Information and news about politics.

How Political Polarization Affects Foreign Aid 
Political polarization refers to the divergence of political attitudes toward ideological extremes. In simple terms, people are becoming more divided in their views and tending more toward far-right or far-left views, creating vast ideological distances between opposing political individuals. This results in overall less agreement among those of differing political beliefs. However, this may not be the only result of increasing polarization.

Consequently, viewpoints are increasingly becoming more singular, allowing prevalent issues in society to be turned monochrome. This has especially been exacerbated in political discourse surrounding issues with a strong moral component, which cannot be quantified by numbers or data. For example, the issue of foreign aid could be considered to have a high level of subjectivity, as there is no correct answer to how much foreign assistance ‘should’ be provided.

The Impact on Global Poverty

Studies have previously shown that high levels of political polarization can lead to a delay in the legislative process and that a divided government can critically slow the policymaking process. Research has uncovered how polarization can delay the legislative process by “60 days, on average,” a significant duration of time for which many issues cannot wait.

A delay in the legislative process will inevitably hinder decisions made regarding U.S. public policy, including foreign policy and aid measures. Furthermore, polarization can impact policy on an international scale, affecting international cooperation. This could be detrimental to recipient countries, leading to the neglect of those who are most in need.

Poverty Reduction Abroad, Impacts at Home

Addressing global poverty has benefits for domestic donors such as the U.S., including improvements to the economy, job creation and reinforcing national security. Reductions in global poverty mean that, on aggregate, fewer people will be living below the poverty line. Thus, their overall disposable income will be higher. Higher demand accompanies higher incomes. Therefore, consumption is likely to increase, which can increase global demand. Domestic markets will be able to reap the benefits of this increased demand, and additional job creation may occur. This can generate an incentive for addressing global poverty.

Fostering international relationships is yet another benefit of foreign aid. Providing assistance to other nations encourages international cooperation and may be a preventative measure against future conflict. National security grows stronger as alliances between nations are fostered. This provides another incentive for foreign aid.

Foreign aid given by the U.S. has already made a massive impact on global poverty reduction efforts. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program tackling HIV in Africa, prevented many deaths that would have likely otherwise occurred due to the disease’s high mortality rates. Other aid programs have included alleviating famine in India, which, in addition to helping the Indian population, also spurred development in the agricultural industry. This resulted in better production techniques and higher yields. The military aid provided to many South American countries from the 1980s has accelerated the clamp-down on illegal substances, both for the U.S. and other nations, decreasing the global supply of drugs. Foreign aid plays a critical role in combating poverty, and, as demonstrated, has beneficial effects for all.

Individual Action

While the U.S. is numerically the largest contributor to overseas aid, when taking into account the per capita figure, the U.S. ranks significantly lower than other countries overall. Considering the vast size and GDP of the U.S., more could certainly be done in terms of providing foreign assistance.

Now more than ever, individual action is key in expediting the legislative process. Putting pressure on political leaders can be done in different forms, through emailing, calling, writing letters and much more. This is critical in obliging leaders to put foreign poverty reduction at the forefront of their agenda, and overcoming the delay created by intensifying polarization, in order to achieve a successful eradication of global poverty.

Solutions to Polarization

While polarization is a very real and worsening issue, it is more of a psychological phenomenon than a concrete issue. This makes any form of solution difficult to enact. Reducing prejudice and intolerance between different groups is key to becoming more open-minded. This can be facilitated through encouraging more contact and discussion between opposing groups. Encouraging open debate and analyzing alternative perspectives is helpful in avoiding polarization. This will ultimately be the key to mitigating the legislative time delays and other negative impacts of political polarization.

– Hannah Bugeja
Photo: Flickr

Local Journalism Fights PovertyJournalism has historically played a vital role in combatting corruption, amplifying marginalized voices, educating the public and fostering community cohesion. However, the advent of technology has led to a significant decline in local journalism, despite its critical importance. Local journalism combats poverty in a unique yet indispensable manner, whether by giving voice to communities, addressing information gaps or exposing corruption.

Information Poverty

Though local journalism doesn’t provide much economic relief, it can provide poor communities with many other benefits to help reduce poverty. People from low-income areas do not have the financial power to spend on subscriptions or internet access and are thus less likely to vote in elections. Local journalism fights poverty via political engagement through information as communities are given access to local government policies to ensure they make informed decisions and are thus empowered.

Local journalism also raises awareness and informs people about poverty-related issues in their area, where people can then challenge and pressure leaders to resolve issues such as health care access and hunger. Communities are then equipped with the power to continuously challenge leaders with the help of local journalists.

Empowering Change and Vocalizing Communities

By equipping people in poor communities with knowledge and education through local media, journalism helps individuals use their voices to empower change and question authoritative figures. This is especially helpful for women and children who are often disregarded. They can highlight their experiences, challenges and achievements in local stories. Local journalism provides a platform for everyone to speak up about issues and advocate for change.

Local journalism fights poverty by creating a space for discussion, which can allow community members to share their ideas and solutions. It fosters a sense of togetherness and trust when people’s voices are heard. Local journalism offers inspiration, where women or children see their experiences portrayed in local news. When people aren’t afraid to speak, it prevents the rise of inequality and corruption.

Accountability and Contesting Corruption

Corruption’s impact on poverty can be likened to a spreading ailment. While corruption itself doesn’t directly cause poverty, it does have significant repercussions on economic and governance factors, acting as an intermediary that exacerbates poverty.

Corruption erodes governments’ institutional capacity to provide quality public services, leading to a decline in public infrastructure quality. Consequently, public resources get diverted for private gains.

Thankfully, local journalism plays a pivotal role in combating corruption, particularly in low-income communities. Local journalism serves as a watchdog, sounding the alarm when something appears amiss. Local journalists investigate both corporate and governmental wrongdoings, shedding light on these issues for the public to see and act upon.

According to a paper by University of Illinois researchers Nikki Usher and Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell, “When local journalism declines in a geographically specific area, we expect to see decreases in federal prosecutions for public corruption in that area.” The importance of local journalism in corruption is unmatched. People in power are constantly monitored by watchdogs and investigative journalists, and whistleblowers can safely reveal information that is illegal or unsafe.

Challenges and Opportunities

In the age of digital media, local journalism has been on a steady decline. Many local media struggle financially as the transition from print to digital has made advertising and marketing more favorable digitally, as advertisements can be specifically targeted to a specific audience demographic. Attracting advertising revenues in the highly competitive online environment has proven equally difficult.

Local journalism requires funding for staff, equipment and the like. It is seen as more of an investment rather than a financial burden due to its many benefits. However, for poor communities, this financial cost may not warrant its investment.

Local journalism has the opportunity to change the political scene by giving the people in poor communities more power. This is achieved through monitoring powerful local figures to avoid corruption, educating and informing the public of poverty-related issues in the area and via empowerment, by giving people a right to speak and discuss.

The digital era of journalism has undeniably facilitated the spread of misinformation, but it has also made news more accessible than ever. Implementing appropriate safeguards can ensure that even underserved communities have greater access to reliable journalism in today’s interconnected world.

– Lewis Butcher
Photo: Pexels

Protests in Belarus
Often considered the last dictator of Europe, Alexander Lukashenko has been the autocratic leader of Belarus since 1994. After Belarus split from the Soviet Union, it prospered better than most other Soviet republics. Lukashenko effectively tackled extreme poverty. But Belarus’s economy suffered due to its reluctance to privatize and its reliance on Russian subsidies. However, lawmakers are apathetic of the wellbeing of the majority due to corruption. In response, tens of thousands of citizens, unhappy with the current systems, participated in protests in Belarus. Protesters demanded the current leader step down and allow for free and fair elections.

Poverty in Belarus

Despite suffering the economic effects after 1991, Belarus has made leaps in poverty reduction from 2003 to 2013. As of 2018, the poverty rate is at 5.6%, compared to 41.9% in 2000. However, much of the market is dependent on Russian energy, so recent subsidy slashes and rising gas prices jeopardize the Belarusian economy. Additionally, since the days of Soviet power, few free-market reforms have worked in the economy, hindering growth.

Although Belarus’s poverty rate is decreasing, the median income remains low and stagnant for the majority of the population. The average Belarusian adult possesses a wealth of about $1,500, lower than a Kenyan or Nepalese citizen. Nearly 10,000 experience food insecurity and social protection programs are ineffective. Unemployment relief is only around $12 to $24 and less than 10% of unemployed individuals receive these benefits.

Further, inequality in Belarus continues to rise. Authorities have shifted the effects of the economic crisis away from the wealthiest to ordinary people through policies, such as higher taxes and a raised retirement age. Many wealthy people have managed to avoid taxes altogether. To exacerbate the issue, 10% to 25% of employed Belarusians work in a shadow economy, meaning the state is unable to accurately track sales and loses tax revenue. In response, Belarus has attempted to create unemployment taxes, causing an uproar. However, authorities are dismissive of the people’s requests, believing Belarus’s autocratic system shields them from consequence.

Citizen Response

In response to the corruption and subsequent poverty in Belarus, upwards of 100,000 people have taken to the streets in massive protests and walkouts. They have been demonstrating outside Lukashenko’s palace for weeks, demanding he steps down. They claim that the August 2020 election was rigged in favor of long-time president Lukashenko with an 80% win despite an approval rate of only 24%.

Initially, the protests in Belarus were met with violent crackdowns. Riot police injured hundreds of people while using stun guns, rubber bullets and water cannons. During these protests in Belarus, the police arrested thousands. The government also silenced the news and social media sites. NGO investigations obtained evidence of detained citizens being beaten and harassed, which violates international law. Pressure from many of these NGOs and international governments has caused violence to stall, but Lukashenko has not yet acquiesced to protester’s demands.

Support for Belarusians

Following the violent response to protests in Belarus, volunteers worked to provide aid to the protesters. Many protesters fear going to hospitals for treatment because police have confiscated vital supplies and arrested doctors for helping protesters. In response, travel agent Anna Koval turned her office into a refuge for injured protesters. She and her group have also sent doctors directly to the homes of injured protesters for treatment and collaborated with the Red Cross to distribute humanitarian aid from hospitals to people in jail.

Internationally, 17 NGOs have called for a special meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging for an investigation into the violence against Belarusian protesters and detained citizens. One Dutch NGO has even begun sending aid in the form of BitCoin to the Belarus protests. It is hoping to create a new economy for those stuck in poverty.

In the U.S., Resolution 658, which recognizes Lukashenko’s dictatorship in the region and urges for free and fair elections, was affirmed in the Senate. Targeted sanctions have been active since 2004, and the U.S. continues to provide aid in the form of private sector development and democratic cultivation within the region.

Since its departure from the Soviet Union, Belarus has struggled with the creation of a stable economy and a fair political system. However, it has still made major advancements across the board. There is no reason to believe the people will struggle forever. The firm resolve of Belarusians to fight for their freedoms and well-being, with assistance from the international community will hopefully lead to major reforms that will benefit future citizens.

– Elizabeth Lee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Singapore
Despite the enormous wealth present in Singapore, poverty is also a pressing issue within the nation. With the lack of a minimum wage, there is no guarantee that Singaporean citizens have the opportunity to make enough to live on. Leaders within the country, however, are bringing the issue to the forefront of the national conversation. Poverty in Singapore increased by 43.45% in just three years, from 2012 to 2015. Poverty affects the elderly the most, with their rates increasing 74.32% within the same time period. This rapid increase has spurred government officials to address the issue. Various government policies, such as the lack of a minimum wage and restrictions on the withdrawal of retirement money, often receive critiques as possible causes of the growing problem of poverty in Singapore.

PSP Talk

The Progress Singapore Party is a major national political group, that describes itself as the ‘party for the people.’ It supports increased attention toward rising poverty rates. The party’s rhetoric largely focuses on fighting for all Singaporeans, not just elite classes that possess money and power. The party hosted a talk series, PSP Talk, in September 2019 to highlight pressing issues and direct the national conversation. Poverty in Singapore was one of the major topics of discussion during the event. Yeoh Lam Keong, the former chief economist at GIC Private Limited, spoke at the talk series, notably proposing several poverty reforms based on the findings from his research. Keong took the opportunity to emphasize the severity of poverty in Singapore.

“To my shock and horror, I [realized] that the position of the poor in [Singapore] was much worse and much more awful than I [could] imagine,” said Keong about his research.

PSP Talk opened up an opportunity for education and reflection on Singapore’s relationship with poverty and welfare reform. Keong defined three classes of poverty in his presentation– the elderly poor, the working poor and the unemployed poor– to establish an academic understanding of the situation in Singapore. He went on to explain his research-based policy initiatives, which the government could enforce to support its impoverished citizens. Keong’s initiatives included raising funding for the Workfare Income Supplement and Silver Support Scheme, programs that provide funds to those in need, by $500-$600 a month. He argued that this was a fiscally achievable action that would aid the suffering populations of the poor and elderly. Since Keong’s presentation on these policy reforms, the Singaporean government has set up expansions to the Silver Support Scheme. In January 2021, the program will expand its qualifying criteria and increase quarterly payouts by 20%.

Party member Secretary-General Tan Cheng Bok also spoke at the event. Dr. Tan made a public commitment to understanding the complexities of poverty in the nation and working to create solutions. He continued to support this assertion in July 2020 while campaigning for the General Election, pushing voters to elect representatives who ask the “right questions,” and value trust and transparency. After a narrow defeat, Dr. Tan vowed to continue to serve the people on these issues.

Looking Forward

PSP Talk represents a promising step toward addressing the growing rate of poverty in Singapore. The Progress Singapore Party’s decision to highlight poverty at this gathering of academics and national leaders suggests a new focus for Singapore’s government. The party continues to push for increased influence within the government while holding the current elected officials accountable for the needs of all Singaporean citizens.

– Riya Kohli
Photo: Flickr

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan
Presidential candidate Julián Castro has introduced many policies that he would implement during his presidency revolving around protecting indigenous communities, policing and education reform. One of the most pressing policies that Castro proposed revolves around immigration. With a three-part plan, Julián Castro is attempting to create an immigration policy that focuses on reforming the system altogether. However, one of the more ambitious parts of the plan deals with something he has coined as a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan could be a major step in solving immigration issues in both the United States and Central America.

Meet Julián Castro

Castro is no stranger to the world of politics. At a young age, he watched his mother run for San Antonio’s city council as the first woman of Mexican descent to do so. He learned the values of hard work and dedication from both his mother and his grandmother, who was an immigrant from Mexico that started her family with a fourth-grade education and a job as a housekeeper.

However, Julián Castro’s political career did not start when he decided to run in the 2020 presidential election. At age 26, he entered the San Antonio city council. Not only did he make history as the youngest councilman elected in the city, but he began his path to public service that would result in him becoming mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and then the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Along the way, he even became the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

The Original Marshall Plan

In 1948, Europe had severly damaged infrastructure. World War II caused strain to Europe’s economies and disrupted agricultural production. To alleviate this issue, George C. Marshall created a plan to give roughly $15 billion to European countries. These countries used the money to rebuild cities and various economic industries for four years. In the process, these European countries and the U.S. created trade opportunities and development programs. The plan created substantial results across the continent. Industrial and agricultural production increased by over 37 percent and the overall balance of trade and economic stability improved as well.

The Marshall Plan differed from other aid programs during the time because it was a joint effort between many nations. The United States created the funding and programs that could benefit Europe, and the nations committed to implementing these programs. This plan benefitted Europe’s economic growth and reestablished the United States’ influence in the region after the war.

The Marshall Plan was also a way to test various programs concerning development and relief efforts. For example, the Economic Cooperation Administration’s model, designed to provide financial assistance to these European nations, was a model to create the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Overall, the 20th century Marshall Plan was a major step in development programs that helped Europe drastically.

A Plan for Central America

In an NPR podcast, Castro describes the importance of working to rebuild Central America for multiple reasons. For one, it helps create stronger relationships with the U.S.’s neighbors to the south. By creating an alliance with these countries, the U.S. can continue being an economic competitor with China, which is on track to pass the U.S. in becoming the largest economy in the world by 2030.

Along with the economic benefits of strengthening a region with potential trade partnership, the second major reason for assisting Central America is immigration issues. Castro states that “…if we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause…and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America.”

Central America is a region where large numbers leave to seek asylum from violence and corrupt governmental institutions. By 2015, nearly 3.4 million people born in Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) were living in the U.S., with over half being undocumented immigrants.

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan would firstly target some of the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle such as transnational criminal organizations and illicit networks. According to Castro, an increase in law enforcement programs would help eliminate criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking. Also, this plan would require a heavier focus on anti-corruption and government transparency practices. With the cooperation of leaders in Central America and the United States’ resources, the high rates of violence in the region can decrease and create safer environments and sustainable governments less susceptible to corruption.

His policy also provides more funding for programs designed to prevent violence at local levels, create jobs and support health and nutrition across Central America. By stimulating economic development through more sustainable jobs, it allows people to stay and grow their communities rather than leaving them to find better success in the United States.

The final major point that this candidate emphasizes is the importance of prioritizing diplomatic relations with Latin American countries. To ease the instability in this region, all nations have to become part of this plan. Cooperation between these nations and the United States will ultimately be the major stepping stone to creating safe and sustainable communities.

This major foreign policy proposal would only be one component of his push to tackle immigration, but his message stands clear throughout his campaign. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan intends to put people first, and for millions of people living in Central America, that is something they can begin hoping for in 2020.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

George WashingtonGeorge Washington is infamously known for his role as general of the Revolutionary War and for being the first president of the United States. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about George Washington. They reveal his efforts to ease international tensions and address the global issues of his time.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About George Washington

  1. He Believed in Neutrality – Much of Washington’s presidency was spent dealing with the ongoing tensions between Great Britain and France. Washington’s strategy for addressing this issue was to appear neutral. Washington tried not to take a side in this feud. Instead, he focused on the importance of strengthening U.S. foreign relations. Washington sent John Jay to Great Britain, which resulted in The Jay Treaty of 1794. The treaty strengthened trade relations with Great Britain and cleared the U.S. of war debts.
  2. He Wanted Humane Treatment for Prisoners –Washington set the standard for treatment of U.S. prisoners. In the Battle of New York, Washington witnessed British troops slaughter captured American soldiers. At the Battle of Trenton, where U.S. forces captured Hessian mercenaries, Washington had the chance to punish them in the same manner. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to treat the Hessians humanely. U.S. troops risked their lives to safely escort these prisoners across the Delaware River.
  3. He was Health Conscious – Washington was always very health-conscious. The deadliest disease of Washington’s time was smallpox, an illness that Washington found deadlier than “the Sword of the enemy.” When he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, he had all new soldiers inoculated for smallpox.
  4. He Played a Big Role in Establishing the Government – Part of Washington’s role as the nation’s first president was unifying the country. Washington acted swiftly and established the first United States Cabinet to advise him. He also played an integral part in the implementation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, which guarantees rights to the American people.
  5. He Hated Slavery –Washington was firmly against the slave trade and put an end to the practice at Mt. Vernon. The former president then tried to ease the burden on his slaves by selling off mass parcels of land and change crops to diminish his need for intense human labor. Washington received little interest in his land, but he was finally able to legally release his slaves upon his death and the death of his wife.
  6. He Valued Religious Freedom – Washington did not want people to be persecuted against on the basis of faith and was a firm believer in religious freedom. America was to be a sanctuary for all people of all religious backgrounds. Washington fought for this belief, and helped establish freedom of religion during his presidency.
  7. He Supported Immigration – Washington was a staunch supporter of immigration. He believed that “America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.” Washington passed the Naturalization Act of 1790. This law welcomed people of “good character” to immigrate into the U.S.
  8. He Lived by a Strict Code of Morality – George Washington was admired for his unfailing sense of morality. As General of U.S. forces, Washington pushed his men to be not only good soldiers but also good men. Washington’s most infamous moral act is perhaps when he refused to serve a third term as president because he believed no man should hold too much power.
  9. He Addressed Hostile Relations with Native Americans – After the American Revolution, many Native Americans still held resentment towards the U.S. Washington sought to address this resentment by signing the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty put an end to the ongoing Indian Wars. The treaty granted two-thirds of the territory from the Ohio River and Lake Erie to the U.S. In exchange, Native Americans received utensils, clothing and animals.
  10. He Eased Tensions with Spain – In early America, there were ongoing problems between Spain and the U.S. due to the Spanish occupation of New Orleans. Spain denied the U.S. access to the Mississippi River in an attempt to thwart trade. To resolve this issue, Washington signed Pinckney’s Treaty. The treaty allowed for the U.S. to sail ships on the Mississippi and for duty-free transport.

Why These Facts About George Washington Are Important

These facts reveal that, although known for being the face of the American Revolution, Washington was also an advocate of diplomacy. He spent the majority of his presidency trying to find diplomatic solutions to international conflicts. They also display his concerns with basic human issues such as morality, religious freedom and health. Washington spent his entire life trying to promote the importance of these issues, yet his efforts are often unheard of. These top 10 interesting facts about George Washington are important because they shed light onto the incredible efforts of America’s first president to fight for the causes he believed in.

Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Afghan Journalists
In some of the world’s most vulnerable regions, journalists face prominent hurdles as they fight for their freedom of expression, an integral right preserved by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Sans Frontières has been taking action in protecting the liberties of journalists, specifically female ones, and their freedom of speech so as to combat the threat of violence against journalists in Afghanistan.

In March 2017, the organization opened the “Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists,” while in November, it held a training and advocacy visit to support safety within the field. Facing intimidation from the Taliban, as well as social pressures, women reporters encounter many obstacles in their pursuit of the truth, making such efforts essential.

Reporters Sans Frontières

In 1985, Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF, was founded by four journalists in Montpellier, France with the intention of defending freedom of information and investigating violations across the globe. RSF has written to authorities and challenged governments that have put these rights in jeopardy, as well as supported journalists who have been imprisoned or exiled.

The non-governmental organization aims to construct pluralistic political systems and champion the right to seek factual material without hindrance; interestingly, the group also promotes the presence of watchdogs that have the ability to question corrupt authority.

RSF and the Media

Among other activities, RSF provides press releases about media freedoms in a variety of languages, generates awareness campaigns, and offers assistance and legal aid to endangered journalists. A report from Radio Free Europe stated that 2017 was one of the most violent years for journalists in Afghanistan.

According to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, 20 journalists and media workers were killed, with 169 threats made to reporters.

Mistreatment of Female Journalists

RSF attributes much of Afghani conflict to civil war, with many intimidations and deaths coming from the Taliban. As a result of such in-fighting, the country has seen the rise of many “black holes” in information.

For female journalists, the situation is particularly perilous, as many have been confronted with the threat of attack or silencing. In many cases, and often as a result of such treatment, social pressures discourage women from becoming journalists, as their families may impress upon them the dangers of the profession.

Women experience harassment in the workplace as well as patriarchal standards, and the number of female journalists in Afghanistan has decreased since 2015.

Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists

In March 2017 on the eve of International Women’s Day, RSF opened the Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists — Afghanistan’s first center for the protection of female journalists’ rights. Based in Kabul and headed by Afghan journalist Farida Nekzad, the center provides a forum for women, combats discrimination, calls for equal rights and wages, advocates for better work conditions and prevents abuses.

The Center has offered support to reporters working in war zones, as well as organized seminars on physical and digital safety. The center will lobby the government to call for workplace safety and talk with families about their perceptions of female journalists.

Uniting Journalists

In recent months, Reporters Sans Frontières has been making stronger efforts to protect the rights of female journalists in Afghanistan. From November 22, 2017, the organization held a training and advocacy visit that focused on women journalists.

It organized seminars in Mazar-i- Sharif, Herat and Charikar, and even held a special seminar in Kabul for women reporters in conflict zones. At the meetings, journalists spoke about their experiences being threatened by armed non-state groups and the necessity of self-censorship.

Through the visit, RSF was able to unite journalists and create a discussion on the safety of reporters, with 65 journalists from 60 Afghan media outlets attending.

A Culture of Tolerance

Journalists in Afghanistan are met with a treacherous socio-political climate, facing the threat of violence and risking the loss of the right to expression. With its endeavors in the country, Reporters Sans Frontières has sought to protect the integrity of these reporters, support their safety and promote a culture of tolerance and freedom of information.

Efforts such as the foundation of the Center for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists and RSF’s seminars can enable greater independence of the media going forward.

– Shira Laucharoen

Photo: Flickr

Qualifications for the SenateThe United States Senate has been meeting since 1789 to ensure the prosperity of the country through legislation. The people of this legislative body are some of the most important leaders in the country, and 16 of our presidents were once a part of this institution. But what does it take to gain one of the 100 respected positions in the U.S. Senate?

There are informal as well as formal qualifications for the Senate in the United States. The formal qualifications are clearly outlined in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. First, senators must be at least 30 years old. The youngest person to become a senator, John Henry Eaton, was actually only 28 years old when he was elected in 1818, but many believe his age was unknown when he was sworn in and therefore no one realized he was violating the Constitution.

The second qualification states that senators must have U.S. citizenship for at least nine years before being elected. This qualification is slightly more flexible in comparison to the qualification for president, which requires candidates to be natural-born citizens.

This qualification also allows for immigrant representation within the U.S. government. Many have been born in Europe or Canada and then immigrated to the United States and gained citizenship, allowing them to become senators.

The last of the specified qualifications for the Senate read that candidates must be a resident of the state which they represent at the time of the election. Former president and senator Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, yet represented Illinois in the Senate, as this was the state in which he resided at the time.

There are clear advantages to actually growing up and living in the state a potential senator wishes to represent, including making it easier to be elected. However, this qualification allows for politicians to move around more freely and live in a state where they are more likely to be elected than the one in which they grew up. Again, this benefits those born outside the United States, who can choose which state to reside in and represent.

Informal qualifications for the Senate have also emerged over the years. These are more like trends that have shown the type of people that citizens tend to deem qualified and choose to elect. Most senators have college educations, both private and public, and law school attendance is popular among these. Law also ranks as the number one declared profession by senators, followed by public service or politics. However, these qualifications are by no means necessary and many elected senators have not met them.

United States Senators are directly elected by the people they represent. This began when the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913 to ensure Senate seats were not left open due to disagreements or corruption. The 17th Amendment stated that Senators serve six-year terms without term limits.

The Senate is crucial to the American political system. Its members are respected and work to pass laws that will advance the country. Because of the power they are given, their most important qualification is that the people have chosen them to serve and represent their interests to the best of their ability. When they are elected, they accept this responsibility and must value it above all else.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

Parliamentary Democracy Government
There are several types of democracies, and here we will explain what a parliamentary democracy is by comparing it to a presidential democracy, which we have in the United States.

In short, a parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to a legislative parliament to make the necessary laws and decisions for the country. This parliament directly represents the people.

In a presidential democracy, the leader is called a President, and he or she is elected by citizens to lead a branch of government separate from the legislative branch. If you remember back to government class, you will remember that the United States has three branches of the government: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative. The President leads the executive branch of government.


Role of Parliamentary Democracy


In a parliamentary democracy, you have a Prime Minister, who is first elected as a member of parliament, then elected Prime Minister by the other members of the parliamentary legislature. However, the Prime Minister remains a part of the legislature. The legislative branch makes the laws, and thus the Prime Minister has a hand in law-making decisions. The Prime Minister works directly with other people in the legislature to write and pass these laws.

In our presidential democracy, we still have a legislature, but we also have a president. He is separate from the legislature, so although he works with them, it is not as direct as if he were a Prime Minister. The laws that the legislature wants to pass must first go through the president; he can sign them into being or he can veto them. The President can go to the legislative branch and suggest laws, but they ultimately write them for his approval.

Furthermore, in parliamentary systems, the legislature has the right to dismiss a Prime Minister at any time if they feel that he or she is not doing the job as well as expected. This is called a “motion of no confidence,” and is not as much of a drawn out process. In the US, impeachment is an extensive, formal process in which an official is accused of doing something illegal.

Some countries with a parliamentary system are constitutional monarchies, which still have a king and queen. A few examples of these are the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan.

It is important to remember that both of these systems of government are democracies. Ultimately, the citizens who vote have the voice.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Wise Geek, Scholastic, How Stuff Works
Photo: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants


parliamentary democracy government

How to Become a PoliticianAre you looking into how to become a politician? Living the life of a politician can be a very stressful and demanding job. However, the profession can also be very rewarding and eye opening.

To anyone who is interested in becoming a politician- whether local or federal government- be ready for some tough days and long nights in the office. Before you are guaranteed the coveted seat of a politician, though, it takes a bit of preparation. Here are a few tips on how to become a politician.


Becoming a Politician


1. Become Educated: Although it is not required that certain politicians hold a college degree – one in 20 members of Congress doesn’t – it is a good idea to get as much schooling as possible.

Not only will constituents like to see a degree on a candidate’s resume, but the things learned in school can actually be helpful for planning a legislative and governmental future. The other aspect of “becoming educated” is studying up on legislature, government policies and voter patterns.

Politics takes a dedicated person willing to devote their whole being to their campaign. Learning the ropes of government is a bit more involved than merely knowing how to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.


2. Acquire Funding: Running for a position in politics is also a money game. Printing campaign posters, hosting charitable events, paying your campaign staff and a laundry list of other costs add up to a hefty bill just to run for a position, let alone hold one.

It is also important to have a steady job before running for office. This allows you to then have some money in the bank and establish resources or even potential voters. U.S. news stated that, “Running for office is a job in itself that no one will pay you for.”

Having friends and business connections is another important part of running for office. Connections with prominent people will allow your campaign to rise in popularity.

Be cautious of how much you spend on your campaign – you want to be able to survive afterward if you don’t end up winning.


3. Be Friendly: When they step in the polling booth, most voters do not actually know exactly which candidate stands for what issues. However, they will remember a candidate’s behavior and whether or not he or she was rude during an interview.

Cordiality and humbleness are a couple of key characteristics that attract voters. Making connections with voters so that they remember you and what you stand for could be the deciding factor between you and a competent running mate.


4. Don’t Let Your Feelings Get Hurt: Politics can be a harsh field that few thrive in. There will be hard times throughout your campaign, but knowing that you could help the lives of thousands of people is a great reward to the hardships you endure as a hopeful politician.

These may sound like some harsh pieces of advice on how to become a politician, but it is only because the politician’s role is a very important one in the United States. These people make, enforce and interpret the laws.

No matter the obstacles, if becoming a politician is your life’s goal then do not let these words, or others, deter you from becoming the next President of the United States (or a Superintendent of Schools, if that is what you so desire). Instead, use them as warnings to avoid road blocks on your journey to political change.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr