Inflammation and stories on events

On February 13, Hillary Clinton, joined by Melinda Gates, spoke at New York University in a conversation called “Women and Girls Count.” The largely female audience received a special message from Clinton: “Develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide.”

Clinton’s speech at NYU, moderated by her daughter Chelsea, was part of the joint venture of both the Clinton and the Gates Foundation called, “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project.” The initiative’s goal is to both evaluate and spread awareness of the progress made by women and girls since the United Nations Fourth World Conference of Women that took place in Beijing.

The foundations have teamed up with technological leaders to gather data about the participation of women and girls worldwide. In a recent press release by the Clinton Foundation, the data will be released in a report in 2015.

In regard to the importance of having data, Clinton said, “If we don’t have data, we can’t tell you or ourselves what has been accomplished and what is left to do.” She went on to say, “We have to be able to prove the naysayers wrong.”

Both Clinton women and Gates took a number of questions on different topics. The topics included the recent decrease in women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), questions on women being in leadership positions, as well as the role that men can play in empowering women in the workplace.

Clinton and Gates strongly addressed how men can support women and how they can encourage younger women to become leaders. Clinton said, “I think the last three presidents have modeled with their daughters how male leaders can invest in their daughters, but I would like to see more leaders in countries where women are second class citizens or below to set a standard as well.”

Clinton made an interesting point in noting that she believes women and girls need to receive more encouragement than males of the same age. She offered her own insight in saying, “I have employed by this time a lot of very talented young men and young women and offering a promotion or expanded responsibilities almost always provokes a response something like, ‘I don’t know if I could do that’ or ‘Are you sure I could do that?’” Clinton went on to make a larger point in that young men very rarely make the same comments.

Gates named Warren Buffet, one of the Gates Foundation’s partners, as an example of a male leader who has been of great help to many women in developing their careers. Gates believes that it is important for more men to do the same.

Furthermore, Gates said in reference to the world’s future female leaders, “Be yourself. Don’t use the few stereotypes of ‘female leadership.’ Be yourself when you lead and have a base of support that will always support you.”

Clinton and Gates had a profound impact on the audience, who gave the women a standing ovation upon both their entry and exit. After the talk, #NoCeilings was trending on Twitter.

It will be interesting to see what impact the report will have when it is released in 2015 and if it will help to create a group of new female leaders.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: NYU Local, ABC News
Photo: Clinton Foundation

On February 12, over 140,000 people signed a petition created by The Daily Mail to have foreign aid money go to victims of recent destructive flooding in Britain.

The floods took place over six weeks ago and many British citizens are trying to put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to put more funds towards helping flood victims. Cameron has refused to use foreign aid money for these purposes, saying, “I don’t think it’s needed to go for the aid budget because we will make available the money that’s needed in Britain.”

Many global poverty experts have spoken about this campaign, calling it “outrageous.”

Several prominent experts including And Etharin Cousin, the executive director of the World Food Programme called this campaign to use funds dedicated to foreign aid in Britain an “extremely worrying” minority view and hoped that it would be ignored by governments. Experts have further called the campaign “inexcusable and unforgivable” as well as “disgraceful.”

World Vision chief executive Justin Byworth has said that this situation is a “political excuse” to put foreign aid in a negative light. Byworth has also said, “Anything that politicizes poverty here and in the UK, makes me angry, we are promoting a political agenda on the backs of the poor. It should be our humanitarian agenda that drives us.”

In the article published in The Daily Mail, writers use a one-sided viewpoint in addressing any foreign aid that Britain has given, attempting to show that relief money has been used poorly. The comments on the site seem to reflect these views and the site even offers a link to contact the prime minister to express concern about the use of funds.

Poverty experts have cited the importance of realizing that foreign aid helps everyone, as it is an essential investment. Cousin has said, “The reality is that we live on a very small planet. Food security in one part of the world means security for another part. We are hopeful government [will] recognize the need to support both population[s].”

Experts are imploring that people need to understand better the impact that foreign aid has on its recipients. Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, urges people to understand, “The mistake we make, we do not see the connection between instability and how it affects global peace. As the rural areas are destabilized, people migrate to urban areas, and there they often become even poorer, more frustrated, desperate and susceptible to rhetoric.” Nwanze attributes this to how so many end up living in militancy.

Urgency can be found on both sides of this argument, with one side demanding action on behalf of British citizens and the other reminding world of how important it is to maintain humanitarian action. What Cameron and Britain ultimately decides to do regarding this issue could have an impact on the way other countries use foreign aid. As poverty experts continue to emphasize the effect foreign aid has on a global level, and not simply the effect it has on the recipient, it will be up to the British government to make the best possible decision.

– Julie Guacci

Sources: Huffington Post, The Daily Mail
Photo: Daily Mail

Imagine having the ability to know that something drastic was going to happen before it ever took place. Some might call it being psychic; others call it science.

Over time, technology has steadily risen and become more advanced. Recently, a team of neuroscientists “published a paper claiming it has developed a mathematical calculation that could potentially predict the tipping point of any massive event.”

These events would vary from market crashes, all the way to someone having a brain seizure.

This would be accomplished through a working system of nodes. During this, one neuron inside the brain would “ignite a stream of connected activity – a web-like chain reacting that unfolds in seemingly unpredictable ways.”

Scientists, however, have discovered that events can in fact be predicted with the proper information. A group of professors at the University of Sussex, along with colleagues working in psychology and physics, are conducting experiments that replicate monitored brain activity.

This team has also formulated an equation that disclosed the effects of information being flown between multiple nodes. Lionel Barnett, one of the leading authors on the paper, discovered that all of the elements “casually influence each other.”

Barnett’s discovery will enable scientists to differentiate between when a node is dependent upon its own behavior, and when it is dependent upon all other nodes.

“The dynamics of complex systems – like the brain and the economy – depend upon how their elements casually influence each other; in other words, how information flows between them,” said Barnett.

Since the system is this complex, how is it possible to be able to predict something so sporadic?

The team of researchers proposes that it is manageable to measure when a system reaches its “tipping point,” as it alters from a healthy system to one that shows immense change.

The theory was tested using a model that physicists use to predict “phase transitions” in standard systems. This, accompanied by supercomputers at the Charles Sturt University in Australia allowed the team to find the “global transfer entropy flow.”

This basically means that scientists have discovered that certain flows reach peaks repeatedly, right before a tipping point. If the possibility of this major scientific discovery is plausible, the world as is known will be altered entirely.

According to Anil Seth, the co-director of the Sackler Centre, “This would change the course of the dynamics and prevent seizures.” This was before Seth further suggested that the application could be used for financial, climate and immune systems.

Seth explained, in depth, that he believes this possibility is really feasible, in spite of the systems being so vastly diverse. On the other hand, although there is faith in the project itself, there are many factors that come into play.

For example, human error and factors such as interference from mathematically-drawn conclusions as a result of errors, could affect the results. Through further research, the team hopes to make exciting revelations in this field.

Samaria Garrett

Sources: The New Yorker, Wired
Photo: Severa Rules

Since those in extreme poverty have no line of credit (in some cases they have no state records whatsoever), they are sometimes forced to turn to loan sharks for quick cash. These loan sharks operate outside of the law and when it comes to payment, they have no mercy, often leaving the borrower in worse conditions than before the transaction.

In South Africa, this debt cycle has affected the poorest population. In the Johannesburg slum, Alexandra, loan sharks are easier to find than a job or sanitary facilities. Taking advantage of a desperate and uneducated population, loan sharks are able to make huge profits. As one Alexandra resident explains, the loan sharks hold identification cards as collateral and when their “customers” are unable to repay their loans, the ID cards are sold to refugees and emigrants from other parts of Africa.

With 18% of South Africans in debt (on record, not including those indebted to loan sharks), the World Bank is supporting a new strategy to reach and educate the public. Referred to as education entertainment, social issues are embedded into the existing storyline of a television show until the characters, and the viewers, are eventually guided to a solution. Rather than blatantly tell people what they should do- which is likely to meet resistance- advice is subtle and portrayed in the context of everyday life. Viewers are already familiar with the characters, and with the added appeal of emotion, soap operas serve as an ideal platform for credible information.

Scandal, one such show, reaches 3 million viewers in Johannesburg nightly, and its target audience is the low income population. This show has already tackled the issue of debt, with one character finding herself in a predicament then gathering information and arriving at a solution. Not only did the string of episodes warn of the negative consequences of debt, but the telephone number for a debt consolidation hotline was also displayed on screen. Following the debt-focused episodes, and for some time after, calls into the debt hotline increased 300%.

Although criticized for being overdramatic and unrealistic, soap operas have now become a resource for those struggling with poverty and other social issues. Soap Operas are a popular genre and the more viewers tune in, the more they empathize and relate to the characters on the show. By embedding useful information into soap operas, it is possible to educate an entire population without disturbing their nightly routine. Social issues associated with poverty can be combated with love triangles and scandals, thanks to education entertainment.

– Alessandra Luppi

Sources: World Bank, World Bank Blog

Famous celebrities and world leaders alike channel their influence to promote the various causes they are passionate about. Below are 5 famous advocates for global poverty:

1. Bono

Lead singer of Dublin-based band U2, Bono is one of the most influential celebrity advocates fighting global poverty. He is the co-founder of the organization ONE, which is a campaign of over 3 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. He is also creator of other campaigns including Debt AIDS Trade Africa (RED) and clothing company EDUN. Bono recently performed at the 2013 Global Citizen Festival, calling on audience members to help put a stop to extreme poverty by 2030. He was granted knighthood in 2007 and dubbed a “Man of Peace” for all his philanthropic work. He serves as a role model to all celebrities and is passionate about a greater cause.

2. Angelina Jolie

While filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia, Jolie first became personally aware of worldwide humanitarian crises. Since 2001, she has traveled on field missions around the world and interacted with refugees and other displaced people in more than 20 countries. She founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation with actor Brad Pitt. The foundation focuses on eradicating extreme rural poverty, conserving wildlife, and protecting natural resources. Among the many philanthropic endeavors she has undergone, some include building an all-girls primary school in Afghanistan, opening a refugee camp and recently, undergoing a double mastectomy, bringing awareness to cancer and women’s health.

3. Elton John 

Famous musician Sir Elton John has seen many of his close friends die from HIV/AIDS in his lifetime. In their honor, he established the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992 to fight the disease worldwide. The organization has raised over $125 million to support programs in 55 countries through education, health services and elimination of prejudice and discrimination. In 2004 he was the most generous person in music of the year, donating over $43 million to organizations across the globe. In 2008, he donated 120 motorcycles to the African nation of Lesotho to be used by doctors and nurses to visit patients in remote areas.

4. George Clooney

Clooney is one of the most charitable stars in Hollywood, focusing his energy on a mission to stop the human rights atrocities occurring in Darfur. He famously founded the group Not On Our Watch to stop the genocide occurring in Sudan. He has personally visited the area several times and met with victims and world leaders alike.

5. Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President and founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, Clinton set up his organization to promote aid for a number of humanitarian causes. His organization focuses specifically on climate change, economic development, global health and women’s rights. Though there has been some controversy over the Clinton Foundation in recent years, it remains a well-known global advocacy network for aiding poverty-stricken countries.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: ONE, TED, Look to the Stars, CQ Researcher, Clinton Foundation
Photo: Charles Cannon

Music has a definite way of bringing people together. Concerts and music festivals across the world attract thousands of people from all different walks of life. Some concerts are put on solely for the enjoyment of the audience, but others have a greater purpose at hand, in which music plays a key role.

In the case of the Global Citizen Festival, music has stirred a movement across the world calling for individuals to become involved in the fight to end extreme poverty. The Global Citizen Festival, an initiative of the Global Poverty Project that was founded in Australia, debuted on September 29, 2012 with more than 60,000 attendees. Not only does the festival feature a variety of noteworthy artists, but also a very special audience deserving of their own round of applause.

This year’s Global Citizen Festival is featuring Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys and John Mayer. Such an exciting lineup is sure to prompt individuals of all ages to join the ranks as a Global Citizen. Tickets to the festival are not so much an acquirement as they are an achievement. In order to land tickets, individuals must sign up to be a member of Global Citizen, and carry out a number of acts all involved in the awareness and advocacy of global poverty. For every act the individual performs a number of points are allotted. The magic number here is eight. Once a participant performs enough of the steps to attain eight points, he/she becomes eligible to enter to win tickets to the festival.

Some of the steps to a festival ticket entry include: social media sharing, signing a petition, and emailing a senator about policies regarding poverty. Such steps ensure that participants use their voices and resources to help affect change in the world around them.

While the Global Citizen Festival has a number of renowned organizations as partners, there is always room for more. The most recent organization to join the Global Citizen movement is the Somaly Mam Foundation.

The Somaly Mam Foundation is a non-profit organization working to end human trafficking. As a survivor of sex slavery, Somaly Mam helped found the organization, wanting to help other women both in bondage and out of bondage to feel empowered.

The significance of the Somaly Mam Foundation partnering with the Global Citizen Festival is huge, because it is bringing in more support for the policy goals of this year’s festival. Instead of solely focusing on global poverty, this year’s Global Citizen Festival is also focusing on education, health care, and women’s equality. Now with the Somaly Mam Foundation as a partner, more women will be encouraged to join the activism happening across the globe, and to feel the self-empowerment so dear to the Somaly Mam mission.

The empowerment of women and girls everywhere is important to the fight to end extreme poverty. Providing women with education, self-awareness, and wholesome support will help build healthier communities, and reduce the exploitation of the female body. In turn, this will reduce the number of infant mortalities in underdeveloped countries, and ultimately help the state of global poverty.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Global Citizen, Look to the Stars
Photo: The Q Side

Join Alicia Keys, Gerard Butler, Katie Holmes, and many more in their efforts to end extreme poverty by becoming a Global Citizen. On September 28, 2013, the second annual Global Citizen Festival will be held at Central Park in New York. This free concert, put on by the Global Poverty Project and the Cotton On Foundation, will accommodate nearly 60,000 attendees.

How does one get these free tickets? The Global Poverty Project utilizes an approach well known by Borgen Project supporters. They work to raise awareness on global issues and aim to influence specific policies. The issues highlighted this year include education, women’s equality, global health, and global partnerships. Therefore, those wanting to attend need to become a Global Citizen and work towards ending extreme poverty through signing petitions and writing their congressional and business leaders. Every action taken earns Global Citizen points!

Learn more about this online action and enter to earn your free admission to the concert at

Through the 2012 festival, partnering nonprofits reported a total of $1.3 billion in commitments made to support crucial anti-poverty initiatives. This year’s concert is equally ambitious. Their success and current goals have drawn award-winning musicians to the concert. The artist line-up includes Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, and Alicia Keys. These artists are passionate about global issues. Alicia Keys has done tremendous work in the global fight against HIV and AIDS, and John Mayer is dedicated to combating the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Their efforts at the 2013 Global Citizen Festival will help end extreme poverty.

Specifically, the festival hopes to raise necessary funds and much needed awareness to address particular concerns. First, the intent is to make it possible for every child to be able to attend school. Currently, 1 out of every 10 children worldwide is not able to progress past elementary school. Next, the festival aims to reach the demand for an increase in health workers and better access to vaccines. Currently, millions of children die every day due to preventable causes such as malaria and malnutrition. Finally, the focus for this year’s concert is to empower women and girls around the world. Through the empowerment of women, poverty, wellness, and education will be improved. The 2013 Global Citizen Festival will highlight the global partnerships that make all this work possible, with the added intent of attracting new partnerships.

The Global Poverty Project has created a fun and interactive way for celebrities and their fans to take part in the eradication of global poverty through the 2013 Global Citizen Festival. Join the fun!

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: Look to the Stars, Global Citizen, amNewYork
Photo: SeatGeek

Since their creation, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have been two of the most celebrated traditions in history. Some flock to the world’s most beautiful cities to watch live; others crowd around television sets, anything to be a part of this phenomenon that unites the globe under the common love of sport. Avid sports fan or not, it’s safe to say that everyone relishes in seeing the best athletes in the world bring pride and honor to their home countries.

For many nations, the opportunity to host one of these popular mega-events is a chance of a lifetime. Not only do the cities have the prestige of having the whole world’s eyes on them, but becoming a host city is also a chance to revamp the national economy and improve infrastructure. Not to mention the immense prospects for tourism as fans come from around the world to watch these events.

Despite the seemingly happy exterior faces of these mega-sporting events, they unfortunately can take a toll on the host countries’ and host cities’ ways of life, including their economic development policy. Earlier this summer, millions of Brazilians flooded the streets of Brazil to protest the costs of the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games.

Protestors have cited the hosting of these events as an example of the government’s misplaced priorities. It is estimated that the World Cup will cost about $13.3 billion—a price tag for which no one but taxpayers will be responsible, even if it would make for good PR and instantly anoint Brazil as a global superpower.

However, protestors in Brazil do not find that kind of PR worth it at this moment in time. Even though the government promises that hosting the games and the World Cup will help to boost development in the country–by accelerating investments in infrastructure and improving services, governance, and local enterprise to international standards–critics say the money should be spent on grassroots development projects on health and education.

The mega events have already proved to be a problem in Brazil’s development policy. According to the Ford Foundation, many people in Rio de Janeiro have become worse off due to the numerous evictions in poorer communities in order to build infrastructure for the games. Also, less attention is being paid to improving the poorer communities and instead the focus is being put on increasing real-estate prices in upper-class areas where most of the infrastructure is being improved.

According to Leticia Osorio of the Ford Foundation, local communities need to be consulted with during these projects.  “They need to get civil society involved in discussions. That’s true for the government, but FIFA and the IOC (International Olympic Community) also have to change the way they assess bids to include human rights and better values.”

Even more recently, Qatar has come under fire for being awarded the 2022 World Cup bid. The desert nation, the richest country per capita in the world, has been accused of numerous human rights abuses concerning their treatment of migrant workers, an issue that the Internal Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) defined as “modern slavery.”

More than one million migrant workers in Qatar are victims of the “Kafala system” where employees are tied to a specific employer who controls the employee, even on the grounds of when and if they can leave the country. Migrant workers, who mostly hail from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, are denied their wages and are forced to work in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Yet they will be the ones building the construction projects for the World Cup.

In response to these growing criticisms, the government enacted the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter last October, which promises that all contractors and sub-contractors would guarantee strict standards of health and safety for migrant workers. The Qatar Foundation at the end of April also announced that mandatory minimum standards of welfare for the migrant workers would be enforced. Overall, the government hopes that the hosting of the World Cup will help to improve current conditions in Qatar.

“We have always acknowledged that the current state of workers welfare needs to be improved. From the beginning we have pointed to the power of football as tremendous catalyst for tangibly improving labour conditions in Qatar and the region at large,” the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement addressed to CNN.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles 

Sources: Huffington PostThe Globe and MailCNNThe Guardian

The crowdfunding website, Kickstarter, has enabled a Grenada based organization, the Grenada Goat Dairy Project (GDP) to successfully fundraise enough money to build a new school. The GDP trains local farmers to make the transition to sustainable income-generating production and marketing strategies for high quality dairy projects; in doing so, they reduce the carbon footprint associated with imports, and help support local products.

Grenada imports the majority of its food, which means much of it is full of preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals. The GDP looks to break this dependency on processed goods by creating a self-sustaining system that provides nutritious, organic food. The GDP operates several projects, including breeding, research, and consulting programs that advocate for further support for rural farmers.

With a herd of 35 goats, the GDP produces milk and then processes it into a variety of cheeses and chocolate. While the profits from the sales of these dairy products covers approximately 70 percent of the cost of the project, they aim to eventually become a model of self-sustainability and to leave the cycle of aid.

What is notable, however, is that the Goat Dairy Project has harnessed the power of social media and online crowdfunding in order to raise money and awareness for the organization. In September, a new GDP school will open, with funds for the project having been raised almost exclusively on Kickstarter.

The educational dairy facility is specifically aimed at youth development, and will be a fully functioning goat farm that integrates primary education with community empowerment, food-security, and responsible citizenship in Grenada. The Kickstarter project was launched in August of last year, and within six weeks $63,160 had been raised, exceeding the target of $55,000.

Kickstarter allowed GDP to make connections with individuals and organizations that have a wealth of knowledge and passion, and to share its progress and news with donors all over the world. GDP created a video to promote its cause, initiated “matching funds challenges” when donations began to plateau, and engaged the local media in Grenada, and on an international scale. Through other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, GDP maintained interest and was able to show people how their money was being spent.

The success of the Goat Dairy Project and its online fundraising efforts remains a positive example of the power of social media and its ability to garner interest, support, and donations from across the world.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: The Guardian, The Goat Dairy Project
Photo: The Goat Dairy Project 

Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas is a two-day event filled with talks, conferences, and conversations that brings leading thinkers together for discussions on topics like politics, public policy, global affairs, environment, science and technology, and more.

This festival will be hosted in downtown Berkeley, California on October 25th and 26th, and will feature prominent thinkers like global poverty expert Ananya Roy and civil rights leader Kate Kendell. Currently, there are 15 speakers confirmed to lead conversations, but this list is far from final, as there are more being confirmed by the day.

Uncharted is the ideal event for those who are “infovores,” people who are intellectually engaged and are eager to effect positive societal change by sharing information and ideas. The significance of this event’s name, Uncharted, is that it evokes new ideas through discourse not traditionally considered or “charted.”

The entire message of this event is the optimism that society can be improved by challenging the status quo. For example, Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, will be discussing the new frontier of civil rights.

The guests of Uncharted are encouraged to participate and avoid being passive in the discussions and talks. The Uncharted philosophy holds that the best ideas derive from a multifaceted approach and the inclusion of a diversity of ideas. Thus, the ideas at the festival are spread not through speeches, but through interactive conversations.

The founding sponsors of Uncharted are the University of California, Berkeley, Panoramic Interests, and Autodesk. The organizers of this inaugural event hope that this becomes an annual tradition of the exchange of great ideas among those who want to change the world.

The event staff is staying connected with the public through social media like Facebook and Twitter and will be selling tickets until July 25th. The hope is that this event will connect some of the world’s most distinguished thinkers and host conversations that will conceive of innovative ideas for the world’s problems.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: BerkeleySide, BerkeleyIdeas, Uncharted Ideas Facebook
Photo: Microdinero