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

2019 Indian electionsThe 2019 elections in India represent the largest displays of democracy around the world. Because of the number of eligible constituents, more than seven phases of the election took place throughout the country. The same rules that apply in America apply in India; you have to be at least 18 years old and register to vote. The casting of votes ended on May 19, and the counted votes were revealed on May 23.

There were two primary candidates in the running for the elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won the 2014 elections, ran as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The opposing candidate was Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Congress Party.

Narendra Modi

“Together with All, Progress for All” was Narendra Modi’s campaign slogan for the 2019 elections in India. But, what does this statement mean for the country as a whole? India is one of the poorest countries in the world, even though its economy is rapidly growing. According to Forbes, “The GDP per capita of Delhi, the National Capital Territory with a population of 20-25 million, is roughly equal to that of Indonesia at around $4,000.” Although some provinces come in even lower.

The wealthiest territory in India is Delhi, and the poorest states are Bihar and Uttar. The disparity is so great that Delhi’s GDP per capita is over four times that of each of the poorest states in India. So, what does Modi plan to do with such variety within one nation? He plans on reducing internal trade barriers between states and constructing a highway that would connect most of the country.

Modi also plans to continue the reform of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was implemented to reduce complications between different state taxes. The goal of the GST is to level the playing field for businesses, bringing about a common rule of taxation.

Reducing the internal trader barrier, implementing the construction of a national highway and continuing the reform of the GST will all help move India toward a reduction in national poverty. Uniting a scattered and diverse country through general taxation and a major roadway could help diminish chaos and confusion.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi is part of the National Congress Party and has spent much of his life in politics. The Congress Party’s slogan for the 2019 elections in India was, “Now, There will be Justice.” Gandhi claimed that, if elected, he could assure the people of India “truth, freedom, dignity, self-respect, and prosperity for our people.” Gandhi believes the injustice that ruled during Modi’s previous regime has left the countryside of India scattered and depraved.

He his plan was to create job sustainability throughout the country by deferring application fees for government jobs and other work. He also hoped to bring growth to the manufactoring businesses and to encourage people to take up entrepreneur endeavors through the Enterprise Support Agency.

Furthermore, Gandhi planned to push for incentives for businesses to hire women and broaden diversity among the workplace. He wanted to abolish the law that states women are unable to work night shifts and to reinstate the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, which demanded men and women have equal pay.

The Election

The votes for the 2019 elections in Indian were counted on May 23. The nation reelected Modi who must continue to address the issue of regional disparity between states. If the government focuses on unifying its nation and bringing the people to one comprehensive understanding of law and regulation, India’s economic gain could be substantial.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

female democratic policyThe Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate race is well and truly underway. The Democratic Party recently announced that the Democratic National Convention will be held in July 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Currently, the number of declared candidacies for the Democratic Party stands at more than 200 with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar being some of the critical players in this field. Here are brief summaries of what has defined these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas so far in their career, and what they have identified as key parts of their presidential campaigns.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has been a long time supporter of foreign aid with a platform on trade that focuses primarily on re-investing power in the American Middle Class. Subsequently, she is an advocate for anti-corruption measures and cracking down on multinational corporations that prioritize profits over workers.

Furthermore, she has expressed caution about the U.S.’ trade position with China due to the alleged human rights abuses, contending that China upholds no pretense of democracy regardless of its seemingly capitalist motives. She argues that the domestic agenda should not be considered “as separate from our foreign policy” and that creating strong alliances will help ordinary Americans. Foreign policy must be used to address humanitarian crises and boost democracies worldwide.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy approach has been shaped by her career as a federal prosecutor. She has identified ending human trafficking, fighting climate change and reducing terrorism among her key foreign policy stances. She is a supporter of ‘smart diplomacy,’ which includes the cracking down on international criminal organizations.

She favors creating a multilateral approach to address global climate change and, subsequently, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership on account of it ‘invalidating’ California’s landmark environmental laws. Although she holds a similar stance to Warren on many issues, she has does not support tariffs on China due to the impact on California’s technology industry. She has not joined her colleagues Gillibrand and Warren in condemning cuts to Palestinian; however, she did join them in condemning the funding cuts to refugee programs.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand is a longtime fighter for both women in developing countries and women in the U.S., which has become a key part of her presidential platform. She co-sponsored the Women, Peace and Security Act of 2013, supporting the integration of gender into U.S. Foreign Policy.

She initially co-sponsored the Anti-Israel Boycott Act but withdrew her support several months later in 2017. Similar to Warren, she has supported using U.S. trade authority to discipline nations over the use of military force and, subsequently, she opposes U.S. collaboration with Saudi Arabia due to its role in the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis.

Gillibrand’s foreign policy statements outside of gender have focused on the protection of U.S. industries against unfair competition. Specifically, she has led the fight for U.S. steel manufacturers and fought back against cheap imports that harm U.S. producers of both primary and secondary products.

Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar has identified a long list of campaign issues on foreign policy centered around advancing American National Security. She is a supporter of foreign aid and the tradition of the U.S. in providing humanitarian assistance, helping to “address refugee crises, preventing radicalization, and promoting stability around the world.”

She has supported sanctions against Iran and North Korea and voted in favor of the Anti-Israel Boycott Bill, which is against the U.N. resolution requesting that states refuse to do business with contractors that engage in business with Israel. She has specifically outlined support for strengthening trade links within North America and with Cuba as part of her foreign policy outlook with the aim of advancing regional interests and investment and strengthening the U.S. position in the global economy. She has favored maintaining a strong military presence more so than several of her female democratic contenders.

Although these candidates, the leading four female Democrats in the race, hold largely similar positions on foreign policy and global trade, there are subtle differences demonstrated by the range of issues they have vocally discussed and highlighted. They are all supporters of foreign aid and all sit largely within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. However, it is likely that as the race gets further underway, these female democratic presidential candidates’ foreign policy agendas will become more distinct.

Holly Barsham

Photo: Flickr

How to Make Your Vote CountThe American voting process excites many citizens, giving them a chance to express control over their representation and the issues in their district or state.

But the process can also be incredibly confusing and complex, making the task of voting tedious. Not everyone can get to a polling station on election day, so here are some guidelines on how to make your vote count.

Vote Correctly

To make the voting process as efficient as possible, it is important to know the date of the election and who is nominated. This includes primary elections and general elections. Primary elections usually occur a few months before the general elections and allow voters to pick the representatives of their particular party.

The voters should come prepared for both elections with the proper identification, depending on their state. If somebody is unregistered, the registration can be done on the day of the election or right now. It is possible to register for early and absentee ballots at this page or find the nearest polling place at this site. The Huffington Post has a super helpful guide on how to vote in every state.

Too Young to Vote?

It’s never too early to get involved in politics. For those who aren’t 18 yet, there is an option to work at a poll station on election day, talk to family and friends, donate time and money, contact the representatives and attend protest and rallies for causes of interest, like thousands of kids did in the March for Our Lives. Some states allow young people to pre-register to vote at 16, or vote if the person is on the cusp of 18. For a guide to this, there is always this state-by-state guide.

Do the Research!

Before filling out the ballot, the voter should make sure to have all the information on the candidates. The decisions should be based on the values held and the voter should choose the candidate that represents his or her beliefs in the best way possible.

Looking at multiple sources is key for a holistic understanding of who the person is voting for. Check out the current news and unbiased reports about the candidate in addition to the official campaign platform. Even in non-election years, practice media literacy and keep up on the news. By staying up to date on the representatives the person can determine what the conversation will be at election time.

Contact the Representatives

After the election, it is possible to still make your vote count by contacting the representatives at a local, state and national level. These people want to have the support of the voters behind them, and by expressing their opinion, the voters make sure that the things they voted for are represented. This can also help the voter to advocate in non-election years. Emailing and calling Congress is incredibly easy with helpful tools like those provided by The Borgen Project. To find out who the representatives check out this site.

Get Involved and Make Your Vote Count

Politics start at a local level. Whether working for a campaign or just addressing an important issue in an election, the person can leverage its vote and voice to help others. From canvassing to attending town halls and asking questions, there are thousands of ways to get involved in both partisan and nonpartisan ways.

Additionally, the voter should be aware of local election processes and demand clean elections that truly protect and make your vote count.

Elections are held across the United States every year and serve as a hallmark of the American experience. The right to vote has been fought for by countless groups and is treasured by many.

With votes, individuals can create change and express their opinion. Today’s enhanced communication creates thousands of ways to get people involved and to make your vote count.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Requirements for Senate?
In anticipation for the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 35 out of 100 seats will be sought by both incumbents and candidates running for the U.S. Senate. While elected positions, such as Congressional representatives in the House, are appointed positions, like that of Supreme Court justices, the requirements for Senators are more extensive. If so, then what are the requirements for Senate?

Election Requirements

According to Article I, section three, clause three of the U.S. Constitution, Senators must be at least 30 years old, surpassing the House’s age requirement of at least 25 years. Also, Senators must be naturalized U.S. citizens for a minimum of nine years and must be residents of the state for which they are elected (as written in Article Five, section three of the U.S. Constitution).

In contrast, the House only requires their representatives to have been naturalized for a minimum of seven years. So how and where did these requirements for Senate and House originate?

These criteria were established in the U.S. Constitution. According to the History, Art, and Archives of the House of Representatives, the criteria regarding a Senator’s state residency were founded in response to prior British laws, where “Under English Law, no person ‘born out of the kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland’ could be a member of either house or Parliament.”

The minimum age requirement for Senators was deemed necessary in “The Federalist, No.62,” where Madison wrote that “senatorial trust” required a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than that of representatives in the House. As Senators are seemingly granted more confidence than House Representatives, this raises the question — what are the requirements for Senate reelections?       

How Senate Reelection Works

From 1990 to 2012, incumbent Senators won reelection on an average of 87.6 percent, according to the Washington Post. From the year 2013, both incumbent and non-incumbent Senate winners spent an average of $8,650,000.

In this 2018 election, “10 Democratic incumbents are running for re-election in states won by President Trump, including deep red ones like North Dakota and West Virginia.”

Why these Requirements Matter in the 2018 Midterm Elections

The Trump administration is nearing its halfway mark, signaling an opportunity for Democrats to take control of the Senate in 2018, upsetting the current Republican majority in Congress.

However, FiveThirtyEight explained that this feat would be quite difficult. In order for Democrats to gain the Senate majority, the Democrats “must flip two of those nine [seats held by Republicans] — without losing any seats of their own.”

Senate Powers in Addressing Global Poverty

First, it is important to distinguish between the roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Although the majority party in the House is primarily responsible for scheduling, this is not the case in Senate. In Senate, scheduling is “generally mutually agreed by majority and minority leaders.”

Furthermore, Senate, unlike the House, focuses more on U.S. foreign policy. Given the Senate’s lessened degree of partisan scheduling relative to that of the House, the Senate holds the ability to influence the foreign policy matters, such as the international affairs budget.

Increased attention by Senate to this budget is vital to advancing poverty reduction efforts. Therefore, by understanding the requirements for Senate, we should vote for representation focused on alleviating global poverty in the Senate.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr

Positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s ElectionZimbabwe recently held the first elections since President Robert Mugabe’s regime was ousted after nearly four decades of rule. With the end of his dictatorial version of democracy, Zimbabweans were optimistic that these elections would bring much-needed change. Despite the resulting post-election violence and crack-downs, there were many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, which was necessary steps towards a true democracy.

Ending a 37-Year Rule

The military leaders intervened after Mugabe fired his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, while intending to make his younger wife his successor. With Mugabe ousted, Mnangagwa—a former security chief who is still seen as Mugabe’s ruthless enforcer—took over as Zimbabwe’s second head of state.

Mugabe began as a promising president after Zimbabwe’s independence, but he soon turned autocratic. Under him, people suffered from violent land reforms and devastating economic measures. He cut ties with international banks and monetary agencies. Mugabe’s policies led to some of the worst hyperinflations in the world and nearly collapsed the economy.

Amidst social and economic crisis, Mugabe resorted to oppression and intimidation to retain power. In fact, in the 80s, over 10,000 supporters of opposition parties were massacred in an event now known as The Matabeleland Massacres. Although elections were held, they were riddled with voter intimidation and often rigged.

In November 2017, Mugabe reluctantly resigned after a military coup surrounded his house for six days. Parliament had also already begun impeachment procedures. Mugabe’s resignation was met with cheers and celebrations across Zimbabwe.

Positive Aspects of Zimbabwe’s Election

As the July 30 elections drew nearer, Zimbabweans had high hopes that this time it would be different. Two candidates established themselves as the frontrunners. The incumbent President Mnangagwa, representing Zimbabwe’s leading ZANU-PF party, faced off against the younger Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an opposition party.  

One of the most significant positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election was allowing Western observers enter to monitor the elections for the first time in 16 years. The observers noted that the use of state resources to run advertising campaigns provided the incumbent party an unfair advantage, which was a cause for concern, but the elections themselves were peaceful.

The main complaint was disorganization at some of the polls where voters stood in long lines and some waited up to six hours to cast their ballot. In other locations, everything ran smoothly and on-time. Zimbabweans demonstrated their hopes and enthusiasm at the polls. Around 75 percent of the 5.6 million registered voters showed up. This high voter turnout was viewed as another example of the positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, an indication of an educated and receptive electorate, according to the electoral commission chief.

Preliminary assessments by observers suggested a relatively free and fair election. There were minimal signs of intimidation or bribery, but further analysis is necessary to consider the effects that the public media campaigns, a lack of transparency and the disorganization at the polls might have had on the results. The European Union’s chief observer said that at the very least, there was an improvement from previous elections.

However, with delays in the official counts for the election, unease rippled throughout the country. The accusations of vote-rigging triggered opposition supporters to take to the streets. The response of security forces was swift and severe; a reminder of life under Mugabe’s oppressive autocracy. Six people were killed in the violent clashes and another 14 were injured. Then 18 members of the opposition party were arrested.

Despite the issues, the incumbent Mnangagwa won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff. Some critics fear that his presidency will just be a continuation of Mugabe’s regime—Mnangagwa is accused of leading some of the worst atrocities during this era, and the political power still rests with Mugabe’s comrades.

President Mnangagwa’s Plans for Zimbabwe

As president, Mnangagwa has been trying to shed his ruthless reputation. His main focus has been on reviving the country’s devastated economy through much-needed reforms. By reestablishing relations with the West, he promises to reverse Mugabe’s isolationist attitudes.

During Mnangagwa’s first 100 days as president after Mugabe was ousted, he has already begun setting some of these changes in motion. His plan is partially based on recommendations for Zimbabwe by the British neoliberal think tank, Adam Smith Institute.

The government promised to reopen industries and is currently investing in organizations such as The Cold Storage Company to help boost production for the meat industry. Many are hopeful that these changes will create jobs for Zimbabweans. 

He has also begun tackling the rampant corruption and arresting several high-profile offenders—although critics argue that he needs to look within his own cabinet. During a three-month amnesty period, he even encouraged corrupt officials to return money taken illegally.

Reducing corruption is necessary to improve life for Zimbabweans as well as to attract foreign businesses. For similar reasons, Mnangagwa has made trade deals with Belarus, China and Russia. A commission with a South African rail company will have the dual benefit of improving transportation and increasing investment.

Zimbabwe is desperate to receive foreign assistance from the West to help jumpstart the economy. However, this aid is predicated on political reforms, which include peaceful and credible elections. It looks as though some of these reforms could come to pass under Mnangagwa’ presidency.

Although there were allegations of fraud and the government’s post-election crackdown can’t be overlooked, no fraud has been found and Mnangagwa’s presidency is considered legitimate. Mnangagwa has outlined many positive plans for the future of Zimbabwe. If he makes good on his word, then that will be another of the many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

Hunger Crisis in Venezuela
On May 20th the current President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, was re-elected for a second term in office amid a highly controversial election; in fact, one of the largest controversies was food. The country currently experiences one of the worst economic crises in recent history.

Hunger in Venezuela

Soaring prices and mass shortages of basic goods have left grocery shelves empty and most of the country hungry. According to surveys done by Caritas Venezuela, the Catholic church’s aid agency, 46 percent of Venezuelan’s eat less than three meals a day and 14.5 percent of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition.

Rather than finding solutions to fix the hunger crisis in Venezuela, Maduro exploited it to secure votes in the election alongside a multitude of other autocratic measures. While this creates a dismal outlook for the state, there are still many within the country working to alleviate this issue for everyone.

Coercive Elections

The dependency on the despondent economic conditions caused many people to rely on government-subsidized groceries to survive. In order to receive these subsidies, recipients must present a special identity card to local councils loyal to Maduro that hand them out. They were also told they must also present this card on election day at polling stations run by Maduro’s party as a check to see who has voted.

At campaign rallies Maduro made the expectation behind this measure quite explicit: “Everyone who has this card must vote…I give and you give.” This falls in place alongside the refusal of the government to accept humanitarian aid to amend the hunger crisis in Venezuela— with some political analysts suspecting this move as a way for Maduro to maintain control over the population.

Standing Strong

However, many did not give into this manipulation. Around the country, voter turnout was extremely low, at 46 percent compared to an 80 percent turnout rate in the 2013 election. This trend reflects both a call for the boycott of the election from opposition leaders alongside overall apathy in the electoral process.

Many more have fled in the wake of the election results, on top of the 1.5 million that have left since the economic crisis began in 2014. Besides refusing to recognize the election results, the United States is working to support those that have fled through earmarking an aggregate $16 million over 2018 in funding towards countries in Latin American and the Caribbean that have supported the influx of Venezuelan refugees.

Cooperatives of Social Services of Lara State

The efforts of those remaining within the country, such as the Cooperatives of Social Services of Lara State (CECOSESOLA), illuminate who is truly giving to Venezuela’s development. Originally founded in 1967, CECOSESOLA today is a non-hierarchical network of over 50 cooperatives and grassroots organizations of about 20,000 members in the Venezuelan state of Lara.

The collaboration offers a range of important amenities such as healthcare, community-backed loans, funeral services and an alternate supply chain for food. Its food distribution service in particular extends to five states within the country and offers savings of 30-50 percent compared to market value of most goods.

CECOSESOLA have stepped up even further in response to the current hunger crisis in Venezuela. In 2014, the group would see 40,000 people at their weekly Family Consumer Fairs; today, that number has increased to 150,000. Accordingly, CECOSESOLA has worked to increase the number of perishable products they distribute weekly from 500 to 800 tons. In order to meet such demand, over 300 cooperative workers (in total) facilitate these fairs Thursday-Sunday, with days sometimes as long as 14 hours.

Forces of Change

The moving force behind CECOSESOLA’s dedicated efforts to the public are illuminated by interviews conducted between 2012 and 2013 of Gustavo Salas, a CECOSESOLA member of over 40 years and active food market participant: “We cannot treat our counterparts like things that we want to profit from. We must perceive the entire person. In order to do that, we need transparency, honesty, and responsibility. They are the basis for trust, and that is fundamental. Because trust is the foundation for what we call ‘collective energy.’…That is why we say that our process is limitless. We show that is it possible to relate to other people in a different way.”

CECOSESOLA holding together against all odds makes the process truly seem limitless. Between the devastation from the economic crisis, the government’s refusal to accept outside aid, and the most recent election fiasco is setting Venezuela down a trajectory towards becoming a failed state.

The success of CECOSESOLA demonstrates that perhaps the country is not as close to complete economic and social collapse at the grasp of Maduro’s unchecked self-indulgence as it may seem. It’s paving another road where it is indeed “possible to relate to other people in a different way.” The small victories of collective self-sufficiency are combating the hunger crisis in Venezuela and putting the country back into the hands of its people.

– Emily Bender
Photo: Flickr

Female Political Representation in Sri Lanka Increases After Local ElectionsThe February 10 local government elections in Sri Lanka has led to more women holding elected positions than ever before. Prior to the elections, female political representation in Sri Lanka was almost nonexistent; only two percent of local government officials were women. The change in representation can be accredited to the passage of an amendment requiring that 25 percent of political candidates in Sri Lanka be women.

This amendment was passed in 2016, but the February 10 local elections were the first to occur under the new mandate. The recent elections saw 17,000 female candidates run for office. In total, more than 56,000 candidates ran for about 8,000 positions. Only 82 women were elected to local office in the 2011 local elections. After the February 10 election, more than 2,000 women will act as representatives in local government.

Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, has elected Rosy Senanayake as the city’s first female mayor. Mayor Senanayake, a representative from the United National Party, is a prominent activist for women’s and children’s rights. She currently serves as the spokesperson for the prime minister’s office.

The newly-elected female representatives are redefining political norms within their parties. In the past, female candidates have been assigned to outlying districts or entirely prevented from running by powerful men in their parties. The 25 percent candidate quota forced parties to adopt more inclusive policies. Unfortunately, some religious and political heads still urged community members to vote against female candidates.

Increased female political representation in Sri Lanka has the potential to bring new issues to the forefront of government agendas. Many female candidates, backed by women’s organizations, campaigned on promises to end corruption and promote women’s rights. Women’s activist groups like the Eastern United Women Organization (EUWO) have fought for protections for vulnerable groups like women, children and war-affected citizens. These activist groups were natural allies to aspiring female politicians.

EUWO supported the campaigns of 27 women. According to R.G. Podimenike, convener for EUWO, candidates were trained to “eliminate gender-based violence, enhance democratic governance, access government services and promote ethnic reconciliation among multi-ethnic groups who faced three decades of war.”

Long-term effects of the electoral amendment remain to be seen. Ambika Satkunanathan, the commissioner at Sri Lanka’s independent human rights commission, emphasizes that simply increasing female political representation in Sri Lanka will not automatically change the country’s culture.

“The structures will remain, the culture will remain within the local council, within local municipalities and political parties,” says Satkunanathan. “So how are they going to challenge that? We may have elected women, yes that is great. But if they toe the party line, if they are controlled, what is the point?”

With continued efforts from organizations like EUWO, more and more people will move toward the acceptance of gender equality and female political representation in Sri Lanka will only continue to improve.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in ArgentinaWhile many challenges around the world exist concerning enhancing women’s empowerment and forging a path toward equality, the Argentinian government has been a proactive example. In 1991, Argentina became a pioneer country for women’s political participation. The country established a quota to ensure that 30 percent of all candidates standing for elections are women. Those who fought for the law initially commended the quantitative leap and hoped that it would promote qualitative changes in the future.

Across national and local governments, women face several obstacles to participating in political life. However, women’s leadership in government has been shown to benefit society at large.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has noted that supporting the participation of women in politics is essential for advancing issues of importance to women on national agendas, which in turn benefits both women and men. Ensuring that financial assets are in the hands of women not only promotes women’s economic participation, but also speeds up development, helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and improves children’s health and nutrition as well as school attendance. Additionally, keeping girls in school further empowers women’s status in society and politics. Properly addressing these issues has the potential to provide tangible benefits for everyone. With women participating in politics, these topics receive much-needed attention.

The United Nations recognized that quotas, such as the one in place in Argentina, could be a fast track to enhancing women’s representation. These legal quotas are binding for all political parties, and legal sanctions or penalties for non-compliance can be enforced. Unlike voluntary party quotas, sanctions upheld by the law are the most effective to reject political party lists that do not comply with the quota regulations. However, it is important to note that quotas come with limitations. The regulations must work with the already in place electoral system, or they will have little or no effect. Furthermore, these systems only provide women with a chance to stand for election, as they do not guarantee the election of women candidates.

While as of 2016, women held 35.8 percent of the elected seats in the national Lower House, Argentina ranked in sixth place among Latin American nations in terms of female participation in politics and 28th in the world. However, this ranking far surpasses the United Kingdom and the United States, ranked at 48th and 97th respectively.

Though female representation in Argentinian government complies with the 1991 quota law meant to increase women’s empowerment in Argentina, many feel that the country has not made enough progress. A movement launched in part by Amnesty International Argentina, #MujeresALaPolítica (Women to Politics), has been pushing for a law to be approved by National Congress which would dictate that any ballot list for elected office must contain equal percentages of male and female candidates.

Using parity as a tool to ensure the fulfillment of women’s political rights enforces equality, autonomy and collaboration in decision-making processes. Increasing the number of women participating in politics can not only help further the women’s empowerment in Argentina, but it can send a powerful message to the rest of the world.

– Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

Why is Papua New Guinea Poor?
Papua New Guinea, the name given to a group of islands situated in the southwest Pacific ocean, has experienced tremendous economic growth since its days of being an Australian colony, and has gone on to hold elections involving the indigenous population. Despite this, however, many people on the island still experience extremes of poverty. 80 percent of Papua New Guinea’s people live in rural communities with little to no modern conveniences, and 39.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. So, why is Papua New Guinea poor, despite economic growth? Here’s a brief look at some of the reasons behind this.

 

Why is Papua New Guinea Poor? 3 Simple Reasons

 

Income inequality
In 1996, the Gini index rated Papua New Guinea’s income inequality as 55.43 on its scale from 0-1, with 0 being perfectly equal (for comparison, the U.S. was rated around 45 on the scale in 2007). The evidence would seem to suggest that this inequality is due to the failure of economic growth to keep up with population growth, but could also have been caused by structural adjustment policies that came about along with rapid economic growth. Whatever the reason, it is clear that income equality has led to much greater poverty within Papua New Guinea. The good news is that this inequality has gone down significantly since the 1990s: In 2009, Papua New Guinea scored a 43.88 on the Gini scale.

Lack of long-term planning
Many citizens are critical of the fact that the government of Papua New Guinea has had little to no plan in place to modernize the country, which would include steps like building permanent houses, supplying water and sanitation and building infrastructure. The government, instead, acts reactively, creating short-term solutions only when it is absolutely necessary. For example, in 2002, Papua New Guinea faced an incredibly violent and chaotic election, but it was not until 2004 that police were deployed to fight this rampant violence. This lack of planning makes it difficult for real progress to be made in terms of poverty.

Corruption
Why is Papua New Guinea poor? Perhaps the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s continuing poverty problem is the fact that so many government officials, in charge of funds that could help, have historically chosen to pocket the money instead. Michael Somare, prime minister of Papua New Guinea from 1975 to 2011, faced charges of political misconduct and misappropriation of funds spanning over 20 years, while in 2014, Paul Tiensten, former senior minister and later MP, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for misappropriating over $1 million. Somare’s replacement as prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has also been accused of political misconduct involving a loan of $1.3 billion.

So, why is Papua New Guinea poor? In short, because of income inequality, aggravated by years of poor planning and corruption by the government. To correct this problem, new measures will need to be taken to outline and enforce government oversight and the proper use of government funds. Thankfully, awareness has risen about these issues over the past few years. During the last election, many people in Papua New Guinea protested and called for Peter O’Neill to resign after more corruption allegations were brought to light. And while O’Neill still won re-election, the fact that these protests exist shows that the citizens of Papua New Guinea are beginning to demand more from their politicians, hopefully a first step in strengthening the government and using it to enact real change.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr