under 30 earn 60 percent less than workers over 60.

The lack of financial security has had a marked impact on Italy’s youth, who with the uncertainty in the job market have opted to stay home until they are financially and professionally stable. Italians now leave home and have their first child at the age of 31 or 32, five years after the average European.

Members of the Italian government have recognized the interrelation between the decline in Italy’s birth rate and the increase in poverty and unemployment rates among Italy’s youth. “[With] no guarantee of income for citizens, most will not think about starting a family,” Italian health minister Beatrice Lorenzin said in 2016. Young Italians, suffering from the lowest wages in Europe and rising poverty rates, seem to know better than burdening themselves with trying to provide for dependents with their meager incomes.

Bella Suansing

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Peru
With about eight million people living in some form of poverty, Peru can be considered an impoverished country. While poverty can be found throughout the nation, most of the people who live in extreme poverty reside in rural areas. Poverty exists throughout the world as a result of many different reasons. Here are three broad, but influential, causes of poverty in Peru:

Natural disasters
Being located in a seismic zone, Peru is constantly being hit with earthquakes. Besides earthquakes, Peruvians also suffer from a large number of floods, landslides and droughts. All of these natural disasters have different ways of impacting the country’s people. With Peru’s environment being altered by nature, agriculture can be slowed down as a result, therefore hurting the country’s economy and the people’s food security. The damage that natural disasters leave on houses and cities also tends to hurt the economy, since more money has to go to repairs.

The divide between the rich and the poor
In Peru, there is a wall dividing the country’s rich and poor–literally. The capital of Lima is divided into two parts: the poor and the wealthy. The wealthy are so serious about keeping their side inhabited by the rich that they require one to show an identification card to be able to enter. According to Business Insider, a wealth gap between the rich and poor is not beneficial to the economy. With an extreme divide like the one in Lima, the poor will most likely remain poor since the very people that could help them are practically secluded.

Inequality faced by women
Peruvian women make 30 percent less than men in the workplace. They are also subject t0 sexual violence and murder. In an attempt to achieve equality, women have partaken in marches to advocate for their rights. If women are treated better and given more opportunities, they will have more to offer financially and would essentially be able to provide for themselves and their families to a better extent.

Despite all of these causes of poverty in Peru, there have been some advancements. Overall poverty in the country decreased 1.1 percent from 2015 to 2016. Hopefully, Peru will continue to address poverty, as well as eliminate some of the causes.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr