Reconciliation in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia
In August 2019, Nuon Chea, one of the leaders responsible for the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, passed away at the age of 93. His death resurfaced reports of the atrocities experienced in Cambodia between 1975-79, under the rule of the infamous dictator Pol Pot. Yet, Nuon Chea did not undergo prosecution for his crimes until 2018 — 40 years after he committed them.

Due to its scale and recency, one cannot write off the Khmer Rouge as an atrocity of the past. The pursuit of peace and justice for over 2 million victims of the Khmer Rouge continues today. Friends of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Cambodia is a group that has continued to push for peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia — despite a government, population and international community that wants to forget.

A Community Frozen in Time

In the Anlong Veng region of Cambodia, which housed regime leaders as late as 1998, others still venerate Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and other mass murderers as national heroes. The regime may have fallen 40 years ago, but families who enforced the regime’s brutality on their fellow Cambodians are still unaware of their wrongful actions. Some citizens simply have misinformation or claim to have supported the regime for the promise of security after decades of poverty. Other families followed strict orders on death threats and see themselves as victims — despite committing genocide.

Understanding the perspective of the citizens’ support to the regime is key to longterm peace. R2P member Pou Sovachana advocates for knowledge of the ex-cadre perspectives to yield reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Friends of R2P’s Dr. Bradley Murg, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), emphasized in an interview the need to break Anlong Veng members out of their bubble. For decades, “governments have left them to their own devices, afraid to open that box” of reconciliation, Dr. Murg shared. Most were “isolated and genuinely believe that their side was right.” Scarred from the Khmer Rouge’s inadequate leadership and raised with educational “curriculum centered on hatred, anger and revenge,” ex-cadre members need therapy — not prison.

Helping Cambodia Embrace its History

Besides working with ex-members of the Khmer Rouge, Friends of Responsibility to Protect is working to promote justice among Cambodians. Unable to understand their past, many Cambodians live in denial of their history. Tourists almost exclusively visit the Khmer Rouge history museum in Cambodia’s capital city, Dr. Murg noted.

The genocide directly impacted the nation’s population over the age of 40, many of whom still struggle with untreated PTSD. Parents began to raise their children in the shadow of atrocity without an explanation. Ultimately, continued ignorance is detrimental to Cambodia. Both Dr. Murg and his colleague, Professor Sovachana Pou — who works at the CICP and is a Khmer Rouge survivor himself — agree that work is still necessary to help the Cambodian population heal from the past. This is why R2P promotes education and acknowledgment about the atrocities among the younger generation. Its work includes field trips with students to Anlong Veng and stories of ex-Khmer Rouge perpetrators in local newspapers; an effort to encourage mutual understanding.

Finishing Justice

People must recognize Friends of R2P’s work for reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the context of delayed criminal justice. Dr. Murg explained how, due to the political dynamics of the U.S. and Cambodia, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders did not receive charges for their crimes. The sentencing of Nuon Chea by a U.N. court in 2018 – 40 years after the crimes – exemplifies the uneven justice delivered to the Khmer Rouge perpetrators. Even the head of the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot, never received a sentence – and died of natural causes in his home in 1998.

In an effort to fix its past mistakes, Cambodia established a court in the first part of the 21st century to bring justice to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pou reminded the Borgen Project that legal justice is only the first step to the real justice that needs to be felt in the hearts of Cambodians. The peace between mainstream Cambodians and ex-Khmer Rouge members, like those living in Anlong Veng, is the next step in the journey to justice. This is why the Anlong Veng Peace Center and Friends of R2P are promoting education, historic preservation and communication between ex-Khmer Rouge members and the families of victims.

While 2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s fall from power, reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia continues.

What is most hopeful, however, is the willingness for reconciliation among Khmer Rouge victims. People like Sovachana Pou, who narrowly escaped Cambodia and saw the deaths of their family, have offered forgiveness for the sake of rebuilding Cambodia. The key is to recognize that there are victims on both sides of the Khmer Rouge. Friends of Responsibility to Protect’s work is beautifully acknowledging the stories of all Cambodians to rebuild social trust.

Olivia Heale
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

Buttigieg's Foreign Policy
The youngest of the Democratic candidates running for office in the 2020 election, people widely know and consider candidate Pete Buttigieg for his professional and academic credentials. People commonly refer to Buttigieg as “Mayor Pete” due to his current occupation as South Bend, Indiana’s mayor, but he also speaks eight languages, including Norwegian, Maltese and Arabic. Buttigieg received his Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 2003, and soon after completed his postgraduate education as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. Between 2009 and 2017, he also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has also set him apart as a champion for foreign policy.

Following his speech at the University of Indiana, where he discussed his foreign policy with an emphasis on national security, TIME Magazine referred to Buttigieg as the potential “foreign policy candidate in 2020.” Notably, while most other presidential candidates have only vaguely touched upon their foreign agenda, Buttigieg’s foreign policy has made up a key aspect of his campaign.

Indeed, Buttigieg advocates for organization and forward-thinking; the country’s decisions today will lead the nation and the world in the decades of tomorrow. In his words, “we need a strategy… Not just to deal with individual threats, rivalries, and opportunities, but to manage global trends that will define the balance of this half-century in which my generation will live the majority of our lives.”

This article outlines three key aspects one should know about Pete Buttigieg’s Foreign Policy, with respect to potential effects on global poverty trends and the developing world.

End the Endless War

Buttigieg criticizes the post-9/11 legislation that allows the president to use what they deem necessary military force against any organization who assisted with the terrorist attacks. Specifically, he points out that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) needs major correcting. A former naval intelligence officer himself, he detailed that this blank check that deployed him to Afghanistan needs changing: troops should only enter into conflict with the government’s complete understanding of the issue at hand and the possible consequences of military involvement.

According to Buttigieg, promoting a government that brings power to Congress once again in taking votes on war and peace would ensure a more careful government in its military decisions. This would especially be the case when U.S. involvement concerns vulnerable and severely impoverished countries, like Afghanistan.

Reverse Authoritarianism

Given the severity of conditions in North Korea, Buttigieg assures that he would not take any interactions with the regime lightly. Moreover, he is a clear believer in the liberal international order, which emphasizes democracy and leadership by the U.S. and its allies, as a way to greater ensure peace, prosperity and consequently lower global poverty rates.

Buttigieg believes reversing authoritarianism would require the unapologetic promotion of liberal order ideals. He also claims that the U.S. has lacked a proper foreign policy since the last presidential election, and incorporating the liberal international order and applying it in communications and relations with Russia or North Korea would bring structure to the U.S. foreign agenda.

Rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal

Buttigieg has highlighted that as president, he would make nuclear proliferation and rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, a priority in his foreign policy. The Obama administration first established the agreement in 2015 and worked to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful in exchange for lifted sanctions by Germany and the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S. While the Iran Nuclear Deal and its consequences remain controversial domestically, Buttigieg’s vow to rejoin falls in line with the liberal international order, which stresses international cooperation and alliance, in addition to democracy.

Furthermore, there has been a reported economic crisis in Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and implemented sanctions. According to Hassan Tajik, director of the Iranian group for the development of international trade, “one of the main problems is the reduction of people’s purchasing and financial capacity, which has brought the population to the edge of poverty.” Rejoining the deal begs the question of a potential change in impoverished conditions in Iran.

While Buttigieg’s speech may not be a Buttigieg Doctrine, he outlines clear priorities in a speech about foreign policy, which may deem him more foreign policy-oriented among the Democratic candidates. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has yet to disclose his complete stances on a range of foreign policy-related issues, but his speech has indicated his desire to involve the U.S. with international affairs in a cooperative, yet cautious manner. As demonstrated, doing so can have a major impact on global poverty trends.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Former presidents on foreign aidIt is not widely known how much foreign aid is being spent as a part of the national budget, especially because statistics and figures can change dramatically under different administrations and eras. The policies of former presidents on foreign aid can reflect the national and international priorities of the nation itself and what the presidents themselves valued more compared to other factors within the federal budget.

5 Former Presidents on Foreign Aid: Who Spent What?

  1. Harry S. Truman is well-known for the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine. While the Truman Doctrine was to extend economic and military aid to Greece, the Marshall Plan was more inclusive as it was designed to help Western European countries rebuild after World War II, consisting of $13 billion. Other goals achieved through these means were building markets for U.S. businesses and earning allies during the Cold War.
  2. Ronald Reagan believed in budget cuts domestically, but he was a strong advocate for non-military foreign assistance. He promoted the “0.6% of GDP” minimum to be spent on foreign aid, as he believed that such aid plays a large role in foreign policy strategies. Such strategies were to create stronger U.S. allies and to promote economic growth and democracy globally. Reagan also emphasized that it is an American value to provide foreign assistance based on the U.S. founding beliefs that “all men are created equal.”
  3. Jimmy Carter was an advocate for making human rights a priority of the U.S. foreign policy. Not only did he sustain foreign aid, he also made sure to redirect the routes of such aid away from brutal regimes, such as that of Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile-Mariam. He also ensured that foreign aid was an instrument used for luring in more American allies during the Cold War. For instance, by 1980, 75 percent of the total aid designed for Africa were redirected towards the Horn of Africa, as Mengistu was Soviet-backed.
  4. During Barack Obama’s presidency in 2011, figures on foreign aid were reported as being increased by 80 percent when compared to the reports in 2008. Foreign assistance kept increasing from $11.427 billion in 2008 to $20.038 billion in 2010 to $20.599 billion in 2011. During 2011, the aid was split into Economic Support Fund, Foreign Military Financing Program, multilateral assistance, Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and international monetary programs.
  5. In 2002, George W. Bush planned an expansion of 50 percent over the next three years through the Millennium Challenge Account which would provide $5 billion every year to countries where that governed unjustly. Additionally, Bush called for $10 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the following five years. There were also emergency funds put aside, consisting of $200 million for famine and $100 million for other complex emergencies.

The policies of former presidents on foreign aid widely reflect their intents and objectives, such as wishing to create more U.S. allies during the Cold War or to stop health epidemics from spreading, like HIV. International assistance can be employed in differing areas of focus that all eventually reach out to help an individual or a community climb out of poverty.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Sudan's Vulnerable Position in MENA Politics

People, cameras and everything in between are paying close attention to Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics. This past month, the political crisis in Sudan has received worldwide attention. For example, internet users implemented blue social media avatars commemorating fallen Sudanese activist Mohamed Mattar.  The conflict exists between Sudanese democracy advocates and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) currently governing the country, following the ousting of Omar Al-Bashir. However, it is important to understand just what is keeping Sudan and innocent civilians from moving forward with a more egalitarian society. Here are five facts about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics.

  1. Sudan has a claim to mineral-rich areas of the Red Sea.
    The majority of Sudan’s geography is rich in minerals and natural gas. In 2011, when the two countries became independent, this was left with South Sudan. A crucial 7,945 square miles of land, known as the Halayeb Triangle, is still within Sudanese land claims.
    This region has a coastline on the Red Sea, a location seemingly ideal for new oil exploration ventures. But, it’s not Sudanese efforts that have jumped on this opportunity. This leads to the next fact about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics.
  2. Egypt claims the same area and has made power plays to extrapolate resources.
    Following Sudan’s independence from colonialism in 1956, Egypt has been in conflict with Sudan. The conflict is over which country has a right and full claim to the land and all its potential as a natural resource for either country’s economy.
    In March of this year, The Arab Weekly reports that Egyptian state-sponsored South Valley Egyptian Petroleum Holding Company has invited up to ten separate oil and gas exploration bids to the very same Halayeb region. The report claims that the area surrounding is “Egyptian territorial waters.”
    The same article quotes a statement by Sudan’s Foreign Ministry: “The Foreign Ministry summoned Egyptian Ambassador Hossam Eissa… to protest against the tenders invited by the Egyptian Oil Ministry for areas under the sovereignty of Sudan.” The Sudanese Oil and Gas Minister of State called it “a direct intrusion” of both the country’s right to issue exploration licenses to that region. Sudanese officials claim the Halayeb region has been the sovereign territory of Sudan since 1956, the country’s year of independence.
  3. The Gulf Nations plan to support the militia government of Sudan.
    On June 20, 2019, the Council on Foreign Relations wrote that countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are putting their support behind the Transitional Military Council in Sudan. These two countries have pledged $3 billion in aid for the TMC to disperse to civilians in the form of food, water and medicine.
    The International Crisis Group finds this political and economic move to be simply another example of something common among Gulf states. That is, moving “from one military regime to another.”
    This fact about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA Politics focuses on a continued disenfranchisement of Sudanese civilians even after the authoritarian president Omar Al-Bashir was forced out of office. These Gulf Nations’ support of the military government is not in accordance with the wants of Sudanese civilians.
  4. A remnant of the Al-Bashir era is sympathetic to Saudi Arabian efforts in Sudan.
    Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemeti) was a close political aide to Omar al-Bashir before the military coup. He has now outwardly shown his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s contribution to Sudan’s military-governmental complex. He showed this by meeting with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and vowing to support Riyadh against “all threats and attacks” by the country’s political opponents for power in the Middle East.
  5. Hemeti still controls Sudanese military activity.
    As Hemeti is a representative of the military presence that currently governs Sudan. His commanding activity must also be taken into account to better understand the conflict and protests of earlier this June.
    Hemeti is the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, a militia group that grew from Sudan’s Janjaweed presence. The Janjaweed (or “devils on horseback” in a Sudanese colloquial language) were also under Hemeti’s supervision. They are widely acknowledged as responsible for the genocidal crimes against humanity of 2005 in the Sudanese region of Darfur.
    Civilians no longer appreciate this modern-day reincarnation of an overbearing militia. One activist, Hajooj Kuka, stated: “We do not want to move forward with the RSF as part of the Sudanese army. At this point, we have totally lost trust in them.”
    The Rapid Support Forces are also responsible for the fast publicized retaliation to civil protests on June 3, 2019.  Around 100 Sudanese Activists died during and after this crisis. This occurred on what would have been a festive Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramadan.

How to Help

Overall, these five facts about Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics show how Middle Eastern powerhouses are hoping to take control of Sudanese land and government for personal gain. They are doing this without the interest of Sudanese civilians at heart.

While it may be difficult to address this misrepresentation directly, Bustle outlines that there are simple ways to help show the inequity Sudanese people are experiencing regularly.  Individuals around the world can:

  • Support Humanitarian Programs – UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stated that “Children throughout Sudan are already bearing the brunt of decades of conflict, chronic underdevelopment, and poor governance.” To address this, UNICEF has begun transporting ready-to-eat therapeutic food and necessary medicine to improve the quality of life for children in Sudan under the age of five. The funding through June 12 sent 22,000 tons of these basic needs to those in need.
  • Sign a Petition – Petitions are circulating on the internet calling upon international organizations to hold Sudan accountable. In one, Change.org calls upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into the events of June 3, 2019, in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum.
  • Reach out – A great way to improve human rights as a U.S. constituent is to contact elected officials. Calling is effective. Also effective is using the ResistBot program to text one’s concerns. Be sure to mention your support of U.S. assistance to the humanitarian crisis in this country. Congressional staffers record every contact made in support of a cause. With enough support, all the claims of constituents regarding Sudan’s vulnerable position in MENA politics will be taken seriously.

-Fatemeh Zahra Yarali

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About JFKIt has been over 50 years since the tragic day of former president John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Regarded as one of the greatest and most influential presidents of the United States, JFK led an astounding life. He was successful both socially and politically. He has done much for the country and most of his policies are still implemented in modern U.S. society. These are the top 10 facts about JFK.

Top 10 Facts About JFK

  1. Before his time as president, John F. Kennedy served in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant and commander of a patrol torpedo boat, the PT-109. He eventually received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his astounding service during WWII.
  2. JFK served in the House of Representatives shortly after his service in the Navy for six years and would be elected to be a part of the U.S. Senate in 1952 for the state of Massachusetts.
  3. JFK was a strong advocate for foreign policy during his time in the House of Representatives, supporting the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. He also supported various other Cold War policies. This further shaped his political career, both as he ran for the presidency and during his time as president.
  4. As a senator, JFK approved President Eisenhower’s reciprocal-trade powers which give the president the power to have reciprocal trade agreements with foreign countries. He had also supported the St. Lawrence Seaway which would allow for more trade routes between Canada and the United States.
  5. JFK wrote the book Profiles in Courage (1956). It won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957, demonstrating his talent as an author.
  6. He also founded the Peace Corps in 1961, which is an agency providing social and economic assistance to countries in need. This agency is a volunteer-based program.
  7. JFK suffered from Addison disease, in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient hormones for the human body causing fatigue, darkening of skin and dizziness.
  8. JFK strongly advocated for foreign aid to nations in Africa and Asia while in the Senate during the 1950s.
  9. In 1961, Kennedy visited West Berlin to protest with citizens again Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to sign a peace treaty with East Germany, which would threaten U.S. relations with Berlin during the Cold War.
  10. JFK established the Alliance for Progress in 1961, which sought to establish economic cooperation and improve social relations between Latin America and the U.S.

These are the top 10 facts about JFK. From his service during WWII to his service as president, he has greatly impacted this world, socially and politically.

Elijah Jackson
Photo: Mary Ferrell Foundation

Poverty and Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Equality in RwandaThis year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. In 1994, from April 7 to July 24, approximately 800,000 Rwandans were massacred and up to 500,000 women were raped. However, 24 years later, Rwanda ranks sixth in the world for gender equality, the top non-European country besides Nicaragua.

Women and Politics

Representation of women in politics significantly helped improve gender equality in Rwanda. Since 2003, women have had a constitutionally protected place in the Rwandan government. The Rwandan constitution mandates 30 percent of representatives be female. As a result, the number of women in parliament increased from 18 percent in the 1990s to 64 percent as of 2013. In terms of a male-female ratio in parliament, Rwanda tops international rankings. Furthermore, President Paul Kagame’s current cabinet is the second in Africa to contain an equal ratio of men to women.

While better representation does not end all gender inequality, it improves women’s status in society. With female representation, society sees women as leaders. And more importantly, female representation helps create better legislation for women and encourages gender equality in Rwanda.

Women and Development

Rwanda is a largely rural country and depends on agriculture for economic growth. Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product per capita ranks 206th in the world. However, Rwanda possesses a remarkable current GDP per capita given its recent history. Rwanda lost much of its traditional workforce to genocide, also resulting in 500,000 orphaned children. Since then, women have pioneered Rwanda’s development. The country possesses the highest rate of female labor force participation in the workforce compared to the rest of the African continent. Additionally, over 70 percent of women are engaged in a sector of the primary economy, and they make up 79 percent of the agricultural workforce, though not all are paid.

Consequently, women in development programs bolster gender equality in Rwanda, as they spearhead the country’s fast growth. Rwanda is currently hosting a wide range of development projects. These projects aim to both modernize the business of agriculture and ensure women are prepared for this modernization. Launched in 2015, the Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems program is being piloted in eight countries worldwide. This program aims to equip communities with the technological and soft skills necessary to navigate modern markets.

Mukamusoni Alexia, a cassava farmer, is one of 106 members in the newly formed ‘Ubumwe Mbuye’ Cooperative. According to Alexia, the cooperative facilitates a dialogue addressing local challenges and enabled her processing plant to acquire loans. Now, Alexia’s cooperative generates over 800 tons of cassava a month and provides 30 tons per week to a processing plant.

Many of these farming cooperatives are female-led or reserved for women, a long-term project to redefine gender roles and allow women to bring home family income.

Women and Education

Educating women is the key to gender equality. However, Rwanda’s education system struggles from a lack of resources. As a result, fewer students continue to secondary education. Moreover, Rwanda ranks low on the United Nations’ Development Programme’s Life Course Gender-Gap index.

Several of the most successful education projects focus on reducing gender-based violence. In doing so, empowered women can succeed at home and will, therefore, stay in school. A troubling statistic reflects 34.4 percent of Rwandan women experience violence from an intimate partner.

CARE International supports a program called Safe School For Girls. This program mentors girls as they transition from lower to upper secondary school. Plus, it provides sexual health education to more than 47,000 students across the Southern Province of Rwanda. Furthermore, this program hopes to engage boys in the dialogue through “round table talks.” These talks discuss the barriers women and girls face and how boys can help end gender-based violence. So far, Safe School For Girls has engaged over 19,000 boys in these talks. Improving the climate around education and identifying where women face barriers is critical for gender equality in Rwanda.

A Model for Gender Equality

While women still face a variety of obstacles, Rwanda acts as a model for gender equality worldwide. Rwanda’s Human Development Rank is still low. Subsequently, many argue gender equality in parliament is a smokescreen for President Kagame’s authoritarian regime, now entering its 19th successive year.

However, in spite of these developmental barriers, Rwanda has demonstrated gender equality is a realistic and attainable goal. The country’s real GDP growth stands at 8.6 percent, the second highest globally, showing full integration of women in society is critical for economic development. Rwandan women helped the country’s remarkable rebirth after a devastating genocide, and they are the main drivers behind its emerging prosperity today.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Flickr