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 AfghanistanAfghanistan 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 WomenThe 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

Poverty in Madagascar
Even with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr

How Politics Affect Poverty
In the last decade, there have been many studies regarding how politics and various government institutions shape poverty.

For the poorest and most vulnerable, the way in which their governments operate makes a profound difference in their lives. The incapacity of government institutions to prevent conflict, provide basic security or basic services can have detrimental consequences for their citizens, especially for the poor.

How Politics Affect Poverty

The instability of economic growth can make countries depend indefinitely on foreign aid. In countries where cultural or ethnic groups feel that there is economic, political and social inequality, wars are more likely to occur, causing a vicious cycle that leads to poverty.

In many instances the poor are marginalized and their voices are not heard. The poor, more than any other group, rely on basic public services.

These services work better for the poor when poor citizens participate in reforms of service delivery. In conflict-affected states, the supply of these services is very scarce.

Political instability, poor governance and corruption are a major phenomenon affecting poverty in the world today.

The Case of Haiti and Madagascar

For example, rudimentary to the prevalent problem of poverty in Haiti is the extensive history of political turmoil and the lack of governance.

Corruption and the misuse of public funds resulted in a reduction in the quality of all public services for the country. This includes the fundamental areas of traditional governmental responsibility, such as the police, the justice system and the provision of elemental infrastructure.

This makes Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world.

Madagascar is another example of how politics affects poverty. Madagascar was a country with a lot of economic potential before the big crisis of 2008.

Before the crisis, Madagascar had economic growth of 5 percent per year but economic growth became stagnant from 2008 up until 2013.

Since 2009, Madagascar has been in an intense political turmoil created by an unconstitutional change of government.

The political crisis and instability created uncertainty for private investment. Throughout these years of political upheaval, Madagascar’s social and economic growth became severely damaged.

Discriminatory Laws

Racial, gender and ethnic discrimination are directly related to how politics affects poverty in some countries of the world and it needs to be addressed if it is to successfully decrease inequality and poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, discriminatory family laws on marriage, separation and divorce push some women further into poverty.

In 20 years, Bangladesh has made great progress in its life expectancy and raised it by 10 years and has reduced infant mortality by more than half.

According to recent studies, both the rich and the poor are benefiting from these improvements.

However, according to the Human Rights Watch, women in the country do not benefit from these gains due to discriminatory family laws that push them deeper into poverty.

Migration is another aspect related to how politics affects poverty.

Migrant workers usually do not engage in political action about wages and conditions and they also lack the rights associated with citizenship and residency.

The laws governing immigration also often deprive these workers of labor or welfare protection, compel their ability to seek adequate working conditions.

Nongovernmental organizations’ Role

Nongovernmental organizations are an important part in helping alleviate poverty in many underdeveloped and third world countries.

For example, these organizations complement government in mobilizing additional resources in benefiting the greater number of people in need and enhancing program results through their participation in project management, monitoring and evaluation.

Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty that require different approaches.

The first category is made of people who are temporarily incapable of work, the second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency.

The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor and the fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled.

Nongovernmental organizations can provide huge help for the first and the second category.

Unlike some development players, nongovernmental organizations are more willing to help and provide innovative solutions to the people’s problems allowing them to gain support sooner.

Policymakers must use conscientious new approaches to generate productive jobs, increase the minimum wage, ensure investment in low-income communities, improve education and training and create more opportunities for everyone to apply their talents.

In conclusion, it is important that all governmental institutions become aware of the problem that poverty brings to societies and the impact that it has in the economic growth and development of a nation.

By becoming fully aware and not ignoring it anymore, policymakers have the responsibility to create laws that will help alleviate poverty in their communities.

It is important to tackle it and not to continue blaming the individual citizen for his misfortune but to provide guidance and opportunities for poor people to step out of the hole they’re in.
Photo: Unsplash

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict
2017 brought significant changes to Ukraine as 6.4 million Ukrainians rose above the country’s poverty line thanks to increases in minimum wage and a boost in social welfare programs. However, after five years of conflict with Russia and 39 percent of the country still living below the poverty line, the future of Ukraine’s poor remains uncertain. As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, aid from the U.S. and other countries is the only sure-fire way for those in Ukraine to find relief from the violence at hand.
Here are 10 facts about the conflict in Ukraine and its effect on this eastern European nation.  

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

  1. The Ukraine-Russia conflict began in 2013 when the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych declined a resolution that would allow for Ukraine to engage in more economic activity with the European Union. After Yanukovych declined the deal, protests began in the capital city, Kiev. When police intervened, the number of protesters increased to contest the brutal treatment from the officers. Yanukovych fled the country in 2014 amid the turmoil, leaving Russia to occupy Ukraine soon after.
  2. Currently, the Ukrainian military is fighting rebels in eastern Ukraine who are being supported by Russia and who wish to annex and become part of Russia.
  3. The Ukraine-Russia conflict has killed more than 10,000 and wounded at least 23,000.
  4. Since 2014, fighting between the two countries has damaged more than 700 schools as well as 130 medical centers. Breaches in ceasefires have endangered more than 200,000 children who are often put in harm’s way and lack access to safe learning spaces.
  5. The front line of the war stretches 280 miles across Ukraine, blocking much of the country’s access to trade and supplies from neighboring countries and the U.N.
  6. In 2017, UNICEF, along with nongovernmental organizations and utility companies, worked to provide more than 962,000 people clean drinking water in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas. They also provided vouchers for cash and hygiene education to 160,000 people living closest to the front lines, 30,000 of them children.
  7. UNICEF offered psychosocial support to 82,000 children and caregivers within 15 km of the front line through community support centers. The organization also provided 700,000 children and their families with mine-risk education. Futhermore, the rehabilitation of 87 schools and kindergartens within 5 km of the front lines, provided by UNICEF aid, allowed 138,000 children to return to school, with teachers and aides receiving emergency training.
  8. In order to provide proper healthcare, education and shelter for its citizens, Ukraine requires consistent aid from the United States. Americans can alleviate the effects of the violence in Ukraine by contacting their congresspeople and representatives and asking that they support the International Affairs Budget. Ongoing support from the U.S. will help to improve the conditions of those in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
  9. USAID supported elections in 600 communities throughout Ukraine, with many of these townships experiencing their first true election process.
  10. For 2018, Ukraine requires $23.6 million in aid in order to properly improve the country’s predicament. The top three main areas of need are:
    • Access to clean water, sanitation services and hygiene products ($13,619,000)
    • Child protection from violence ($3,200,000)
    • Education ($3,050,000)

Although there is still a long way to go in ending the Ukraine-Russia conflict some important steps have been made. The Ukraine government passed a healthcare reform law in October, which was signed by President Poroshenko, to improve the quality of care provided to its citizens and reduce corruption in the system. The work being done by UNICEF and USAID in Ukraine is helping to alleviate the damaging impact of the conflict. The next step will be working to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict once and for all.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Why Is It Important to VoteWhy is it important to vote? Because voting sends a message to politicians that the changes they are making and the laws they are passing have the approval of the people.

Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” This truism is important for anti-poverty activists to remember as they enter their polling places.

The Power of One

It is important to vote because many candidates for political offices are voted in by only one or two votes. The same goes for important issues that are passed into law. The people who are most likely to be affected by changes in legislation or political power, such as the poor, minorities and the disenfranchised, are the least likely to vote.

The supreme court has taken steps to ensure that voter ID laws do not institutionally discriminate against groups of people. The right to vote is not dependent on whether the voter is more or less likely to be impacted by the results. Theodore Roosevelt said, “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends on the character of the user,” because each vote that is cast is important and has an impact on the political climate of America.

John Quincy Adams sums up the reason why anti-poverty activists and other people wishing to make lasting changes for the better need to go out and vote when he said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

A Tool for Change

So why is it important to vote? Voting is a powerful tool that can be used to make positive changes to social policy.

While marches and rallies are an important way to help inform people about various social issues, voting is a more powerful and useful tool for change. Morgan Carroll in “Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Your Government Work For You” eloquently expresses the power of a vote when she says: “When there’s a vacuum of public input, lobbyists usually fill it. But when there’s public input, the people usually win.”

Voting is one of the most effective ways to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy. While marches and rallies tend to raise awareness about social issues that need to be addressed by the government, voting tells the government that awareness about the issue is no longer sufficient and that direct action to correct the issue is being demanded.

Why Is It Important to Vote?

It is crucial for anti-poverty activists and others who want to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy to get out and vote. Franklin D. Roosevelt expresses the power of voting and the answer to the question “why is it important to vote?” when he said: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

PeyoteEver since Carlos Castaneda published “The Teachings of Don Juan,” tourists have been coming to Mexico and illegally harvesting the Lophophora Williamsii cactus, more commonly known as Peyote. The Wixárika, also known as Huichol Indians, ceremonially use Lophophora Williamsii in their religious rituals and depend on the Mexican government to protect the Peyote that grows along the trail that the Wixárika follow during their ritual trek.

Tourists in Mexico Are Putting Peyote At Risk

Since it is illegal in Mexico for anybody who is not part of the Wixárika tribe to harvest and use Peyote, many tour guides take people to places where the cactus grows to let them reap the crop without giving them any instructions on how to sustainably harvest the crop. Harvesting Lophophora Williamsii using unsustainable methods is the main reason why the plant is at risk of being over-harvested.

It takes Peyote over 30 years to grow. Removing it in a way that is not environmentally sustainable poses the risk of destroying the ability of the Wixárika to use the plant for decades.

Methods such as GPS tracking units, security guards and fences have been used to stop poachers from illegally harvesting Peyote. Illegally collecting Lophophora Williamsii carries a jail term of up to 25 years in prison but most police officers in Mexico tend to took the other way when tourists steal the plant.

Lophophora Williamsii in Wixárika Rituals

The use of Lophophora Williamsii is an integral part of the religious experience for the Wixárika or Huichol Indians. Tourists who are harvesting Peyote on the sacred sites used by the Wixárika for generations are putting the rights of the Wixárika to use Peyote during their religious rituals at risk.

Pedro Medellin, who is running a study on the risks that tourists who harvest Peyote are putting on the Wixárika or Huichol Indians, stressed the importance of the cactus in Wixárika rituals to NPR. Medellin stated, “If Peyote disappears, then their whole culture disappears.”

Furthermore, NIERKIA, the Multidisciplinary Association for the Preservation of the Indigenous Traditions of Sacred Plants, published a pamphlet detailing some of the steps that the Mexican government could take in the future to protect Peyote so that the Wixárika always have access to Peyote during their rituals.

Inconsistent Laws Create More Risk

A loophole in Mexican law allows people to come to San Luis Potosi to consume Lophophora Williamsii in the desert without risking jail time. It is only illegal to harvest and remove the plant from San Luis Potosi to use it in other places. The Mexican government must have more consistent laws about the harvesting and use of Peyote in order to better protect it on the lands that are sacred to the Wixárika.

Even though it is a balancing act to protect the rights of native peoples while also promoting tourism to the area, it is important to ensure that native groups that live in a specific region are not forced to give up their traditional identity in the pursuit of economic prosperity. The Mexican government is beginning to help protect the ancient rituals of the Wixárika.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr