Information and stories about United Nations.

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

Relief for YemenRelief for Yemen has long been a goal of humanitarian politicians and activists. A bipartisan letter, signed by four U.S. senators, urges the Biden administration to allocate more federal funding for aid to Yemen.

The Letter of Appeal

Two Republican senators and two Democratic senators signed a letter appealing for more U.S. aid to Yemen. On May 4, 2021, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) signed the open letter together in an act of humanitarian bipartisanship. The senators voiced their concern about the international community failing to reach previously established relief goals “after a recent United Nations fundraising appeal for the war-torn country fell short.”

In March 2021, international donors raised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, falling short of the United Nations’ target goal of $3.85 billion, the estimated amount required for a comprehensive humanitarian response. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. pledged only $19 million, much less than Oxfam’s recommended $1.2 billion.

All the while, close to “50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions” and the conflict threatens to plummet another five million people into similar conditions. The conflict itself has already claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. The humanitarian crisis and poverty brought on by the conflict have compromised the food security of more than 20 million people, accounting for two-thirds of Yemen’s population. The United Nations warns that “400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die from acute malnutrition” without swift humanitarian action.

Efforts to End the Crisis in Yemen

The open letter came around the same times as renewed calls for a ceasefire from the international community. Senator Murphy was in Yemen when the letter was released, joining Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, as well as diplomats from Europe, with the hopes of brokering a ceasefire between Houthi rebel factions and the Saudi-led military coalition. Participants in the meeting demand an end to war crimes actively committed by both sides. The Biden administration has backed away from weapons sales in an effort to mitigate the conditions. But, the conflict and subsequent crises continue, requiring increased aid to Yemen.

UNICEF and the UN Assist

One of the priorities of UNICEF’s efforts in Yemen is to treat cases of acute malnutrition in children and assist children whose lives have been overturned by the continuous military conflict. Efforts range from facilitating access to therapeutic foods and educating children about the dangers of explosives scattered throughout the country. UNICEF is also restoring damaged schools in an effort to develop secure spaces for children to continue learning.

At a time of resurgent violence coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign aid groups have stepped up relief measures in anticipation of increased demand for food. In one particular hotspot, within the Ma’rib Governorate, the intensification of military conflict has displaced at least 2,871 families. The U.N. Regional Coordination Team for Ma’rib aims to assist about 200,000 people in the area. Sanitation, nutrition and shelter remain top priories for these efforts.

Despite the scale of the crisis, international aid groups remain determined to provide relief. Senators, leaders and foreign diplomats are continuing efforts to broker a peace deal. The severity of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen requires broader support from the global community in order to upscale efforts and comprehensively provide aid to Yemen.

– Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

Uganda and Universal Basic Income
Uganda is a southeastern African country neighboring Lake Victoria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. Its population sits below 50 million people and although it has been one of the poorest countries in the world as of 2012, the U.N. determined that it made enormous leaps in eradicating poverty thanks to ambitious ideas and thoughtful programs. For example, Eight, a Belgian pilot project, highlighted the effectiveness of universal basic income (UBI) in places where extreme poverty is a problem. The Borgen Project spoke with Eight, which enacted its first program in 2017 and showed the rest of the world just what Uganda and universal basic income might mean to the fight against global poverty.

How Eight Began

Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens founded Eight in 2015 after finding poverty in their travels hard to swallow. “We see a lot of inequality and that is so unfair. A lot of people think poverty is a character problem, but it’s a money problem.” That unfairness inspired them to develop actionable solutions and experiments. In this case, they launched a basic income pilot program in Busibi, a remote village, in 2017. The idea was simple; give every inhabitant (about 150 people) 16 euros per month and children 8 euros per month. with no strings attached. The money would transfer to mobile bank accounts that the people of Busibi could access by telephone.

While some might believe this to be a futile attempt at utopia, the academic literature supports this kind of unburdened cash transfer system as a means of raising communities out of poverty. The Borgen Project has profiled universal basic income programs in the U.K., India, Iran, Kashmir and other places. All this research leads to one conclusion: when people receive money and freedom of choice, they make remarkably astute decisions. As co-founder Steven Janssens said in his interview with The Borgen Project, “people deserve to be trusted.” Likely because of the freedom and dignity it allows, UBI yields remarkable results in lifting people out of poverty. Without mandates, universal basic income restores agency and allows people the opportunity to insist on what is right for themselves.

What it Became

Eight’s pilot program took place over the course of two years from 2017 to 2019 and immediately showed the work ethic of the villagers. Inhabitants built businesses and sent kids who would otherwise be working to school. Maarten Goethals noted that “Shops started up in the village and a new dynamism arose.” Free money worked, as Rutger Bregman said in his 2014 book “Utopia for Realists.” It turns out that eradicating global poverty is much easier than many think tanks make it out to be.

Ortrud Lebmann, chair of labor relations at Helmut Schmidt University, conducted landmark research about those who live in poverty and their “restricted opportunity to choose among different ways of life.” His research, in essence, confirms what Eight intended to study. The Eight pilot project proved just how necessary and effective freedom of options are for those with inadequate resources. Janssens noted how bizarre of a concept UBI was to many in Uganda and elsewhere. “The people of Busibi reacted with a kind of disbelief… That they would receive money without conditions. Aid is always project-oriented.” By lifting the onus of conditions, the environment improved.

The Results

After two years, the data appears irrefutable. Most people in the group spent around 50% of their money on food, investments, clothes, health and education. Self-reported happiness improved by 80%. Only 50% of children in the village went to school before the unconditional cash transfers began compared with 94.7% after. Twenty businesses populated the town compared to the two that stood before the program. All markers of poverty declined with the advent of cash and choice.

Eight now plans to bring its ambitious idea that began with Uganda and universal basic income to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “EIGHT wants to find out if the people from the villages close to a mine can be given more choices.” The question is not only if it will work (the evidence suggests it will) but how it might work in a place where children work in mines and risk their wellbeing for a dangerous but lucrative practice. Will unconditional cash transfers facilitate less child labor in these mines? Previous experiments tend to predict just such an outcome.

For now, there is a film about Goethals and Jansens’s project entitled “Crazy Money,” set to debut later in 2021. What Eight did with Uganda and universal basic income was nothing short of revelatory. Although UBI is not new, this is further proof it represents an actionable solution against global poverty. Maarten Goethals and Steven Janssens provided more evidence for choice, dignity and compassion for those who live in poverty.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Women in ScienceGender equality is vital for alleviating global poverty. Women represent 70% of the world’s most poverty-stricken people. Consequently, women need more opportunities in the job market and increased access to health and education resources in order to truly thrive. Uplifting and empowering women all over the world will lead to greater progress with global poverty reduction efforts. In particular, women in science have the potential to ignite impactful breakthroughs.

Society, Culture and Bias

Women’s empowerment starts with the foundation of education. Research shows that, as it stands, only 30% of the world’s researchers are women. One can explain this by cultural beliefs and social norms inhibiting women from pursuing a scientific education and career.

The gender gap in science underscores a societal bias. Furthermore, because the majority of researchers are men, research is less likely to head in the direction of improving the struggles and concerns that women face. Providing more opportunities in science and technology for women would help promote technological breakthroughs and progress for the betterment of both genders.

Women in Science

Data shows that although the share of women in science differs according to specific countries, women have experienced global underrepresentation in scientific and technological fields. For instance, in 2016, women represented 55% of all researchers in Tunisia, the highest rate in Africa. Alternatively, women comprised only 5% of all researchers in Chad.

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the average share of women researchers in Africa was 24.8% in 2016. This is approximately 4% lower than the already low international average of 28%.

Gender Equality and Development

For decades, the U.N. has supported gender equality and women’s empowerment. For instance, it adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, a landmark agreement putting women at the center of human rights issues and global development.

Gender equality also plays a crucial role in global development. Women’s empowerment is part of the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals adopted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These goals represent a global partnership aiming to end poverty, promote education and health, reduce inequalities and more.

The U.N. gender equality goal (SDG 5) focuses on various targets such as ending discrimination against women, preventing the violent treatment and exploitation of women and ending child marriage and female genital mutilation. Target 5.5. entails ensuring “Women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” This target definitely extends to the scientific arena where women’s participation would mean scientific breakthroughs geared toward improving the struggles of women.

What is the OWSD?

The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is a program unit of UNESCO. This program unit has been supporting women scientists in developing countries since 1987. Supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the “OWSD provides research training, career development and networking opportunities for women scientists throughout the developing world.” Since 1988, more than 470 women in developing countries have received fellowships and more than 270 have graduated. The OWSD grants fellowships in various fields such as biology, agriculture, medicine, engineering and physical sciences.

The main goal of the OWSD is to encourage and support women’s roles in technological and scientific fields as well as in leadership. In doing so, the organization underlines the importance of the representation of women in scientific and technological progress in developing countries. The OWSD also emphasizes the need for collaboration between women scientists to build a global network to continue assisting women in science.

The Role of Women

Women’s empowerment represents a key part of reducing global poverty and can also positively impact global peace. Women’s empowerment links to a country’s prosperity. Countries that offer women equal employment opportunities also have lower poverty rates and a higher GDP. Women also play a significant role in the success and development of children. Research shows that women are likely to invest 90% of their income into the household. Income would go toward securing the basic needs of the family, enrolling children in school and investing in healthcare.

Gender equality promotes social and economic developments. In turn, a strong and durable economy can help build peaceful societies. As Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Women executive director, stated in 2013, “There can be no peace, no progress as long as there is discrimination and violence against women.”

Women’s Empowerment for Global Development

According to the OWSD, in many developing countries women make up the majority of caregivers and agricultural workers.”If women are included as both participants in scientific research and as the beneficiaries of scientific research” the results will be highly impactful. By giving women consideration, resources and agency, the OWSD contributes to significant progress in developing countries. The organization not only contributes to scientific and technological progress but also endorses gender equality and fundamental human rights all around the world.

Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr