The Millennium Challenge Corporation
The United States has many agencies of humanitarian assistance and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) stands as one of them. The MCC is “an innovative and independent U.S. foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty.” Founded by the United States Congress in 2004, the agency focuses on a country’s policies and results. This agency aims to strengthen the institutions and economies of developing nations that already show signs of good governance. The MCC is uniquely selective in delivering aid by choosing to aid nations that have existing yet fragile institutions to promote democracy and competent governance.

Operations

The agency measures a nation’s eligibility to receive aid from the Millennium Challenge Corporation through 20 different indicators based on different political freedoms, civil liberties, economic freedoms and economic conditions. A nation is eligible to receive aid if it passes 10 out of 20 of the indicators, passes the “Control of Corruption Indicator” and/or passes either the “Political Rights Indicator” or the “Civil Liberties Indicator.” A nation passes an indicator if it performs better than the median score in the nation’s income group, a score that a particular third party will measure.

The MCC is diverse in its approach to stabilizing developing nations. It generally delivers three types of aid packages: Compacts, Concurrent Compacts for Regional Investments and Threshold Programs. Compacts are large five-year grants to specific grassroots projects targeted at poverty reduction or economic growth that meet MCC’s eligibility standards.

Concurrent Compacts for Regional Investments are grants designed to promote trade, economic integration and collaboration between nations.

Threshold Programs help nations that are not quite eligible to receive MCC Compact packages by allowing countries a chance to show their dedication to “democratic governance, economic freedom and investments in their people.”

Comparing USAID and MCC

One of the key differences between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation is that USAID grants aid exclusively on the merits of a proposed project toward some form of a democratic goal. USAID also has programs that have “unrestricted ineligibility” where any nation may receive aid for a particular project.

On the other hand, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has strict standards on different aspects of a nation’s governance to determine whether a program receives a grant. It requires that nations meet certain political and economic standards determined by reputable third-party sources in order to receive aid. The Millennium Challenge Corporation grants are also restricted to five years whereas USAID programs can extend the period of a grant or contract.

While USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation have various differences, both collaborate closely in delivering and developing aid programs. For example, the USAID administrator holds a role as a permanent member of the Millennium Challenge Corporations Board of Directors.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation learns from USAID’s decades of technical expertise while USAID also benefits from the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s rigorous economic and political analysis to improve the outcomes of aid programs.

USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation both serve important roles in delivering aid to struggling nations. USAID has an emphasis on building up new institutions whereas the Millennium Challenge Corporation has more of an emphasis on strengthening already existing institutions in struggling nations. The goals of these agencies often overlap, leading to large amounts of interagency collaboration.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

FTO Designations
Recently, the usefulness of implementing foreign terrorist organization designations (hereafter, FTO designations) has become contested at the highest levels of the United States government. This conflicted stance is evident in the State Department’s 2021 FTO designation of Yemen’s Ansar Allah (aka, Houthis) which it subsequently revoked only a month later.

Furthermore, the former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper commented on FTO designations describing them as “symbolic,” elaborating that he could not “think of a case where somehow that [designation] facilitated our ability to track them better.” What is not undergoing debate in FTO designations is their respective impact on humanitarian aid. FTO designations often have the unintended consequence of obstructing the flow of humanitarian aid getting to the people who need it the most.

How FTO Designations Hamper Humanitarian Aid: Mozambique

On March 11, 2021, the State Department designated ASWJ or al-Shabaab (aka, ISIS in Mozambique) as an FTO in consideration of the ongoing widespread violence the group is responsible for in Cabo Delgado province. After this FTO designation, humanitarian aid workers ran into a myriad of new problems with legal, physical and logistical complications. As for the legal ramifications of FTO designations, humanitarian workers can experience long wait times in obtaining their visas for travel. At times, visa delays can take months and can prevent these aid workers who otherwise would be helping out on the ground from providing relief.

As for physical and logistical problems, FTO designations impede communications between humanitarian aid workers and armed groups. This lack of communication between humanitarian aid organizations, Mozambican forces, private military contractors and ASWJ places humanitarian aid workers in more danger. Restricting communications leaves uncertainty with armed groups who may mistakenly identify and attack aid workers seeking safe passage for their personnel and humanitarian supplies.

Although communications between humanitarian organizations and FTO designated groups are not grounds for FTO designation, the “knowing standard” puts relief organizations at high risk of being in the State Department’s crosshairs by mistake. In practice, the risk inherent to the “knowing standard” is that it requires humanitarian organizations to administer dangerous vetting procedures. Armed groups on the ground could interpret the vetting procedures as an indication that these humanitarian organizations are working on behalf of governments the FTO designated groups find hostile.

FTO Designation on the Yemeni Houthis: Revisited

On January 11, 2021, the outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis as an FTO. However, the State Department revoked this designation shortly after Pompeo left.  Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken advocated removing the FTO designation is that it had “achieved nothing.”

Blinken formally removed the Houthis from the FTO designation list on February 16, 2021. He cited recognition of the appalling humanitarian situation in Yemen.  A coalition of governments and NGOs brought the situation to the State Department’s attention. Specifically, the international community lauded the revocation of the FTO designation as a step forward in the right direction to ensure that crucial humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it most.

However, recently renewed calls have emerged from the Biden administration for designating the Houthis as an FTO once again. This consideration of re-designating the Houthis as an FTO has raised similar concerns to those in 2021. Specifically, Ansar Allah (the Houthis) controls more than a third of Yemeni territory, encompassing nearly 70% of the population. If the Houthis were re-designated an FTO, the flow of humanitarian aid would immediately deteriorate. Additionally concerning are the prospects of a re-designation of the Houthis as an FTO potentially emboldening the group to act with further impunity.

A Coalition

In response to the Biden administration’s calls to re-designate the Houthis as an FTO, a coalition of 20 NGOs including Oxfam, Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee (IRC), have sent a letter in opposition to this re-designation. The coalition of NGOs maintained that they stood united alongside the Biden administration in its decision in 2021 to remove the Houthis from the FTO designation list. The coalition cited an agreement with the Biden administration’s initial reasoning for removing the designation, as it was worsening a dire humanitarian situation.

In this letter, the coalition has called for the Biden administration to avoid a re-designation to preserve and continue the progress made thus far. A promising development going forward is now the international community at large has a greater understanding of the pitfalls of FTO designations, they can hurt the wrong people and they often do. What is even more promising is that the NGOs are not alone anymore. On February 23, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, alongside eleven other Congresspeople, called on the Biden administration to not pursue a designation because it would have a minimal impact on Houthi leadership and a catastrophic impact on the Yemeni people.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Airbnb Bookings in Ukraine
All over the world, people are making Airbnb bookings in Ukraine with no intention of visiting. Instead, the purpose of these bookings is to send Ukrainians direct aid through their Airbnb hostings. It is a social media campaign that took flight at the beginning of March 2022 as one way to help Ukrainians during the war and has proven helpful and effective.

Social Media Account Quentin Quarantino

This campaign first came to be through social media user Tommy Marcus who posts as Quentin Quarantino, a popular meme account known on Instagram as @quentin.quarantino and as @quentquarantino on Twitter. Marcus created a post on March 2, 2022, urging his followers to help Ukrainians by making Airbnb reservations for stays in Ukrainian cities.

The campaign quickly took flight as many people wanted to help Ukrainians but felt uncertain about donating through charities and nonprofit organizations. People feared that the money donated to these organizations could potentially take too long to reach Ukrainians and many were dubious about how much of that money would actually go to Ukrainians. So, when Marcus suggested an alternative option, many rushed to join the social media campaign.

In the first 24 hours, hundreds of global citizens had made Airbnb bookings in Ukraine “as a way to send immediate assistance to people in hard-hit areas.” Additionally, with those numbers rising rapidly, the social media campaign soon caught the attention of Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, who retweeted @quentquarantino’s message with the comment: “People are booking Airbnbs in Ukraine they don’t intend to stay in just to help Hosts.”

Chesky’s retweet received replies both supporting the social media campaign and questioning Airbnb’s involvement. When others questioned whether Airbnb was making a profit from these donations, Chesky replied that the company was not doing so. Meanwhile, when they asked him whether Airbnb would waive fees, he replied with a simple yet firm “Yes.”

How Airbnb Bookings in Ukraine Work

This is a very accessible and effective way to send money directly to Ukrainian citizens. All one needs to do is create an account at Airbnb.com, search for stays in Ukrainian cities and book a reservation. Supporters suggest that people make bookings “as close to a check-in date as possible to ensure hosts receive fees quickly” because Airbnb “typically issues a payout about 24 hours after a guest checks in.”

Supporters also urge people to make reservations at accommodations “operated by individuals and not companies” as it is the individuals who will likely be in a more immediate need of support. The process is very simple and it is also relatively affordable for most supporters. For example, a search on Airbnb.com for stays in Kyiv, Ukraine, for a weekend in April 2022 for one guest will provide “300+ stays” ranging between $20 and $260 for the weekend.

Some of these rates, especially on the lower end of the range, are discounted rates that go as low as $10-$20 per night. The average rate will be $25-$100 per night and the more costly rates will be $110-$130 per night. These wide-ranging rates make reservations a great way for most people to donate to Ukrainians amid the war.

Ukrainian Airbnb Hosts Comment

Media outlets have interviewed several of these Ukrainian Airbnb hosts since the social media campaign began. On March 4, 2022, Volodymyr Bondarenko told CNN that “More than 10 bookings came in today. This was surprising, it’s very supportive at the moment. I told many of my relatives and friends that I plan to use this money to help our people who need it at this time.”

Another host, Ekaterina Martiusheva, spoke to NPR on March 5, 2022, saying the bookings mean a lot to her because “[these days many Ukrainian citizens] do not have any income” and that, unfortunately, Ukrainians “do not have any right to ask [their] country to help [them] because all the country’s resources are for the war and for the victory.” Martiusheva later added: “It’s not just money, it’s the support and encouragement. We get these notes of people who are calling us brave and it does feel great. It’s just amazing, really.”

The Impact

This fast-paced social media campaign has made a great impact in the few weeks since it began. In the first 24 hours, hundreds of global citizens made bookings to lend their support. Forty-eight hours after its start, on March 4, 2022, Airbnb CEO Chesky tweeted saying users booked 61,406 nights in Ukraine, equating to $1.9 million for the hosts.

One week after the campaign’s start, on March 11, 2022, Chesky reported that users booked 434,000 nights and $15 million had reached Ukrainian hosts. Additionally, these numbers have become exponentially larger as the campaign continues. As for Airbnb’s involvement, the company announced on March 4, 2022, that it would waive all fees for “in-country bookings” in Ukraine and Chesky emphasized that the company “will not profit from these charitable bookings.”

More so, Airbnb.org, a charity arm of Airbnb, announced on March 31, 2022, that it would be providing cost-free short-term housing to Ukrainian refugees, adding to the worldwide support and aid provided to Ukrainians. Overall, Ukraine notes an “overwhelming response” from supporters and donors helping Ukrainians. Thanks to this social media campaign, thousands of Ukrainians are receiving immediate aid from worldwide supporters amid the war.

– Marcela Agreda L.
Photo: Flickr

Kardashian's Charity Work
The Kardashians are members of one of the most famous celebrity families in the world. Known for their successful businesses and the popular reality TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” their lives of fame, glamour and wealth often distract spectators from the Kardashians’ valuable charitable contributions. Each Kardashian’s charity work exemplifies the organizations and ideals they care for most.

Kim Kardashian’s Charity Work

Kim Kardashian’s charity work includes donating $1 million to the Armenia Fund, which is a humanitarian organization established in 1992 that provides relief to Armenian citizens in need. Overall donations to the fund have contributed to creating schools, highways and medical centers for Armenians. The Armenia Fund has raised more than $100 million for communities in Armenia and Karabakh.

Kim Kardashian also advocates for disaster relief. For example, she answered phones to take donations for the telethon One Voice: Somos Live, organized by Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez and Marc Anthony in 2017. The television event raised $35 million for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in order to rebuild homes and provide families with the funds to recover their losses.

Kendall Jenner’s Charity Work

Kendall Jenner, a world-famous supermodel and Kardashian family member, also helped to reduce global injustice by donating to charity: water. Charity: water, founded in 2006, works with local organizations “to fund water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)” initiatives in rural areas across the globe. The organization monitors projects to ensure that the initiatives it funds to supply water are able to function sustainably for as long as possible. For her 22nd birthday, she asked fans, friends and family to donate to charity: water in place of a birthday gift. She encouraged donations by noting that she herself “made a donation to fund 25 wells in Ethiopia that will bring clean water to 5,000 people.” The birthday campaign raised more than $67,000.

Kylie Jenner’s Charitable Work

Many know Kylie Jenner as a prolific contributor to charities across a wide variety of humanitarian areas. She is an ambassador for Smile Train, which is a charity founded in 1999 that funds surgeries for people, mainly children, with cleft lips and palates around the globe. Smile Train also provides speech therapy, nutrition services, dental and orthodontics procedures and “emotional support” to the children it currently helps. So far, the organization has provided aid to more than 1.5 million children.

In 2016, Kylie gave Smile Train 100% of the proceeds of a special lip kit she sold to the public, totaling almost $500,000. Additionally, in March 2020, she donated $1 million to assist people facing the impacts of the Australian wildfires. In this way, Kylie has attempted to diminish inequality around the world.

Kris Jenner’s Charitable Work

Kris Jenner has public donated to charities like the Ronald McDonald House Charities, raising and donating $3 million to the organization for COVID-19 relief. The Ronald McDonald House (RMDH), founded in 1974, works to provide support to the families of ill or injured children around the world who require medical care. Kris, along with Kim, also visited Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to provide assistance to families in deep need.

Both Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian publicly state that they prefer not to discuss their charity work and donations with the public. Both the sisters have donated to charities but feel it is not appropriate to flaunt their contributions publicly. Each Kardashian’s charity work is unique and reflects the distinct personality of each member.

Outside of the limelight, the Kardashians’ charity work shows their commitment to helping the disadvantaged and contributing to global poverty reduction.

– Rachel Reardon
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

People of ZambiaOften when we think of the sub-Saharan region of Africa, we associate it solely with the conflict and tragedy that has burdened it for the majority of recent history. According to research done in 2019, there were 15 countries from the region involved in armed conflict. In the middle of this, however, lies the country of Zambia, which, contrary to some of its neighboring countries, has managed a peaceful transfer of power to self-rule, and more impressively, has implemented changes to become a democratic republic. Zambia has shown the very best of what united people can accomplish, regardless of the odds. And what is a country if not the very people who comprise it? As such, it is no surprise that a look into Zambian society reveals time and again the stories of unsung heroes who demonstrate unwavering altruism to their people and country.

Silumesii Maboshe – Co-founder of Bongohive

In 2011, Maboshe and his partners founded Bongohive with the objective to elevate the Zambian tech sphere to the next level. The organization functions as an incubator for tech startups throughout Africa but Maboshe has kept his focus on leveraging Bongohive’s operations to advocate and develop the ideas that serve to benefit Zambia in a capacity that goes beyond just the economic. “If I have one professional goal, it is the answer to this question. How can software and innovation change Zambia for the better?” Many of the 1300+ tech products that Bongohive has helped develop function to this end, one example being an app that allows constituents to comment on proposed changes in legislation. Beyond the development of products, the organization serves also as an open platform for techies seeking general advice and hosts dozens of events annually that pertain to technology and business within Zambian society. Maboshe understands that if Zambia is to realize a brighter future it must include a thriving tech culture. The invaluable role Bongohive is playing to that end cannot be overstated.

Christopher Malambo – Sanitation Activist

It is an issue that most are too uncomfortable to actively advocate for, but the fact is that approximately 90% of child deaths are attributed to poor sanitation and the spread of disease that is a result thereof. Additionally, the World Bank reports an annual monetary loss to the African continent of $5.5 billion as a result of poor sanitation. Malambo’s efforts directly combat these staggering statistics. The focus of his activism is toward the decreasing but still prevalent number of communities in Zambia that still practice open defecation. His first objective when entering a new village is education because many of the typical residents lack even a basic understanding of the importance of good sanitation and the adverse effects of a lack thereof. After demonstrating the danger inherent in open defecation, he then organizes and assists in the digging of latrines. Malambo’s unwavering selflessness and commitment to service in the name of saving lives represents the very best of what makes the people of Zambia truly remarkable.

Dorothy Phiri – Founder of Mercy Ministries

In 1996, Phiri founded Mercy Ministries in response to a higher calling. Today the organization works to provide education through the Chifundo Community School, which was the first project started by the Phiri’s. The organization especially focuses on orphans, disabled children and other vulnerable children who are unable to have their needs met by government-funded schooling. Additionally, Phiri provides a means for children of financially struggling families to attend school. Though Zambia does provide free schooling to all its residents, many families still struggle to fund basic schooling needs such as books and uniforms. In a region where the demands of maintaining a livelihood are prioritized over education, Phiri’s commitment to the people of Zambia aims to change the status quo.

These individuals and their stories are but a microcosm of the exceptionalism that defines the people of Zambia. With the efforts of Zambia’s exceptional people, the narrative of the entire region can begin to change for the better.

– Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

IVolunteer International
IVolunteer International is an online platform that mobilizes volunteers to local projects and exposes thousands to volunteerism. The nonprofit powers mostly grassroots movements and connects them to volunteers in their local area in real-time. The co-founder, Nipuna Ambanpola, envisions a world of 7 billion volunteers. By addressing barriers for volunteers and digitalizing the process, the organization is simplifying the process of volunteering. IVolunteer International is reimagining the future of volunteerism and creating a space for volunteers to unite across the globe.

The Borgen Project spoke to Nipuna Ambanpola, the executive director of IVolunteer International. Ambanpola was born and raised in Sri Lanka and moved to the United States as an international student in 2015. During his time as a student, Ambanpola searched for volunteer opportunities and found many obstacles to the simple act of volunteering. The creation of IVolunteer International stemmed from a basic question: “what are the barriers of volunteerism?” Since its creation, IVolunteer International has mobilized more than 6,000 volunteers worldwide and promoted volunteerism to more than 200,000 people.

The Reasons 7 Billion Volunteers Do Not Exist

In the process of creating IVolunteer International, Ambanpola and his team spoke to individuals worldwide about the difficulties of volunteering. Ambanpola finds that four main problems exist that deter people from volunteering. First, devoting time to volunteering is a challenge for people who already have commitments to other tasks. People occupied with jobs, children or other obligations do not have the spare time to attend weekly meetings or volunteer projects.

Second, volunteering has a financial obligation from transportation costs to membership fees. Financial well-being is a privilege that can permit or prevent someone from volunteering.

Third, there is no single user-friendly platform to find volunteer projects. And fourth, organizations that rely on volunteers often have a finite group. To generate 7 billion volunteers, organizations must find the potential of every community member to participate.

Without time, finances, listings and open groups, there is a low likelihood that people will devote their efforts to volunteering. IVolunteer International compiles the needs of volunteers and addresses these complications. Ambanpola describes IVolunteer International’s solutions to volunteerism as a combination of “a mobile app, projects to raise awareness and mobilizing local activists.” A future mobile app will include real-time access to volunteer efforts in a user’s local area. Currently, the website offers location-based and virtual volunteer projects that it categorizes by project focus. From alliances with grassroots movements to United Nations service projects, the volunteer opportunities appeal to a sizeable audience.

Initiatives: #BirthdayDeed and IVolunteer Series

To create action and awareness for volunteerism, IVolunteer International promotes inspiring initiatives in its campaign. As part of the action campaign, IVolunteer International encourages users to register for #BirthdayDeed. People sign up and pledge to do one act of service on their birthdays. A week before an individual’s birthday, IVolunteer International sends an automated email with personalized volunteer opportunities. Whether writing a letter to a loved one or participating in a beach cleanup, this campaign is spreading positive change. By simply involving people on their birthdays, this initiative can be a catalyst for people to realize the importance of volunteering.

The IVolunteer Series is part of an awareness campaign that brings attention to volunteerism. The series spotlights individuals that share their personal experiences with grassroots movements, finding a passion for volunteerism and other social impacts. The goal of the IVolunteer Series is to show relatable stories that can motivate people to start their volunteer journey. The interviews range from presentations on eradicating college hunger to finding a passion for volunteering in a new city. This initiative spreads awareness of activism and generates interest from potential volunteers.

How Volunteering Unites the World

Volunteering is a worldwide effort to better communities and uplift those in need. The benefits of fulfillment and connection are the main reasons that many choose to volunteer. Volunteering can strengthen ties and create an investment in the future of a community. When Ambanpola moved from Sri Lanka to the United States, he formed a network and community with those he met while volunteering. As Ambanpola found, participating in local activism can increase connections and provide insight and awareness for local issues. The generosity of volunteers worldwide shows that volunteerism has a personal gain at stake. From combating depression to finding a support system or fulfilling a purpose and avoiding loneliness, any number of reasons can inspire people to find the benefits of volunteer work.

A New Era of Volunteers

With technology increasing at an exponential rate, volunteer organizations are utilizing new methods of communication and outreach. The future of IVolunteer International is a mobile app that serves both volunteers and nonprofit organizations. An app stands as a user-friendly and convenient way to link organizations or individuals to passionate volunteers. The user will submit their location and be able to immediately connect to real-time projects happening near them. These projects can be low-level commitments to encourage more individuals to participate. Organizations and individuals can find volunteers by simply submitting a project and each party will benefit from the streamlined process.

Since technology provides vast amounts of data, a long-term goal of IVolunteer International is to compile data about volunteerism. The data will be available to the public as well as governments, organizations and agencies to give insight into who volunteers in their community. Also, statistics will be a meaningful way to attract certain populations to projects they would find interest in. IVolunteer International proves that technology provides the tools for change. The organization continues to empower local communities to find solutions and is contributing to a new era of digital volunteerism.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Courtesy of Nipuna Ambanpola

Ikea’s Second-Hand Furniture
Starting November 27, 2020, Swedish furniture giant IKEA will start its unique buy-back scheme. The idea is to allow customers to return IKEA products, receive a voucher in return for the exchange, then resell the furniture pieces at 50% of the original price. Spanning across 27 different countries, IKEA is trying to take a stand against the excessive consumption trends that Black Friday promotes. This scheme displays a prime example of how IKEA has increasingly involved itself in the humanitarian sector, and actively fights against environmental challenges, poverty and unsustainable living practices. IKEA’s second-hand furniture store initiative is just one example of these efforts.

How IKEA’s Second-Hand Furniture Store Initiative Works

IKEA plans on taking back unmodified, clean upholstery products. It will then resell these products in the AS-IS department or it will recycle them if it deems them unsellable. In late 2020, IKEA’s first entirely second-hand furniture opened in Eskilstuna, Sweden; the overarching purpose of the buy-back scheme and the second-hand store in Sweden is to push toward the company’s goal of becoming a completely circular and climate-positive business by 2030. Not only do these initiatives help the environment, but they also benefit people around the world in poverty. The staggering price drop on repurposed furniture will greatly benefit those who typically could not afford furniture pieces. Considering the great range of this global initiative, lower socioeconomic classes will greatly benefit from this second-hand furniture scheme.

IKEA’s Humanitarian Work

IKEA has been gradually increasing its presence in the humanitarian sector, from its support of organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children to the opening of its own advocacy humanitarian organization called the IKEA Foundation. Grounded in the IKEA Foundation Ethical Framework, the company prioritizes cost-consciousness, responsibility, leadership, renewability and caring for people and the planet. The IKEA Foundation strongly supports many causes, such as:

  • The Environment: IKEA is calling on governments, corporations and philanthropic groups to help reverse the damage that people have done to the environment.
  • Agricultural Livelihoods: IKEA values planet-positive approaches to agriculture that regenerates resources, enhances biodiversity and improves farmers’ incomes.
  • Renewable Energy: IKEA invests in renewable energy programs in parts of Africa and Asia that center their work around people living in poverty.
  • Special Initiatives & Emergency Responses: The corporation provides unrestricted emergency funding to its partner organizations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Employment and Entrepreneurship: IKEA invests in programs that aid youth, women and refugees who face employment barriers in East Africa and South Asia. It also supports the expansion of existing and growing businesses.

Preventing Child Labor

One particularly inspiring cause of the IKEA Foundation is to eliminate and prevent child labor across the world. The IKEA Foundation contributed to the efforts of Save the Children and UNICEF to reach children in 25,000 villages in Pakistan and India, and as a result, was able to help 16 million at-risk children in 2017. Another example of IKEA’s passion for helping the less fortunate was in 2009 when it donated $48 million to UNICEF to promote the survival of India’s most vulnerable populations of women and children. It raised this large sum through an IKEA Social Initiative, which fights for every at-risk child’s right to a healthy childhood and secure education.

IKEA has shown its ability to generate substantial results through its various humanitarian initiatives. With a variety of motivations behind its advocacy actions, ranging from climate sustainability to child poverty, the furniture company has shown that it is using its corporate success to aid in global issues. The buy-back scheme is yet another example of the company utilizing its global presence; while the initiative spans 27 countries, many people of lower socioeconomic classes, as well as the environment, will benefit from IKEA’s second-hand furniture scheme.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

United Nations' Short Film On September 19, 2020, the United Nations broadcasted a 30-minute short film on its Youtube channel regarding global issues and extreme poverty. The film, entitled “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times,” includes many big-name celebrities such as Beyoncé and Malala Yousafzai. Julia Roberts hosts a podcast version of the show. As global progress has been slowed down due to COVID-19, the United Nations’ short film sets outs the actions needed to address global issues like extreme poverty, gender equality, human rights and climate change.

Expanding Reach Using YouTube

Since YouTube’s audience includes a large number of young people, the United Nations’ YouTube channel will reach those who are not accustomed to reading articles and press statements. The channel has more than 900,000 subscribers and includes a live stream of the U.N. headquarters where viewers can stay up-to-date with current issues and events.

The UN Short Film: Nations United

The United Nations’ short film focuses on actions necessary to create change and marks the 75th anniversary of the U.N. as well as the fifth anniversary of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Writer, director and SDG advocate, Richard Curtis, produced the film. It features a multitude of activists and humanitarian celebrities.

The film’s four chapters address climate, poverty and inequality, justice and human rights as well as gender equality. Working to expose the fractures in society and ways to remedy them, this film attempts to layout valuable solutions to the problems at hand. First-hand recordings of global issues allow viewers to gain a visual understanding of the challenges plaguing the world and the consequences of not taking action.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals act as guideline of global progress, setting out key issues, targets and potential solutions. The transition to renewable energy, the taxation of carbon and the halt of deforestation are some viable solutions the film points out. Additive performances by musical artists like Beyoncé amplify the main messages of the film.

Derailed Goals Due to COVID-19

The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 involved the commitment of 193 world leaders to 17 objectives in order to “end extreme poverty and hunger, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030.” These goals have been completely derailed since the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the pandemic threatens global progress, the United Nations’ short film hopes to set out the actions needed to find viable solutions to address global issues and alleviate global poverty. The United Nations states that the film “will take audiences on a dynamic exploration of the times we live in, the multiple tipping points our planet faces and the interventions that could transform our world over the next 10 years.”

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

John Lewis
John Lewis was an American civil rights leader and activist, a respected representative for Georgia’s fifth congressional district for over 30 years and a champion for reducing global inequalities. John Lewis introduced or sponsored at least 23 bills and resolutions that influenced U.S. foreign relations, humanitarian aid and advocacy. While some of his bills did not pass at the time, John Lewis’s globally-minded legislative style set a precedent for advocating for the world’s poor through legislative action.

Timeline of John Lewis’s Foreign Affairs Legislation

1999-2000

Under the Clinton Administration, John Lewis sponsored H.Con.Res.348. This resolution officially declared that Congress condemns the use of children as soldiers in any context. It provided guidelines on addressing the use of child soldiers, reintegration approaches for former child soldiers and incentives for foreign armies or organizations to dismantle exploitative child soldier systems.

2007-2008

Under the Bush Administration, Lewis sponsored H.R.2522, which defined modern-day slavery and enabled the government to better restrict it. Lewis’s bill called for a congressional commission to address the ways global modern-day slavery creeps into economic systems. The bill addressed how modern-day slavery targets vulnerable populations and requires intervention. This legislation would have also affected U.S. trade relations at the time, pressuring the government to halt trade with nations known to endorse modern-day slavery.

In 2008, Lewis introduced H.RES.1169. This resolution pushed the U.S. to advance its stance on eliminating discrimination and all forms of human or civil rights abuses. The resolution had both a domestic and international focus. It proposed to recommit several NGOs and governmental bodies that promoted equity.

2009-2010

Under the Obama Administration, Lewis reintroduced H.RES.1169 with slight wording changes. This resolution continued to advocate for the U.S. to step up as a global human rights leader. That same year, John Lewis also introduced H.R.3328 and H.Res.948. The first resolution called on the Secretary of State to collaborate with India in funding the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative, an educational and professional exchange program. While that bill did not pass, the other resolution officially endorsed the organizers and participants of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

After the U.N. General Assembly declared July 18 International Nelson Mandela Day, Lewis also introduced H.Res.1518. This resolution expressed the U.S.’s support for the U.N.’s action, which recognized Mandela’s progression of the nonviolent fight for equality under the law. This legislation also called on U.S. citizens to appreciate democracy, discourse and peace domestically.

2011-2016

Throughout the 112th, 113th and into the 114th congressional sessions, Lewis continued to introduce versions of his previous legislation. Lewis reintroduced H.Res.1518, regarding International Nelson Mandela Day, in 2011, 2013 and 2015. In those same years, John Lewis also restructured and then reintroduced what was originally H.RES.1169, regarding the U.S.’s commitment to protecting human rights globally. The new versions of the resolution maintained all components but did not specify to which conventions the U.S. must recommit, leaving room for expansion.

In 2011, 2013 and 2016, Lewis also reintroduced revised conditions for the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative bill. In 2016, Lewis introduced a new resolution, H.Con.Res.158, which focuses on the importance of U.S. citizens and government recognizing the 35th annual International Day of Peace.

2017-2018

This time, under the Trump Administration, John Lewis persisted through the 115th congressional session. Despite blockage from other congressional leaders on several bills, he reintroduced legislation centered on humanitarianism. In 2017, Lewis first reinstated recognition of International Nelson Mandela Day, then of the International Day of Peace. He lastly revised the bill intended to strengthen the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative.

2019-2020

In his last year serving, at the age of nearly 80, John Lewis continued to advocate and reintroduce globally-conscious legislation. Lewis again dedicated floor time to the Nelson Mandela International Day resolution, and then again to the International Day of Peace resolution. At the end of 2019, Lewis introduced a new resolution, H.R.5517. This bill had the same goals as the previous Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative legislation Lewis introduced. However, Lewis amended the bill to include rhetoric affirming the altruistic intentions of the U.S. in collaboration with India. The 116th congressional session is still unfolding. This is an opportunity for other congressional leaders to pass the initiative Lewis pushed for over a decade.

Aside from his decades of success in public service and activism, John Lewis’s persistence in the congressional fight for global equity has paved the way for future lawmakers. John Lewis thought and acted as a global citizen. Despite setbacks and congressional stalemate, Lewis consistently and creatively committed the U.S. to the advancement of conditions for the world’s poor. Lewis leaves behind a legacy of care and compassion, ready for the next generation of American citizens and politicians to adopt.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

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