Posts

The State of Venezuelan Sex TraffickingThe recent collapse of Venezuela’s economy and political stability has made the headlines of many news outlets. The controversial reelection of President Nicholas Maduro in May 2018 plunged Venezuela back into violent protests and demonstrations. As of June 2019, more than four million people had fled from Venezuela’s deteriorating conditions. In this mass exodus, women and children are especially vulnerable to Venezuelan sex trafficking.

Venezuelan Sex Trafficking

Venezuela’s sex traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Venezuela. More than four million Venezuelans are fleeing from their country, according to the Refugee International’s 2019 field report. The recent influx of Venezuelans fleeing their country presents a new boom in Venezuela’s sex and human trafficking. Neighboring countries, mainly Colombia, Brazil, Tobago, Trinidad and Ecuador, have experience receiving refugees from Venezuela.

What makes the situation especially difficult is the sheer number of refugees who are fleeing from Venezuela. The Brazilian Ministry of Justice reported that there were 2,577 refugee status requests made between 2016 and 2017 for the state of Amazonas. This makes up 12.8 percent of the requests made nationwide.

This increase in the number of people attempting to leave the country makes it hard for many Venezuelan refugees to use the legal pathways. Many Venezuelan refugees utilize illegal means, such as the black market or illegal armed groups, to escape their country.

In June 2019, a story of Venezuelan refugees shipwrecked near Trinidad and Tobago brought the dark underbelly of Venezuelan sex trafficking to light. Traffickers in the first shipwreck included members of the Bolivarian National Guard and a member of Venezuela’s maritime authority. These individuals were arrested after a survivor of the shipwreck spoke out against them.

Survivors of the second shipwreck testified that the traffickers charged $250 and $500 to everyone aboard the boat headed for Trinidad and Tobago. In both cases, captains of the boats concealed the fact that the women and children were headed to Trinidad and Tobago to work as prostitutes. Venezuelan women and children are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking in Colombia and Ecuador, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report.

Venezuelan Refugees Entering Colombia

Venezuelan sex trafficking is not limited to domestic trafficking. Many Venezuelan female refugees entering Colombia are in danger of sexual exploitation. Since Colombia’s legal requirements to enter the country are very strict, many Venezuelan refugees resort to informal routes and illegal armed groups to enter Colombia. In the Refugee International’s 2019 investigation, many refugees testified that women and girls are forced to pay for their safe passage through sexual services to traffickers.

After entering Colombia through illicit means, Venezuelan refugees must live without any proper identification. As refugees without any identification or means to support themselves, many Venezuelan women turn to street prostitution in order to make ends meet.

The Colombian government is taking steps to register these refugees. Colombia passed Act 985, which created the Interagency Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (ICFTP).  The ICFTP works with 88 anti-trafficking committees, which work with many NGOs to train police, government officials and law officials in identifying victims and providing legal assistance to human trafficking victims. Colombia also plans to grant citizenship to 24,000 undocumented Venezuelan children who were born in the country. Experts believe that this will reduce the reliance of refugees on illicit organizations in order to escape Venezuela.

The Quito Process

In September 2019, multiple Latin American countries came together in the Declaration of Quito on Human Mobility of Venezuelan Citizens. In the declaration, participating countries agreed to bolster cooperation, communication and coordination in collective humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan refugees.

Part of the Quito Process’ goal is to prevent Venezuelan sex trafficking and assist the victims of sex trafficking in Latin America. By streamlining and coordinating documentation required in acquiring legal resident status, the Quito Process makes it easier for participating countries to more effectively assist Venezuelan refugees.

Experts recommend the participating countries further investigate and understand the demographics of Venezuelan refugees. Since many refugees escape to other countries for financial stability, experts recommend that participating countries work to make obtaining a stable job easier.

The Colombian government has been credited for its adherence and furthering of the Quito Process. In March 2019 Colombia fulfilled its commitment to the second Quito conference by allowing Venezuelan refugees to enter Colombia with expired passports. In addition, experts are demanding increased rights for displaced refugees in the hosting countries of the Quito Process.

The crisis in Venezuela is increasing Venezuelan sex trafficking. Venezuelan women and young girls are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and exploitation. While the current situation is grim, it is clear that South American countries are coming together to remedy the current situation. Through the Quito Process, they are working to assist Venezuelan human trafficking victims and eliminate the sex trafficking of Venezuelan refugees. With these efforts, the international community hopes for a quick end to the Venezuelan crisis.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

Overpopulation in Brazil has resulted in a widening gap with respect to age, gender and well-being for a large percentage of its populace.​ Around one-fourth of Brazil’s population suffer from inadequate housing. While efforts are underway to change the status quo, there is still much to be done in order to control important overpopulation factors. These are the 10 facts about overpopulation in Brazil.

10 Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

  1. Population total: Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world — equivalent to nearly 3 percent of the total world population. It is estimated that the population of Brazil will reach 225 million by 2025, an increase from 200 million.
  2. Population based on region: More than 80 million people are concentrated in Southeast Brazil. The second-largest populated area is the Northeast with over 53 million inhabitants. The third-largest populated area is the South which ranks in at over 27 million people. The North and Central-West regions have the least population.
  3. Population by age: The birth rate in Brazil has changed since the 50s and 60s and shows a decrease, with an average of fewer than two children per couple. Due to a decrease in mortality, the number of adults and the elderly are greater than the number of children. Children 14 and under make up 21.3 percent of Brazil’s population. Nearly 80 percent of Brazil’s total population are between the ages of 15 and 64. Of note, life expectancy has increased from 66 years in the 90s to 73 years in 2010.
  4. Population by gender: There are slightly more women than men with 51 percent of Brazilians being female and 49 percent being men; however, women are still struggling to find equality. Women, on average, earn 23 percent less than men, even if they have a higher education.
  5. Most costly city: With a population of more than 12 million, Sao Paulo is the most expensive city in South America and the 27th most costly in the world. One-quarter of San Paulo’s population is living in poverty. To have a comfortable life in Sao Paulo, it is estimated that citizens make around $1,500 per person; however, the average salary is $675 per month.
  6. Housing deficit: More than 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing conditions. Pernambuco has the highest housing deficit in Brazil. Of those who lack satisfactory housing, 66 percent live below the poverty line and have limited to no access to banking facilities. It is estimated that Brazil has a housing deficit between 6 and 8 million houses, with the greatest need being in the southeast and northeast.
  7. Organizations that help: Habitat for Humanity is one group that is working toward solving the housing crisis. The organization helps people living in San Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other small cities. Habitat for Humanity provides aid by building new homes, repairing homes and improving access to sanitation. In San Paulo, 100 people will have their houses improved by Habitat for Humanity through community projects. Habitat for Humanity is in the process of building more than 1,600 houses in Pernambuco.
  8. Sanitation: Around 4 million of Brazil’s population lack access to safe water. Inadequate sanitation plagues 24 million of Brazil’s populous. In addition to a  clean water deficit, 45 percent of the population lacks adequate sewage which caused approximately 35 percent of Brazilian cities to break out in disease due to poor sanitation.
  9. WaterCredit to the rescue: Water.org helped establish WaterCredit as a solution to Brazil’s sanitation woes. Loans of $2.2 million have been disbursed by its partners, benefitting 9,000 people in Brazil to date. Water.org is in the process of certifying other financial institutions with the goal of expanding its reach in Brazil.

A lack of sanitation and housing are just a few consequences of Brazil’s overpopulation issue. However, by empowering women and supporting organizations that help aid in financial and social equality, Brazil’s population could see an end to the issues that its overpopulation has caused.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Brazil’s Fight Against Leprosy
When people think of leprosy, they may think of an extinct disease; a Biblical sickness that has long lived in the past. This could not be further from the truth, as leprosy or Hansen’s disease affects millions of poverty-stricken individuals throughout the world.  One of the largest concentrations of leprosy in the world is in Brazil, which combined with India and Indonesia, accounts for 81 percent of all leprosy cases worldwide. Here is some information about Brazil‘s fight against leprosy.

What is Leprosy?

While leprosy is a debilitating disease that has existed for centuries, there is a myriad of misconceptions about how it spreads and functions due to its ancient status. Leprosy is an infectious disease that the pathogen, Mycobacterium leprae, causes. It affects the skin, eyes, peripheral nerves and upper respiratory tract of its victims. Common symptoms are skin lesions, often accompanied by sensory deprivation and weakness of muscles near the afflicted area.

People currently do not know how leprosy spreads, but physical contact with an infected person or creature was the predominant theory for a long time. Recently, the theory that leprosy spreads through respiratory routes (i.e. coughing and sneezing) has been gaining traction. Leprosy infection can happen regardless of age, but 20 percent of registered cases occur before a child turns 10. While leprosy is just as likely to infect boys as girls, adult rates for leprosy show a different story. In fact, leprosy is twice as prevalent among adult males than it is among females.

If a person with leprosy does not receive treatment, it will often lead to blindness, loss of extremities (i.e. fingers and toes) and arthritis. Leprosy has crippled 1 to 2 million people across the globe. There is hope, however, as leprosy is curable with antibiotics and if a person receives treatment early enough, they can expect a full recovery with little to no complications.

Poverty and Leprosy

Poverty and leprosy go hand in hand. Wherever there is leprosy, poverty is sure to follow. There are a plethora of reasons why poverty and leprosy often co-exist, and one of the main reasons is that those with leprosy and unable to receive a cure will very often find themselves unable to work due to the crippling disabilities of the disease. Once the serious disabilities from leprosy settle in, sufferers are hard-pressed to survive, let alone work to make enough money to afford proper treatment. This subsequently traps them in a brutal cycle of poverty, unemployment and social pariah status.

However, there are many NGOs working to eradicate leprosy by taking on poverty as well.  One such NGO is the No Leprosy Remains group (NLR), which has been working towards the complete elimination of Hansen’s disease in Brazil since 1994. As of 2017, NLR’s main mission is to achieve a 90 percent decrease in the number of people needing treatment for neglected tropical diseases (leprosy being one of them). To reach this goal, NLR has enacted the PEP++ plan to preemptively treat over 600,000 people and reach a 50 percent reduction in new leprosy cases compared to its starting year.

Why Brazil?

Brazil’s fight against leprosy has been a tumultuous one; with Brazil contributing to 93 percent of all leprosy cases in the Americas in 2018. One can attribute Brazil’s status as a hotspot for leprosy to the fact that it is a very large country with many remote areas in hard to reach places, leading to difficulties in diagnosing people with leprosy, let alone curing it.

However, there is one cause of leprosy that is entirely unique to Brazil, the armadillo. In Brazil, testing determined that 62 percent of nine-banded armadillos were hosts to Mycobacterium leprae. Furthermore, Brazilians who ingested nine-banded armadillo meat on a regular basis had higher concentrations of leprosy antibodies in their bloodstream. This is problematic given that armadillo meat is a common source of protein for Brazilians in lower socioeconomic areas where food is not as plentiful. To counteract this, NLR’s PEP++ program has a focus on community education that aims to teach about the social impact of leprosy as well as techniques and knowledge that are vital to curbing this disease.

The Future of Brazil’s Fight Against Leprosy

Brazil is making headway in its fight against leprosy.  The Brazilian government has been tackling the threat of leprosy with renewed vigor since 2003 and has shown remarkable improvement in the treatment and diagnosis of this disease. The Brazilian government, with the help of NLR and the World Health Organization, should meet PEP++’s 2030 end goal of a 90 percent reduction in leprosy cases annually.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

Brazil has a long history of human trafficking dating back to the 1400s. Slavery was legal in the region until 1888, the year Brazil officially abolished slavery. Even 130 years later, human trafficking still remains rampant as thousands of Brazilians are used for forced labor or prostitution every year. Here are nine facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

9 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Brazil is considered a “source, transit, and destination country” for human trafficking. Source countries provide traffickers with the human capital they need. Transit countries help move victims from one country to another and destination countries are where trafficked humans arrive and are exploited the most.
  2. In 2004, Brazil’s government created a list of companies that were involved in slave labor and blocked those companies from receiving state loans. The list is effective at dissuading businesses from using slave labor and human trafficking. For example, Cosan appeared on the list in 2009 which led to a decrease in the business’ stock value and also caused Walmart to end business relations with the company as well.
  3. In 2017, the U.S. Department of State ranked Brazil as a “Tier 2” country, which means that human trafficking is still a significant issue despite the government’s efforts to eliminate it. Countries receive a new ranking every year depending on how well it complies with international standards. If Brazil wants to fully comply with international standards, it will need to increase its efforts of reporting human trafficking and caring for victims.
  4. Tourists from the U.S. and Europe come to Brazil for child sex tourism which is often located near the “resort and coastal areas”. Although law enforcement cooperation and information sharing with foreign governments have increased to try and combat the problem, the Brazilian government is not doing enough as there were no “investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of child sex tourists in 2017”.
  5. In 2016, a minimum of 369,000 people in Brazil lived “in conditions of modern slavery”. Modern slavery consists of anyone who is forced to work against their will. Modern slavery also includes adults and children who are treated like property and who cannot escape from their owners.
  6. To change the nation’s view of slavery, Brazil is creating television programs and documentaries that highlight the problem of human trafficking. The funds to create these films are seized from human traffickers by judges and prosecutors and are then given towards anti-slavery screenplays intended for schools, labor unions or regions where slavery is still widespread.
  7. Debt bondage is often used to keep Brazilian slave laborers from leaving. Debt bondage refers to a slave having to use their services to pay back a debt to their owner. Often times, the debt is almost impossible to pay back.
  8. When Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, sexual exploitation of adults and children increased. It is common for global sporting events to lead to an increase in sexual exploitation. Traffickers are lured to these events due to the influx of workers needed to construct stadiums and the rise in tourism during the games. For example, in 2016, eight teenage girls were rescued from a sex trafficking ring located next to Brazil’s Olympic hub.
  9. In 2016, Brazil passed Law 13.344/16 which aims to prevent human trafficking and severely punish perpetrators. The law intends to prevent future human trafficking by creating a database of past offenders and by raising the penalties for those who are caught. The law also outlines provisions for providing assistance to victims of human trafficking.

There are reasons to remain hopeful as the Brazilian government is working hard to combat human trafficking in Brazil. For example, the government recently created a second list that will be used to publicly shame and denounce companies that use slave labor or human trafficking. Furthermore, one of the best ways to combat human trafficking is to reach out to local, regional or national government representatives and urge them to support legislation fighting against international human trafficking. Human trafficking is an immense issue that cannot be solved without the help of powerful government agencies.

 

– Nick Umlauf
Photo: Flickr

Wealth Inequality and Poverty
Wealth inequality is an issue that plagues many developing nations, causing a widening distance between the wealthy and the poor in those nations. When a country distributes income among its people in an unequal manner, even a country with a growing economy can advance slower. Impoverished people are often unable to improve their situation due to the number of barriers they face, and some people may even be more prone to falling below the poverty line when a country’s economy advances without them. Here are examples of how severe wealth inequality contributes to poverty and how these issues can be corrected.

The Challenges of Inequality

The country the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lists as having the highest wealth inequality is South Africa, according to its GINI index of 63 percent (a measure of inequality, with zero percent representing perfect equality and 100 percent being maximum inequality). Though South Africa has a high GDP compared to the world average, it still has a large number of people below the poverty line. In 2014, 18.9 percent of the population was living on less than $1.90 per day. In many cases, the poorest workers in South Africa are living on wages of $50 per month. Many of these issues are due to the country’s history of apartheid, which entrenched economic differences between different groups of people. Though South Africa removed that system 25 years ago, its legacy still impacts the country today.

Brazil is another country where wealth inequality contributes to poverty in a significant capacity. Despite others earmarking the country as one quickly moving towards becoming a developed nation, 10 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty. Though the country’s economic growth is significant, 61 percent of that growth from 2001 to 2015 has gone directly to the richest 10 percent of the country. This means that the majority of Brazil’s population has only seen 39 percent of all of its economic progress.

This inequality contributes significantly to the problem of poverty and prevents the poorest of the country from improving. Progress in Brazil on this issue with regards to specific groups of people is slow. By current projections, women in Brazil will not close the wage gap until 2047. As for black Brazilians, estimates determine that they will not earn as much as white Brazilians until 2089 by the current rate.

What Can Countries Do?

One should note that while wealth inequality contributes to poverty, the exact causes behind wealth inequality can vary greatly and come about as a result of many different social, political and economic factors. South Africa’s inequality as a result of historical institutions may be an issue more difficult to tackle. According to experts, however, a good start would be to offer more opportunities to those who those institutions have systematically excluded.

In Brazil, access to education remains seriously dependent on one’s family income. As a result, the majority of Brazilian adults have no secondary education. Expanding access to more education opportunities may be key to alleviating income inequality and poverty in Brazil.

Inequality is a serious issue in countries like South Africa and Brazil, and the issues that connect with it contribute to poverty’s continued existence and expansion. According to a study published by members of the U.N., there is a strong link between income inequality and poverty. In order to reduce poverty, it follows that countries must also correct inequality. With more legislation and NGOs assisting individuals severely disadvantaged by income inequality, ending poverty seems a lot more accomplishable.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

 Brazil’s indigenous population

Brazil’s indigenous population includes nearly 900,000 people and more than 300 unique groups. They face a litany of issues including discrimination, threats to their native lands and extreme poverty. Here are six facts about Brazil’s indigenous population.

6 Facts About Brazil’s Indigenous Population

  1. Indigenous people can be found living in areas ranging from Brazil’s cities to remote regions of the Amazon rainforest. Totaling over 300 groups, they represent a diverse and varying subsect of the Brazilian population. Depending on a group’s culture, history or location, they encounter different problems and require separate solutions. This is essential to keep in mind when discussing issues facing Brazil’s indigenous population as a whole.
  2. Indigenous Brazilians endure severe forms of discrimination and prejudice. As recently as the 1960s, there was a coordinated effort to eradicate Brazil’s indigenous population entirely. The “Figueiredo report” details the genocide, torture, rape and enslavement of indigenous people during a 30 year period. Today, the period’s brutal legacy lives on. “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians,” Brazil’s recently elected president Jair Bolsonaro once said.
  3. Due to discrimination, Brazil’s indigenous population’s access to education and health care is limited compared to their non-indigenous compatriots. A 2008 United Nations report highlighted the low education and health standards endured by this population. Additionally, reports allege that they are often denied care by public health services due simply to their affiliation with indigenous groups.
  4. Many of Brazil’s indigenous population have been crowded into reservations that are constantly shrinking in size. Brazilian businesses and the government have partnered to continue deforestation of the Amazon, which is home to many indigenous tribes. The largest tribe left is the Guarani, with roughly 51,000 members, but most of their land has been replaced by cattle farms and sugar cane plantations. Armed bands of “grileiros” have recently launched attacks on indigenous communities, pushing them further into the Amazon, burning the rainforest, and planting grass for cattle. The NGO Repórter Brasil published a report in 2019 that found that 14 indigenous communities are currently being invaded or are seriously threatened by one.
  5. These conditions have led to a reality where many of Brazil’s indigenous population live in extreme poverty. While no official count exists, it is widely maintained that indigenous groups face poverty at a much higher rate than the rest of Brazil.
  6. NGOs such as Survival International and Cultural Survival provide hope for Brazil’s struggling indigenous population. These NGOs attempt to lobby international organizations and human rights groups on issues of indigenous concern, such as the issues outlined above. Both groups identify international action as the only viable path left for indigenous Brazilians. Cultural Survival works with indigenous groups to develop media and advocacy projects; thus far, the organization has invested $2.5 million into indigenous groups. Further, the team actively trains members to become community radio journalists, allowing for indigenous groups to have a voice in the media.

Pushed from native lands and facing serious threats to life, many members of indigenous groups are doing what they can to survive in a nation often hostile and violent towards them. “Today, we are seeing the biggest attack on our rights in Brazilian history,” said indigenous lawmaker Joênia Wapichana.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

 

10 facts about corruption in brazil
As the largest nation in South America with a population of over 200 million, Brazil’s importance on the global stage is clear; however, corruption charges and convictions have riddled the country’s reputation. In 2014, one of the worst economic recessions in Brazil’s history hit it and left it in a state of political and economic instability along with ongoing corruption investigations. It is just beginning to recover. These 10 facts about corruption in Brazil serve to better understand one of the world’s most influential, and most corrupt, global players.

10 Facts About Corruption in Brazil

  1. Major corruption scandals have entangled Brazil’s last three presidents: Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a conviction in July 2017 on charges of receiving over $1 million in kickbacks which he put towards renovating his beachfront apartment, with additional charges of money laundering. Brazil impeached his successor, Dilma Rousseff, in 2016, for mismanaging the federal budget in order to hide the extent of the country’s deficit. Brazil arrested her successor, Michel Temer, in March 2019 (only three months after leaving office) on charges of funneling an estimated $470 million into a criminal organization he spearheaded.
  2. Many recent corruption charges have emerged from Lavo Jato, also known as Operation Car Wash: Conceived in 2014, this operation’s original focus was on exposing a car wash money laundering scheme. Results from the investigation indicted hundreds of government officials and business elites spanning 12 countries in one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin American history. By October 2018, Lavo Jato had resulted in over 200 arrests made on the basis of corruption, abuse of the international financial system, drug trafficking and money laundering. The arrest of former president Michel Temer is a direct result of Operation Car Wash.
  3. The working class felt the consequences of Operation Car Wash: Almost half of state-owned oil-giant Petrobras’s employees received lay off after Operation Car Wash exposed the extent of bribes taken by Petrobras in exchange for giving government contracts to Odebrecht, a construction company. The more than 100,000 laid-off employees, not directly involved in the corruption efforts, had to find new work during one of the largest economic downturns in Brazil’s history as a result of Petrobras’s corrupt actions. Executives from both companies face prison time (a U.S. court has even fined Odebrecht $2.6 billion for it to pay to U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities).
  4. Brazil’s domestic corruption affects many countries: Operation Weak Flesh, an investigation launched by Brazilian officials announced in March 2017, has exposed Brazilian companies JBS and BFR, the world’s largest beef and poultry exporters, to public scrutiny, bringing Brazilian corruption further into the global spotlight. JBS and BFR bribed quality inspectors to approve the exportation of spoiled meat which they exported around the world, including to the U.S. The U.S. has since banned JBS and BFR products. Authorities have arrested the Batista brothers, heads of JBS, for insider trading and lying to authorities. They also charged JBS $3.16 billion in fines for bribes totaling $600 million spread across nearly 2,000 officials.
  5. Economists indicate that political instability caused by corruption contributed to Brazil’s recession: Consumer confidence drops in conjunction with political crises, resulting in GDP losses. For example, the value of Brazil’s currency dropped eight percent after a recording implicating Michel Temer in a bribery scheme released in May 2017. The election of current president Bolsonaro has been described as one of the most politically polarizing and violent elections in Brazil’s history. Bolsonaro himself was a victim of such political violence; he suffered a stabbing during a campaign rally in September 2018. Continued political instability and violence will breed further economic havoc, according to economic experts.
  6. Corruption places Brazil’s indigenous community at risk, as well: Current president Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda involves the loosening of current deforestation regulations that may result in denial of indigenous peoples’ land claims. Experts agree Bolsonaro’s election was in response to public frustration with government corruption. Threats of illegal deforestation to indigenous reserves have increased since Bolsonaro’s election, causing indigenous groups and NGOs to mobilize around the issue. Bolsonaro has plans to drastically cut funding for Brazil’s two agencies responsible for defending the Amazon from intruders; in response, a group of indigenous people has created the Forest Guardians, an unsanctioned patrol group set on defending indigenous lands from criminal intruders Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to limit regulations on deforestation and public land mining may embolden.
  7. The “Brazil Cost” was a common term to describe the price of bribery in Brazilian business: While Operation Car Wash has exposed many high-ranking political and business elite, the systemic extent of Brazil’s corruption crisis goes far beyond the elite; the “Brazil Cost” applies almost universally across businesses. Some companies even had the “Brazil Cost”, an estimate on the amount of money they would need to spend on bribes, built into their business models and compliance systems.
  8. There is hope, though: The results of the Poverty Action Lab’s study outline successful methods for corruption reduction: prior audits of Brazilian municipalities reduce future corruption, local reporting on corruption reduces corrupt activities in surrounding areas and corruption can be limited by increasing the perceived legal costs. While Brazil has yet to implement them on a large scale, these findings could help curb the corruption problem plaguing Brazil from the municipal level to the country’s highest-ranking officials.
  9. Brazil has already implemented real anti-corruption measures in an attempt to halt further corruption: Transparency International implemented a package consisting of 70 anti-corruption measures for the 2018 election. Alongside these measures, the Clean Tab policy, originally created by Brazilian officials in 2010 (but increasingly relied on since Operation Car Wash’s findings) have categorized politicians according to whether or not they have been involved in corruption scandals. Brazil denied entry to hundreds of candidates in the 2018 election due to prior instances of corruption (although many of these candidates appealed the decision and ran despite their “Dirty Tab” status).
  10. Anti-corruption laws are making headway: An anti-corruption law passed in August 2013 now holds people who give out bribes equally responsible to those public officials on the receiving end. Although Brazil proposed the law in 2010 and passed it in 2013, the country did not enforce it until a wave of anti-corruption protests in 2015, evidence of the difficulties in changing an aspect of a political culture that is so institutionalized. Prior to the passage of this law, Brazil did not recognize a corporate liability for bribery. The law also punishes corporations rather than individuals, meaning firing one employee does not rid the company of responsibility. As a result, corporations are spending more on compliance than ever before. From 2014 to the end of 2017, 183 cases occurred against corporations under this law, resulting in millions of dollars worth of fines. Experts are calling this new age of transparency and regulation the age of compliance.

Above are 10 facts about corruption in Brazil, but the problem and potential solutions are much more vast. While these 10 facts about corruption in Brazil paint a picture of the extent of the problem, one cannot overstate corruption’s tangible impact on the lives of everyday Brazilians. With each new election comes renewed fears of corrupt activities; nevertheless, innovative preventative and corrective initiatives are flowing freely, and a corruption-free future for Brazil is more likely than ever.

– Erin Jenkins
Photo: Flickr