Malian Military Junta
Mali recently decided to ban all non-governmental organizations operating with funds or support from France. The decision came in response to France’s announcement to “suspend[]its official development assistance to Mali.” France cited the Malian junta’s alleged use of “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner” to combat jihadism as the reason for this disassociation. Wagner has a reputation for brutality, standing accused of such crimes as rape, abuse of human rights and massacres. The Malian military junta has denied accusations of using Wagner, with Colonel Maiga condemning the allegations as “fanciful allegations” and “subterfuge,” Africa News reported.

Despite the denial of these allegations, tensions have ratcheted and the Malian military junta has chosen to ban all NGOs related to France including organizations focused on providing humanitarian aid. France, similarly, has not accepted Mali’s denial and views the alleged participation of the Russian Wagner group as a “collaboration between the two countries.”

Effects of Aid Loss in Mali

The removal of aid could prove devastating for Mali, which has faced a variety of crises including extreme poverty, the spread of jihadism and massive civilian displacement. For instance, Action Against Hunger reported that, in Mali, almost 70% of the population lives in poverty. Worsening conditions related to conflict and recent droughts have led to many children suffering from severe malnutrition.

Many French NGOs are working in Mali on issues related to food security, health and access to education and French military aid withdrew in August 2022. Germany also made the decision to pull out of Mali and while the Malian military junta has appeared unconcerned, Souleymane Camara, president of the Malian human rights organization LNDH, has claimed, “The withdrawal of the forces of countries that came to help contain the advance of the Jihadists is very worrying because Mali does not have the means to deal with the situation.”

The Malian military junta’s vice president, Fousseynou Ouattara remarked that Mali is against “permanently expanding a foreign military presence on our territory.” However, Mali’s relationship with Germany has been much less tumultuous, with Germany electing to leave some troops in place in anticipation of the February elections and Mali and parliamentary secretary of Mali’s transitional government, Amadou Maiga, has expressed gratitude to Germany and voiced an interest in resuming their alliance in the future, stating, “I think that the cooperation will continue on other levels, like development and security. We thank them and we will face our destiny,” DW reported.

History of Tensions

Tensions with France are not a new conflict in Mali, which has a history that French interventionism has broadly defined. France colonized Mali in 1890, making it French Sudan. The conflict between France and Mali has continued to define the region, as France colonized various regions of West Africa, often with a complete lack of concern for the “local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics” and “the political and cultural ecologies of the regions…” While this has led to internal conflict, France has also been guilty of more modern atrocities, such as supporting the Algerian government’s “repression of the democratic transition that began in 1988.”

This decision ultimately resulted in the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front which then took power as an oppressive and authoritarian regime with western backing. France also voiced support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2012, which lead to fallout and increased violence that endangered West Africa, according to Al Jazeera.

Potential Solutions

This history has made it difficult for Mali to conceptualize France’s presence as anything other than antagonistic, as it has seen the nation interfere with democracy in the past. One could broadly describe Mali’s military junta’s unease with French aid as a result of France’s own making in relation to this history of recent failures. This situation makes it particularly difficult to remedy, as Mali’s military junta is resistant to western aid. However, many France-dependent NGOs are advocating for their ability to work in Mali. CCFD Terre-Solidaire, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde and Oxfam have penned a letter to French President, Emmanuel Macron, claiming that ending aid in Mali would lead to “the cessation of essential, even vital activities (…) for the benefit of populations in situations of great fragility or poverty,” Africa News reported.

Despite fears of rising jihadism, Mali also remains hopeful, as Amadou Maiga claims military withdrawal from the west will “require a reorganization of our troops and maybe a little more logistics”, adding, “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve been expecting this,” according to DW. Hopefully, Mali can reroute its aid relations to nations with whom they have less tumultuous histories and defend against jihadist attacks in the meantime. Also, stabilization could possibly be restored after the German-supervised February 2024 elections.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

costs of military intervention
A closer look at the costs of military intervention versus the benefits of foreign aid provides insight into why humanitarian assistance trumps military intervention.

The Costs of Conflict, Violence and Military Intervention

In March 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led a multi-state coalition in response to conflict escalation in Libya. To curb violence and human rights violations in line with the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ norm, NATO created a no-fly zone followed by air strikes. According to a 2012 Reuters report, NATO coordinated “26,000 sorties including some 9,600 strike missions and destroyed about 5,900 targets before operations ended on October 31.”

To terminate the rule of Saddam Hussein and abolish weapons of mass destruction, U.S. forces began the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The U.S. saw success as troops captured Hussein and the last U.S. troops exited Iraq in December 2011. The nine-year conflict cost the U.S. Treasury $800 billion and led to more than “4,700 U.S. and allied troop deaths” along with the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqi people, highlighting the human and material costs of military intervention and war.

Kosovo was once a province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which currently consists of today’s two states, Serbia and Montenegro. The Kosovo crisis escalated in early 1998 upon Kosovo’s desire for sovereign autonomy from Yugoslavia. With Kosovo’s mixed population of Albanians and Serbs, clashes between the ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbs took place and the Yugoslav government took a firm stance against the Kosovo Liberation Army, a rebel Albanian group. The crisis led to displacement and death, prompting NATO’s intervention.

Libya (March 2011-October 2011)

While the total scope of collateral damage remains unacknowledged, Human Rights Watch reported 72 civilian casualties as a result of aerial strikes that NATO carried out in Libya in 2011. The number of internally displaced persons fluctuated throughout the intervention period, and by late 2011, the number stood at a minimum of 154,000 people, highlighting the profound implications of military intervention on human welfare.

A month after the intervention ended, The New York Times carried out investigations in Libya’s capital of Tripoli along with several other sites and findings show ramifications on civilian infrastructure. The airstrikes led to the destruction of residential and commercial buildings and many people suffered injuries, unable to access health care amid a chaotic political atmosphere.

However, the benefits of foreign aid outweighed military intervention as it helped restore social and economic order within Libya during and following the crisis. Since 2011, USAID has facilitated the delivery of social services, development and humanitarian support in Libya in an investment valued at more than $900 million.

For instance, in June 2011, to “build an inclusive and peaceful democratic future that reflects the will and needs of the Libyan people,” USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives allocated $12.2 million. The program goals included conversations to unite together Libya’s community leaders in creating “strategies to mitigate conflict and promote reconciliation” and public outreach initiatives to keep locals up-to-date on information about Libya’s transition process.

In 2012, USAID provided grants to build a computer center in the Mafqood Center for Missing Persons “where families from all sides of the conflict will receive training on advocacy using social networking and online media.” According to USAID, the center’s goal is to stand as “a sanctuary for families to seek solace and comfort” as well as “a platform from which the families can form a unified voice to tackle the legal and social issues they face.”

Iraq (2003-2011)

The U.S. military invasion led to several human rights violations as detailed in the accounts of abuse and torture in the Abu Ghraib prison, a U.S. army detention center that housed around 3,800 detainees from 2003 to 2006. Graphic photos of males and females show acts of torture, humiliation and assault. This led to charges against 11 U.S. military authorities, according to CNN.

Through the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, U.S. Congress allocated $2.5 billion in 2003 to ease acute suffering in areas relevant to food security, water and health care. Later that year, an additional $18.4 billion went toward general reconstruction projects. By February 2006, Congress distributed $10.5 billion of the $18.4 billion for “security, economic and political” initiatives. The economic benefit of such foreign aid is visible in the nation’s gross domestic product, which rose from “$18.9 billion in 2002 to $33.1 billion in 2005,” signifying an improved standard of living.

Kosovo Crisis (1998-1999)

NATO nations endured a cost of £2.5 billion over 78 days while dispersing “more than 23,000 bombs and missiles” in Kosovo. On the first day of the conflict alone, NATO “launched more than £44.4 [million] worth of weapons” against Yugoslavia’s military bases. In total, the Kosovo war and reparation thereafter cost £31.67 billion, around two-thirds of which went toward rebuilding Serbia/Kosovo.

Already suffering from international sanctions, Yugoslavia endured economic shocks with the nation losing 44% of its industrial production. NATO bombings are reported to have set back Yugoslavia by as much as 20 years, with economic costs amounting to $100 billion, as Yugoslav officials reported in 1999.

However, foreign aid assisted in Kosovo’s recovery and economic development. For instance, since 1999, USAID committed itself to the reconstruction of Kosovo in investments totaling more than $1 billion.

Multilateral donors collected around $2 billion in a donors meeting held in 1999 to aid humanitarian support and reconstruction. The benefit of economic reconstruction in Kosovo is visible in its GDP, rising to $9.01 billion in 2021, according to World Bank data, from $1.85 billion in 2000.

Overall, the benefits of foreign aid outweighed the costs of military intervention in conflicts occurring in countries like Libya, Iraq and Kosovo, especially considering the heightened economic and human loss associated with military interventions.

– Noor Al-Zubi
Photo: Unsplash

Myanmar's Military Junta
This article will cover the recent political executions by Myanmar’s military junta, as well as reactions from the international community and demonstrations that are still ongoing, despite the possibilities of further executions. Burmese hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw was among those the Burmese government executed, due to his support of the resistance. These political executions were the first ones that Myanmar had in decades.

Burmese Resistance to the Junta

The National Unity Government (NUG) has spearheaded Burmese efforts to oust the military junta from power. It was also the first organization to call for international condemnation of the nation’s recent executions.

United Nations Statements

U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned the executions, calling them “cruel” and “regressive.” The military junta has killed more than 2,100 Burmese citizens since it came into power, which has led many U.N. leaders to call for formal international sanctioning. The U.N. also urged Myanmar’s military junta to release political prisoners that have been awaiting trials via military tribunal. However, similar U.N. pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Since the junta took over in a 2021 coup d’état, the military courts sentenced 115 Burmese adults and two children to death.

A Bipartisan Condemnation from the US

Both prominent Republican and Democratic leaders in the American government condemned the junta’s recent executions. In its official statement, the White House labeled the recent incident as a “heinous execution.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called for sanctions on the Burmese energy sector, as well as further actions from Myanmar’s neighboring countries. In a U.S. Department of State press statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also criticized the military junta for its “sham trials” of pro-democracy activists. American officials have also urged the Chinese government to play a more active role in promoting peace among the junta and Burmese citizens.

European Response

The European Union, along with several other industrialized nations, including Australia, Canada and South Korea released a statement condemning the junta’s rule. Before the political executions, the EU sanctioned junta officials and required European energy companies to withdraw their operations in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Neighbors Respond

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an inter-governmental organization that Myanmar is a member of, released a statement calling the executions reprehensible, as well as urging for dialogue among the Burmese. The ASEAN has also banned Myanmar’s junta officials from attending events that the association hosts. In contrast to the ASEAN’s strong rebuke of Myanmar’s executions, the Chinese government has yet to make a statement condemning the actions. However, China did push for peace talks between the junta and Burmese resistance groups in early July 2022, weeks before the political executions. By supplying weapons and giving the nation its political support, China has aligned with the coup leaders in Myanmar.

The Push for Further Action

Although many nations have placed sanctions on Myanmar, there have been no formally coordinated strategies put in place to sanction Myanmar and punish those in power for their breach of human rights. According to the World Bank’s July 2022 estimates, approximately 40% of Burmese citizens live in poverty. Economic contractions that occurred after the 2021 coup could have long-term consequences since the Burmese economy experienced an 18% contraction during the 2021 fiscal year. Myanmar’s slip away from democracy has caused economic turmoil and the juntas depriving of human rights is an issue that the international community must address.

– Salvatore Brancato
Photo: Flickr

Sudan’s Military Coup
Rival parties within Sudan are preparing to meet for the first time since October 2021, when the coup that continues to spark violence in the country took place. The political divide and often violent conflicts have worsened the state of poverty in an already struggling Sudan — Sudan’s poverty rate stood at 55.9% in 2021. The negotiating committee will consist of Sudanese military officials, political leaders representing opposing parties, and civilian leaders, with hopes to persuade the leaders of Sudan’s military coup to dampen the conflict in the country and reach some sort of compromise, which would ideally pave the way for government and foreign aid for the impoverished people of Sudan.

Origins of the Coup

In 2021, the Sudanese military carried out a coup that ousted its civilian partners in power. A transitional government had been put in place ever since protests in 2019 forced former President Omar al-Bashir to step down as leader of the country. This transitional government split power between the military and civilian leaders and was meant to last until the 2023 elections when the country would elect a new leader. However, just two years into this period, the military seized control, stating that it would take over until those planned elections.

Despite these claims, it is unclear whether the military will actually step down from power at that point. The commander-in-chief of the Sudanese armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, also issued a nationwide state of emergency when the military seized power, tightening the military’s grip on many everyday processes in Sudan.

The Coup’s Impact

Sudan’s military coup took place at an already tumultuous time for the country. The political structure in Sudan was fragile before any of these events, and it remains the same. The issue of whether or not the military will relinquish power in time for the elections hangs over the entire country. The coup’s occurrence has sparked protests against the military’s actions, with many organizations and activists urging civil disobedience. These protests have become violent, with 98 deaths during demonstrations, not to mention the large number of people detained for protesting as well, as of June 2022.

The economy of Sudan was already struggling before the takeover took place, but the situation has worsened. The military controls many corporations in numerous industries responsible for much of the flow of money in the country. This grip on these corporations has sparked hesitancy among international traders, including the United States, to conduct business with Sudan.

The U.S. condemns the military’s actions — in October 2021, the U.S. suspended a $700 million in aid to Sudan and stopped a 400,000-ton shipment of wheat scheduled for Sudan to receive later in 2022. In addition, around the same time, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze $2 billion in aid destined for Sudan.

Negotiations and the Way Forward

Since early 2022, the United Nations and various other international organizations have attempted to negotiate with the leaders of Sudan’s military coup, but to little avail. However, Sudan’s rival parties are now preparing to talk for the first time since 2021, providing hope for a way forward. On May 29, 2022, Burhan lifted the nationwide state of emergency, a necessary step in the right direction.

Assuming these talks go well, the 2023 elections will take place as scheduled and Sudan will vote for a new leader to take charge. Civilian and political leaders of Sudan hope to put an end to the violent protests, with many detained individuals from such protests recently released, another positive sign. If the military loosens its grip and the election takes place, aid will again begin to flow into the country, which Sudan desperately needs.

An organization still working to provide aid to Sudan is the Sudan Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization established in 1998, with the mission of providing impoverished Sudanese and South Sudanese people with food, water, shelter and medical attention. In 2019, the organization was able to distribute more than $3.3 million in aid and it has continued to assist during the military takeover.

All in all, it appears that Sudan is moving in the right direction, but only time will tell. In the meanwhile, organizations are working on the ground to assist struggling Sudanese people.

– Thomas Schneider
Photo: Flickr

child soldiers in MyanmarFor half a century, Myanmar has struggled to reduce its number of child soldiers. Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar has a long history of using children in armed conflict, which began when the country gained independence in 1948. In 2002, Human Rights Watch listed Myanmar as the country with the highest number of child soldiers. Though Myanmar has taken action to reduce this, the number of child soldiers in Myanmar is still disturbingly high, requiring greater intervention.

Previous Use of Child Soldiers

According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2001, 20% of Myanmar’s army was made up of children younger than 18. Although Myanmar’s legislation does not establish compulsory military service laws, it does require each district to meet a recruitment quota. District authorities that fail to meet the quota often receive fines. Hence, to meet the quota, many underage children are coaxed into joining the army through financial rewards or prestige. Other times, the army abducts children from public areas, forcing them to become soldiers. The highest number of recruited child soldiers in Myanmar occured between 1990 and 2005 when the military junta was in power.

During this time, Myanmar received several on-ground assessments by the Committee of Experts of the ILO, followed by recommendations to revise the Village Act and the Towns Act. The Committee requested that the government amend these Acts to comply with the Forced Labor Convention of 1930. Hence, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Myanmar in 1991.

After several concerns raised by the United Nations, Human Rights Watch verified that Myanmar had approximately 70,000 child soldiers in 2001. Myanmar’s government responded to international concerns in a letter to the U.N. Security Council in 2004. In the letter, the government demonstrated no interest in making any legislative amendments nor any intention to prosecute local authorities for forced labor and child abuse by stating that “the Myanmar Armed Forces is an all-volunteer force and those entering military services do so of their own free will.”

Gradual Measures to Reduce Child Recruitment

Finally, in 2005, four local officials received prison sentences for the illegal imposition of forced labor after supposedly recruiting child soldiers. In 2009, several rebel groups such as the Chin National Front signed unilateral deeds pledging to stop recruiting child soldiers.

In 2012, Myanmar signed the Joint Action Plan. This committed the government to work alongside the U.N. to prevent child recruitment. Following the Plan’s implementation in 2012, which established stronger age assessment procedures and the adoption of military directives prohibiting the recruitment of minors, 956 children and young people were released from the army. Further improvements occured in 2015 when Myanmar signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the use of minors in armed conflict.

Since then, Myanmar’s government and the U.N. have launched several public awareness campaigns, also establishing a hotline so that citizens can report cases of recruitment of minors. As a result of the continuing decrease in child recruitment and Myanmar’s efforts to protect children, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres removed Myanmar from his annual “list of shame,” which names countries that have committed grave violations against children.

The Need for More Action

Despite Myanmar’s recent efforts to decrease the number of child soldiers, in 2021, the United Nations verified the recruitment and use of 790 children in the previous year. With 56 children dead and 17 children abducted, the U.N. believes Myanmar will return to the “list of shame” unless the government follows U.N. recommendations, including:

  • Release children using the framework of the Joint Action Plan
  • Make the 156 pending cases of suspected minors a priority among national courts
  • Prosecute those who are guilty

With 10 armed attacks in national schools in 2020, the United Nations also strongly recommends that Myanmar endorses the Safe Schools Declaration, which requires states to commit to safeguarding schools and universities from armed hostilities.

Existing efforts as well as implementing U.N. recommendations will help to fully eliminate the use of child soldiers in Myanmar, protecting the well-being of children across the country.

– Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

military robotsResearchers have recently discovered that military-designed robots have the ability to save lives. Humanitarian assistance through robots can help tackle poverty and provide support to those in need on land, air and sea. These robots are especially important in impoverished, war-ridden areas. Overall, robotic resources can help tackle crises that would otherwise be dangerous, deadly or impossible for humans to enter.

Terrestrial Robots

Terrestrial military robots, also called throwable robots, serve as life-saving engines on land. The robots work by entering confined spaces, searching through debris and disposing of bombs and hazardous waste. Throwable robots are light, easily transportable objects that are shock-resistant and often remote-controlled. The robots are designed to enter tight spaces and transmit live audio and video to users. Footage from throwable robots can help rescue teams locate people who are trapped in confined spaces and monitor their wellbeing until the civilians reach safety. Currently, more than 550 U.S. law enforcement agencies and military units use throwable robots to assist in their missions and help preserve human life.

Bomb squads also use military robots to locate, defuse, detonate and dispose of bombs. Occasionally, bomb squads deploy throwable robots before bomb disposal robots to inspect the scene and search for potential bombs. Amid war and natural disasters, terrestrial military robots can offer ample humanitarian assistance. The military robots can douse fires, enter small spaces and search through rubble without experiencing the harm of smoke, dust or extreme heat. The future of terrestrial robots is promising as recent innovations of better sensors and robust agility will elevate the technology to the next level.

Aerial Robots

Aerial military robots impact people’s quality of life in areas hit badly by natural disasters. One example illustrates drones transporting humanitarian aid and collecting data to assist in natural disaster recovery. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) started using aerial robots in 2012 to measure the extent of displacement and physical damage from natural disasters in Haiti. Furthermore, the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières have used aerial robots to deliver medical supplies to Papua New Guinea and Bhutan.

Aerial robots can also assist in search and rescue efforts in a similar way to terrestrial robots. In war and disaster zones, aerial robots can quickly locate people in need of medical assistance. Drones are often faster and more affordable than other modes of transportation. In many circumstances, drones can capture higher quality data better than humans, for instance, detailed aerial view photographs of flood zones and refugee camps. Aerial robots can also protect humans from entering dangerous situations. Alongside terrestrial robots and bomb disposal robots, drones can scope out potential explosives and identify the best strategy for removing the explosives.

Maritime Robots

Nicknamed “robotic lifeguards,” maritime military robots can save lives at sea. In 2016, a fast-swimming maritime robot named Emily saved more than 240 refugees from drowning on the coast of Greece. Maritime robots have the potential to endure extreme temperatures and are not vulnerable to exhaustion, allowing these robots the capability to become highly effective lifeguards in the future. Additionally, maritime robots are significantly faster than human swimmers. With this ability, robots can use heat sensors to quickly locate people underwater. In shipwrecks or other sea accidents, maritime robots can carry several people to shore. Maritime robots are still relatively rare, but as they become more popular, the robots can be especially effective in places like the Mediterranean Sea where refugees are frequently at risk of drowning.

Overall, robotics technology has the potential to transform disaster and crises relief efforts. Able to withstand vulnerabilities that humans cannot, these robots illustrate the increasingly important role of technology in rescue, relief and aid endeavors.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Impact of Conflict on Poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January 2012. Since then, violence between the north and south of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the north of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern as they feel that governmental groups and political factions are neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system contribute to this conflict.

So far, Mali has noted thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their jobs due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the north of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depending on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the south. This has led many agricultural producers in the south to grow jaded toward the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly one in three children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly 4 million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and displacement has forced many out of school. A significant number of children in Mali are at great risk of recruitment into militant groups, further threatening children’s safety, educational resources and ability to climb out of poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, armed groups killed hundreds of civilians. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until Mali can hold an election. Some are hopeful that if the nation can hold a legitimate election, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations are mobilizing to aid in poverty reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012, during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. The organization supports communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, Peace Direct supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on economic growth and poverty reduction tactics throughout the country.
  3. The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project, run through USAID, began in April 2018 and should reach completion in March 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce measures to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well-being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation comes as no surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and grabs attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Eritrea
Militarism and instability are endemic to Eritrea. The degradation of civil society is a result of those two factors. Child poverty in Eritrea is rampant due to such foundations; however, the country is not without benefactors. UNICEF’s aid efforts are improving children’s health within Eritrea despite the current conditions.

A Brief History

Eritrea is one of the few countries that one can truly consider a fledgling state in the 21st century. After a decades-long secession war, the Eritrean government achieved full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. They solidified the totalitarian one-party dictatorship that has retained power since. A brief period of peace followed, during which promised democratic elections never materialized. Then, Eritrea’s unresolved border disputes with Ethiopia escalated into a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. It killed tens of thousands and resulted in several minor border changes and only formally ended in 2018. In the wake of this war, the Eritrean government has sustained a track record of militarization, corruption and human rights violations that has continually degraded civil stability. As of 2004, around 50% of Eritreans live below the poverty line.

Eritrea’s Youth at a Glance

Housing around 6 million people, Eritrea’s youth make up a significant proportion of its population. Eritrea has the 35th highest total fertility rate globally, with a mean of 3.73 children born per woman. It also has the 42nd lowest life expectancy at birth at a mere 66.2 years, with significant variation between that of males (63.6 years) and females (68.8 years).

Forced Conscriptions of Children

Under the guise of national security against Ethiopia, Eritrea has maintained a system of universal, compulsory conscription since 2003. This policy requires all high school students to complete their final year of high school at Sawa, the country’s primary military training center. Many are 16 or 17 years of age when their conscription begins, which led the U.N. Commission of Inquiry to accuse Eritrea of mobilizing child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report also blamed Eritrea’s conscription practices for a number of grievances. Its prolonged militarization has wide-reaching effects on the country. Many adults end up in service against their will for up to a decade, but it is particularly damaging to Eritrean youth. Students at Sawa face food shortages, forced labor and harsh punishment. Many female students have reportedly suffered sexual abuse. Besides fleeing, “Many girls and young women opt for early marriage and motherhood as a means of evading Sawa and conscription.”

Further, “The system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile,” HRW claimed. HRW estimated that around 507,300 Eritreans live elsewhere. Because of its conscription practices, Eritrea is both a top producer of refugees and unaccompanied refugee children in Europe, resulting in child poverty in Eritrea as well as other regions.

Education Access

HRW claims that Eritrea’s education system plays a central role in its high levels of militarization. It leads many students to drop out, intentionally fail classes or flee the country. This has severely undermined education access and inflated child poverty in Eritrea.

Eritrea currently has the lowest school life expectancy – “the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive” – of any country. Eritrea has reportedly made strides to raise enrollment over the last 20 years. However, 27.2% of school-aged children still do not receive schooling, and the country retains a literacy rate of only 76.6%. Illiteracy is much more prevalent among females than among males, with respective literacy rates of 68.9% and 84.4%. In general, girls and children in nomadic populations are the least likely to receive schooling.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As mentioned earlier, more than half a million Eritreans have fled the country as refugees. Around one-third of them – about 170,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – now live in Ethiopia. A majority reside in six different refugee camps. As of 2019, around 6,000 more cross the border each month. Reporting by the UNHCR shows that “children account for 44% of the total refugee population residing in the [Eritrean] Camps, of whom 27% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.” Far from being ameliorated by domestic education programs, child poverty in Eritrea is merely being outsourced to its neighbors.

Children’s Health as a Site for Progress

Adjacent to these issues, UNICEF’s programs have driven significant improvements in sanitation, malnutrition and medical access. Its Health and Nutrition programs, among other things, address malnutrition by administering supplements, preventing maternal transmission of HIV/AIDS during birth and administering vaccines. Teams in other departments improve sanitation and lobby against practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

In its 2015 Humanitarian Action for Children report on Eritrea, UNICEF wrote that Eritrea “has made spectacular progress on half the [Millennium Development Goals],” including “Goal 4 (child mortality), Goal 5 (maternal mortality), Goal 6 (HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases) and is on track to meet the target for access to safe drinking water (Goal 7).”

Figures illustrate this progress in child poverty in Eritrea. Since 1991, child immunization rates have jumped from 14% to 98%, safe water access rates are up at 60% from 7%, iodine deficiency has plummeted from 80% to 20% in children and the under-five mortality rate sits at 63 deaths per 1000 births, rather than at 148.

Child poverty in Eritrea is a far cry from reaching a resolution, but it is not a lost cause.

Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Sudan
Public discourse surrounding political, human and women’s rights in Sudan is experiencing a major shift. Issues of political and social participation and freedoms have been at the forefront of Sudanese protests in recent years. Women have played a major role in breaking down norms and building up a new female identity.

The Protests

Sudan still faces major internal conflict due to the secession of South Sudan and the ensuing conflict in 2011. In recent years, the role of women and their rights has come into question for the Sudanese people. Women in Sudan have specifically felt subjugated due to legal regulations and celebrated when the country eradicated these laws.

A key facet of these issues is class. Upper-class women wear different clothes than poorer women in Sudan. This discrepancy is not only troubling but deeply rooted in socio-political inequity. BBC reported that “in recent years it was common to see rich Khartoum women wearing trousers in public—while those targeted by the morality police were often poorer women from the marginalized areas on the periphery of this vast country.”

The Reason

The Global Fund for Women outlines the varying causes for many of the protests in Sudan. Some of the protests took place at military headquarters. The protestors staged a sit-in and called for “civilian rule, women’s rights and an end to the nation’s civil wars.”

Some of the specific regulations that women want to change are in regard to their physical appearance. Some examples Sudanese would like to change include how they must dress or cover their hair. Breaking any of the current rules can result in harsh and demeaning punishments. GFFW reported that “thousands of women have been sentenced to floggings under the laws, with poor and minority women particularly affected.”

Violent Response

The protestors filling the streets are primarily women, an estimated 70%. These women come from many backgrounds ranging from students to housewives to street traders. This diverse group of females march the streets while chanting, clapping and singing. Amidst the clamoring for change, human rights violations also occur.

There was an increase in violent attacks during many of the protests in favor of women’s rights in Sudan and the ending of the civil conflict. There have been instances of rape, disfigurement and burnings. The military more subtly uses sexist language and insults as another weapon against those protesting for women’s rights in Sudan. Human Rights Watch asserts that this retaliatory violence “escalated following the Arab uprisings, the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economic downturn and the proliferation of new wars in southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.”

Looking Forward

The push for women’s rights in Sudan is progressing forward and incorporating the issues of class and poverty. The country now realizes that the need for comprehensive human rights laws (and specific laws protecting women) is urgent.

The women’s movement is strong but needs continued organizational support. There are few laws currently in place to protect women and children and this must change. Protests, as well as the documentation of human rights violations, are not enough. The government needs to create change and protect its citizens. Women, just like all other citizens, deserve human rights.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay