Information and news about terrorism

China's Human Rights Violations
The Chinese government is committing atrocities and human rights violations against the Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province of China. Chinese authorities detained at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Muslims since 2017; mainly Uyghurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group, along with other ethnic Muslim minorities.

China’s Motives

Riots broke out in Xinjiang in 2009 due to Uyghur mass protests against cultural and economic discrimination and state-incentivized migration of Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China. Since then, the Chinese government worries that Uyghurs hold separatist, religious extremist ideas. Therefore, it justifies its repressive actions as necessary measures in response to threats of terrorism.

Chinese officials launched a Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism in 2014 in Xinjiang, but the repression escalated significantly when Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary, became the leader of Xinjiang in 2016. Prior to this, Chen Quanguo ruled Tibet from 2011 to 2016, where he implemented a dual strategy to restore and secure national security and social stability. He used aggressive policies to reduce ethnic differences and assimilate Tibetans to Han Chinese, such as re-education programs and intermarriage initiatives. Aside from these ethnic policies, Chen established dense security systems to reinforce this cultural transformation, including militarized surveillance systems. After ruling Tibet, people got to know Chen for restoring stability through the enforcement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and for his innovative ethnic policies, which he expanded in Xinjiang, targeting the Uyghur population.

Xinjiang is of particular strategic and economic importance for Beijing as it has the country’s largest natural gas and coal reserves with 40 percent of the national total. Xinjiang is a key area for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global trade project, as it connects China to the rest of Asia and Europe. Therefore, Beijing may be repressing the Uyghur in Xinjiang for economic reasons to protect its Belt and Road Initiative project in which China invested between $1 to 8 trillion.

China’s Human Rights Violations and Abuses

The autonomous region of Xinjiang changed its legislation to allow local governments to set up re-education camps to intern Muslims, where they must renounce aspects of their religion, learn Mandarin Chinese and praise the CCP, in order to combat extremism. As stated by the Chinese Communist Youth League in March 2017, “the training has only one purpose: to eradicate from the mind thoughts about religious extremism and violent terrorism, and to cure ideological diseases.”

Former detainees reported the use of stress positions, beatings, sleep and food deprivation by authorities, as well as the mistreatment and torture in some mass internment facilities as punishment for resisting or failing to learn the lessons taught.

The 11 million Uyghur living in Xinjiang outside of the camps also endure the tightening repressive policies of Chinese authorities who subject people to pervasive surveillance. Authorities use cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, big data and phone spyware. The CCP leader Chen Quanguo installed a grid-management system in Xinjiang, which divides the cities into squares of 500 people. A police station monitors each square that is in charge of regularly checking IDs, fingerprints and searching phones.

Global Response to China’s Human Rights Violations

The E.U. issued a statement in 2018 demanding China to respect the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, as well as change its policies in Xinjiang. In July 2019, over 20 countries collectively signed a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter urges China to allow U.N. experts access to the camps. However, no Muslim-majority country co-signed the joint statement. Instead, Saudi Arabia alongside 36 other countries signed their own letter in which they praised China’s achievements and argue that “human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.”

Most human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations also condemned China’s detention of Uyghurs. This was demonstrated in a joint letter that a coalition of five human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and more) issued to the U.N. Secretary-General, urging the U.N. to take action.

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations, both government agencies and top surveillance companies. This marked the U.S.’s first concrete action in response to China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, along with the imposed visa restrictions on the Chinese government and communist party officials.

Conclusion

China still dismisses all allegations of human rights violations and uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block human rights issues discussions. Immediate investigations on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs must transpire and the U.N. should access detention camps. The situation in Xinjiang conveys the level of vulnerability ethnic minorities face, and the urgency for the international community to take concrete action.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

peace and stability in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The government estimates that 43.6 percent of the country’s total population in rural areas lives below the national poverty line. According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, about 2.9 million Afghans are internally displaced, 22 percent of whom fled their homes in 2016 alone.

Despite improvements over the past decade, Afghanistan, maintains the lowest educational outcomes in South Asia. The country continues to lag in average educational attainment compared to other low-income and fragile countries. Moreover, girls fall further behind in educational outcomes. As of 2013-14, only 20.3 percent of Afghan women above the age of 15 are literate. The major cause of poverty and the lag in primary education in Afghanistan is the ongoing conflict that has lasted for over three decades.

Instability and Conflicts in Afghanistan

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the country endured many conflicts that stunted its ability to prosper and improve. For the past 20 years, the Taliban government became the leading cause of poverty and the prevention of peace and stability for Afghanistan.

After the refusal to turn in terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to the United States after the 9/11 attacks, the extremist military organization joined countless conflicts with the U.S. whilst refusing any ethical attempts toward peace. Nevertheless, many provided aid to the Afghan people and looked for a peaceful solution.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit and at the donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Brussels in 2016, Afghanistan received reassurances of continued international assistance for its security and development needs. The United Nations is part of this group of leaders as it deployed a team in the ground called the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA, which Afghanistan leads, promotes security, stability and development in Afghanistan. It looks forward to peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and armed opposition groups.

USAID is another organization that works toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. The agency provided food security by implementing an agriculture program that increased agricultural productivity and rural employment. It also provided access to a healthier lifestyle for Afghans by getting health care professionals and introducing people to healthier habits. The ability to build roads, schools and clinics is a huge step toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. USAID is helping make Afghanistan a better place for younger generations.

The Afghan Institute of Learning

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) shares in USAID’s goals and made great strides toward a sustainable future for children. The AIL helps local people set up centers of learning and provides high-quality teacher training and administrative skills training so these centers can thrive. The centers give the Afghan people the opportunity to have literacy skills. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at 31 percent of the adult population. AIL addresses this issue by giving children education from preschool and having discussions with adults about current world problems. Children who study at AIL’s learning centers joined government schools at age-appropriate grade levels. Gaining literacy is life-changing for adults and children who often go on to study other subjects increasing their capacity to support themselves.

Many other organizations are addressing the increasing poverty rates and helping toward achieving peace and stability for Afghanistan. As the Afghan government and other international governments involve themselves, there is hope for Afghan people.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Violent Extremism
Addressing violent extremism requires going beyond a strictly military approach to address the root causes of radicalization. While many have argued that poverty is a leading factor behind radicalization, the relationship between poverty and violent extremism is complex. Poverty by itself does not necessarily lead to a rise in violent extremism. However, societal exclusion and marginalization, which poverty links to, have a significant capacity to propel people to violence.

Government Failure

A more accurate way of determining the relationship between poverty and violent extremism is to examine not just individual cases of poverty, but entire structures that lead to deprivation and exclusion. A variety of societal factors can drive people to extremism. Firstly, a failure of state governments to provide social services not only results in poverty but allows extremist groups to fill the service gap. Secondly, distinct economic inequality between social groups can lead to grievances and disillusionment which makes extremist viewpoints more attractive. Connected to this form of inequality is social exclusion, in which society relegates one group to its outskirts. Without an ability to fully participate in the community and take part in the political process, people may become desperate for a sense of belonging and empowerment, two things which extremist groups promise.

Feelings of abandonment and resentment are prone to occur in weak states which are unable to provide their citizens with security and basic services. This not only heightens inequality, but it also means that impoverished people may come to rely on terrorist groups to provide services. By filling this role of a social service provider, extremist groups can ingratiate themselves with the community and gradually recruit. Multiple terrorist groups have succeeded in proliferating through this welfare terrorism strategy.

Hezbollah, for instance, has established schools, medical centers and agricultural programs among Shiite populations in Lebanon, while Hamas has made similar investments in education, health and cultural establishments in the West Bank. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have both established religious schools which are sometimes the only educational option available in poor regions, leaving parents with little choice but to send their children to schools that can teach violent ideologies. The failure of governments to provide education, health and social services aids this phenomenon. When terrorist groups provide these services, it not only encourages the population to accept extremists into their community, it also delegitimizes the state and political system.

Inequality and Discrimination

Additionally, it is necessary to evaluate poverty in context within a country in order to determine its relationship to violent extremism. Relative poverty tends to be more of a factor than absolute poverty in radicalizing someone towards violence. In other words, while poverty on an individual level is unlikely to prompt someone to become an extremist, the existence of societal poverty or marked inequality between social groups, can have that effect. People know inequality between groups, in which one group has privilege over the other, as horizontal inequality and it is particularly likely to lead to grievances and the perception of injustice.

One can find an example of horizontal inequality in Syria, where significant disparities have existed for decades between Sunni and Shia Arabs. Under the Al-Assad regime, Sunnis, who make up the majority of the population, have faced economic hardship and discrimination in favor of Alawite elites. Syria is one of the most economically unequal countries in the region with a GINI coefficient of 38.8, and regions of the country have experienced development in a very uneven way. Terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda have been able to exploit Sunni anger at the state to recruit in Syria.

Social Exclusion

Social exclusion is also a crucial factor in driving people towards violent extremism. The U.N. defines social exclusion as a “lack of participation in decision-making processes in civil, socio-economic and cultural life” and the institutionalized withholding of rights which make it impossible to fully integrate with the broader community. When whole social groups receive systematic alienation, group members can become desperate for a sense of belonging and autonomy. This makes them ripe targets for recruitment into terrorist groups, which offer a sense of inclusion and identity.

As one young man in Kenya describes it, “poverty feeds terrorism by eroding a basic human need: the need to belong… Poor people have no stake in nations and economies that ignore them.”As he points out, a lack of economic resources means people are denied the chance to fully participate in and contribute to society. Instead, they spend all their time merely trying to survive. When young people are unable to find productive work and feelings of alienation and deprivation overwhelm them, it can tempt them to join gangs and terrorist networks. These provide not only money but a sense of belonging and utility. Additionally, an inability to enact change through undemocratic political systems may prompt people to turn to violence as an attempt to restore justice.

Activists in marginalized communities have worked to combat this problem through programs which provide not just economic assistance, but a sense of community. For instance, Shining Hope for New Communities (SHOFCO), works in Kibera and Mathare. The organization runs a school for girls that provides tuition-free learning as well as free nutrition and health services for students and their families. The organization also issues microloans which allow people to start small businesses and gain financial stability. Crucially, SHOFCO also works to provide a sense of community for residents through theater, soccer programs and employment advice sessions.

The Role of Foreign Aid to Reduce Violent Extremism

Beyond programs like these, foreign aid has significant potential to reduce the circumstances which can drive people to violent extremism. It is important that aid goes beyond economic assistance to address the sources of grievances which can lead to radicalization. Multiple studies have found that high levels of civil liberties and a strong rule of law correlate with a low number of domestic terrorist attacks. Repression and weak rule of law not only delegitimize the state, but they also deny citizens appropriate channels for addressing grievances through the political system, leading some to take up violent means. With this in mind, foreign aid which focuses on good governance and promoting civil society has the potential to reduce extremism.

One study which examined the number of terrorist attacks in countries from 1997 to 2020 found that governance and civil society assistance results in fewer terrorist attacks in countries that were not experiencing a civil war. As this study shows, investment in foreign aid has the ability to reduce violent extremism, which is one of the key priorities of U.S. national security policy. If U.S. policymakers want to stop the spread of violent extremism, they should support programs that promote providing people with basic needs, economic equality and give people a stake in their community.

Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

Threat of WarThe U.S. spends nearly $649 billion on military defense with the budget set to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2020. Meanwhile, 98 countries have decreased military spending, something the Global Peace Index has called the largest improvement for peace. Although people perpetuate militarization and war as necessary tools for peace and security, as well as a means to reduce the future threat of war, such ideals are not true.

Dispelling War Myths

According to the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, during the war on terror, terrorism actually increased and spread. Several U.S. military commanders have made statements against war, claiming that violence and particular war tactics are actually creating a greater threat, not suppressing it. The former head of the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center, Robert Grenier, stated that counter-terrorism strategies can backfire by helping form enemy alliances and therefore a larger threat.

“[Al Qaeda] are not just focused on helping oppressed Muslims in Kashmir or trying to fight the NATO and the Americans in Afghanistan, they see themselves as part of a global struggle, and therefore are a much broader threat than they were previously. So in a sense, yes, we have helped to bring about the situation that we most fear,” Grenier told Frontline.

Reports of a modern arms race have circulated for the past two years. Senior U.N. security expert, Renta Dwan, said the risk of a nuclear war is at its highest since WWII. There are over 13 thousand nuclear weapons in nine countries. Ninety percent belongs to the U.S. and Russia, yet using less than half of India and Pakistan’s arsenal is enough to cause a worldwide nuclear winter. A peace treaty banning nuclear weapons has only 23 of the 50 ratifications it needs to come into effect but the United States, Russia and other nuclear powers strongly oppose it.

Even if a nuclear threat had a low annual risk – as some claim – a group of physicians published an article for the American Heart Association arguing that experts need to think of the threat in terms of humanity’s lifetime. This is parallel to how cardiologists think of the cumulative risk of heart disease over a lifespan, not just within a given year. This means a one percent annual risk of a nuclear war translates to a 50 percent risk over a 70-year period. They claim that just as preventing heart disease requires behavioral changes such as losing weight, preventing nuclear war also requires a change in high-risk behavior, such as threats, sanctions and false accusations.

Changing the threat of war isn’t as unrealistic as it sounds. The European Union has established social institutions to deal with conflict between member states, and there are many global networks and health professionals working to end war as an institution. The first time the idea of ending the threat of war nearly came to fruition was during the Cold War, with the historical and ambitious US-USSR agreement in 1961, or the McCloy-Zorin Accords.

A World Without War

The McCloy-Zorin Accords outlined a detailed plan for a general and complete disarmament. Many agree that disarmament, international law enforcement and investment are all necessary to end the threat of war. Partial or full disarmament is a must, including selling weapons to countries that do not manufacture them but needs to be under the supervision of an international organization to verify the disarmament.

The accords specified that people carry the disarmament out in stages and that an international disarmament organization verify each stage. The accord recognized non-nuclear armaments, establishments and facilities as necessary for maintaining internal order, but called for the abolishment of weapon stockpiles, national armed forces, military establishments and the discontinuance of military budgets.

The accord also required simultaneous efforts to strengthen peace and international arbitration institutions. U.N. conflict management already resolves many conflicts, but better resourcing could maximize its impact. The World Court also resolves many interstate conflicts but does not recognize war as a crime. The accords are a gilded example of how to end the threat of war and prove its attainability.

How Non-Violence Prevails

Non-violent and civil disobedience campaigns have proven to be more effective in resisting tyranny, resolving conflicts and achieving security than violence. From 1900 to 2006, non-violent campaigns were twice as likely to succeed as violent rebellions across the globe. Non-violent campaigns are also more likely to usher in democratic intuitions and are 15 percent less likely to result in a civil war.

Even when non-violent resistance meets with violence, non-violence still prevails two-to-one. A major benefit of non-violent campaigns is how they tend to draw in larger and more diverse groups of people, but many of these campaigns usually happen without any training or support. If people better resourced such efforts and trained civilians, these campaigns could be even more successful.

Large and well-coordinated campaigns are actually able to switch from concentrated methods, such as protests, to dispersed methods when met with violence. Dispersed methods include strikes, stay-at-home demonstrations, a coordinated shut-down of electricity and even banging pots and pans. Dispersed methods, said Professor Erica Chenoweth, are “very hard or at least very costly to suppress, while the movement stays just as disruptive.”Chenoweth, a professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, believes that if history courses shifted focus onto the decades of mass civil disobedience that came before the Declaration of Independence, or if Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King came first and not as an afterthought, then perhaps the “war culture” could change and end the threat of war.

The 2019 Global Peace Index reports that 104 countries recorded an increase in terrorism, while only 38 improved. Changing international policies and promoting civil disobedience instead of violence and war as a means for change does not only make movements of change more resilient but prevents terrorism and promotes stability.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

Conflict in Burkina Faso
In late January 2019, the eruption of conflict in the Centre-Nord and Sahel regions displaced thousands of people in rural Burkina Faso. The recent attacks are an extension of a disturbing trend involving the displacement of more than 115,000 people since 2015. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, extremist attacks and conflict in Burkina Faso have quadrupled since 2017 as groups like al Qaeda, Ansar ul Islam and ISIS continue to gain support in the north.

Burkina Faso and the Situation

One of the more inspiring success stories in Western Africa, Burkina Faso was on track to implement sweeping political reforms this year, including presidential term limits. Since the country ousted former authoritarian ruler, Blaise Compaoré, in 2014, voter registration increased by 70 percent as scores of Burkinabè grew excited by the prospects of democracy. However, this March 2019, the government put the referendum on hold indefinitely while it struggles to bring stability back to Burkina Faso.

The conflict in Burkina Faso has come at a considerable human cost, with over 70,000 people displaced since January alone. The majority have fled within the country’s borders, finding refuge in the nearby regions of Foubé, Barsalogho and Déou. Though the camps provide families with relative safety, the hastily built, government-sponsored structures are far from adequate. The state is already overwhelmed by a recent influx of Malian refugees and resources are stretched thin as a result.

In refugee encampments like Foubé, a shortage of shelters has forced the roughly 8,000 refugees to live in extremely crowded conditions, increasing the likelihood of measles and other outbreaks. The lack of sanitation has resulted in hygiene-related illnesses, respiratory infections, malaria and parasitic diseases. Meanwhile, in Barasalogho, the nearest clean water is an hour drive from the encampment, sometimes forcing residents to drink unsafe wells or streams and increasing the prevalence of cholera or other illnesses.

UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders

Despite the severity of the conflict in Burkina Faso, the situation has received shockingly little international attention. While the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have played a prominent role in refugee support, the conflict continues to restrict access to many northern communities. MSF, whose primary goal in Burkina Faso is to issue vaccines and curb outbreaks, is working in only two refugee camps. With the situation becoming increasingly tense, the U.N. is urging refugees to seek shelter in camps where the UNHCR and MSF are active.

The sluggish international response has placed the burden of responsibility on the already overwhelmed Burkinabè government. While government rhetoric continues to support democracy and political reform, its response to the extremism has resulted in an unknown number of extrajudicial killings. In less than a year, Human Rights Watch documented at least 116 civilian deaths from government security forces, although the real number is unknown.

As the Burkinabè government struggles to regain stability, the U.N. is calling on the international community to do more. The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $4 million early this March, although experts say roughly $100 million is needed to adequately address the crisis. Although the 115,000 forcibly displaced people face a stout uphill climb before the restoration of peace, the future of the Arizona-sized nation is still bright. While a new date for the referendum has not been announced, the steady rise in voter registration and political mobilization suggests reform is on Burkina Faso’s horizon.

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Waleed Abdulkhair
Waleed Abdulkhair is a prominent human rights activist and a famous lawyer from Saudi Arabia. He is currently serving a 15- year sentence in his native country. In February 2014, Saudi Arabia passed a new anti-terrorism law, using a vague definition of terrorism to crack down on free speech. Abulkhair was the first human rights activist to be tried and convicted under the law. In the article below, top 10 facts about Waleed Abdulkhair are presented.

10 Facts about Waleed Abdulkhair

  1. Waleed Abdulkhair was born on June 17, 1979 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He was raised in a religious Hejazi family, a family that had many judges and imams (religious leaders). He was taught to memorize the Holy Quran from a very young age.
  2. Waleed Abdulkhair received his Bachelor’s degree in Arabic in 2003 at King Abdu Aziz University. He also received a license from Shaikh Obaid Allah Al Afqani and was approved by the Teaching Board of the Holy Mosque in Medinah.
  3. Abdulkhair met his spouse, Samar Badawi when he took up her case against her father who was verbally and physically abusive toward her. Abdulkhair was successful in defending her rights in court as well as launching a social media campaign. They soon got married and have a daughter together.
  4. In 2015, Waleed Abdulkhair won the most prestigious prize in human rights in Europe, named the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. He also won the Swedish Olof Palme Award and the Swiss Freethinker Prize. Abdulkadir was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, twice.
  5. He founded an independent human rights organization in 2008, called Monitor for Human Rights. The Saudi government, unfortunately, banned the website of the organization and its Facebook page, prompting Waleed Abdulkhair to register the website in 2012 with the Canadian Ministry of Labor. This made the organization the first Saudi Arabian human rights organization that was registered abroad.
  6. The Saudi authorities forbade him from representing particular defendants in court but Abdulkhair defied them. One of his more prominent and recent cases like this was the case of Raif Badawi, the man who garnered international attention when he was flogged for hosting a website advocating for discourse on sociopolitical issues.
  7. Abdulkhair was arrested in 2013 for hosting what is called a “diwanniya,” an informal gathering at his home where participants would discuss topics such as politics, religion, culture and human rights. It is also referred to as “samood,” meaning resistance or in Arabic.
  8. Abdulkhair was sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 6, 2014, by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, the national terrorism tribunal. He was sentenced for violating the anti-terrorism law, was also banned from leaving the country for 15 years and fined over $50,000.
  9. Abdulkhair strictly refused to apologize to the court for his position on human rights and he did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Specialised Criminal Court.
  10. Abdulkhair initiated a hunger strike in the prison he was being kept in as a political statement against the poor treatment of the authorities toward him. He suffers from intestinal complications and diabetes, thus requiring a special diet that the authorities have refused to give him.

Waleed Abdulkhair remains a bastion of hope for human rights, civil liberties and democracy in a country that currently suppresses all three of these things. July 2018 was the fourth anniversary of his sentence. He still remains in jail, similar to his many compatriots speaking against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Chad
With an estimated 200 ethnic groups who speak about 100 languages living within its borders, the central African nation of Chad is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The nation is also one of the theorized places of origin of humankind, an idea substantiated by a ~7 million year old humanoid skull discovered within Chad’s borders.

Through its history, Chad has been a central part of some of Africa’s greatest empires, a French colony and an independent state marred by internal and external conflict. Chad is an incredibly complex nation with many factors that contribute to poverty and instability. Here are 10 of the major facts about poverty in Chad that will hopefully demonstrate how the country could benefit from foreign aid.

10 Key Facts About Poverty in Chad

  1. After gaining independence from France in 1960, Chad fought in a civil war for almost 24 years. France, Libya, the Arab leaning northern regions and the African-leaning southern regions of Chad were just a few of the major parties involved in this conflict.
  2. Continuous power struggles within the nation have led to the deaths of more than 51,000 people and the complete instability of an ever-changing government.
  3. Lake Chad is an expansive fresh-water source that provides for millions of people living in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The lake is central to food and water supplies, land support and nutrient recycling, regulatory groundwater replenishment, carbon sequestration and air purification. Over the past 45 years, Lake Chad has lost 90 percent of its volume and surface area.
  4. Diminishing rainfall, water pollution due to increasing oil exploitation and commercial rice and cotton farming and the absence of government environmental regulatory programs all contribute factors to the destruction of the Lake Chad Basin. Agriculture, which employs nearly 83 percent of the working population in Chad, and the livestock sector, which provides direct or indirect income for 40 percent of the population, made up 23 percent of Chad’s GDP in 2015. Thus, the disappearance of the lake is a large factor in Chad’s poverty.
  5. Since 2015, Chadian forces have combatted the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram to restabilize the Lake Chad region. By the beginning of 2017, attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram displaced more than 100,000 people and created 7,000 refugees on Chadian soil.
  6. The presence of Boko Haram in Chad has periodically closed the border to Nigeria, a main outlet for trade, and slowed economic growth in the lake region. The instability created by Boko Haram’s terrorism further exacerbated long-standing tensions between ethnic communities and the civil conflict in Chad.
  7. Reports for 2017 illustrated that 28 percent of Chad’s population struggle with food insecurity. That is approximately 4 million people — 98 percent of whom live in the Sahelian belt that stretches across west Africa from Senegal to Chad. In fact, malnutrition rates are above emergency levels for children between the ages of five and nine in the Sahel region of Chad.
  8. To help improve food security and reduce instances of malnutrition in the Sahel region of the Lake Chad Basin, the World Food Programme is supporting 1.4 million of the region’s most vulnerable. The group accomplishes such an admirable feat by providing cash-based transfers that can be used to purchase food at local markets and improve the regional economy.
  9. In 2011, the richest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for about 48 percent of total consumption expenditures, while the poorest 20 percent of Chadians accounted for only 5 percent. The increase in these wealth disparities can be attributed to the growth in the oil industry, as the increase mainly benefited oil-related investment in urban capital; meanwhile, the rural industry of cotton production went into decline.
  10. The poverty gap index, a measure of the how much average income of impoverished people falls below the poverty line, shows huge discrepancies between urban and rural areas in Chad. Rural areas have a 22.6 percent poverty index gap, while urban areas stand at 6.6 percent. Rural poverty is more severe due to low levels of education, large numbers of children per household and climate changes’ direct effect on income and employment. Overall, the incidence of monetary poverty was twice as high in rural areas than it was in urban centers in 2011.

Hope of Continued Effort

Poverty in Chad has improved incrementally over the last 50 years, but there is much progress to be made especially when compared to many other developing areas. These 10 facts about poverty in Chad show an incredible opportunity for foreign aid to improve infrastructure and stability.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Iraq War Facts
The Iraq War began in 2003 under the Bush administration. A common misconception among the Iraq War facts is that the war was a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks; however, there was no evidence of Iraq’s connection with the attack. The United States intended to abolish Saddam Hussein’s regime and confiscate any weapons of mass destruction.

The war went on for eight years until President Obama officially announced that he would be withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2011. However, when ISIL began taking control of Iraqi land in 2014, U.S. military advisors returned to the country to combat the spread of the Islamic State. To understand the return and current presence of the United States in Iraq, it is important to know the following Iraq War facts.

Purpose

When the U.S. began the war with Iraq in 2003, the purpose was to take down Saddam Hussein from the Iraqi government; however, the United States’ current presence in Iraq is largely due to the permanent threat of terrorism in the Middle East caused by terrorist groups such as ISIL.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a terrorist organization that follows radical Sunni Islam. It first gained global attention in 2014 with its presence in Iraq and Syria but also spread around the world to countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

ISIL initiatives were largely funded by oil revenue made on the black market. The group took control of oil fields in both Syria and Iraq and would sell this oil to fund their activities. Since then, they have lost much of their control of these oil fields to the Iraqi army and their revenue has decreased.

Troops

Although troops were withdrawn from Iraq in 2014, there are still over 5,000 American soldiers in Iraq due to the ongoing “war on terror” in the Middle East. Interestingly, though, it was found that these numbers were not exactly accurate. Pentagon officials acknowledged only over half of the troops are actually present in Iraq — one of the most shocking Iraq war facts as a report found that the actual amount was 8,892.

This number is more than 75 percent more than originally stated. While these figures could seem high, they are relatively small when compared to the number of troops present under the Bush administration. A decade ago, the combined troop total approached 200,000.

The War

Since their return in August 2014, the U.S.-led coalition has conducted more than 13,300 airstrikes against ISIL targets in the area. Through the years, these airstrikes have led to the Iraqi military regaining much of its land from ISIL. Iraq’s government announced the end of the war against the Islamic State in December 2017, over three years after they first began taking control of Iraqi land.

The Islamic State has now lost most of the territory they once took control of. In a statement, the military said it “fully liberated” all of Iraq’s territory and retook full control of the border. According to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, 98 percent of territory once claimed by the jihadist group has been reclaimed.

Moving Forward

Since the victory over the Islamic State, the U.S. has announced that it will reduce the number of troops in Iraq. That being said, the United States will not fully leave Iraq despite the fact that ISIL no longer controls Iraqi land.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a statement saying, “Despite these successes, our fight is not over. Even without a physical caliphate, ISIS remains a threat to stability in the recently liberated areas, as well as in our homelands.” This belief is largely due to the terror that has been created through attacks around the world. Today, the goal is to fight the Islamic State from spreading its influence.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

8 Global Issue Topics for Essays and Research Papers
Today, people are starting to become active participants in the fight against global issues and as a result, progress is being made. However, there are still individuals unaware of pressing issues around them. One way of bringing these people up-to-date would be through the use of essays or research. Here are 10 global issue topics for essays and research papers.

10 Global Issue Topics for Essays and Research

  1. Water Contamination and Shortage: 2.1 billion people in countries undergoing urbanization have inaccessibility to clean drinking water as a result of pollution, poverty and poor management of resources. Water resources are depleted by agriculture and industry energy production. To put into perspective, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the reduction of water around the world, with 75 percent of a given countries’ water used for this purpose and depleted by contamination. Fortunately, there has been a recent increase in efforts to develop technology to combat contamination and reduce the rate of water depletion.
  2. The Relationship between Education and Child Labor: Despite a surge in funding for some countries and increasing attention through social media, education continues to be a luxury around the globe. Reasons include gender preferences and poverty, and child labor — the use of children in industry. According to UNICEF, 150 million children participate in laborious activities dangerous to their health. As one can imagine, this work hinders a child’s ability to fully invest in education. Therefore it’s most challenging to bring education to sub-Saharan Africa, where the rates of children enrolled in primary education continue to stagger. In addition, fewer students successfully complete secondary education here.
  3. Violence: Violence is a global issue that exists in all shapes and sizes. Violence can be done towards a particular group like women or LGBTQ+ members, or it is an act that can be a result of a mentally disturbed mind. There is also violence in response to economic stress. All these varying forms of violence lead to attention on the safety and prevention of such acts. However, there isn’t much consideration on how an everyday person can help. In discussions about violence, the biggest questions to answer are: How is this violence used? How is it achieved/accessed? Does the media have a role? How much is the foundation for a particular act of violence is personal? What is the overall goal?
  4. Poverty: In 2015, the International Poverty Line was set to $1.90. This number means that a person is living in extreme poverty if they live below this line. According to this set line, more than 1.3 billion people are living in this extreme worldwide. This fact suggests that 1.3 billion people have difficulty obtaining food and shelter, regardless of the availability of homeless shelters and organizations. Current questions or topics to explore in an essay or research would be the cause of variation in wages on the international level, and the nature and initiatives that can be taken to solve this global issue at large.
  5. Inequality: On a global scale, the focus on inequality tends to be in terms of the distribution of wealth. According to a Global Wealth Report, 44 percent of global net worth is held by only 0.7 percent of adults. This suggests that there is a significant division between economic classes around the world. Recently, research has shown the effects that this economic divide has on communities particularly in health, social relationships, development and stability. For example, in a society where there’s a large gap between the rich and the poor, life expectancy tends to be shorter and mental illness and obesity rates are 2 to 4 times higher. In terms of social relationships, inequality on a larger level introduces more violence and crime.
  6. Terrorism: Terrorism like the bombing incidents of the last few years continue to claim the lives of innocents. It is a threat to the peace, security and stability of the world, so terrorism prevention methods have been implemented to illustrate what is wrong and should be/could be done to uphold justice. However, the basis of the threats, mindsets and the successes/failures of response efforts still need to be evaluated.
  7. Child Marriages: Child marriages are defined as the union between one or two individuals under the age of 18. One in five girls are married before the age of 18, and child marriages prevent children from becoming educated, can lead to severe health consequences and increased risk of violence. Legislation and programs were established in order to educate and employ children in these situations as child marriages do not have enough awareness on individual involvement or emphasis on the common causes for these marriages.
  8. Food: Poverty, economic inequality and water contamination mean inability to produce sufficient amounts of food to sustain a population. This can, in turn, lead to poorer health and decreased energy to carry out physical and mental functions, leading to more poverty. By 2050, the world would need to find food for approximately nine billion people as cost of production for food will rise in response to the increased amount of individuals. Thus, the United Nations established programs to ensure food security and technology companies make efforts to reduce food production costs.

The Role of Essays and Research

There has been increasing progress towards solving the global issues; however, for some, this progress is too slow due to lack of understanding of preventative methods, diffusion of responsibility and unanswered questions. These global issue topics for essays and research papers can be used as a starting point to give more insight to others into the issues and how to get involved.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Crisis in Afghanistan
According to the most recent Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS), the poverty rate in Afghanistan has taken an enormous leap over the past few years, rising from 38 percent in 2011-12 to 55 percent in 2016-17. 
In addition, the percentage of Afghans facing food insecurity jumped from 30 percent to 45 percent, and the underemployment rate (the percentage of people working in jobs that pay too little to sustain themselves) rose from 17 percent to 24 percent over the same timeframe.

The survey states that this “sharp deterioration” is mainly due to macroeconomic, security and demographic factors. These may sound like rather broad issues, but the poverty crisis in Afghanistan can be traced to two major problems.

Reduced NATO Troop Presence Increases Instability

The first of these is the departure of NATO combat troops, which took place in 2014. At its peak, NATO involvement in Afghanistan consisted of about 130,000 troops on the ground to protect civilians from the threat of terrorism. The total number of troops currently stands at about 15,000.

This reduction has made it easier for the Taliban, Afghanistan’s most prominent terrorist group, to increase its presence in the country. In fact, the BBC reported that the Taliban controlled or threatened approximately 70 percent of Afghan territory as of January.

Frequent terrorist attacks and violent conflict have led to an increase in poverty because many have been forced to flee their homes, leave their jobs and pull their children out of school in fear for their lives. This constant instability can make it difficult for families to find ways to provide for themselves.

In response to the negative effects since NATO’s transition out of Afghanistan, the Trump administration sent approximately 3,000 more NATO troops to Afghanistan at the beginning of this year. The effects of this increase have yet to be determined.

Disproportionate Age of Population Contributes to Poverty Crisis in Afghanistan

The second contributor to the poverty crisis in Afghanistan is one whose solution is less clear: the age of the population. The ALCS report indicates that 48 percent of the population is under the age of 15, meaning it has one of the youngest populations in the world.

This anomaly has created an economic dilemma for Afghanistan. The dependency ratio currently stands at 101, which means that 100 income-earning adults have to provide for 101 dependent people.

What this high number implies is that adults are having to spend more money on food, medical care and education for their children. But since most of the population is not old enough to work yet, all of these burdens are placed on a relatively small amount of income earners, which results in more money being spent than earned and leads to higher rates of poverty.

Afghanistan Makes Major Gains in Women’s Employment

One solution offered by the report is to encourage greater involvement of women in the workforce. The female labor force participation rate in Afghanistan as of 2017 is about 19 percent. Although this is the highest rate ever recorded in the country and is a great sign of progress, there is still quite a way to go for Afghanistan to match the world average of 49 percent.

Increasing measures to fight terrorism and creating employment opportunities for women are not simple tasks by any means, but they can be accomplished with hard work. Though conditions may seem dire now, the poverty crisis in Afghanistan is not unsolvable.

– Maddi Roy
Photo: Flickr