Information and stories about United Nations.

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

Japan’s Indigenous PeopleIndigenous people everywhere have struggled with prejudice, the challenge to keep their cultures alive and the societal pressure to assimilate. They also comprise “15% of the world’s” most extremely impoverished despite only making up 5% of the global population. Now, living predominantly in the prefecture of Hokkaido, Japan, the Ainu are Japan’s little-known native people and have faced all of these challenges since the 14th century. It was not until 1991 that the Japanese government acknowledged the group as an ethnic minority. Furthermore, it was not until 2008 that the government recognized the Ainu as Japan’s indigenous people. While legislation has improved conditions for the Ainu people over the years, problems of government accountability remain. The Ainu Association of Hokkaido continues to defend the group’s rights and culture.

A History of Hardship

The Ainu people’s current circumstances of poverty come from a history of colonialism. During Japan’s Meiji era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912, the Japanese government prioritized settlers’ land rights and disregarded the Ainu’s rights. This disrupted the livelihoods and economic activities of Japan’s indigenous people, who largely relied on fishing salmon and hunting deer. A greater effort to strip the Ainu “of their culture and traditions” took root as well. As part of the government’s forced assimilation efforts, the Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act of 1899 encouraged Ainu people to shift to an agriculture-based economy, but the land they were relocated to was known to be largely barren.

Japan’s indigenous people are still marginalized. Many reside in lower-income areas of Hokkaido. According to CNN, “High levels of poverty and unemployment currently hinder the Ainu’s social progress.” As of 2013, 44.8% of the Ainu received welfare assistance from the government, 11.7% more than Japan’s total population. Relatively few Ainu attend institutions of higher education.

Support for the Ainu​

Founded in 1946, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido exists to advocate for Ainu rights. In an interview with Minority Rights Group International, Ainu Association of Hokkaido Deputy Head Yupo Abe said that, for many years, Ainu people did not know that the government was exploiting them. This was because their indigenous identities went unacknowledged and many did not have education regarding land entitlement. It was only until the Ainu Association of Hokkaido met with other organizations doing similar work for indigenous groups that it realized the Ainu needed to reclaim their culture and fight for their rights.

Discussions with other native people who had experienced similar cases of discrimination led the Ainu Association of Hokkaido to utilize various platforms. This includes the United Nation’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations. The group lobbied for concrete actions from the government to improve the lives of Japan’s indigenous people.

Pushing for Progress

With the establishment of the Advisory Council for Future Ainu Policy in 2008 and the Council for Ainu Policy Promotion of 2009, the Ainu Association of Hokkaido has had some success in bettering conditions for the indigenous of Japan. A shifting focus to Ainu cultural awareness also stands as a positive trend. Driven by Ainu pressure and economic desire, the Japanese government spent at least $220 million building the Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony in Shiraoi, Hokkaido to honor Ainu culture. Though the pandemic led to many delays, the museum and park opened in July 2020.

Some still recognize the need for more work. Hokkaido University law professor, Kunihiko Yoshida, expressed in a BBC interview that the space is not likely to create meaningful change. “The Ainu still cannot fish their salmon and dams are still being built that submerge sacred sites. There’s no self-determination, no collective rights and no reparations. It’s just cultural performance,” he said. However, some Ainu believe that the project is beneficial because of job creation, which could potentially lift some out of unemployment and poverty.

As the ethnic minority of Japan, the Ainu people still struggle with discrimination in multiple ways. At the same time, growing cultural awareness and action suggests a broader desire for change. The Ainu Association of Hokkaido supports the Ainu community, and in time, steps toward progress might spark a national journey toward change.

Safira Schiowitz
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems SummitThe first global Food Systems Summit will take place on September 23, 2021, preceded by a three-day pre-summit in Rome from July 26 to July 28, 2021. The summit is part of the United Nations’ Decade of Action, in which the U.N. aims to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Goals of the Food Systems Summit

The Food Systems Summit will examine how food insecurity, climate and human conflicts intersect. According to the United Nations website, the summit has four main goals including:

  1. Establishing a clearer agenda to achieve the U.N.’s SDGs. This means creating action steps for all levels, from national governments to local representatives and from global companies to individual citizens.
  2. Opening up public discussion about food insecurity and creating more awareness.
  3. Formulating guiding principles for governments as they create their own plans to support the U.N.’s SDGs.
  4. Establishing a system of accountability, follow-up and review to ensure tangible progress.

Activists’ Immediate Demands

The summit has long-term strategic potential, but some activists have more immediate concerns as well. The summit comes at a time when food prices, job insecurity and overall global hunger are all rising. On April 20, 2021, more than 250 aid groups and organizations wrote an open letter to the United Nations demanding $5.5 billion in emergency food assistance funding.

Activists’ Criticisms of the Summit

Many activists have major concerns about the Food Systems Summit, particularly regarding who is involved in the program and the direction that the program aims to take for food production. Although small-scale food suppliers such as fishermen, farmers and Indigenous people provide the vast majority of the world’s food, they do not have a seat at the table at the summit. Many feel that the preparation process has not been transparent enough to allow small-scale producers to participate.

Additionally, other activists have concerns about how the summit will approach food insecurity. Many believe it focuses too much on technological solutions to food insecurity and that supporting other systems is necessary to return self-autonomy to people in poverty. Though new technology can play an important role, alternative solutions must undergo consideration as well. For example, agroecology draws upon historical, cultural and scientific knowledge of specific regions, ensuring more sustainable farming and preserving people’s cultural practices. Activists also worry that some high-tech solutions will tighten corporate control over developing countries’ food systems.

Looking to the Future

Though the Food Systems Summit has received criticism, it is still an important step as it will bring countries together to form a plan to address the pressing crisis of food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “Scientists agree that transforming our food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course and make progress toward all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” With collaboration among governments and citizens, the world can better tackle problems related to food consumption and production.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Soccer Stars and Celebrities Join Forces in the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021The biggest charity soccer match in the world is back with another star-studded cast of players. Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 has become a fixture for soccer fans to look forward to. Fans can watch old legends square off against celebrities — all for a good cause. This year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF hopes to reach a wider audience than ever before in order to aid in the recovery to COVID-19.

The Beginning of Soccer Aid for UNICEF

Dating back 15 years ago, singer Robbie Williams partnered with UNICEF for the first-ever Soccer Aid for UNICEF charity match, and now it has taken off as an annual tradition and great fundraiser for UNICEF. Each year an English team faces an international team in an iconic stadium where supporters can purchase tickets or watch live at home. The game has raised almost £50 million since it first began in 2006. Last year, Soccer Aid for UNICEF raised more than £9 million, breaking records for the charity match, and this year it hopes to go even higher.

This year, spectators can look forward to watching legends like Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra, Fara Williams, Roberto Carlos and all-time leading goal scorer for England, Wayne Rooney, take the pitch. Rooney said, “Soccer Aid for UNICEF has been a massive force for good since it started back in 2006 and I know the public will support us again this year.” These elite players will be alongside plenty of star power like Usain Bolt, Olly Murs, Paddy McGuiness, Tom Grennan and more suiting up for the exhibition.

Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021

For the first time ever, The Etihad Stadium, home to league winners Manchester City, will host the event. UNICEF U.K. Ambassador Dermot O’Leary is looking forward to the match, saying: “The game is going to be incredible this year… The money we raise really will make a huge difference to children’s lives everywhere… Having recently become a UNICEF UK Ambassador myself, I know how much your money and your support can help children in really tough situations be able to just be children again.” She added that “the COVID-19 crisis is making life for children in the world’s poorest countries even harder, so let’s bring play back!”

This year the charity match will have a whole week of fundraising activities leading up to the big day. The funds raised this year will go toward COVID-19 recovery and vaccination efforts. UNICEF has set its most ambitious goal yet with the hope of providing two billion vaccines for frontline workers and teachers around the world. Soccer Aid for UNICEF notes: “Children worldwide won’t be safe until everyone they rely on is safe.” The goal for the Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2021 is to get children back in school and back to receiving the health care and nutritional services they need.

When stars and sporting legends align to fight global poverty, good things happen! We can look forward to more good thanks to Soccer Aid for UNICEF.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

Women's International Work
U.N. Women, an entity of the United Nations, strives to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world. Specifically, U.N. Women’s international work involves collaboration with governments and societies to create real change. The organization creates change by working to reform, implement and secure policies, programs, resources and legislation to ensure the rights of women and girls are upheld globally.

UN Women’s International Work

U.N. Women not only works on gender equality in the world but also inside its organization. For example, U.N. Women employs more than 3,000 people of 150 different nationalities in 90 geographical locations, working together on global challenges and initiatives. About 74% of employees are female and employees are supported by staff resource groups such as the Youth Council and the LGBTQI Network. U.N. Women believes that diversity and inclusion create the best workforce and a safe space. This allows room for respect, professionalism and integrity.

U.N. Women began its work in January 2011. The entity brings together four United Nations offices prioritizing gender equality. This includes The U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and the U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW). U.N. Women supports the development of gender equality policies and provides technical and monetary support to help countries with their gender equality goals. The entity holds the United Nations as a whole “accountable for its own commitments on gender equality” through ongoing monitoring and assessment.

Issues Impacting Women

U.N. Women’s gender equality work contributed to landmark agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The organization emphasizes that gender inequality is a problem in every society due to its deeply rooted history. Globally, women do not always receive equal opportunities to men.

Gender wage gaps still exist and women frequently experience discrimination when attempting to garner employment and while working in the workplace. Women lack access to basic necessities such as essential healthcare and education. Women also severely lack representation in politics and economics even though they are significantly impacted by these decisions. However, U.N. Women works to give women and girls a voice at all levels on issues that affect them. In the greater scheme of global poverty, women are disproportionately affected by poverty.

Carol Cassidy

Carol Cassidy is a human rights journalist who has worked on and off with U.N. Women for seven years. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Cassidy explains that that U.N. Women’s focus is international. Cassidy states, “U.N. Women’s major focus is combating violence against women worldwide. Violence takes many forms, from selective abortion, lack of education for women and girls, lack of opportunities for women outside of housework” and more. Cassidy says further that the organization is interested in initiatives that address poverty and violence.

The organization’s main mission is not to overtake projects or programs women have created, but to provide funding and support to allow the programs to flourish. U.N. Women looks to enhance accountability and involve women in general decision-making and conversations within their communities. U.N. Women has worked with countries all around the world, from South Africa to Ukraine. Cassidy was drawn to the organization because she shares similar goals, morals and ethics.

Empowering Women Globally

Cassidy’s past work with U.N. Women includes supporting women’s economic rights in post-conflict zones such as Gaza, Uganda and Sri Lanka. Cassidy recalls a specific example of supporting women. In Gaza, unemployment rates skyrocketed during the war and women came together to build and run a bakery. Women were able to bake goods to sustain families in the community. U.N. Women supported these women by providing funding.

U.N. Women strives to create a world where women have the same opportunities and protections as men. U.N. Women’s international work has helped bridge gender barriers to close the gender inequality gap around the world.

– Lauren Peacock
Photo: Flickr

Alliance for Affordable InternetAs social distancing measures and lockdowns isolated people, the internet helped keep communities connected and functioning. Households ordered groceries online, adults telecommuted to work and students attended school via distance learning. The internet asserted itself as a necessary utility. However, affordable internet access is far from universal. The United Nations has partnered with the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) to address this by increasing affordable internet access in developing countries as a means of reducing global poverty.

The UN Partners With A4AI

On January 26, 2021, the U.N. Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) announced its partnership with the Alliance for Affordable Internet. The Technology Bank works on a regional and national level to help countries identify and utilize relevant technology and foster partnerships to advance economic development. A4AI advocates and researches policy and regulatory reform with the aim of increasing affordable internet access worldwide. Together, the organizations are using their connections to build an even stronger and more influential network.

The Benefits of Internet Access

The partnership is timely as the COVID-19 pandemic, despite its negative impact, has opened policymakers’ minds to new strategies for reaching the 2030 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs wrote in its 2021 World Social Report that efforts to improve internet access are high-priority because the connectivity will help achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals at once.

The report notes that increased internet accessibility has started to shift economic dynamics between rural and urban areas. The internet has enabled rural inhabitants to pursue traditionally urban work opportunities through remote work. Using the internet, “E-commerce makes it possible for goods and services to be sourced and provided directly in rural communities.” Farmers and other business owners can receive mobile payments and access mobile financial services. This urbanization defies traditional migration patterns, thus allowing rural communities to improve their quality of life more sustainably.

The report describes affordable internet access as necessary infrastructure, similar to roads and bridges. Without reliable internet, rural populations will be unable to partake in technological and economic innovation. This is why policymakers must tackle regulation and implementation of broadband infrastructure, including cables and satellites.

A4AI 2021 Strategy

A4AI emphasizes networking and knowledge-sharing in its 2021 plan for increasing affordable internet access. The plan features four strategic focuses.

  1. Advocate for Cost-Effective and Meaningful Connectivity: A4AI advocates for affordable internet access at the regional, national and international levels, partly through knowledge-sharing programs. The programs share resources and tools for the adoption and implementation of affordable internet policy with policymakers and other stakeholders. However, knowledge-sharing efforts go both ways. A4AI seeks to learn from the experiences of others as much as it seeks to recruit new partners to its cause.
  2. Boost Country and Regional Engagements: A4AI uses its partnerships to promote policy and regulatory reform on a regional level. Its flexible coalition model emphasizes “bottom-up policy change” in currently engaged countries. A4AI will tackle policy issues such as taxation, rural broadband and infrastructure sharing. A4AI seeks to broadcast past regional successes as an advocacy strategy. With the help of partners such as Smart Africa, A4AI will promote similar policy reforms elsewhere in respective regions. Partner organizations, like the Women’s Rights Online network, help A4AI promote a gender-inclusive policy framework. Expert and stakeholder input on policy across sectors is an overall priority.
  3. Develop and Democratize Knowledge: A4AI strives to produce evidence-based research focusing on “affordable access, meaningful access and sustainable access.” Research efforts include monitoring internet access and innovations in affordable internet policy worldwide. Sustainable access is a new focus for A4AI. It seeks to examine affordable internet access in the context of climate change and sustainability.
  4. Strengthen A4AI Engagements and Strategic Collaborations: A4AI boasts more than 100 members with whom it seeks to deepen its partnerships through greater technical assistance and other complementary opportunities. This includes a study in conjunction with the Internet Society Foundation on “the economic impact of the digital gender divide on digital economies.”

Looking Forward

The pandemic reinforced the importance of universal internet accessibility in the 21st century. As a result, A4AI and its partners increased advocacy efforts on the benefits of internet access to policymakers worldwide. In order to close the digital and economic divides between developed and developing economies and between rural and urban areas, the Alliance for Affordable Internet aims to achieve universal internet access.

– Mckenzie Howell
Photo: Flickr

In 2020, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) undisclosed its global strategy to end AIDS by 2030. The strategy, which started in May 2020 and will continue for the next decade, is a complex global program. This strategy defines AIDS as a public health threat and its main goal is to end it.

A Complex Timeline

UNAIDS’ global strategy is based on equity and human rights. Consequently, it aims to increase public awareness about AIDS, end discrimination toward those infected and improve access to treatments. This plan focuses on increasing the international response to people with AIDS to end the active transmission of the virus.
The ten-year-long plan contains various steps and phases. UNAIDS’ strategy includes meeting different targets inside these phases. For instance, within the ten-year plan, the 2025 target focuses on the need for global social and health services for infected people. By 2025, UNAIDS intends to improve the global response to poverty, discrimination and treatments to people living with AIDS.

Past Targets and Current Phases

Phase one of the long-term strategy began in May 2020 and ended in August of the same year. It consisted of quantitative surveys, interviews, consultations and discussions with stakeholders. The goal of these discussions was to gather data on the last UNAIDS strategy (2016-2020).
In 2020, UNAIDS discussed different issues concerning HIV with more than 10,000 stakeholders. They considered crucial topics such as political leadership, partnerships, COVID-19 and health coverage about AIDS.
The second phase of the UNAIDS plan is still in progress. During phase two, UNAIDS focused on analyzing and synthesizing the data gathered in phase one. In March 2021, UNAIDS introduced the results and new strategy to the Programme Coordinating Board (PCB). Reviews represent an essential part of UNAIDS’ strategy development process.

A Global Effort on Different Levels

UNAIDS intends to build programs that will help support everyone infected with AIDS. The internal units of UNAIDS work together to achieve both secondary and primary goals toward ending AIDS. For instance, UNAIDS staff, secretariat and advisory group cooperate to reach marginalized people.
In addition to internal collaboration, UNAIDS works on a global scale. For instance, UNAIDS works jointly with civil society organizations, individual experts, academia and research experts, development agencies, marginalized and key individuals or communities and inter-governmental organizations. UNAIDS staff collaborate with the private sector, associations, PCB partners and member states. This complex and effective system enables UNAIDS to achieve its goals, get international support and reach people on a global scale. UNAIDS embodies collaboration at international levels.

HIV Organizations Intensify their Efforts

Local non-profit organizations are part of the global effort to end AIDS. When UNAIDS revealed its next strategy to end AIDS, local HIV organizations intensified their efforts to work conjointly with UNAIDS. One organization, Together! ACT Now, a local HIV non-profit organization, stepped up to reach the UNAIDS 2030 commitment. This non-profit focuses on raising awareness in Malawi through education, theatres and group discussions. For instance, the organization put together a program called “Stronger Together! Community HIV Village Group”. This program provided workshops with AIDS experts, art sessions to express creativity and mobile clinics.
Together! ACT made progress in Malawi: it helped 90% of seropositive people aware of their status. 87% of these people are now receiving treatment.
UNAIDS’ next strategy to end AIDS by 2030 shows promise as it considers past failures, reviews and adapts to the current challenging sanitary context. To efficiently fight stigma, discrimination and virus transmission, it remains crucial to work on all levels simultaneously.  International collaboration coupled with national processes and local fieldwork is essential in fighting a global health issue, especially during a global pandemic.

-Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr