7 Measures to Tackle COVID-19 in Qatar
Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.

7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar

  1. In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
  2. Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
  3. As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
  4. The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
  5. A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
  6. Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
  7. The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.

Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Good Free Photos

Parliamentary System
Many nations around the world use a parliamentary system, a type of representative government that shapes the way the nation functions. While many know the U.S. for its presidential system, most European nations tend to use a parliamentary system, in which citizens vote for a specific party to allocate seats based on the vote percentages. Parliamentary systems are all around the world, each one with its own unique form and institutions. These unique characteristics shape the way countries run and develop. Here is some information about how a parliamentary system works.

Features of a Parliamentary System

The main characteristic of how a parliamentary system works is the “supremacy of the legislative branch,” which runs through a unicameral (one-chamber) or bicameral (two-chamber) parliament. The parliament consists of members who each represent the constituents. The legislative body votes for laws and the head of state can either sign a bill or return it to legislation, showing their agreement or disagreement with the bill. However, parliament can still override the head of state’s veto with a vote.

The Prime Minister leads the executive branch as the head of government. Often in a parliamentary system, the roles of the legislative branch and the executive branch are either “blurred or merged,” because the two branches do not exist to check each other’s power like in the presidential system of the U.S.

Many parliamentary systems also consist of a special constitutional court, which has the right to judicial review and may state a law as unconstitutional if it violates the law of the land or the constitution.

Political Parties, Elections and Voting

In a parliamentary system, the people do not choose the head of government or the Prime Minister. Instead, the members of the legislative branch choose their leader. Voters vote for the party that they want to represent them in parliament. Typically, the majority party chooses an individual to be the Prime Minister. The legislative branch also chooses members to be a part of the executive cabinet. When voting does not give a party a majority, parties tend to form coalitions.

In terms of the electoral system, most parliamentary systems use proportional representation. A proportional representation (PR) system creates a representative body that “reflects the overall distribution” of the voters for each party. It ensures that minority groups still have representation, but only so long as they participate in elections. A PR electoral system has two varieties, a party-list and a mixed-member PR.

Denmark is an example of a parliamentary system that incorporates PR into its electoral system. People know its parliament as the Folketing, and the PR system elects its members. Like the United Kingdom, Denmark is also a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government.

On the other hand, many countries use a plurality system, which places power in the hands of an individual from a strong party. Within a plurality system, there are different variations, such as a single-member district plurality system or first-past-the-post system, typically known as a “winner-take-all” system. In this system, voters vote for a candidate whose party they support and want to represent them. India, Canada and the United Kingdom are great examples of parliamentary systems that incorporate a plurality electoral system.

Canada is an example of a parliamentary system that incorporates a plurality electoral system. Canada has a unique governmental structure, as it follows the context of the British constitutional monarchy, despite the U.K. and Canada being two separate nations. Its parliament consists of members that receive election through a plurality system in each electoral district. The party that obtains the most votes wins the majority of seats in parliament.

Advantages of a Parliamentary System

The major advantage of how a parliamentary system works is the fact that it allows all parties, large and small, majority and minority, to receive representation and have a voice in the policy-making process. In a presidential system, all power of the executive branch goes into the hands of an individual of the majority party. This can ignore the minority groups, thus creating social and political tensions. The ability of a parliamentary system to form coalitions allows all parties, including the minorities, to have representation. As a result, it minimizes tensions that develop among societies.

– Krishna Panchal
Photo: Flickr

Coffin Homes in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Estimates determine that its population could grow to 7,249,907 people in 2020. While Hong Kong’s recent protests against the Chinese government receives extensive coverage, the high housing prices of Hong Kong precedes the current news. According to a 2019 report by CBRE, Hong Kong had the highest housing prices in the world, surpassing the housing prices of other cities such as Singapore, Shanghai, London, Los Angeles and New York. The report also showed that the average housing prices in Hong Kong were more than $1.2 million. Unsurprisingly, many people in Hong Kong find it hard to afford housing. This gave rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong which are small, partitioned apartment homes. Have the conditions improved in Hong Kong’s coffin homes? What kind of projects is the Hong Kong government participating in to improve the housing conditions in its city?

Inside a Hong Kong Coffin Home

According to some estimates, there are 200,000 people, including 40,000 children, living in these coffin homes in Hong Kong. Most of these coffin homes are smaller than 180 square feet. To put this size into perspective, this is only slightly bigger than an average parking spot in New York City. The inhabitants of these coffin homes range from retirees with little to no pension, the working poor, drug addicts and people with mental illnesses. These small spaces and unsanitary conditions sometimes lead to bed bug infestation. Yeung, a coffin home resident who the South China Morning Post interviewed, said that he often spent the night at McDonald’s or at internet cafes in order to avoid bed bugs.

A Possible Solution?

The Hong Kong government is making efforts to improve the current state of housing in Hong Kong. The government’s main focus seems to be in providing more housing units for the general public. For example, the Hong Kong government proposed an ambitious project to reclaim 1,000 hectares of land near Lantau, which will create an artificial island near Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government plans to create 40,000 homes in this reclaimed land. The project should begin in 2025 with the aim of having residents move in by 2032, and has an estimated cost of $80 billion. However, there are many critics who worry about the long-term impact of this ambitious project.

What the Critics are Saying

Critics have claimed that building this artificial island is the equivalent to “pouring money into the sea.” Critics have furthermore pointed out that the project could lead to the destabilization of the city government’s fiscal reserves. Environmentalists in Hong Kong are also afraid that the project will distort the hydrology near Lantau Island. These environmentalists are encouraging the Hong Kong government to adopt a “brownfield first” policy. This policy entails developing the 1,000 hectares of land in the New Territories area that is located at the northern part of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government is also conversing with Hong Kong Disneyland to release a tract of land, that is supposed to be part of Disneyland’s future expansion, to the government so that it can utilize it as a residential district.

The housing crisis in Hong Kong is a complicated issue. The squalid and cramped conditions that many people in Hong Kong live in reflect its current housing crisis. The high housing prices have given rise to coffin homes in Hong Kong. The current socio-political instability in Hong Kong, while having some of its roots in Hong Kong society’s innate inequality, certainly is not remedying the current housing crisis. The Hong Kong government seems to be very conscious of this crisis. Its efforts to provide housing for its populace, however, still face many challenges. Its ambitious project for creating an artificial island is especially notable. With all this effort, many hope that coffin homes in Hong Kong will become a story of the past.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Corruption in IraqOn October 1st, violent protests broke out in Iraq. The Iraqi government struggled to quell the protests, which resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people. The protesters cite corruption and failing public services as the sources of their outrage against the government. Prime minister Adil Abdul Mahdi responded by claiming that the government is in the process of starting big reforms that will benefit the nation economically and eradicate poverty. However, past instances of corruption have left many protesting Iraqis hesitant to give the government the benefit of the doubt. These 10 facts about corruption in Iraq provide a brief overview of why Iraqis are fed up with their government.

10 Facts about Corruption in Iraq

  1. Transparency International’s corruption index rankings are comprised of 180 countries. Iraq comes in as the eighteenth most corrupt nation. The index measures perceived levels of corruption in the public sector of countries based on ratings by experts and business people.

  2. About a third of Iraqis report having paid a bribe for police services, registry and permits. It is not uncommon for police members to advance in ranks thanks to bribes directed at politicians. Companies with connections to political leaders also benefit more from bribes and kickbacks.

  3. Billions of dollars in public money have been taken due to corruption. In 2013, it was estimated that Iraq “lost” $20 billion to corruption. That is relatively conservative when compared to the $100 billion lost in 2003.

  4. In May, Iraq’s Integrity Commission seized $445,900 from the house of a relative of a former Iraqi official. Iraq’s Integrity Commission found the money while investigating a former Director of the Engineering Department for the Nineveh province. Kickbacks and bribes are rampant in Iraq, and the government is struggling to maintain its integrity.

  5. Iraq’s last Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Judge Ezzat Tawfiq, was killed in a car crash in March. Many Iraqis and members of the commission mourned his death because they supported his work and considered him one of the most important figures in the battle against corruption. Although the car crash was officially categorized as an accident, some Iraqis were quick to question whether foul play was involved given the influence and power of the commission’s adversaries.

  6. Iraqi officials arrested and abused aid workers in Mosul. Some Iraqi officials actively subvert the business of aid workers in the impoverished region. Police have been slandering and detaining individuals by making fictitious claims about them having ties to ISIS. These extortion tactics are aimed at diverting the funds of some organizations to corrupt local authorities.

  7. In September, the Iraqi government had to shut down the nation’s border crossing with Mandali, Iran because of corruption. All of the employees at the location were transferred to different border crossings. An armed group had commandeered the crossing, which generates about 600,000,000 dinars of revenue a month.

  8. In July, 11 ministers and ministerial-level officials were arrested and charged for corruption. In Iraq, members of parliament are considered immune from being charged with corruption charges stemming from their previous work as public officials. Lawmakers must lift this immunity before charges can be brought against those suspected of corruption.

  9. In 2016, Hoshyar Zebari, the former Finance Minister of Iraq, estimated that there were 30,000 ghost soldiers in the Iraqi army. Corrupt officers are able to pocket the money received for the fake soldiers. Some blame the fall of the city of Mosul to ISIS in 2014 on these ghost soldiers because there were far fewer soldiers defending the city than records indicated.

  10. The state-run Basara oil company was accused of corruption for paying two international firms $80,000,000 more than market price for loading equipment. Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, but the riches it provides are being stolen from the Iraqi people.

These 10 facts about corruption in Iraq provide the backdrop for the protests in Iraq. Many Iraqi executives and public officials are stealing money from those that need it the most. Iraq has won a battle against ISIS, but defeating entrenched corruption may be a more difficult struggle.

Grant DeLisle
Photo: Flickr

Eradicating Poverty Through ICTs
Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) are social networking websites, instant messaging programs, cell phones and other technologies that allow people to communicate quickly and globally. Information emanates through these technologies allowing developing countries to step into the digital world. Eradicating poverty through ICTs now seems plausible as citizens include themselves in new economic and coordinated opportunities.

ICTs’ Range of Impact

In the Asia-Pacific, governments utilize ICTs to expand markets and introduce services. They have adapted to using e-commerce, supporting businesses that allow more people to become engaged with the government and programs. New strategies constantly emerge as Asian-Pacific authorities and organizations address poverty.

Bangladesh

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provides solutions globally for poverty and these differ depending on the country. In Bangladesh, the UNDP pushed an initiative called the Access to Information Act or the a2i. The main focus of this act is to offer citizens the right to public information, allowing multiple interpretations for data such as records. By implementing this act, Bangladesh has reduced the costs of access to health and education information services. The amount of time it took for residents to receive information on their phones or computers dropped by 85 percent and the cost dropped by 63 percent. Digitization of rural areas has saved the local residents half a billion dollars.

Vietnam

The UNDP focuses on e-government policies. According to the United Nations, e-government encompasses the delivery and exchange of information between government and citizens. Vietnam now supports online businesses and allows people to pay taxes over the computer. Services, as an effect, run more efficiently and people have more ready access to transfers or deposits. The number of internet broadband subscribers reached 11.5 million and many expect it to grow 9 percent annually along with 47.2 million on cellular data due to the rapid growth of applications. ICTs affect the way the country runs as well; towns have adopted ICTs, using them in creative ways to provide water and electricity.

Taiwan

Recently, Taiwan has grown into a major manufacturer of ICTs, leading to the export of its products. The Cloud Computing Association of Taiwan (CCAT) devotes itself to making the country an exporter of cloud software. At home, these developed cloud systems save service providers 50 percent, avoiding the need to purchase from overseas. The country’s National Communications Commission proposes to provide all of its citizens with ICTs. It appoints companies to offer universal broadband access to mountain villages, projected to make Taiwan the first country with complete internet coverage. Rural peoples have access to data, and the government offers programs to teach rural residents how to properly use technologies, adapting more to the digital age, helping the goal of eradicating poverty through ICTs.

How ICTs Affect Poverty in the Long Run

The UNDP believes that ICTs should create a direct change in the economy and welfare of various nations. However, failure to address the issue to all people in a country, globally too, creates a gap between those accustomed to technology and those who are not. To continue on the path of eradicating poverty through ICTs, governments must continue to pledge support and work with organizations. The countries above benefit by having their governments providing opportunities to learn new technology as well as adapting technology for other everyday services.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica
The island country of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, is making improvements in its public health care systems to increase life expectancy. Once ran by an unstable and politically corrupt government, Jamaica handed the keys to Sir Patrick Allen in 2016. Under a new regime, the government promises to take public health care more seriously. “The government is committed to working assiduously during the first year of administration to tackle these issues,” said Allen in an interview.

The administration is shifting its focus to partnership and community mobilization to protect the health of Jamaicans. The country has implemented a new 10-year plan focusing on expanding health care access through infrastructure development. The new motto of building a partnership for prosperity has influenced positive change, but many Jamaicans still struggle or are unable to attain proper health care. The expenses have put many families in a state of poverty. Rural areas will have unequal access to incoming health care benefits. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Jamaica

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaicans’ life expectancy rate from birth is currently 74.5 years, ranking the country 123rd in the world. Males live an average of 72.7 years while females live an average of 76.5 years. Overall, life expectancy has risen since the turn of the century. In 1960, the life expectancy rate from birth was only 64 years which means there was a 10-year increase as of 2019.
  2. Improvements in public health care and life expectancy have led to a decrease in infant mortality rates. In the year 2000, 14.6 infants died per 1,000 births. In 2019, 11.6 infants have died per 1,000 births. The decline is about three children in the last 19 years and is still decreasing.
  3. Enhancements in clean drinking water have also led to increased life expectancy in Jamaica. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, access to sanitary water has improved 97.5 percent for urban populations and 89.4 percent for rural populations. This leaves just 2.5 percent of the urban and 10.6 percent of the rural populations needing improvements in water.
  4. The HIV and AIDS epidemic has also seen a decrease in cases, leading to improved life expectancy. The virus has affected the entire Caribbean for many years, but health improvements lowered the number of cases each year. As of 2017, only 1.8 percent of the island of Jamaica has contracted the HIV virus with 1,500 deaths. This is a decrease from 56 percent in 2004.
  5. In 2016, Jamaica became the latest Caribbean country to have the Zika virus. Mosquito bites transmit the virus and it can pass from person to person through sex, blood transfusions or pregnancies. The government has lowered the number of cases as of 2019 but is also putting together a precautionary plan for citizens and travelers including what kind of repellents to use, places to avoid and how to protect children.
  6. Prosperity through partnership, mobilization and urbanization is the goal of the 2016 Jamaica government. Within two years, the government has brought urbanization to 55.7 percent, averaging a 0.82 percent rate of change each year. This is an encouraging number, but one that Sir Patrick Allen will look to increase in order to urbanize at a more rapid pace.
  7. Environmental issues within the country have halted some improvements. Hurricanes frequently hit the island, especially between July and December. Heavy rates of deforestation, water pollution by industrial waste, oil spills, land erosion, damage to coral reefs and air pollution are all pressing issues that influence mortality. The government has prioritized these issues through plans to expand partnerships with richer countries, hoping they will provide relief to damaged parts of Jamaica.
  8. Education has increased rapidly in Jamaica, providing children the opportunity to grow into productive members of society, which increases their life expectancy. More children are starting school between the ages of two and three. The country provides preschool, primary school and high school, and offers further educational choices. With improvements in education, the literacy rate of Jamaica has climbed to an astonishing 89 percent overall.
  9. The World Food Program has been working diligently in Jamaica to improve nourishment. Thanks to its efforts, obesity in the country dropped to under 20 percent in 2018. This is a significant improvement from the 5 percent decrease in 2016. Only 2.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  10. Sanitation facilities have seen a rapid improvement. In 79.9 percent of urban areas and 84.1 percent of rural areas, the country has made sanitation improvements to schools, hospitals, houses, parks and local bathrooms. A total of 18.2 percent of the area still needs improvement in those areas to aid life expectancy.

The upcoming years will continue to be of high importance for the new government, but Jamaica has much to celebrate. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica show that the country has made improvements to increase life expectancy. It still requires more work, especially as it continues to implement its 10-year program.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Pixabay

erasing tax havens
Currently, about 50 percent of countries have poverty rates that are lower than 3 percent. Despite the declining rate of global poverty, poverty rates in poor countries remain high. The existing global system allows for both wealthy companies and individuals to benefit within the global economy through tax avoidance with the use of tax havens, but erasing tax havens and having corporations pay more legitimate and realistic taxes could eliminate global poverty and inequality.

What are Tax Havens?

Tax havens are countries or territories where corporate houses register and operate. According to tax laws, these corporate houses do not have to pay taxes on the profits they make in the area where they operate. The corporate houses do not pay taxes based on the overall group economic performance of the companies but rather based on individual entity. The multinational companies also have an element of secrecy in that tax havens share limited to no information regarding finances with foreign tax authorities.

Effects of Tax Havens

The use of tax havens is not just unique to multinational companies; some wealthy individuals utilize the system as well. The mass amounts of unpaid taxes are denying the world’s poorest governments billions of dollars. In February 2015, a few rich individuals with ties to Kenya were storing more than $560 million in bank accounts in Switzerland. The hidden wealth in tax havens could salvage the lives of four million children and 200,000 mothers in African countries. The gap between the wealthy and the poor in the world grows wider every year, and tax havens primarily fuel it. This is considering that $7.6 trillion of personal wealth hides in offshore accounts that tax havens run. This negatively impacts the fight to eliminate global poverty.

In the 1990s, 5 to 10 percent of global profits from multinational companies shifted, meaning that the jurisdictions where the economic activity took place proclaimed the profits for tax purposes. By the early 2010s, 25 to 30 percent of multinational companies’ global profits shifted. According to the International Monetary Fund, the active practice of corporate tax avoidance around the world has put the global revenue losses between $200 billion and $600 billion and lower-income countries make up around $200 billion of the global revenue loss. There are approximately 650 million poor people globally who live beneath the international poverty line of $1.90 per day. If a new country emerged with a Gross Domestic Product of the $200 billion revenue from low-income countries due to tax havens, the country could eliminate global poverty just by giving $2 every day to those 650 million people.

The Unitary Tax Approach

One way multinational companies are trying to curb tax avoidance is through the apportionment reform programs or the unitary tax approach. Through the unitary tax approach, global governments would assess tax havens’ profits as a group rather than as individual entities. This method would apportion the profits that the tax havens make as a group to each of the countries where the companies operate based on how much economic activity took place in the respective countries.

In using the unitary tax approach, multinational companies would receive taxes where employees do the actual work rather than where the ledgers hide. Due to the fact that the economic activity that the tax havens are carrying out in countries would be more authentic, a greater deal of the global shares of the corporation’s profits would distribute to the countries, and then each country would have more reign to exercise their taxing rights and tax its shares of global profits at a more reasonable rate. A global shift to the unitary tax shift approach overall would benefit not just the U.S., but also low-income countries in the fight to eliminate global poverty.

Erasing tax havens is necessary as they are detrimental to the global system in that they rob governments of the opportunity to eliminate global poverty and socioeconomic inequality by depriving governments of needed public service resources such as health and education. Erasing tax havens is vital to eliminating global poverty, and global tax laws need to modify to benefit many, not just a few.

– Cydni Payton
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in GazaThe Gaza Strip, a highly controversial tract of land, borders both Israel and Egypt. Gaza Strip’s population of 1.8 million, living in an area about the size of Detroit, endures severe hardships. Gaza has a poverty rate of 53 percent. An ongoing conflict with Israel and political instability are the chief reasons for Gaza’s extreme poverty rate. Below are seven facts about poverty in Gaza.

7 Facts about Poverty in Gaza

  1. The Gaza Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant fundamentalist organization.
    Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip since it orchestrated a coup d’état in 2007  Both the United States and the European Union label Hamas as a terrorist organization, This is due to its explicit acts of violence against Israel and its citizens. Meanwhile, the Hamas government has developed robust social and welfare programs in the Gaza Strip. Spending is between $50-70 million annually.
  2. Hamas instituted a blockade of Gaza, resulting in poverty complications.
    The next among these facts about poverty in Gaza is about its blockade. Since Hamas came to power, Israel and Egypt have enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. The blockade has contributed to a struggling economy, a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate housing and severe food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “the blockade has undermined the living conditions in the coastal enclave and fragmented… its economic and social fabric.”
  3. Gaza’s GDP is declining.
    In a 2018 report, the World Bank described Gaza’s economy as in “free-fall.” The World Bank cites a combination of factors as the reason for a six percent decline in the territory’s GDP. While the decade-long blockade has done significant damage to the economy, recent cuts to international aid are placing additional strains on Gaza. Another contributing factor is that 52 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are unemployed. Gaza has a youth unemployment rate of 66 percent.
  4. As many as 90 percent of those living in Gaza have little access to safe drinking water.
    In fact, 97 percent of Gaza’s freshwater is unsuitable for human consumption. Diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ result from Gaza’s water crisis. Additionally, humanitarian groups warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 due to shortages.
  5. Poverty in Gaza is exacerbated by precarious access to food and other basic goods.
    In 2018, the UN characterized 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip as food insecure. This constitutes a 9 percent increase from 2014. The blockade prevents many goods from entering the territory. Further, it places strict limits on fishing activity, a major source of economic revenue. It also limits availability to the equipment needed for construction, as Israel worries the equipment could be used for violence.
  6. Gaza currently has access to electricity for only eight hours each day.
    Demand for electricity far exceeds the supply. Likewise, the UN describes it as a chronic electricity deficit. From providing healthcare to desalinating water, poor access to electricity makes life more difficult in the Gaza Strip.
  7. Many organizations and movements are working to alleviate poverty in Gaza.
    The United Nations has several arms at work, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNRWA provides education, health services and financial loans to refugees in the territory. The UNDP targets its assistance to decrease Gaza’s reliance on foreign aid. Additionally, the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement strives to put economic pressure on Israel and lift the blockade.

Importance of Addressing Poverty in Gaza

These seven facts about poverty in Gaza provides some insight into the situation. However, addressing the region’s poverty proves to be a worthwhile pursuit. Poverty reduction can lead to greater stability. Furthermore, it can increase the chances for dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Overall, international cooperation and foreign aid have the potential to vastly improve the lives of the 1.8 million individuals in Gaza.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global PovertyPeople helping people. Country helping country. Giving back to the world is not a strange concept and is a welcomed idea in most societies. A popular form of global help is foreign aid. The umbrella term commonly refers to monetary assistance provided by outlying or foreign governments. The funds are generally distributed through humanitarian organizations, non-profit groups or directly from a foreign government. As such, the aid is given to citizens in an abundance of forms, such as money, food or shelter. While some can afford to provide more than others on a purely numeric comparison, the amounts are measured or valued differently depending on the country’s economic standing. This list consists of five countries fighting global poverty who outshine the rest.

Top Five Countries Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Norway begins the list as it provides the largest amount of foreign aid in comparison to its GDP. The government put 1.11 percent of its GDP towards global humanitarian aid, spending NOK 455 million as of 2018. The country utilizes organizations such as the U.N.’s CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund), the Red Crescent Movement and the Red Cross. Recently, Norway channeled much of their funds into CERF in order to assist Venezuela in its growing refugee crisis. Norway’s contributions towards these programs effectively fight against global poverty and prove the nation should be in the top five, as its generosity in comparison to its national budget is the highest in the world.
  2. Luxembourg also contributes a significant portion of their GDP towards humanitarian and foreign affairs. Approximately 1 percent of their national budget, or about USD 413 million, is used for aid. Some of Luxembourg’s projects include poverty reduction through community development in Laos, education improvement in Burkina Faso and health care in Nicaragua. These countries receive specific help from various agencies and organizations like LuxDev and the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. These groups and projects, though just a few select examples, show how much effort Luxemborg puts in fighting poverty.
  3. Sweden comes forward as another example of a smaller country with a smaller budget who still makes a grand impact in the world. As about 1.04 percent of its GDP, or about USD 5.8 billion, is used for humanitarian and foreign aid, Sweden holds a top ranking. While the money touches on a broad range of topics, from civil rights to education, specific Swedish projects focus on poverty issues. For instance, Sweden recently provided aid to Somalia for drought relief through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund. Sweden makes a mark on the world by not only tackling larger, conceptual issues, but by also responding quickly to disasters and world events. Such assistance highlights the country’s proficiency in the fight against global poverty.
  4. The United States is a leader in fighting global poverty as it contributes the most money towards humanitarian and foreign aid. Within the past few years alone, the U.S. contributed USD 30 billion towards various forms of international aid. The nation utilizes several different federal agencies, non-profit groups and other organizations to distribute aid. The U.S. commonly works with popular organizations such as UNICEF or the Red Cross. A prime example of the U.S. effect on the world is with the sheer number of countries it provides for, as it touches nearly 40 different nations, including Pakistan and Mexico.
  5. Germany also provides a significant amount of aid with nearly USD 20 billion contributed towards humanitarian projects in recent years. This accounts for nearly 0.70 percent of the national budget. Popular organizations and agencies include the World Food Program, which Germany utilized to provide relief to Africa. In addition to such organizations, Germany is known to donate large amounts of money to other countries, a notable example being Syria in recent years due to their ongoing crisis. Germany’s monetary generosity also makes it the second-largest donor in the world to foreign aid, falling in just behind the U.S.

Whether it’s a natural disaster or political turmoil, when a country is in need, surrounding neighbors will often step up to help.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr


Every year Congress must approve the fiscal budget, which includes a request for foreign aid spending from the current Secretary of State. By examining the proposals for foreign aid spending through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2008 to 2020, it highlights the United States’ international goals and concerns. A common thread amongst all three budgets is a concern of national security and instability within foreign nations.

The 2008 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary Condoleezza Rice

In the 2008 Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice outlined the international concerns of the Bush Administration. As a whole, Secretary Rice requested $36.2 billion in funding from Congress for the 2008 fiscal year, as well as $6 billion in supplemental funding in 2007 for, as she details, additional expenses from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Secretary Rice stated that the overarching goal of this budget for foreign aid spending is to “mobilize our [the U.S.] democratic principles, our diplomacy, our development assistance and our compassion to win what will be a generational struggle.” As a result of this priority, much of the outlined spending in the report focused on the allocation of funds to programs that support democracy-building programs, peacekeeping, diplomacy and child-health programs. The United States, Secretary Rice details, ought to shift from a historically paternalistic relationship towards other nations in the world and, rather, act in partnership with foreign countries in the hope that it can establish positive and lasting change.

The 2016 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary John Kerry

In the 2016 Congressional Budget Justification, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concerns that were similar to those of Secretary Rice under the Bush Administration. In 2016, the international sphere continued to face uncertainty. He places emphasis on this by asking that Congress “begin by understanding what is at stake – by realizing that our overseas actions, the alliances and partnerships that we form, the cooperation we engender, and the investments we make have a direct bearing on the safety of our citizens and the quality of life enjoyed by our people.” The budget that Secretary Kerry requested $50.3 billion from Congress, a marked increase from the proposal of Secretary Rice in 2008.

Despite a change in the party — from Republican to Democrat — the concerns of each administration are the same. In the 2016 proposed budget for foreign aid spending, Secretary Kerry expresses concern on behalf of the Obama Administration for the stability of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, as well as for the health, education and safety of families around the world. Secretary Kerry asked for the allocation of $7 billion to Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which works to establish stable political environments in volatile regions in which the U.S. involves itself. Also included in this budget is $5.6 billion in humanitarian aid for Migration and Refugee Assistance, International Disaster Assistance and food assistance. On a similar note to the 2008 proposal, Secretary Kerry states that “the United States will continue to do its part to ease suffering and prepare the groundwork for recovery.”

The 2020 Congressional Budget Justification – Secretary Michael Pompeo

The 2020 Congressional Budget Justification from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo strikes a different note from the previous two administrations. While a concern towards international security remains, Secretary Pompeo focuses on foreign aid spending with a more exclusionary approach to international relations.

At the start of his proposal, Secretary Pompeo outlines the concerns for international security that lie in the denuclearization of North Korea as well as the “great-power competition against China and Russia.” Secretary Pompeo currently has requested $40 billion in foreign aid spending, a decrease from the amount requested in 2016. He states that the funds will be “to protect our diplomats and our borders, recruit and develop our workforce, and continue to modernize our IT infrastructure.” The funding for democracy strengthening programs as well as health and education in poor nations continues, but a tone of gradual withdrawal from direct involvement in global affairs persists in the language used by Secretary Pompeo throughout the proposal.

Funding to international organizations has faced cuts with a decrease of $141.46 billion to approximately $2.15 billion. Overseas programs have also faced cuts with a decrease of $69.33 billion to approximately $1.52 billion and requested funding for border security is $3.75 billion. To conclude his budget request, Secretary Pompeo states that “we must continue to put U.S. interests first and be a beacon of freedom to the world.”

Throughout all three administrations, a concern for the changing and uncertain status of the international sphere is present. Foreign aid spending peaked under the Obama administration, but both the Bush and Obama administrations focused on direct U.S. involvement in world affairs as a means of spreading peace and democracy, while the Trump administration appears to have turned its focus on protecting the U.S. from threats abroad.

– Anne Pietrow
Photo: Media Defense