What is Global Fragility

Global fragility is a compelling global phenomenon. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined it as, “the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system and/or communities to manage, absorb or mitigate those risks. Fragility can lead to negative outcomes including violence, the breakdown of institutions, displacement, humanitarian crises or other emergencies.”

The 2030 Agenda

Rising global challenges such as climate change, global inequality, the development of new technologies and illegal financial flows, are all aggravating global fragility. Now more than ever before, these challenges most severely affect low and middle-income countries. Global fragility is a pressing issue as poverty is increasingly present in fragile areas and those affected by conflict. It is estimated that by 2030, as much as 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor will be living in fragile areas, becoming both a threat to global security and a prominent barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

Within the 2030 Agenda, SDG 16 outlines achieving peaceful, just and equitable societies. Additionally, this SDG emphasizes the importance of sustaining peace and conflict prevention. Peace and conflict prevention are not achievable with increasing global fragility risks and inefficient responses. Indeed, 2016 was the year affected the most by violence and conflict in the past 30 years, killing 560,000 people and displacing the highest number of people in the world since World War II. Moreover, countries that are part of the 2030 development agenda all committed to leaving no-one behind, stressing the need to address fragile areas.

Addressing Global Fragility

Taking into account the elements mentioned above and the existing consensus on the matter, it is fundamental for countries and international organizations to address global fragility and take action by joining efforts. International institutions faced some blame for inadequate performance in fragile states. Recently, efforts began focusing on developing frameworks and tools to address fragility more efficiently. At the core of the solution to global fragility lies resilience. Additionally, this comprises of assisting states to build the capacity to deal with fragility risks and stabilize the country.

For example, the World Bank launched the Humanitarian Development Peace Initiative (HDPI) in partnership with the U.N. to develop new strategies to assist fragile countries. Under this initiative, the U.N. and World Bank will collaborate through data sharing, joint frameworks and analysis, etc. Additionally, the European Commission changed the way it approaches fragility, now concentrating more on the strengths of fragile states rather than their weakness, to assist them in resilience building and empowering them to do so.

All these efforts revolve around a set of core principles, stemming from lessons learned from the past. These mainly include empowering local governments and helping them escape the fragility trap. Another principle revolves around achievements in the long-term. Long-term achievements will ensure sustainability, as transforming deep-rooted governance takes time for effective implementation. Inclusive peace processes prioritizing the security of citizens, along with inclusive politics, are essential in the transformation of fragile states.

The Global Fragility Act

On December 20, the Global Fragility Act was passed as a part of the United States’ FY 2020 foreign affairs spending package, to address fragility more effectively. The Act emphasizes interagency coordination regarding development, security and democracy. In addition, the Act also highlights a more efficient alignment of multilateral and international organizations. As the first comprehensive, whole-of-government approach established by the United States, the efforts plan to prevent global conflict and instability.

The numerous actions and initiatives launched recently illustrate a significant step forward in addressing the threat of fragility. The common consensus between donor countries, multilateral and international institutions must now be translated into concrete actions.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Living in poverty is a reality that many across the world face every single day. Here are 20 global poverty facts to help better understand these realities.

  1. According to the U.N., there are around 836 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide.
  2. There are many people around the world living on the cusp of becoming impoverished.
  3. Millions of people live on just slightly over $1.25 each day.
  4. One in five people living throughout developing areas of the world lives on less than $1.25 a day. Those who are facing this reality mainly live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  5. Poverty reduction has been focused on areas of Asia, with China having the most progress.
  6. Half of those who live in extreme poverty are in sub-Saharan Africa. This number is increasing.
  7. Out of all the undernourished people throughout the world, 98 percent are those living in developing countries.
  8. A majority of the poor around the globe live in rural areas. They are often employed in agriculture and have an inadequate education.
  9. Every day about 22,000 children die because of conditions due to poverty.
  10. Lack of resources, economic systems, hunger and conflict are some of the causes of poverty in different countries.
  11. Poverty is the leading cause of hunger.
  12. A growing world population makes it harder for every person to have access to an adequate standard of living.
  13. Climate change and natural disasters play a current and future role in poverty issues worldwide.
  14. Poverty increases the threat of violence and exploitation towards children.
  15. Poverty is not an issue that only affects developing nations. In the world’s richest countries, one out of four children is living in poverty.
  16. Social protection only reaches a third of the poorest people.
  17. Despite the work that still needs to be done, there has been progress in the reduction of world poverty. One billion fewer people are in extreme poverty compared to two decades ago.
  18. One of the goals the U.N. has set is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
  19. Through all of the visions set by the U.N., they seek to “leave no one behind.”
  20. On a global scale, anyone who makes more than $34,000 annually is among the richest one percent in the world.

These 20 global poverty facts help to better understand the global situation facing us today. While there has been progress in global poverty reduction, many challenges still lie ahead.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Palestine Refugees
The Arab-Israeli conflict has continued for more than 65 years. The absence of a Palestinian state has led to major difficulties in providing aid for their refugees. Palestine refugees differ from other refugee populations in the world and have a unique status as a result. In order to understand the struggle of refugees involved in this conflict, consider these 10 facts about Palestine refugees:

1. One in three refugees is Palestinian.

There are nearly 7.2 million Palestine refugees worldwide. The number of Palestinian refugees is nearly double that of Syrian refugees (3.8 million).

2. There are three main groups of Palestinian refugees.

The largest group is comprised of Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. Another major group are those who were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The third group refers to internally displaced Palestinians.

Internally displaced refugees include both: Palestinians who remained in areas that later became the state of Israel, and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who lost their homes due to demolition, revocation of residency rights or the construction of Israeli settlements.

3. There is a specific U.N. relief organization for Palestine refugees.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) began operations in 1950. All other refugee populations worldwide are protected by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

4. There are specific criteria for qualifying for UNRWA assistance.

The UNRWA provides aid for Palestine refugees who “lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The other primary groups of refugees do not qualify for aid under the UNRWA mandate.

5. Palestinians are one of the only populations whose descendants also qualify as refugees.

As a result of Palestinian descendants gaining refugee status, there are currently 5 million refugees who qualify for UNRWA services. When the UNRWA began operations, the agency responded to the needs of only 750,000 Palestinian refugees.

6. There are 58 UNRWA recognized Palestine refugee camps.

There are 58 official and six unofficial refugee camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

One-third of the registered Palestine refugees live in refugee camps. Camps typically have poor socioeconomic conditions, are extremely overcrowded and lack adequate roads and sewer systems.

7. Palestine refugee camps in Gaza comprise one of the highest population densities in the world.

More than half a million Palestine refugees live in the eight recognized refugee camps in Gaza. The number of refugees in the area continues to rise due to wars and bombings. Over 70 percent of Gaza’s total population are refugees.

8. Jordan has the most Palestinian refugees of any country.

There are over 2 million registered Palestine refugees living in Jordan. The number of refugees living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank combined is fewer than the amount living in Jordan.

9. Palestine refugees are granted citizenship in Jordan.

Jordan is the only host country that has granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights. Other host countries have been known to bar Palestinians from basic rights, such as health and educational services.

10. No Palestinian has ever lost their refugee status.

Palestinian refugees have been refused the right to return to their place of origin; Israeli officials have declared that such a right is not legitimate. The number of Palestine refugees has increased by more than six times the amount originally accounted for in 1948. This is a result of Palestinians being able to retain their refugee status.

These 10 facts about Palestine refugees are by no means an exhaustive list, however, it offers insight into the current situation. Palestinians are the largest and longest-standing group of refugees in the world. Palestinian refugees have suffered for over six decades and will continue to suffer until their basic needs and rights are met.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Pixabay

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

SVCF’s mission is to channel the excess wealth flooding Silicon Valley into worthy, charitable causes around the world. One of the systems SVCF uses as a means of helping nonprofits all around the world is Donor Circles.

Each circle has its own focus or philanthropic cause. Currently, the Donor Circles include Donor Circle for the Environment, Donor Circle of the Arts, Donor Circle for Africa and Donor Circle for Safety Net.

Each Donor Circle consists of individuals interested specifically in the circle’s cause who wish to fund nonprofits in the given field that are in need of support.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

Aside from these Donor Circles, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation also gives grants and scholarships to individuals.

On an individual level, two of the issues SVCF specializes in are immigration and education.

In a brief describing the work they do for immigrants in Silicon Valley, SVCF acknowledges a pervasive obstacle in immigrants’ successful assimilation: lack of access to educational resources and aid. The organization attributes immigrants’ difficulties in finding work to an “insufficient number of effective English-language learning, job training and legal services.”

In a San Francisco Chronicle article about SVCF, two recipients of Silicon Valley Community Foundation grants recount some of the challenges they faced as new immigrants. Ramon Alvarez, a 28-year-old Mexican-born immigrant, says that he used to fear interactions with native English speakers, but with the help of SVCF, now he will “talk to anyone.”

In a community with booming affluence, an organization like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation stands as a crucial mobilizer for the many causes that truly deserve the world’s attention.

Liz Pudel

Sources: SVCF 1, SVCF 2, SVCF 3, SVCF 4, San Francisco Chronicles

Photo: Wikimedia Commons,

The_Global_Partnership_for_Education2015 has been an active year for global education. The fourth Global Goal in the new Global Goals for 2030 focuses on education. But according to Results, The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is the only international partnership exclusively dedicated to achieving education for all.

The Global Partnership for Education had five major accomplishments over the course of 2015.

1. GPE welcomed Bangladesh and the Republic of Congo as new partners.

Bangladesh became the 60th developing partner of the GPE. As a GPE member country, Bangladesh is now eligible for a Program Implementation Grant worth $100 million dollars over the course of three years. The Congo is the 61st developing country partner of GPE. The GPE is working with the Congo to give all children a basic ten-year education.

2. GPE calculated that it takes only $1.18 to pay for a day of primary to secondary education for a child in a developing country.

This calculation comes from The Education for All Global Monitoring Report and IMF figures for historical US inflation. According to GPE, 88 percent of $1.18 will be provided by developing countries themselves, making the international funding gap just 14 cents a day per child.

3. GPE received new funding from Canada.

Canada decided to double its contribution to the GPE. They agreed to donate $98 million dollars during the 2015-2018 replenishment period. More than half of GPE’s financing to countries in 2014 went to conflict-affected countries.

4. GPE allocated more than $245 million in grants and distributed more than $400 million.

GPE approved $245 million in grants fro Bangladesh, Mozambique, Nepal and Rwanda. It plans to use this money to provide imperative funding and momentum toward quality education for children.

5. GPE adopted a new strategy for the next five years.

The new strategic plan sets out contributions that GPE will make to focus on the Global Goal for education. The new results framework will be used to measure achievements and ensure accountability for results. GPE is invested in delivering the Global Goal of quality education for all.

GPE hopes to continue to make a positive impact in global education and to reach the global education goal. Their new strategy for 2016 identifies their biggest challenges to achieving quality education for children around the world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Global Partnership for Education, Results
Photo: Global Partnership for Education

Sometimes, when one is trying to make a difference in the world, it is all too easy to get caught up in how grim things can seem. We are constantly being bombarded with evidence that the world is in a desolate decline, and it is hard to even know where to start.

When these sort of feelings start to catch up with you, here are several resources to turn to that focus on good news stories and how, in many ways, the world is improving.

1. Don’t Panic
This Hans Rosling documentary challenges some of the biggest misconceptions people have about the direction the world is going in. For example, birthrates are declining as access to family planning increases and people become more educated. This engaging video features specific case studies, polls of a live audience and the continual presentation of surprising data.

2. TED.com
Well-known, this website has several uplifting playlists that exemplify how the world is getting better. For example, the “Freedom Rising” playlists are made up of talks about groups who have overcome oppressive governments. “Social Good, Inc.” is a set of talks about companies that are making progress towards a greater social good. “The Road to Peace” includes 10 talks that talk about the ways in which peace has prevailed in the past and can in the future.

3. 26 “Charts and Maps That Show the World is Getting Much, Much Better”
This article on Vox.com, with a self explanatory title, shows a variety of items, like economic prosperity, rising life expectancy and homicide rates in the U.S. and Europe.

4. “The world looks like it’s getting worse. Here’s why it’s not.”
This article by John Stackhouse includes this calming line: “If the world seems more volatile, it is. If it seems more dangerous, not so much. Welcome to the war of perceptions, in which an ever-improving planet seems ever more at risk largely because of the noise.” It includes information on topics like human rights, poverty and American hegemony.

5. Positive News
A U.K. website, it reports on some of the good that is occurring in the world. On the official “about” page of the website, it says, “we take a solution-focused perspective on the challenges facing society.” This is not a place of wallowing in pity and sorrow, but in seizing opportunities for change.

6. The Good News Network
Attempting to counterbalance the barrage of bad news reported in the mainstream media, this website contributes positive stories that are occurring and aims to help create a balanced, realistic worldview for consumers. It features this reflective quote from editor Norman Cousins: “If news is not really news unless it’s bad news, it may be difficult to claim we are an informed nation.”

7. Flickr
This might seem like a general resource and saying “photography” makes it even more vague, but, as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Sometimes all it takes to feel inspired or be reminded of all of the beauty in the world is to see a moment of it frozen in time.

Flickr comes up just because it tends to be a more trusted resource for high-quality photos, but even something like Google Images would work. Type in the name of a place you hear about in the news. One ravaged by poverty, war or oppression.

What you see are images of the place at its most beautiful. Its unique landscapes, its strong people, its magnificent architecture. From Africa to Syria to Mexico, there is beauty in the uniqueness of each place, even the ones wracked by turmoil. Rarely is there a news story covering the sheer beauty of a Middle Eastern desert, or a tree silhouetted against the sky in the Congo or the beaming face of a child in Mali.

With the mainstream media so hyper-focused on all that is wrong with the world, it is easy to forget about all that is right. But the wonderful thing is that taking the time to seek out goodness usually leads to finding it, especially in today’s world, where the Internet makes so much available right at our fingertips. These resources should act as a reminder that the world is filled with beautiful people and places and stories, and that we should continually strive to make it a better and better place because such efforts have been proven to pay off.

– Emily Dieckman

Sources: Reuters, Gapminder, Good News Network, Positive News, TED, VOX, Flickr
Photo: Flickr

Learning to be Smarter: How Bilinguals Have a Cognition (and Communication) Advantage
Charlemagne once said, “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Learning a language is something most of us strive to do. Whether it’s travel, business, new friends or even literature, learning a new language is something that appeals to people for a wide variety of reasons. At its core, language learning is kind of like finding a key that unlocks new countries, cultures, and people.

However, recent studies have shown that there’s an advantage to being bilingual beyond the ability to immerse oneself in new places. Researchers have found that those who learn a second (or third, or fourth) language have more gray matter in the “executive control areas” of their brains in the frontal and parietal regions. This extra tissue supports memory management, reasoning, planning and problem-solving. The cognitive control required to determine which language is spoken in what context requires increased tissue growth that leads to better control over other brain functions as well.

The study, led by Dr. Olumide Olulade, found that this advantage was only present in individuals who spoke both languages out loud. English-American Sign Language bilinguals did not have increased brain matter while English-Spanish bilinguals did. Communication, the greatest part of language learning, is key to increased development.

Beyond enforced executive control skills, people who speak more than one language have been shown to have improved listening skills, multi-tasking abilities, attention spans and vocabulary in their mother tongue. Beyond this, they learn to perceive the world in a whole different way and come into contact on a deeper level with a greater number of people.

And the fastest, easiest way to learn a new language? Visit a new country. Live amongst new people, visit local haunts, read books in the new language. Fully immerse yourself not only in a new language, but a new way of life. That way, when you become proficient enough to speak to your new friends, you’ll be a true inhabitant of this new place. Becoming a global citizen not only means being able to interact with people from around the world, but also sharing their mindsets, cultural references and perspectives. Global citizens are knowledgeable and, more importantly, compassionate about people in all corners of the world.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: PsyBlog 1, PsyBlog 2
Photo: ZDNet