Inflammation and stories on events

On August 9th, the world celebrated the UN’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, an annual event that has been held since 1995. This year’s theme, “honoring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements,” struck a chord with aboriginal peoples around the globe. With many suffering from poverty and marginalization at the hands of states in power, the indigenous peoples of today are finding a dead end at the intersection of state interests and modern culture. The United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and has been advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights ever since. In a report released in 2009, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs described the state of the world’s indigenous peoples, particularly the impoverishment that most have found themselves in.  The report points out that globalization has given governments a reason to take indigenous lands for use in profitable industries like mineral extraction. Either seized or heavily polluted, these lands and territories of indigenous people have increasingly become their heaviest losses. With unsettling histories marked by colonization, dispossession, and injustice, indigenous peoples have been forced into the lowest echelons of society where they often remain. Research conducted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has produced statistical figures that characterize the overwhelming poverty felt by these peoples. There are about 370 million indigenous peoples around the globe today, or about 5% of the world population. They make up 15% of the world’s poor and 1/3 of the world’s “extremely poor rural people.” Disparities between countries’ indigenous and nonindigenous populations in education, healthcare, and other basic sectors are substantial. On August 9th, several indigenous populations spoke out against their marginalization.  In the Philippines, the people of Cordillera called on their government to “honor their commitments to [the people of Cordillera].” In the past three years, these people have seen the rise of the state’s mining industry, which has ultimately violated their rights. Given their circumstances, indigenous peoples’ voices are rarely heard. Where foreign aid could be the key to a better world for these peoples, countries continue to allot funds to secure state interests, often leaving aboriginal peoples behind. In a collective effort to shift the tides, indigenous peoples everywhere are calling on donors to consider sending direct donations in support of their development.
Lina Saud
Sources: Indigenous Day, What Indigenous Peoples Need from Foreign Aid Photo: Indian Country

Laughter is fr universal language, and comedy is a much broader medium, than given credit for. Laughing is disarming, warm, enjoyable, and can help unite people. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that comedy can also connect and rally people to fight intractable problems. Humor can indeed be a powerful weapon against the scourge of something like global poverty and the absences of technology and education in communities. This is the very idea behind Comic Relief, an organization operating in the United Kingdom and abroad that stands up to poverty.

Existing officially as both a company and charity in the UK, Comic Relief began in 1985 during Christmas season at a Sudanese refugee camp. Renowned and well-meaning British comedians hoped to raise awareness of the Sudanese plight and the Ethiopian famine going on. The success of that first event spawned more live comedic appearances in Sudan and gave way to Red Nose Day in 1988, which brought much needed attention and money to the region that went directly to relief. Since that time, Comic Relief has grown in size and scope, spreading laughter and awareness of numerous other initiatives.

One of those other initiatives is Send My Friend to School (, a nonprofit movement in the UK working to make the Millennium Development Goal of education for all children a reality by 2015. A member of the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), the initiative boasts UK membership of over 10,000 schools and youth groups. Another initiative Comic Relief supports is the intrepid See Africa Differently ( campaign, aimed at changing the world’s perception of the continent and sharing stories of real people there that aren’t covered in major news. For example, the London art scene has recently been enthralled with the works of West African artists.

A very personal and striking account of Comic Relief in action is the story of teen sisters Hazel and Hiayisani in Tembisa, South Africa. Orphaned after their mother’s sudden illness and death, older sister Hazel was now in the position of caring for herself and her sister. Poor and completely exposed to the worst of society, they were at risk of being split up by Social Services, falling into a life of crime or the world of sexual slavery. However, after finding the Bishop Simeon Trust, a Comic Relief partner in Tembisa, the girls were able to join other orphans. They now receive a stipend and care packages from the trust to live on, free education, and enjoy time at the Bishop Simeon facility with other teenagers.

Comic Relief is best known for its initial and ongoing fundraiser, Red Nose Day. Happening every few years, this international event is celebrated mainly in the UK and Africa. For those who participate, the objective is to put on a red nose and be ridiculous. Proceeds from the event go directly to initiatives like the ones mentioned above, aimed at education and the changing of negative international typecasts.

Comic Relief has shown that maybe laughter is the best medicine for social ails.

David Smith
Sources: Comic Relief –History, Send My Friend –About, West African Art Pops Up in London, Comic Relief –Hazel and Hiayisani, Africa, Red Nose Day –What Is It?
Photo: BBC


On the heels of President Obama’s trip to Africa, the United States Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) gathered to unveil their 2013 campaign, “Innovations in Smart Power.” Composed of authorities from both the public and private sector, the conference rested on one key theme: the idea that through mutual cooperation, smart policy making, and dedication, we have the power to reduce global poverty to below 3% of the global population.

In doing so, the coalition argues, we can create a framework to yield unprecedented return on investments. In turn, national security and peace will become more attainable than ever before. In essence, everyone wins.

The USGLC is a Washington D.C. based organization representing over 400 American businesses, NGOs, diplomats, government and military advisors, and policy makers. Through mutual cooperation the USGLC hopes to foster an environment of American global leadership through “strategic investment in development and diplomacy.”

Over the course of the two-day conference, a vibrant spectrum of global leaders heralded the efficacy of government/public sector cooperation. Microsoft’s/USAID’s partnership, 4Afrika, aims to equip underprivileged Africans with mobile phones and provides a crucial communications service while simultaneously creating a foundation for an emerging market. Similarly, Merck’s partnership with Mectizan Donation Program is working to effectively rid the world of onchocerciasis, more commonly referred to as “river-blindness.”

Cooperation on such a level has been described by World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, as a shift in the global business ethos to “do good” while “doing well.” And with developing countries expected to grow at a rate of up to three times faster than developed nations, there is a clear indication that investment in the developing world could greatly benefit the private sector.

To this point, Unites States Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew argued the unique position we, as the United States, occupy in battling global poverty in a practical sense. Through engagement and utilization of “Smart power,” we can spearhead a culture of mutual cooperation between public, private, and NGO entities in the pursuit of global development and poverty reduction.

When Lew speaks of “Smart Power,” he is referencing what is commonly referred to by International Relations academics as “Soft Power.” Coined by Joseph Nye, Dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Soft Power is “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion.” Rather than defeating the enemy through military might, he argues, we win their hearts and minds through building schools and hospitals.

As a nation with unparalleled economic and military power, Lew argues Smart Power is a vital yet underutilized arrow in our national quiver. “It can’t just be about doing good. It is about doing good to help end poverty and improve the quality of life, but it is also very practical.” Lew continues, “from the government perspective, it is about security because we are safer in a world where we have stability and they aren’t starving.”

“The two [smart and hard power] together,” Lew says, “give us an enormously enhanced ability to make the world a safer and better place.” Bearing this in mind, it is important to emphasize that the percentage of our national budget allocated to International and Foreign Affairs, is roughly 1%. At the same time, however, defense spending eats up roughly 15% of the budget.

What the USGLC hopes to convey, in the end, is there rests far more opportunity in a world where there is peace and prosperity. Through encouraging peace through peaceful means, we are not only expressing good will, we are renovating the foundation on which society sits.

– Thomas van der List

Sources: Mectizan, USGLC, YouTube, UCLA, USGLC
Photo: US General Services Administration

The Group of Eight, or G8, summit was held in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland last week. The G8 Summit is an annual conference at which leaders from nine of the world’s most powerful nations and bodies come together to discuss the global issues of the day. Representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and the European Union all sat down together to discuss the Syrian conflict, international trade agreements, and meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Though only briefly discussed, one of the most important topics on their agenda was poverty and how it related to health and development.

In the days leading up to the summit, anti-poverty groups came out in force to demonstrate on behalf of their cause. In Belfast and at Lough Erne resort, where the global leaders were staying, over 10,000 activists took to the streets to make their voices heard. Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron, had already vowed to put “impact investing” on the G8 agenda, and the people wanted to be sure that he stuck to his word. Impact investing- a combination of philanthropy and profit- was a topic that would coincide well with other issues up for discussion.

More than three billion people worldwide, about 40% of the world’s population, live in poverty. 1.5 billion people living in “resource rich” countries survive on less than $2 a day. Tax avoidance schemes conducted by foreign investors deprive nations of around $161 billion per year, and global leaders have allowed these practices to continue. The removal of all barriers to foreign investment and the privatization of industries have maintained a status quo where investors benefit more from the country than its people receive in return.

One of the MDGs agreed upon in 2000 was a reform in the structure of economic relations between developed and developing countries, including fairer trade relations. This would allow developing nations to work their way out of poverty, as opposed to allowing wealthier countries to take advantage of their natural resources. As opposed to pursuing a solution to this goal, wealthy nations and investors have denied developing economies the opportunity to build their own industries. Policies that force developing countries to rely on inward “investment” have been embraced instead.

In countries where development initiatives, such as funding for education and improving health care, have been embraced, there has been marked improvement. In Ghana and the Philippines, development index scores have come up over the past few years after implementing such programs. In that same span of time, since 2009, 60 countries have introduced legislation to discourage or prohibit activism in all forms. Organizations that seek to improve the lives of the poor are limited to only providing basic services.

What is needed now is a sustainable development model for nations trying to climb out of poverty. Accountability, transparency and commitment are all essential to shared development goals.

This past week may have been the first step towards reaching this new objective. On the Saturday before the official start of the G8 summit, the participating leaders came together in a pre-G8 meeting and they all agreed to join a tax sharing agreement. This new agreement means that companies and investors must report what they pay to home-nations to insure that developing countries are receiving their rightful portion of the profit pie. If the world’s top leaders commit to seeing this agreement succeed, it could mean the beginning of a brighter future for the developing world.

– Allana Welch

Sources: Hindustan Times, Action Aid, The Journal, The Telegraph,

The Temenos Company has become one of the newest sponsors of the 2013 Microcredit Summit to fight poverty. Temenos is a banking software company that started in New York City in 1997. Temenos now services over 60 institutions across 8 offices, and acquires profits of $50 million each year in its North American services.

The 2013 Microcredit Summit is an effort to eradicate poverty. Other sponsors of the summit include Johnson & Johnson, the World Savings Banks Institute, and the central bank of the Philippines. This year, it will be hosted in the Philippines from October 9th until October 11th. The 2013 Microcredit Summit is the 16th summit organized by the Microcredit Summit Campaign. The idea is to organize advocates, educational institutions, microfinance experts, international institutions of finance, NGOs, and anyone else involved with microfinance in order to share knowledge and to work towards poverty eradication. The goal is to improve the lives of the poorest families in the world by providing them with microcredit and other financial services. The summit will include discussions on how to reach these goals.

Murray Gardiner, the Director of Microfinance at Temenos, said that the 2013 Microcredit Summit creates a platform to address poor families of the world. Two years ago, Temenos helped sponsor the 2011 Microcredit Summit, showing their lasting commitment to the ideals of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. The summit will hopefully help eradicate poverty by improving access to microfinance around the world.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Temenos, Micro Credit Summit
Photo: Tumblr

What is Juneteenth Day?
Celebrated on June 19th each year, Juneteenth Day is the oldest celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. June 19th was the day that Union soldiers entered Texas to declare the news Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. News traveled so slowly in those days that it took two years for people in Texas to find out about the Emancipation Proclamation. It is an unofficial holiday celebrated each year, although there is a push to make it a nationally celebrated holiday.

Today Juneteeth Day celebrates African American freedom and focuses on education and achievement. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement, and planning for the future. Juneteenth Day is growing in popularity and points to increased dignity among individuals. The day celebrates African American culture and acknowledges the past, present, and future.

The day also provides a time for individuals around the world to be sensitized to the experiences of others. As we are more aware of what others have and are going through, we will be more motivated the act. Juneteenth Day should serve as a call to action and a reminder that slavery still exists today.  It will take all kinds of people, from all walks of life, with all kinds of experiences, to come together and remember the past and fight for the future.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Sources: America’s Library Juneteenth Celebrations
Photo:Postal News

The 8 essential elements of a successful fundraiser:

  1. Have a Hook – While it would be lovely if people spontaneously wanted to give money to a cause without incentive it is rather unlikely. People need to be drawn in and given a reason to want to show up. Have a particular element that will excite people and make them enthusiastic about attending. For example: a theme party, a party centered around an activity like rock-climbing or learning to make pottery, or an auction.
  2. Perfect Your Guest List – It matters who attends. You want people who are enthusiastic and will add life to the fundraiser and make people feel engaged. You also want people who want to give. It is important to have dynamic individuals who can spark other peoples’ excitement about the cause and spur the donating!
  3. Send Irresistible Invites – Visuals are key. People respond to snazzy invitations that look like time and effort went into them. Exciting graphics can turn an RSVP from no to yes. The goal is to impress people with how awesome the fundraiser looks so that they want to rearrange their schedules to attend.
  4. Minimize Costs – Breaking the bank on the party planning takes away from how much money is raised. Better to find sponsors and businesses willing to donate. If you plan accordingly you can cobble together small donations from a number of businesses. Asking for manageable amounts of food, drink, or prizes increases the likelihood of getting a yes. Or finding someone to sponsor the event can be a great way to help a business get their name out there and cover all your costs.
  5. Host Their Pants Off – Everyone loves to feel special and appreciated. Giving each party attendee a little personalized attention can go a long way towards opening someone’s checkbook. It is also important to be calm and together – exuding confidence helps others feel good about giving and certain that their money is going to the right place. Be able to succinctly discuss the cause for the fundraiser.
  6. Get the Message Across – It is important that the fundraiser actually be fun so that guests will relax and enjoy themselves. Have someone give a very concise presentation about the cause – give them the need to know info in a digestible way.
  7. Make the Giving Part Easy – Create a simple way for people to give after they hear about how awesome the cause is. Having tables set up by all the doors with friendly volunteers to accept donations is a pleasant way of reminding people to give. Having donation boxes set up throughout the event space also makes it easy for guests to donate at their convenience. Make it clear what forms of donation are accepted and make sure you have it clearly written who checks should be made out to near any donation spots.
  8. Follow Up With Thanks – Send thank you notes to everyone who donated. Showing appreciation makes people feel good about giving and increases the likelihood of that person becoming a regular donor. Letting people know their contribution matters also makes it likely that they will mention your cause to others. Word of mouth is a great way to promote the cause!

– Zoë Meroney

Source: iVillage,Indiegogo Blog
Photo: WordPress

In Vancouver, Canada on May 26, 2013, the World Partnership Walk attracted thousands of participants hoping to raise millions of dollars in a walk to end global poverty. In 2012, the World Partnership Walk raised more than $2 million on behalf of the Aga Khan Foundation and its fight to end global poverty.

A regional campaign manager for Aga Khan Foundation, Zahed Lalani said that the donations raised this weekend will go towards future generations and people associated with Bangladesh’s garment factories. Usually, women are recruited to work at the factories and their newborn children are left with family members that are ill-equipped to care for them. Due to malnutrition, many of these infants don’t live past the age of five. The money and awareness raised last weekend will go towards the 50 factory daycare centers opened by the foundation to care for the children of the factory workers.

Another participant in the World Partnership Walk is Derek Gent, the current executive and director of the Vancity Community Foundation. Gent first came in contact with the often times illiterate and innumerate villagers in rural Bangladesh in 1996 and hoped to pass on his knowledge of Western economics. Gent was surprised at the sophistication one particular villager could apply to business without Western tools. On Sunday, Gent hopes others can learn from and connect with people from developing nations just as he did.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Vancouver 24hrs
Photo: Science Daily

10 Facts You Should Know About the Nobel Peace Prize
It is a prize that is both coveted and renowned worldwide. As the date of announcement grows closer, here are ten facts to know about the Nobel Peace Prize.

  1. This year the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2013 by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
  2. Every year, the Nobel Prize (including the Peace Prize) is awarded in Oslo, Norway and administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace.
  3. There is a 50 Year Secrecy Rule in regard to the prize nominees and the grounds they were selected. The Committee does not announce the names of nominees to either the media or the candidates themselves.
  4. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 93 times to 124 laureates. It was not awarded on 19 occasions: in 1914-1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1939- 1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967 and 1972.
  5. The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was awarded jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.
  6. Of the 100 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 15 are women. The first time a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a woman was in 1905, to Bertha von Suttner.
  7. The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been honored the most – three times – by a Nobel Peace Prize.
  8. The Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is the only person who has declined the Nobel Peace Prize. They were both awarded the Prize for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord. Le Doc Tho said that he was not in a position to accept the Nobel Prize, citing the situation in Vietnam as his reason.
  9. The oldest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date is Joseph Rotblat, who was 87 years old when he was awarded the Prize in 1995.
  10. To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is Tawakkol Karman, 32 years old when awarded the 2011 Peace Prize.

– Kira Maixner
Source: Nobel Prize
Photo: Essence

Capitol Hill: A Glimpse of Prince Harry
In his first visit to the United States since the infamous Las Vegas scandal, Prince Harry and other members of the Royal Family visited Washington D.C. The Prince’s first stop was Capitol Hill to view an anti-landmine photography exhibition in honor of the HALO Trust’s 25th Anniversary. HALO is an organization that works to remove explosives left behind in war-torn countries. The exhibit took place at the Russell Senate Rotunda and long-time HALO patrons, such as the Prince, and HALO board members were not the only exhibit attendees.

Filling the balconies and lingering in hallways, the women of Capitol Hill were out with a mission in order to welcome the Prince. The Rotunda was filled with women, presumed Capitol Hill staffers, intent on getting iPhone documentation and a glimpse of Prince Harry’s visit. Later that evening, he was scheduled to give a speech regarding HALO’s work at the home of British Ambassador Peter Westmacott.

The Prince’s trip did not stop at the Capitol. Prince Harry was scheduled to tour Arlington National Cemetery, then the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Later, he was scheduled to visit Colorado to be followed by visiting parts of New Jersey that were hit by Hurricane Sandy. His last stop on the stateside tour was a polo fundraising event in Greenwich Village in Manhattan.

Kira Maixner

Source: Huffington Post