Effective Altruism 
From an idea and philosophy, Effective Altruism has evolved and transformed into a very broad and cohesive social movement over the years. Though heavily featured in the nonprofit sector, Effective Altruism focuses on scientific projects, policy-making and organizations with the ethos of finding effective ways to do ‘the most good’ and ‘do good better,’ both individually and collectively. Effective Altruism prioritizes a variety of different causes, impartiality and cost-effectiveness, along with assessing potential funding impacts and counterfactual reasoning.

Effective Altruism Singapore

The Borgen Project had an opportunity to get in touch with the Effective Altruism chapter in Singapore, an up and coming organization with a focus on ‘effective giving.’ As an organization, the chapter is able to sustain and appeal to people because of Singapore’s friendly and burgeoning nonprofit environment as well as its relatively wealthier population, and more stable incomes and economy.

With a heavy focus on research and careful analysis, the Effective Altruism Chapter in Singapore, in particular, is able to work on the best cases and understand specific communities in need. Like many of its companion chapters around the world, it also focuses on more neglected issues in global poverty reduction initiatives such as global health and development and factory-farmed animals as well as other problems and existential risks like natural disasters and climate change. Stunting, in particular, is a grave and predominant focus for Effective Altruism Singapore, with a heavy concentration on child and maternal health care malnutrition owing to the fact that nearly 25.8 percent of children in southeast Asia are stunted. Effective Altruism’s evidence-based research patterns and analysis shows that around 30 percent of children in communities across Indonesia and the Philippines experience adverse impacts of stunting.

The GiveWell Framework

Moreover, the chapter employs the more empirical and analytical GiveWell framework in its work to evaluate potentially high-impact giving opportunities in SouthEast Asia. GiveWell, one of the pioneering organizations behind the Effective Altruism movement, focuses on scouting reliable charities that can improve lives the most per dollar so that there is effective and impactful usage of philanthropic funds. The objective is chiefly to deduce how useful it is to give an amount equivalent to a dollar and evaluate how it could potentially impact a specific target community.

In accordance with Effective Altruism’s GiveWell framework, giving opportunities are largely dependent on an in-depth analysis involving thousands of hours of research which it then uses to find top-rated charities backed by evidence, thorough analysis and vetting to ensure transparency and accountability. GiveWell also tries to understand the root causes of issues such as stunting and malnutrition. Organizations such as the Malaria Foundation and Malaria Consortium remain some of GiveWell’s most important recommendations in the health care aspect of its many global poverty alleviation priorities.

The GiveWell Framework’s Role at Effective Altruism Singapore

Consequently, many of Effective Altruism Singapore’s pilot projects and initiatives employ the GiveWell framework as it is helpful while analyzing and understanding some of the high-impact giving opportunities in Southeast Asia, especially in key priority realms like the provision of WASH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation) services as well as childhood malnutrition. In the year 2018, the chapter focused on looking for organizations and charities that delivered more evidence-based interventions that targeted preventable and cost-effective health issues and impacted some of the poorest populations and communities in Southeast Asia.

To conclude, the workings and functioning of Effective Altruism Singapore help paint a broad picture of the Effective Altruism philosophy and movement as a whole due to its rather abstract nature. It remains groundbreaking and innovative because it offers a more objective as well as a critical approach to addressing and combatting poverty in the long run especially because it aims to use more research and evidence focused methods.

As a whole, it remains an essential and significant reflection into the applications of the ideology and the potential impacts it can have on the way one perceives global poverty-related issues across various communities around the world.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

4 Organizations Fighting World Hunger
Hunger and poverty integrally link together, because most people experiencing chronic hunger live in poverty. Further, most of the world’s hungry reside in developing nations. A 2018 report from the United Nations concluded that the number of people afflicted with chronic hunger was actually rising.  In 2017, there were 821 million people around the globe that were hungry. In other words, hunger affects one in every nine people. World hunger is an issue that demands attention because of its regression throughout the past few years. Additionally, improving food security should boost global health and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. There are countless organizations working tirelessly to make a hunger-free world a reality. Below are four organizations fighting world hunger.

4 Organizations Fighting World Hunger

  1. Oxfam International: Oxfam International is a global movement working in more than 90 countries on a multitude of issues. Between 2017 and 2018, Oxfam worked with 22.3 million people to fight inequality and beat poverty. The organization aims to build resilience in communities and campaigns for sustainable change. It operates as a confederation that partners with local organizations. Oxfam believes that hunger in a world of plenty is the result of inequalities such as economic and gender differences. One specific aim is to create a more fair and sustainable global food system. Various programs support small-scale farmers and workers in production with the capacity to provide for increasing populations and reduce poverty. Specifically, the implementation of these sustainable farming techniques in conjunction with advocating for necessary government investments helps to fight against world hunger.
  2. Biodiversity International: Biodiversity International is a global research and development organization working in 35 countries around the world with the aim of fighting world hunger. This organization has a regional presence in Central and South America, West and Central Africa, East and Southern Africa, Central and South Asia and Southeast Asia. It implements various research endeavors and programs based on the idea that agricultural biodiversity provides adequate nutrition for the global population by sustaining the planet. In 2018, Biodiversity International published 145 papers indicating that biodiversity aids in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes ending hunger. In order to accomplish these goals, Biodiversity International partners with local communities and organizations in low-income countries to target issues specific to that population. All of the research and intervention methods are based around the use of scientific evidence, effective management practices and the implementation of policies to safeguard biodiversity, thus achieving food security globally.
  3. Rise Against Hunger: Rise Against Hunger is a hunger relief organization that aligns itself with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in its efforts to end world hunger by 2030. In order to achieve this, the organization distributes food and aid to vulnerable populations. In 2018, Rise Against Hunger impacted 794,700 people by providing meals and aid. The organization implements safety nets in order to provide for basic needs while people are planning and putting long term solutions in place. Rise Against Hunger also provides effective and efficient food provisions along with aid during emergency situations. Additional focuses include efforts to build community resilience, self-sufficiency and empowerment. The organization also brings resilient food security by creating long-lasting solutions for fighting world hunger through implementing sustainable agricultural practices, teaching business skills and improving market access.
  4. UNICEF: UNICEF is an organization active in more than 90 countries that focuses on saving the lives of children around the globe. Development is a huge part of providing for vulnerable populations and is especially critical for youth. Combating hunger and implementing accessible food systems is an integral part of the development; it interweaves in almost all of UNICEF’s programs in developing countries. UNICEF’s Survive and Thrive initiatives address the health of children, including early childhood development, health, HIV/AIDS, immunization, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. UNICEF understands that fighting world hunger is necessary for achieving these initiatives and creating a healthier young population. Additionally, the organization provides aid during crisis and emergency situations, which includes ensuring food security for children. Through these programs, UNICEF improved the quality of 15.6 million children’s diets in 2018. UNICEF primarily focuses on children’s issues, but the organization is aware that addressing hunger is a crucial aspect of addressing developmental issues.

Hunger and poverty are issues that inherently tie together. These four organizations address global hunger through diverse programs and disciplines. Through each organizations’ work, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of fighting world hunger has a profound possibility. 

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Facts About the Bosnian War
Bosnia has a varied and long history full of interesting facts, such as how it used to be part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. A fascinating event of this country was the Bosnian War. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight essential parts of one of the most intriguing periods in the country’s history.

15 Facts About the Bosnian War

  1. After declaring its independence, Bosnia was multiethnic. Its most prominent groups were Muslim Bosniaks (44 percent), Orthodox Serbs (31 percent) and Catholic Croats (17 percent). However, a four-year war followed the country’s independence, when the Bosnian Serbs attacked Sarajevo, targeting mainly the Muslims. They also carried out ethnic cleansing across the countryside.
  2. The United Nations helped both parties agree to a peace treaty in 1995 called the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement preserves Bosnia as a single state conformed by the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. To date, the U.N. has also convicted more than 70 men of war crimes.
  3. Bosnian Croat soldiers became prisoners during the war after their surrender on Vlasic, a central Bosnian mountain. Approximately 700 of them, as well as 7,000 Croat civilians, fled to Serb-held territories after the massacre that occurred on this mountain.
  4. In 1993, Miss Besieged Sarajevo stood up against war by unfolding a banner that read, “Don’t let them kill us.” Her name is Inela Nogic, and she was 17 years old at the time. The song “Eve of Destruction” was playing when she and 12 other teenagers got on the pageant stage and unfolded the banner. This demonstration served as a representation for 380,000 people living in Sarajevo during that time and their wish to continue their normal lives despite the war and conflict.
  5. Goran Jelisic was a Serb police officer who the U.N. and International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia convicted of murder, cruel treatment, plunder and inhumane acts. He even called himself the “Serb Adolf” in 1992. He systematically killed Muslims, hurt women and stole from prisoners, amongst other things. He finally received a sentence of 40 years in prison for his war crimes.
  6. Srebrenica Memorial Cemetery buried more than 6,500 bodies after the bodies received identification from mass graves in Eastern Bosnia. In 2012, the mass burial re-grouped 615 bodies in that year alone. Even though it is a memorial now, it began as a cemetery that former president Bill Clinton opened in 2003. The cemetery initially buried 600 sets of remains.
  7. Even 20 years after the start of the Bosnian War, there is still a deep division between ethnicities. Mostar is an excellent example, where Croats hold the west bank and Muslim Bosniaks hold the east. Co-existence is uncomfortable to the point where they resist international efforts of reintegration. They even have two different fire brigades for each side, and all divisions are obvious.
  8. An appeal court sentenced Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader, to life in prison for his role in the Bosnian War. It charged him with genocide and the killing of over 7,000 Muslims. Even though they were originally only going to convict him for 40 years, the judges increased it to a life sentence. They claimed the tribunal chamber had initially “abused its discretion,” and the chief prosecutor said that finally, his victims saw a consequence for Karadzic’s actions.
  9. In April 2012, Sarajevo lined over 11,000 red chairs on its main avenue, Titova Street. These chairs symbolized the victims on the 20th anniversary of the War. There was also a choir and a classical orchestra that performed songs that were mostly from wartime.
  10. Even though this was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II, the U.N. barely interfered. Its only interference was that occasionally the U.N. Protection Force sent troops.
  11. The War had devastating effects on people’s health, mostly because of a lack of food and supplies as well as displacement. Ethnic cleansing led to significant shifts and movements, which increased people’s vulnerability to illness and even death. By September 1993, the War resulted in the killing, wounding or displacement of over half a million people. Bosnia’s health system was not capable of attending to these issues or even basic needs.
  12. Bosnia’s demographic structure is in constant flux, including more and more vulnerable populations, such as those that are either too young, old or weak to escape. During the War, studies suggested that the proportion of children and the elderly increased, affecting public health since these individuals were more susceptible to external factors.
  13. As a result of ethnic cleansing among other things, the war forced 21 to 76 percent of the population to move. Many of these shifts were towards communities with significant refugee populations. In places such as Banjaluka and the Eastern Bosnian enclaves, displaced people amounted to over 50 percent of the population.
  14. In addition to food, there was also water scarcity. Before the war, Sarajevo’s water consumption was approximately 200 liters per person per day. The water pumping stations used an electrical system for power. However, during the war, electricity was only available intermittently, if at all. This occurrence, in turn, severely impacted water distribution. In July 1993, Sarajevo rationed water to between two and three liters per person per day.
  15. Before the War, Bosnia mostly relied on natural gas to heat buildings. However, during the War, the pipelines shut down. Fortunately, a project supported by foreign aid was able to reconnect 20,000 people in Sarajevo with the natural gas pipeline, restoring the minimum pressure of one bar by November 1993.

Even though the war is over, Bosnia still experiences deep ethnic divisions. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight the main takeaways and lessons from the war to avoid a similar conflict in the future.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Fiji
Despite significant progress, poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem. In 2013, almost 300,000 Fijians or 34 percent of its population lived below the national poverty line. Interestingly, of middle-income nations, Fiji’s national poverty rate trends high whereas its extreme poverty rate—which is 1.4 percent—is comparatively lower. Still, there is cautious optimism when considering the future of poverty in Fiji. After all, as a result of wide-scale efforts by both the government and various organizations, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent in the early 2000s. In 2020, these groups continue to work towards a poverty-free future in Fiji.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Fiji

  1. Caritas Australia: An originally Catholic organization that works across the Pacific, Caritas runs a variety of programs targeting the effects of poverty in Fiji. An example of one of its projects is the Tutu Rural Training Centre, where farmers learn a multitude of skills through a four-year course relating to agriculture technology. When Cyclone Evan hit in 2012—which caused $312 million of damage and killed 14 people—the center also provided plants for people to start regrowing their farms. Another program is the People’s Community Network, which works to improve the lives of squatters throughout Fiji and promote self-sufficiency. Thus far, the project has helped 500 families secure land.

  2. The World Bank: The World Bank has perhaps acted as the primary player in alleviating poverty in Fiji. The organization has provided loans to the Fijian government since the 1970s for more than 13 large-scale projects on issues such as improving transportation infrastructure and natural disaster relief. In 2019, the World Bank announced it would start loaning over $21 million annually for such projects with 0 percent interest. This money has ultimately been invaluable in helping Fiji become a more technologically advanced country and providing critical economic opportunities to Fijian people.

  3. Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS): The umbrella body of almost 500 grassroots organizations across Fiji, FCOSS has worked throughout the country connecting different groups and their projects together while coordinating with the government to ensure maximum productivity. Some of the programs that the organization embarked on to fight poverty include the Rural Women Initiative for Development & Education, which helps women obtain economic freedom, and HelpAge, which provides services to elderly individuals who the state often ignores.

  4. Peace Corps: The Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization run through the U.S. government, has worked in impoverished communities in Fiji since 1968, sending over 2,529 volunteers. These volunteers have worked on a variety of projects throughout this tenure, working primarily on conservation and resource management, teaching sanitation and safe water practices, and helping communities with economic development. These projects have proved invaluable in these poor communities. For example, in 2010, the Peace Corps conducted a large scale study and found that 87 percent of host communities saw improvement in their sanitation practices and 90 percent reported better environmental and livelihood security. Furthermore, when teaching business practices, 80 percent learned habits that helped them in their everyday lives. Clearly, the Peace Corps is providing crucial assistance in poor communities in Fiji.

  5. Habitat for Humanity Fiji: Another international organization fighting poverty in Fiji is Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes in Fiji where almost 140,000 people lived in poor housing conditions. Habitat for Humanity has served a large number of homes. The organization is evidently mitigating the effects of poverty in Fiji, although Fiji requires more work.

Clearly, while poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem, there are a variety of organizations leading the fight against it. With these organizations’ continued aid, poverty in Fiji will hopefully become a part of the past.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Universities Fighting Global Poverty
In any global issue, college students are some of the most useful people in spreading awareness about global poverty. Throughout the years, many colleges have joined to spread awareness about impoverishment and the following five are just a few examples of the many domestic and international universities fighting global poverty.

5 Universities Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Manhattan College: This NYC liberal arts college joined the One Campus Challenge, an initiative for universities fighting global poverty, back around its conception in 2007. The college remains one of the over 2,000 participants in the challenge. In an article by Thomas Hallissey, the then leader, Kieran O’Shea, managed to recruit 66 students into the campus’ chapter of the challenge. O’Shea became inspired to join the initiative after he saw other colleges join.
  2. Ohio State University: Sally Miller, a plant pathologist and professor from OSU, has focused her research on the availability of food in developing countries. According to an article from 2014 and about Miller’s travel to the African nation of Senegal, Miller’s research focuses on pest control and agricultural development as a means of fighting global poverty. Her travel and research was part of the International Plant Diagnostic Network. The project was incredibly widespread involving scientists from several U.S. universities including Ohio State and partner institutions in the 12 member countries of the IPDN.
  3. The University of Chicago: With so many universities fighting global poverty head-on and coming up with solutions, it is important to have a view of the areas in need of attention. In October 2019, researchers from the University of Chicago created the Million Neighborhoods Map. According to UChicago’s article, this map is “a groundbreaking visual tool that provides the first comprehensive look at informal settlements across Africa, helping to identify communities most in need of roads, power, water, sanitation and other infrastructure.” People could use such technology to lay a foundation for future solutions, as it is difficult to come across a solution if one cannot view the problem on a widespread scale. Reports determine that this map shall receive updates to include other African regions as well as Asian areas as well.
  4. Harvard and MIT: It would make sense that profound solutions to global poverty would come from two of the most prestigious universities in the world. MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee and his wife, Esther Duflo, as well as Harvard professor Michael Kremer, received Nobel Prizes for their research on “how to improve school results in Kenya and India, studies on micro-financing, price sensitivity to health-care costs and lifting vaccination rates,” according to a Bloomberg article. These professors and economists take a different standpoint on the issue of global poverty, treating it from a scientific point of view. They also focus on the poor as people in need of help rather than mere numbers.

Whether students or professors lead these initiatives, one cannot doubt that universities fighting global poverty have and will continue to have a significant impact. The efforts to raise awareness about poverty, understand and improve agriculture in developing countries and map countries to determine infrastructure needs are just a few of the components that should help reduce poverty around the globe.

– Christian Moore
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities are Donating
The Amazon rainforest fires of late 2019 are some of the worst to occur since 2010 with an increase in deforestation rates as a primary cause. Celebrities are donating to the Amazon, pledging money to organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch and Rainforest trust. Many celebrities are donating to help the Amazon so that the indigenous peoples that live there can continue to do so. Other celebrities are raising awareness about the role politics is playing in the Amazon fires.

The Situation

The Amazon rainforest covers much of northwestern Brazil and extends into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries. It is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is notable for its extensive biodiversity. It is also home to nearly one million indigenous peoples consisting of over 400 tribes, each with their own language, culture and territory. These people rely on their land for everything, from food to shelter to medicine, which is why the fires are so devastating to them.

 The anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro is a root cause of the fires. Bolsonaro normalizes, incites and empowers violence against the environment of the Amazon rainforest and against the tribes who live there. Bolsonaro pledged to increase agricultural activity in the Amazon by opening it to logging, industrial-scale agriculture, ranching and mining.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron tweeted “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!” Along with urging other world leaders to help on social media, Macron threatened to scrap a huge trade deal between the European Union and South America, putting pressure on Bolsonaro to take action.

Alongside the destruction and devastation, celebrities have begun to raise funds and awareness to help put a stop to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

Celebrities Donating to the Amazon

Many celebrities are donating monetarily to provide aid. Vanessa Hudgens donated to the Amazon Conservation Team to try to proactively help and Violette Beane gave to multiple organizations while urging her fans to donate if they could and share information if they could not.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental initiative, Earth Alliance, pledged $5 million to Amazon relief. People widely know DiCaprio for his work as an actor, but also for his work to end climate change. Earth Alliance created an emergency fund specifically for the preservation of the Amazon. The money pledged will be going to five local organizations.

In addition to donating, many celebrities are then nominating other celebrities to do the same. Lana Condor of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” donated and then nominated co-stars Janel Parris and Noah Centineo to do so as well. Zoey Deutch donated to the Rainforest Alliance and called on Camila Mendes to do the same. After donating, Mendes nominated “Riverdale” co-star, Charles Melton to give.

“Umbrella Academy” star, Robert Sheehan, went one step further with his donation to the Rainforest Alliance by making it a monthly donation. He also plans to follow the Rainforest Alliance’s 30-day sustainability challenge.

One does not have to be a celebrity to provide aid to the Amazon fires, though. Donating is something anyone can do. The Rainforest Alliance is redirecting 100 percent of its donations to the frontline organizations in Brazil that work to protect the indigenous people. Rainforest Action Network works in Brazil’s Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory supporting the Munduruku people’s campaign to create a recognized territory and monitor the area for illegal logging and mining activity. Other organizations include, but are not limited to Rainforest Foundation U.S., Amazon Watch, Earth Alliance, Amazon Conservation Team and World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

– Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

Newly released U.N. data suggests that violence decreased in the Central African Republic in the aftermath of a peace deal between the government and armed groups in February 2019. While it is yet unclear whether this peace deal will be successful in the long-term, this represents a small bit of hope for the Central African Republic, which has been entrenched in a civil war since 2012.

Organizations including the U.N., USAID and Mercy Corps have been providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic, and a successful peace agreement may change the humanitarian context in the country.

Conflict Overview

In December 2012, armed Muslim groups, organized into a coalition known as the Seleka, attacked the Central African Republic government, seizing the capital city and staging a coup in early 2013. Anti-Balaka — Christian armed forces — rose up in response, committing violence against primarily Muslim civilians and contributing to the displacement of innocent citizens.

Although the new government officially disbanded Seleka forces, many ex-Seleka fighters initiated revenge attacks. Both the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to the U.N. and other human rights groups. The continuing violence caused thousands of deaths.

The government maintains control of the capital, but armed groups who continued fighting dominate the rest of the nation. In addition to ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces, a number of other armed groups joined the conflict, many of which were already in existence. These include The Central African Armed Forces (FACA), Revolution and Justice (RJ), The Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), The Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ), Union of Republican Forces (UFR), The Popular Front for Recovery (FPR) and The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The widespread conflict caused by these groups has had disastrous effects on the economy of the Central African Republic, causing approximately three-quarters of the population to live in poverty, with nearly 650,000 civilians displaced.

Humanitarian Aid

In response to the crisis, several international actors became active in the nation, providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic.

Mercy Corps began working in the Central African Republic in 2007, in response to its already high poverty rate. It estimates that 2.9 million people in the Central African Republic need humanitarian assistance, noting that basic services, including clean water, health care and education, are scarce.

In the Central African Republic, some of the work that Mercy Corps does involves providing assistance to displaced families, operating support centers for victims of gender-based violence, leading child protection committees, constructing wells to provide clean water and training community leaders to manage disputes and help maintain peace.

In addition to Mercy Corps, USAID also provides humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic primarily through funding for humanitarian partners. USAID helps fund programs by organizations such as Oxfam, Plan International and UNICEF in the Central African Republic to provide relief to victims of violence and displacement.

According to USAID, the U.S. government provides the most humanitarian funding to the Central African Republic, with more than $173 million provided in 2018 and early 2019. Following the U.S. are Germany and the European Commission, both contributing just over $50 million. Other countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom and Canada, also made significant contributions.

Finally, the U.N. is active in the Central African Republic through its peacekeeping organization known as MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). MINUSCA was established to protect civilians and disarm militia fighters. The U.N. has 15,000 personnel providing humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic and working towards peace.

New Developments

The government and 14 armed groups reached a peace deal in February 2019, after talks began on Jan. 24. Though whether the deal will ultimately be successful is still unknown, this represents a crucial step in ending the cycles of violence that kept the Central African Republic trapped in poverty and suffering.

In the aftermath of the peace deal, MINUSCA noted that between January and June 2019 there were only 565 incidents of human rights violations or abuse, including rapes, violent attacks and the recruitment of children into armed groups. Between January and June in 2018, there were 1,674, nearly three times as many incidents. MINUSCA is reluctant to be optimistic, however, as peace talks failed in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Musa Gassama, the director of the human rights division of MINUSCA, stated the armed groups still control much of the nation.

The U.N. Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Parfait Onanga-Nyanga, noted that support from the international community is crucial to successfully implementing a peace agreement.

Moving Forward

A successful peace deal would not stop the need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic in the near future, but it could alter the humanitarian context. Increased assistance may actually be needed if peace is achieved. Indeed, internally displaced persons and refugees will need assistance in returning to their homes and re-establishing their lives there.

The need for humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic will continue to be high, even in the aftermath of the conflict. Hopefully, organizations such as USAID and Mercy Corps will continue to be active in the nation, adapting to new contexts and working to benefit as many civilians as possible.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane Dorian
On September 1, 2019, hurricane conditions emerged within some of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. A mere few hours later, the conditions developed into a Category 5 storm named Hurricane Dorian with winds from 185 up to 220 mph, leaving massive amounts of chaos and destruction in its wake. The storm tore houses and buildings from their foundations as if they were cardboard and glue, leaving most of the citizens in the northwestern region of the island displaced and looking for shelter. The disaster also killed at least 50 people and many expect that number to rise as more bodies turn up. Reports state there are 2,500 people missing.

People classify hurricane Dorian as the joint strongest Atlantic storm to ever hit land. Many companies in the United States have made contributions to help the relief efforts, in addition to repairing some of the devastations in the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahamas.

Six Companies Donating to Hurricane Dorian Relief in the Bahamas

  1. Disney: The Walt Disney Company announced on September 3, 2019, two days after the hurricane struck, that it would give $1 million dollars in efforts to help alleviate some of the devastations. The Disney Cruise Line led the donation with its president, Jeff Vahle, releasing a statement saying, “The Bahamas is such a special place to us and our guests, and we have watched the devastation created by Hurricane Dorian with concern and heartache.”

  2. Lowe’s: The Lowe’s Emergency Command Center took action in the midst of the disaster on August 29, 2019. It set up a core team of people working tirelessly to send medical supplies to areas that the hurricane impacted. The company has also committed to sending a $1 million donation to the Bahamian Red Cross. 

  3. Verizon: The Verizon company waived all unlimited talk, text and data usage for its customers in the areas that suffered destruction from the storm in the Bahamas. People in this area received waived service from September 2, 2019, through September 9, 2019.                               

  4. Coca-Cola: The Coca-Cola Foundation announced a $400,000 grant to the Salvation Army in order to send immediate help to those the devastation of Hurricane Dorian affected in the Bahamas. Furthermore, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling and other CC1 Companies are lending a helping hand to the Coca-Cola Bottler in the Bahamas by organizing donations and supply drives with the help of the Puerto Rican business communities.

  5. Walmart: Walmart, Walmart.org and Sam’s Club pledged up to $500,000 in cash and in kind donations for the country’s recovery. The money that they committed will go to the organizations working directly with those impacted by the disaster. Walmart is also working very closely with government entities and local officials to alleviate the needs of the citizens.

  6. Amazon: In partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mercy Corps and the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, the Disaster Relief by Amazon team is sending two Amazon Air flights full of supplies to the areas Hurricane Dorian impacted. The planes will contain tarps, buckets and water containers. Amazon has also launched a wish list campaign, specifically created for nonprofit partners, for customers to donate materials to aboard the plane by September 13, 2019.

These six largely successful companies have made monumental efforts to alleviate some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian and give back to communities that lost so much. Rebuilding the communities will likely take years, but these donations are a wonderful starting point.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Hurricane ResilienceHurricane Dorian is the latest in a long series of hurricanes that have hit the Caribbean — impacting the Bahamas the worst. Initial reports from the U.N. estimated that nearly 70,000 people were in need of food, water and shelter in the archipelago and that around 30 people had died as a result of the hurricane.

For the estimated 10 percent of the population of the Bahamas who live below the poverty line, recovering from natural disasters such as this is a particular challenge. As a result, there is a massive need for programs that not only address the short-term impacts of hurricanes but also focus on the importance of long-term hurricane resilience.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), based in Barbados, has pledged to provide $1 million in aid to the Bahamas, with $700,000 in the form of a loan and the remaining $300,000 as a grant. While disaster relief helps improve recovery for local economies and minimize the impact for impoverished communities, there are also other avenues of aid that the CDB could pursue which take the form of mental health programs and debt repayment plans.

Mental Health

As a part of the Stronger Together campaign, in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization, the CDB has also placed an increased focus on addressing the negative mental health impacts of hurricanes — which traditionally get little attention. However, this type of support is key to help uplift those who experience the trauma of losing their homes or worse, their loved ones.

The campaign, launched in July 2019, aims to train 16 new mental health service professionals, ranging from psychologists to social workers to promote resilience in the face of natural disasters. This program could have a major impact on helping people in the Bahamas recover, while also offering a path towards future mental resilience in the event of another damaging hurricane. This is especially valuable for communities living in poverty.

Debt Repayment

High levels of debt are a substantial impediment to the massive discretionary spending needed to successfully recover from a hurricane, as nations are often forced to choose between allocating resources towards serving the immediate needs of their citizens or maintaining their current repayment plans. As such, a debt relief program could prove incredibly beneficial in the Bahamas, as the country had a debt burden of $8.2 billion prior to the events of Hurricane Dorian.

There is already precedent for the CDB to offer debt restructuring opportunities. For instance, following Hurricane Ivan, Grenada was able to re-negotiate its debt repayment plan to cease repayment following a natural disaster. Some have argued that this program should be extended to all nations in the event of a natural disaster.

This would help to reduce an unsustainable reliance on foreign aid, as nations find themselves falling deeper into debt and failing to provide adequate assistance to their own citizens. Not only do such increases in debt leave countries less prepared for another similar natural disaster, but they also limit the amount of aid which governments can extend to the citizens facing the most significant damages as a result of the disasters.

Conclusion

While the recent pledge of $1 million in aid to the Bahamas by the CDB is a useful step in mitigating the impact of Hurricane Dorian, the CDB also has several other methods of improving not only hurricane recovery but also hurricane resilience. With investment in the mental health field, the CDB is working to train mental health services professionals who can provide psychological support to citizens. This could be supplemented by a re-negotiated debt repayment plan for the Bahamas, with many arguing that such a program would reduce the financial burden placed on the Bahamas by the need to take more loans.

Alexander Sherman
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr