Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Migration in India
The migrant population is a large driver of India’s economy. India has one of the largest migrant economies in the world. Many Indian workers travel hundreds of miles to work in certain areas of the country to support their families back home. GDP growth rose by over 8% between 2005-2012. In addition, over 137 million people escaped poverty as a result of large-scale migration. There is tremendous potential in using migration in India as a poverty alleviation tool based on past numbers. The Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 (MGNREGA) is the primary national legislation of the nation geared towards solving its poverty crisis. However, it stagnated as of late due to COVID-19. Migration is a tool towards recovery from the consequences of COVID-19 and it offers a long-lasting solution to poverty in India.

About MGNREGA

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a poverty alleviation legislation. It went into effect in August 2005. The act guarantees a hundred days of wage employment in any given financial year to rural households who have adults willing to volunteer for unskilled manual labor. The MGNREGA focuses on empowering women both socially and economically. The act also focuses on providing green and decent work by conserving natural resources. Although the MGNREGA is successful to some extent, greater poverty alleviation demands the use of migration as well.

Many Indian policymakers fail to recognize the potential benefits of migration. They often view it as a response to tragedy instead of those seeking greater economic freedom and opportunity. The MGNREGA originally intended to provide 100 days of work, now only providing  50 days of work in the majority of Indian states. Migrants can find higher-paying and more stable work within large urban areas and cities. MGNREGA reform is necessary along with the implementation of new migration legislation in order to further mitigate poverty in India.

The Benefits of Large Scale Indian Migration

Based on the same rate of migrant increase in the 2010s, over 56 million individual migrants would have traveled in 2020. Those benefiting back home in rural villages would have totaled 224 million, had COVID-19 not occurred and MGNREGA not reduced Indian migration. In comparison, 37 million families will benefit from MGNREGA during the fiscal year 2020-2021 according to the rural development ministry. Migration benefits a much higher percentage of the Indian population in poverty than MGNREGA does.

Migrants additionally have an easier time assimilating to their destination once their financial situation improves with higher quality work and wages. Women working in agriculture in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar can more than double their daily wages by moving to Patna, the capital of Bihar. Men from Bihar can increase their earnings even more at an increase of approximately 66% by relocating to Punjab and can have an even higher earning potential if they decide to move to major cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi or Mumbai.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Migration in India

India’s lockdown period due to the COVID-19 virus lasted over a year, beginning on March 25, 2020. As a result, migration throughout the country came to a standstill as trains and planes stopped operating leaving many Indians trapped. Many migrants lost their jobs due to the toll the virus took on major Indian industries and were far from their homes without any options to get back.

Reducing poverty in India is no small task as it possesses the second largest population in the world. Passing anti-poverty legislation that provides migrants in India more options to travel within Indian borders for work could create millions of new jobs and greatly benefit both the Indian economy and people.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Flickr

Social inequality in GermanyResearch shows that levels of social inequality in Germany could increase COVID-19 transmission rates among people experiencing poor living and working conditions. Evidence does not conclusively determine that poverty directly causes Germany’s COVID-19 cases. However, it is apparent to scientists and medical professionals that a large number of COVID-19 patients come from low socioeconomic standing. In 2015, 2.8 million German children were at risk of poverty. The influx of migrants flowing into Germany has also increased rates of poverty in Germany.

Poverty and COVID-19

According to the CIA World Factbook, 14.8% of the German population lives below the poverty line as of June 2021. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the North Rhine-Westphalia area has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. The area is home to Gelsenkirchen, the most impoverished German city based on a 2019 report by the Hans Böckler Foundation.

Risks of Overcrowding

Overcrowded living areas are more susceptible to airborne illnesses, medical sociologist Nico Dragono said in an interview with The Borgen Project. In 2019, 8% of Germans lived in overcrowded dwellings, meaning there were fewer rooms compared to inhabitants. This percentage has increased in recent years, according to Statistisches Bundesamt (German Federal Office of Statistics).

In November 2020, statistics showed that 12.7% of the population residing in cities lived in overcrowded dwellings. Comparatively, 5.5% reside in small cities or suburbs and 4% reside in rural areas. Dragono says that social inequality in Germany plays a significant role in the spread of disease across the country’s large cities. This especially impacts those living in close proximity to others. “Infections clustered in the areas of the city where the poor live because there simply was no space,” Dragono says. He says further that with many people living in one household, traveling to school, work and other places holds an increased risk of bringing infections into the home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on February 26, 2021, that COVID-19 is transferable through respiratory droplets from people within close proximity of each other. This puts those in poverty at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Those living in areas such as refugee camps and impoverished neighborhoods are especially vulnerable. Therefore, social inequality in Germany may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Migrants Potentially at Higher Risk

Dragono says that, unlike the United States, Germany does not document patients’ ethnicities. In other words, Germany cannot collect the demographics of who contracts COVID-19. He said it appears the association between COVID-19 and social inequality in Germany is universal for migrants and non-migrants. However, many hospitals across Germany reported that close to 90% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit have an immigrant background, according to Deutsche Welle.

“Migrants are more often poor because they do many of the bad jobs,” Dragono says. There are indications that COVID-19 is more prevalent in the areas inhabited by migrants. “Migrant workers, as they grow older, many have diseases, because in general, they are doing hard work… so their hospitalization rates could be a bit higher.” Dragono says Germans’ social status and income determine how much access they have to quality resources. It is easier for upper-class citizens to purchase masks and use personal travel and they do not have to rely on public transportation or low-quality protective gear.

On June 5, 2021, the German health ministry came under fire regarding a report that dictated its plan to dispose of unusable face masks by giving them to impoverished populations. However, the health ministry released a statement that all of its masks are high quality and receive thorough testing. Any defective masks are put into storage.

Assistance From Caritas Germany

As the virus continues to spread, many organizations are extending assistance to disadvantaged citizens in Germany. Some services translate COVID-19 information into migrants’ languages or modify other services to fit COVID-19 guidelines. Caritas Germany, one of the largest German welfare organizations, typically operates childcare services, homeless shelters and counseling for migrants.

To comply with COVID-19, Caritas began offering online services such as therapy and counseling. The organization also travels to low-income areas and focuses on providing personal protective equipment to those working with the elderly. Many Caritas volunteers use technology to maintain distance while also maintaining communication with patients. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of volunteers have trained in online counseling.

However, Dragono says that while the country has systems in place to avoid broadening the poverty gap, the serious implications of COVID-19 on social inequality in Germany are yet to emerge. Fortunately, organizations are committed to mitigating some of the impacts of COVID-19 on disadvantaged people in Germany.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Unsplash

Humanitarian Crisis in Ceuta and MelillaCeuta and Melilla are two enclave coastal Spanish cities in North Africa. They have often been the final stage for thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers looking to reach Europe.  Migrant numbers have been increasing recently, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

History of Ceuta and Melilla

After the 15th century fall of Islamic conquest in Spain, the Spanish Christians retook the Iberian Peninsula and widened the territory to include Ceuta in 1479 and Melilla in 1668. Both cities entered European Union (EU) territory along with Spain in 1986.

In 2005, Spain erected a 20-foot-high fence surrounding Ceuta and Melilla to stop migrants from entering the cities. The fence is topped with barbed wire, hundreds of surveillance cameras and approximately a thousand police and Guardia civil units. Since the fence’s construction, the number of migrants crossing through the cities has only increased. In May, 8-10,000 migrants crossed the borders. Some migrants even swam around the fence that separates Morocco from Ceuta and Melilla.

Reasons for Increased Migration

There are two major reasons behind this increase in migrants. The first reason is the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 severely affected the Moroccan economy. Hence, thousands of citizens crossed the Spanish border looking for better economic conditions and social stability.

The second reason is illegal smuggling. Morocco recently took action against the smuggling trade. Illicit smuggling negatively impacted the country’s economy. Despite this harm, smuggling was the main economic source for Ceuta and Melilla along with many northern Moroccan cities. The full shutdown of this trade left citizens in extreme financial deprivation, which led many of them to migrate.

Government Actions

The influx of thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers into Spain’s enclaves created panic among Spanish authorities, who sent the military to deal with the crisis. Subsequently, the military attacked, beat and tear-gassed migrants to deter them from entering the Spanish cities. This reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla has sparked backlash, especially from nonprofit organizations due to violations of EU law and other legal procedures.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization CEAR said that Spanish authorities sent back thousands of migrants, including children, who were supposed to have protection under Spanish law. The President of Catalonia, Pere Aragonès, said that the autonomous community in Spain is willing to shelter migrant children as a “moral imperative” during a parliamentary debate. In contrast, the far-right Vox party’s Ignacio Garriga supported the army’s use of violence against migrants. Additionally, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor warned Spain against violence and suggested providing safe and legal procedures to migrants pursuing protection during the humanitarian crisis in Ceuta and Melilla.

Volunteer Actions

American Red Cross spokeswoman Isabel Brasero, who helped fatigued migrants in Ceuta, said “the city has the means to take care of all the people that arrived at its shores, but you never imagine that you will face this type of situation.” After the military intervention, volunteers in Ceuta donated clothes and cooked food for the migrants. Locals in Ceuta showed solidarity with the migrants and attended the funeral of a teenager who died swimming around the breakwater to Ceuta.

Ceuta and Melilla witnessed a humanitarian crisis that created chaos and outrage in Spain, which caused military action. Nonprofits, volunteers and many others are actively working to help migrants affected by the aftermath of the crisis.

Zineb Williams

Photo: Flickr

Open ArmsFor many Africans, the Mediterranean Sea is a symbol of social, cultural and financial freedom. Those who choose to migrate across it are often fleeing poverty or conflict. For them, traversing the Mediterranean Sea is not a choice but a necessity. The treacherous journey to reach Europe comes with many obstacles. More than 20,000 people fleeing poverty and crisis in Africa have died in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the rate of Africans leaving in search of better opportunities. Africans from Libya often undertake these endeavors. With an unemployment rate of 18.56% in 2019, Libyans experience one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. For many Libyans, these conditions necessitate the treacherous migrant journey to Europe. Open Arms works to protect the lives of those in danger at sea.

The Open Arms Organization

Sailing across the Mediterranean Sea is a dangerous undertaking. For an individual to choose to sail across the Mediterranean Sea, their situation must be dire. Many Africans embark on the journey knowing that they may not make it. Open Arms is a nonprofit organization specializing in rescuing people who are stranded at sea. The organization also works to help these survivors adapt to their new country of refuge.

Open Arms considers the Mediterranean Sea “the largest mass grave on the planet.” Open Arms works to save African migrants that end up adrift at sea. Through donations, the organization can conduct rescue and surveillance activities in the Mediterranean Sea. The funds help pay for a captain, medical staff, the transport and basic needs of volunteer lifeguards, boat maintenance and more. In 2019 alone, the Open Arms vessel managed to rescue more than 324 people at sea.

The Origin Mission is dedicated to solving the problems that cause migration. According to Open Arms, “The best way to save lives is to go to the origin.” The Origin Mission includes training youth within Africa to become community leaders. These leaders spread awareness of the dangers and risks of irregular migration and educate people on alternative solutions. The leaders also spread awareness on opportunities in African countries that may influence some to stay in their home countries. In Senegal, the organization reformed a computer room and installed computers. Roughly 400 students received free courses in computer science and technology in 2020. Promoting development in the countries of origin is seen as a solution to migration.

Open Arms Supporters

Through successful programs and celebrity endorsements, Open Arms has become globally recognized. Celebrities all around Spain are staunch supporters of the group, including former Barcelona superstars Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol. One of the organization’s biggest supporters is Josep “Pep” Guardiola, the Manchester City Football Club manager. In a post-game interview, Guardiola stated, “The work that Open Arms does is extraordinary in helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.”

Guardiola donated £130,000 to Open Arms in 2018 to repair a rescue vessel. The donation was just the start of Guardiola’s involvement in voicing his support for the organization. Along with the hefty and generous donation, Guardiola has also been seen wearing an Open Arms hoodie to bring greater attention to the organization. On one of the most influential platforms around the world, Guardiola has taken a firm stance to bring awareness to the organization’s mission.

Open Arms’ overall message is one of solidarity amid the refugee crisis. With support, the organization is able to protect the lives of migrants at sea and uphold the fundamental rights of people who seek a better life.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

children in migration
In February 2021, the European Union announced the new E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme in collaboration with UNICEF and the U.N. Refugee Agency. This initiative aims to ensure protective services for migrant children. The year 2020 marked the highest migrant population ever recorded with 280.6 million people. Nearly 15% of this population are children under 19. Extra care is necessary to ensure this vulnerable group can receive proper protection.

Creating the Programme

Children in migration are often at risk of gender violence, physical harm and exploitation as they travel to their destination. This is due to the lack of resources, government protection and spending long periods in immigration detention facilities. The E.U. created its Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme to address these risks of abuse in order to better protect minors in these situations. These protections are especially crucial because of the rising number of unaccompanied children in migration.

The plans include training for government officials who work with migrating children, increasing awareness of gendered violence and alternative care plans for migrant children to replace traditional immigration detention. Efforts will go towards provided education for officials to recognize child abuse and learn proper intervention techniques for the child’s safety. The program will focus on the countries El Salvador, Mexico, South Africa and Zambia.

The program expects to use approximately €7.5 million in funding and already received €7 million from the European Union by its launch date. Hopes are high that the program will protect many children within its 30-month duration; in Mexico alone in 2019, an estimated 52,000 children had to migrate.

The Risk of Gender Violence for Children in Migration

Children in migration are incredibly vulnerable to gender violence. This consists most commonly of sexual violence and exploitation. Perpetrators can easily take advantage of children without families, safe housing options or defenses. Migrating children are often subject to rape, sexual assault or even human trafficking while traveling to their final destination.

Small case studies from around the world report high rates of migrant children experiencing gender-based and sexual violence. However, the exact rates are difficult to find because so many cases go unreported. Since most children in migration do not have legal protection or support, they do not report assaults in their destination country. Girls are more likely to face gender violence, but migrant boys also report high rates of sexual violence. While migrant boys and girls face different challenges, both need special protection.

Research found officials under-trained to properly care for abused children’s needs once they reach safety. Increasing psychosocial training to assist children with sexual abuse or trauma could better prepare officials in locating resources to aid the child’s mental or physical needs.

Options for Alternatives to Migrant Children in Detention

UNICEF has already been educating partners on alternatives to putting migrating children in immigration detention, especially when they do not have accompaniment. Some children in detention have even reported sexual abuse and neglect by center workers. They need special protection even in an environment catered towards caring for migrating children.

Instead, UNICEF’s recommendations include new foster care programs or homestays with families that are trained and willing to house unaccompanied minors or children whose parents have been detained in immigration detention. Additionally, referral networks must appraise migrants of their rights and point children in migration towards protective environments.

Hope for Migrating Children

While the E.U. Global Promotion of Best Practices for Children in Migration Programme is focusing on only four countries in the world, the findings from this project can be instrumental in pioneering solutions for government officials and social workers across the world working to support children in migration. With increased intervention and assistance, children in migration can safely seek refuge without fear of abuse.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Mayors Migration Council
As the name suggests, the Mayors Migration Council consists of a group of mayors from different corners of the world focused on the global response to migration. The goal of this council is to “empower and enable cities with access, capacity, knowledge, and connections to engage in migration diplomacy and policymaking at the international, regional and national level.” This collaborative effort includes mayors from Zurich, Milan, Montreal, Freetown and Los Angeles and multiple others.

Mayors Migration Council

Recently, the Mayors Migration Council launched a $1 million initiative focused on assisting with needs for internally displaced people (IDPs). This initiative comes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide support for migrant and refugee populations worldwide. It has focused efforts on Barranquilla, Colombia; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Beirut, Lebanon; Mexico City, Mexico and Lima, Peru. These cities with high populations of at-risk migrant peoples are provided direct financial support focused on urban areas. In these urban areas, the World Bank projects that communities may lose 15%-25% of total government revenues through 2021.

As government budgets undergo decimation as a result of the pandemic, this program provides support on projects “related to public health, employment, livelihoods, and social protection to mitigate the health crisis and its socio-economic impacts.” These focus areas are a direct illustration of the goal of this council. They hope to provide access to COVID-19 services as well as work with migrants to have a positive impact on the pandemic situation through direct work opportunities.

UN-Habitat

Through a partnership with UN-Habitat, the Mayors Migration Council has been able to implement groundwork programs that directly affect the lives of these migrant populations. An organization with prior experience with improving urban communities, the UN-Habitat organization takes funds from the Mayors Migration Council and provides direct guidance for these funds. This includes allocating funds to local governments and providing governmental and technological support. In Beirut, UN-Habitat partnered with Mayor Jamal Itani to develop a mobile health clinic to provide free COVID-19. The clinic is available to migrants and refugees as well as the rest of the population.

Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees

This new initiative includes commitments from the 2018 Marrakech Mayors Declaration. This declaration established the Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees programs. It focuses on the role of the mayors involved and how they can directly impact migration-related issues. Cities Working Together for Migrants and Refugees further supports the mission of the Global Compact for Migration, a U.N. agreement “on a common approach to international migration in all its dimensions.” This important initiative provides mayors in cities across the world a framework on how to handle migration as it happens, a vital framework before COVID-19 but especially amplified throughout the pandemic.

Proven Importance

With a multitude of different nations faced with political corruptness, violence, overall unrest, natural disasters and now the COVID-19 pandemic, large migrations of people will continue to occur. For the majority of nations, the current protocols for handling migration have plenty of room for improvement. These concerns are why a collaborative organization like the Mayors Migration Council is so important. It continues to provide adequate support and opportunities for all persons regardless of migration status. An organization comprised of mayors provides those with the political status to initiate change. Additionally, it offers a platform for meaningful discussion and collaboration between all corners of the world. This most recent million-dollar program further allows for increased national capabilities to handle these migration situations.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Sundarbans
The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to 4.5 million people. Out of Sundarbans’ 102 islands, 54 between India and Bangladesh have inhabitants. Almost 70% of these Sundarbans live below the poverty line. To make matters worse, the region has suffered 13 supercyclones in the past 23 years, with the most recent occurring in 2020. To address the adversity that these people face, the governments of India and Bangladesh are exploring avenues to improve the evolving landscape of the Sundarbans.

The Situation in the Sundarbans

The islands act as a shield, protecting major areas of India and Bangladesh by taking the brunt of the cyclones. Since 2019 alone, the islands faced the wrath of cyclones Fani (May 2019), Bulbul (November 2019) and the lethal Amphan (May 2020). These cyclones constitute a concern for both the present and future. The islands have been unable to recuperate fully. The older cyclones destroyed their embankments, affected the salinity of the soil and overwhelmed their vulnerable agricultural economies.

The islands of the Sundarbans were able to act as a shield because of their previously dense mangrove cover. But now, that cover has experienced compromise due to the felling of trees and the increasing temperature of the water. The forest has also absorbed the continuous shocks of the onslaught of the cyclones. The environmental disasters quickly affected the Sundarbans’ economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, saturating the agricultural land with salt.

Advancing the Ongoing Work

The Government of West Bengal promised to plant five crore mangrove trees in the Sundarbans. Meanwhile, researchers have begun to look into a more realistic and sustainable approach called  Community Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR). To fight the salinity of the soil and economic hardships in the Sundarbans, scientists engineered several variants of “salt-tolerant rice varieties” at the Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI). Carlsberg, a major beverage company, is setting up Desolenator’s solar-power water purification system to turn saline water at Sundarbans into safe drinking water. Additionally, some are building barriers to limit human-tiger interactions with nets and embankments to prevent further damage from storms leading to salinity. Experts also seek alternatives to concrete embankments, which are non-cohesive to the environment and do not always withstand cyclones.

Migration Problems

According to the WWF, the Sundarbans house some of the poorest people in the world. This facilitates a low rank in human development indicators. The rampage of environmental disasters and human-animal conflict in the Sundarbans strongly affected the livelihood and the daily lives of the residents. This has led many to migrate from the islands to the mainland in search of work and shelter. An MIT study stated that if the trend of migration continues, it might be one of the largest populations in Asia to migrate due to the climate crisis. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many workers who had migrated returned to the landscape of the Sundarbans. As long as these sudden-onset disasters keep affecting the islands, people will continue looking for work on the mainland.

Planning a Retreat

Climate scientists predict that climate disasters will continue to affect the landscape of the Sundarbans and that these disasters may even increase in intensity. The poor, vulnerable and lower-caste population suffers the most from all of this. When discussing the current climate crisis, climate adaptation and planned or managed retreats serve as key components. However, moving about 1 million people away from danger zones presents some challenging logistics.

Policymakers from India and Bangladesh have proposed the Delta Vision 2050 to address this need. It is a step-by-step planned migration to move the 1 million living in vulnerable areas. However, concerns exist that the migration plans will not honor the people’s desires. To the islanders of the Sundarbans, the climate crisis is not the only threat they face. Residents urgently need to address the socio-political climate of the Sundarbans, not just the climate.

Opportunities for Community-led Tourism

The picturesque landscape of the Sundarbans makes it the perfect holiday destination for nature lovers. At the same time, it has the potential to generate substantial income for the community. If Bangladesh and India join hands to facilitate achievable standards of hospitality to attract tourists worldwide, the Sundarbans will not only experience an economic revival but also work towards a sustainably secure future.

Infrastructural hindrances like electricity, water-way transportation and effective communication are the key challenges to enhancing the tourist experience. Cooperation from the government, forest and transportation departments, community-based hospitality training exercises and collaboration with tourism will greatly advance the Sundarbans’ ecosystem.

The Importance of Community Involvement

Ashmita Biswas, a Climate Risk and Adaptation Consultant at CEEW, responded to The Borgen Project’s questions on the importance of involving the community in the Sundarbans. “It is imperative to involve local communities in any and every discussion which pertains to their surroundings, be it conservation or resilience, as they will be ones who will have to implement initiatives. Stakeholder engagements are important to identify constraints and tailor programs to make for sustainable initiatives. Without such conservations, there lies a risk of communities not understanding the importance of them, and, as a result, not following through with responsibilities. Stakeholder engagements also help to understand what might be key drivers that could motivate communities to take action. These action points are essential in ensuring the success of a plan or policy to create long-term sustainable impact and change.”

The Sundarbans are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Its geographic position has often exaggerated its already-present economic, social and developmental hardships. The interconnectedness of the ongoing crisis post-cyclone presents a cluster of islands full of people simultaneously recuperating from past disasters while bracing for future ones. The Sundarbans’ community members are key facilitators of the innovations that scientists, policymakers and NGOs have created. Their equal involvement and understanding of the Sundarbans will determine the future of the islands.

– Anuja Mukherjee
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid to Greece
The history of foreign aid to Greece dates back to the late 1940s and the Truman administration when the Marshall Plan underwent enactment. Although the Marshall Plan funding came to an end in 1951, the European nations collected almost $13 billion in aid. This money acquired shipments in fuel, food, machinery and more, creating investments in industrial capacity in Europe.

According to The George C. Marshall Foundation, between April 3, 1948, and June 30, 1952, the Marshall Plan provided grants to Greece in the amount of $706.7 million. Today, that would add over $69.7 million.

Council on Foreign Relations

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, in 1957, a common market-free area of trade emerged known as The Treaty of Rome. It led to the acceptance of Greece as the “10th member of the European Economic Community (EEC).”

The Council on Foreign Relations reported that in 1992, 12 member states of the ECC signed the Treaty of Maastricht forming the European Union (E.U.) and the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). This led to the 1999 Euro currency in existence today.

However, as the Council on Foreign Relations reported, in 1999 Greece could not adopt the Euro currency because it could not meet the economic rules that the Maastricht established. All members must meet the fiscal criteria. This means inflation has to be, “below 1.5 percent, a budget deficit below 3 percent, and a debit-to-GDP ratio below 60 percent.”

How Geography Affects Foreign Aid

The need for foreign aid to Greece continues due to its geographic location. Greece is a destination for refugees and asylum seekers. According to The Library of Congress LAW, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the E.U. in 2011 found Greece was lacking in its ability to handle the influx of refugees. More reception centers are necessary to house them.

A plan proposal in 2010 led to more services for asylum seekers in Greece. Although the plan ultimately failed, some things underwent adoption such as Law 3907. It supplied more services such as appeals authority and first-line reception. In 2015, the influx of refugees overwhelmed Greece’s already inefficient system to fingerprint, register and house asylum seekers.

The humanitarian needs such as access to healthcare and education are great in reception centers for refugees. In 2016 the White House Press Secretary announced, “Since the start of Europe’s refugee crisis, the United States has contributed over $44 million in humanitarian aid through international organizations.”

Recent Actions

From 2014 to 2020, the Commission and European Union increased funding to Greece for asylum and immigration.

As a result, the Migration and Integration Fund provided Greece with €294.5 million (about $328 million). The Internal Security Fund – Borders and Visas presented €214.8 million (about $240 million). Another contribution under the European Refugee Fund was emergency funding of over €50.6 million Euros (about $56.5 million).

In 2019, the U.S. assisted Greece’s military when it signed a mutual defense cooperation agreement. The intention of this agreement is for the U.S. to spend on Greece’s military infrastructure.

The need to send foreign aid to Greece continues to grow especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Aljazeera reported, in September 2020, Greek authorities were still having trouble with overcrowding. It is still a struggle to house every migrant and refugee but with more funding, a change can hopefully occur.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Guatemala
Human trafficking is a large and lucrative industry, generating approximately $31.6 billion in international markets annually. Of that $31.6 billion, about $1.3 billion, or just over 4%, is dependent on trafficking from Latin America. Of all the countries within Latin America, human trafficking has impacted Guatemala especially heavily, with an overwhelming number of victims being girls between the ages of 14 and 17. In fact, Guatemala currently ranks as a Tier 2 country according to the Trafficking in Persons 2020 report. This means that it does “not yet meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking … but [is] showing great strides to do so.” Guatemala has dealt with a number of hardships in the past decade, from massive tax fraud by a former president that reignited political instability to a low-growing economy that the COVID-19 pandemic is now challenging.

Human Trafficking in Guatemala

The lack of stability, both economic and political, creates the ideal situation for human traffickers to thrive. Economically, Guatemala falls very low on the region’s GDP chart ranking 131 among 187 countries in the world in 2016 and representing one of the lowest GDPs on the continent. This economic instability makes living in Guatemala more difficult and more dangerous. According to The World Bank, even though Guatemala’s economy has increased marginally in recent years, the hope of continued newly emerging economic stability has not translated into a decrease in poverty or inequality. The lack of legitimate opportunities present in Guatemala, which is increasing because of COVID-19, is forcing many families to consider other options.

According to Polaris, an NGO devoted to preventing human trafficking and supporting victims of trafficking, the “single biggest factor contributing to trafficking vulnerability [in Latin American cases] is migration.” Additionally, for the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and is “one of the most violent regions in the world,” migration rates are steep. The actual number of trafficking cases is hard to measure; traffickers are transporting some victims, who are not necessarily Guatemalan, through Guatemala. With the help of the 2009 anti-sex trafficking law that the Guatemalan government passed, however, the number of investigated cases is rising. Over the past four years, over 100 prosecutions successfully convicted traffickers and Guatemala is making continued efforts every year.

Solutions

Despite all of this, a number of NGOs are doing what they can to support Latin Americans and Guatemalans. Combatting human trafficking in Guatemala starts with providing struggling families with a sense of stability and hope. Four NGOs, WingsGuate, Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage are leading the way on that front; each of them is building programs to assist their impacted communities, focusing especially on their younger and more vulnerable populations. For Guatemalan families, WingsGuate is offering reproductive health courses as well as regular appointments for cervical cancer screenings; the organization has provided over 62,000 screenings since its founding. Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage all focus on providing children with resources in the form of immediate access to food items and quality education for children.

Combined, these organizations reach more than 15,000 children and families a year, providing elementary school programs to children and high school level classes to parents. Less than 45% of Guatemalan children go above elementary level education, but 90%-95% of children participating in these programs move forward in their education. For parents, the direct impact of these education programs is a tripled income and the ability to provide more resources to their children.

By providing minors with safe spaces where they can meet their most immediate needs and their families the opportunity to increase education and employment, NGOs like these help break the cycles of abuse. All of these NGOs provide the critical foundations necessary to keep families in place, lessening their chances of migration and greatly reducing their chances of becoming victims of human trafficking.

Looking Ahead

Although Guatemala has not yet been moved from Tier 2 regarding human trafficking, it is making efforts to reduce it. As the government of Guatemala continues to pursue this goal, organizations like WingsGuate, Ninos De Guatemala, Common Hope and Safe Passage are rekindling hopes for the younger generations of Guatemala.

– Grace Parker
Photo: Flickr