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

Photo: Flickr

poverty in France

Poverty in France is rising once again, creating a larger financial gap between citizens. The poverty rate in France is around 14 percent, totaling 8.7 million people, according to a COMPAS study in 2012. Border towns are seeing percentages closer to 49 percent, while wealthier cities have rates as low as 7 percent.

In 2012, some metropolitan areas saw higher rates of poverty. The inequality gaps were most obvious in Paris, Hauts-de-Seine and Haute-Savoie. Single parent, large family and young family households had the highest rates of poverty in France.

This escalation of poverty in France is concerning in regards to the percentage of children that are living under the poverty line. 8.8 percent of children are living in a household that makes less than 50 percent of the national median income. This is an increase to three million children in France living under the poverty line.

Education, health and social and professional integration are areas of concern regarding children in France. Migrant children are deprived of most of these basic rights, living in slums and experiencing more severe discrimination and no ability to gain French aid. Children in these impoverished households in France lack a way out of poverty, leaving it up to the state to provide aid.

In 1989, France adopted the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) resolution which drew a link between extreme poverty and human rights. Through this council, principles were adopted to reduce and eradicate extreme poverty by looking at how to respect, protect and realize the human rights of people living in extreme poverty.

While the HRC exists, many of the French aid programs do not specifically target poverty and the need to reduce domestic poverty. France participates in foreign aid policies and programs, such as the Development Assistance Committee of OECD, but domestic aid by the state is left mainly to the Human Rights Council and a few other organizations.

The organizations that are combating poverty in France are mainly grassroots foundations. One foundation is the Action Contre La Faim, or Action Against Hunger, founded in 1979 by French intellectuals to eradicate hunger worldwide after seeing the issues caused by the emergency in Afghanistan. Another French charity, Antenna Technologies, works locally and internationally to simplify technologies to make them more accessible to the most underprivileged populations, while also fighting malnutrition and supplying access to drinking water.

People within France are taking action through organizations to fight poverty. Through these efforts, malnourishment, water scarcity, sanitation and education are being addressed and progress is being made. Their continued work can help improve the lives of those most in need in France.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

Three Fundamental Causes of Poverty in Wallis and Futuna

Wallis and Futuna, formally known as the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, is a self-governed French territory in the western Pacific Ocean consisting of two island groups. The Horne Islands include the islands of Futuna and Alofi, while the Wallis islands include Uvea Island and its surrounding reefs and islets. The economy of the nation is quickly deteriorating, and the leading causes of poverty in Wallis and Futuna are similar to that of most Pacific island states; that is, that they are vulnerable to a range of factors that individuals living on larger land masses are not. Listed below are three primary causes of poverty in Wallis and Futuna.

Population Decline
In recent years, the decline in the island’s population has been drastic. In 2015, the population was estimated to be roughly 18,000. According to a CIA World Factbook report, that number has dropped to 15,507. The historical trends do not paint a positive picture either. In 1955, the island’s population growth rate was 2.15 percent. Currently, it is .3 percent and is expected to be -.34 percent by 2100.

Additionally, the population is disproportionately old, causing concern for a relatively large aging population and a lack of people ages 18-30 who could fill the widening void in the territory’s labor force. As of 2013, 42.2 percent of the population was age 24 or younger, and 8.6 percent were above the age of 65. This is significant because it reflects that just over half of the country’s population is either slightly too young or too old to substantially contribute to the island’s economy.

Environmental Problems
Perhaps the worst of all causes of poverty in Wallis and Futuna are environmental issues. Like many other islands, Wallis and Futuna is suffering from a declining supply of natural resources, in this case due to deforestation. Since its origins, the island’s main source of fuel has been wood. Today, there are few trees left to cut down, with the only remaining substantial natural forests located on Alofi Island and a small section of Uvea Island. This level of deforestation has also left the mountainous terrain on the island far more vulnerable to erosion.

The islands are also becoming increasingly susceptible to climate events such as tropical storms, hurricanes and tsunamis. There are also no permanent settlements on Alofi Island because the island is without access to clean drinking water. Another environmental factor that has negatively impacted agricultural productivity is a lack of soil fertility on the islands of Uvea and Futuna, in addition to having a mere 7.1 percent of arable land. To make matters worse, as of 2012, the country was ranked 215 out of 218 countries in terms of the percentage of land considered to be under government protection, at just .166 percent.

Limited Economic Diversification
As previously mentioned, the environment of Wallis and Futuna is not particularly suited to agriculture, and in the past and present, citizens of the territory have relied excessively on the practice as a means of sustainability. As of 2001, 80 percent of the economy depended on agricultural revenue, 16 percent were dependent on service industry jobs and 4 percent on industrial jobs. As of 2008, the unemployment rate was estimated to be 12.2 percent. At the time, this was more than 1,000 people out of the country’s approximate population of 15,000.

A trend that appears to be recurring among island states across the world is that they typically lack long-term economic and environmental sustainability. History has shown that inhabitants of islands like Wallis and Futuna not only face constant threats of climate-related catastrophes and other problems such as isolation from the global community, but that their ultimate demise seems to occur after they have harvested all available natural resources.

Simply put, the causes of poverty in Wallis and Futuna are reflective of the French poorly implementing territorial expansion. If influential, sovereign, wealthy developed nations like France are going to claim ownership of remote territories, there should first be some level of established accountability within the U.N. from the country who is wishing to annex an island chain such as Wallis and Futuna.

The French could not only provide short-term solutions such as infrastructure development or construction of public institutions, but they could also provide tax breaks or other forms of economic incentives to encourage domestic businesses to help foster economic growth in the region, which would help to solve the aging population issue as well as the lack of diversification in the workforce on the island by encouraging younger workers to return home and work. Requiring countries like France to show their specific future intentions for their territories would help to assure the global community that they will prioritize the maintenance and preservation of adequate quality of life for the inhabitants of those territories.

Hunter McFerrin

Photo: Flickr

France Sets Up the Refugee Hotspots

On July 27, 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will set up refugee hotspots in Libya. These hotspots will process refugee claims and help deter people from attempting the journey across the Mediterranean.

The French government believes that by setting up the hotspots, it will prevent people ineligible for asylum from taking this dangerous and unpredictable journey and decrease human trafficking in the region.

France set up the refugee hotspots to help an estimated 660,000 refugees and internally displaced people in Libya. There are between 800,000 and one million men and women waiting in camps in Libya. So far, France is the only country in Europe to set up these hotspots, as other European countries are reluctant.

It is estimated that 100,000 people have made the trip across the Mediterranean since January. Sadly, more than 2,300 people have died on this journey and another 2,500 are missing. France set up the refugee hotspots to discourage people from making this dangerous trip in rickety boats operated by smugglers that frequently sink.

Days before France decided to set up the refugee hotspots, Macron hosted peace talks with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj aimed at bringing some stability to Libya and slowing the flow of refugees. The talks reportedly went well, and the country agreed to a ceasefire and fresh elections.

France stated that the country wants to play a bigger role in persuading Libya’s factions to end the country’s political crisis and armed conflict that has allowed Islamist militants to gain a foothold and migrant smugglers to flourish in the absence of a strong central government.

France hopes to bring a significant change to the country. In 2015, France offered asylum to 20,630 refugees and wants to give more hope to the refugees waiting in Libya.

Paige Wilson

Photo: Google

France’s Poverty Rate

In the near-decade since the global financial crisis, France, Europe’s third largest economy, has taken longer to recover than other major economies. Specifically, the French economy posted a growth rate just below 1.1 percent in 2015, lower than the growth in Germany (1.7 percent) and the U.K. (2.2 percent), the two largest economies in Europe. Despite the crisis and stagnant economic growth, France’s poverty rate has remained relatively low compared to other EU nations.

The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) officially reported France’s poverty rate from 2014 at 14.1 percent, equating to more than nine million people. INSEE estimated that the 2015 rate would grow to 14.3 percent, and plans to release the official statistics in September. This rate is better than the EU average of 17.2 percent, as well as many individual European economies, but still covers a large portion of the French population.

When determining the economic status of France, the poverty rate should not be the only number consulted. Unemployment remains high in France. In the most recently reported month, June 2017, unemployment in France stood at 9.6 percent. This is higher than the average in the EU and is more than twice the rates in Germany (3.8) and the U.S. (4.4) from the same month. Nearly three million people who are looking for a job in France cannot find one. Additionally, there is the concern of the next generation of French workers since the unemployment rate for workers between the ages of 15 and 24 is 24 percent.

However, it is difficult to determine whether there is a link between lowering the unemployment rate and lowering France’s poverty rate. France calculates its poverty rate in a relative manner, using an income of 60 percent or less than the average median income in the country as the poverty line. Gaining employment in France increases an individual’s income, but also shifts the poverty line as the median income changes. However, the high unemployment rate does have major implications on the future of the French economy.

Addressing poverty, the high unemployment rate and economic growth are major challenges faced by recently inaugurated president Emmanuel Macron. President Macron endorsed a number of proposals to address these issues during his campaign. The proposals include training programs for more than one million young people, making working hours more flexible and offering incentives to businesses hiring from poor neighborhoods. Implementation of and results from these proposals may not be seen for some time, but each works to address the poverty rate, unemployment rate and economic growth in France.

Erik Beck

Photo: Google

Water Quality in Vatican CityHome to the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Apostolic Chapel, Vatican City is one of the most sacred places in Christendom.

The sovereign city-state is contained within a walled enclave inside the city of Rome, giving it the distinction of being the world’s smallest country.

Main water resources in the city-state include the surface water from rivers and wetlands, groundwater from rocks and soil and treated government water supply. Water quality in Vatican City is good, thanks to the proliferation of drinking water fountains that take water directly from the mountains above the city.

Called “Nasoni” in Italian, the drinking water fountains in Rome are seen as inexpensive, environmentally-friendly options. The water is reportedly tested by the authorities about 250,000 times every year, ensuring that water quality in Vatican City is completely safe. Conveyed by an aqueduct to the drinking water fountains, an abundance of water means that a single family has more than 140 gallons to drink.

However, as recently as July 25, Vatican City decided to shut off all of its 100 decorative and drinking water fountains for conservation purposes because of a drought in Italy.

“The drought that is affecting the city of Rome and the surrounding areas of the capital has led the Holy See to take measures to save water,” the Vatican City’s website said. The statement also noted that the water-saving move was “in line with the teachings of Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis has repeatedly emphasized the issue of water security and water quality in Vatican City and around the world.

Earlier this year, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of Vatican City and the Catedra Del Dialogo y La Cultura Del Encountro of Argentina convened a diverse panel of experts from all over the world in a conference titled, “Human Right to Water: An interdisciplinary focus and contributions on the central role of public policies in water and sanitation management.” Members explored solutions to the global water challenges, including how to make drinking water safe and accessible to the neediest of people and communities.

At the conference, Pope Francis highlighted the importance of water and noted an important distinction between providing life-giving water and water that is safe and of good quality. Noting that every day, thousands of children die due to water-related illnesses, he urged scientists, government leaders, businesspeople and politicians to foster a shared “culture of care and encounter” and hear “the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.”

Furthermore, Pope Francis’ comprehensive encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care For Our Common Home), explains the Holy See’s views about the importance of good water quality: “In fact, access to safe drinking water is an essential, a fundamental and universal human right, because it determines the survival of people, and this is a requirement for the exercise of other human rights.”

As Italy struggles to respond to the drought crisis, both in and outside the Vatican City, Pope Francis has already inspired a global conversation centered on the values of the planet’s single most precious resource: water.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr