Education in Mexico
One of the most fundamental features of poverty and inequality in Mexico comes in the form of educational corruption. Despite its size and economic power, Mexico’s education system is rampant with inequality and inefficiency: according to recent rankings in 2018, among OECD countries, Mexico’s national higher education system ranked a mere 46 out of 50. As a result, education reform in Mexico has reemerged as a major focus of national politics in recent years.

The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO, has highlighted education reform in the country’s 2018 general elections. Although AMLO and his MORENA party had promised to bring about seismic change and reform to Mexico’s public education system, ongoing corruption and the country’s experience with the COVID-19 pandemic may halt any hope of bringing change to this important issue.

Nieto’s 2013 Reform Plan

The contemporary debate over education reform in Mexico dates back to the beginning of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency in 2012. During the campaign, Nieto had promised to tackle the deep-rooted corruption in Mexico’s national teacher’s union. The national teacher’s union in Mexico is the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, or SNTE, an organization ubiquitous in the country for its kickbacks, bribery, record manipulation and various other forms of corruption.

Nieto’s reform aimed to restructure the distribution of salaries and the overall payroll policies of the SNTE, which entered law soon after his ascendancy to the presidency. Primarily, the reform enforced performance-based criteria for hiring and salaries, with promotions and bonuses being based on students’ testing results. Furthermore, the reform has placed more control over school management and bureaucracy in the hands of the federal government instead of the SNTE.

Criticisms of Nieto’s Education Reform in Mexico

Nevertheless, a significant wing of the SNTE and Mexican teachers, in general, have found Nieto’s education reforms to be inadequate or outright malevolent. Even with a new performance-based structure, the issues of a bloated bureaucracy and unequal spending continued to be a significant issue.

Importantly, Nieto’s reform did not address the inequalities of the education system. Five years into Nieto’s education reform policy, many of the same differences in quality of instruction and schooling between Mexico’s rich and poor remained the same. According to Patricio Solís, a professor at the Center for Sociological Studies of the National Institute, young Mexicans in the highest income group have seven times greater access to higher education than those in the lowest income group.

Nieto’s popular mandate in fighting corruption in Mexico’s education system came to a sudden halt in 2016 when violent protests broke out between dissident teachers and Mexican police in the southwestern state of Oaxaca leaving six people dead. Many of these demonstrators were members of the SNTE who viewed Nieto’s education reform as inadequate; they criticized the redistribution of funding, the recently adopted merit-based philosophy for promotions and the arrest of several union leaders on charges of money laundering.

AMLO’s Reform in 2018

AMLO, Mexican’s first left-wing president of the 21st century, made discontent with Nieto’s educational reform a central tenet of his 2018 campaign. The 66-year-old often said on the campaign trail that Nieto had “turned education into a business.”

The scrapping of Nieto’s education reform under the new administration had two primary components; firstly, repealing the merit-based structuring to salaries and promotions which had come under fire from Mexican teachers and the public at large, and, secondly, expanding access to free higher education among the country’s most impoverished children. This latter part involved the construction of over 100 new public universities and the introduction of public scholarships for 300,000 students.

Nevertheless, many ordinary citizens and experts alike have criticized these new policies under AMLO. For example, Alexandra Zapata, director at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness in Mexico City, views the repeal of the merit-based system as a way for corruption to grow internally. She believes educational achievement criteria may be less trustworthy than under the previous system. Furthermore, much of the revenue for free higher education came at the expense of funding for early learning and primary care, resources that many rural and impoverished Mexican families desperately need. Zapata believes that the greatest efficiency for upward social mobility comes at the beginning of education, not at the university level. The question of to what extent this balance between earlier education and higher education can alleviate the issue of inequality in Mexican education can only be determined down the road.

COVID-19 and Education Reform

Like many other places around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown have created a paradigm-shifting challenge for public education in Mexico. Stay-at-home orders early in the spring shut down Mexican public schooling; the access to resources for learning at home, such as internet connection and computer hardware, has further exacerbated the educational and economic gap between Mexico’s richest and poorest.

However, some experts view the chaos stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to kickstart real, lasting reform in Mexico’s public education system. Julia Coyoli, a Ph.D. candidate from Harvard focusing on educational reform in Latin America, believes that home-schooling and remote learning will shine a public light on the underlying inequities in the country’s public education system. Once these blatant injustices come into the light, it should force the Mexican government to take more of a stand-in specifically targeting low-income students’ education.

Jason Beck
Photo: Flickr

Election in BurundiAmid a global pandemic, Burundi is on the brink of its first democratic transfer of power in its 58 years of independence. The country’s Constitutional Court will announce the official winner of the May 20 election on June 4, but the Burundi election commission has already declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, the candidate of the governing party, the winner. The commission has declared that Ndayishimiye won 68.72% of the votes cast, while his main opponent, Agathon Rwasa, gathered 24.19%.

The historic May 20 vote for president engaged 87.7% of registered voters, who cast their ballots after the campaigns of seven presidential hopefuls. This high turnout is momentous considering the low road density in the landlocked country. Inaccessible roads make traveling to polling places difficult, with the poor state of infrastructure in the country making travel even more costly. Such costs may be difficult for Burundians to grapple with, given the country’s near total dependence on coffee subsistence farming, the production of which has declined in recent years.

Campaign Controversy

Leading up to the election in Burundi, the 2020 presidential campaigns were not without controversy. According to Human Rights Watch, the preceding year included more than 60 political killings and 200 arrests of perceived political opponents. Rwasa, a longtime leader of a Burundian rebel group and a candidate in the 2015 presidential race against the incumbent, called for profound change throughout the election. The spokesman for Rwasa’s party publicized the National Freedom Council’s boycott of the Burundi election commission’s announcement on the grounds of fraud and violence as the basis of Ndayishimiye’s win.

In addition to political controversy, the election in Burundi faced criticism for its call for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after the election, Burundi only had 42 cases of COVID-19, reporting just one death and 20 recoveries among these. However, the number of cases in the country doubled between May 17 and May 21, indicating that the election could have played a role in this increase.

Throughout the pandemic, Burundi has avoided imposing stringent restrictions in favor of advising its citizens to practice handwashing and to avoid mass gatherings, with the exception of campaign rallies. These rallies were one of the main platforms for information dissemination about candidates, as less than 2% of the country’s population has electricity in their homes, causing many Burundians to attend. The government’s one heavy-handed rule was imposed on foreign election observers, who were to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the country, a possible tactic to dissuade observers from attending the election in Burundi at all.

Violence Before the Vote

The election in 2020 comes on the heels of the tumultuous 2015 election in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid violated the Constitution of Burundi’s two-term limit, provoking riots that culminated in a thwarted coup attempt. This insurgency prompted a violent suppression of the Burundian people and Nkurunziza’s political opponents. In the five years since the election, increasing violence in Burundi has led to the deaths of at least 1,200 people and the emigration of tens of thousands. This turmoil forced financial supporters of the country to cut political and financial ties, further entrenching it as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic isolation has put extreme financial stress on the government of Burundi, a burden that the government has imposed on its citizenry in recent years. Beginning in 2017, the government began demanding “contributions,” which it employed in part to fund the 2020 election. This contribution system was officially ended in 2019, but independent groups like the Imbonerakure youth militia have since demanded tributes in its place, exploiting even the seven out of 10 Burundians who live below the poverty line.

These human rights and economic abuses ratcheted up the pressure and significance of the 2020 presidential election, yielding a huge voter turnout in support of reform.

A New Face

While the declared winner Ndayishimiye is the candidate of the ruling party that backed Nkurunziza in his violent and lengthy reign, many Burundians showed up to the polls in support of political change. The people are participating politically to end the violence that has gripped Burundi throughout its occupation by Belgium, which ended in 1962, and the ensuing battles between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. After the first democratic election in Burundi in 1993, the Hutu president was assassinated by a Tutsi-led group of political opponents and traitorous cabinet members.

Burundi has yet to maintain peace after a transfer of power. The country is looking to the results of this election to usher in a peaceful and democratic transition between presidents. Whether Ndayishimiye rules independently or under the influence of Nkurunziza, who has been declared the “supreme guide for patriotism” by the Parliament of Burundi, the Burundian people will be turning to their new government for leadership. In practical terms, this leadership could implement an electrification plan to bring electricity to more Burundian homes and a plan to diversify the economy away from subsistence coffee farming. Voters in the 2020 election in Burundi are seeking an end to forced contributions, insight into governmental spending, a window for economic growth and peace as Burundi moves through the pandemic and into the future.

Annie Iezzi
Photo: Flickr

Parliamentary System
Many nations around the world use a parliamentary system, a type of representative government that shapes the way the nation functions. While many know the U.S. for its presidential system, most European nations tend to use a parliamentary system, in which citizens vote for a specific party to allocate seats based on the vote percentages. Parliamentary systems are all around the world, each one with its own unique form and institutions. These unique characteristics shape the way countries run and develop. Here is some information about how a parliamentary system works.

Features of a Parliamentary System

The main characteristic of how a parliamentary system works is the “supremacy of the legislative branch,” which runs through a unicameral (one-chamber) or bicameral (two-chamber) parliament. The parliament consists of members who each represent the constituents. The legislative body votes for laws and the head of state can either sign a bill or return it to legislation, showing their agreement or disagreement with the bill. However, parliament can still override the head of state’s veto with a vote.

The Prime Minister leads the executive branch as the head of government. Often in a parliamentary system, the roles of the legislative branch and the executive branch are either “blurred or merged,” because the two branches do not exist to check each other’s power like in the presidential system of the U.S.

Many parliamentary systems also consist of a special constitutional court, which has the right to judicial review and may state a law as unconstitutional if it violates the law of the land or the constitution.

Political Parties, Elections and Voting

In a parliamentary system, the people do not choose the head of government or the Prime Minister. Instead, the members of the legislative branch choose their leader. Voters vote for the party that they want to represent them in parliament. Typically, the majority party chooses an individual to be the Prime Minister. The legislative branch also chooses members to be a part of the executive cabinet. When voting does not give a party a majority, parties tend to form coalitions.

In terms of the electoral system, most parliamentary systems use proportional representation. A proportional representation (PR) system creates a representative body that “reflects the overall distribution” of the voters for each party. It ensures that minority groups still have representation, but only so long as they participate in elections. A PR electoral system has two varieties, a party-list and a mixed-member PR.

Denmark is an example of a parliamentary system that incorporates PR into its electoral system. People know its parliament as the Folketing, and the PR system elects its members. Like the United Kingdom, Denmark is also a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government.

On the other hand, many countries use a plurality system, which places power in the hands of an individual from a strong party. Within a plurality system, there are different variations, such as a single-member district plurality system or first-past-the-post system, typically known as a “winner-take-all” system. In this system, voters vote for a candidate whose party they support and want to represent them. India, Canada and the United Kingdom are great examples of parliamentary systems that incorporate a plurality electoral system.

Canada is an example of a parliamentary system that incorporates a plurality electoral system. Canada has a unique governmental structure, as it follows the context of the British constitutional monarchy, despite the U.K. and Canada being two separate nations. Its parliament consists of members that receive election through a plurality system in each electoral district. The party that obtains the most votes wins the majority of seats in parliament.

Advantages of a Parliamentary System

The major advantage of how a parliamentary system works is the fact that it allows all parties, large and small, majority and minority, to receive representation and have a voice in the policy-making process. In a presidential system, all power of the executive branch goes into the hands of an individual of the majority party. This can ignore the minority groups, thus creating social and political tensions. The ability of a parliamentary system to form coalitions allows all parties, including the minorities, to have representation. As a result, it minimizes tensions that develop among societies.

– Krishna Panchal
Photo: Flickr

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan
Presidential candidate Julián Castro has introduced many policies that he would implement during his presidency revolving around protecting indigenous communities, policing and education reform. One of the most pressing policies that Castro proposed revolves around immigration. With a three-part plan, Julián Castro is attempting to create an immigration policy that focuses on reforming the system altogether. However, one of the more ambitious parts of the plan deals with something he has coined as a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan could be a major step in solving immigration issues in both the United States and Central America.

Meet Julián Castro

Castro is no stranger to the world of politics. At a young age, he watched his mother run for San Antonio’s city council as the first woman of Mexican descent to do so. He learned the values of hard work and dedication from both his mother and his grandmother, who was an immigrant from Mexico that started her family with a fourth-grade education and a job as a housekeeper.

However, Julián Castro’s political career did not start when he decided to run in the 2020 presidential election. At age 26, he entered the San Antonio city council. Not only did he make history as the youngest councilman elected in the city, but he began his path to public service that would result in him becoming mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and then the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Along the way, he even became the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

The Original Marshall Plan

In 1948, Europe had severly damaged infrastructure. World War II caused strain to Europe’s economies and disrupted agricultural production. To alleviate this issue, George C. Marshall created a plan to give roughly $15 billion to European countries. These countries used the money to rebuild cities and various economic industries for four years. In the process, these European countries and the U.S. created trade opportunities and development programs. The plan created substantial results across the continent. Industrial and agricultural production increased by over 37 percent and the overall balance of trade and economic stability improved as well.

The Marshall Plan differed from other aid programs during the time because it was a joint effort between many nations. The United States created the funding and programs that could benefit Europe, and the nations committed to implementing these programs. This plan benefitted Europe’s economic growth and reestablished the United States’ influence in the region after the war.

The Marshall Plan was also a way to test various programs concerning development and relief efforts. For example, the Economic Cooperation Administration’s model, designed to provide financial assistance to these European nations, was a model to create the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Overall, the 20th century Marshall Plan was a major step in development programs that helped Europe drastically.

A Plan for Central America

In an NPR podcast, Castro describes the importance of working to rebuild Central America for multiple reasons. For one, it helps create stronger relationships with the U.S.’s neighbors to the south. By creating an alliance with these countries, the U.S. can continue being an economic competitor with China, which is on track to pass the U.S. in becoming the largest economy in the world by 2030.

Along with the economic benefits of strengthening a region with potential trade partnership, the second major reason for assisting Central America is immigration issues. Castro states that “…if we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause…and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America.”

Central America is a region where large numbers leave to seek asylum from violence and corrupt governmental institutions. By 2015, nearly 3.4 million people born in Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) were living in the U.S., with over half being undocumented immigrants.

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan would firstly target some of the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle such as transnational criminal organizations and illicit networks. According to Castro, an increase in law enforcement programs would help eliminate criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking. Also, this plan would require a heavier focus on anti-corruption and government transparency practices. With the cooperation of leaders in Central America and the United States’ resources, the high rates of violence in the region can decrease and create safer environments and sustainable governments less susceptible to corruption.

His policy also provides more funding for programs designed to prevent violence at local levels, create jobs and support health and nutrition across Central America. By stimulating economic development through more sustainable jobs, it allows people to stay and grow their communities rather than leaving them to find better success in the United States.

The final major point that this candidate emphasizes is the importance of prioritizing diplomatic relations with Latin American countries. To ease the instability in this region, all nations have to become part of this plan. Cooperation between these nations and the United States will ultimately be the major stepping stone to creating safe and sustainable communities.

This major foreign policy proposal would only be one component of his push to tackle immigration, but his message stands clear throughout his campaign. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan intends to put people first, and for millions of people living in Central America, that is something they can begin hoping for in 2020.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

foreign policy platforms
As the United States approaches 2020, the fight amongst the democratic presidential candidates to secure the primary is heating up. The foreign policy platform of these candidates is an important consideration moving forward. Although there is still plenty of time, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have taken a significant lead. After the first round of debates, approximately 70 percent of polled voters favored one of these four candidates.

Here is what foreign policy would look like under Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden, the Vice President of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, has extensive experience with foreign policy, arguably the most out of any presidential candidate. His foreign policy platform focuses on foreign aid investment and diplomacy, which he believes will best achieve the goals of creating a stable global economy, promoting human rights and democracy and advancing the United States’ national security interests. During his time as Vice President, Biden helped create the Feed the Future initiative—a government-funded program to end global hunger and promote food security in order to encourage development in impoverished countries. Biden has also discussed the importance of investing foreign aid in Central America because, according to Biden, “the most significant and urgent challenges for the Western Hemisphere” relates to the poverty and violence that exists in Central America. For that reason, Biden wants to invest in Central America in order to promote security and stability. Since stability is one of Biden’s primary goals, Biden plans to host a global summit in his first year as President. His main goal for this summit would be to promote human rights and combat corruption. Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policy platform rests on the goal of bringing nations together to promote the values of democracy.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy goals revolve around promoting international cooperation in order to address global issues and promote universal interests. The main issue that Sanders has run on is addressing environmental issues. Sanders not only believes that the U.S. must significantly reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy, but also that the U.S. must assist the developing world in achieving environmental and economic sustainability. When discussing environmental initiatives, Sanders stated, “The United States should lead the international community in funding technology development and deployment solutions for the most vulnerable developing countries as part of any international agreement.” In addition to these environmental issues, Sanders has greatly committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of the developing world. For instance, Sanders helped write a letter to Obama in 2015 supporting the United Nations Population Fund—a multilateral fund that promotes family planning and reproductive health services in more than 150 countries. Additionally, Sanders has supported initiatives to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. He has also supported funding to combat AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis and opposed an initiative that would have reduced appropriations for foreign assistance programs. In short, Sanders’ foreign policy platform is based on the promotion of human solidarity.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running on the campaign, Diplomacy First. Warren plans to promote diplomacy by expanding the State Department, doubling the size of the foreign service and opening new diplomatic posts in under-served areas. Warren also plans to double the size of the Peace Corps in order to “[expose] young people to the world and [create] a direct employment pipeline to future government service.” Ultimately, Warren’s main foreign policy goal is to improve relationships with the rest of the world. She not only hopes to achieve this goal by increasing diplomacy but also by increasing foreign aid spending. For instance, Warren and other female senators advocated for increased humanitarian action in order to empower women and girls in Syria in 2015. That same year, Warren, like Sanders, helped draft a letter to former President Obama to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. More recently, Warren petitioned for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to address the Humanitarian Crisis occurring in Gaza and for President Trump to withhold cutting aid to Palestinian people. Overall, Warren’s motive for increasing foreign aid spending and promoting a greater role for the State Department is to reduce the United States’ reliance on military might in order to create allies with other countries and better address global concerns, such as cybersecurity and environmental issues.

Kamala Harris

Similar to Warren, Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform centers around diplomacy. Harris believes that smart diplomacy can advance the national interest and address global issues, such as terrorism, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, environmental issues and health threats like Ebola. Before becoming a Senator, Harris was the Attorney General of California. One of the main accomplishments Harris is campaigning on is her work to help terminate human trafficking rings and dismantle transnational criminal organizations in order to increase women’s safety and prevent drugs and guns from entering the country. Through this work, Harris has also strengthened relations with Mexico. However, compared to the other three candidates, Harris does not have considerable experience with foreign policy or diplomacy that goes beyond U.S.-Mexico relations. In fact, the initiatives that she has focused on in her campaign and on her campaign website are almost entirely domestic issues. Nevertheless, Harris has stated that as President, she would prioritize promoting female empowerment and creating lasting peace throughout the world.

Although each candidate’s foreign policy platform has a slightly different focus, all four candidates advocate for improved international relations through increased diplomacy and foreign aid spending. These foreign policies are in direct opposition to President Trump’s America First initiative that would reduce foreign aid spending and limit the role of the State Department. Although this foreign policy plan may seem to promote an America First mindset in the short term, diplomacy and strong allies are ultimately what is in the country’s best interest long term.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: PBS

Buttigieg's Foreign Policy
The youngest of the Democratic candidates running for office in the 2020 election, people widely know and consider candidate Pete Buttigieg for his professional and academic credentials. People commonly refer to Buttigieg as “Mayor Pete” due to his current occupation as South Bend, Indiana’s mayor, but he also speaks eight languages, including Norwegian, Maltese and Arabic. Buttigieg received his Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 2003, and soon after completed his postgraduate education as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. Between 2009 and 2017, he also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has also set him apart as a champion for foreign policy.

Following his speech at the University of Indiana, where he discussed his foreign policy with an emphasis on national security, TIME Magazine referred to Buttigieg as the potential “foreign policy candidate in 2020.” Notably, while most other presidential candidates have only vaguely touched upon their foreign agenda, Buttigieg’s foreign policy has made up a key aspect of his campaign.

Indeed, Buttigieg advocates for organization and forward-thinking; the country’s decisions today will lead the nation and the world in the decades of tomorrow. In his words, “we need a strategy… Not just to deal with individual threats, rivalries, and opportunities, but to manage global trends that will define the balance of this half-century in which my generation will live the majority of our lives.”

This article outlines three key aspects one should know about Pete Buttigieg’s Foreign Policy, with respect to potential effects on global poverty trends and the developing world.

End the Endless War

Buttigieg criticizes the post-9/11 legislation that allows the president to use what they deem necessary military force against any organization who assisted with the terrorist attacks. Specifically, he points out that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) needs major correcting. A former naval intelligence officer himself, he detailed that this blank check that deployed him to Afghanistan needs changing: troops should only enter into conflict with the government’s complete understanding of the issue at hand and the possible consequences of military involvement.

According to Buttigieg, promoting a government that brings power to Congress once again in taking votes on war and peace would ensure a more careful government in its military decisions. This would especially be the case when U.S. involvement concerns vulnerable and severely impoverished countries, like Afghanistan.

Reverse Authoritarianism

Given the severity of conditions in North Korea, Buttigieg assures that he would not take any interactions with the regime lightly. Moreover, he is a clear believer in the liberal international order, which emphasizes democracy and leadership by the U.S. and its allies, as a way to greater ensure peace, prosperity and consequently lower global poverty rates.

Buttigieg believes reversing authoritarianism would require the unapologetic promotion of liberal order ideals. He also claims that the U.S. has lacked a proper foreign policy since the last presidential election, and incorporating the liberal international order and applying it in communications and relations with Russia or North Korea would bring structure to the U.S. foreign agenda.

Rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal

Buttigieg has highlighted that as president, he would make nuclear proliferation and rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, a priority in his foreign policy. The Obama administration first established the agreement in 2015 and worked to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful in exchange for lifted sanctions by Germany and the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S. While the Iran Nuclear Deal and its consequences remain controversial domestically, Buttigieg’s vow to rejoin falls in line with the liberal international order, which stresses international cooperation and alliance, in addition to democracy.

Furthermore, there has been a reported economic crisis in Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and implemented sanctions. According to Hassan Tajik, director of the Iranian group for the development of international trade, “one of the main problems is the reduction of people’s purchasing and financial capacity, which has brought the population to the edge of poverty.” Rejoining the deal begs the question of a potential change in impoverished conditions in Iran.

While Buttigieg’s speech may not be a Buttigieg Doctrine, he outlines clear priorities in a speech about foreign policy, which may deem him more foreign policy-oriented among the Democratic candidates. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has yet to disclose his complete stances on a range of foreign policy-related issues, but his speech has indicated his desire to involve the U.S. with international affairs in a cooperative, yet cautious manner. As demonstrated, doing so can have a major impact on global poverty trends.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Joe Biden’s Stance on Foreign Policy
Former Vice President Joe Biden recently announced his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential campaign. Biden served as V.P. from 2009 to 2016 under the 47th President of the United States, Barack Obama. His political career in Congress began in 1973 where he served as Senator of Delaware and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. He has the most foreign affairs experience out of all the candidates for President. Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy gives insight into how he will act if the American people elect him to the seat of President.

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not align with traditional principles of the Democratic party. He has been quoted as saying that despite the difficulty and cost, the United States must be the global leader in foreign policy initiatives. He is the standout favorite of the Democratic candidates, not only because of his experience, but also his moderate position on key political issues like foreign policy.

A Question of Priorities

Although Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he is willing to address global poverty, it is unclear if it is one of his top priorities. His legislative history includes co-sponsoring a bill to eradicate extreme global poverty for the more than a billion people. The strategy developed by the bill was to halve the number of those living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. This effort points to Biden’s recognition of the immediate need to improve living conditions for the world’s poorest through U.S. intervention.

Global Economics and Trade

In a 2016 speech, Biden touted the immense value of foreign trade to the global economy. He promoted selling more products and services abroad, where the vast majority of the world’s consumers reside. The World Bank estimates that about 82 percent of the world’s population is poor. Although those who live in extreme poverty do not currently have the purchasing power to buy American products and services, the potential is still there, should their economic situation improve. Biden’s stance on foreign policy recognizes that small consumers are still consumers and if the U.S. focuses on improving trading relationships and increasing foreign aid, the American economy will benefit greatly.

Outside of Partisan Politics

Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy does not directly align with either Democrats or Republicans. He remarked that Republicans lacked strategy and Democrats were not tough enough when it came to foreign policy. Biden is generally dovish on foreign policy and values the importance of dialogue with all countries, prior to the use of military force. Biden is also a strong proponent of supplying foreign aid to countries in need. In 1999, he voted down a bill to cap foreign aid at $12.7 billion and rather sees a need to increase aid spending to developing countries. Among other bills that Biden supported while in Congress was a multi-year commitment in 2001 to supply food and medicine to Africa.

The Big Issues

Overall, Joe Biden’s stance on foreign policy demonstrates that he values peaceful compromises and nonviolent negotiation tactics. He also has a strong record of supporting foreign aid assistance to developing nations. International aid proponents will closely monitor Biden’ statements during his presidential campaign regarding foreign policy and extreme poverty overseas.

Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Presidential Candidates' Views on Poverty
The globe pays attention to the U.S. presidential elections. As one of the largest national powers in the world, many take an interest in who will potentially be leading the country and are eager to hear the presidential candidates’ stance on various issues. From the health care system to budget spending, each candidate, regardless of party affiliations, has their own perspective on what those issues actually are and what the best way to approach them is. This article will focus on how important the presidential candidates’ views on poverty are to them and the American people.

2020 Presidential Candidates’ Views on Poverty

For a long time, global poverty was a backseat issue. Rarely did it ever take the spotlight at debates, campaigns or rallies, and never has it been the question of the hour. In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, polls showed issues that voters cared about the most, with the top five comprising of the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, health care and gun control. Neither domestic or global poverty even made it into the top 15.

Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence showing that poverty can heavily affect all of the top five most important issues mentioned, giving attention to the presidential candidates’ views on poverty has never been a topic of debate. Campaigns often overlook this point.

The fault is not all in the candidates, however. Polls between the years of 2007 and 2015 found that only a little over half of the Americans surveyed thought that looking at issues regarding the poor and those in need was important. When candidates are relying on the people to propel their campaigns, it is no surprise that they should cater to the more glamorous topics and points of interest.

The Beginning of Change

At a recent forum held in Washington, D.C., eight of the nine notable candidates in attendance, including former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders, confirmed that they would be open to speaking about their intended policies in regard to global poverty. This would happen in a televised debate during their run for the 2020 presidential elections.

The Poor People’s Campaign, an institution dedicated to eradicating poverty, racism and war economy, sponsored the recent forum. Co-chairs of the organization, Dr. William Barber II and Dr. Liz Theoharis, spoke about why a dedicated discussion specifically focusing on the presidential candidates’ views on poverty is so necessary, saying, “We are here because, in 2016, we went through the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history without a serious discussion or debate about systemic racism or poverty.”

Looking Forward

As the 2020 presidential election approaches and the debates begin, there is no doubt that the usual topics of interest will be at the forefront of every discussion. With the signs of change occurring, however, there is hope that poverty and its accompanying solutions will take the stage as well. Giving a voice to poverty and the people who suffer from it is the first step, and ultimately will lead to the overall improvement and acceleration of people everywhere.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay

Democracy in Nigeria
After 20 years, Democracy in Nigeria remains true to its goals of sustaining a strong political authority for socioeconomic growth. Home to Africa’s largest economy, 65 percent of Nigeria’s wealth derives from its oil and gas production. The country itself continues to recover from a recession in 2016. However, it also suffers from its recent unemployment rate increasing to 23.1 percent in 2017. A study from the World Data Lab revealed that an estimated 90 million Nigerian people continue to live in poverty.

Government Efforts to Reduce the Wealth Gap

Fortunately, the Nigerian government’s implementation of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill seeks to change these conditions. The bill functions as an investment to promote Nigeria as a future leader in the oil production industry. Research from the International Monetary Fund indicates that between 2019 and 2020 Nigeria’s economy should grow by at least 2.2 percent.

Amid strides towards economic development, many Nigerian people find it hard to put their trust into newly-elected leaders. After gaining independence from the British in 1960, Nigeria’s government endured corruption from previous leaders that led to polarization both politically and economically.

Nigerian legislators earn the most globally, with salaries starting at $48 million a year for senators. With the average Nigerian salary at $1,294, most Nigerians feel disconnected from their leaders because of this wealth gap. In most cases, optimal advocacy for Nigerian citizens translates to decentralizing power to more local government representatives. Consequently, this would ensure more groups of people receive equal access to policy implementation. The decentralization of government in Nigeria corresponding with democracy in Nigeria elevates the power of the population.

Reelection of President Buhari

The current democratic government, known as the Fourth Republic, attempts to restore hope to the Nigerian people. In February 2019, Nigeria re-elected its President, Muhammadu Buhari, for a second term. Only 28 million of the 80 million registered voters in Nigeria voted in the election. The majority of the four million votes that allowed President Buhari to win the election emerged from his popularity with the poor population in the north.

Democracy in Nigeria succeeds in giving a voice to the voiceless, as opposed to utilizing mass poverty to exclude impoverished people from the political process. In the end, the essence of democracy encompasses a nation that can elect its own representatives.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) helps to:

  • Establish civic organizations.
  • Strengthen political leadership.
  • Promote accountability and openness in governments around the world.

For over 35 years, NDI has partnered with more than 156 countries to advance democratic progress globally. By getting citizens to recognize elections as a fundamental human right, the NDI strengthens the political power of that country, which solidifies the idea of accountable democratic governance. The NDI also understands the importance of inclusion in policymaking and works to increase democratic participation from marginalized groups by addressing laws that target them.

As a result of this organization, Nigerians with visual impairments had the opportunity to vote for the first time in the 2019 election. Democracy in Nigeria exemplifies that growing global efforts to impose effective societal change starts with a government that truly reflects and endorses the interest of its citizens.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders, a Senator from Vermont and a 2016 democratic presidential nominee, announced his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election on Feb 19, 2019. This popular candidate spoke to the younger generation with his ideas about healthcare, raising the minimum wage and free college education for students. However, Sanders’ stance on global poverty issues has not been as much in the forefront. Here are some facts about Bernie Sanders’ stance on foreign aid and global poverty.

Foreign Aid

In the past, Sanders has both supported and rejected bills relating to foreign aid. An example of Bernie Sander’s support is with the HR 5501 bill that involves providing funding to eliminate tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria. As a result of this bill, $48 billion was sent to the Global Fund to help developing countries eradicate HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Another bill that Sanders has supported, in fact, co-sponsored, is the Harvest for Hunger bill, which provided relief to sub-Saharan Africa for famine victims. Overall, based on his voting history, Sanders supports foreign aid to developing countries in order to reduce conflict around the world. He has acknowledged that efficient foreign aid can be an effective national security defense.

In regards to his rejection of bills involving foreign aid, Sanders rejected the S Amdt 5077 bill, which would have reduced the HR 5501 bill to $35 billion. Sanders also rejected the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which would have provided emergency foreign aid to countries in need. This act ended up providing $82.04 billion in emergency support to the Defense Department and tsunami relief.

Clean Water and Air

Sanders has consistently supported bills and other initiatives to protect the environment and ensure that clean water and air is available for all. One example of this would be the Water Resources Development Act of 2013. This act ensured increased research for health management and the sustainability of oceans around the world. In the past, Sanders has also spoken out against drilling in seas such as the Chukchi Sea, which could result in oil spills.

Overall, Sanders has supported several bills and initiatives that would help eradicate global poverty and other associated issues. He mostly addresses poverty in the United States by his policies on taxing the wealthiest 1 percent, raising the minimum wage and decreasing college debt for students. Sanders also advocates for foreign aid bills as an effective national security defense as this can help reduce conflict in developing countries.

Bernie Sanders’ stances on foreign aid and issues that impact global poverty prove that he could continue to be a powerful ally for the world’s poor if elected president in 2020. Only time will tell if Bernie Sanders is elected president, but his commitment to foreign aid will continue.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr