Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Technological Sustainability
Technological innovations are changing the world. These innovations enable easier and more sustainable ways to support the Earth. Ensuring sustainable development includes technological innovations that improve the overall well-being of humans. It also requires a broad knowledge of technologies that can help advance people and organizations within the system. In order to create technological innovations for sustainability, there has to be a well-rounded understanding of the system. Once one has absorbed this knowledge, then they can create different technologies. These types of technologies include devices, methods, processes and actual practices. Technological innovations affect local communities in global areas as well.

Sustainable Development Goals

Technology is boosting the number of Sustainable Development Goals. This is creating solutions for social, economic and environmental threats. People have created many medical solutions through technological innovations. According to UNCTAD’s 2018 Technology and Innovations report, data analysis is aiding the response to disease outbreaks in different countries. In developing countries, some are using 3D printers to make custom-built prosthetic limbs for a cheap price.

Technological Innovation Devices

There are many other technological innovations that are promoting goals for the development of sustainability as well. Namely, one of those innovations includes the Zéphyr. Karen Assaraf, Julie Dautel and Cédric Tomissi created the Zéphyr, which acts as an eco-friendly generator. The device only uses water to inflate and capture solar energy from 165 feet in the air. Its purpose is to bring power to places that natural disasters have struck. In addition, the Groasis Waterboxx planting device is another technological innovation for sustainability. Pieter Hoff created the device which attempts to make growing crops in the desert possible and more efficient. It takes 90 percent less water than its traditional growing counterpart and people can use it in some extreme climates.

Initiatives for a Sustainable World

Along with technological innovations, there are also initiatives in place to create resources for a sustainable world. ENGIE Insight is a sustainable resource initiative working with businesses to reduce environmental impacts. ENGIE provides businesses with technology to support the reduction of their carbon footprint. So far ENGIE has worked with Gamestop and AMTRAK to assist in the creation of practices that reduce harm to the environment.

Additionally, in March 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched its Industrial Development Report. This report promotes industrial development and argues that mass consumption of manufacturers will set a “virtuous circle of industrial development – comprising income creation, demand diversification and massification of consumption.” The report also acknowledges that manufacturing is a key provider of quality goods and has a positive impact on living standards. Further, this contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals by ensuring the sustainability of the environment.

Technological advances that support sustainability are very important and are a part of the solution to change the world for the better. As the world becomes more sustainable, poor and marginalized communities should experience increased opportunities. In addition, improving sustainability through technology is impactful beyond the restraints of socioeconomic status. It all starts with technological innovations that require efforts from the people and political powers to set in motion.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

United Nations and Global Poverty Reduction
Since its establishment in 1945, the United Nations has had the responsibility of maintaining peace and stability across the globe. This governmental body is at the center of global disputes, such as the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Brexit. It can also exercise diplomatic abilities when it comes to enforcing economic sanctions against some of the world’s less democratic actors. The U.N. has fashioned a multitude of agencies and programs with the sole intention of bringing billions out of poverty and on the path to more sustainable and secure lives.

As a Nobel Prize-winning organization, the United Nations became the world’s first far-reaching diplomatic body. With the powers outlined in its charter, the United Nations is in a unique position to confront many of the world’s 21st-century woes. From global security to health emergencies, the U.N. has the ability to assist in a plethora of international issues.

Beyond Global Conflict

While vital in resolving global conflict, the United Nations and global poverty reduction are not solely peace-keeping endeavors. On December 22, 1992, through resolution 47/196, the U.N. reaffirmed its commitment to global poverty reduction and declared Oct. 17 the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. According to its website, “On that day, over 100,000 people gathered at the Trocadéro in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honor the victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger.”

While there is much optimism that one can find in the fight to end global poverty, such as the reduction of the global poverty rate by more than half since 2000., the U.N. is aware that to combat poverty, there is a need for global strategies, outreach and funds.

The Division for Social Policy and Development

The United Nations has developed programs within the organization with the primary functions of establishing the goals and parameters that will hopefully lead society down a path of complete poverty eradication. For example, the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) acts as the primary arbitrator of programs that directly assist participating nations with policy initiatives that will put them on the road to being more secure, free and developed. It does this by improving standards of living and quality of life for billions of people through health and education outreach, economic development and an impassioned commitment to promoting security and harmonious societies.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

As a part of its commitment to poverty elimination and overall sustainability, the U.N. unveiled an ambitious plan. In September 2015, the U.N. began the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This daring strategy tackles issues that people universally share and provides a valuable road map to reaching their outlined goals. It includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as 169 global targets that the world intends to meet by 2030. This plan is different from past attempts because of its creative approaches and sheer scale. The United Nations and global poverty reduction efforts include goals to not only tackle the climate crisis but also boost renewable energies, ensure sustainable water and build resilient infrastructures.

As ambitious as this plan may seem, the United Nations sees no reason why it is not achievable. The size of the plan is equitable to the scale of the problem. Of the world’s population, 10 percent of the world or 700 million people still live in extreme poverty. Further, those in extreme poverty are living on $1.90 a day.

The United Nations is aware that while economic prosperity is vital to providing better circumstances, other factors play indirect roles. For example, the U.N. sees the current climate crisis as a clear impediment to achieving its development goals.

Impact of Climate Change

A U.N. report makes it starkly clear that the impacts of climate change and inequality are only exacerbating the already immense issues of hunger and could potentially undermine its goal of ending poverty by 2030. It also notes that the pace of poverty reduction began to slow down in 2018. This will dampen the U.N.’s ability to reach the SDGs and hinder resilience toward deprivation, political unrest and natural disasters.

While the United Nations is confident that it will meet its goals, it will undoubtedly meet new challenges. This was evident when The Borgen Project spoke to Aliyya Noor, a Communications Associate at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Representative Office in Islamabad, Pakistan. For Noor, the path out of extreme poverty in Pakistan comes from within the global community through foreign aid.

When The Borgen Project questioned Noor about what the most pressing reason to donate to foreign aid is, she responded, “to eliminate global poverty, the disparity between immense wealth and extreme poverty is increasing day by day.” Noor believes the United Nations’ all-encompassing approach has the best chance of dealing with the multitude of issues the world faces today. “We can, and should, have more than one ball in the air at a time. Many of these problems support each other, so if we tackle one, we’ll have a good chance against the others.”

The United Nations’ Future Work

The United Nations and global poverty reduction efforts are not perfect, and some critics have even argued its ineffectiveness. However, it has made great strides in many areas of poverty reduction and global development. If the decline in overall global woes is any indication, the U.N.’s leadership in these areas appears to be working. The benefits extend to everyone, not just the nations and organizations involved.

When the Borgen Project asked Noor if she felt optimistic about the progress, she responded, “We could be doing more, of course. But, when you see the impact our people and programs can have on lives, you can’t help but feel optimistic.”

 – Connor Dobson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

UNDP GoalsIn 2018, the United Nations Development Programme implemented a new strategic plan to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The plan included fast-tracking towards Agenda 2030 by alleviating poverty, accelerating structural modifications and building resilience to crises. For example, in Fiji, one of the UNDP’s goals included alleviating poverty, which can be achieved by a surge of innovation that allows the locals to connect to services. This allowed the locals to shape the governance of the future. Many other similar goals succeded in 2018.

Here are the five UNDP goals reached in 2018.

5 UNDP Goals Reached in 2018

  1. Poverty: The UNDP succeeded at helping half of the countries in the world prioritize poverty reduction by aligning it with national and local interests. The global development network also helped 4 million people affected by poverty or crises to attain employment and improve their livelihoods. Of note, 20 million more people can now make use of financial services.
  2. Governance: The UNDP supported 56 counties to carry out fair electoral processes through digital means. The aim was to fight corruption and increase the likelihood of civic engagement. In fact, in 2018, 21 million people across the globe became newly registered to vote and 89 countries partnered with UNDP to reform discriminatory laws. For example, to tackle corruption in the Philippines, the UNDP and Google together created “DevelopmentLIVE” to give citizens the chance to livestream the monitoring activities for infrastructure projects that relate to the Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Resilience: Conflict and crises often worsen poverty and inequality — this is why the UNDP invested more than $1 billion to improve resilience to shocks and crises in 2018. Thanks to this commitment 3 million people living in 12 different countries resumed accessing basic needs such as housing and energy. In 2018, the UNDP also partnered with the local municipalities in Turkey, funded by the EU Facility Projects, to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to shocks, such as the wave of Syrian refugees. This partnership launched the “UNDP Turkey Resilience Project in response to the Syria Crisis (TRP)” that prioritizes livelihoods through economic and social resilience.
  4. Environment: Oftentimes, the ones who are most affected by environmental disasters are those living in extreme poverty. Thus, UNDP goals included helping countries to protect the most vulnerable communities. Of note, 256 million tons of carbon emissions have been cut thanks to UNDP efforts. In addition, in 2018, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the UNDP worked together to encourage governments to incorporate the environment aspect into the framework of human rights for the mining sector.
  5. Energy: UNDP goals redirected countries from using fossil fuels towards renewable and affordable sources of energy. The organization provided around $1 billion in grants to 110 countries towards progressing this goal by increasing the percentage of clean energy usage in each countries’ national energy mix. For instance, Indonesian farmers worked on the Biochar project with the UNDP to develop bio-charcoal. This enabled female farmers to develop bio-charcoal home industries to boost their incomes and improve their living standards.

The UNDP aims to complete its agenda and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which is why it has built labs in more than 60 countries to accelerate the process.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished
Artificial intelligence has evolved from a futuristic fantasy to our living reality. The possibilities for artificial intelligence-based solutions are continuously developing. Therefore, the potential to expand the reach of various initiatives to help those in poverty is increasing. Recently, companies have recognized that artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by contributing to various sustainability initiatives in impoverished countries. The globally impoverished disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of environmental issues. Artificial intelligence can help those in poverty restore a sense of empowerment in struggling communities.

How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals

  • Wadhwani AI – The focus at Wadhwani AI is to bring artificial intelligence to communities in need (and thus that are the least likely to have access to artificial intelligence). One of their current projects focuses on cotton farming. Cotton is the third-largest crop in India with 75 percent grown by small farmers who struggle to have a stable income. Pests are a huge problem for small farmers for both economic and mental health reasons. After 40 percent of cotton crops were destroyed by a pink bollworm attack between 2017-2018, 100,000 cotton farmers committed suicide. As many pesticides have proven unreliable over time, Wadhwani AI is developing technology to detect pests, reducing crop losses and pesticide use.
  • GringgoRecycling collection is incredibly limited in impoverished areas. Generally, only 40 percent of trash is collected in South East Asia. Gringgo, based in Indonesia, uses an app to help collect plastic waste. The app connects waste collectors to uncollected recyclables in their area that can be sold for a profit, increasing income for waste workers and cleaning up waste simultaneously. Recycling facilities purchase these recyclables and convert them into various commodities. For example, plastics can be converted into fuel for the cement industry. Selling waste back to recycling industries (effectively taking it out of the waste stream) reduces ocean pollution, as many landfills are located near rivers, causing much of the collected waste to end up in oceans. Gringgo aims to increase recycling rates by 50 percent by 2022 and reduce the plastic in oceans by 25 percent by 2020 in South East Asia.
  • Makerere University – Air pollution causes more than 700,000 deaths in Africa yearly. Additionally, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income areas do not meet air quality guidelines. Finding solutions to reduce air pollution is imperative. Based in Uganda, Makerere University demonstrates how artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by aiming to improve air quality. By using low-cost technology, Makerere University hopes to obtain more data on air pollution and the communities most at risk. Sensors attached to taxis around Uganda track pollution and will ultimately forecast future air pollution rates. Policymakers will use this data to make informed decisions regarding industrial changes to reduce air pollution. As data on air pollution rates in specific communities is currently lacking. However, this study could raise awareness among citizens about the unhealthy pollution rates in their own communities.

AI expansion is inevitable; it is already happening. While there are many possibilities for how artificial intelligence can help the impoverished, companies may also question the ethics of new technologies and possible impacts. That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence can help those in poverty when paired with an open dialogue with those involved in terms of how to help.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

starving to death
Whale hunting in Japan is immaterial to feeding the population. As a result, many wonder why the nation continues to practice the antiquated ritual, while a bulk of its citizens are starving and fighting an uphill battle against the national welfare program. Japan’s current poverty rate is 15.3 percent, and more than 19 million citizens are living below the poverty line.

Welfare and Whale Hunting in Japan

The Japanese government has defended whaling practices by claiming that the practice is a part of the ancient Japanese culture. From the 1940s to the mid-1960s, whales were the biggest source of meat for the Japanese people. This was due to food shortages throughout the country. The government found an inexpensive solution in canning whale meat and serving in the government-funded national school lunch programs. At the highest point of the hunt, 24,000 whales were killed in just one year.

However, the economic climate has shifted. Japan has one of the wealthiest economies in the world and can easily afford to import meat from the United States or Australia. Currently, with Japan leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the financial burden of whaling will again fall on taxpayers. Expenditure of citizens’ tax money on whaling is justified by classifying whaling as research. The International Court of Justice has disproved Japan’s research claims, yet, funding that could be allocated to other benefits, like welfare, continues to be allocated to the practice.

According to a poll in 2015, the average consumption by the Japanese people of whale meat was just one ounce per person. Whale meat in Japanese cuisine has only been popular post World War II, and it would be categorized as nostalgia food by older generations. Nevertheless, Japan continues to fund whaling with $50 million annually. Regarding the Japanese welfare system, the central government acknowledges 75 percent of the costs, and Japan is planning on cutting back even further to their system.

When it comes to welfare,  Japanese citizens do not have the right to be taken care of by the government. Welfare in Japan is most commonly utilized by either the elderly, single mothers or handicapped citizens. Currently, there are five million unemployed Japanese citizens. Since 2008, the Japanese government has tried to make acquiring government assistance more manageable. However, most applicants are obliged to ask their family for help before applying, and impoverished people who are physically capable of working are still ineligible.  Professor Hiroshi Sugimura from Hoesei University in Tokyo said: “Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to the citizens, only those who pay taxes are citizens.” The government currently gives 3.4 trillion Yen to welfare a year, but this only amounts to 10 percent of all tax revenues.

With the strict guidelines of the welfare program, people in need often slip through the cracks. Just in the past ten years alone, 700 Japanese citizens have starved to death, most of them elderly people. While the poverty rate in Japan does not reach the global levels (nearly 3.4 billion people, or half of the world’s population, struggle to meet basic needs),  Japan is currently in the lowest category of children in need, with the OECD estimating there are 3.5 million Japanese children who are living in relative poverty.

What Is Being Done?

An organization called Second Harvest provides the only nationwide food bank in Japan. Since 2002, Second Harvest has been food security for the needy. It delivers to children’s homes, women’s shelters and handicapped facilities. Second Harvest also works tirelessly with companies to acquires left-over food that is still edible and recycles it into free meals.

The Japanese government supports the Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to bring hunger to zero by the year 2030. Japan is putting forth procedures that will help build a sustainable society and help with social improvements. By incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals, Japan is hoping to prioritize ancillary benefits, far removed from previous oversight, promoting human rights for every citizen.

The heated issue of whale hunting in Japan and the hunger of its citizens has been recognized by the Japanese government. Acknowledging the fact that many citizens are starving to death, and few are interested in eating whale meat, is an impetus for the government to remedy the issue. Solutions are being established and proposed on a regular basis, and with time. these two issues will be combatted and Japan’s healing as a nation will happen quickly.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Google

What you wear tells a story
Reflect is a new brand founded by young entrepreneurs in Istanbul who believe that what you wear tells a story. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to catch up with Ece Altunmaral, one of the founders of the organization, and asked her questions concerning the origins of their organization’s story and what awaits them in the future.

What is “Reflect”?

How did the idea come up and what were you thinking of changing in the clothing industry?

“Reflect is a textile-oriented design studio, creating narrative products for both organizations and individuals. The studio operates with ‘storytelling design’ and ‘responsible production’ in its heart and relies on the power of stories that make feelings tangible and ideas memorable.

The idea came up as a reaction to the facts we heard about the dirty textile industry, and also as a realization that clothing is a great medium of communication and could be used for a good purpose. Although not widely known, the textile is the second most harmful industry to the environment, only after oil. The process behind our clothes is also kept opaque. We do not know where the fabrics of our clothes are sourced from, nor do we know how many people worked in the making of them.

On the other hand, clothes are the first thing we see when we meet a person. What you wear tells a story, and clothes are dialogue starters. So we thought, ‘why not use clothing as a medium to deliver a message, to highlight stories on social issues through a unique way of design?’ Radical change takes time, but we aim to challenge the current clothing industry by introducing transparency, responsible production and story-telling design.”

 Three Articles in Reflect’s Manifesto

Starting with the article “What You Wear Tells a Story,” would you mind sharing with The Borgen Project the meaning behind the three articles you picked for your manifesto?

  1. Article 1: What You Wear Tells a Story. Appreciating the value of involvement, engagement and different perspectives, we develop our products “together” with designers and brands. The design process starts with collaborative workshops, results in lacing the outcomes onto fabrics and turning them into narratives. Accordingly, we invite all of our clients to become a part of the solution by designing stories around “Sustainable Development Goals”, which focus on environmental, political and economic problems that the world faces.
  2. Article 2: Radical Transparency Establishes Trust. Embracing the worldwide movement of “slow fashion,” we reject being part of the damage that the fashion industry causes on the environment. We guarantee an ethical and transparent operation from production to distribution while only producing internationally certified sustainable products and assuring long-term use.
  3. Article 3: Every Purchase Is an Endorsement. This last article is actually the reason why we have started a company. Every dollar we spend makes an organization live a day more. We do hold the power in our hands by choosing to shop from responsible companies. As three co-founders, we wanted to create a better alternative for responsible consumption.”

Designing “Solidarity”

How was the designing process of your first ever product “Solidarity?” What does it reflect about your organization?

“In our first collection Solidarity, we identified our social challenge as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. We focused on displaced Syrian refugee children living in Istanbul. We organized art therapy workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. Our creative art therapy workshops encouraged them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a unique and subjective way through art. Their expressions have turned into the design of our garments. Our first organization is the leading example of our collaborative and participatory approach to communities around us as a brand.”

The Impact of the Organization

What kind of impact do you aim to bring to life and clothing industry by showing people that what you wear tells a story? What is the outcome of the desired social and environmental impact of the “Reflect” so far?

“Since our first day of operations (October 2016), we have reached out to 143 refugee children aged from 7-12, who live in Istanbul, to get empowered through our art therapy sessions. Through our sustainable production process for the manufacturing of our first two collections, we saved 53 percent of material waste and 77 percent of water compared to global industry standards. Furthermore, through partnerships with ateliers, we enabled the employment of 43 textile workers under fair-trade conditions.”

The Future

What waits for the organization in the future?

“For our products to be made accessible worldwide. We want to help increase the number of individuals who care about social and environmental causes across the world with our strong corporate commitment to the realization of sustainable development goals. We want more people to buy garment products manufactured sustainably and become part of the solutions that address such challenges through directly impacting vulnerable groups with every purchase they made from reflect.

We would scale up our impact through increased e-commerce activities and physical presence of Reflect products in major markets (European Union and North America). Moreover, we aim at expanding our market share in B2B partnerships for garment products. We are aiming to increase the number of long-term collaborations with mission-driven organizations. Also, we started our application procedure to become a Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) by fulfilling all the required criteria. By mid-2019, we want to become a registered B-corporation!”

Reflect is doing its part to provide sustainable clothing to the mainstream market. The organization is also reaching out to communities around the world, working with refugee children, supporting sustainable sourcing and working for a better future for our planet.

Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty
Eliminating global poverty will not be accomplished strictly through emerging opportunities and resources for the world’s most vulnerable people but will be done by redefining ideas about poverty. Instead of defining poverty by a purchasing power baseline, Rajiv Shah, the current Rockefeller Foundation President, thinks we should define and measure poverty in terms of power connectivity and electrification, in other words, energy poverty.

Rajiv Shah, former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator, suggested this idea at the Affordable and Clean Energy for All event in Washington, D.C. Shah points to the idea that poverty is traditionally measured by a “basket of goods” stemming from a “total calories mindset.” Energy poverty defines poverty by the extent of the lack of access to modern energy.

Poverty Definitions Today

Currently, poverty is defined with a mere dollar amount. Extreme poverty is defined as a daily income of less than $1.90, and moderate poverty is living on less than $3.10 a day. The idea of moving from defining poverty from purchasing power to energy accessibility has some weight to it. For example, India in the 1970s defined poverty as the ability to purchase 2,100 to 2,400 calories of food per day depending on if the person was living in the city or in rural areas. In 2011, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee, a namesake for the late economist Suresh Tendulkar, defined living below the poverty line as spending between 27.2 and 33.3 Indian rupees (or between $0.38 and $0.46) per month on electricity, food, education and health.

This measure is thought to be far too conservative, but it does touch on the expanse of resources and services, specifically electricity, that factor into basic living standards. India is said to have 300 million people with little or no access to electricity. That is roughly 23 percent of its population. By taking energy poverty into consideration, a much clearer picture of global poverty rates can be analyzed.

Providing Energy to Areas In Need

Shah and the Rockefeller Foundation are not just providing mere lip service to the conversation on extreme poverty but also real energy service. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsors Smart Power for Rural Development, a $75 million program launched in 2015 that brings solar power to villages. This program has already powered 100 Indian villages with mini-grids that supply renewable energy to over 40,000 people.

Investments in mini-grids such as Smart Power for Rural Development or the $20 million raised from Husk Power Systems (the largest for an Indian mini-grid company) are thought to be the most efficient solutions for securing energy goals for sustainable development. Without reliable energy connectivity, almost half Of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 cannot be achieved. Two of such goals are “no poverty” and “affordable and clean energy.”

Energy is vital to attaining Development Goals such as health, education, inequality and food security. “Access to reliable electricity drives development and is essential for job creation, women’s empowerment and combating poverty,” says Gerth Svensson, chief executive at Swefund, a Swedish development finance institution that works to eliminate poverty by establishing sustainable businesses.

Metrics to Define Energy Poverty

Defining poverty through the proxy of energy poverty can leave vague perceptions. Yet, one metric illuminates the reality of what it means to be energy poor. Energy poverty is being quantified by the Multidimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI). The MEPI measures energy deprivation, as opposed to energy access. It is made up of five dimensions: cooking, lighting, services provided by means of household appliances, entertainment/education and communication.

Each dimension has one indicator to measure the importance of the activity, with an exception to cooking, which has two indicators. Each indicator has a binary threshold that indicates the presence or lack of a product or service. Energy poverty defined through the cooking dimension is measured by cooking with any fuel besides electricity, natural or biogas since it would leave a family vulnerable to indoor pollution. The lack of several other products or services complete the index—the lack of access to electricity (lighting), a refrigerator (household appliances), a radio or television (entertainment/education), and a landline or mobile phone (communication).

Measuring Poverty Through Energy

According to BRCK, a Kenyan organization that works to furnish internet connectivity to frontier markets, 18 of Africa’s 54 total nations have at least between 50 and 75 percent of their population without access to electricity, and 16 have more than 75 percent of their population lacking. On the measure of communication, only four of those nations have mobile-phones access for more than half their population, the highest being South Africa at 68 percent.

Using the current standard, roughly 736 million people worldwide are considered to be living in extreme poverty, yet 1.1 billion people were still living without access to electricity in 2017. The means for microeconomic power and poverty alleviation via education, healthcare, business and communication seem to be less about cash flow and more so concerning reliable energy flow, redefining poverty with the idea of energy poverty.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr