Solidarity Economy an Effective Remedy for PovertyIn efforts to fight poverty, local organizations are turning to a solidarity economy, which at its core, prioritizes social gain over profit. These organizations integrate concepts of human development, equal participation and sustainability. In some cases, such as with the Deccan Development Society in India, solidarity economic models have addressed structural deficiencies and inequalities by focusing on individual well-being and sustainable production. Fundamentally, a solidarity or social economy aims to balance social and economic goals and address poverty. Organizations within this model emphasize the social impact of their output instead of profit maximization.

Solidarity economies feature cooperative governance, democratic decision-making in economics, sustainable production methods and a commitment to human rights protection. Although solidarity economy primarily refers to a network of local cooperatives and fair trade companies operating under a strict ethical code, it also encompasses a broader economic model. Some organizations and governments have highlighted its potential for policy implementation. It is viewed as a response to 21st-century challenges and a means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A Response to Globalization and Inequality

Solidarity economic organizations emerged as a counterpoint to the shortcomings of globalization. They challenge its status as the sole path to development. These grassroots organizations, mainly in developing countries, have criticized the exploitation of natural resources for profit and the structural flaws that push people into low-skill, low-wage jobs. In addition, they lament the loss of cultural identity and knowledge due to the homogenization of society. The solidarity economy aims to address poverty and the inequalities driving it, such as regional disparities and social exclusion, by offering an alternative model that seeks to restore balance.

The Impact of COVID-19

Solidarity economies gained prominence after the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses closing, billions were left without income, dependent on state initiatives or their savings. Solidarity economic organizations worldwide stepped up, showcasing the impact of a model centered on social needs. As the immediate effects of the pandemic receded, the long-term impact on global poverty emerged clearly. The pandemic also exacerbated inequalities; between 2019 and 2021, the income of the wealthiest quintile dropped by 0.9%, while that of the poorest quintile fell by 3%.

A Focus on India

India’s rapidly expanding economy contributed to a decrease in multidimensional poverty from 29% to 11% over nine years. While this appears as a significant achievement on paper, contrasting views question the authenticity of this impressive trajectory as the statistics suggest. Critics specifically target the methodology for calculating multidimensional poverty. They argue that the categories constituting the multidimensional aspect and the revenue baselines might have political motivations.

In India, high levels of inequality persist across the population. The wealthiest 10% control 80% of the country’s wealth. Structural inequalities continue, with rural areas nearly twice as likely to experience poverty as urban areas. Despite the official illegality of discrimination based on the caste system, it remains a significant factor in income distribution, along with the tribal system. The Dalit caste and Adivasis tribe, historically regarded as untouchables, live in marginalized rural communities and often hold low-paying jobs. Currently, members of lower castes and tribes represent five out of six people living in multidimensional poverty in India.

The Deccan Development Society

The Deccan Development Society was founded more than two decades ago, working in about 75 villages of Tanangala province, it aimed to unite 5,000 women from the Dalit caste living in extreme poverty to improve their living conditions. At the heart of their efforts lie solidarity economy principles and poverty alleviation through the communities’ self-reliant operations. These communities prioritize democratic processes, focusing on food and resource sustainability. They empower women from lower castes to engage in economic decision-making, incorporating permaculture, sustainable agriculture and education as key strategies for food security. The society’s autonomous yet collaborative approach to managing agricultural resources has enabled the production of an additional 1,000 meals per family annually.

The Deccan Development Society’s notable success has shown that solidarity economies are effective in mitigating poverty resulting from entrenched systems of inequality. Moreover, by focusing on sustainable and self-sufficient production that aims at well-being, society has reclaimed community agency against the backdrop of caste disparities. In 2019, the society received the United Nations (U.N.) Equator Award, is a distinguished recognition for organizations that combat poverty by sustainably utilizing biodiversity. While much of India faced production challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Deccan Development Society managed to donate 10 kilograms of grains to the region’s relief efforts.

The Future of Solidarity Economy

Organizations advocating for the solidarity economy model, aim to address critical 21st-century challenges in the developing world, such as inequality, poverty and the scarcity of natural resources. The U.N. has established a task force under the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) umbrella to promote and study SSE’s role in achieving the 17 SDGs. Furthermore, the U.N. views SSE as a transformative force with the potential to redefine the implementation of the SDGs, emphasizing self-determination and an economy based on social needs. SSE is considered capable of influencing policy at the national level. Looking ahead, the impact of solidarity economies on poverty reduction could evolve into a global network, amplifying their progressive agenda for broader visibility and support.

– Felix Stephens

Felix is based in London, UK and focuses on Business and New Markets and Politics for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Unsplash

Drug Rehabilitation in BrazilBrazil has an extensive history of problems with substance abuse. The Brazilian populace contains many impoverished people facing significant challenges in accessing public medical care, forcing individuals to seek alternatives. However, the Government of Brazil is taking great strides towards reducing these issues. One such step is the establishment of the Brazil and the South Cone Programme to “support the Governments of Brazil in the implementation of effective policies in drug law enforcement and drug abuse prevention.” If Brazil continues along this trajectory, then improvements will continue. Here are some ways Brazil is tackling drug use.

Psychoactive Drugs and Access To Help

The use of psychoactive drugs is becoming more common in all treatment centers, leading to challenges in recovery and an increased likelihood of relapse. This has led to studies to better understand the most effective ways of reaching individuals struggling with such addiction. Fortunately, some authors have discovered that economic position played a significant role in the issue. Those in poverty have less access to education and are still determining how to help themselves. The Brazilian public health system, in the past, has neglected those in poverty, restricting access to treatment facilities for individuals with limited financial resources. Considering these shortcomings, drug rehabilitation in Brazil is now more accessible in urban areas, where mental health services have been increasing since 2008. Rural areas still lag, but the advancement in urban areas is a good start for facilitating drug rehabilitation in Brazil.

Alcohol Abuse Help

In terms of alcohol abuse, Brazil has taken great strides. The Brazilian health care system has tackled the problem via three programs. First is the “Family Health Strategy,” which utilizes the services of community health workers to engage in outreach activities and home visits. Second is the “CAPS” program, which provides outpatient clinics catering to individuals requiring mental health services. A specialized staff team comprising “nurses, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists” operate these clinics. The team is well-equipped to provide comprehensive and customized care to patients with varying mental health needs. The third is a novel program devised to assist individuals who have recently undergone addiction treatment in obtaining employment through post-treatment care. The primary objective of the program is to facilitate employment opportunities for individuals who have previously struggled with addiction by addressing any barriers or challenges that may impede their progress. 

Use of Religion To Help

This approach provides an opportunity to establish connections with like-minded individuals, engage in volunteer work, receive personalized psychological care and obtain financial support early on. By incorporating religion into drug rehabilitation programs, a more comprehensive range of resources and support systems become accessible, thereby increasing the likelihood of long-term recovery and overall well-being. In addition, this approach fosters an atmosphere that acknowledges personal potential and encourages camaraderie among individuals, all while offering unwavering and impartial support. The effectiveness of spiritual therapy ultimately rests on the willingness of those seeking help to embrace it. 

Conclusion

The aspects above underscore the effectiveness of drug rehabilitation programs in Brazil, which have proven to be a valuable resource for many underprivileged individuals seeking support and assistance. It is hoped that such efforts will continue unabated, not only in Brazil but also in other countries facing comparable challenges. 

– Jordan Cunningham
Photo: Unsplash

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

Gender-Based Violence in Politics
According to the World Bank, nearly one in three women has endured gender-based violence (GBV). While intimate partner violence is one of the more common forms of GBV, sometimes GBV can occur in the public sphere because of a woman’s level of political involvement. Here are some things to know about gender-based violence in politics.

What is Gender-Based Violence?

Gender-based violence or GBV is sexual, physical, mental [or] economic harm inflicted [upon women and girls] in public or in private.” For a long time, violence against women was accepted and normalized in society. It wasn’t until 1992 that gender-based violence was legally considered by the U.N. to be a violation of women’s human rights.

GBV in Politics

The right to vote and the right to hold office are civic duties that everyone should have the opportunity to utilize. Yet, in many countries, women are receiving backlash for being heavily involved in democratic processes. Whether it be running for office or voting, the number of women who are politically engaged has recently increased. Due to the very public nature of politics, however, many women who live in places that aim to suppress women’s rights have been in danger of being harmed and sometimes even killed for their political engagement. 

In What Countries Do Women in Politics Experience the Highest Rates of Gbv?

Women in politics are said to experience violence at higher rates in the countries of Mexico, China, India and Afghanistan. There have been several instances reported in these countries of gender-based violence being inflicted upon women who are politically engaged. For example, in May 2021, a Mexican woman who was running for local deputy was shot at while holding a rally. A similar scenario took place in Afghanistan in January 2021 when two Afghan women who were judges in Afghanistan’s Supreme Court were shot and killed. 

Looking Ahead

Many organizations are working to eliminate the violence that not only women working in politics but all women must endure. For example, CARE has been working towards its mission of “sav[ing] lives, defeat[ing] poverty, achiev[ing] social justice, and fight[ing] for women and girls” since 1945. CARE is specifically addressing the issue of GBV by aiding survivors mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and legally. Additionally, CARE integrates ways to combat GBV across all of its initiatives. By recognizing GBV as a complex and widespread issue, CARE aims to fight it in all of the many places in which it appears. Thus far, their initiatives have reached millions of people, with 2.4 million survivors of GBV receiving help and 92 GBV initiatives being implemented in 34 countries.

CARE is not the only organization working towards fighting back against gender-based violence. The Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (FOCESE) has similar goals. FOCESE is an organization based in Malawi whose mission is to help vulnerable communities, specifically young women and girls, and advocate for “gender-equitable social norms, attitudes, and behavioral change at both community and individual levels.” Additionally, FOCESE claims to “work tirelessly to prevent violence against women and girls.” In addition to their desire to combat GBV, FOCESE is also encouraging young girls to become more politically engaged. 

The Youth for Inclusion, Participation, and Empowerment (YIPE) in Local Governance is a project aimed at increasing the amount of women’s representation and involvement in local government. This project, coupled with the organization’s constant desire to combat GBV, is a step in the right direction. Hopefully between organizations such as CARE and FOCESE, gender-based violence in politics — and elsewhere — will not only decrease but, eventually, come to an end.

– Nicole Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Social and Political Stability
Poverty plays a primary role in many of the social and political issues visible around the world. Considering this, global poverty reduction stands as the solution to strengthening social and political stability worldwide.

The Connection between Poverty and Instability in Nepal

Nepal, a country in South Asia, stands as a strong example of how poverty connects to social and political instability. For much of its modern existence, Nepal has seen a steady stream of political instability and violence, visible in tragic events such as the Nepalese Civil War that lasted from 1996 to 2006 and many other political uprisings. While some of this instability links to Nepal’s historically weak governance, studies show a strong correlation between the nation’s poverty and political violence.

According to a research article by Lauren C. Griffin published in 2015, about 25% of people in Nepal survived on less than $2 per day. The history of extreme poverty in the nation opened the door for instability and violence in many ways. For instance, the Maoist insurgency beginning in 1996 led to Maoists taking over the education system to perpetuate their terror and recruiting impoverished people with grievances against the government to join the cause.

Because many of the Nepalese are trapped in this cycle of poverty with their basic needs going unmet, it is easier for political instability and radical terrorism to take hold. By helping to raise the quality of life and access to decent wages and education in Nepal, not only would residents be able to rise out of poverty but the country’s ever-present political and social chaos would be curtailed as well, says Griffin.

There is a broader consensus that helping to promote political stability and to solve social and political issues like those found in Nepal is one important way to fight poverty. “Regions that are afflicted with problems of poverty are more likely to experience crises and instability, and the reverse is also true,” said Dr. Ritu Lauter, a professor of International Studies and Political Science at Peninsula College in an interview with The Borgen Project. “When poverty rates are low, you are likely to experience more political stability… People in free and open societies are likely to fare better in life on all sorts of indicators of human security and well-being. Consequently, there is less likelihood of social and political upheaval and unrest.”

Women’s Rights and Access to Education

The prevalence of poverty typically impacts issues such as women’s rights and opportunities and access to education. Without regard for women’s rights and educational opportunities, cycles of generational poverty only continue. Dr. Lauer understands the importance of ending global poverty in order to find solutions to these issues. “Global poverty is associated with negative outcomes in all areas of life, be they social, economic or political,” she said in her interview with The Borgen Project.

“With more access to wealth come more opportunities to have a higher standard of living and a more comfortable lifestyle. When survival is not the only goal and societies have more resources available, investments in human development are more likely, thus supporting higher literacy rates and gender equality.”

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “If all students in low-income countries had just basic reading skills (nothing else), an estimated 171 million people could escape extreme poverty. If all adults completed secondary education, we could cut the global poverty rate by more than half. ” Recognizing the importance of education in reducing poverty, the U.N. declared high-quality education one of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, with the overall objective of reaching zero poverty.

The Potential Impact of Support

According to Oxfam, a significant majority of the global adult population living in poverty are women. These women face numerous obstacles in their efforts to escape poverty, including low wages and precarious working conditions. Providing these women with access to resources that can uplift them out of poverty not only benefits them individually but also contributes to the overall development of their impoverished nations.

For instance, women represent 45% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. When women are given more opportunities, such as improved access to education and other resources to support their careers, it leads to better community nutrition outcomes and more efficient management and preservation of local natural resources, as stated by Global Citizen. Additionally, safeguarding women from violence and political oppression plays a crucial role in reducing poverty rates in any given region, fostering social stability, and promoting community growth.

Action to Address Social Issues

Work is already underway to end global poverty by addressing social issues like these. For example, a U.K.-based charity called the Nepal Education Foundation (NEF) is focusing on improving primary education in Northern Nepal. Not only does the NEF work to provide educators and schools with the resources and support needed but it also works with local communities in Nepal to “construct classrooms, toilets and playgrounds.” The NEF also helps with curriculum development.

Dress for Success, established in 1997, is a large nonprofit that works in more than 20 countries to empower women with resources and skills to attain economic self-sufficiency, enabling them to rise out of poverty. Dress for Success provides this support for impoverished women in several ways, including helping poorer women find outfits for job interviews and hosting programs that teach women leadership skills that will help them thrive in their employment endeavors and in life.

So far, the organization has helped more than 1.3 million women move toward self-sufficiency and independence. The efforts of Dress for Success not only help individual women prosper economically but trickles out into broader prosperity for whole communities and countries as a whole.

As the fight against global poverty continues, it is important to remember how improving political stability and social issues benefits not only individuals and their countries but the peace and prosperity of the world as a whole. Be it by promoting political peace, or by providing educational access to children and protecting women’s rights, the whole world benefits from global poverty reduction.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Fragility and Rule of Law in Peru
According to the latest report by the Freedom House Index, Peru has successfully upgraded from a partly free country to a free one in 2022. These improvements are mainly due to the country’s ability to carry out an election for a new president and Congress which managed to ease political tensions in the short term. However, problems regarding fragility and rule of law in Peru have reappeared throughout the year, triggering the detention of Pedro Castillo, the Peruvian president, in December 2022.

Political fragmentation and corruption have severely damaged the public trust in the government, which is worsening the economic situation in the country. Peru was making a positive comeback from the crisis that the pandemic generated. However, recent political instability created a slowdown, which is having very negative consequences.

Political Instability in Peru

Back in 1992, former president Alberto Fujimori carried out a coup d’état which surprisingly increased his popularity and helped his reelection in 1995. Despite his third reelection in 2000, his numerous accusations of committing crimes against humanity, his atrocious sterilization policies and the cases of corruption and favoritism finally had consequences and Fujimori resigned from office and subsequently faced imprisonment.

An attempt to escape the Fujimori “dictatorship” has marked the political reforms that have taken place in Peru since the beginning of the 21st century. A closed and centralist political system that limited citizens’ participation apparently characterized the Fujimori era. Therefore, in order to “democratize” the electoral system, the reforms incentivized the creation of numerous informal political organizations which lacked institutionalization. This has led to the deficient functioning of the electoral system, due to the absence of stable, lasting and serious political parties and the consequent lack of confidence in the electoral system.

Six Presidents Since 2018

This situation has transformed the present Peruvian politics into a polarized arena that leaves little space for consensus and forces voters into extreme political ideologies in an attempt to achieve durable solutions. Since 2018, Peru has had six different presidents. This instability is due both to the political polarization that does not allow for a real absolute majority, as well as to the 1993 Constitution, which allows Congress to remove the president from office for “lack of morality.”

This peculiarity worsens the political fragility of the country, which has become even worse after the detention of Pedro Castillo for a failed coup d’état. The former president decided a coup d’état was his only way to escape his serious accusations of corruption. However, what happened is quite the opposite, because he now faces accusations of rebellion and could spend as long as 20 years in prison. Dina Boluarte has replaced Castillo, making her the first female president of Peru.

Corruption and Rule of Law

Added to the constant corruption of politicians, a corrupted judiciary often debilitates Peru’s well-functioning of democracy. Peru’s judiciary is one of the most corrupt institutions in the country, according to the Freedom House. This adds to the problem that the constant tensions generated between Congress and the Executive caused. In 2018, a huge corruption scandal emerged after audio recordings revealed Parliament members, business elites and members of the Magistrates Council as responsible for at least favor-trading activities. After this scandal, the country dissolved the Magistrates Council. Its new replacement is the National Board of Justice which focuses on a more transparent selection of members in an attempt to avoid future corruption.

Fragility and rule of law in Peru are major problems for certain groups of society. COVID-19 has brought clarity to the fact that indigenous Peruvians suffer discriminative treatment regarding health care. The country needs to urgently include health care policies that include indigenous groups in order to reduce inequalities in morbidity rates.

The Effects on Poverty and Job Creation

Peru is currently going through a political situation that threatens the country’s economy to fall into recession. The good news is that according to data from the Central Reserve Bank in Peru, in 2021, the country’s GDP grew by 13.2% and unemployment dropped from 7.2% in 2020 to 4.8% in 2021. Despite the economic collapse that the pandemic caused, it is true that Peru has recovered especially fast compared to other countries in Latin America. Therefore, the permanent political instability which causes constant changes in power positions and lack of reliability has a relatively low impact on the country’s economy. In fact, Peru is a rare case in Latin America because, despite the poor performance of the Executive, the economy has remained relatively strong throughout the years.

However, the apparent economic recovery has not been beneficial for all Peruvians. Unfortunately, Peru is the most food-insecure country in South America. More than half the population in Peru lives in a food insecure situation, double the amount compared to pre-pandemic figures. From these figures, more than 6 million people live in extreme conditions in which food is unavailable for days.

Having access to clean water is also a struggle for many Peruvians. Almost 8 million people in Peru have no access to drinking water. Peru is a country rich in water, however, its distribution is unfavorable for those who need it most. Those who do not have direct access to water receive it through tanker trucks for twice the price. This forces many families to ration water which often doesn’t meet the minimum sanitation standards, which can lead to major health problems.

The Protests and the Future of Fragility and Rule of Law in Peru

The country has yet to discover what to expect after the detention of Castillo. However, the country has already plunged into chaos which the protests caused. The protests originated as a result of built-up tension due to the executive’s inability to govern and the new presidency of Boluarte. Many citizens have rejected her because Peruvians did not elect her and are now demanding proper national elections.

The future will show the extent to which these developments have affected the Peruvian economy. What is certain is that such an unstable and changeable government is incapable of prioritizing the problems of the most vulnerable and that is something that has to change.

– Carla Tomas
Photo: Unsplash

Haiti-United States RelationshipIn 1804, Haiti gained its independence from France, yet it took until 1862 for the U.S. to recognize Haiti as a nation. In the 20th century, U.S. military forces began a 19-year military intervention in Haiti that lasted until 1934. Despite being the “second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States,” Haiti has struggled to maintain a consistent and reliable democracy, according to the Office of the Historian. The Haiti-United States relationship has significantly strengthened over time, with the United States as a regular donor to Haiti. In an already unstable nation, the recent assassination of Haitian President Moïse in July 2021 has led to further instability in the nation, prompting urgent humanitarian assistance.

Contemporary Haiti-US Economic Relations

Following the 2010 earthquake that paralyzed Haiti, the United States provided more than $5 billion worth of aid aimed at supporting “longer-term recover, reconstruction and development programs,” according to the U.S. State Department. In the aftermath of the earthquake, U.S. economic efforts have allowed for:

  • The creation of close to 14,000 job opportunities in the apparel industry for local Haitians.
  • About 70,000 farmers were able to improve their crop yields with the introduction of “improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation and other technologies.”
  • A stronger police force that has expanded to more than 15,300 members.
  • Progress in “child nutrition and mortality, improved access to maternal healthcare and the containment of the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
  • Greater access to basic healthcare services in more than 160 health centers across Haiti.

As “Haiti’s largest trading partner,” the U.S. is involved in Haitian sectors such as “banks, airlines, oil and agribusiness companies” as well as “U.S.-owned assembly plants,” according to the U.S. State Department. Tourism, medical supplies and equipment, modernization of Haitian infrastructure and clothing production are areas of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

Despite the successes of the Haiti-United States relationship, the World Bank estimates that, in 2020, almost 60% of the Haitian population lived in poverty. These statistics make Haiti the most impoverished nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Political Unrest in Haiti

A shift from communism to democracy in Haiti has the ability to strengthen the Haiti-United States relationship and provide economic stability. Political and civil unrest has been ongoing since July 2018 and “violent protests” in the nation exacerbate Haiti’s plethora of issues. Among other issues, a growing unemployment rate, inflation rising to 20% and the Haitian currency depreciating by 30%, contribute to an ailing nation. Furthermore, the nation experiences regular fuel shortages and businesses struggle to keep their doors open. Due to the high poverty rate, about 33% of the population faces “crisis- or emergency-level food insecurity.”

While Haiti showed signs of promise when it held a democratic presidential election in 2017,  its “local and parliamentary elections” that were scheduled for October 2019 did not occur. Because democracy in Haiti is not consistent, this leads to nationwide instability and unrest.

The Assassination of President Jovenel Moïse

On July 7, 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and his wife, Martine, were attacked in their residence in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The president was killed in the attack and his wife was severely injured but did not suffer any fatal wounds.

Moïse’s presidency, which began in February 2017 after winning an annulled 2015 election and a second election in 2016, “was marked by controversy.” His appointment sparked protests throughout the country, with citizens citing “economic underperformance and corruption” as the reason. Since the beginning of 2020, Moïse ruled by decree and allegedly attempted to grant himself and close confidants “immunity from prosecution” on several occasions. In 2020, human rights abuses connected to gang violence caused two members of Moïse’s government to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

US Solidarity and Support

U.S. President Joe Biden has spoken on the future of the Haiti-United States relationship following Moïse’s assassination. Recently, Biden released a statement of mourning over Moïse’s assassination and uncertainty about the future of Haiti. “We condemn this heinous act and I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery. The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti,” says Biden.

The instability in the aftermath of Moïse’s assassination leaves the future of the Haiti-United States relationship in question. However, by committing to democracy, the Haitian government can work toward a stronger economic partnership between the two nations.

International Aid to Haiti

UNICEF is working to provide aid to more than 1.5 million Haitian people experiencing “constrained access to clean water, health and nutrition, disrupted education and protection services” amid the political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, UNICEF reported that “Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere where not a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been received.”

To address this, “UNICEF will support the distribution, transportation and storage of COVID-19 vaccines” to improve the vaccine rollout. Starting three years ago, UNICEF has provided 920 solar-operated fridges in Haiti, “to strengthen the cold chain, mainly in remote areas where electricity is unreliable.” Today, 96% of Haiti’s health centers possess solar fridges for medicinal cold storage.

By mitigating Haiti’s domestic hardships, there is greater hope for a stronger Haiti-United States relationship in the future. The efforts of global humanitarian organizations provide a glimmer of hope in a tumultuous political landscape.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

A group using USAID prepares a work crew for disaster reliefWith respect to the long history of governance, the increase in support for evidence-based policymaking is a relatively recent development. While the call to utilize evidence in policymaking can be traced to the 14th century, advocacy for evidence-based policymaking is recent. Advocates argue for the improved collection, consideration, dissemination and use of evidence at every level of government.

Evidence-based Policymaking in Congress

There is no single body today which defines or guides evidence-based policymaking. Implementations of evidence can be unique but tend to share similar goals and core principles.

Its proponents are numerous. Many organizations have recently launched their own initiatives to begin major pushes for evidence-based policymaking. In Washington alone, the Bipartisan Policy Center, Pew Charitable Trusts, Urban Institute and Brookings Institute are key examples.

When the Urban Institute introduced its Evidence-Based Policymaking Collaborative, it heralded the increasing momentum behind the use of evidence in policymaking — even suggesting the potential for a “golden era” of evidence-based policymaking. In its own words, evidence-based policymaking is about “[using] what we already know from program evaluation to make policy decisions and to build more knowledge to better inform future decisions.”

Evidence Proponents

A number of recent factors have made this change possible today. For instance, in order for policymaking backed by evidence to be possible in the first place, institutions must begin by using high-quality data which enables further analysis. Some contributing changes are computerization and digitalization, which have improved the availability of evidence. Increased investments in rigorous research have made analyzing evidence more fruitful to ultimately enable the evidence process.

The Bipartisan Policy Center launched its own Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative in 2017 to continue providing policymakers with recommendations. It bases its definition of evidence-based policymaking on three principles: data collection, data analysis and evidence use.

In its suggestions to policymakers, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative recommended that “for the evidence-based policymaking process to become more routine, policymakers must recognize that evidence is an essential and necessary input into the policymaking process.”

Evidence in Federal Agencies

USAID is a strong example of a United States government institution that has made significant strides in implementing evidence into its policies. The agency has implemented evaluative processes to assess and cement the use of evidence.

In October of 2019, Results for America released a press statement highlighting USAID, among nine other federal agencies, for its progress in its use of evidence.

USAID’s 10-year-old Development Investment Ventures (DIV) is a strong example of successful inclusions of evidence in policymaking. The Center for Global Development (CGD), a think tank and research institution, described DIV as comparable to venture capital funds. Both of them aggressively try new and untested approaches. DIV scales up the impacts of programs that are proven to work. However, DIV is unlike venture capital funds in that it seeks social returns rather than monetary gain.

DIV has managed to make remarkable impacts through its programs. Five of its innovations have yielded at least $17 in social impact per dollar invested.

CGD pointed out that the DIV programs that showed the strongest scalability were ones that “had a low cost per person reached; were based on established evidence; included an academic researcher in the design process to help test, iterate, and improve the innovation over time…” While organizations such as CGD continue to see room for improvement in evidence implementations, current evidence-based implementations at USAID are examples of the positive impact.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Flickr

Kosovo women in politics
Kosovo women hold more power in politics than ever before, including the highest office. Vjosa Osmani became the acting president of Kosovo after the arrest of the previous leader for war crimes in November 2020. For Kosovo women in politics, suppression from the 1990s Serbian rule still affects their representation in democratic offices since Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence. However, 44 of 120 new Parliament members the country elected in February 2021 were women, marking the highest number of women that the body has ever elected.

5 Ways That Kosovo Women are Gaining Representation in Politics

  1. Parliament Quota – After the Kosovo War with Serbia ended in 1999, Kosovo’s police force expanded to include the recruitment of female officers. One of these officers, Atifete Jahjaga, became Kosovo’s first female president in 2011. In 2004, Kosovo’s Law on Gender Equality declared equal opportunity for male and female participation in politics. In 2008, the Law on General Elections introduced a gender quota requiring a representation of at least 30% of either gender in elections. During the 2021 February election, women won more seats in Parliament than any previous year. About 40% of seats in Parliament are now for Kosovo women.
  2. National Democratic Institute’s Week of Women – In Kosovo, there is an annual workshop called The Week of Women. This campaign brings about 100 Kosovo women together to discuss various topics in politics. In 2018, Kosovo held its first six-month intensive program called Women’s Leadership Academy (WLA). The academy focuses on building skills for Kosovo women in politics and one can still access it online. The National Democratic Institute coaches women with various political representations, organizations and research findings. On September 15, 2018, participants shared their results with the Women’s Caucus in the Kosovo Assembly to celebrate the International Day of Democracy.
  3. Kosovo Women’s Network – The Kosovo Women’s Network (KWN) strives to improve women’s participation in politics. Six programs partner with 158 membered organizations. The programs include strengthening measures, decision-making, health care, gender, empowerment and education.
  4. “Marching, not Celebrating” Protest – In March 2020, Acting President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister-designate Albin Kurti attended protests for women. The rally had the title of “Marching, not Celebrating” and protested rampant domestic violence and a patriarchal society. Osmani is the second female president since the Serbian war, a substantial example of increasing opportunity for Kosovo women in politics.
  5. Girls Lead Act – The Girls Lead Act is a U.S. bill that received introduction in 2019. It directs the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to report to Congress the best solutions to help girls in democratic governance. If passed, this act will prioritize foreign aid in these areas as well, and can significantly aid Kosovo women. Currently, the bill receives support online.

An Optimistic Future

Kosovo women in politics are steadily increasing their solidification of power within the democracy. Kosovo’s independence is growing, though Russia and China’s support of Serbia only recognize Kosovo as a partially independent country. But, the United States and reputable European countries wholeheartedly recognize Kosovo’s independence, providing hope to not just women but also Kosovo’s people in general.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

The Feminization of Poverty in Thailand
Feminization of poverty refers to the higher likelihood that women will experience poverty than men. This rate is disproportionately high, even in industrialized nations where people encourage climbing the corporate ladder. The feminization of poverty in Thailand is a key issue for the country, and other gender inequality issues exacerbate it.

Gender Inequality in Poverty

Of all of the people living in poverty in the world, 70% are women. For these women, poverty is more than just a lack of money. It also includes not having access to necessary resources, such as healthcare, education, food and housing.

Poor households are also susceptible to chronic poverty. Chronic poverty refers to when households are stuck in a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape. For example, having an uncertain source of income instead of a stable one is difficult to overcome, especially when society deems women less than men. Feminization of poverty in Thailand and other places not only affects the particular individual in poverty but also generations to come. The cycle of poverty is incredibly difficult to break, which can lead women and their families to feel hopeless.

The Wage Gap in Thailand

Around the world, women earn less than men for doing the same work. The wage gap in Thailand was 2.5% in 2015. Unfortunately, in 2020, this gap increased to 10.94%. Further statistics from 2020 show that the average number of unpaid work hours per day is 3.2 for women and 0.9 for men. Additionally, the average number of total work hours for women and men differs by 0.9.

Furthermore, Thai women do not receive enough access to economic resources and financial services. Therefore, women do not possess the same amount of financial and digital literacy as men, resulting in underdeveloped technology skills. This puts women at a disadvantage when searching for jobs. Because of this, women in Thailand do not have equal access to markets.

As demonstrated in the unpaid work statistics, women bear the burden of unpaid responsibilities at home, such as cleaning and cooking, due to societal gender roles. This unpaid work results in women having less time to spend with their family and community. Women are also more likely to prioritize spending money on their children’s well-being, including health and education. The effects of the wage gap on working mothers often include living in poor conditions, lacking access to healthy foods and having fewer opportunities for their children. As a result, many women face increased levels of stress and unhappiness.

The Good News

The first step toward gender equality in Thailand occurred in 1933 when the government granted Thai women the right to vote. Thailand was one of the first Asian countries to give women this opportunity. The current Constitution of Thailand states that both women and men have equal rights.

The role of Thai women in the workplace has increased in recent years. Approximately 17.5 million women work in workplaces throughout Thailand. According to research from Grant Thornton International in 2019, women held 33% of all CEO and managing director jobs in the private sector in Thailand. Moreover, 20% of directors in Thailand were women according to the 2019 Corporate Governance Report.

Women have more protections than before and additional opportunities to advance their careers. Thailand now has anti-discrimination rules in hiring, rules against workplace sexual harassment and equal pay for equal work, which improves the feminization of poverty.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr