Poverty in Bhutan Over the last 14 years, poverty in Bhutan has substantially decreased. This is a result of the nation’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and its developmental Five Year Plans. Support from other nations has also helped make Bhutan’s successes possible. With further support, the nation could eradicate poverty within its borders. 

History

Bhutan, officially named the “Kingdom of Bhutan,” is a small nation in South-Central Asia. Historically, poverty in Bhutan has been an ongoing struggle. In 2003, the poverty rate in Bhutan was well above 25%, and the proportion of the population in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day) was 17.6%. 

However, there have since been major successes in the fight against poverty in Bhutan. As of 2017, poverty in Bhutan was 8.2%, less than a third of what it was 14 years prior. More impressively, the proportion of Bhutan’s population living in extreme poverty dropped to 1.5%. 

Gross National Happiness

The key to success in fighting poverty in Bhutan can be attributed to the nation’s developmental philosophy. The nation does not believe in measuring its progress through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lens used by other countries. Rather, Bhutan evaluates its success through Gross National Happiness (GNH) indexing.

The GNH system directs Bhutan’s government to step in and present the country with the best path to maximize the happiness of its citizens. The nation places a high priority on taking the initiative to fight poverty and inequality for this reason. In the country’s 1629 legal code, it states: “If the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.” This sentiment still stands today in Bhutan. The government continues to direct its focus on allowing more and more people to pursue happy and healthy lives. 

Five Year Plans

To combat poverty in Bhutan, the country began a series of five-year development plans in 1961. Fittingly named “Five Year Plans,” each successive half-decade strategy sets forward a targeted initiative to address the largest assessed proponent of poverty in Bhutan.

Part of the success of the Five Year Plans was derived from its flexibility. As Bhutan continued to develop and change, the development strategies were able to shift with it. Each new implementation of the Five Year Plans would involve recreating the successes of the previous plan. Thus, any practices that proved to be inefficient could be replaced.

Nevertheless, all of the Five Year Plans initiatives had some commonality that greatly boosted the fight against poverty in Bhutan. The strategies all pushed for increased sources of income generation, expanded social resources, and rural development.

Bhutan’s strategic development planning, in combination with its GNH philosophy, was crucial toward its successes against poverty. However, Bhutan’s vast success would not have been possible without assistance from foreign nations. Further global efforts will continue to play a large role in the fight to eradicate poverty in Bhutan. 

Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

Anti-Global Poverty Policies
Oftentimes, when one thinks of ending global hunger and poverty, raising and donating money comes to mind. However, analysis of anti-global poverty policies and programs has shown that ending global poverty is so much more than just giving money to individuals and communities. As much as money is important to the creation and implementation of effective programs, giving money directly to the poor is not always the best way to lift people out of poverty in the long term. Rather, it is important not only to invest in the programs that actually work well but also to invest in analysis of ongoing programs to recognize those who do have a positive impact. Moreover, pre-existing programs must constantly undergo updates and improvements as more education emerges about the populations they serve.

In reality, poverty is a much more complicated issue than just a lack of money and thus it requires a more elaborate solution than just pledging cash. Successful anti-poverty programs usually target social infrastructures such as access to health care, education and financial resources. Additionally, anti-poverty policies aim to help citizens not fall prey to exploitation and poor financial decisions. However, in the end, these programs are not successful unless they receive proper implementation and maintenance.

The Problem with Some Anti-Global Poverty Policies

The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Gabriela Salvador, the Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean at AmeriCares; a health-focused poverty and disaster relief organization. Dr. Salvador argues that anti-global poverty policies fail because of a lack of understanding of the problems of individuals living in poverty, as well as a lack of proper implementation of such policies. Her emphasis on understanding the needs of the individual and their living situation stems from her firsthand experience with impoverished communities.

Salvador began her career as a pediatric eye surgeon in Mexico but soon realized that she was only scratching the tip of the iceberg with her work. She believed that it was too late for most of the serious cases and a lot of them could have experienced prevention to begin with. The lack of access to health care systems in impoverished communities blocked people from getting proper care in the first place, and thus, the cases she faced were much worse than they could have been.

Being one person alone, Salvador felt that she could make more of a difference by implementing programs to strengthen weak health care systems and provide relief to struggling communities. She returned to school to study global health and business to learn how to create effective and creative financial solutions to complicated health issues. With over five years of experience working in Latin America designing financially responsible health delivery programs, Salvador now creates and heads a wide variety of programs that include direct provision of services and emergency relief for natural and humanitarian crises.

Collaborating with Communities

Salvador believes that when stripped of religion and culture, the issues facing impoverished individuals are essentially the same globally. Salvador explains that although many programs have the best interest of their target community at heart, they often fail to recognize the barriers that prevent individuals from participating in them. For example, if a sexual health testing and medicine distribution clinic exists in an impoverished community, women may not utilize its resources because they have competing priorities such as child and elderly care, domestic abuse, lack of transportation and other domestic responsibilities. Additionally, Salvador explains that the programs that people launch and leave to work without experiencing proper integration into the local infrastructure of the community do not turn out to be very effective.

She finds that the most effective programs are those that emerge when local officials and professionals collaborate with international aid to understand how to overcome the barriers of individuals in the area. When approaching a new problem, Salvador explains that she first asks the client who the patients are and what their priorities are so that she can best tailor a treatment solution to them. Her goals in targeting global health issues are to generate pragmatic solutions that create direct benefit and resiliency in communities.

The Challenges of Implementing Anti-Poverty Programs

The implementation challenge of anti-poverty programs is clearly one of the biggest reasons why fighting global poverty is such a difficult issue. Connecting with impoverished individuals and identifying their barriers is difficult because of the lack of access to information about specific populations and the abundant funding it takes to collect that information. There is also the issue of choosing who gets the benefit of certain programs; incredibly tough decisions that Salvador cites as perhaps the hardest part of her job. Yet, there is still a way to try and understand the plight of impoverished individuals through human experience.

Salvador emphasizes empathy and an understanding of her privileges as key components of her job. She believes that people need to “roll up their sleeves” and do the work themselves since many are prone to entitlement.

In a 2018 study of Challenges to Global Development Education, researchers Buchanan and Varadharajan underlined the importance of community engagement and individual agency as well. The study also advised strategies that implement drawing attention to understanding the misinformation and closed-mindedness around social and political conditions of impoverished communities. Similar to Salvador, the study suggests creating partnerships between organizations and local communities as well as providing resources to create resilience as an effective way to alleviate poverty issues.

Concluding Thoughts

In the end, people must make an effort to understand more about creating and implementing effective solutions to fight global poverty. However, it is clear that no matter how well designed anti-poverty programs are, they cannot be truly effective unless the communities they are targeting are engaged in their creation and implementation processes.

Data collection and the continued monitoring and analysis of current anti-global poverty policies and programs are impertinent to the future understanding and implementation of successful programs as well. As Dr. Salvador stresses, it is important to remember that impoverished communities contain individuals who have unique problems and issues that may be difficult to understand and relate to. Open-mindedness and a willingness to empathize with and learn about diverse populations is key to creating effective anti-poverty programs. At this time, Salvador continues to combat the COVID-19 stigma and prioritize resiliency and relief as she mitigates the effects of the global downturn of the economy and health care systems due to the pandemic.

– Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the former Soviet Union
The Soviet Union, also known as the USSR, was a state including several socialist republics in Eurasia. The USSR formed in 1922 following the first successful communist revolution in world history. The Soviet Union disbanded in 1991 and resulted in the formation of 15 independent nations. Meanwhile, poverty in the former Soviet Union nations ensued.

Life Before the Collapse

The Soviet government in each of the republics aspired to equally distribute services and goods within the formal sector. However, gross inequality existed within the Soviet Union, which was similar to the amount of inequality that capitalist countries faced at the time. This inequality combined with shortages in labor and goods in the final years of the Soviet Union led many people to join the informal sector where people could not regulate distribution.

The government’s control over the centralized state dwindled. The structural frameworks were able to do just enough to keep most people out of poverty. However, the Soviet government signed itself out of existence in 1991. Millions of people fell below the poverty line overnight. Additionally, crime, corruption and unemployment became increasingly prominent.

One of the most foreign outcomes of the worsening economy was inequality. An oligarchic class quickly formed, as people made and lost fortunes seemingly out of nowhere.

Poverty Factors

Following the dissolution, market forces overwhelmed a state that had virtually no market involvement for almost 70 years. In addition, funding for government-provided services declined, which left many people without the resources to survive.

Social services that the government provided tended to be poor in quality in order to meet a universal standard. The framework inherited from the former Soviet government proved unsuitable for helping transitioning economies.

The Policies

Poverty in the former Soviet Union was most prominent in the working population. Several of the newly independent states used this to their advantage when making reforms. For example, a labor market reform that had a major impact was engaging the private sector in employment. As a result, the new governments introduced welfare-to-work programs to build self-sufficiency among the people. In addition, private companies were in competition with labor offices to find jobs for the unemployed.

These newly independent states also improved through reform to social benefits. As a result of decentralized government services, the demographics of a specific state or region received better-suited services. One of the most successful forms of social benefit reform was pairing conditional cash benefits with behaviors that encourage social mobility. This way, people could use the resources they received to specifically help their economic status.

The Results

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the soaring poverty rates have steadily declined. Around 40 million people escaped poverty from 1998 to 2003, although there is some disparity in growth between urban and rural areas as well as between different economic classes.

The nations continue to move from a centrally controlled state economy to a privatized economy. Economic growth has been most lucrative for helping people in the former Soviet Union escape poverty.

While poverty continues to be a widespread issue around the world, countries with transitioning economies can look to the new governments in the former Soviet Union. They are a framework for how the government can use its demographic strengths to promote economic benefit for the people.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Social movements in Argentina
There is a vibrant culture of using social movements in Argentina to achieve political change. In recent years, Argentines have created community movements that push change related to hunger, sanitation, gender equality, same-sex rights, psychosocial and emotional treatment reform and much more. Notorious social movements throughout the country’s history of political and economic hardship have led to transformative policies around poverty, inequity and inequality. Here are three notable social movements in Argentina that have fostered attention to human rights and political reform.

Mothers of The Plaza de Mayo and Demilitarization

Between 1976 and 1983, Argentina experienced a period referred to as the “dirty war,” which resulted from a highly-militarized junta ruling under President Jorge Rafael Videla. This militarized dictatorship imposed extreme violence, regular kidnappings and killings of Argentinian citizens. On 30 April 1977, 14 mothers of disappeared children took to the Plaza de Mayo, located directly outside the presidential palace, to protest both the mystery behind their children’s disappearances and state violence. These 14 mothers inspired Argentines with their bravery, encouraging many to speak up about personal sufferings at the hands of the standing government. Eventually, oppositional parties, leading labor groups and other community leaders overthrew this militarized system. Democracy returned in 1983 under elected President Raúl Alfonsín — a long-term result of the heroism of The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.

The Piquetero Movement

The 2001 Piquetero social movement in Argentina brought destructive neoliberal policies to an end. The neoliberal ideals of President De La Rúa threatened the rights of many Argentines suffering from systemic injustices. Many working-class Argentines lost jobs without governmental support, which rippled to affect local neighborhood living standards. Neoliberal policies perpetuated poor living conditions, unemployment and governmental neglect of basic human rights. Many Argentines had to demonstrate for their own lives.

Neoliberal policy oppressed the primary voices involved in this social movement in Argentina. These groups included the unemployed, labor unions and even middle-class workers. As the Piquetero protests broke out in December 2001, economic minister Domingo Cavallo and President De La Rúa both chose to resign. This allowed local communities to band together with newfound power. Solidarity, equality and equity of need-based opportunity were cultivated across classes, communities and neighborhoods, resulting in permanent, unionized local powers. In 2003, the president-elect of Argentina, Néstor Kirchner, rejected Argentina’s former neoliberal economic system. Still, he brought little reform to systematized social and economic issues within the country.

The Evita Movement

Named after former Argentine first lady Eva Perón, the Evita movement responded to vestigial aggressions of neoliberal economics. Eva Perón championed multiple labor and feminist movements during her husband’s 1946 presidency. Now, Perón is a popular culture idol within the country. Her values are the face of this social movement in Argentina, which fights for the redistribution of wealth and access to human rights.

The movement started in 2003 in support of President Kirchner’s plans for economic and social reform. Although President Kirchner did not reform systemic issues of oppression, the Evita movement is committed to addressing systemic poverty that resulted from Argentina’s debilitating period of neoliberalism. Inspired by Eva Perón’s ideals, the Evita movement works to redistribute wealth and power to people burdened by systemic violence.

Argentina is rich with a history of powerful unions, leaders and communities. With courage, the country has achieved full governmental renewal multiple times and worked to empower oppressed voices. The Argentinian population provides inspiration for social and political change across the globe.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Morocco
Social and political unrest often take the blame for rising poverty rates in the Arab world. However, unrest alone cannot explain why poverty in Morocco has continued to fall after the Arab Spring protests. It also cannot express why Egypt has seen a relative rise in poverty. However, it is possible to relate the reasons behind the countries’ two trajectories by examining the recent policies of each. Here are five reasons for Morocco’s falling poverty rate. Also included are a few reasons why the poverty rate is climbing in Egypt. This article will highlight the differences between poverty in Morocco and Egypt.

Reasons for Declining Poverty in Morocco

  1. Morocco announced the National Human Development Initiative Support Project (INDH) in 2005. The project had $1  billion budget and a five-year timeline to improve the living conditions of citizens, reduce poverty in Morocco  and assist the most vulnerable families. Unfortunately, much of the funds did not reach the most vulnerable. However, the share of its rural population in poverty that the project targeted was 32 percent while 28 percent of the targeted urban population was in poverty.
  2. Population growth has slowed.Fertility dropped from 5.5 to 2.3 children per adult woman during the past three decades, which settled the population growth rate to 1.7 percent. The result of reduced pressure on public services and better living standards overall occurred due to a changing population structure. Better access to education could be one cause.
  3. The Moroccan government invested in basic infrastructure programs.This included an expansion of the drinking water supply, the electricity network and the road system. In addition, social programs existed for decades that provided free education, access to health care and basic food commodities.
  4. Policymakers shifted from universal public spending to targeted public spending. Prior to this 1996 program designed jointly with the World Bank, policymakers allocated only 1 percent of Morocco’s GDP toward programs that target those living in poverty in Morocco. The Social Priority Program marked a shift from universal public spending to targeted public spending. The program focused on 14 of the poorest provinces with projects in basic education, job creation and social assistance.
  5. NGOs in local development helped people move out of poverty in Morocco. This benefitted the poor in areas such as  water and electricity management and literacy programs. Since a 2002 amendment that allowed NGOs to receive foreign funding, the number of NGOs increased to 40,000 over a period of two decades. Government officials have tolerated NGOs with the understanding that they stay out of local political issues. 

Egypt and the Rise of Poverty

In looking at some of the causes of the falling rate of poverty in Morocco, it is possible to compare it to other nearby countries, as well as examine what policies have not been working in said countries. Egypt is a country that has seen the opposite trend in its overall poverty rate, now climbing to 32.5 percent in 2018, up from 16.7 percent in 2000. However, it is not fair to say that the social and political situations of the countries are equivalent. Egypt faced the removal of two presidents within two years. Still, there are many parallels between the two countries that make a comparison relevant between poverty in Morocco and Egypt. 

Egypt has had a growth rate of 2.15 percent over the past three decades. To give some understanding of what this difference means, Morocco’s population would have been 36 million in 2010 if its growth rates were that of Egypt’s over the same period of timeIn 2010, Morocco’s population was only around 32 million. Providing better access to education may reduce the growth rate, as Egypt’s education system is underfunded and in need of reform.

Policies Impacting Poverty Rates in Egypt

  1. Economic Policies: In terms of economic policies, Egypt has taken a much different approach that has harmed the country’s poor in favor of macroeconomic improvement. It has slashed subsidies for essentials and fuel, a move that helped the government cut its enormous deficit but that has  hit the poor particularly hard. This is somewhat in contrast with the policies of Morocco as the government hiked prices on the essentials of drinking water and electricity. 
  2. NGOs: NGOs have not been able to operate freely due to a 2017 bill hampering their ability to provide social and developmental work. The detainment of many NGO workers has occurred because of their engagement in behavior that some see as morally upsetting.
  3. Infrastructure: Egypt has also invested in infrastructure projects like Morocco but primarily in the private sector. The result has had an insulating effect on the rich. The construction of gated communities and shopping malls continues while public schools and hospitals fall into disrepair. Areas often bulldoze slums and poor housing areas  in favor of upscale complexes that add to a growing housing crisis. 
  4. Floating the Currency: Perhaps the most damaging policy was the decision to float the currency in November 2016 in another effort to strengthen the economy. Prices went up and imports became particularly unaffordable for anyone outside of the upper class. The move occurred in order to secure a $12 billion IMF loan over a threeyear period.

The comparison between poverty in Morocco and Egypt has highlighted useful information about the best policies to eradicate poverty. Poverty in Morocco has decreased dramatically in the past three decades due to a few policies. The policy measures that Egypt has taken unsurprisingly show that slashing subsidies that benefit the poor have had a negative impact on poverty rates. Investing in infrastructure that benefits the poor, subsidizing basic needs and a lenient stance toward foreign NGOs are just a few policies that Arab governments and otherscould enact in order to achieve the results that Morocco has seen.

Caleb Steven Carr
Photo: Pixabay

Education in North Korea
North Korea is a prime example of a hermit kingdom and one of the last remaining communist states. The centralized ideology and oppressive domestic policy closed the society off from the rest of the world, shrouding itself with mystery. How is it possible for the Kim dynasty to maintain its ruling power for so long despite international skepticism? The answer may lie in the careful censorship and indoctrination of the education that shapes the minds of its citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Education in North Korea is free and mandatory until the secondary level. North Korea requires students to attend one year of preschool before enrolling in four years of primary school, known as “people’s school.” Depending on their specialties, the students will proceed to either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. The North Korean education curricula consist of subjects in both academic and political matters. Subjects such as the Korean language, physical education, mathematics and arts make up the majority of instruction in people’s school. North Korea devotes over 8 percent of instruction to the teaching of the “Great Kim Il Sung” and “Communist Morality.” The teaching of these political subjects comprises 5.8 percent of instruction when students get to senior middle schools.
  3. Education in North Korea has claimed the highest literacy rates in the world. There are statistics that claim that all North Koreans over 15 years of age have a 100 percent literacy rate. However, actual statistics might be lower.
  4. Children learn to love and believe in the godlike virtues of the ruling Kim family as early as kindergarten. By the age of 5, North Korean children devote two hours each week to learning about their leaders. By the time they get to secondary school, students spend six classes per week on the subject. The schools and textbooks often tell outlandish stories about the Kim family to deify them. For example, one story tells of how Kim Il-Sung made grenades with pinecones, bullets and sand. Another story tells of how Kim Il-Sung used teleportation when he annihilated the Japanese.
  5. A lot of education in North Korea is propaganda. The system indoctrinates citizens into the system and teaches them to idolize the Kim family as revolutionaries. Distortion of history is another means that the government uses to legitimize the dictatorial regime and accentuate the claims of North Korean greatness. With the careful censorship of outside information, it is not difficult for the regime to change contemporary Korean history or to glorify the Kim family.
  6. Admission to universities is selective and competitive in North Korea. Only students who receive recommendations from their instructors are able to continue their studies at the university level. To receive recommendations, the students must have good senior middle school grades, be from a desirable social class and show high loyalty to the party. Those without recommendations instead go to work in the farms or mines or join the military.
  7. Students start learning foreign languages in secondary school. The most common language is English and then Russian. As the government deems the textbooks from the United Kingdom and Russia as containing too much “dangerous” information, North Korea uses its own textbooks. However, the quality of education is poor as the textbooks have poor writing and include mistakes. Students learn phrases such as “Long live Great Leader Generalissimo Kim Il-sung” before “Hello, how are you?”
  8. Education in North Korea continues even for adults. In rural areas, North Korea organizes people into five-family teams. Schoolteachers or other intellectuals supervise the people for surveillance and educational purposes. Office and factory workers also have to attend study sessions after work each day for two hours. They have to study both technical and political subjects.
  9. North Korea has a special purpose school for children from the elite class and gifted children. Depending on their specialties, children enter one of the four types of schools for special purposes. These include the revolutionary school (also known as the elite school), schools for arts and sports, schools for foreign language and schools for science.
  10. Private tutors or other forms of paying for education in North Korea is technically illegal. The state only trusts itself to properly indoctrinate the young minds into the communist regime. However, since the famine in the 1990s, families have had to provide some type of payment for teachers in order for them to show up to work. This can involve paying money, providing firewood or helping teachers harvest crops. Tutoring has evolved within the grey economy of North Korea as a means for state-school teachers to make ends meet. The regime is willing to turn a blind eye as long as the teachers are not too ostentatious about it.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea shows the important role of education in indoctrinating citizens and instilling in them unconditional loyalty to the regime. As long as education in North Korea continues to be this way, it is likely that the nation will continue to suffer from the tyranny and suppression from its great leaders.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

foreign policy platforms
As the United States approaches 2020, the fight amongst the democratic presidential candidates to secure the primary is heating up. The foreign policy platform of these candidates is an important consideration moving forward. Although there is still plenty of time, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have taken a significant lead. After the first round of debates, approximately 70 percent of polled voters favored one of these four candidates.

Here is what foreign policy would look like under Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris:

Joe Biden

Joe Biden, the Vice President of Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, has extensive experience with foreign policy, arguably the most out of any presidential candidate. His foreign policy platform focuses on foreign aid investment and diplomacy, which he believes will best achieve the goals of creating a stable global economy, promoting human rights and democracy and advancing the United States’ national security interests. During his time as Vice President, Biden helped create the Feed the Future initiative—a government-funded program to end global hunger and promote food security in order to encourage development in impoverished countries. Biden has also discussed the importance of investing foreign aid in Central America because, according to Biden, “the most significant and urgent challenges for the Western Hemisphere” relates to the poverty and violence that exists in Central America. For that reason, Biden wants to invest in Central America in order to promote security and stability. Since stability is one of Biden’s primary goals, Biden plans to host a global summit in his first year as President. His main goal for this summit would be to promote human rights and combat corruption. Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policy platform rests on the goal of bringing nations together to promote the values of democracy.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy goals revolve around promoting international cooperation in order to address global issues and promote universal interests. The main issue that Sanders has run on is addressing environmental issues. Sanders not only believes that the U.S. must significantly reduce its carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy, but also that the U.S. must assist the developing world in achieving environmental and economic sustainability. When discussing environmental initiatives, Sanders stated, “The United States should lead the international community in funding technology development and deployment solutions for the most vulnerable developing countries as part of any international agreement.” In addition to these environmental issues, Sanders has greatly committed to promoting the health and wellbeing of the developing world. For instance, Sanders helped write a letter to Obama in 2015 supporting the United Nations Population Fund—a multilateral fund that promotes family planning and reproductive health services in more than 150 countries. Additionally, Sanders has supported initiatives to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. He has also supported funding to combat AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis and opposed an initiative that would have reduced appropriations for foreign assistance programs. In short, Sanders’ foreign policy platform is based on the promotion of human solidarity.

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running on the campaign, Diplomacy First. Warren plans to promote diplomacy by expanding the State Department, doubling the size of the foreign service and opening new diplomatic posts in under-served areas. Warren also plans to double the size of the Peace Corps in order to “[expose] young people to the world and [create] a direct employment pipeline to future government service.” Ultimately, Warren’s main foreign policy goal is to improve relationships with the rest of the world. She not only hopes to achieve this goal by increasing diplomacy but also by increasing foreign aid spending. For instance, Warren and other female senators advocated for increased humanitarian action in order to empower women and girls in Syria in 2015. That same year, Warren, like Sanders, helped draft a letter to former President Obama to promote safe abortions for women and girls in conflict-affected regions. More recently, Warren petitioned for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to address the Humanitarian Crisis occurring in Gaza and for President Trump to withhold cutting aid to Palestinian people. Overall, Warren’s motive for increasing foreign aid spending and promoting a greater role for the State Department is to reduce the United States’ reliance on military might in order to create allies with other countries and better address global concerns, such as cybersecurity and environmental issues.

Kamala Harris

Similar to Warren, Senator Kamala Harris’ foreign policy platform centers around diplomacy. Harris believes that smart diplomacy can advance the national interest and address global issues, such as terrorism, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, environmental issues and health threats like Ebola. Before becoming a Senator, Harris was the Attorney General of California. One of the main accomplishments Harris is campaigning on is her work to help terminate human trafficking rings and dismantle transnational criminal organizations in order to increase women’s safety and prevent drugs and guns from entering the country. Through this work, Harris has also strengthened relations with Mexico. However, compared to the other three candidates, Harris does not have considerable experience with foreign policy or diplomacy that goes beyond U.S.-Mexico relations. In fact, the initiatives that she has focused on in her campaign and on her campaign website are almost entirely domestic issues. Nevertheless, Harris has stated that as President, she would prioritize promoting female empowerment and creating lasting peace throughout the world.

Although each candidate’s foreign policy platform has a slightly different focus, all four candidates advocate for improved international relations through increased diplomacy and foreign aid spending. These foreign policies are in direct opposition to President Trump’s America First initiative that would reduce foreign aid spending and limit the role of the State Department. Although this foreign policy plan may seem to promote an America First mindset in the short term, diplomacy and strong allies are ultimately what is in the country’s best interest long term.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: PBS

MIT's J-PAL LabOn a busy street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an unassuming brick building houses the North American headquarters of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Inside MIT’s J-PAL Lab, researchers analyze the results of randomly-designed experiments and the generalizability of their findings. Their test subjects? Social programs.

J-PAL and its Research

Anti-poverty work can take many forms: vocational training, credit access, education and the list goes on. Programs of various types can be valuable and worth funding, but because donors and organizations have limited amounts of funding, the relevant question is often not whether to support anti-poverty work, but how to support it. What programs are making the biggest difference? Where will a donation do the most good?

J-PAL co-founder Abhijit Banerjee puts it best in an interview with The Wire: “you have to basically focus on: where is the lever? That’s what we do, try to help find the lever, and then if you push the lever you go fast. But what [policy-makers] do is often… just hit everything and then some things hit the lever, some things hit the wall.” The strategy of “hitting anything” is certainly not useless, but to maximize impact, a person should concentrate on the mechanisms that maximize impact. J-PAL’s work is in locating the policy levers that will make a difference and encouraging policy-makers to use them.

MIT professors Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan founded J-PAL in 2003 and it has grown quickly. As of 2019, J-PAL has a network of 181 affiliated professors around the world. A truly global organization, J-PAL has offices in Capetown, South Africa; Paris, France; Santiago, Chile; New Delhi, India; and Jakarta, India. J-PAL’s work focuses on researching the results of different cases of anti-poverty action to evaluate what is most effective and advise policymakers accordingly, and educating people about how and when to evaluate social programs.

J-PAL’s Approach

At its base, J-PAL’s approach is simple. Any case of policy-making has results, and by tracking actions and results in a large number of cases, one can determine which are successful and which are not, and therefore which to support in order to produce a maximum impact. Using this data, one can also attempt to predict the policies whose results could potentially be reproduced elsewhere. J-PAL’s methods also emphasize focusing on the mechanisms behind policies and not on specific details of a single scenario. Particular details vary from case to case, but human behavior does show certain patterns; in similar circumstances, policies that have worked before can work again.

J-PAL and its affiliated professors have performed over 900 evaluations and have developed a selection of case studies and other teaching resources to educate people about the analysis of social programs. Every year, J-PAL runs Evaluating Social Programs, a five-day course for policymakers, researchers and nonprofit workers that covers the basics of organizing scientifically sound evaluations and interpreting their results. Close to 50 people attended the 2018 course, which took place at MIT. J-PAL has also made the content of the course available online for free through the online education platform edX, allowing people around the globe to learn from J-PAL’s work. The case studies discussed in the course are also available on J-PAL’s website.

Moving Forward

MIT’s J-PAL Lab has encouraged the scaling up of policies ranging from remedial education in India, deworming in Kenya and community block grants in Indonesia. It also continues to study policy and advocate for effective social policies. The training that it provides for policy-makers allows them to maximize their impact in an economically efficient way. As J-PAL continues to grow, its affiliates will continue to find those levers.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Flickr

India's Center for Policy ResearchEstablished in 1973, the Center for Policy Research (CPR) is a non-partisan nonprofit think tank designed to produce better public policy that shapes Indian life. Its unique team draws from a diverse set of occupational backgrounds to confront social issues with a multi-dimensional lens. Some highlights include Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate for the Supreme Court of India; Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, former Indian ambassador to the EU and well-known historian and Vinita Bali, former CEO of Britannia Industries Ltd.

India’s Center for Policy Research, located in the heart of Delhi, divides its research into five main categories:

  1. Economic policy
  2. Environmental law and governance
  3. International relations and security
  4. Law regulation and the state
  5. Urbanization.

The following will breakdown these subgroups in an attempt to decipher just exactly what the organization supports.

Economic Policy

The think tank recognizes the necessity for growth and productivity for the maintenance of a healthy economy. What makes it stellar is its commitment to equity

For example, one of their most recent projects involves the analysis of India’s “Special Economic Zones” and who truly benefits from their implementation. The organization’s non-partisan and nonprofit approach liberates them from the bias of special interest groups that oftentimes heavily influence the outcomes of these “case studies.”

These sentiments are echoed in another of the group’s economic policy projects. It is a campaign to officially define the characteristics of the country’s middle class. This could serve as a critical step in enhancing the rights of millions of Indian citizens.

Environmental Law and Governance

The goal of India’s Center for Policy Research is to establish a clean and sustainable environment. To address this, the group focuses their programs on pivotal topics such as Delhi’s air pollution, water use in rainfed agriculture, overall water policy and state action plans on environment sustainability.

International Relations and Security

The CPR’s international relations and security division is more in tune with typical slants on the subject than the other divisions. But, it still has some standout components. In the quest to understand India’s past and present role in the shifting global order, the think tank vows to research international relations from traditional and alternative perspectives. This aspect is very important as it deviates from the usual one-dimensional historical viewpoint.

Law, Regulation and the State

This sector of the CPR delivers a sort of institutional examination of the country of India. The purpose is to identify the relationship between laws, institutions and Indian life. It consciously aims to figure out the implications of these entities on basic rights such as land and intellectual property.

This category unites the others to land rights and dialogues on Indian politics. The hallmark project in this section is labeled “Balancing Religious Accommodation and Human Rights in Constitutional Frameworks.” This project is especially important because it targets issues with the country’s constitution that suppress rights, providing a direct opportunity to rework the country’s unequal beginnings.

Urbanization

This final subset is focuses on the rapid effects of urbanization currently taking place in India. The process of urbanization comes with a range of different challenges such as personal issues with governance and citizenship, to material issues regarding infrastructure. Because of this, urbanization holds a very multifaceted array of projects. These aim to work in unison to uncover the connection with urbanization and its effect on how people engage with the state.

Overall, India’s Center for Policy Research is tackling many different issues and challenges that India faces today. If it helps enact effective policies in its five focused areas, it could help boost India’s already growing economy and even eliminate its national poverty.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation ProgramChina has contributed to more than 70 percent of poverty reduced globally, making it one of the countries with most people lifted out of poverty in the past four decades. China has also recently become one of the leading nations in poverty reduction efforts by implementing a poverty alleviation program. Here are five facts about China’s poverty alleviation program.

Five Facts About China’s Poverty Alleviation Program

  1. Main Goals: China’s main goals for this program are to address issues such as food security and clothing, compulsory education, basic medical care and housing. It wants to solve these issues by 2020. Additionally, by 2020 it wants to have a zero percent poverty rate in rural areas. Furthermore, the government wants to increase the income growth rate for farmers while also solving the regional poverty problem.
  2. Implementation of the Program: In order to achieve its goals, the government has focused on developing the economy through local industries, combating corruption within the poverty alleviation efforts and making changes to the education and healthcare systems as well. The Chinese government has registered the poor population in order to target the specific regions that need help the most while also tracking the progress being made. By targeting specific regions and having the entire poor population registered, the Chinese government can provide assistance to certain households or individuals. There are five parts of the poverty alleviation program which are being implemented to raise more people out of poverty and those are industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security.
  3. Progress being made thus far:  As of 2019, more than “700 million people have been lifted out of poverty” according to the country’s national poverty line of $1.10 a day, which is more than 70 percent of the world’s poverty reduction efforts. When using the poverty line of $1.90 a day more than 850 million people have been lifted out of poverty between the years of 1981 and 2013. In 2016, more than 775,000 officials were sent out to different rural areas within the country in order to further development and aid the poor-stricken people living in the less-developed parts of China. This has proven successful given that, after this tactic was employed, the population living in rural areas that were still affected by poverty dropped to 30.46 million people. Additionally, the poverty incidence was also reduced to 3.1 percent. Although great progress has been made far ahead of the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, China must still raise an additional 10 million people out of poverty in order to reach its 2020 goals of zero percent poverty.
  4. Citizens’ living conditions: China has worked closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to improve its citizens’ living conditions. It has done this by providing a better social security and welfare program which covers unemployment, pension, medical care, employment injury and maternity for urban employees. Additionally, this program includes what is known as the “Dibao,” the minimum living guarantee program, which ensures that even the poorest residents in either urban or rural areas would be supported by the government.
  5. Global impact: China’s poverty alleviation program is not only a domestic policy but also an international policy. It has benefitted many developing countries around the world. The Chinese government has provided about 400 billion yuan ($59 billion) in aid, which has benefitted 166 countries and international organizations. Additionally, more than 600,000 aid workers were sent overseas to contribute to the poverty-reduction efforts. China has also pledged $2 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation in order to support developing countries to reach the U.N.’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

As a result of China’s poverty alleviation program, people countrywide are overcoming the challenges of poverty. Not only is the percentage of poverty globally declining because of China’s efforts but people are also thriving. China is the only country worldwide to have improved its citizens’ living conditions to such an extent in such a short period of time.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr