Poverty in France
After a two-week campaign against Marine Le Pen, the French people re-elected Emmanuel Macron as their president on April 24, 2022, for another five-year mandate. The man who many often call the “president of the rich” has to deal with a country that is experiencing more and more inequalities today. After a first mandate in which Macron had to deal with the yellow vests or “Gilets Jaunes” movements requesting economic and social justice, France experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Poverty in France has become central to its people, whose main concern is their purchasing power amidst rising inflation. In fact, France’s inflation rate was 4.5% in March 2022.

Poverty in France

Although many know France for how it funds education, health care services and retirement pensions, the pandemic has had an impact on the French people. COVID hit parttime workers and workers in the informal economy especially hard. Additionally, many students were ineligible for state support during the pandemic, and many migrants and clandestine workers were only able to obtain support from NGOs.

The Fight Against Poverty in France Over the Last Five Years

In order to answer the needs and requests of the French people, the French government took different measures to adapt to each crisis the country was going through. Back in 2018, Macron first began with a $9.3 billion plan to fight the poverty in which nine million people in France are living.

Macron’s philosophy has always been to allow people to get out of poverty through work. Hence, Macron’s government decreased income tax and distributed a €100 bonus to low-income workers. The government adopted the “no matter the cost policy” to support businesses that the pandemic affected, thus protecting as many jobs as possible starting with the medical professionals who benefited from a €9 billion salary increase.

What About the Next Five Years?

Despite the fact that the populist class voted for Marine Le Pen, Macron has plans to continue his fight against poverty in France. The first measure Macron promised upon re-election was to provide “food cheques” to the people who cannot afford high-quality, local food.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine and the rise in prices of gas, Macron authorized subsidies for energy bills. However, the main measure of his program is to provide work and employment for people so they can get out of poverty. For that to happen, Macron is encouraging employers to recruit employees by adopting “pro-businesses reforms.”

After efforts to alleviate poverty over the last five years, the country is more in need of more reforms to fight poverty. The recently re-elected president has already started to implement some reforms and has work to do to please the important part of France’s population that is against his policies and is seeing its purchasing power diminish every day.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in France
The gender wage gap impacts women all over the world. According to USB Management Review, the gender wage gap is “the difference in wages between men and women for the same type of work or work of equal value.” With women bearing the brunt of the gender wage gap, the gender wage gap presents a barrier to gender equality, the progression of women and global poverty reduction overall. Although the Government of France has made progress in the realm of gender equality, the gender wage gap in France still puts female citizens at a notable disadvantage.

The Gender Wage Gap in France and Europe Overall

In 2018, the gender wage gap in France stood at 15.2%, slightly below the European average of 16.2% in the same year. Essentially, this statistic means that men in France earned 15.2% more than women for work of the same nature. In 2019, the European average wage gap saw improvement, dropping to 14.1% while France saw a rise in the gender wage gap, climbing to 16.5%, the 10th highest in the European Union. Estonia had the highest gender wage gap at 21.7% while Luxembourg had the lowest at just 1.3%. The feminist French newsletter, Les Glorieuses, explained that, in 2021, the gender wage gap in France essentially equated to women working without pay from November 3, 2021.

Contributing Factors to the Gender Wage Gap in France

Women tend to unfairly shoulder the burden of child care and household responsibilities, which is why 80% of women’s employment in France falls within the part-time job sector in an attempt to balance all these responsibilities. Overall, women spend a significant amount of time on unpaid work, such as household chores, in comparison to men. When women give birth to their first child, typically between 30 and 35, differences in pay become even more apparent. In addition, maternity leave tends to unfairly impact the career progression of women, placing them at another disadvantage for promotions.

Women in the Workplace

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks France 16th globally for its gender pay gap size. The result is a consequence of low scoring in the category of Economic Participation and Opportunity for women in France, taking the 58th rank in this category globally.

In France, “women only hold 34.6% of senior and managerial positions,” which is a lower rate than the United Kingdom at 36.8% and the U.S. at 42%. Yet, France and 25 other nations take first place rankings in regard to “educational attainment for women.” Only a single company “out of France’s 40 largest companies” has a female running it — Engie, a utility company with CEO Catherine MacGregor at the helm.

Progress for Women in France’s Workplace

France passed the Cope-Zimmermann law 11 years ago, which established “quotas for the gender balance of company boards, with the aim of reaching a minimum representation of 40% for each gender.” The law mandated that within three years of its passing, “20% of a company’s board members must be women, rising to 40% within the following six years.” This law applied only to certain companies within specific turnover and employee thresholds. Currently, France is taking the global lead in this regard, with 43% of women’s representation in company boards. In comparison, the United Kingdom has a 36% representation in this regard while Sweden has 35%.

In response to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on women, the “European Commission has published a drafted law that would force companies with [more than] 250 employees to publicly release annual statistics on their employees’ salaries.” The same disclosure is applicable for smaller-scale companies, “though only upon request by an employee and not to the public.” These pay transparency reports would help fight the gender wage gap. For the draft to take effect, it requires “a majority vote by the European Parliament and a unanimous agreement among all 27 member states’ governments.”

The ongoing efforts to close the gender wage in France and dismantle gender inequality barriers allow women to see the same advancement and progression as their male counterparts.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in France
Over the past decade, Europe has become a hub for migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and unrest. Selling most if not all of their personal belongings, families leave their homes behind with eyes set on safer borders in Europe. France is among the most popular nations to settle in — during 2020 alone, 87,659 people applied for asylum in France. For those who do survive the journey, which includes walking, hitchhiking and overcrowded boats, new challenges await. Although the poverty rate in France stood at 14.8% in 2018, refugees and asylum seekers face disproportionately higher rates of poverty. When they first arrive in France, many of these families end up in tents and shanty settlements with little access to clean water and food. However, several programs aim to support refugees in France.

5 Programs Supporting Refugees in France

  1. French Refugee Council (FRC). Founded in 2013, the FRC is an independent NGO providing practical support to refugees in France with the objective of helping them rebuild their lives. FRC staff work directly with refugees by facilitating access to education, job opportunities and legal assistance. The organization hosts several programs, including integration workshops focused on equipping migrants with the skills needed to become “a productive part of the host society.” Refugees learn bout the “French job market and workplace culture” while receiving French language lessons. The FRC’s Teach a Refugee Program aims to “connect local citizens with asylum seekers and refugees through language classes.” Since 2016, 863 immigrants have benefited from this program, which aims to break the language and cultural gaps between immigrants and locals. The FRC also helps refugees who may have already obtained vocational qualifications by working to validate any existing degrees and work experience.
  2. Refugee Food Festival. In partnership with the city of Paris and the UNHCR, the nonprofit Food Sweet Food hosts the festival annually in June around the time of World Refugee Day (June 20). Food Sweet Food works with local restaurants in the city to open their kitchens and change their menus to local dishes prepared by refugee chefs. The public then receives an invitation to these restaurants to engage with the cuisine and people. Food Sweet Food sees cuisine as a way to bridge gaps and bring diverse communities together — the objective of this festival is to create an environment to change cultural perceptions, create dialogue and facilitate refugee integration. Since its beginning in 2016, the Refugee Food Festival has seen chefs from Ivory Coast, Iraq, Syria and more. Other European cities also welcome the event. The Refugee Food Festival has seen engagement from more than 116,000 citizens and 239 chefs in 19 cities.
  3. Doctors Without Borders. Well known for providing medical care to those who lack access across the globe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is also active in France, specifically targeting unaccompanied minors. MSF works to provide legal, medical and other support to minors who are unable to successfully apply for child protection. Many young refugees find themselves extremely vulnerable, especially with regards to finding accommodation. To remedy this, MSF offers unaccompanied minors nightly emergency accommodation in Paris and Marseille, hosting up to 150 minors a night. Additionally, MSF makes its regular mobile health clinics available to “migrants of all ages in Paris.” In 2019 alone, “734 minors benefited from [MSF’s] services.”
  4. Comede. Formally known as the “Committee for the health of exiles,” Amnesty International, Cimade and Groupe Accueil Solidarité established Comede in 1979 to safeguard the health and rights of “refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied foreign minors,and other immigrants/foreigners” in France. Comede offers medical, psychological, social and legal care to these vulnerable groups with the aim of helping them increase their autonomy. Comede operates hotlines to connect individuals with any services that they might need when they first arrive in France. Utilizing hotlines and working alongside lawyers, health service providers and social workers, Comede has helped more than 100,000 people since its founding in 1979.
  5. The Salvation Army. With an active presence in more than 130 countries, the Salvation Army is one the largest charity organizations in the world. “A joint project between Paris and neighboring Saint-Denis,” the Salvation Army-run drop-in center is open to all migrants and refugees every day of the week. Opened in 2019, the center aims to assist the growing number of refugees who find themselves in shanty settlements when they arrive in France. The center provides showers, a charging station, washing machines and sleeping quarters. Refugees can also find free breakfast at another center nearby. The drop-in center also hosts French classes, and with 2,000 square meters of space, it has the capacity to hold 70 people but often sees visitors in the hundreds.

Journeying thousands of miles in unsafe conditions in search of a better life, refugees find new challenges waiting for them when they arrive in Europe. These five organizations try to address the many facets of integrating and starting a life in a new society.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Calais France
Having fled armed conflict and political repression, the refugees who reach Calais, France find no end to their struggle to survive. Aided by charities on the ground, volunteers care for them, but still, their lives are far from comfortable. Martha Haslam, a former volunteer in Calais, spent six months working for the charity Care4Calais to improve the lives of refugees. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Haslam said that volunteers “help to prepare donations for distribution and run the services at unofficial settlements.” During her time in Calais, amid a harsh winter and COVID-19 restrictions, humanitarian resources were less readily available. However, the organization worked continually to support the refugees in Calais, France as much as possible.

About the Refugees in Calais, France

The top 10 refugee-producing countries have either an ongoing conflict or poor human rights records or both. In Syria, a country that produces the most refugees in the world, more than 80% of the remaining population lives in poverty. Meanwhile, much of Eritrea’s population is subject to “forced labor and conscription.”

Haslam specified that the refugees in Calais have fled “recruitment by extremist groups and warlords (in Afghanistan and Sudan), political persecution (in Iran and Iraq), forced conscription (in Eritrea) and war (in Syria, Yemen and Kurdistan).” So, despite the hostile conditions, Calais is preferable to refugees’ home countries, where pushback tactics and even migrant slave trades are in full force. Yet, Calais is usually only a temporary stop, as the majority of refugees dream of reaching the United Kingdom, but often, there is no safe nor legal passage to get there and many refugees risk their lives in the process.

Living Conditions in Calais

Charities such as Care4Calais do their best to provide jeans and coats for the refugees as Haslam told The Borgen Project that many have been “wearing the same set of clothes for weeks or even months straight while they have been traveling to Calais.” Various organizations are distributing provisions despite waning supplies and tightening government laws.

The living conditions in Calais also vary dramatically with the seasons. Commenting on the winter months, Haslam explained that she “frequently encountered people suffering from hypothermia” due to inadequate bedding and clothing. She also said that tap pipes containing the water supply from the French state froze for much of January 2021. Thankfully, this was not the only source of drinking water as charities also have reserves.

The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically affects living conditions in Calais. Aid from charities has significantly dwindled as fewer volunteers and donations are able to reach organizations due to restrictions. Also, tents that usually come from U.K. festivals are scarce due to a lack of public events during COVID-19. Further obstacles, such as increased policing and a lack of easy access to PPE, serve as added difficulties for refugees.

The pandemic has raised concerns due to the health risks it poses in a place where social distancing is often virtually impossible. Yet, the health dimension is, comparatively, a small problem for the refugees. “They have other worries that are more of a priority to them,” Haslam explained, stating that the refugees “generally aren’t that worried of catching the virus themselves.” The safety of the refugees is nevertheless a top priority for charities like Care4Calais, with volunteers sterilizing equipment and wearing PPE while encouraging the refugees to socially distance themselves at distributions and giving protective masks to those in need.

Care4Calais and Other Organizations

Care4Calais distributes basic necessities such as food, clothes and camping equipment. On top of this, it provides extra services like hair cutting and hot drink stations. Haslam says that an important role of the volunteers is to talk to the refugees every day and “let them know that there are people who care about them.”

More than 1,000 refugees depend on Care4Calais for provisions, but due to shortages, distributions are often sporadic. Haslam says that, as a large charity, Care4Calais is, fortunately, able to help when someone is in particular need, but that regular and sufficient distributions are simply not possible. Haslam regrets that “there is never enough to adequately supply the guys with enough to make them comfortable in Calais.”

La Vie Active, a French state-funded organization, offers showers and emergency accommodation to minors when winter conditions get extreme. Various groups also provide firewood when the country reaches low temperatures to help improve the living conditions in Calais in harsher months. Additionally, First Aid Support Team (FAST) provides emergency first aid in both Calais and Dunkirk should refugees in those locations need it.

Looking Forward

Although safer than many other countries, the living conditions in the French city of Calais are still challenging and refugees do not intend to stay long. There is hope, however, that with the warmer months and the easing of pandemic restrictions, conditions will improve and more help will become available in the form of supplies and volunteers. There are many organizations that work hard to improve the lives of refugees and to show them that people care. Although the lives of these refugees in Calais, France are full of uncertainty and suffering, their temporary stay in Calais does not need to be the same.

– Hope Browne
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in FranceFrom 1996-2004, poverty reduction in France was successful as the numbers of those in poverty reduced from 8,292 to 7,495. However, in recent years, the poverty rate in France resembles the figures from 1970, with more than 8.8 million people living in poverty as of 2017. Taking a closer look at poverty reduction in France over the decades, one can gain insight into what has caused the rise in poverty and how France is implementing similar poverty reduction methods to reduce poverty once more. Here are six facts about poverty reduction in France.

6 Facts About Poverty Reduction in France

  1. The 1989/10 Resolution: In 1989, France took steps to reduce poverty by adopting the Human Rights Commission 1989/10 resolution.  The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs describes the 1989/10 resolution as a “starting point of work” for addressing “human rights and extreme poverty.” This law acknowledged the unfulfillment of France’s impoverished citizens in regard to their economic, cultural, social, political and civil rights needs. The 1989/10 Resolution also sought for French citizens to receive equality in their rights especially regarding the poor.
  2. Universal Basic Health Insurance: In 1999, France implemented “universal basic health insurance” to ensure that even the most impoverished French people can access healthcare. Every citizen of France received the right to this universal sickness coverage. French citizens, to this day, have 70-100% health coverage. Comparing France’s health insurance costs to the United States, the average cost of health insurance for one person is $45 per month in France. In the United States, “In 2020, the average national cost for health insurance is $456″ per person.
  3. The Landmark 2000 Law: In 2000, France implemented the Landmark 2000 Law or the Solidarity and Urban Renewal Law (SRU).  in an effort to make housing more affordable. The Landmark 2000 Law requires cities to make 20% of their housing, shared housing. This law allowed families suffering from poverty to have an affordable housing option. Following free health care and the Landmark 2000 Law, France reached its lowest poverty rate in 2004, compared to 2000. In 2000, the poverty rate was at 13.6%, whereas in 2004, the poverty rate reached 12.6% The 2000 poverty rate of 13.6%, did not rise above this number until 2010.
  4. Rising Poverty: After the 2008 economic collapse, France faced a rising poverty rate. According to Statistica, the poverty rate was 13% in 2008 whereas it rose to 14.8% by 2018.
  5. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: In 2012, France and 39 other countries incorporated the Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights into their government systems. The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights were a tool to ensure that policymakers would carry out policies that would be beneficial to those in poverty. Policymakers would take account and respect citizens with poverty obstacles, while also upholding their rights.
  6. Social Housing: In today’s world, France is focusing on more social housing. More than 40% of France rents their housing and 40% of the renters also live in public housing. People who live in the housing are citizens who have been homeless, disabled, evicted or have other disadvantages. France is aiming to increase their public housing residents in the next few years. France 24 wrote that “Hidalgo’s administration aims to house [25%] of Parisians in social housing by 2025, and up to [30%] by 2030.”

Looking Ahead

These facts about poverty reduction in France have shown its success from 1970 to 2000. Yet, after the economic crisis in 2008, poverty levels rose. However, France is in the process of rebuilding the economy once more, using similar strategies that have worked previously.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

Green Financing in Vietnam with a Big Help From France
The French Development Agency (AFD) announced a $100 million concessional credit line to the Bank of Investment and Development in Vietnam (BDIV) and technical assistance to help establish green financing in Vietnam. As Vietnam continues its rapid development while disproportionately dealing with the adverse effects of environmental challenges, it is searching to develop green financing to underpin a sustainable, efficient renewable energy system. The BDIV plays a crucial role in that transition and the assistance from the AFD is a significant first step in the transition to green financing in Vietnam.

Development in Vietnam

In 1986, a set of economic reforms would fundamentally shift the role of markets in Vietnam. By encouraging private ownership, overturning its policy on forced collective farming and recognizing private land rights, the Doi Moi reforms provided a central role for markets as the primary resource allocation mechanism.

The results have been astounding for economic development and poverty reduction in Vietnam. In the last three decades, the poverty rate reduced from 70% to 6%, and the GDP per capita increased by 2.7 times. In total, more than 45 million people were able to leave poverty. Today, Vietnam is the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia.

A component of this development was a shift away from an agriculture-based economy to a more industrial economy. In 1988, agriculture constituted 46% of the GDP. Fast forward to 2014, and agriculture as a share of the GDP had contracted to only 17%, while the service sector and industrial sector accounted for 44% and 39%, respectively.

Economic Consequences

Nevertheless, similar to other nations with experienced industrialization and remarkable growth and in a truncated period, Vietnam struggles to manage the environmental consequences. It logically flows as the more dynamic an economy becomes, the more energy it requires to power it. Likewise, the quicker the development, the more demand for energy will outpace the supply. Vietnam is no exception; on average, its energy demands increase by 10% every year.

Naturally, when demand rapidly outpaces supply, countries search for cheap, quick options to increase supply. Therefore, fossil fuels, a historically abundant and cheap energy source, have primarily fueled Vietnamese development. As of 2019, 84.7% of Vietnam’s energy came from fossil fuels, primarily in the form of coal (50.25%) but also in oil (25.92%) and gas (8.61%).

This Faustian pact with the cheaper, more abundant resources – along with other trappings of middle-income status – comes with environmental consequences. In 1989, Vietnam contributed 0.26 tons of carbon emissions per capita to the globe. By 2017, this number jumped to 1.93 tons. As a result of the severe air pollution, 50,000 people a year die. Although significant inroads have occurred, access to clean water in Vietnam remains a problem as 9,000 people die a year from polluted water.

Environmental Consequences

In addition to medical costs, environmental deterioration has a profound economic cost. Air pollution causes a financial cost of around 5% of GDP per year.

As with most unintended consequences, the most impoverished bear the brunt of it. The most poverty-stricken members of society are the most exposed, susceptible and resource-poor to adapt to the deteriorating environment. However, as the U.N. noted that it also creates a “…vicious cycle, whereby initial inequality makes disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of their income and assets, resulting in greater subsequent inequality” that threatens the economic development Vietnam has achieved over the last three decades.

On the flip side then, the poor benefit the most from green financing. For example, some researchers investigated this connection by studying 25 Chinese provinces over 13 years and found a high correlation between the two variables. The group argues that through a strong absorption capacity, long industrial chains and a high degree of relevance, green financing has a “pulling effect on economic development and can effectively alleviate poverty.”

Green Financing

Vietnam has recognized this dynamic and has set out to reverse the trend. The government has made significant inroads in providing cleaner development through creating cleaner transportation infrastructure, safer water and shifting to renewables. However, Vietnam achieved these inroads through government financing. According to the Asian Development Bank Institute, to supply energy demand with renewable energy, 50% of total investment in renewable energy development must come from private green financing. Yet, due to a lack of capacity and infrastructure, Vietnam banks cannot get near the 50% number.

Nevertheless, the AFD concessional loan is a significant first step in establishing green financing in Vietnam. As noted, the AFD provided a $100 million concessional loan to BDIV. BDIV is one of the leading financial institutions in Vietnam. It has over 1,100 banks worldwide and assets totaling VND1.56 quadrillion to promote green financing. The credit line will also mark the first green finance fund AFD has set up in Vietnam. Notably, AFD and BDIV earmarked $366,000 of the loan for technical assistance to support the transition.

AFD is valuable and experienced. It has more than 90 projects worldwide worth over 2.3 billion Euros. In addition, it has experience supporting green development in various sectors such as transport, infrastructure, agriculture and energy.

Taking Action

The CEO of BDIV, Le Ngoc Lam, hinted at three critical takeaways for Vietnam and BDIV in particular. First, it will assist BDIV in improving its operational efficiency in financing Vietnam’s green development. Second, it will establish a partnership between BDIV and AFD for future green development loans or projects. Finally, it signals to international partners Vietnam’s willingness to participate in green development projects or financial partnerships.

Put another way, the loan provides significant financing, technical assistance and establishes a partnership that can lead to other green financing opportunities. Therefore, it is essential to establish green financing in Vietnam and, accordingly, sustaining its development and further alleviating poverty.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s rights in FranceWith the rise of women’s rights movements in recent years, French citizens have mobilized to address gender issues, especially the prevalence of femicide and domestic violence. France has made much progress in the realm of gender equality, including the establishment of policies and programs promoting women’s rights in France under the Macron administration. However, there is still much to be done to reach true equality and to end gender-based violence.

Violence Against Women

In France, femicides —  the killing of women by a relative or significant other — have been a significant reason for protest in recent years. La Fondation des Femmes, or the Women’s Foundation, is one protest group that has formed around the issue as it believes government efforts to curb the violence are not enough to keep citizens safe. In a recent article from the BBC, the Women’s Foundation criticized the lack of adequate gun policy as firearms are one of the most common weapons used in femicides.

Additionally, pandemic-induced lockdowns have forced many women to be confined in the same space as abusers, resulting in a 30% increase in domestic violence reports, according to France24. Due to its continued prevalence, gender violence is a central concern for activists advocating for women’s rights in France.

The #MeToo movement also gained traction in France in 2017 under the French name #BalanceTonPorc. Though there were no significant convictions or resignations of perpetrators of sexual violence at first, the rise in protests and social media movements greatly increased the visibility of victims in 2020.

Efforts to Combat Gender-Based Violence

President Emmanuel Macron’s emphasis on gender equality provided much hope for feminist voters during his 2017 presidential campaign. As part of his pledge to support women’s rights in France, Macron implemented protective policies for women and has established the position of Secretariat of Equality between Women and Men, a role currently held by Marlène Schiappa. Under Macron’s administration, France scored 75.1% in 2020 in terms of the Gender Equality Index, ranking third-best among all members of the EU.

In response to protests and the advocacy of groups such as the Women’s Foundation, the French government implemented several pieces of legislation addressing gender violence. According to the BBC, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held a domestic violence conference in 2019, during which he pledged to increase the number of temporary shelters for victims, improve the procedures of domestic violence cases and contribute more than $6 million to the cause. French parliament added to these measures by approving a law permitting doctors to reveal the identity of a patient if domestic violence is putting the patient’s life at risk.

Women’s Rights Progress

There has been some improvement as between 2019 and 2020 the number of domestic murders of women decreased from 146 to 90, a historically low number that the government believes to be a result of the work of its policies and law enforcement.

Despite government efforts to decrease gender violence, many individuals are still concerned by the alarming numbers of femicides. Protest groups in France are creating street collages highlighting femicide and sexual harassment. Caroline De Haas, the founder of the feminist movement NousToutes, told the Guardian that “nearly 100 deaths is no reason to celebrate.”

There are several hopeful developments for gender equality in France. However, despite an explicit government commitment to equality, the government must take additional steps to conquer disparities in female employment and leadership, gender violence, harassment and wage gaps. The continued protests asserting an end to violence against women demonstrate the need for more policy and execution of legislation for women’s rights in France.

Sarah Stolar
Photo: pixabay

Commitment to Development IndexThe Center for Global Development (CGD) releases the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) annually. The CGD analyzes the policies of the 40 most powerful countries in the world on their dedication to contributing to the development of low-income nations. It rates the countries based on performance in three overall categories and seven subcategories: development finance, exchange (including investment, migration and trade) and global public goods (including environment, security and technology). After scoring these sections individually for each country, the CGD then assigns each country an overall grade. The organization ranks the countries on the CDI based on these overall scores. In 2020, the top three countries were Sweden, France and Norway.

Sweden

Sweden ranks first on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 100%. Sweden received more than a 90% rating on development finance, migration, environment and security. The country scores well on all categories except technology, where it ranks 20th.

  • Development Finance. Sweden received a score of 93% because it spends 0.83% of its gross national income (GNI) on development finance. This is more than twice the average. Sweden also has proper transparency when it comes to spending. The country even has its own development finance institution called Swedfund. The institution’s goal is to alleviate poverty by investing in and helping to develop sustainable businesses in struggling and formidable markets.
  • Migration. Sweden received a score of 100% in this category because it has the most inclusive migrant policies compared to all the other countries on the CDI. Sweden has tightened its legislation since 2015 when it received 160,000 asylum seekers. The aim is to ensure that it can sufficiently take care of the people already in the country without being overburdened. Nevertheless, the country still welcomes more migrants than any other country on the CDI.
  • Security. Sweden received a 93% in security because it “contributes an above-average level of troops and finance to global peacekeeping missions.” Sweden also helps contribute to global health initiatives. Sweden has worked with the U.N. peacekeeping missions since 1948 and has sent more than 80,000 Swedish people to help.

France

France came second on the Commitment to Development Index with an overall score of 81%. France received more than a 90% score on investment, environment and security. France also scored well on trade.

  • Investment. France received a 91% in this category because it performs well with regard to business and human rights criteria. France created “The National Plan for the Implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” The plan “is a universal road map for implementing the standards aimed at holding businesses accountable with regard to human rights.”
  • Environment. France received a 97% in the environment category because it signed every necessary environmental treaty and produces few fossil fuels.
  • Security. France has a 93% in this category because of its peacekeeping commitments. It provides 0.066% of its GNI to peacekeeping, which is twice the average. For 2020-2021, France budgeted $6.58 billion for peacekeeping efforts.

Norway

Norway ranks third on the Commitment to Development Index, with an overall score of 78%, mostly because of its high rating on development finance. It ranks well on investment and security too.

  • Development Finance. Norway received a 96% in this category because it provides 0.89% of its GNI to development finance. It is also first in transparency for development financing reporting. The country is well known for its commitment to “development co-operation” because it “has a primary focus on promoting equality for all, especially for the most vulnerable, marginalized and less privileged ones in least developed countries (LDCs) and sub-Saharan Africa.”
  • Investment. Norway has an 81% in investment. This is because Norway implements the OECD’s Anti-bribery Convention and has a strong history of upholding human and business rights. Norway works closely with the Human Rights Watch, an organization working to expose abuse and improve human rights throughout the world.
  • Security. Norway received an 88% on security partly because it ranks well in health security. The country utilizes significant monitoring and surveillance methods for antimicrobial resistance. This work is important because it can help lower global health hazards.

Reducing Global Poverty

For 2020, the Commitment to Development Index ranked Sweden, France and Norway as the top three countries. These countries are significantly contributing to global development, and in turn, are contributing to global poverty reduction.

Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

COVIS-19 vaccine distribution
Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus are emerging at an increasing rate around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a primary challenge for political leaders. Ensuring that everyone has access to vaccines is imperative to achieving global recovery. In many countries, COVID-19 cases are still at large. National leaders put individual national laws in place to fight against the rising numbers. Though they have helped lower those rates, the number of cases has not yet begun to level out. The vaccines that nations have currently distributed should curb those numbers further. This will allow vaccinated individuals to resume their pre-pandemic daily routines slowly.

Inequal COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Some countries have priority access to vaccines, which is largely due to national wealth. This leads to poorer nations not having the ability to purchase vaccines. To combat this for the betterment of global health, France, in particular, has begun to put forth ideas and efforts with the intent to help such nations gain access to vaccines.

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that richer countries ought to transfer roughly 3-5% of their vaccines to countries in need. According to an interview with the Financial Times, he said, “This would have no impact on the rhythm of vaccine strategies (in rich countries). It won’t delay it by a single day given the way we use our doses.” According to Macron, German Chancellor Angela Markel has no problems with the initiative, and he hopes to convince the United States to share their vaccines as well.

African leaders have put forth the request for 13 million doses of vaccinations to help its population. The leaders plan to give a large portion of those to caretakers, allowing them to help patients in need. Currently, COVAX will be making accessible vaccinations available to African countries. However, the countries will use the vaccine only for emergencies. Thus, the calls for more vaccines are important.

France’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

To help fight for better COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries, France has established a designated four-part plan to help affected communities efficiently. These steps include support of African healthcare systems, aiding African research and supporting humanitarian and economic efforts. The goal is for France to support various healthcare systems to ensure that patients and citizens receive the best treatment until a vaccine can be distributed. Until these countries have proper access to vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) will work with the financing they received from wealthier governments.

Many other countries worldwide are also working to help one another receive the help needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine that is currently in use in Hungary and Serbia. Beijing and Russia are selling and donating their own vaccines to nations abroad. If the number of cooperations increases in the upcoming months, there will be more vaccines available worldwide. Since the virus can still spread with mutations from other parts of the world, this is also crucial to rich nations’ national security.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Examining Disability and Poverty in FranceDisability is affecting 12 million people in France. Limited mobility and sensation not only prevents disabled people from normal daily and professional life but they also lead to a higher risk of poverty. According to Eurostat, disability and poverty in France go hand in hand. In 2018, 21% of the French population over 16 years old with a disability were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with less than 15% of those with no limitation. This considerable gap exists across the European Union, although the proportion of each member state varies significantly. On average, the possibility for a disabled EU citizen to suffer from poverty is about 10% greater than that of their counterparts.

Governmental Policies

In 2018, the French government rolled out a comprehensive and interministerial policy to increase resources available to the disabled population and to improve their living conditions. This policy embraced housing, health, education, work, transport as well as access to culture, sport and recreational activities. In the following five years, the government determined to provide disabled people with a preferential allocation of social housing for rent, develop health prevention among disabled people and enhance the status of healthcare workers and reduce the gap between the unemployment rate among citizens with disabilities and non-disabled people.

Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH)

Regarding the correlation between disability and poverty in France, the French government has already achieved its 2019 goal of increasing the Allowance for disabled adults (Allocation aux adultes handicapés/ AAH) to €900 per month. AAH is a minimum-income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

A French resident with a disability severity rating of at least 80% can benefit from AAH for a period of one to 10 years, depending on each particular case. For those rated between 50% and 79% with a substantial reduction of access to employment, they are eligible for AAH for one to five years. As of 2020, the maximum AAH is €902.70 per month, with annual income ceilings of around €11,000 for a person living alone and around €20,000 for a couple.

Facilities and Mobilities

French law requires that all new buildings and existing public buildings must be adapted and accessible to people with disabilities. The transformations have to take some time, yet large cities such as Paris and Lyon and some popular touristic regions have become much more accessible in recent years. For example, all buses in Paris are now equipped with platforms facilitating passengers with limited ability to get on and off more easily. Additionally, any disabled resident of France can request a carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) that grants them priority access to seating in public transport and free parking.

Although the government and social organizations are taking various actions to improve the well-being of people with disabilities and poverty in France, the current situation is hardly satisfying. Joncour, a 19-year-old university student and non-verbal autistic, complains that the departmental home for people with disabilities (MDPH) can only grant him three hours a day of subsidized personal assistance. The remaining hours cost the family about €1,000 per month so that he can go to class and have a normal life like his peers. This expense has enormously impacted the daily life of the family and sadly drove them to a precarious position. There is still a long way to go to improve the living standards of those with disabilities and poverty in France. Hopefully, after the five-year term of the new policies, the living conditions of disabled people will significantly improve in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr