Healthcare in France
The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the foundations of the world’s healthcare systems to an extreme level. Healthcare workers have traditionally had exhausting and demanding working conditions that often lead to burnout and PTSD long before the start of the pandemic. While several other countries’ hospitals are getting substantial pay cuts, France’s healthcare workers are finally getting the pay raise that they rightfully deserve.

Healthcare in France

Many have often referred to healthcare in France, or “La Sécurité Sociale,” as among the best in the world, stating that it is high quality, very accessible and affordable for the citizens of France. Its national insurance program receives most of its funding through employer payrolls and income taxes. When someone must go in for a checkup or procedure, “La Sécurité Sociale” provides funding for 70% of the medical bill. Private insurance, known as a mutuelle, subsidizes a large portion of the 30% that is leftover. The majority of the population has a mutuelle. However, no healthcare system is perfect and every one of them comes with its flaws.

Months before the COVID-19 pandemic started, protestors were discussing the issue of better wages for healthcare workers. According to a report from Aljazeera.com, these protests have reached a boiling point due to the stress and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the workers who peacefully protested received fines or even went to jail for breaking social distancing and gathering rules. The root causes of these protests stem from the healthcare worker’s low pay and low staff that have been decreasing yearly. Ironically, while France’s healthcare system ranks among the best in the world, its healthcare workers are among the lowest-paid among established economies. As a result, doctors and nurses are in the tough position of having to accept employment through privately owned practices instead of hospitals.

Healthcare Reforms

On Monday, July 13, 2020, the French government finally heard the voices and outcries of healthcare workers. BBC News reported that the French government and several different labor unions were able to reach an agreement after seven long weeks of complex negotiations. One of the main overseers of how France has handled the coronavirus is its newly appointed prime minister, Jean Castex. He made the announcement that healthcare workers would receive an additional €8 billion ($9 billion), which will equal an additional €183 ($215) a month. While this additional funding may not have addressed all of the demands that healthcare workers requested, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Mr. Castex went on to say, “It’s also a way of catching up the delay for each and everyone – including perhaps myself – has their share of responsibility.” This monumental decision was passed just one day shy of Bastille Day, which is traditionally a national holiday in honor of the French Revolution. In 2020, however, the holiday will provide national recognition to the doctors and nurses that have been on the front lines since the start of COVID-19.

It is no secret that the devastation of this pandemic has pushed many of the world’s healthcare systems to a near breaking point. Healthcare in France has especially undergone trial and testing, but this pay raise is a step in the right direction during such uncertain times. It is a promising notion that the world’s healthcare workers are getting well-earned recognition as the heroes that the world desperately needs right now.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in France
Nearly 9 million people in France, about 14% of the population, live under the poverty line, defined as 60% of the median income. However, the large total number does not necessarily mean destitution. Under the same criterion, the poverty rate in France is lower than that in many other developed countries. Moreover, France has long been active in reducing poverty at national, European and global levels, and many other countries have drawn lessons from various exemplary innovations in poverty eradication in France. 

France and the UN

In 1989, France proposed the resolution 1989/10 to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of the United Nations, requesting to give particular attention to extreme poverty and exclusion from society. It was the first time that the commission raised extreme poverty as an independent issue, and the adoption of the resolution marked the starting-point of the U.N.’s work on extreme poverty and human rights.

From then on, every year, France presented a resolution on extreme poverty to the HRC. In 2012, France presented a resolution together with 39 other countries and had it adopted as The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. The document sets out the principles that form the basis for all poverty reduction and eradication policies, such as rights of the child, equality between men and women, transparency and access to information, etc.

Over decades of international solidarity policies, the number of people in extreme poverty around the world has successfully dropped by more than half since 1990. In 2015, the U.N. set the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of 2030, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in every corner of the globe. Following this universal call, France’s main aim is to adopt national and international policies to remedy current situations of extreme poverty and inequality.

Governmental Anti-poverty Plan

In September 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron — though people sometimes criticize him as a “president of the rich” — announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan. The new plan focused on helping the young from poor families and dealing with unemployment and introduced various innovations in poverty eradication in France. Macron announced compulsory school or vocational training for all until the age of 18 and free breakfast at primary school for the poorest students as well as subsidized school lunches for €1 each. He also granted funding to open new daycare centers and other extra crèche places in the most deprived regions in France, in order to help new mothers return to work. The government promised to reform the social benefits system and to extend completely free healthcare to several million more people.

By the beginning of 2020, the French government had allocated €1.9 million to the Red Cross and other welfare organizations in Mayotte, one of the poorest of all the 101 French départements.

Fourth World People’s University

A French priest, Joseph Wresinski, founded the ATD Fourth World organization in France in 1957, aiming toward the eradication of global poverty. Fifteen years later, the organization established the Fourth World People’s University that provides people living in poverty with opportunities to participate in political and public life as well as in the production of first-hand knowledge of fighting against poverty. In regular meetings and dialogues, people in extreme poverty share opinions and experience with others who work in solidarity with them, and they together work for a more inclusive world. Since then, having their voice heard, people have benefited from People’s Universities in eight regions throughout France and in a dozen other countries.

In 2019, some 100 participants of the European Fourth World People’s Unversity gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels and met with European deputies and various European institutions. They delivered the messages from the poor and discussed how the E.U. can address poverty, by stressing the impact of family-related policies on people living in poverty and working on indicators of poverty.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)

On October 17, 1987, Wresinski gathered 100,000 people on the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza in Paris and launched the first commemoration to the victims of poverty and hunger. In 1992, in memory of the death of the humanist priest, the United Nations instituted the date of October 17 as the official annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to help the people living in extreme poverty fight actively and to make their voices heard. For the IDEP of 2018, France and Burkina Faso organized a conference at the U.N. in New York, delivering speeches from ambassadors, activists as well as people living in extreme poverty, to advocate the U.N. goal of eradicating extreme poverty for everyone, everywhere.

Throughout the years, the world has witnessed many regional anti-poverty movements and innovations in poverty eradication in France become international. It is time for other affluent countries to learn the experience and take up more global responsibilities to reach the 2030 goal of the eradication of extreme poverty.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

hunger in France
Recently, France has made consistent progress towards eliminating hunger within its borders, throughout the European Union and in developing nations. However, with worsening global health conditions as an added stressor to those who suffer from food insecurity, it is imperative to end hunger in France and around the world.

Who Does Hunger in France Affect?

The majority of France’s most food insecure are the 200,000 plus homeless and those living in the outskirts of Paris.

Globally, one in nine people go hungry every day, and global hunger is increasing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that around 10.7% of the world’s population suffers from chronic undernourishment. Additionally, over 26.4% of the world’s population is food insecure.

The standard of living in France is relatively high due to the country’s inclusive social security systems. Access to basic needs and services such as food, water, health care and education are mostly available to all. However, while many reap the benefits of this system, disenfranchised minorities and essential workers in some parts of France have lost their jobs and access to meals. For example, in the lower-income districts that surround Paris, residents in cities like Clichy-sous-Bois require the generosity of food banks to get by.

Why Does Hunger Persist Today?

In France and on the global scale, poverty, climate change, poor public policy and food waste drastically increase hunger. These factors manifest in several ways. Some communities, like Clichy-sous-Bois, do not have equal access to resources and become stuck in cycles of poverty. Environmental degradation from unsustainable agriculture and increasing natural disasters negatively impacts crop yields, access to and distribution of food. Food waste exacerbates climate change by releasing dangerous levels of methane in landfills. Furthermore, food waste also deprives hungry people of quality food.

Furthermore, estimates determine that by the year 2050, the world will need to produce enough food to feed over 10 billion people. The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs stresses the need to transform the “agricultural and food systems” in France. According to the Ministry, “agriculture must be more sustainable and effective from economic, social and environmental perspectives to ensure food security and the health of individuals.”

The Strategy to End Hunger in France

Luckily, France has stepped up to reform the current food systems and agricultural practices that aggravate hunger and malnutrition locally and internationally. Through the Ministère de L’Europe et des Affaires Étrangères, France wrote the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture. This strategy works out a five-point plan that France will carry out between 2019 and 2024. This plan tackles the causes of hunger and serves as a leader in ending hunger in Europe and the world.

The five points of the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture are:

  1. To Strengthen the Global Governance of Food Security and Nutrition: France wishes to improve the effectiveness and coordination of international actors involved in the global governance of food security and nutrition.
  2. To Develop Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Agriculture is currently a leading cause of climate change and biodiversity loss. As a result, France wishes to confront these issues by promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
  3. To Strengthen France’s Action on Nutrition: Multiple factors lead to undernutrition in young children, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women. These include access to quality food, clean water and conditions for good hygiene.
  4. To Support the Structuring of Sustainable Agri-food Chains to Promote the Creation of Jobs in Rural Areas: Targeted at younger generations and striving to be inclusive of family agriculture, agri-food chains are a good source of employment.
  5. To Enhance Food Assistance Actions to Improve the Resilience of Vulnerable Populations: The goal is to help struggling populations regain food autonomy in the face of recurring food crises.

More Solutions

In addition to this international plan, more immediate solutions in France aim to combat food waste locally. For example, Guillaume Garot, a member of Parliament in France, authored a food waste bill. This bill requires grocery stores to donate food that they would otherwise throw away. Additionally, this bill is the first of its kind, and the European Union quickly followed suit with similar goals.

The European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) works with the U.N. to use the 88 million tonnes of food that the E.U. wastes annually. A new set of sustainable development goals seek to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” in France. As a result, FEBA transforms unnecessary food waste into vast quantities of food donations for the hungry.

FEBA builds connections with existing food banks and global partners to strengthen the food bank networks in France and across Europe and help mediate the donations. This organization works to alleviate food insecurity by distributing the equivalent of 4.3 million meals every day. That is 781,000 tonnes of food that it delivers to 9.3 million food-insecure people. In France, the Banque Alimentaires annually donates 73,000 tonnes of food products to those in need.

Through persistent actions like the International Strategy for Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture and food bank networks, the process to end hunger in France and worldwide is an ever more attainable goal.

– Rochelle Gluzman 
Photo: Flickr

Martinique's Pesticide Poisoning
From 1972 to 1993, Martinique used the pesticide chlordecone in banana plantations to eliminate the weevil, a type of beetle that was infesting the lands. Mainland France banned the use of this extremely toxic pesticide. However, the French government still authorized its use in the French West islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The chemical contaminated over 20,000 hectares of land between both islands. The world finally banned chlordecone production in 2009. However, it was too late to reverse the health damages Martinique’s pesticide poisoning left on the people of Martinique and the environment.

For almost five decades, the people of this island have been dealing with serious public health issues that chlordecone caused. Some of the issues include prostate cancer, nervous system disorders, high rates of premature births and exposure through breast milk. There is no viable decontamination method. In addition, traces of the pesticide will likely remain in the soil for at least 700 years. Martinique’s pesticide poisoning will come under control once the French government provides the funding for research that will allow a deeper understanding of the situation.

The People of Martinique

Ninety-two percent of the citizens on this island have tested positive for chlordecone poisoning. Contamination has reached the water and food supply, livestock and even marine life. This slow poisoning has caused many mothers to have premature babies. As a result, premature births are four times higher than the national average in Martinique. The contamination also affects the island’s men. Martinique has one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world with 577 new cases reported in 2018.

The pesticide is also affecting the children of Martinique. Nineteen percent of children tested for chlordecone exceeded the toxic dose. Contaminated and breastfeeding mothers are unintentionally poisoning their children through their milk. As the kids grow older, dietary exposure to chlordecone continues. This will increase their chances of developing cancer later on in life.

The Economy of Martinique

Because chlordecone poisoning has reached the waters surrounding Martinique, fishermen are having trouble staying in business. Thirty-three percent of coastal waters surrounding the island has a ban on fishing to prevent more citizens from eating poisoned food. Although this ban has kept the citizens safe, many families who rely on fishing to make a living are now struggling financially. The French government is providing some aid to these families. However, reports indicate that only 50 out of 506 fishermen received any aid. Depression and suicide are common within the fishing communities in Martinique.

Chemical contamination is also hurting the island’s exports. Martinique can no longer export much of the foods grown on the island to mainland France due to its lack of safety. This has not only hurt the economy but has also caused an uproar and a call for justice for the people of Martinique. France has banned the contaminated food. However, many in Martinique only have contaminated food. Many of the island’s citizens find this unfair. People started protests and campaigns in an attempt to get the attention of the French government. In September 2019, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, made a pledge to increase the budget for food controls of contaminated lands.

The Solutions for Martinique’s Pesticide Poisoning

Despite the lack of action by the French government, the farmers of Martinique have started to search for alternative solutions. Many of them are starting to grow their crops above land by using trees. Chlordecone is unable to travel through tree trunks which means that any crop that grows through trees will be chlordecone free. Lab testing has confirmed the lack of the toxic chemical in their crops. They are able to provide the people of Martinique with safe foods.

Along with growing food above land, farmers have started using alternative substances such as aldicarb, isophenphos, phenamiphos, cadusaphos and terbuphos which has stopped further spread of the toxic pesticide.

Despite these solutions, one of the biggest ways that the French government can help the people of Martinique is by providing the funding for research that will help them better understand chlordecone’s movement through the soil and water. Without this research, providing successful solutions will be impossible, and the people of Martinique will continue to suffer. Along with this, the government should also implement education to the population on how they can minimize their exposure to the toxic pesticide. Because the French government has ignored this issue for so long, the lack of understanding over how the pesticide threatens the environment and human health is unsettling and gaining knowledge should be the first step in solving Martinique’s pesticide poisoning. The French government has the funding and power to give the people of Martinique the quality of life they deserve.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guadeloupe
Life expectancy is an assessment of not only the projected lifetimes of individuals within a population but also a measure of the quality of life. Life expectancies of various countries range from 50 to nearly 85 years, but life expectancy statistics are consistently higher for women than they are for men regardless of what region a person is analyzing. Guadeloupe, one of three island regions of France that exist overseas in the Caribbean, is showing that it is exceeding the minimum standards in terms of human longevity. Guadeloupe continues to improve relative to the place with the highest life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Guadeloupe

  1. The standard for living for the islanders of Guadeloupe is near the highest in the Caribbean. Coincidingly, life expectancy numbers are also relatively high for this region. Various factors (not just the GDP per capita) measure the standard of living of a country that determines the quality of life, such as personal consumption of goods as well as factors that are outside of individual control, like environmental conditions and public services.

  2. Since Guadeloupe is a French territory, the social legislation in place is synonymous with that of metropolitan France. The largest general hospital is at Pointe-à-Pitre, but multiple smaller independent clinics exist throughout the area. As of 2016, France implemented a universal health care system for Guadeloupe citizens in an attempt to reduce poverty and prevent further revolts.

  3. Guadeloupe has seen a rise in the cost of living and increased disparity among commodities in comparison to metropolitan France. In 2009, islanders began revolting for a relative wage increase. Still, poverty and unemployment rates in Guadeloupe run more than double what exists in France.

  4. The efforts that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Overseas Territories put forth served priorities including improving the overall status of health and reducing disparities of health status, improving crisis management, assessing and addressing the needs of senior citizens and persons with disabilities and lowering inequality with regard to access to health services. This health insurance covers pregnant women and means that they no longer have to pay upfront for their medical appointments as part of their maternity coverage. Patients suffering from long-term illnesses also do not have upfront copays, which takes a lot of financial stress off of those with medical needs living in poverty. This type of access to health care should only improve these 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe.

  5. The leading causes of death during maternity and birth are maternal hypertension and hemorrhaging during delivery. Mosquitoes spread the Zika virus and it can be a source of illness for pregnant women, causing microcephaly in the fetus of an infected mother who does not receive treatment. The Caribbean has announced that Zika is no longer prevalent, however, scientific analysis reveals that due to changes in the classification system, the ability to track the Zika virus is what has actually changed, not the disease itself. In other words, the status of the Zika virus has merely shifted from epidemic to something that one needs to manage long-term.

  6. Guadeloupe has a low population growth rate relative to the other West Indian Islands. This makes sense, considering both the birth and death rates are below the Caribbean average. Perhaps less turnover is indicative of a relatively high life expectancy, as demonstrated by the population of Guadeloupe.

  7. The life expectancy for both sexes in Guadeloupe was 81.84 as of July 2019, whereas the life expectancy of women is 85.24 next to 78.13 for men. In comparison, statistics for France show a projected life expectancy of 85.36 for women and 79.44 for men, with a figure of 82.46 for both sexes. The life expectancy is lower in Guadeloupe in all classifications of sex, even though both countries are French territory.

  8. Some causes of death go unclassified in Guadeloupe. In 2013, there was documentation of 6,600 deaths between the three departments of the French West Indies. These deaths were due to cardiovascular diseases, parasitic or infectious diseases and unclassified diseases. In fact, 13.4 percent of deaths in Guadeloupe were unclassifiable.

  9. In 2013, reports determined there were 240 new cases of HIV in Guadeloupe. Mortality rates from AIDS remain relatively and consistently low due to the fact that population growth rates are fairly low along with the availability of antiretroviral drugs. However, it is still notable that while AIDS might not be a common direct cause of death, mortality from AIDS-related infections is still the leading cause of death in Guadeloupe. In metropolitan France, the leading cause of death is cancer.

  10. Survival rates of and trends of patients with HIV/AIDS in Guadeloupe resemble patterns to Europe as opposed to those in the Caribbean. However, reports still confirm that HIV infections do not typically receive a diagnosis until they have progressed to the stage of AIDS. Although therapy treatments are slightly more developed in Guadeloupe than in neighboring Caribbean countries, medical advancements remain necessary to increase survival rates and aid in the prevention and diagnosis of HIV/AIDS.

When considering life expectancy on an international scope, Guadeloupe is surpassing the minimum standards. Currently, the benefits of the 2009 uprisings are evident only in the health care system; poverty and unemployment continue to be rampant among the islanders of Guadeloupe. At the very least, a high percentage of the population has this universal insurance coverage and the populations most in need even receive supplementary health insurance coverage which provides augmented health care at no additional cost. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Guadeloupe show that things are moving in the right direction in terms of decreasing disparity between Guadeloupe and metropolitan France. The supplemental assistance available to individuals (regardless of employment status) is just the type of progressive accessibility to resources that should be implemented in so many countries facing extreme poverty.

 – Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ten Features of the Parliamentary System

Despite the fact that numerous nations around the world follow the parliamentary system of government, many Americans do not understand what it is. The parliamentary system is a democratic government. In this government, a coalition of political parties with the greatest representation in Parliament form the nation’s governing body. Below are ten features of the parliamentary system that describe this popular form of democracy.

Ten Features of the Parliamentary System

  1. The first of the ten features of the parliamentary system of government is the supremacy of its legislative branch. This is its defining feature. The legislative branch conducts its business through a unicameral (one house) or bicameral (two houses) Parliament. This group is composed of representatives or members that are elected by citizens of the country. The primary job of members of Parliament is to create and pass laws.
  2. The parliamentary system of government, unlike the presidential system, creates a divide between the roles of Head of Government and Head of State. Rather than citizens, members of Parliament elect the Prime Minister, who is the Head of Government. The Prime Minister oversees Parliament. This creates an overlap between the legislative and executive branches of government. The Head of State in a parliamentary systam is largely a symbolic role. Hereditary monarchs typically have this role reserved.
  3. The Prime Minister has no official term length. Thus, so long as Parliament is satisfied, the Prime Minister remains in position. Should it ever be called for, members of parliament will use a majority vote known as a “vote of no-confidence” in order to remove a Prime Minister from office.
  4. Majority vote of Parliament passes laws. Then, they are then signed into legislation by the Prime Minister, who does not have veto power. This is contrary to the presidential system. In the case of disagreement, the Prime Minister can return a bill to Parliament. However, a majority vote by Parliament can veto that return.
  5. In most parliamentary systems of government, there is a Supreme Court that can declare a law as unconstitutional. This would be done if it were to pose violations against the nation’s constitution. However, some countries, such as Great Britain and New Zealand, lack provisions for judicial review. In these countries, the only check against the legislature is the results of the next election season.
  6. Though uncommon, some parliamentary systems have an elected president who exercises foreign powers. An example of some foreign powers would be national defense and military command. The elected president exercises these powers. Some countries that follow this system are Lithuania, Bangladesh and France.
  7. Though members of Parliament hold their positions in office by each election season, they can be turned out of office. If one respective party loses majority holdover members of Parliament, they can be removed. Other members of Parliament, as well as the Prime Minister, are then able to vote out a member of Parliament. A no-confidence vote accomplishes this.
  8. Parliamentary systems lack what presidential systems call “Checks and Balances.” Therefore, the parliamentary system tends to be more efficient. This is because political gridlocks cannot delay them.
  9. A parliamentary system of government consists of members serving various political parties. Therefore, coalitions are a very popular type of agreement in parliamentary governments. Members of opposing political parties will often form a coalition, otherwise known as a temporary union. This alliance utilizes its combined resources to accomplish a common goal.
  10. Depending on the rules of voting within a country, the political representation within members of Parliament may consist of one party. It may also be proportionally representative of the nation. If a country follows a “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) principle, Parliament will most likely consist of one or two majority political parties. An FPTP is a principle in which candidates with the most ballots win a seat. However, some countries follow a rule of proportional representation. This means that the political makeup of Parliament members is appropriate to that of the nation.

With so many types of government around the world, it can be difficult to understand how each works. These are ten features of the parliamentary system that can help citizens around the world have a better understanding of this popular form of government.

-Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

France
France may be known as a fabulous tourist destination that attracts around 89 million tourists per year, but many people who vacation there turn a blind eye to the 14.1 percent of the population (nearly 9 million people) that live below the poverty line. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in France:

10 Facts About Poverty in France

  1. The definition of poverty in France follows that of the European Union. The poverty line in Europe is “60 percent of the populations median income” and is based on living conditions and employment levels. This means that more than 8 million people in France live on less than 954 euros a month.
  2. There is a considerable gap between the rich and the poor in France. The bottom 20 percent of the population earn almost five times less than the top 20 percent. This inequality is more obvious in the French city of Paris. Even though the overall poverty rate in the city of Paris is 14 percent, which is close to the national average, when you look at the underprivileged neighborhoods, the rate jumps to nearly 40 percent.
  3. In 2004, the poverty rate in France was at its lowest at 12.6 percent. However, that number has gone up. In 2015, 14.2 percent of the French population was living below the poverty line.
  4. France’s most vulnerable groups are among the most impoverished. According to a report published by the charity Secours Catholique, single women, children and foreigners are at the greatest risk of being impoverished. In 2016, Secours Catholique passed a comprehensive nine-year National Plan to address the issue of poverty in France with a focus on the higher risk population.
  5. There are several misconceptions about poverty in France. Seven out of 10 people in France believe it is easy to receive welfare. In actuality, of those who apply for unemployment, around 68 percent of those eligible for benefits will not receive them. Furthermore, up to 100 documents can be required in the application process.
  6. France is known to work to protect the rights of its citizens. It puts aside over one-third of its GDP to providing welfare protection. This is more than any other country in Europe.
  7. A new French law will require retailers to donate their unsold clothes to charity. Last February, a photo posted to Facebook showing a French clothing store destroying many unsold clothing items. This caused a great backlash from the public with many people commenting on how wasteful this was and that these clothes could benefit those in France who cannot afford to clothe themselves or their families. A French organization, Emmaus, which focuses on ending homelessness and poverty, worked with French officials to find a solution. French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, has introduced a law to take effect in 2019 that would ban retailers from throwing away unsold clothing and require the retailers to donate them to charity instead.
  8. France is home to many poverty-fighting organizations. The Restos du Coeur is one of the largest French organizations that helps with poverty alleviation. Their volunteers distribute thousands of hot meals every day. In fact, in 2015, 128.5 million meals were given out throughout France. Another organization, SOS Children’s Villages, is an international organization that has been very active in France. Parents who cannot take care of their children can seek the help of SOS Children’s Villages to offer support systems within the community to help provide a stable environment for the children in an effort to keep families together.  There are two SOS Social Centres in France, one in the north of France and one near Paris.
  9. French supermarkets must give away their unsold, expired food. Food waste is a global problem. After a unanimous vote by French Members of Parliament in 2015, supermarkets must now give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date and are banned from destroying older food products. These unsold food products go to associations that collect and distribute the food to those in need. About 5,000 charities receive the unsold food throughout France. This law helps save up to 66 pounds of food per person every year.
  10. The 2018 World Cup brought hope to impoverished, immigrant, suburban French youth. Nineteen-year-old Kylian Mbappe is one of the newest stars on the French Soccer Team. Mbappe, and many other French teammates, are from mainly non-white suburbs that surround major cities in France. Mbappe is from Bondy, which is less than ten miles away from Paris, yet seems almost like a different world. The mayor of Bondy says that Mbappe’s success is “marvelous because so often people talk about suburbs in negative terms.” Other French soccer players are from suburban areas as well, like midfielder Paul Pogba, from the Lagny-Sur-Marne in the eastern suburbs of Paris.

These 10 facts about poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a place that seems as perfect as a postcard. Even first-world countries, including France, The United States, and Japan, can have poverty issues that the media does not focus on. However, with the work of the governments, charity organizations and the community, there is hope to alleviate poverty.

– Ariane Komyati

Photo: Flickr

How France's Food Waste Law Helps Those In Need
In July 2016, the French Parliament voted unanimously to fine supermarkets that throw away edible food (food that is almost expired or too ‘ugly’ or ‘misshapen’ to sell) or food that is usable as animal feed. France was the first country in the world to pass such a law during a time when food waste has become all too commonplace in first world countries. Supermarkets caught breaking those rules can be fined up to 75,000 euros or two years in prison. This unused food is donated to charities and distributed to those who are living in poverty. This is how France’s food waste law helps those in need.

Feeding Those In Poverty

Prior to this French law forbidding food waste, some supermarkets would deliberately spoil the food they could no longer sell in order to prevent “scavengers” from taking the food out of the trash. Some places would douse the edible or recently expired food in bleach to prevent people in need from going through their trash bins. This law forbids places from doing that.

A year after the law went into effect, over 10 million meals were shared with those lacking the necessary resources to purchase food, which is how France’s food waste law helps those in need. About 5,000 charitable associations work to distribute this food to those in poverty; food that would have, otherwise, been wasted. The St. Vincent de Paul charity in Paris relies heavily on donations from grocery stores. These food items go to churches where they are then distributed to families living in poverty.

Volunteers at the Paris Food Bank collect food from supermarkets and grocery stores every day. One of their locations in Paris handles thousands of tons of food to donate each year; all food that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. These donations are growing. Charities are seeing an increase of 8 to 9 percent in food donations each year.

France’s Food Waste Law Inspires Other Countries

Now, two years after the law went into effect, less than 2 percent of food produced in France has been wasted. People in France waste less than half of the food the typical American wastes. France has become a leader in attempting to eliminate food waste.

Italy has also recently adopted legislation about food waste, and other countries around the world are interested in adopting similar food waste laws, such as Mexico and South Africa. The best part about the law is that it does not cost the state or a taxpayer any money.

There is no hard, scientific proof that this law is helping lift French citizens out of poverty, but it is important to note that poverty rates, which had been climbing in France since 2000, have now been stagnating since 2016 (around the same time the law was implemented). In 2015, 14.2 percent of French citizens were earning less than 60 percent of the median income. In 2016, this number decreased to 13.9 percent. Food that would have otherwise been thrown out is now being given to those who are impoverished, which is how France’s food waste law helps those in need.

Yet, this law isn’t the only solution to ending food waste and solving world hunger. Supermarkets and grocery stores only represent 14 percent of the total food waste, so this law needs to be spread out to other sectors such as schools and restaurants.

In France, supermarkets are no longer just a place for profit; they are now a place for charity and humanity.

– Ariane Komyati
Photo: Flickr

French Foreign Aid in Africa
France’s intimate relationship with Africa began in the 17th Century and, like other major European nations, ended after two consecutive World Wars. However, France stubbornly held on to territory in Morocco for years after the end of the wars; it was not until 1964, after a war nearly a decade long, that France relinquished its claim to the North African territory.

France’s Goals in Africa

Now, like other formal colonial powers, France has changed its goals in Africa. French foreign aid in Africa is now meant to help develop the world it left behind. In 2015, a representative from Oxfam France defended France’s bias to helping its former colonies “because the former French colonies in Africa are de facto the poorest countries in the world. There is a consistency in that decision.”

In 2009, France was the second largest donor of foreign aid in the world, only behind the United States. French foreign aid during these years was focused to two main areas — the Mediterranean Basin and Sub-Saharan Africa. French foreign aid in Africa was focused in five sectors: health, education, sustainable development, food security, and economic growth. In 2010, France was the third largest foreign aid donor.

It is also important to note that unlike other nations, France does not have one departement or governmental agency dedicated to the distribution of foreign aid; it instead relies on a multi-agency board to oversee its distribution.

Online Foreign Aid Resources

Due to the lack of a central agency to track French foreign aid in Africa, France launched a website to help citizens track projects. The website separates aid into eight different areas: environment and natural resources, agriculture and food security, outside sectors CICID, water and sanitation, education, productive sector, health and the fight against AIDS, infrastructure and urban development.

There is also an interactive map that allows anybody curious enough to look at projects in each of the 16 priority nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

French Agency for Development and Africa

An example of French foreign aid in Africa at work is the aid project currently underway in Madagascar. The French Agency for Development (AFD) has worked since 2013 in Madagascar to help locals live in harmony with the environment.

Slash-and-burn agriculture is still the most prominent technique for clearing forest, and the goal of this project is to help people learn other farming techniques to preserve the rainforest since using slash-and-burn agriculture in a society with a large population is not sustainable. Since December 2017, over 1.9 million euros have been spent on this particular project.

By simply clicking the water and sanitation tab, a user can find information about all French aid projects under this category. Of the 148 water and sanitation projects underway or completed, just over 120 of these projects are located in sub-saharan Africa. Projects range from improving water- and sanitation-provision infrastructure, to building entirely new systems. Maintaining old infrastructure is important as well, since poorly-kept human waste management systems can taint clean drinking water.

The Website

French foreign aid in Africa and around the world can be traced on the website. The map differentiates between three French foreign aid agencies, or societies, as they are referred to on the website. The largest is the aforementioned French Agency for Development, who leads the majority of these projects around the world.

According to the website, this organization is involved in over 2,500 projects in 108 different countries around the world. In 2016, the AFD hit the milestone of effectively using $9 million euros on over 600 different aid projects.

Due to political and public pressure, though, France slowly began fall behind on the list of the world’s top donors. In an act of compromise, France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to once again increase France’s soft power footprint. In July of 2017, he announced that by 2022, .55 percent of the French GDP will be spent on foreign aid. This announcement was a U-turn on previous promises made by the President as a candidate.

GDP to Foreign Aid

OECD set a 0.7 percent of GDP goal for well-developed nations, and these countries are expected to reach this benchmark by 2030. According the the President, France is on the way to reach this goal. As more and more countries regain independent influence in the world, it will be important for France to show that it can compete if the nation wants to remain relevant on the international stage.

– Nick DeMarco

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