facts about girls' education in RomaniaRomania is a country settled in east-central Europe bordering the Black Sea. The country has a rigid education program that falls short in some areas of girls’ education, particularly for Roma girls who come from a minority making up about 10 percent of Romania’s population. While improvements are being made to the overall education of the country, some pupils are more neglected than others. These six facts about girls’ education in Romania shed some light on the achievements and shortfalls of the Romanian education system and what is being done to further improve girls’ education.

6 Facts About Girls’ Education in Romania

  1. There are more girls in pre-primary schools than boys. As of 2016, 75.26 percent of Romanian girls were enrolled in pre-primary school—the equivalent of kindergarten—while only 74.52 percent of boys were enrolled.
  2. Female literacy rates are on the rise. In 1992, 94.98 percent of the Romanian female population older than 15 were literate. As of 2018, that percentage stood at 98.6.
  3. Half of the women in rural Romania don’t finish secondary school. Half of the female population living in rural areas of Romania don’t manage to finish secondary school according to Tatiana Proscuryakova, World Bank’s Country Manager for Romania and Hungary.
  4. Roma women often don’t have the same opportunities as other women in Romania. One of the largest minority groups in Romania is the Roma people. Roma girls are disproportionately impacted by poverty conditions and continue to face societal discrimination. On average, Roma girls leave school at age 10 so that they can contribute to the household in some way.
  5. Female unemployment rates are increasing. As of 2019, only 45.17 percent of Romanian women are part of the workforce. This number dropped from 62.31 percent in 1992 and is likely a direct result of the struggle among many women to complete a proper education. Without an education, many women find themselves without the skills necessary to make themselves a valuable member of the workforce.
  6. Save the Children is working to fix the gap in Roma girls’ education. The American nonprofit, known for its work in helping children around the world, launched a preparedness program in the summer of 2016 for children in Romania. The goal of this program is to help Roma children be better equipped for pre-primary school, both academically and socially.

Romania has an impressive literacy rate among both men and women but has seen a dramatic drop in the number of women in the workforce. Most Romanian women are able to receive an education, but Roma girls seem to be subject to a prejudiced struggle. While the number of girls in the workforce is declining, education is increasing and the hope of overall improvement of girls’ education and the consequent life opportunities is bright.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

European Energy Security
H.R. 1616, The European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019, is a bill in the U.S. Senate that aims to incentivize and assist European and Eurasian countries to develop and utilize diverse energy sources. H.R. 1616, that Representative Adam Kinzinger introduced and nine other Representatives co-sponsored, focuses on European energy security that will incentivize American investment into European and Eurasian energy infrastructure and energy markets. According to the European Commission, European energy access is a problem for many Europeans.

The European Commission estimates that between 50 and 125 million people (at the highest estimation, 17 percent of the European population) in Europe are unable to afford the energy necessary for proper indoor thermal heating. H.R. 1616 would directly benefit these individuals, the energy poor, because of the introduction of more cost-effective energy infrastructure, an increase in accessibility in the energy markets.

European Energy Security

The Council of European Development Bank reports that energy poverty is a result of poor energy infrastructure and of the inaccessibility to energy markets. Because the majority of energy insecure homes are already poor, the lack of access to energy compounds the effects of poverty. The choice between energy and food, for instance, is a common choice for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. In Europe particularly, the lack of energy infrastructure across borders is detrimental; 85 percent of those who are energy insecure live in 10 of the 32 European states. Meanwhile, natural gas is 20 percent of the energy in Europe and coal makes up 20 percent of European energy markets. Both are inefficient and the grid infrastructure makes gas and coal inaccessible.

H.R. 1616 Policy Goals and Income

H.R. 1616 would increase access to energy markets by funding the transition away from natural gas and coal through aid, increasing European access to the American energy market and funding accessible infrastructure. The bill also allocates $579.5 million to help properly create supply routes throughout Europe, and between European states, which would ensure rural access to energy. H.R. 1616 would also negotiate cross-border energy infrastructure, including negotiating environmental standards and the accessibility of an array of energy sources.

The E.U. has been diversifying some forms of energy in the status quo by increasing energy production in the Baltics on the Mediterranean Sea and the Adriatic Sea. However, Europe would be unable to sustain the diversification of energy on its own due to current regulatory restrictions that the U.S. put in place, as well as the economic barrier of opening new markets. H.R. 1616 would raise the regulatory restrictions and fund the new markets, allowing for Europe to continue to decrease energy insecurity in its states. 

A Lasting Effect

H.R. 1616 will decrease energy insecurity in Europe, alleviating the effects of poverty in the lowest echelons of society, and fund the transition away from unsuccessful forms of energy production. The infrastructure that H.R. 1616 would build would increase access to energy and allow cross-border energy trade, making sure that poor states have access to energy. The current European trend of diversifying energy would continue, ensuring European energy security and diversification. The House passed the bill, and the Senate has read it and referred it to the Committee on Foreign Relations for further review.

Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

China's Belt and Road Initiative
Chinese authorities have dubbed the One Belt One Road Initiative as the Project of the Century. Spanning 78 countries with a total investment representing 70 percent of the world’s population, 55 percent of its GDP and 75 percent of its energy reserves, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the world’s largest-scale development project. The One Belt One Road is conceptually based on the historic Silk Road, a network of trade routes established during China’s Han Dynasty from the second century B.C. until the 14th century A.D. stretching from China to the Mediterranean.

Broken down into two parts, BRI is composed of a land-based Silk Road Economic Belt, which will connect China with Central Asia, Eastern Europe and Western Europe, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a sea-based route that will give China’s southern coast access to the Mediterranean, South-East Asia, Central Asia and Africa. The One Belt includes six economic corridors by land and the maritime One Road has two directions, one reaching the Indian Ocean from China’s coastal ports and extending to Europe and the other from coastal China to the South Pacific.

This modern Silk Road is a massive undertaking of unprecedented scope that will take the next 20 years to build. China is investing over $1 trillion to implement the infrastructure projects, funded through low-cost loans to the cooperating countries, including highways, railways, ports, bridges, pipelines, energy grids and power plants. Here are some of the most significant routes and projects in 10 countries affected by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative Projects in 10 Countries

  1. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway: The maritime route to Africa connects China to Africa. Kenya is one of the largest recipients of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa. The Mombasa-Nairobi Railway is the first new railway in Kenya in the past 100 years and among the first modern infrastructure projects in east Africa. The new railway has already increased Kenya’s GDP and boosted local and foreign tourists, who can now take the Nairobi-Mombasa Madarak Express train to cross Tsavo National Park in just four hours instead of 18. Chinese enterprises have also begun construction on a wind power project in Kapedo, Kenya.
  2. The China-Pakistan Corridor: The China-Pakistan Corridor connects south-western China through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. In Pakistan, the Karot hydropower station on Ji lahm River was the first foreign investment of the BRI and its main project in Pakistan. China also began construction on the Karachi-Lahore Highway project with Pakistan’s National Highway Administration, the largest transportation infrastructure project in the China-Pakistan corridor.
  3. The Five Nations Railway: In Afghanistan, BRI plans include the Five Nations Railway, which would run from China to Iran through Afghanistan, as well as the north-south railway corridor connecting Kunduz to Torkham on Pakistan’s border.
  4. The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor: The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor connects Southern China to India via Bangladesh and Myanmar (BCIMEC). In Bangladesh, the CMEC has led to the construction of the Sheila GanJie Power Station Project, which will improve the local electricity shortage in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a great need for ports to import energy or raw materials and export finished products. The last port to have been developed in Bangladesh was when it gained independence in 1971. The BRI will establish a new deep-sea port at Payra, which will include an oil refinery, a coal terminal to service a power plant and a container terminal.
  5. Myanmar Infrastructure Projects: In Myanmar, China plans to build a deep seaport, a trading estate and a special economic zone (SEZ) or an area designated for facilitating the industrial activity in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State. Infrastructure projects will also be implemented in the remote western state, where it is much needed as the violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists continues.
  6. The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor: The China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor connects North China to Eastern Russia via Mongolia (CMREC). In Mongolia, two high-speed railways along this corridor, the Mongolian Vector running from Mongolia-Brest to Belarus and the Zhengzhou-Hamburg running from China to Germany via Mongolia, are bringing Mongolian markets to European firms. Development plans have begun for the building of an international UHV electric transmission super grid along CMREC routes. Another high profile BRI project in Mongolia is the Tavan Tolgoi Rail Project, which aims to link Tavan Tolgoi, the world’s most massive untapped coal mine, to the Chinese border by 2021.
  7. The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor: The China-Central Asia-West Asia Corridor connects Western China to Turkey via Central and West Asia. Turkey is a priority country for the BRI because of its quickly growing pipeline projects, especially the Lake Tuz Expansion, which will increase the capacity of an underground gas storage facility from 1.2 to 5.4 billion cubic meters. Lake Tuz (Tuz Gölü) is currently home to the world’s largest gas storage project under construction and it is expected to be completed in 2023.
  8. The Tehran-Mashhad: Iran is an essential part of the global framework of the BRI due to its tactical location. The BRI has implemented the Tehran-Mashhad, high-speed rail project, which unlike most of the single-tracked, slow and circuitous railways centered around Tehran, will be double-tracked and electrified. Iran plans to electrify all of its railroads, revolutionizing the country’s transportation, by 2025.
  9. China Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor (CICPEC): Vietnam is in a position to reap the most opportunity from the BRI in the Indochina region. China built a 1,205-mile North-South Expressway from Hanoi to Can Tho, connecting eight major cities including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vientiane, Hanoi and Nanning. However, fears that the special economic zone laws would undermine Vietnamese sovereignty have caused unrest, leading to public demonstrations against SEZ law. Vietnam’s history of economic dependencies on China has made the Vietnamese citizens reluctant to cooperate with the BRI.
  10. The New Eurasian Land Bridge: The New Eurasian Land Bridge connects China to Europe and Western Russia (NELB). Kazakhstan will likely become a bustling financial hub of the Belt and Road Initiative as well as one of China’s main trading partners in the BRI. Khorgos has completed the Khorgos Gateway Dry Port, an important logistical town along the original Silk Road more than 1,000 years ago. The BRI has also completed a new land-border crossing with a four-lane road, connecting Khorgos with its Chinese counterpart Horgos.

Although there are many more countries that China’s Belt and Road Initiative will impact, these 10 countries highlight some of the key players and the most important development projects. So far, there have already been many notable successes, as well as failures and obstacles. The BRI has the potential to lift millions out of poverty.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

 

E.U. is Fighting Poverty
Poverty does not disappear by itself and Europe understands this. The European Union (E.U.) prioritizes poverty as an issue and has helped start many poverty reduction projects throughout the world. Within Europe, the E.U. fights poverty based on its Europe 2020 Strategy that strives to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. Globally, the E.U.’s development policy aims to eradicate poverty through sustainable development. In both of these endeavors, the E.U. is making tremendous progress in reducing poverty. Here is how the E.U. is fighting poverty in Europe.

The EU Fights Poverty in Europe

The Europe 2020 Strategy is an ambitious plan that could drastically change Europe’s economy and social landscape. Some of the strategy’s targets include employing 75 percent of people aged 20-64, providing higher education to 40 percent of people aged 30-34, increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent and using 3 percent of the E.U.’s GDP for research and development. These targets are mutually reinforcing as improvements in education should help reduce unemployment, and improving energy efficiency should make European businesses more competitive, creating more jobs.

The Europe 2020 Strategy is only a “reference framework” that E.U. countries use to create national targets. These national targets mean that governments can now measure their progress and determine whether or not they are reaching their poverty reduction goals. Thus, even though the Europe 2020 Strategy does not force countries to do anything, it has helped countries to measure their progress and determine whether they are doing enough. The strategy receives constant review and the European Commission still believes that the Europe 2020 Strategy is an effective framework that can help create jobs and promote economic growth.

What have the results been? As of 2017, the E.U. managed to provide 39.9 percent of people aged 30-34 with higher-level education, 0.1 percent away from their 2020 goal of 40 percent. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty in the EU dropped from 122.8 million to 112.8 million. The percentage of 18-24-year-olds leaving school early dropped from 14.7 percent in 2008, to 10.6 percent in 2017. While the European Commission admits that people need to do more to combat poverty in Europe, the progress so far has been promising.

The EU Fighting Poverty Internationally

The E.U. wants to end poverty worldwide. It is attempting to do so using a couple of different methods. In 2007, the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) created a partnership between the E.U. and Africa. The partnership helped create a relationship between the two groups that could help foster sustainable development that will benefit both parties. The partnership deals with other issues besides development and poverty but has made significant impacts on the latter. For instance, the E.U. accounts for one-third of all the foreign direct investment in Africa. Supporting the Africa-E.U. partnership is the Pan-African Programme which strives to create sustainable human and economic development. The E.U. has allocated $845 million euros to the program between 2014 and 2020. Outside of Africa, the E.U. also plays a large role in poverty reduction. E.U. aid represents more than 50 percent of global aid.

In conclusion, the E.U. is fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development. Within the continent, the E.U. is making progress as education rates improve and poverty levels continue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Globally, the E.U. continues to lead by example as it sets the bar for providing foreign aid to developing countries. The U.S. has the capability to match these achievements but needs more people to voice their concerns about international poverty. Reach out to congress and encourage the U.S. to end international poverty by clicking this link here.

– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary

Hungary is a country of 9.8 million people located in central Europe. It makes up a portion of the EU’s southern border and is a major immigration hub. Hungary is one of the EU’s poorer countries, with a GDP in the lower third of all member states, though it is still better off than many of its central European and Balkan neighbors. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Hungary

  1. Impressive work-life balance
    Unemployment is high in Hungary, with only 68 percent of people age 15 to 64 employed. Of those employed, 75 percent are men and 61 percent are women. However, the number of employees working very long hours is less than 4 percent–much lower than the United States, where 11 percent of employees work long hours.
  2. Standards of living are nearly the lowest in the EU
    In terms of GDP, Hungary is ranked 23rd out of the EU’s 28 member states, at 68 percent of the EU’s average. In first place for the region is Austria, which produces at roughly twice Hungary’s capacity. Another metric used to determine the welfare of the consumer, Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), places Hungary second-to-last.
  3. Habitat for Humanity is raising awareness on housing inequality
    In 2015, the Hungarian government ended housing support to nearly half a million impoverished residents. Prior to that, several hundred thousand Hungarians were already experiencing housing poverty. A Habitat for Humanity report from 2014 noted that more than half a million Hungarians lived with leaky roofs and/or moldy walls. Just under half of the population (44.6 percent) live in overcrowded flats, and 52 percent of Hungarians not living in major cities have access to a sanitary sewer.
  4. Hungary has universal health care, but the rate and efficacy of coverage are low
    Although Hungary has had universal health care coverage since the 1940s, it still ranks in the bottom third in the EU in terms of quality of coverage. This is partly due to low salaries—medical professionals cannot expect to make as much money in Hungary as they would in other EU member states. The main issue is a focus on curative care in hospitals, rather than preventative care in other medical facilities.
  5. Hungary has received significant foreign investment
    As of 2018, Hungary has an annual inflow of $4.3 billion per capita of foreign direct investment (FDI), a full recovery from the stagnation of the 2009-10 financial crisis. While this is partly since Hungary has an ideal geographical position for foreign investment, foreign investors have also shifted focus from the relatively poor textile and food processing industries to more lucrative industries such as wholesale, retail trade and automotive repair.
  6. Primary and secondary education enrollment rates are high
    For primary school students, enrollment has varied slightly over the past two decades, but has remained above 95 percent overall. At its highest, the enrollment rate was 97.2 percent in 2009, and at its lowest in 2012, at 95.7 percent. For adolescents in school, the statistics are similarly good: though there has been a slight rise since 2014 of the number of adolescents out of school, the overall number has hovered at less than 5 percent.
  7. Tertiary education needs investment
    Only 13 percent of 25-64 year-olds have a bachelor’s degree, with 9 percent of that population holding a master’s degree or equivalent. These statistics are low, but the individuals who possess these degrees are reaping the benefits. Studies have shown that postsecondary education credentials can potentially double one’s earnings in Hungary: a bachelor’s degree is worth a wage premium of 72 percent, while a master’s or above can earn 140 percent more than the country’s respective average salaries.
  8. Investments in higher education are underway
    An initiative led by the NGO HEInnovate to invest in higher education has been taking place over the last decade, spurred by a decline in institutional funding from the state. The focus of this initiative has been to utilize Hungary’s educational system to boost economic and socio-cultural development at the local and national levels. This has led to a marked increase in venture capital and start-up creation among academics and has caused strong domestic economic growth.
  9. Many institutions have been consolidated by the federal government
    Since his election in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken steps to consolidate hundreds of pro-government media outlets into a propaganda conglomerate. These actions have been received well by some but not as well by others — Orban enjoys far more support from individuals living in rural areas of Hungary than he does from individuals living in Hungary’s urban centers.
  10. Hungary’s location has made it a major migration hub for refugees in the past
    Since a section of Hungary’s border forms the external border of the European Union, the country has received many migrants in the past. However, in recent years Hungary has adopted a harder stance on immigration, which has drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers from the Middle East.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary demonstrate how the country remains at a crossroads in the European Union—geographically, economically and socially. While the country performs well in some areas, such as education and cost of living, it still faces more economic hardship than most other EU member states, and its status as a migration hub has led to entrenched xenophobia in the country’s political landscape.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign AidIn February, the U.N. declared that 109 million people were in critical circumstances. In other words, international assistance is more important than ever. Countries around the world are fighting to alleviate global poverty, but some are doing a better job than others. Read further to find out which nations make the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid.

Top 10 Countries Contributing to Foreign Aid

  1. Luxembourg – Even though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg is a world leader in foreign aid. In 1970, the U.N. urged wealthy nations to contribute 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. Luxembourg was the second country to achieve this goal. Today, the government invests 1.07 percent of its GNI to foreign aid.
  2. Sweden – Contributing 1.04 percent of its GNI to international development, Sweden landed itself at the top of this list in 1974. In 2018, it was still considered the largest donor when taking into account the size of its economy. The Swedish government expects to spend nearly $6 billion on foreign aid by the end of 2019. Primary concerns regarding foreign aid include agriculture, education, global health and nutrition.
  3. United Kingdom – In 2017, the U.K. spent more than 14 billion pounds on international assistance. The largest recipient of this aid was Pakistan followed by Ethiopia and Nigeria. The majority of funding is donated to humanitarian projects. Approximately 64 percent of aid is sent directly via bilateral organizations. The remaining percentage is distributed indirectly via organizations like the U.N.
  4. Norway – In 2018, Norway revised its foreign aid policies. In the new outline, the government mandates that at least 1 percent of its GNI is spent on international assistance. The proposal also focuses on health and education as its chief concerns.
  5. Ireland – In July 2018, Ireland relaunched a new foreign aid policy aptly named A Better World. One of the primary goals of this policy is to ensure that 0.7 percent of the GNI is spent on international development. It is estimated that this target will be met by 2030. Furthermore, the policy emphasizes climate action, gender equality and strengthened governance. For female education alone, the country has committed to spending 250 euros within the next five years.
  6. Japan – Japan is the largest contributor to foreign aid in Asia. In 2018, the country donated $14.2 billion. Japan has publicly committed to using the official development assistance (ODA) for guidance in future development.
  7. Canada – Unlike other countries, Canada has taken a unique feminist approach. Its foreign aid policy uses feminism as its core value. By promoting the success of women around the world, Canada hopes to create a more equal balance in power. The country believes that an increase in women’s rights would lead to other areas of progression, such as a more inclusive government and representation for minorities.
  8. France – Within the past year, France has committed to enhancing its foreign aid policy. Currently, the country donates 0.43 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. However, by the year 2022, the French government aims to increase this level to 0.55 percent. The primary objective of this increase is to aid in international stability.
  9. Finland – In just the first part of 2019, Finland has already administered 68.35 million euros in foreign assistance. The government distributes its finances through a process that includes evaluating the extent of a crisis, assessing how many deaths and illnesses have occurred and recording the percentage of the population affected by the issue. Finland also prioritizes its aid to countries that have formally submitted a request to the U.N.
  10. United States of America – Last but not least on the list for the top 10 countries contributing to foreign aid is the U.S. The current American aid system was created in 1961. However, disputes surrounding U.S. investment have increased in recent years. President Trump has repeatedly fought for cuts in the budget while others advocate for the amount to be raised. In 2016, the U.S. contributed approximately $49 billion in foreign assistance.

Ultimately, there is still a lot of work to be done. With millions of people in crisis, it is important that the wealthiest nations help combat the issues that plague the poorest. If not for humanitarian reasons, foreign aid can help elite nations by increasing the global economy and infrastructure. When looking at success stories like China (which once was a U.S. aid recipient but now a financial leader), one can understand the impact of international assistance.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Europe
The definition of human trafficking is the act of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purpose of forced labor or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking occurs all over the world. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves worldwide and around 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year. Moreover, 80 percent of people trafficked yearly are female. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Europe.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Europe

  1. A study in 2012 assessed human trafficking in Europe. The study identified and reported 11,000 people as victims of human trafficking.
  2. Ninety-five percent of sexually exploited victims are women and girls. Seventy percent of victims trafficked for labor exploitation are men.
  3. However, these numbers only indicate reported victims. It is predicted that at any given time there are 140,000 people in Europe trapped in human trafficking.
  4. Thirty-two percent of victims in Europe originate from the Balkans, 19 percent of victims originate from former Soviet states, 13 percent are from South America, 7 percent are from Central Europe, 5 percent of victims are from Africa and 3 percent are from East Asia.
  5. Conviction rates are low for human trafficking. In fact, for every 100,000 people in Europe, less than one person receives a conviction of human trafficking annually.
  6. The conviction rate in Denmark for human trafficking is 3.14 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, in Hungary, the conviction rate is at 0.24 per 100,000 inhabitants.
  7. Unfortunately, there is no decrease in the number of human trafficking victims. On the other hand, from 2008 to 2010, convictions for human trafficking decreased by 13 percent. This indicates slow reactions by authorities regarding trafficking and low prioritization of human trafficking as a crime.
  8. Fortunately, several organizations are working to help end human trafficking in Europe. In 2003, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) established a plan to work on implementing measures to decrease human trafficking. This action plan is titled Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings.
  9. Moreover, this plan lays out measures to prevent human trafficking by building awareness and addressing issues at the cause. Additionally, the plan articulates plans for how to prosecute traffickers and work with international law enforcement. Finally, it works to protect victims’ lives through compensation and assistance. The OSCE expanded the plan in 2014 with the addition of partnerships, which emphasizes the importance of international coordination and organization.
  10. Finally, La Strada is an organization working to address human trafficking internationally and within European countries. It has establishments in eight European countries. The primary goal of La Strada is to increase nongovernmental organization participation and focus toward human trafficking, with the ultimate goal of putting an end to human trafficking. Notably, La Strada is the largest organization working to end human trafficking in Europe.

Human trafficking is an issue people often brush aside over due to low report rates and a lack of focus. However, as these 10 facts about human trafficking in Europe state, the rates of trapped and abused victims are only increasing in Europe. Ultimately, it is important to acknowledge the organizations working to end human trafficking in Europe, as organizations like OSCE and La Strada work tirelessly to achieve.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
Photo: Pixabay

AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“We all deserve a quality life with HIV and without it,” declared Russian activist Maria Godlevskaya at the International AIDS Conference. Godlevskaya is a loving mother and dedicated peer counselor who has been living with HIV for 18 years. Advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV mean that the number of new HIV infections is decreasing globally. Only two regions lag behind; in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new cases of HIV are on the rise.

The State of the AIDS Crisis

To combat the global epidemic, UNAIDS has issued “90-90-90 targets” to be reached globally by 2020. The goal is that of all of the people living with HIV, 90 percent should be aware of their status. Of these people, 90 percent should receive treatment. And of those receiving treatment, 90 percent should achieve viral suppression.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are currently the furthest from reaching this goal. In these regions, 73 percent of people infected with HIV are aware of their status, 36 percent of those people are receiving treatment and 26 percent have achieved viral suppression.

There is no indication that the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has even reached its peak. There is, however, hope. By understanding the key populations affected by the epidemic and funding prevention, testing and treatment methods, transmission can be slowed and even stopped altogether.

Advances Against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Currently, only about three percent of HIV/AIDS funding in the region is targeted toward key vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use intravenous drugs. The stigma against these populations often makes them invisible to the government and to the healthcare system.

About one-third of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are in people who use intravenous drugs. Fortunately, strategies to reduce the risk of spreading the disease have been helping. Needle-syringe programs are an example of effective harm reduction strategies. They distribute free, sterile needles to drug users.

Additionally, opioid substitution therapy allows drug users to stay away from needle use. The therapy provides methadone, which is taken orally and eases drug withdrawal symptoms. Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have significantly ramped up such harm-reduction programs; as a result, they have seen a decrease in HIV infections among people using intravenous drugs.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV  has accounted for only one percent of all incidences in 2017. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that mother-to-child transmission was stopped altogether in Armenia and Belarus.

In the fight against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Saint Petersburg has become a model city. As a result of increased funding for prevention initiatives and harm-reduction programs for drug users, the number of new HIV infections has decreased. On a national level, however, the Russian Federation has neglected to fund effective prevention and treatment services.

Grassroots Nonprofits Helping Their Communities

When the government turns a blind eye, ordinary people step up. Maria Godlevskaya founded E.V.A, a nonprofit that advocates for women affected by HIV. From providing peer counseling to helping women communicate with medical officials, E.V.A gives marginalized women hope. The organization is about building bridges from woman to woman and from this network of women to their government.

The fight against HIV/AIDS knows no gender, no race and no age. Adolescents are coming together to fight HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Across the region, 80 adolescents are part of a nonprofit called Teenergizer. They visit local HIV clinics and record any roadblocks to testing they experience. The teenagers then use this information to create an interactive map of testing and treatment facilities for other youth in their region. Teenergizer reduces stigma and empowers youth to take their health into their own hands: as a result of the initiative, nearly two thousand adolescents from Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been tested for HIV.

The crisis of AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been bleak, and the future is uncertain. But, the leadership of several countries, nonprofit organizations and dedicated citizens has the potential to crush social stigmas and the associated legislative obstacles to funding prevention and treatment. Armen Agadjanov of Teenergizer affirms that a brighter future is on the horizon. “I’m convinced that the future is in the hands of adolescents—they are the people who will change and build a new world.”

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

How the European Union Fights HIV/AIDS
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political coalition of 28 European nations; countless individuals chosen by the state represent his or her nation within the alliance. The governmental body addresses public health, human rights, development, climate action along with numerous other subjects. The European Union is well-known economically, yet they should also be renown for their work to research, inform and prevent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The European Union fights HIV/AIDS through surveillance, data and prevention programs.

Surveillance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) work together to collect data on HIV/AIDS in 31 European states. The surveillance programs allow the EU to monitor groups who are at higher risks to contract the disease, to improve responses to those affected and to learn more about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The European Union utilizes their monitoring techniques to better its “evidence-based action;” for example, if one European country reported lower diagnoses than another nation, they would then be able to statistically analyze which system worked. The country resulting in fewer cases would, therefore, have the more effective approach to decrease HIV/AIDS.

Surveillance programs help the EU understand trends so they are better able to understand the disease and the efficacy of their treatment programs.

Data

Recent data collected by surveillance programs show an overall decline in HIV/AIDS within Europe. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have substantially decreased since 1990.

In 2016, 29,444 people were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 31 countries; this number is relatively lower than the predicted 30,000 diagnoses. The prevalence rate currently stands at 5.9 per 100,000 individuals, which is also drastically less than other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate among men is higher than that of women; men are currently at 8.9 cases while women are at 2.6 cases per 100,000. These numbers are significantly lower than those of the past; therefore, the surveillance and prevention programs have proven effective.

Prevention Programs

Due to the high rate of late diagnoses, the EU recognized that there are issues with “access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counseling in many countries.” The ECDC, which is a partner of the EU, developed the “European Test Finder” to help with locating the closest testing facility.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS now by allowing quick and easy access to testing. The EU realizes that an early diagnosis can save a life, and locating a testing site is vital in helping those who have HIV.

The EU has also allowed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an antiretroviral medication that tries to prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. France is the only nation that has used this prevention program, and it has proven successful. The EU is trying to make the drug more available across the union.

The “ART regimen” is one of the most efficient ways to prevent HIV/AIDS, and it works to extend the lifespan of someone with the disease. It is also an antiretroviral medication; yet, it is given when someone is HIV positive. This medication could lead to viral suppression, which means that one cannot transmit the disease to someone else.

A United Front

Another way the European Union fights HIV/AIDS is by using Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms have been very effective as boosting awareness is crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The ECDC offers a helpful, digital guide to prevent STI/HIV.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS by combining surveillance, data and prevention techniques. Although each state may have a different approach to preventing HIV/AIDS, the EU acts as an overarching body that researches and implements the best means to end the disease. The EU unites each country so they can eliminate the disease together.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr