Information and stories about United Nations.

Fighting Poverty in Puerto RicoIn a significant effort to boost economic development and fight poverty in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has given the green light to allocate $158 million in federal funds for Puerto Rico under the American Rescue Plan’s Capital Projects Fund. 

This substantial investment has a two-fold focus, with $85.7 million dedicated to broadband infrastructure and $64.7 million allocated to multi-purpose community technology centers. This initiative’s primary objectives include combating poverty and nurturing development within the territory by bridging the digital divide that plagues Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s Lack of Connectivity

More than 61,000 homes and small businesses on the island currently lack access to broadband internet. This digital divide has far-reaching consequences, limiting access to critical services such as health care, educational opportunities and employment prospects.

Impacts Across Multiple Sectors

The investment of $85.7 million in broadband infrastructure represents a transformative opportunity for Puerto Rico. This significant funding will connect thousands of households while ushering in a wave of positive changes for the island’s residents.

One of the most notable benefits will be the enhancement of telehealth services. With improved broadband access, residents will have easier and more reliable access to remote medical consultations. This is especially vital for individuals in rural or underserved areas who may struggle with physical access to health care facilities. The statistics suggest a substantial increase in telehealth consultations, ensuring that more Puerto Ricans can receive timely medical care, ultimately leading to better health outcomes.

The investment also opens the door to expanded online education. With faster and more reliable internet connections, students of all ages will have improved access to online courses and educational resources. This is crucial for remote or underserved communities, providing them with opportunities for skill development and academic advancement. The expected rise in online course enrollments is a testament to the potential educational impact.

This infusion of funds will also stimulate remote work opportunities. As Puerto Rico’s digital infrastructure improves, remote job prospects will increase significantly. This is a particularly welcome development, given the flexibility it offers to the workforce. The anticipated growth in remote job opportunities will enable residents to access a broader range of employment options without the need for relocation off-island.

In addition to the broadband infrastructure investment, the allocation of $64.7 million to multi-purpose community technology centers is a game changer. These centers will serve as more than just internet access points; they will become vital community hubs, providing educational resources, training and access to various services. These centers are poised to empower communities by offering essential skill-development programs, digital literacy training and a space for residents to access critical services such as job searches, government assistance programs and more.

The Commitment to Fighting Poverty Globally

This initiative underscores the Biden-Harris Administration’s unwavering commitment to equity and the long-term development of Puerto Rico. Reducing poverty and enhancing economic opportunities represents a significant stride toward creating a more prosperous and interconnected Puerto Rico. In the realm of Congressional politics, several bipartisan bills in the House aim to address global poverty and development. Dedicated representatives who recognize the importance of international cooperation champion these bills.

Multilateral Organizations and Their Role in Fighting Global Poverty

Beyond Congress, big multilateral organizations like the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank also play a pivotal role in combating global poverty. Their collaborative efforts with governments worldwide underscore the significance of international partnerships in tackling poverty on a global scale.

The U.S. Treasury’s $158 million initiative for Puerto Rico is a beacon of hope for the island’s residents. By reducing the digital divide, expanding access to vital services and fostering economic growth, it exemplifies the positive impact of strategic investments. Moreover, it aligns with a broader global effort involving both Congress and international organizations, to address poverty and foster development.

Suhani Bhattad
Photo: Pixabay

Aiding the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s poorest countries. Consistently ranked among the five poorest nations in the world, in 2022 almost 62% of the DRC’s population, totaling around 60 million people, lived in extreme poverty — less than $2.15 a day. The DRC has a long history of conflict, political upheaval and instability and authoritarian rule over the last two decades since the end of the Congo Wars in 2003, exacerbating extreme poverty in the country. 

With such a politically unstable situation in the country, the work of global organizations such as the United Nations has taken on an important role in working to improve the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here is how the U.N. is aiding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The United Nations and MONUSCO 

The U.N. launched the Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty around the globe by 2030, and to ensure “peace and prosperity for all people.” Some of the SDGs include: eliminating extreme poverty; eliminating malnutrition and hunger; reducing the global maternal mortality rate below 70 per 100,000 births; and eliminating preventable deaths of newborns and children under the age of 5. 

MONUSCO (The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is the main mechanism through which the U.N. aims to achieve its goals regarding aiding the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With a continually dangerous and volatile political and social situation in the DRC, MONUSCO is a U.N. peacekeeping operation that aims to protect the DRC’s civilians and support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts. As of July 2023, 17,753 personnel were estimated to be stationed in the country, including 12,379 troops. 

What Has MONUSCO Achieved? 

MONUSCO has always been a controversial presence in the DRC. In 2022, there were numerous protests in the country against the presence of the peacekeeping mission. In large part, this negative perception of MONUSCO among many of the DRC’s civilian population comes from a lack of understanding of what the goal of the peacekeeping mission is in the country, with experts arguing that the U.N. needs to do more to engage with local communities to remove these misconceptions. 

Nevertheless, in 2019, a research team part of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) conducted a study to assess the impact of MONUSCO in the DRC and highlighted the positive impact it had had. The overarching conclusion was that MONUSCO, and its predecessor before July 2010, MONUC, had been able to achieve, with the rather limited resources it had, a great deal in the country to improve the situation in the DRC. 

The research team revealed that the peacekeeping mission played an important role in maintaining the DRC in its current form — preventing breakaway regions — while also helping to prevent a recurrence of major violent conflict. Its presence in the country has enabled other international and national actors to provide key services that stimulated the DRC’s economy and supported democratic politics. MONUSCO has also played a crucial role in monitoring human rights violations to support international criminal justice, helping to protect the country’s most vulnerable from political violence. 


Despite the DRC’s continually high poverty rates and continued political and social conflict, there have been some noticeable improvements in the country’s political, economic and social situation, indicating a more hopeful future for the DRC’s poorest. 

In January 2019, the DRC experienced its first peaceful transition of power after 62 years of independence, with Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo winning the December 2018 election and succeeding Joseph Kabila, who had led the country for 18 years. As the World Bank reveals, there are indications of a new social contract emerging between the state and its citizens in the DRC, through the roll-out of free primary education and public sector reforms, alongside an emphasis on conflict prevention and stabilization in the East of the DRC. 

Economic growth is another area where the DRC has seen improvements in recent years, reaching 8.6% in 2022 and keeping up the momentum from 2021 (6.1% growth). Access to education, particularly among girls, has also increased considerably over the past two decades, with enrollment into primary education reaching 78% in 2017, up from just 50% in 2000. 

Furthermore, while remaining very high, poverty rates have improved over the last two decades. In 2005, it was estimated that 71% of the population lived in extreme poverty, with that number having decreased to around 10% by 2022. Thus, while there is still much more work to be done to improve the situation in the DRC much more drastically and to achieve the U.N. SDGs by 2030, the numbers do show the positive impact that global organizations like the U.N. can have on countries impacted by high levels of extreme poverty and a volatile political and social situation. 

– Eleanor Lomas
Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Belgium colonized the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for 80 years until the country was able to gain its rightful independence in 1960. Belgian rule allowed the use of torture in particular to political opponents, causing instability from the ground up that has stayed with the country even as it became a democratic nation. History has shown how difficult it is for countries to prosper once colonized and the Congo is unfortunately no different. Both internal struggles for power and outside conflicts have hindered the country for decades, and the most vulnerable group is feeling it the worst — children. Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are nothing new, but the country is actively working to change that. One of the largest hurdles facing this issue is the extreme level of poverty in the country, where nearly 80% of citizens survive on less than $2 per day.

Congolese Politics

The DRC has had many instances of political violence, but the 1990s were a turning point. After seizing power in 1965, President Mobutu took control and ruled until he was overthrown in 1997. Former President Laurent Kabila took control and suspended the democratic process before he himself was assassinated a few years later. It was not until 2006 that democratic policies were reinstituted, but the internal conflicts of the past still remain today, including ethnic nationalism and tribalism throughout the region. The DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world. This poverty and constant internal conflict for power leave so many displaced, opening the door for child soldiers to be recruited and taken advantage of. With consistent instability, often the most at-risk groups feel the weight of the tension the most.

Child Soldiers

 Children as young as 6 find themselves routinely recruited to join militia groups, though the most common ages range from 8-16. There are varying positions they are forced to work including spies and messengers. Other child soldiers in the DRC find themselves fighting on the front lines for differing warlords.

 The UN has found militias operating in the DRC have a “staggeringly high number of violations against children.” They prey on children using patriotism as motivation or by taking advantage of the extreme level of poverty in the country. Government forces, who once also implemented child soldiers, have to shoulder some of the blame, as attacks on schools and hospitals have risen as well.

The U.S. Department of State provides a report to explain and understand how child soldiers are being implemented in the DRC while also showing the best estimation of child soldier numbers. The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report lists the DRC as a Tier 2 country on a 3-tier system. Tier 2 countries are those that have not eliminated trafficking but are making “significant efforts” to do so.

Solutions and Progress

The United States passed a law in 2008 that allows for the withholding of military aid to governments that use children in their armed forces, called the Child Soldiers Prevention Act. At the time, the Congolese government was still using child soldiers, but this act directly changed that. After its passing, the DRC signed a U.N. action plan that made certain guarantees leading to the end of its recruitment and use of child soldiers. Further penalties stem from TIP if a country is listed on Tier 3, which opens the door for U.S. sanctions.

The government of the DRC has taken further action against militia groups that are still involved by showing an increase in trafficking probes and prosecutions once caught. They have also removed children from these armed groups while agreeing with militia commanders on ending child recruitment, getting some to even renounce the practice altogether. That is quite an improvement in a country where this has taken place for decades.

 NGOs are operating in the country, including Mercy Corps, which is finding ways to help the government economically that in turn, help the citizens of the DRC. Mercy Corps is addressing basic needs by piping in clean water and building wash stations. It has also proposed strategies that are designed to tackle poverty by repairing economic relations with other African countries that are facing the same violence. Another path is using the Congo’s massive amount of natural resources, both diamonds and gold and refining them at home. 

There are still thousands of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo being used as spies and messengers. There are programs being implemented to bring change in this area, by both the Congolese government and outside NGOs. Further outside help is being provided by foreign countries that have incentive programs to counteract child soldier use. The number of child soldiers is down, but without continued help to alleviate a major cause, extreme poverty, the threat of being forced to fight in armed conflicts will remain. 

– Benett Crim
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Refugees in the UKWith multiple crises currently affecting the world, more and more people find themselves needing assistance. According to the U.N., 6.1 million people have been forced to flee from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, with a further 1.5 million people fleeing from Afghanistan since the Taliban take over in 2021. Additionally, climate-related disasters cause people to flee to safer areas. In 2019 alone, 25 million people sought refuge in other countries as a result of weather events, such as fires, floods and droughts.

Refugees fleeing from extreme weather events will become more common as the climate crisis intensifies, according to the U.N.  Charities that seek to offer assistance to refugees are essential. The following are charities that are helping refugees in the U.K.

Refugee Action 

Refugee Action, founded in 1981, is a charity that provides refugees in the U.K. with the basic support that they need to survive. For instance, in 2019-2020 alone, 3,000 refugees were given accommodation and access to financial support. This support ensures that refugees in the U.K. have a stable foundation that they can build on. 

Ahmed’s story best exemplifies the work of Refugee Action. After fleeing Egypt in fear for his life, Ahmed was greeted with nothing but a place on the streets. He was homeless, with no hope of securing stable accommodations, due to the Home Office withholding access to identification. Fortunately, Refugee Action was able to intervene and help Ahmed secure long-term accommodation and provide him with official identification, so he could gain stable employment.

Refugee Council 

Refugee Council was founded in 1951, after the creation of the U.N. refugee convention. It is an organization that not only seeks to support refugees in the U.K. but also campaigns for a fairer and more just asylum system.

Each year, this organization provides several forms of assistance for 13,000 refugees in the U.K. This includes offering to support them while they integrate into their new society, along with supplying aid to children who have arrived without parents. Since the majority of refugees are fleeing from dangerous situations, it is likely that they have experienced some form of trauma. Because of this, Refugee Council offers mental health support to every refugee that they come into contact with. 

Additionally, this organization works to highlight and change the inequities in the U.K.’s asylum system. For example, 25% of asylum seekers wait four to six weeks for official documents. These documents enable them to gain official employment or accommodation.

Without these documents, refugees either cannot work or are forced to work in dangerous, low-paid and unregulated jobs. Furthermore, refugees in the U.K. are only permitted to stay in government accommodation for 28 days, so many refugees are forced into homelessness, while they wait for their documents. Refugee Council campaigns to bring an end to this policy, as it causes countless vulnerable refugees to become homeless.

Other campaigning work by this organization includes a successful effort to improve the protections offered to women who are fleeing abusive situations. Before Refugee Council’s campaign, adequate protections were not in place, and female refugees were still left vulnerable to the same kind of abuse that they had fled from.

Young Roots 

Young Roots, founded by Rachel Yarrow, Roz Evans and Kathy Brook in 2004, is a charity that works directly with refugees in the U.K. to improve their life chances. This organization employs refugees at all levels to ensure that the charity is driven by people with personal experience of the plight of refugees in the U.K. 

Focusing their efforts in Croydon and Brent, Young Roots provided casework services and advice hubs for 873 people in 2019 alone. These services provide refugees with legal support and offer therapy for those who need it. 

In addition, Young Roots seeks to increase the confidence of young refugees in the U.K. by offering different classes, such as dance and drama. 

Raena, who arrived in the U.K. in 2018, has benefited greatly from these classes. Upon arriving in the U.K., Raena was very shy and was also apprehensive about becoming a part of her new community. Fortunately, Young Roots reached out to her, and she began attending the young women’s group, where she could mix with other young, female refugees. Over time, her confidence grew, so she was now able to volunteer for the organization, offering interview classes for fellow young refugees. This improved Raena’s life chances, as holding the classes imparted her with valuable experience for taking part in interviews to get a job of her own. 

What’s Next?

While these three organizations are doing fantastic and much-needed work, there is still more to be done. Refugees in the U.K. are an incredibly vulnerable group, and they are only going to become increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

– Tom Eccles
Photo: Flickr

Least Developed Countries
The fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) took place in Doha, Qatar from March 5 to March 9, 2023. It was an amalgamation of political leaders, the business sector, civic organizations and youth. The conference’s main aim was to build a framework of support for the current 46 least developed countries in the world through the Doha Programme of Action (DPoA). Between 2022 and 2031, DPoA will aid LDCs in six key areas, driving investment and innovation in these countries and hopefully leading to their graduation from the LDC status.

LDC Classification

LDC or a least developed country is a U.N. classification of an impoverished country bereft of economic and human resources. The Committee for Development Policy meets every three years to review the LDCs and their inclusion and graduation criteria. These criteria are based on a country’s gross national income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability.

There are currently 46 countries on the LDC list, most of which are in Africa. Asia also has a significant number of LDCs. The U.N. put the first group of countries (25 nations) in this category in 1971. Today, the number has risen to 46 countries. However, since 1994, six countries have graduated from the LDC list and seven more are on the path to graduation by 2026, with Bhutan next in line.

Challenges LDCs Face

The combined population of all the world’s least developed countries is 1.1 billion. According to the U.N., “more than 75% of those people still live in poverty.” Due to low economic and human resources, LDCs are more vulnerable to deprivation. Many of the current LDCs are indebted. The U.N. states that out of the 46 countries, “four are classified as in debt distress” and “16 LDCs are at high risk of debt distress.”

The U.N. states that in 2019 “almost half of the children out of school worldwide” lived in LDCs. This shows that children in these countries have a higher chance of growing up without proper education, leaving them more vulnerable to economic instability. Poor enrollment and completion rates along with low education budgets in LDCs leave much to be desired. “Clearly, the education systems in the LDCs require significant development to equip their young people with the skills they need for the future,” said Rabab Fatima, secretary-general of the LDC5 at the conference.

LDCs face a multitude of challenges including “limited fiscal space, high external debt, macroeconomic imbalances, widespread poverty and underdeveloped or no social protection systems,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stated at the LDC5 conference.

LDC5 and DPoA

The LDC5 conference is the U.N.’s effort at uniting people that can make a difference in order to build a strategy for driving positive change in LDCs. This was the fifth such decennial conference, with the first taking place in Paris in 1981. The LDC5 conference hosted 9,000 people, including 46 heads of state and comprised many events and discussions.

The main focus of LDC5, however, was the DPoA. It “manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society and the governments at all levels,” the U.N. says. The DPoA provides a framework and guiding principles for LDCs to improve their socioeconomic standing and graduate from the category.

There are six key areas of focus in DPoA, including increased investment in human assets, driving technological advancements and increasing trade. In particular, the DPoA promises “an online university, a graduation support package, a food stock holding solution, an investment support center and a crisis mitigation and resilience building mechanism,” the U.N. reports.

Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA)

The U.N. Industrial Development Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the Agrifood Systems Transformation Accelerator (ASTA) at LDC5. ASTA aims to revitalize agricultural food production in LDCs by combining investment from the public and private sectors as one of its methods. ASTA had been successfully operating as a pilot scheme in 15 countries since 2018. It predicts more than $300 million in investment from the private sector in the future.

Many countries officially announced support packages at the conference. According to the U.N., Germany pledged €200 million to support LDCs. Qatar pledged $60 million while Canada dedicated $59 million toward ecosystem conservation and delivering vitamin supplements in LDCs.

With a blueprint ready, LDCs have way ahead of making socioeconomic progress and graduating from the category. The LDC5 conference proved that the world is full of people who are committed to improving the situation in these 46 countries and beyond. The U.N. General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said, “Through science, technology and innovation, we have the tools to build sustainable recoveries.”

– Siddhant Bhatnagar
Photo: Flickr

Goalkeepers Report
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a mission of “creating a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life.” Since its initial launch in 2000, the foundation has provided billions worth of grants to assist with the eradication of various global issues. More specifically, the Foundation focuses on the fight against global poverty, disease and inequity. To measure global progress regarding these objectives, annually, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation releases a ‘Goalkeepers Report,’ a global address outlining the progress on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The most recent release of the highly anticipated Goalkeepers Report features 18 key data indicators regarding the progress made on specific subsets of these goals. Here are four ways the 2022 Goalkeepers Report proves global poverty is declining and, conversely, that equity is rising.

4 Ways Global Poverty is Reducing

  1. Universal Health Coverage. SDG 3.8 aims for “universal health coverage” by 2030. The earliest data regarding this SGD goes back to 1990 when only about 45% of people had a form of health coverage. Since then, the goal has seen a steady positive upward trend, with the exception of a slight dip in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, in the year 2021, approximately 60% of people worldwide had health coverage. This upward trend exemplifies great promise in regard to access to health care for all. Most importantly, with this progression, unexpected medical payments will no longer be a primary cause of poverty.
  2. Under-5 Mortality. Part of SDG 3.2 aims to reduce under-5 mortality rates to 25 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030 (SDG 3.2). According to the Gates Foundation, “communicable and infectious diseases continue to be leading causes of deaths.” In 1990, the global under-5 mortality rate stood at 86 children per 1,000 live births. Since then, the world has noted progress as a result of steadily improving health care worldwide. Most recently, in the year 2021, the number of under-5 childhood deaths stood at 36 out of every 1,000 children born.
  3. Neglected Tropical Diseases. SDG 3.3 aims to “end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases” by 2030. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neglected tropical diseases cause about 200,000 deaths a year and lead to a loss of “19 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)” annually. The Goalkeepers Report measures this progress in terms of the prevalence of the top 15 neglected tropical diseases per 100,000 persons. In 1990, neglected tropical diseases impacted 43,800 humans globally out of every 100,000. Since then, the world has made great progress as the number of humans affected has decreased more than threefold, now standing at a figure of approximately 12,375. Neglected tropical diseases have decreased dramatically as a result of increased access to health care and a greater focus on water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives.
  4. Extreme Poverty. SDG 1.1 aims to eliminate extreme poverty globally. The Goalkeepers Report measures this progress according to the percentage of the global population surviving on less than $1.90 USD per day. The earliest data regarding this SDG goes back to 2015 when a jarring 10.06% of the population lived below the extreme poverty line. That equates to more than 730 million people. Since then, the goal has seen progress with the exemption of 2020. During the pandemic, the state of extreme global poverty became notably severe as a result of soaring inflation and unemployment. Consequently, the 2020 global poverty rate of 9.21% showed degression comparable with the 2017 rate of 9.11%. Fortunately, as the global economy rebounds, extreme poverty is also reducing. By April 2022, the global extreme poverty rate stood at 8.6%, according to the World Bank.

Concluding Thoughts

Despite all of the global economic, social and political turmoil over the past years, the 2022 Goalkeepers Report proves that global poverty is declining. This progress provides hope not only for poverty but for all global issues in the coming future.

– Aarika Sharma
Photo: Flickr

Geospatial Mapping
Without the help of development agencies, peacekeepers may always have to participate in the never-ending cycle of peacekeeping. With 50% of the world’s poor projected to live in counties where violence casts its constant shadow, peacekeeping efforts can only stand to scale, but at what cost, and to what end? Fortunately, technological advancements, such as geospatial mapping, can allow peacekeepers to help expand options for development agencies that danger constantly repels.

Accessibility to Hostile Territory

Lack of security defines development agencies’ diminishing hopes of lasting presence, demanding the perpetual presence of peacekeepers. Development projects thus deal with constant mission suspensions, limits on the number of authorized personnel and the inability to conduct crucial work. A review of relief operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria have recorded a multitude of resources in safer areas that are not in need due to reluctance to transgress into “red zones.”

Access limitations are not a characteristic of peacekeeping efforts for obvious reasons. Without development agencies in the arena of conflict, peacekeepers merely provide greater tolerance for conflict since development is not within their capacity, serving to encourage scaling conflict which exposes more poor people to violence.

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision Initiative (GEMS)

The World Bank’s Geo-Enabling for Monitoring and Supervision initiative (GEMS) facilitates for government agencies the ability to use tech innovations such as KoBoToolbox, an open-source data collection software that the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative developed, to amass data and analysis in states defined, at least in part, by conflict to improve monitoring and evaluation. Government representatives and partner organizations receive training to develop and mete out a platform for data collection that usually takes place during field visits and undergoes acquisition with the assistance of mobile devices and can cover any topic relevant to the goals of a project. Such a process helps developers monitor a project’s progress while maintaining safety.

How Geospatial Mapping Tools for Peacekeepers Works

Geospatial mapping tools for peacekeepers serve the relevant function of sharing categorized data regarding violence and insecurity to apprise development experts. These sorts of data collection efforts include identifying the number, type and intensity of violent occurrences in conflicted areas where peacekeepers often work.

Security maps in conjunction with poverty can provide development agencies the ability to develop access strategies for projects that specialize in the delivery of commodities to the poor who are in conflict. Because security administration is a public service, data that peacekeepers amass can help governments measure the degree of necessity regarding providing accountable and effective security services. Allowing peacekeepers of the U.N. the capability of strengthening their data-gathering capabilities aid the U.N. in determining its efficacy regarding deployments.

U.N. peacekeepers have made progress regarding the protection of civilians policy (POC) in recent years. Notwithstanding, peacekeepers will linger in a state of perpetual peacekeeping if systems that can monitor and evaluate progress fail to undergo initiation. These maps, which initiatives like GEMS are implementing, provide an advantage for peacemaking and development efforts.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Rawpixel

The Food is Never Waste CoalitionThe United Nations Environment Programme’s latest 2021 Food Waste Index Report suggests that the world is in “an epidemic of food wastage.” Currently, the world wastes about 17% of all food available for human consumption. Households contribute 61% to the total food waste while 26% comes from the foodservice industry and the retail industry contributes 13%. These wasted food resources could help to feed the 690 million undernourished global citizens.

A Closer Look at Food Waste

Food loss and waste persist for various reasons. Households may not utilize every food item they purchase and often throw out leftover food. Typically, the average household wastes roughly 74 kilograms of food per person annually. Food waste is responsible for an annual monetary loss of $1 trillion, impacting both farmers and families. The UNEP’s report finds that food waste occurs across all nations, not just low-income nations as is common belief. In fact, “at the farming stage alone,” roughly 1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost. Interestingly, middle and high-income nations account for “58% of global farm-stage food waste.” Considering these statistics, the world is searching for ways to decrease food waste and make food accessible to all.

The World’s Response

Many coalitions and campaigns are emerging to address the food waste crisis. In 2013, the UNEP began the Think Eat Save food waste awareness campaign. Now, UNEP is implementing “Regional Food Waste Working Groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean and West Asia.” The groups share ideas and findings concerning food waste within a peer-to-peer network in order to reduce food waste across nations.

USAID is also taking a stand against food waste by investing $60 million over the next five years to research and reduce food waste. In September 2021, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced that “the United States joined the global coalition on food loss and waste” — the Food is Never Waste Coalition. The coalition aims “to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food losses by at least 25%.” The coalition works to fulfill the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 to reduce consumer and retail food waste and loss.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition

The Food is Never Waste Coalition represents a significant step for global action against food waste. The international coalition works to reduce food loss and waste while emphasizing financial and economic sustainability. Members include G7 and G20 groups as well as more than 30 member states in addition to academic groups, NGOs, UN agencies and private sector groups.

Drawing from various sectors, including technology, energy and education, the coalition utilizes a public-private partnership (PPP). A PPP enables the coalition to look across food supply chains and intervene from multiple angles. By collaborating with governments and private businesses, the coalition invests in mutually beneficial sustainable food pathways. In Norway, a PPP strategy helped manufacturers reduce food waste by 15% in a period of just three years.

The Food is Never Waste Coalition will conduct research, share knowledge on food waste reduction methods and invest in food loss reduction. The coalition tracks progress with the UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report. Tracking progress will enable the coalition to maintain goals and establish necessary initiatives. Member states benefit from participating in the coalition. For instance, investing in food waste reduction creates business opportunities for local farmers and women in low-income countries.

The coalition also offers a platform for collaboration between countries by sharing knowledge on food waste research and strategies. Through grassroots efforts, private sector involvement and research, the Food is Never Waste Coalition seeks to improve food pathways. Additionally, the group will encourage food surplus donations among members states to feed those in need.

Alleviating Global Hunger by Reducing Food Waste

Ultimately, halving food waste and loss by 2030 will be a collaborative effort. The coalition embodies the international effort to improve food systems. Resources usually lost at the production or household levels could feed the world’s hungry. By improving global food pathways and encouraging surplus donations, the Food is Never Waste Coalition works to create sustainable and accessible systems with less food waste.

– Dana Gil
Photo: Flickr

One cannot peg conflict in Africa to a sole cause. In fact, a multitude of causes has paved the way for the world to form a generalized opinion of the continent as an area that is inherently dangerous and violent, a faulty but dangerous conclusion that gives cause not to tackle an issue that the nature of the continent itself causes. Although conflict is an inevitable course of human interaction and an undiplomatic resolution to conflicting interests anywhere, such as in Africa, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala, it is unlikely to bring stability to Africa.

Causes of Conflict

Incompetent leadership, corruption, poverty and colonial influence each have their role in the conflict that reverberates across the African continent. European powers’ 19th-century colonialization saw the arbitrary boundary setting that split ethnic groups and placed rival ethnicities within proximity of each other. The Akan-speaking people lived in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Embezzled funds by leaders play a significant hand in the conflict in Africa by petrifying efforts towards political integration and socioeconomic stability, compelling enough of an issue that the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union adopted the “Africa Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption” in 2003. Weakness, corruption and lack of sufficient patriotism characterize leadership in much of Africa, resulting in civil wars in African countries such as, but not limited to, Sudan, Algeria and Liberia.

Poverty’s Role in Conflict

Desertification in Africa speaks of its harsh environment and plays no small role in poverty and has caused notable famines in countries like Ethiopia and Mali, bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty up from 217 million to more than 300 million people between the years of 1987 and 1998. Poverty is a cause of conflict. Conflict in Africa, and anywhere, stalls socioeconomic development and ensures that poverty statistics improve only marginally if at all. Conflict brings down the physical infrastructure of an affected area and likewise destroys the social fabric that takes its forms in loyalty, patriotism and mutual relations. The world has seen time and time again the fruitful reconstruction of an area that war plagued, with the condition that those reconstructing come to a common aim. These conflicts also raise unemployment levels due to a lack of education and economic empowerment.

The Challenges of the Fertility Rate in Africa

A total fertility rate of 4.8 births per woman complicates poverty reduction efforts by complicating a demographic shift that can lead to fewer youths, which means more investment per youth for the development and fulfillment of economic potential. It also offsets poverty reduction progress by increasing the number of people being born into poverty. For example, extreme poverty decreased considerably between 1990 and 2015 inclusive, yet the number of poor people increased to 413 million people from 278 million people.

Solutions to Conflict in Africa

Finding solutions to conflict in Africa is pressing, but poverty eradication and better leadership should be a part of them. A common denominator in developed countries and fueling conflict in Africa is economic and political inclusivity, something lost on developing countries that tend to rule more authoritatively, benefitting those near them at the expense of the rest. Donald Duke, who was a former governor of Cross River State in Nigeria likened the leadership dynamic in Nigeria to that of a pilot who flies a plane but has never been to pilot school. Duke stated that “when the plane crashes, everyone blames the pilot.” Duke also remarked that the question is where are Africa’s leadership “flying schools?”

The disconnect between leaders and the populace is an additional factor, and the age is a subfactor with most African leaders being 55 years of age at minimum, prompting calls for youth inclusion, championed by programs such as the United Nations Population Fund Global Youth Advisory Panel and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, although this only scratches the surface when speaking about total youth involvement.

Youth leadership would benefit Africa greatly, which would require courage on the end of the youth, and understanding and support from older leaders. Youth-led movements such as Y’en a Marre and Balai Citoyen in Senegal and Burkina Faso respectively speak of the youth capacity to instate programs and policy, even at ground level.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Flickr

Disability-inclusive COVID-19 ResponsesFor those living in developing countries, there is a direct link between poverty and disability, as each factor has the potential to influence the other. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest “have some kind of disability.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing problems faced by marginalized groups, and particularly people living with disabilities, it is important that developing countries around the world implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Throughout the entire world, roughly one billion people –15% of the total population– live with some form of disability. Within this figure, 80% of people living with disabilities reside in a developing country. People living with disabilities often face adversities such as “less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

Impact of COVID-19 On People With Disabilities

Through a policy brief, the United Nations found that people with disabilities face greater risks of contracting COVID-19. They risk developing severe and sometimes fatal conditions from the virus as well as health care discrimination. People with disabilities are often reliant on physical touch for support, which is difficult considering the importance of remaining socially distant and using hand-washing facilities. Additionally, people with disabilities often face secondary health conditions that are worsened by COVID-19.

Resource-rationing in healthcare facilities is often guided by ableist ideas on “quality or value of life based on disability,” making people with disabilities a lower priority with regard to life-saving resources. People living with disabilities face even worse conditions when living in poverty, particularly in the areas of education, health and transportation. Not only are some health care services inaccessible, but important information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 is rarely provided by way of Braille, captions or sign-language interpretation.

Approximately 90% of children who live with a disability in developing countries are not in school, and school-shutdown mandates leave these children with even fewer resources. Without school, many are unable to receive resources such as sanitation, water and meal programs. Lastly, those who rely on public transportation for medical appointments or fundamental necessities are unable to travel. These adversities contribute to the global need for disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Disability-Inclusive Responses to COVID-19

Although people with disabilities are often left out of global crisis responses, efforts to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses continue. The Peruvian government implemented Legislative Decree No. 1468, which establishes protective measures for people with disabilities as prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this decree, the state recognizes people with disabilities as having the right to “personal security” and priority access to any services provided by the state. Although some Peruvians with disabilities still feel as though there are barriers that limit their access to resources, the government’s efforts still offer many benefits.

Inclusion International, a network that advocates for the human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, reported on a growing trend. Various regional networks are unifying to “identify, document, and advocate against the discrimination and exclusion that people with intellectual disabilities are facing in their region.” These efforts include the European COVID Impact report and Pan-African advocacy. Members of Inclusion International currently work to collect data and experiences about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Latin America. This project, known as the Latin American Project, aims to identify the key factors that obstruct disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19. It includes countries such as Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Work remains to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses, especially in developing countries. However, efforts to address the adversities of people with disabilities are certainly on the rise. With this work continuing into the future, inclusive advocacy will soon be the standard, not the goal.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Unsplash