Posts

COVIS-19 vaccine distribution
Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus are emerging at an increasing rate around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a primary challenge for political leaders. Ensuring that everyone has access to vaccines is imperative to achieving global recovery. In many countries, COVID-19 cases are still at large. National leaders put individual national laws in place to fight against the rising numbers. Though they have helped lower those rates, the number of cases has not yet begun to level out. The vaccines that nations have currently distributed should curb those numbers further. This will allow vaccinated individuals to resume their pre-pandemic daily routines slowly.

Inequal COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Some countries have priority access to vaccines, which is largely due to national wealth. This leads to poorer nations not having the ability to purchase vaccines. To combat this for the betterment of global health, France, in particular, has begun to put forth ideas and efforts with the intent to help such nations gain access to vaccines.

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that richer countries ought to transfer roughly 3-5% of their vaccines to countries in need. According to an interview with the Financial Times, he said, “This would have no impact on the rhythm of vaccine strategies (in rich countries). It won’t delay it by a single day given the way we use our doses.” According to Macron, German Chancellor Angela Markel has no problems with the initiative, and he hopes to convince the United States to share their vaccines as well.

African leaders have put forth the request for 13 million doses of vaccinations to help its population. The leaders plan to give a large portion of those to caretakers, allowing them to help patients in need. Currently, COVAX will be making accessible vaccinations available to African countries. However, the countries will use the vaccine only for emergencies. Thus, the calls for more vaccines are important.

France’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

To help fight for better COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries, France has established a designated four-part plan to help affected communities efficiently. These steps include support of African healthcare systems, aiding African research and supporting humanitarian and economic efforts. The goal is for France to support various healthcare systems to ensure that patients and citizens receive the best treatment until a vaccine can be distributed. Until these countries have proper access to vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) will work with the financing they received from wealthier governments.

Many other countries worldwide are also working to help one another receive the help needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine that is currently in use in Hungary and Serbia. Beijing and Russia are selling and donating their own vaccines to nations abroad. If the number of cooperations increases in the upcoming months, there will be more vaccines available worldwide. Since the virus can still spread with mutations from other parts of the world, this is also crucial to rich nations’ national security.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Germany
Human trafficking remains a major element of the world economy, despite the efforts of governments and international organizations to eradicate it. Traffickers traffick humans for a wide range of reasons, from forced manual labor to sexual slavery. In countries like Germany, a major European hub for immigration, human trafficking is particularly problematic. Here are five key facts to know about human trafficking in Germany.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Germany

  1. Sex-related Trafficking: The majority of victims of human trafficking in Germany underwent trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Furthermore, sex trafficking in Germany disproportionately affects young women, including minors. Victims of sex trafficking in Germany are most likely to originate from Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria or Germany itself, meaning that traffickers tend to target immigrants. This is likely due to the fact that immigrants in Germany are far more likely to live in poverty than German citizens. Illegal immigrants are even more at risk, as coming forward could result in their own prosecution.
  2. Germany and E.U. Recommendations: In 2013, Germany failed to implement European Union regulations regarding human trafficking into national law. This came after a two-year effort by the E.U. to implore its member states to adopt these regulations, which included tougher sentences and better protection for victims of human trafficking. A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the government chose not to implement the E.U. recommendations because it did not extend existing jurisdiction on human trafficking to cases of sex trafficking.
  3. Germany has Received Criticism for Being too Lax on Trafficking: Non-governmental organizations have criticized Germany for not implementing strict enough laws on human trafficking. UNICEF Germany pointed out that under German law, convicting someone on the basis of forced prostitution is very difficult. Because German law places the burden of proof on the victim, traffickers can intimidate and blackmail victims so that they do not come forward.
  4. Human Trafficking in Germany and U.S. Recommendations: The U.S. government has recommended that Germany take certain steps to improve its response to human trafficking. These steps include revising the law concerning the burden of proof, because of the way it obstructs human trafficking victims from coming forward. It also recommended that Germany improve its apparatus for survivors of sex trafficking. These improvements could include better housing services on humanitarian grounds for victims. The U.S. government classifies Germany as a Tier 2 country, meaning that Germany does not entirely meet the minimum standards that the U.S. government recommends to fight human trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so.
  5. Immigration and Trafficking in Germany: Germany remains a hub for immigrants from all across Europe, Africa and Asia. As a result, Germany has a relatively strict policy regarding illegal immigrants. However, Germany’s strict laws on immigration have proven to damage the country’s efforts to counteract human trafficking. Underage immigrant sex workers who interact with German authorities often get into legal trouble for immigrating illegally, regardless of their status as a victim of human trafficking.
  6. Germany’s Success in Fighting Human Trafficking: Germany has had some major victories in its fight against human trafficking. In 2017, the German government increased victim protection efforts, as well as placing human trafficking specialists in immigration offices across the country. Additionally, the government helps to fund KOK, a German NGO that fights sex trafficking and protects migrants’ rights. The government increased KOK’s funding each year from 2016 to 2019. KOK lobbies nationally and internationally to make positive progress in its mission.

Looking Ahead

Despite Germany’s status as a standard-bearer for the E.U., it has a checkered record regarding human trafficking. While Germany’s protocols on human trafficking exceed the basic United States standards for the elimination of trafficking, there are areas in which the country could manage human trafficking better. Particularly, Germany’s large immigrant population provides a vulnerable target group for human traffickers.

– Leo Ratté
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Germany Foreign Aid
In 2019, Germany followed the U.S. as the second-largest donor to official development assistance (ODA). Historically, Germany’s foreign aid has focused on migration, forced displacement, food security and climate concerns. In its foreign aid policy, Germany aims to create lasting change in the nations it reaches. Here are eight facts about Germany’s foreign aid.

8 Facts About Germany’s Foreign Aid

  1. The BMZ Handles Aid: The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) primarily addresses the regulation of foreign aid. The BMZ is responsible for the development of policies, management of projects and the allocation of funds in times of crisis. Its support centers on several factors important to development, including “good governance, education, rural development, climate control, sustainable development, and a strengthening of the private sector.” Germany expects responsibility from the countries it lends aid to and thus does not grant budget support freely.
  2. The BMZ Does Not Work Alone: The BMZ works in accordance with other ministries, including the Federal Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense. The Federal Foreign Office addresses matters of humanitarian aid and, if a military presence is necessary, the Ministry of Defense offers assistance. KfW, a German-owned development bank, has also played a key role in Germany’s foreign aid contributions.
  3. Making UHC a Reality: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2015 marked Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a priority. UHC embodies the idea of having “all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.” Germany has committed to this ideal in three stages. Globally, Germany aims to strengthen health systems through technical and financial support. On a multilateral level, Germany endorses the P4HNetwork, which provides health financing, and the L4UHC leadership course, which helps in the development of partnerships. Lastly, Germany is aiding its partner countries directly in the development of necessary changes.
  4. Supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Germany has donated to Gavi through the BMZ since 2006 and its support continues to grow. Chancellor Merkel “pledged EUR 600 million for Gavi over the 2016-2020 strategic period” in 2015. Providing immunizations across the globe, Germany’s support of Gavi enables a safer, healthier world.
  5. BMZ Unveils an Effective Reform Strategy: The BMZ’s primary goal remains the same; eliminating poverty and world hunger. However, the BMZ is changing how it aims to achieve this goal through new focuses, new partnerships and new modes of cooperation. BMZ has reduced its number of partner countries from 85 to 60 but has done so to maximize its efforts strategically. German foreign aid is attempting to establish peace and structure with its nexus and peace partners. By “strengthening [German] support for people in crisis and refugee regions, addressing the root causes and supporting them in the process of stabilization,” the BMZ is aiming to build up nations like Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
  6. Germany and Syria: In recent years, Germany has shown great support for the Syrian people. In 2018, more than 500,000 Syrian refugees resided in Germany. German support is not solely based on helping the refugees, however. In June 2020, as part of a conference jointly hosted by the E.U. and U.N., Germany pledged $1.78 billion to humanitarian aid for Syria.
  7. Germany and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Adopted in September 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development replaced the previous Millennium Development Goals. The initiative comprises 17 goals and ties together poverty reduction and sustainability. Within the decade, the United Nations wishes to address the most pressing concerns of poverty, female empowerment and climate concerns. Germany is one of many nations playing a large role in addressing these goals.
  8. An Endorsement that Looks to the Future: Alongside Ghana and Norway, Germany requested the establishment of a global action plan in April 2018. This request took the form of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All. The plan has united 12 agencies dedicated to health, development and humanitarian efforts, allowing each to strengthen each other while addressing the central SDGs.

The nation has proudly taken up the mantle of leadership and will serve as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from June 2020 until December 2020. Germany promised additional ODA-funds in June 2020, dedicating $3.5 billion for “global health measures, humanitarian assistance, and overall development cooperation.”

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Germany
Historically, Germany has not been without its economic or financial hardships. Since the 1990s, nearly a quarter (or 15%) of Germany’s population has had the classification of being poor. What is Germany doing in the modern age to combat a significant and stagnant impoverished population? Additionally, why have Germany’s poverty rates not reflected the country’s staggering economic growth? Finally, how is Germany’s poverty-reduction legislation impacting refugee families? This article will illuminate the radical legislation and innovations about poverty eradication in Germany including what the country has implemented to reduce inequality, domestically and globally, in the 21st century.

The BMZ Behind It All

Poverty eradication in Germany began with the BMZ (a German-language acronym for the English-translated “Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development”). The BMZ is solely responsible for all affairs regarding poverty relief and economic development in Germany and abroad. In recent history, the BMZ has committed itself to addressing the underlying factors, circumstances and mechanisms that create poverty in the first place. In the early 1990s, the BMZ published international and domestic development goals which, to this day, influences the nation’s fight against poverty. Strong social welfare, personal incentive for work and widespread access to education reduced the national proportion of people experiencing poverty to as low as 7% in 2007.

At the time, radical steps like systemic reformations and direct focus on franchising majority impoverished groups of people were novel and began Germany’s repertoire as a powerful benefactor to its poorest constituents. With recent international crises (like the Syrian Civil War) and the advent of automation, however, Germany’s poverty line has all but slowly grown. However, a recent 6.1 billion euro ($7.2 billion USD) expansion of Germany’s social welfare program, Hartz IV (dedicated to long-term unemployment) spells relief for many displaced and at-risk peoples in Germany.

Young Families, New Challenges

Starting a family is, unquestionably, one of the most difficult and unique things a couple (or individual) can undertake. Additionally, it is no short order to both raise a young family while providing for it – and, sometimes, it is nearly impossible to maintain a “work-life balance,” which typically ends in financial hardship. Poor families are at risk to begin with; a new child may well be the tipping point into impoverishment, and the cycle only proliferates when families raise children in poverty. Enter one of Germany’s most radical pieces of legislation, the Parental Allowance and Parental Leave Act, created exclusively to alleviate the financial stresses that new families often face. New parents may receive up to 60% of their income for up to 3 years, addressing underlying systemic cycles of poverty, especially with already at-risk, younger individuals, rather than focusing on short-term manifestations of it.

Providing low-risk, low-stress economic stability for growing families almost ensures that the cycle breaks as well. As of 2014, only 9.5% of children in Germany lived in poverty, compared to the nation’s average of 14%. The Parental Allowance and Leave act has proven to be an extremely successful player in poverty relief in Germany.

International Commitments

Germany has not only invested in domestic poverty relief, it is also interested in working toward poverty relief internationally. Chancellor Angela Merkel has committed to doubling the nation’s UNDP core funding to combat the economic hardship that COVID-19 has brought on internationally. Germany has been the largest single contributor to the UNDP’s core resources since 2017 and has solidified that position by donating nearly $124 million to the core fund this year alone. What that means is increased spending power for the UNDP during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the UNDP predicts will cause the first reversal of human global development since the early 1990s. Germany’s increased budget for the UNDP will go to essential poverty relief efforts in 130 countries that the pandemic has greatly affected, providing assistance for hundreds of millions across the globe.

COVID-19 Relief in Germany

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Germany experienced its impact economically, socially and culturally much like the rest of the world. In Germany, the unemployment rate from March to April 2020 increased by 0.8%. Poverty rates have remained consistent as well, with surprising research showing that poorer workers are at no greater risk of succumbing to the novel coronavirus. What differentiates Germany’s COVID experience is its radical response and mobilization against the extreme economic fallout COVID spelled.

The German government has committed an unprecedented $868 billion relief package for its most vulnerable populations, small businesses and manufacturers. In addition, Germany has expanded wage subsidies for furloughed individuals and executed a tax slash of 3%. In this exceptionally trying time, Germany has revolutionized the way the world thinks about social security, and it stands that German citizens will feel the impact of this emergency poverty relief in Germany for decades to come.

Germany has been a litmus test as a standard for social welfare since the dawn of the modern age. Poverty eradication in Germany is a multifaceted, extensive and progressive approach to the seemingly Sisyphean task of battling poverty at home and abroad. Strong COVID-19 relief plans, the groundbreaking Parental Leave Act, a dedicated ministry of economic affairs and a commitment to international well-being makes for innovative anti-poverty measures that are paving the way for the world.

– Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Getty Images

Homelessness in Germany
The latest stats by the Federal Association of Homelessness Help (BAGW) show that there were 678,000 homeless people in Germany in 2018. This figure marked an increase of more than 4 percent between 2017 and 2018. The majority of these people sleep in emergency quarters, while 41,000 sleep on the streets.

Causes of Homelessness

In Germany, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness. One is the decreased number of social housing units. Social housing units have reduced by 60 percent since 1990 as the government continues to sell its stock of housing units to private investors. Additionally, there has been a decrease in affordable housing, particularly in large cities and urban centers. Studies show that housing costs in Germany are among the highest in Europe. This affects those with incomes below the poverty threshold, as well as young people (ages 18-24). Munich is reported to have the highest prices for both renting and buying houses in Germany. Berlin, which is said to be at the center of housing shortages in Germany, could account for about 20 percent of the country’s homeless.

Finally, the increase in immigrants has greatly contributed to the rise of homelessness in Germany. The immigrants are from other European Union countries, particularly Eastern European, and are also refugees and asylum seekers. It is estimated that 440,000 of the homeless are migrants. The number of homeless people with migrant backgrounds rose by 5.9 percent compared to a 1.2 percent increase for those without a migrant background.

Housing Rights in Germany

In large cities and urban centers, such as Berlin and Munich, the homeless set up makeshift tent camps in parks and other open spaces. During the winter, in an attempt to avoid the adverse winter conditions, they relocate to U-Bahn (underground railway) stations. Law requires German municipalities to provide basic emergency accommodation to those at risk of homelessness. Various municipalities and NGOs are providing temporary and emergency housing services.

In addition, the Social Code in Germany stipulates that the risk of losing a home entitles the owner to some form of assistance. Covered by the municipalities, this could be a loan or allowance for rental debts. Of the 16 German states, only four of them have the right to housing enshrined in their state constitutions including Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg and Bremen. However, regulation throughout the country still establishes the right.

Current Efforts

In 2018, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to spend €6.85 billion on solutions to homelessness. She announced that the federal government would aim to build 1.5 million new housing units and 100,000 new social housing units by 2021. There are also more immediate relief efforts that individuals and German cities provided. For example, the city of Berlin is offering a warm hall in Kreuzberg as an alternative to the U-Bahn stations the homeless would stay in during the winter. Entrepreneur Matthias Müller is doing his part to help the homeless in Germany by introducing a shower caravan in Berlin. Matthias transformed a bus into the shower caravan, which is a unit with a sink, shower and toilet so that homeless women can maintain personal hygiene. The caravan is also accessible to people with disabilities.

Solutions

BAGW estimates that Germany needs 200,000 new affordable housing units each year to manage homelessness. The federal government, various municipalities and NGOs could also work together to emulate Finland’s Housing First approach. In this method, the goal is not to have temporary or emergency accommodation, but instead, permanent housing and needs-based support. This way, instead of just managing homelessness, Germany could end it completely.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Anti-Refugee Sentiment
On October 2, Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, held a nationwide referendum to address growing anti-refugee sentiment. Orban asked the question, “Do you want the European Union, even without the approval of the Hungarian parliament, to be able to prescribe the mandatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?”

Resoundingly, 98 percent of voters backed the government’s opposition to the EU refugee acceptance quotas, even though Hungary would only have to accept 1,300 of the 160,000 refugees taken into consideration by the distribution plan. Although voter turnout was only around 43 percent, the rejection of refugees and belief in their inherent dangers is no anomaly.

Anti-refugee and anti-Muslim sentiment is spreading across Europe, especially in the wake of major terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Nice and the everyday acts of violence consistently occurring throughout Europe. Opposition to refugees also heavily fueled the Brexit vote.

Within the Visegrád Group, an alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, refusal to accept refugees is at its peak. The Czech Republic and Hungary have only accepted 520 and 146 refugees respectively in the last year, a drop in the ocean of millions needing asylum.

In 2015, Hungary also built a heavily guarded, razor wired fence along its southern border to control the flood of migrants into Hungary. Many have criticized the country for treating refugees “worse than wild animals;” some have even called for Hungary to be temporarily or permanently expelled from the EU for its behavior.

Even in more accepting countries like France and Germany, growing fear and misunderstanding have lead to more anti-refugee and anti-Muslim policies. More than 20 French mayors have refused to lift their bans on the “burkini,” a full body swimsuit worn mainly by Muslim women, even though the national court system has deemed the ban unconstitutional.

Even in Germany, the biggest proponent of refugee acceptance, anti-refugee sentiment has spread. After several regional elections went to the far-right, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, plans to take a step back from her heavily controversial open-door refugee policy.

Although the current situation for many refugees may seem bleak, the future may well be brighter. Even after several devastating attacks in France, French president Francois Hollande is still holding firmly to his open refugee acceptance policy. In Syria and Iraq, as well, the end seems to be near. After capturing Fallujah, allied forces have now moved on -to Raqqa, the ISIS capital, and Mosul. The U.S. and EU can now begin to rebuild infrastructure and resettle the remaining refugees.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in GermanyGerman chancellor Angela Merkel has made refugees in Germany a priority. As the Syrian refugee crisis unfolded, the chancellor decided on an open-door policy, which allowed over one million refugees to resettle in Germany. Recently, Merkel urged German corporations to integrate refugees into companies more quickly, arguing that refugee employment will support the German economy. And there is no shortage of refugees in Germany who are ready to work; the latest reports provided by the Federal Employment Agency state that 346,000 people with asylum status sought employment in the month of August alone.

Large German companies are hesitant to hire refugees for a myriad of reasons. Companies argue that they do not want to risk their productivity by employing refugees who don’t currently possess the necessary skills. Companies may also have qualms about the fact that many refugees have yet to become fluent in German, and that 80 percent of asylum seekers do not possess a primary- or secondary-level education.

Legal issues still remain, such as incomplete paperwork for asylum approval and a lack of proper identification for background checks. Merkel and some German companies, however, are working to make it easier for refugees to land jobs that not only provide income but also the skills necessary to be qualified contenders in the job market.

Despite the trepidation of some German companies towards refugee employment, many are using the influx of people to their advantage. Germany’s national rail carrier, Deutsche Bahn, announced that over the next two years it will create room for an additional 150 refugees in its qualification program, which includes German language courses. Deutsche Post currently employs more than 100 refugees, and national internet service provider Deutsche Telekom plans to hire 75 refugees through an apprenticeship program as well. Companies such as Mercedes, Siemens and Daimler have even created pre-training programs to prepare refugees for apprenticeships.

With the support of German companies, refugees in Germany can build better lives.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

An Unforeseen Effect of Poverty: Violence Against Women
In the wake of the Nirbhaya, a documentary that focuses on the sexual aggression and brutality enacted against an Indian woman in an impoverished region of India, Prime Minister Manmohan has addressed an unforeseen effect of poverty: violence against women.

On Thursday, Manmohan met in Berlin with Angela Merkel to discuss the economy which undoubtedly led to a discussion of the social evils which spring from poverty. Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, addressed the issue of the Indian economy by stating that scientific development and cooperation in the agricultural sector would be pivotal in lasting economic growth and stability in the relatively new democracy.

However, Merkel made note that a theoretical debate about economic solutions and social evils is an easy task when the conversation is being held nearly 5,000 miles away from the sources of issues.

Despite how well-functioning a democracy may be, the recurring trend of social injustice and violence against women continues to center around poverty. Impoverished communities continue to be subject to higher levels of domestic violence and social evils as well as only provide a weaker resistance against terrorism or extremist persuasion.

In the fight to gain rights for women globally, poverty continues to affect women more harshly than men. Rights for women begins at satiating the basic needs of impoverished communities and lifting those communities out of poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The Times of India
Photo: Times of India