Top Five Facts About U.K. Foreign AidAs one of the most economically developed countries in the world, the U.K. plays a tremendous role in global prosperity. In 2017, the United Kingdom’s gross domestic product per capita was $39,953.60. Here are the top five facts about U.K. foreign aid.

Top 5 Facts About UK Foreign Aid

  1. How much is being spent?
    Since the 1970s, the United Nations has been urging all developing nations to invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income in overseas aid. This is in collaboration with the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to improve international welfare. The U.K. agreed and reached this target in 2013, along with five other countries. Shortly after, the U.K. included this goal in its legislation. By 2015, the U.K. legally required 0.7 percent of its G.N.I. goes toward foreign development. By 2016, the U.K. spent £13.3 billion ($16.9 billion) on international aid. As the U.K. economy continues to grow, the amount the U.K. spends each year does, too.
  2. What are the goals?
    On top of legislation, the U.K. created an aid strategy. The four primary goals of this strategy include promoting global peace, strengthening crises response, aiding in international development and helping the world’s most impoverished people. The government aims to do so by implementing several tactics. For example, 50 percent of all the Department for International Development’s (DFID) spending goes toward aid in developing nations. Moreover, it funds a £1 billion commitment to global health.
  3. How is funding being spent?
    The DFID spends approximately 74 percent of government spending. Smaller departments within the government spend the remaining 26 percent. Most funding (63 percent) goes toward bilateral aid, sent directly to countries in need. Organizations, such as the U.N., distribute the remaining funds. The top recipients of aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria. In 2015, humanitarian projects received the most amount of support. In order to ensure success and public awareness, the DFID site collects data to track foreign aid spending.
  4. What does the government think?
    Conservative parties within the U.K. have argued to reduce foreign aid. Accordingly, these parties believe the money could be better spent domestically. After the 2016 Brexit referendum, concern surrounding foreign aid increased. However, in 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May publically supported the 0.7 percent target goal. Bill Gates has also been a large advocate in support of U.K. foreign aid. In several interviews, Gates has expressed the U.K. should be proud of its contributions toward international poverty reduction.
  5. How does U.K. foreign aid compare?
    Since 2013, the nation has become a global leader in humanitarian aid. It is known as one of the first nations to offer assistance during crises. The U.K. provided relief during Hurrican Irma and the Ebola outbreak in Syria. In 2016, the U.K. ranked fifth in international aid, behind Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark. Norway gives more than 1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid, making it a model for other countries.

Overall, the U.K. should be proud of its contributions. These top five facts about U.K. foreign aid demonstrate the nation has contributed billions of pounds to reducing global poverty. For the future of society, may the U.K. continue to grow and prosper, deepening its stance against global poverty.

Anna Melnik
Photo: Google Images

 Nigeria
Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is a core necessity for human survival that a large portion of the world, especially developing countries, still struggle to meet.

In Nigeria, UNICEF reported that close to 70 million people, out of the total population of 171 million, lacked access to clean water, while 110 million lacked access to sanitation in 2013. The impact of this shortage is dire as 124,000 children under the age of five die because of diarrhea that is mainly caused by unsafe water, bad sanitation and bad hygiene. Moreover, it decreases school enrollment and disproportionately affects girls who bare the responsibility of carrying water. Finding the solution for Nigeria’s water quality is, therefore, a pressing issue that requires all responsible parties to participate.

Obstacles In Meeting Water Quality Standards

Gbenga Ashiru, the producer of Question Time, a Nigerian news program that profiles the activities and accountability portfolio of office holders, discussed the reasons behind Africa’s largest economy reaching a peak in a shortage of potable water. He dissected what he states is the “mystery” behind the Nigerian government’s, led by the Minister of Water Resources, inability to meet water demands. Ashiru highlighted the extreme water shortage and listed the shocking statistics of potable water and sanitation coverage at 7 percent and 29 percent, respectively. 

Four months ago, the Nigerian government launched the Nigerian Standard for Drinking Water Quality to revitalize the access to safe drinking water throughout the nation to achieve goal number six of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the launching ceremony, Suleiman Adamu, the Minister of Water Resources, asserted that finding the solution for Nigeria’s water quality issue is the current focus of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. 

Nigeria’s Water Act

According to UNICEF, Nigeria has indeed taken the steps to improve this pertinent issue through the development of various policies and strategies. However, a deterioration in water quality and access portrayed by a 25 percent drop of pipe borne water supply since 1990, reveals the difficulty of translating the solution to Nigeria’s water quality issues into action. 

Nigeria’s Water Act states that the Federal government of Nigeria funds 30 percent, local government funds 10 percent, while state government covers 60 percent of the funding of water projects along with the full responsibility of operation. Suleiman Adamu, in his interview with Ashiru, argues that the Water Act is neither feasible nor effective policy in meeting water and sanitation demands and calls for an amendment of this legislation as well as the gradual privatization of this sector. 

Fostering Synergy and Collaboration

Suleiman Adamu holds the state government responsible for not meeting their end of the bargain. He explains that even in cases where the federal government went beyond the 30 percent of the funding and invested in water treatment facilities, the states failed to carry out the operations. He argues that this happens due to state government officials neglecting pressing water demands that require long periods of gestation and focus on short-term projects to show results during re-election. Therefore, the solution for Nigeria’s water quality issues lies in finding the amendment of this policy that has created obstacles for the synergy in the federal, regional and local governments. 

Since water projects are a primary responsibility of state government, bringing progress at a national scale requires synergy in state and federal government. The Minister explains that the federal government will work on achieving this collaboration through advocacy and offering supervision rather than simply giving funding without aligned priorities. 

Bilen Kassie 

Photo: Flickr

Nita Lowey
Representative Nita Lowey has been a key Congressional proponent for prioritizing educational opportunity in foreign aid and development programs. She is an outspoken advocate for women, children and families, championing issues related to education in the United States and abroad.

Currently serving her 15th term in Congress representing New York’s 17th district, Rep. Lowey was the first woman to serve as a Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Nita Lowey, along with Congressmen Dave Reichert, introduced the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act, to enhance transparency and accelerate the impact of U.S. basic education programs around the world. The READ Act passed into law on September 8, 2017.

The READ Act calls for:

  • Engagement with key partner countries and nongovernmental institutions to promote sustainable, quality basic education.
  • A comprehensive, integrated U.S. strategy that improves educational opportunities and addresses key barriers to school attendance, retention and completion for the poorest children worldwide.
  • A senior coordinator within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to oversee the education aspects of foreign aid.
  • An annual report to Congress on the implementation of the basic education strategy and progress achieved by USAID programs.

Worldwide, more than 263 million children and youth are out of school. In addition, 250 million primary school age children are lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. Studies have shown that for every year a girl stays in school, her future income increases by 15 to 25 percent.

Rep. Nita Lowey strongly believes that prioritizing education around the world will “ultimately protect vulnerable children from poverty, disease, hunger and even extremism.”

On why the READ Act is such an important piece of legislation, Rep. Lowey’s Press Secretary Mike Burns told The Borgen Project:

“Without a doubt, education is the greatest force multiplier in foreign aid. The READ Act will enhance our global education efforts, removing barriers to education for those out of school and improving the quality of education for those already enrolled. Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write—it will ultimately help protect vulnerable communities from hunger and disease and increase economic advancement, particularly for girls and women.

“Simply put, by putting education at the center of our efforts, this bill moves us further down the path to building the world we want for ourselves and for future generations. This is a tremendous bipartisan achievement.”

Rep. Nita Lowey continues to be a leading Congressional proponent of educational opportunity, a leading international role for the United States, health care quality and biomedical research, stricter public safety laws, environmental protection, women’s issues, national security and improved homeland security preparedness.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Google

What is a Parliamentary System
Many in the United States may be aware that most Europe governments use a parliamentary system, but the question most are probably thinking is: what is a parliamentary system? More importantly, how is it different from the system used by the United States? Here are the answers to these questions and more.

 

Basics of a Parliamentary System

In terms of the U.S. system, a country’s parliament would serve as both its legislative and executive branches. The most important thing to know about parliamentary systems is that the political parties hold the power and not individuals. When citizens vote, their ballots list party names and when a party wins, seat allotment is assigned to party members based on seniority (in most cases).

When a party wins the majority of seats, it then selects a leader to serve as the executive called a Prime Minister or, in some cases, a Chancellor. This person will most likely already be the party leader and they then select their cabinet which sets the government’s agenda. If one party does not win the majority of seats in the parliament, then it must form a coalition with other parties to form a majority.

This process may take time, but it will eventually allow for the smoother passage of legislation.

 

One House or Two?

Many parliaments are bicameral, meaning it has two houses, while others may be unicameral, having only one house. In bicameral systems, there is a lower and an upper house, but most legislating actually takes place in the lower house.

The greatest difference between the two is the number of veto points or places where legislation can be halted within the legislative process. Unicameral systems have fewer veto points than bicameral systems making it easier and faster to pass legislation but also easier to overturn. Many parliamentary systems therefore adopt the bicameral system for stability.

 

Parliamentary vs. Presidential

In a parliamentary system, the executive is the Prime Minister while in a presidential system, the President is the executive. There are many differences between these two positions, but most notably, the Prime Minister and his/her cabinet arises from the legislature, while Presidents are directly elected by the people.

At first glance, many would then prefer a President because citizens choose him/her directly, yet many still prefer Prime Ministers.

First of all, they are beholden to their party, so their decisions are far more predictable than a President’s and voters know exactly what values they are voting for. This applies for all members of the legislature as well, not just the Prime Minister.

Parliamentary systems also entail the possibility for a vote of “no confidence” by the legislature which can remove a Prime Minister from power at any point if they lose the vote. Presidents, however, have fixed terms and cannot so easily be removed.

 

Success Rate

Citizens in the United States are very fond of the presidential system, yet in reality the success rate for parliamentary systems is far greater. The system has been a part of some European countries for centuries, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. When deciding which system to adopt, new countries must consider what is best for its country, and that may or may not be a parliamentary system.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActOn Jan. 17, 2018, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3445, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation adds on to the original African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which was passed into law on May 18, 2000, by the 106th Congress.

As an extension of AGOA, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act encourages plans to promote trade and cooperation while also providing aid to countries that are AGOA eligible. The region of focus of the legislation is sub-Saharan Africa, with the goal being to build private sector growth. Under the bill, the President will be directed to create a website with information about AGOA along with encouraging embassies in chosen countries to promote export opportunities to the United States.

In addition, the​ ​bill​ ​would​ ​give​ ​the​ ​Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC)​ ​the​ ​authority​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​second​ ​concurrent​ ​compact​ ​with countries,​ ​provided​ ​the​ ​compact​ ​focuses​ ​on​ ​regional​ ​economic​ ​development.​ The​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​enter​ ​into​ ​a​ ​second​ ​compact​ ​will​ ​be​ ​limited​ ​to​ ​countries​ ​that​ ​demonstrate​ ​progress toward​ ​meeting​ ​the​ ​objectives​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​compact​ ​and​ ​capacity​ ​to​ ​handle​ ​an​ ​additional​ ​compact.

The MCC was created in 2004 by the Bush administration, with the aim to reduce poverty through economic growth. The MCC has committed more than $10 billion in 58 projects in 25 countries. Around 70 percent of this investment has gone into infrastructure projects like highways and ports and an increasing percentage is being invested in energy.

On the House floor prior to the vote, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-39) said that the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act “seeks to facilitate trade and private sector-led growth in poor but relatively well-governed countries, particularly in Africa, so they can grow their own way out of poverty.”

“Through AGOA, goods produced in eligible African countries enter the U.S. on a duty-free basis. To be eligible, countries must be committed to the rule of law, eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment, combating corruption and supporting counterterrorism activities. So AGOA advances U.S. interests on many levels.”

Trade being a driver of economic development and increased civilian participation in politics is one of the main arguments for passing the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. Economists and experts agree that the legislation does not just benefit sub-Saharan Africa, but also the United States, as it helps create jobs and benefits consumers and companies through free-market principles.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) was enthusiastic about the passage of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act by a unanimous vote. Bass is a ranking member of the House Africa Subcommittee. She is an avid supporter of the legislation and said the policy would foster economic development, as well as strengthen the United States as an international leader and boost the domestic job market and economy.

The bill was introduced to the House by Rep. Royce. At the time the bill was initially introduced, Rep. Royce along with fellow representatives Bass, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), stated that steering developing countries toward trade and away from aid helps African countries and women. Africa’s consumer spending nearing $1 trillion was what prompted the four to push for the passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act still needs to be approved by the Senate. The bill has been introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) as S.832. Sen. Coons stated that it is vital that Congress does all it can do to promote economic growth in developing countries and expand American business access to foreign markets. He is excited that the act will encourage trade with sub-Saharan Africa.

The recent passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act in the House may give the legislation the momentum it needs to soon be accepted in the Senate. Visit The Borgen Project Action Center to contact your representative about this critical legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What is a Senator?
Since 1787, the U.S. Senate has existed to bring representation to individual states and a minority opinion to the United States of America. Senators are an integral part of the news cycle. They are a voice for the electorate. They are composers of history. But what is a senator?

America is a country of democracy and relative stability in spite of bipartisanship. Surrounded by a world in which many are starving and living in poverty, however, it is important to look at the basics. Doing so gives Americans the ability to make a difference to those less fortunate. This is made possible by having a population of 323 million speak through elected representatives.

Qualifications of a U.S. Senator

The qualifications of a U.S. senator are simple. A senator must be at least 30 years old, must have been a U.S. citizen for nine years and must be a resident of the state which he or she is elected to represent. Their terms last for six years and there is no limit to the number of terms, as long as it is the will of the population in the senator’s state. Each state has two elected senators, who exist to bring individual voice and to be a part of the vital checks-and-balances system. This goes some of the way to answering the question ‘what is a senator?’.

Responsibilities of a Senator

The most important job of a U.S. senator is to be the voice of his or her constituents. As the accountable party to the state, a U.S. senator is responsible for voting on legislation that is to the benefit of the state as a whole. It also means that senators are responsible for taking phone calls, reading letters and meeting with his or her constituents.

In addition to their responsibility to the state, senators also serve on committees. Committees exist to examine major sectors of American life, including energy, health and the U.S. budget. It is a Senator’s responsibility to meet with lobbyists and determine amendments to existing legislation through the committee on which they serve.

U.S. senators also introduce and vote on legislation. Once a bill is introduced, it must be examined by the Senate. If it passes muster, the bill will then go to the House of Representatives (or vice versa). If the bill passes both houses of Congress, it will then go to the President of the United States to become a law.

What is a Senator?

So, what is a senator? A senator is someone that individuals elect to ensure that the country is going in a direction in which they want it to go. A senator is a voice for the state; an elected official responsible for ensuring the protection of human rights.

Unfortunately, much of the world does not have that same representation. The U.S has the power to create change and it starts with individual voices.

It is essential to exercise the right to vote and voice opinions through elected officials. Once senators are in office, citizens can write letters, email or call them to hold them accountable. They can make sure they are carrying out the state’s interest as well as using their position for good in the world.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr

The Kigali Amendment: A Global Commitment to Cutting HFCs
This month in Kigali, Rwanda, nearly 200 nations agreed to a new deal to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, specifically hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The parameters of the deal have the potential to guide countries to preventing up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the year 2100 and outline a global commitment to cutting HFCs.

HFCs were first used in the 1980s as a replacement for other ozone exhausting gasses. Over time, however, the danger of these gasses has grown. HFCs are used in appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, and sales among these types of products have soared in growing economies like China and India.

HFC gasses are critically dangerous to the global environment and as a greenhouse gas can be up to 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. If the deadlines in the plan are followed, the deal is expected to reduce the use HFCs by 85 percent by 2045.

The Kigali Amendment was made as an addition to the Montreal Protocol, which came into effect in 1989 and aims at reducing the production and consumption of detrimental substances to the earth’s ozone layer.

A statement on the Kigali Amendment from the White House said, “While diplomacy is never easy, we can work together to leave our children a planet that is safer, more prosperous, more secure and free than the one that was left for us.”

The deal includes the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China, and separates nations into groups with various deadlines for reducing the use of HFC gas. The U.S. and other Western developed countries want quick action in phasing out HFCs while nations such as India will be allowed a bit more time for their economies to grow and industries to adjust to the new requirements.

The U.S. will start taking action by 2019 and more than 100 developing countries, China included, will start to cut back by 2024 when HFC consumption levels are expected to be at their highest.

The deal puts the promises made at the Paris climate change conference last year into effect. In December 2015, 195 countries met in Paris and agreed to the first ever universal and legally binding climate change deal. Now, the Kigali Amendment is holding these countries accountable for their promises.

U.N. Environment Chief Erik Solhiem stated in reference to the Kigali deal, “Last year in Paris, we promised to keep the world safe from the worst effects of climate change. Today, we are following through on that promise.”

This global commitment to cutting HFCs shows dedication and acknowledgment to current issues relating to global warming and climate change. The requirements of the legally binding treaty have the potential to considerably reduce the damaging effects of greenhouse gas emission.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Advocates for the Global Poor
By virtue of the democratic process in America, the country is one of the most influential allies to the global poor. The U.S. approaches foreign assistance through a multitude of dimensions. A critical body of which is the legislative component of the tripartite government system.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations possess the constitutional authority and resources to manage national security, international health crises, and address human rights abuses. On a daily basis, congressional members are strong advocates for the global poor.

To address the complexity of the international affairs, the governing bodies established regional subcommittees and assigned specific representatives to create solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of the diverse and multi-polar system.

Rep. Christopher Smith, with Rep. Karen Bass as the Ranking Member, chairs the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. Past actions of the committee include calls for the promotion of good governance in Eritrea; accountability in human rights reports; and cooperation with the U.N. to stabilize South Sudan.

Sen. Jeff Flake, with Sen. Edward J. Markey as its ranking member, chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy. The committee has recently passed legislation highlighting their dedication to being an ally to the global poor. The legislation is called Electrify Africa, which partners with sub-Saharan governments to provide power services for at least 50 million people.

Other responsibilities of the Senate Subcommittee promote good government and identify threats for the intelligence and military community to further evaluate. These elected representatives work diligently to be effective advocates for the global poor.

However, congressional leaders are elected to serve the American people. If you are one of millions of Americans who care about the globally impoverished, then have your voice heard.

By emailing, calling or writing, individual Americans can lobby their representatives to support bills that demonstrate their allegiance to assisting the global poor. Often times, it does not take more than five constituents reaching out to make something become a topic of discussion. It’s amazing to think that individual American citizens can have a big impact by being influential advocates for the global poor.

There has never been a more important time to get involved. The world is at a pivotal point: continue improving the living conditions of those who live on less than a dollar a day or forfeit the hard work of generations. The choice is up to every American to become an ally of the global poor.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Legislature
Within the legislature of the federal government, there are two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senators and Congressman work within these two lawmaking bodies. Both are representative voices for their constituents, but their roles differ in terms of  length, power and apportionment. Here are some key facts on the differences between Senators and Congressmen.

House of Representatives

  1. Each state represented in Congress is entitled to at least one representative, but the number per state is determined according to population. Under the constitutional rule regarding the size of the House, “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one of every thirty Thousand.”
  2. There are currently 435 Congressional seats.
  3. A Congressperson’s term lasts two years.
  4. The minimum age for a member of the House is 25 and the elected official must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.
  5. The six non-voting members in Congress are the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although these districts are unable to vote, they may vote in a House committee and introduce legislation.
  6. In the legislature, only the House of Representatives can introduce spending bills.

Senate

  1. Each state has a total of two senators, regardless of the state’s size. For this reason, there are always 100 senators during a given period.
  2. A senator’s term lasts six years. Only one-third of the Senate seats are elected every two years. That way, only 33 or 34 seats are up for election at a given time.
  3. The minimum age for a senator is 30, and that person must be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.
  4. The Senate has sole power of approval for foreign treatises and cabinet and judicial nominations, including appointments to the Supreme Court.
  5. The Senate is headed by the Vice President, who only votes in case of a tie.

Nora Harless

Sources: Diffen.com, USGovInfo
Photo: Flickr