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

Outlook for Sustainable Development
In 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to expand upon the progress of the Millennium Development Goals that were set from 2000 to 2015.

Comprised of 17 goals, the SDGs address issues such as poverty, education and health with the overall aim of achieving worldwide peace and prosperity by 2030. Three years into the initial reports on the outlook for Sustainable Development Goals express skepticism that these goals can be reached at the current rate of progress. The problems in meeting these goals are described below.

Eliminating Poverty

According to the World Bank, the rate of poverty reduction that more than halved the world population of people living in extreme poverty from 1990 to 2015 is currently in decline. The organization estimates that the annual rate of poverty reduction that was 2.5 percent from 2011 to 2013, will decrease to less than half a percentage point.

The World Bank has also calculated that the bottom 40 percent of people in terms of income would need to see a yearly income increase of eight percent or more for the next 12 years in order to meet the first SDG of reducing the global poverty rate to 3 percent or lower. The report also notes that income growth never reached this height from 2000 to 2015, despite the notable progress in poverty reduction during these years.

Improving Education

Although the information is scarce, the available data suggests that the current rate of progress in education is also too slow to meet designated targets by 2030. In its 2018 report, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) projects that at least 22 million children worldwide will be unable to participate in pre-primary education unless the current rate of progress doubles in countries that lag behind.

Low reading proficiencies among 15-year-old adolescents are of additional concern. According to the same UNICEF report, 26 percent of countries and 36 percent of 15-year-olds need to see faster improvement in reading proficiency in order to meet the target for quality education. This is without accounting the 70 percent of countries and 61 percent of 15-year-olds for which there is little or no data.

Providing Better Health Care

Along with education, health is considered one of the most important factors in fostering economic and other forms of development. The Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report provides recent data and future projections for 18 SDG indicators as a way of tracking the overall progress of the initiative, the majority of them pertaining to health. According to the 2018 report, the U.N. estimates that by 2030:

  • Mortality of children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 3,9 percent of live births to 2,6 percent, which is 1,4 higher than the target.
  • The rate of stunting in children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 27 percent to 22 percent, which is 7 percent above the target.
  • Basic vaccines will be available to anywhere from 74 to 90 percent of the world population, falling short of the goal to be accessible to all people.
  • Neglected tropical diseases will see a decrease from 17,000 to 13,000 per 100,000 people, well above the goal of 15,000 cases per 100,000.
  • Universal health coverage will be available to 72 percent of the global population, 3 percentage points higher than in 2017 but well below the goal of achieving universal coverage for everyone.

The Good News in the Outlook for Sustainable Development Goals

While the outlook for sustainable development in each of these reports is not ideal in terms of the time it will take to be achieved, data trends still show progress, not regression, in development. With 12 years remaining, the United Nations is still in the initial stages of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If the projections for 2030 fall short of the targets for the SDGs, they at least provide a better understanding of the extent of the resources necessary to improve the outlook for sustainable development goals going forward.

In consideration of the data, the World Bank, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation have all called for increased investment in world development. As a specific example, the World Bank has invested $3.2 billion in education programs for girls between 2016 and 2018, exceeding a commitment of $2.5 billion.

If all actors in the 2030 Agenda follow suit, the current outlook for Sustainable Development Goals does not have to determine the final extent of the world’s progress.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates
When living in the U.S, it is easy to forget that being able to read and write is not something allowed to every person in the world. However, when it was discovered that approximately 32 million Americans could not read at a basic level, society deemed this as a crisis.

Comparatively, though, the crisis of illiteracy is much scarier in developing countries. The CIA World Factbook defines literacy as being able to read and write when older than the age of 15. Countries like South Sudan, Niger, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have literacy rates below 40 percent of their total population. These countries also happen to be the most poverty-stricken countries. This connection leads to the importance of listing five reasons to increase literacy rates.

Five Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates

  1. By being able to read and write, citizens can further develop their education. It is a given that if citizens want a great education, they will have to increase literacy rates. To do this, countries need to prioritize primary education so that the children that are already in school can get a good base. In a report from UNICEF on world education and literacy, it is stated that the focus on primary education had already boosted literacy rates that in turn boosts further education.
  2. Illiterate adults are more likely to fall victim to poor health and to have poor health care treatment later in life. World Atlas reported that there are around 493 million women who are unable or have difficulties reading text messages, filling out forms and reading their doctor’s prescription. If a person cannot properly read documents and prescriptions from a doctor, they might sign off on something without knowing what exactly it is. On top of that, they might not know what medications are good for them. Not to mention, without being able to write, it would be near impossible to keep track of past ailments or family history in the health care system.
  3. Literate adults are more capable of being able to take care of their children. Parents who have a basic education have an easier time making sure their children live to be over the age of five. This way, the cycle of poverty can be broken. Also, parents who have already seen the importance of having an education are more likely to push for their children to get the same level of education. Combined with previous reasons, parents who can properly read their prescription labels will be able to give children the right medicine and with a higher level of education, they are also more likely to have a steady job.
  4. Literacy is one part of the Sustainable Development Goal number four under UNESCO’s plan to reduce global poverty. The goal number four references equal education, affordable further education, widespread scholarships safe and non-violent locations for education and an increase of qualified teachers in each country.
  5. It is very plausible to increase literacy rates and it is producing great results in other countries already. In India, the computer-based functional literacy (CBFL) solution is providing free and remote education to rural areas and low-income areas around the country. It aims to teach children how to read, write and do math in approximately 50 hours. On top of that, the system focuses on teaching words rather than the whole alphabet. The typical participant learns around 500 words that are enough for him to navigate everyday life. More than 700,000 people have already benefited from CBFL in India.

These five reasons to increase literacy rates described in the article above showcase how being able to read and write can vastly improve someone’s life. Even if it does not fully bring them out of extreme poverty, these people will at least have the tools to make progress for themselves. Giving such tools is the least the world can do to help those in need and decrease the world poverty.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Big Data
Three years into the United Nations’ latest agenda to fight global poverty and promote peace, health and justice, the chief Sustainable Development Goal of 2030 to end extreme poverty has become a contest to procure and deliver the right resources for the world’s most vulnerable people at just the right pace. There is a race against rising inequality and time, but some economic circles have come to regard one performance-enhancing resource as more valuable than oil and with the potential to boost poverty relief — big data.

Big Data to End Global Poverty

During a lecture at Singularity University Global Summit 2018, a lead economist for the World Bank, Wolfgang Fengler, shared his curiosity about using data to end global poverty by asking, “What would it take to create a data revolution for the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]?” Fengler oriented summit-goers to subterranean depths as he compared big data to oil, and emphasized how their values are only realized in the efficiency of its production modes: collection, refinement and delivery in a usable form.

In 1990, 1.9 billion people were considered extremely impoverished; in 2015, the final year of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, that number was 836 million, a 66 percent decrease. Pointing to the World Poverty Clock, a real-time dashboard for poverty numbers created by Fengler, the current global poverty escape rate is 1.1 people per second. That rate should be 1.6 people per second to put an end to global poverty by 2030.

World Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock shows data from specific countries, and these types of snapshots provide reliable stories that can inform effective policy and strategic poverty alleviation practices. According to Singularity Hub, next steps for the World Poverty Clock include presenting data by specific regions within countries with the idea in mind that there are region-specific issues related to poverty.

Forbes Magazine contributor Bernard Marr offers some corrections to the data and oil comparison, one that suggests much richer potential for data. Oil is a finite resource that requires a massive amount of ancillary resources to deliver a final product. Contrarily, data has a low cost of production and can become more useful with every use. He also contends big data is environmentally innocuous and has a wider variety of application beyond its crude state.

New Kind of Renewable Resource

While Marr takes issue with comparing big data to an “old world resource,” he does concede to its versatility and value in shrinking hunger and battling climate change. He likens it more so to a renewable energy source such as wind or the sun. The World Poverty Clock reports that poverty is rising in 13 African nations. Two of those nations are Africa’s largest oil exporters: Angola and Nigeria, which both produced more than 1.5 million barrels of oil in 2017.

Rounding out the rest of the African OPEC nations, Guinea and Libya are labeled as “off track,” or “unable to reach the sustainable development goal target at the current rate;” Gabon and Algeria are also considered to have “no extreme poverty.” In Nigeria, oil production accounts for 10 percent of the GDP of the new world capital of extreme poverty; almost half of the nation’s 180 million people live within poverty’s grips.In Angola, 30 percent of its 25 million live in extreme poverty; oil production is expected to comprise 10 percent of its GDP.

Combatting Poverty

These macro-level findings support The Economist’s and Forbes Magazine’s positions on data’s supremacy to oil as a precious resource for profit and a poverty alleviation tool. Crude oil has less of a guarantee, if any at all, to be wielded as such a resource as it does not necessarily translate to economic stability in nations where the gross national income per capita has been decreasing since 2015.

Just as marketing research uses big data to track discrete consumer insights — such as millennial spending trends or researchers’ use of data to identify the demographic most likely to be excessive sun tanners — big data has the power for direct combat against extreme poverty.

Big Data Around the Globe

In China, the Guizhou province developed a cloud-computing platform that tracks the financial status of 6 million impoverished people in 9,000 villages. China aims to usher 10 million people out of poverty annually from 2016 to 2020. In Tongzi county, the government issued subsidies to needy villagers and a data platform monitors the distribution of these subsidies, minimizing the risk of embezzlement by unscrupulous officials.

Zhou Xing, an expert of the poverty-relief office in Guizhou province, said, “Big data really helps make poverty-relief more precise and efficient.” On the days before big data, Xing added, “poverty relief work was difficult because the information of residents was written by hand and passed to central authorities via a series of local officials, which could be hampered by corruption.”

In Rwanda, American researchers have leveraged cellphone metadata to estimate wealth and poverty distributions and the telephoning habits of the affluent and those with more modest means.

Infinite Possibilities

Putting an end to extreme poverty can potentially be achieved through fiber-optic cables rather than petroleum pipelines. The Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are fixed; through big data, the potential for precisely architected solutions to end extreme poverty seems infinite.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

ACE Africa hasACE Africa was established in Kenya in 2003 with only four staff members: a U.K. expatriate and three Kenyans. They had a tall order, as the city of Bungoma, Kenya was near the point of collapse in 2003. Nearly one in three households in the community were infected with HIV/AIDS and all government and community structures were falling apart. ACE Africa began their work and 14 years later, Bungoma is a drastically different place.

Focus and Work

ACE Africa focuses on three core areas to improve a community over the long term: child development, community health and wellbeing and community livelihoods. Using specific programs to mold projects to communities in Kenya and East Africa, ACE Africa has grown from four to 58 staff indigenous to Africa and 12,500 community volunteers. ACE Africa is a registered NGO in Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States and Tanzania, employing small staffs in each country. The organization has also partnered with investment banks, world-leading universities, Dame Judi Dench and other NGOs and international organizations.

In 2010 the Star Foundation, an independent charity founded in London by a wealthy Saudi Arabian family-owned business conglomerate, awarded ACE Africa with an Impact Award. The award was given for the organization’s work in rural Kenya to reduce the spread and increase the treatment of HIV/AIDS. ACE Africa began by opening testing centers and educating the community at all levels about the spread of HIV/AIDS and the necessary treatment. They also educated the population about the importance of a healthy diet, which can improve health increase the productivity of a village. As of 2010, ACE Africa had helped to improve the lives of more than 300,000 children in Kenya.

Beyond Kenya

ACE Africa has begun to branch out of Kenya into the north of Tanzania. In 2014 the organization began working with the Innocent Foundation in Tanzania. According to the Innocent Foundation, the project will last 10 to 12 years. When the project began in 2014, over 93 percent of the wage-earners in the villages where ACE Africa and Innocent are working earn less than $1 a day. Nearly 44 percent of the children in the schools are orphans, and it is estimated that only 4 percent of the villagers eat a balanced diet.

ACE Africa and the Innocent foundation will work with six community organizations within these villages to improve the quality of life. Training the locals ensures that skills will stay and flourish within the community. ACE Africa is working closely with the Tanzania government and more than 7,000 local volunteers to see that this plan succeeds.

ACE Africa’s Impacts

ACE Africa has improved the lives of more than 1 million children through their programs. The organization has helped to establish more than 500 community garden clubs, resolved more than 12,000 cases of child neglect and abuse and engaged nearly 100,000 children in school guidance programs. ACE Africa has screened roughly 100,000 people for HIV/AIDs and has helped around 80,000 people seek treatment and counseling. As part of their community livelihood programs, ACE Africa has trained more than 35,000 people on the proper techniques for sustainable farming. This has allowed approximately 87,000 kitchen gardens to be established. ACE Africa also works with partners and third-parties to research better techniques to help people and make their projects more efficient.

In 2017 ACE Africa-founder Jonna Waddington was invited to the Sustainable Development Goals for Africa conference, where the United Nations development plan for Africa through 2030 will be discussed. With six awards and international cooperation and recognition from the United Nations, it appears that ACE Africa will continue to make a positive impact on the world.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

ASU GlobalIn the modern, globalized world, public research institutions are essential to innovation, knowledge creation and international development. With these functions at the forefront, research institutions can assist The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 1, which is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

Currently, 11 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, defined by The World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day. Despite its persistence, poverty has decreased drastically since 1990, when 35 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Global poverty reduction has been aided by the efforts of higher educational institutions like Arizona State University’s International Development team.

ASU’s International Development Team

Arizona State University (ASU), a public research university, is one of the only The U.S. universities that actively pursues funding opportunities in the international aid landscape. As part of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, ASU’s International Development team works to identify and provide solutions for complex challenges facing the developing world.

Stephen Feinson, associate vice president for ASU’s International Development team, told The Borgen Project that the primary objective of ASU’s International Development team is to, “[advance] a new model for university engagement with the developing world that collaboratively drives solutions to great development challenges through partnerships with local universities, governments, the private sector, and non-governmental entities.”

ASU International Development team is able to support and advance international development efforts with the assistance of its funding partners. Donors include USAID, U.S. Department of State, Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank. ASU also partners with implementing firms, such as Chemonics, Creative Associates, DAI, and IESC, and collaborates with over 100 universities worldwide to advance innovative solutions for the developing world.

ASU’s International Development team is currently involved in four development projects worldwide. These projects are:

  1. The US-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy (USPCAS-E) project was launched in 2015 and received an $18 million investment from USAID. In partnership with Pakistan’s National University for Science and Technology (NUST) and University of Engineering and Technology (UET), USPCAS-E works to create an energy research agenda for energy needs in Pakistan. Feinson told The Borgen Project, “to date, more than 136 students and faculty researchers […] have participated in the exchange program at ASU and subcontractor Oregon State University’s research labs working on energy-related projects.” Furthermore, “Over 30 master’s students have graduated from the center and have entered the energy workforce equipped to make an impact in Pakistan’s energy sector,” Feinson added.
  2. The Holistic Water Solutions project in Jordan and Lebanon received $2 million from USAID and serves refugee host communities by providing potable water to communities and household. “The project’s multifaceted approach includes community water desalination and purification kiosks equipped with on-grid/off-grid capacity, household air-to-water technology, entrepreneurial training for women and water demand management,” said Feinson.
  3. The Building University-Industry Learning and Development Through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT) project in Vietnam is the third major ASU project in Vietnam. Feinson told The Borgen Project that BUILD-IT is supported by USAID and aims to identify and respond to gaps in Vietnam’s technical workforce as well as build female empowerment.
  4. The Global Development Research (GDR) Scholars project allows ASU to support additional Research and Innovation Fellows through fundraising and cost sharing. Through The GDR Scholars Program, ASU provides fellowships to graduate students, encouraging collaboration and use-inspired research to improve conditions regarding The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Feinson told The Borgen Project, “since its inception in 2015, the program has placed 70 scholars in 25 USAID priority countries [where they] worked to identify and conduct projects in USAID-defined sectors related to health, education, economic security, biodiversity, human trafficking, gender, supply chain, energy, water, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The Goal of ASU’s International Development Team

According to Feinson, “ASU aims to become a global center for interdisciplinary research, discovery and development by 2025.” To reach this goal, ASU International Development team serves to establish ASU as a trusted partner for USAID, other funding agencies and donors, implementing firms and university partners.

The goals of ASU’s International Development team are to advance the New American University Model in the context of international development. Feinson said this model “offers ideas distinctly suited to the developing world, advancing use-inspired research that addresses epochal development challenges and scalable solutions tailored to the needs of developing countries.”

The efforts of ASU’s International Development team have already begun to make a difference in developing countries. For instance, their past successes include projects such as the Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) in Vietnam, Liberia, Guyana, Kenya and South Pacific Island Nations; the India Support for Teacher Education Program (In-STEP) in India; the Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program (HEEAP) in Vietnam; and the Solucion El Salvador (SolucionES) in El Salvador.

The United Nations Development Programme is working hard to eradicate poverty. With an increasing number of U.S. higher educational institutions taking note of and emulating the successes of ASU’s International Development team, The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 1 of eradicating extreme poverty can become reality.

– Kara Roberts

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Sanitation Goals in Rural CommunitiesAbout 2.3 billion people lack access to a clean and safe toilet. Exactly 892 million people have no option but to defecate in the open. The technology to increase access to a clean toilet is available, however, the collaboration between partners and the solutions is missing. That’s why UNICEF and LIXIL are now converging their complementary skills to give 250 million people access to clean water and sanitation by 2021.

The Current Sanitation Situation

Areas lacking access to clean, effective toilets lead to open defecation. Waterways become polluted, thereby perpetuating diarrheal diseases. Around 288,000 children lose their lives annually to these preventable conditions. At that rate, about 41 deaths can be prevented every hour.

A few countries pay as much as 5 percent of their GDP for various issues arising due to poor sanitation. In addition, the global economy lost approximately $223 billion due to poor sanitation issues in 2015. Therefore, it is in the world’s interest to boost efforts in reaching sanitation goals in rural communities.

UNICEF and LIXIL Partnership  

UNICEF and LIXIL will begin their work in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Supplementing LIXIL’s initiative of building more toilets, UNICEF will take advantage of its presence in these countries to run educational campaigns as well as collaborate with communities that lack access to proper toilets. They will reach out to other countries in need when more fundraising campaigns provide them with the means to do so.

“Outreach will focus mainly on rural parts of the country,” Andrés Franco, UNICEF’s deputy director of Private Sector Engagement according to a Fast Company article.

The deliberate focus of achieving sanitation goals in rural communities is necessary for eradicating outdated ideas of sanitation, as “cultural circumstances and barriers to behavior change in a community” according to Franco, are difficult to overcome. In fact, once communities understand prioritizing sanitation infrastructure for the health of the community, it is not guaranteed that they will even possess the necessary resources to implement the change.

UNICEF’s partnership with LIXIL is key to delivering these rural communities with the needed materials. LIXIL typically produces high-end toilets, but it has also developed a more affordable line of toilets called SaTo, short for “safe toilets”. These toilets function independently of a sanitation infrastructure so that they do not require extensive construction in the community before usage. What they do require is only half a cup of water to rinse after each use. They also feature a self-sealing trap door that removes odor and flies. The simple and affordable design accommodates easy installation.

With funding from the Gates Foundation, SaTo has also been able to release toilets into circulation across Asia and Africa thereby helping 6 million people. It has sold around 1.8 million toilets in 15 countries since its product’s release in 2013. Specifically for the targeted countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania, LIXIL is deliberating with the communities the appropriate models for them. For these three countries, LIXIL will provide the funds for hundreds of thousands of SaTo units.

“By working together and going community by community, we’re going to be able to address the issue much better than we were able to before, by working independently off individual company targets and just hoping for the best, that our product was reaching people in need,” says Jim Montesano, chief public affairs officer at LIXIL, acknowledging the benefits of working with UNICEF’s network and global credibility.  

Sanitation Goals in Rural Communities

Although UNICEF and LIXIL’s collaboration is attempting to achieve specifically SDG 6 regarding sanitation goals in rural communities, its success will translate to the success of other Sustainable Development Goals too.

Beyond the sector of health, lack of sanitation often interferes with girls’ regular education when matters such as periods cannot be properly attended to during school. By addressing the sanitation issue for 250 million people, UNICEF and LIXIL will make a dent beyond just the number.

By accelerating these sanitation goals, the partnership will facilitate the achievement of many other goals by 2030. It will be able to impart reasonable and sustainable solutions to organizations for problems such as this global sanitation crisis.

– Alice Lieu
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Three Challenges of the Sustainable Development GoalsProposed in 2012 and officially adopted in January 2016, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the Millennium Development Goals to set the priorities of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and to lead concrete actions on the ground. The goals call for the elimination of poverty and hunger by 2030, along with fifteen other targets concerning health, education, gender equality, sanitation, economic equality and climate change.

Some of the challenges encountered while trying to implement the 17 goals by 2030 include slower economic growth, long-lasting corruption and inequality, unfavorable demographics in various forms and widespread epidemics, but there are three surprising challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals that could be easily overlooked, yet require immediate attention.

Data Deprivation

Big data could only be of use if they are collected intelligently and interpreted meaningfully. If it is not known how many people are impoverished or which groups are the most vulnerable to economic adversity, it is not possible to act effectively against poverty. Furthermore, it would not be possible to know how much progress is made over time and, more importantly, which policies worked. This is not the most obvious challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals, yet a surprisingly large one. Proof for this is the statement of the director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, Aleem Walji, wrote in 2015 that out of the 155 countries that the World Bank observed and monitored, half of the countries lacked recent poverty estimates.

According to the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System, at least two data points are required within a decade-long interval to give poverty estimates every 3 to 5 years. A World Bank study conducted in 2015 noted that 57 countries out of 155 had less than two data points from 2002 to 2011, another 20 had two data points within one decade that are separated by more than five years, rendering the data inadequate for poverty estimates.

The lack of reliable poverty data makes it impossible for countries to design and implement appropriate policies. Nigeria, among other African countries severely deprived of timely data, represents the dramatic case, since this country was pronounced as the largest economy of the continent only by calculating its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with inadequate information, revealing that decades of policy-making was based on outdated data.

What to prioritize?

The SDGs contain as many as 17 main issues to be addressed, and which ones should governments respectively prioritize could be a tough question. While prioritizing certain SDGs help with other SDGs as well- for example, decreasing poverty could have a positive impact on the good health and well-being of citizens- certain SDGs could be conflicted by their nature. The most notable potential trade-off exists between the second goal, which is ending world hunger, and the 15th goal, which calls for sustainable management of forest land and other terrestrial resources.

As Africa’s population continues to grow, the continent will be in need of safe food sources, wood, and other natural resources more than ever. Agricultural expansion, however, with its high demand for water and land, could potentially invade forest areas and lead to soil degradation, posing significant challenges to the SDGs.

Fortunately, there are strategies that governments could adapt to at least curb the potentially harmful aspects of agriculture: looking for and employing advanced agricultural technology that increases sustainability, ensuring funding as well as sound legal frames to protect small-scale farmers and to ward off harmful agricultural practices, utilizing agricultural growth by ensuring that it not only produces food but also job opportunities as well.

Who is held accountable?

This is perhaps the most significant among the three challenges of the SDGs. All UN member states agreed in August of 2015 to endorse the SDGs, but many may have left the negotiations unsure of where accountability lies. The issues of accountability also have a complicated history, with many developing countries feeling the burden of meeting the given goals, unlike richer countries who are not obliged to support developing countries by providing needed resources or aid.

The “follow-up and review” section of the SDGs agenda is vague since the document itself does not actually contain indicators necessary for measuring progress, nor is there a systematic mechanism for tracking accountability.

Not only should governments be responsible for building the vision of development. The private sector should be accountable as well, especially since Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are becoming an increasingly popular way of managing public resources via private means in developing countries. The private sector should aware of the impacts of their actions and policies on the planet and on global poverty.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals should not be mere talking points summoned at will. Instead, they need to lead concrete and intelligent actions that are actually impactful. Challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals are numerous, but acquiring reliable data, choosing reasonable and enforceable goals to prioritize and holding the most relevant parties accountable are challenges that the global community needs to address in the most urgent manner.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr