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Toronto_World Partnership WalkToronto was one of the many major cities that joined the 32nd annual 2016 World Partnership Walk to increase awareness and raise money for global poverty.

Each year the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, (AKFC), an international development organization and registered charity, hosts the event. AKFC is a nonprofit international development agency helping to find solutions to alleviate global poverty. The organization focuses on improving the living conditions of those living in poverty, regardless of faith, origin or gender.

On May 29, there were over 10,000 participants in Toronto, who gathered at the Metro Hall in David Pecaut Square. Last year, more than 40,000 individuals participated in the event from Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Vancouver and Victoria, helping to raise over $7 million.

Canadians are motivated to mobilize and donate to the event because they want to see global poverty levels reduce even further. According to the World Bank, there are 1 billion fewer people living in poverty globally than there were 25 years ago.

Many families are driven to participate in the annual event, as 100 percent of the donations go toward AKFC programs. In addition, the event offers memorable experiences through activities that inform, educate and entertain all participants from the young to the old.

Based in Canada, AKFC works to promote the discussion of global issues and works to build partnerships with Canadian institutions. The organization began operations in 1980 and kicked off its first walk in 1985 when a group of women from Vancouver raised $55,000. Now, the event is held in 10 cities each year and AKFC has raised $95 million since the first walk.

The 2016 World Partnership Walk is the largest event in Canada supporting international development in 14 countries. AKFC concentrates specifically on improving access to education and healthcare, food security, producing economic opportunities and constructing strong communities and local institutions.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

dev without borders
A 24-hour break poverty hackathon between Kenyans and Canadians aims to develop a solution to tackle rural poverty and to improve lives of Kenyans.

Developers Without Borders, a Canadian non-profit organization, hosted the hackathon. The non-profit runs an online platform connecting software developers worldwide with international development projects.

The hackathon took place in Nairobi and Toronto over Skype and provided an opportunity for more than 200 Canadian and Kenyan software developers to work together. The hackathon trained software developers to build SMS, hardware and mobile web solutions, which will improve health, education and agriculture to the people of rural Kenya.

Danielle Thé, founder of Developers Without Borders, said, “The core of Break Poverty Hackathons are to build cross-continental relationships between software developers in different countries. By listening to others before we build, hackathon attendees at Break Poverty will create technology that aren’t just cool, but immensely life changing for people living in poverty.”

Participants in Toronto spent part of the event learning about real issues on the ground in Kenya, then coming up with ideas that could improve conditions and issues people face on a daily basis. The developers worked together to create realistic solutions to education, business and farming problems. Some of the apps created could help residents in areas such as measuring the market prices of their agriculture or monitoring maternal health.

“The number one goal is increasing access to information,” Thé said.

The winning solutions from the Break Poverty hackathon will be implemented by Free the Children in some of Kenya’s most remote areas. Free the Children is an international charity and educational partner that works to free children and their families from poverty and exploitation.

Developers Without Borders believes that solutions to international development issues will not come about if people work in isolation. The non-profit wants to continue to tackle rural poverty around the world.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Development Diaries, Disrupt Africa, Free the Children, Metro News
Photo: Devs Without Borders

Mincome

Alberta Canada is enacting poverty reduction measures that have been long talked about by many experts in the field. The proposed “mincome” program guarantees a minimum income to people who need it. The program would give between $900 and $1,450 per month to households currently receiving welfare. Unlike other programs aimed at boosting household incomes, the mincome program allocates the funds without set guidelines on how to spend it, allowing the process to be streamlined—an attractive idea in comparison to multiple binding and restricting programs for different allowances. The mincome would be implemented as a “negative income tax,” working as the reverse of a regular income tax, helping to boost those below a designated amount.

In a few Canadian towns and U.S. cities, similar programs have been piloted in the past. The results suggest that although, as expected, hours worked generally decreased as a result of the stipend, there were promising social benefits. Most common benefits seen were higher levels of educational attainment and fewer hospital visits, related specifically to mental health. The findings suggest that granting the poor a regulated guaranteed income alleviates high stress and gives children who often feel the need to help support their families in times of economic turbulence enough stability to stay in school and receive an education. These results have, or course, tremendous benefits for the country in the long-run. Higher educational attainment is associated with lower crime rates and higher workforce and political participation. Among many economists, particularly left-wing anti-poverty activists, the idea of a guaranteed income for those below the poverty line has been a popular topic for many years. However, the new findings have brought the idea back into light.

Still, critics remain. Most commonly, the fear is that the program will allow those who do nor work to continue doing so, comfortably. Also, the fact that the mincome would be funded by higher taxes could bring back the very problems that the policy is trying to eliminate. Still, many experts agree that the benefits outweigh the risks. While the program is still relatively new and therefore lacks the abundant research needed for fierce backing, if implemented in Alberta, more data can be collected to be analyzed for the potential for more widespread implementation. Although the program may seem only feasible for developed countries like Canada and the United States, similar programs have been tested in countries such as India and Malawi. Tailoring the program to fit the needs of the country and of the people could allow for widespread growth and poverty reduction. The program is still experimental, but if the data continues to support the policy, more and more political leaders could be convinced of program’s benefits and broader use.

Emma Dowd

Sources: National Post, PRI, The Star
Photo: The Globe and Mail

energy_transparency_law
Earlier this month, the Canadian government passed the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), an energy transparency law that aims to shed more light on the financial activity of energy companies in foreign countries. The law applies to nearly 2,000 energy companies that are registered in Canada or listed on Toronto’s stock exchange and will require them to publish detailed records of payments made to foreign governments.

The ESTMA came just before the G7 Summit on June 7, and is the product of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment at the 2013 G8 Summit to establish stricter standards for the reporting of financial activity by Canadian extractive companies.

The stated purpose of the law is “to foster better transparency to ensure that the resource extractive industries support proper development in the countries where they operate, while at the same time making it harder to conceal illicit payments.” According to Canadian Securities Law, the Act will require affected companies to report any payments made in relation to the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals that exceed either the amount prescribed by regulation or $100,000 on a number of types of payments, including royalties, production entitlements, dividends and infrastructure improvement funding.

While a similar U.S. transparency law has existed since a 2010 amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, no rules have been officially implemented for extractive industry activity abroad. The Securities and Exchange Commission threw out regulations written in 2013 after a lawsuit from the American Petroleum Institute – the oil industry’s principal U.S. lobbying organization – claimed the regulations were too punitive for its member companies. In the fall of 2014, Oxfam International filed its own lawsuit against the SEC for failure to implement previously mandated regulations and expects a decision “any day now” on whether or not a federal court will set a timeline for the SEC.

As of now, the majority of the world’s largest oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are nor required to report payments made to foreign governments.

For civilians in oil-rich countries, the detriments for allowing foreign energy corporations to extract their resources often outweigh the benefits they realize for hosting them.

“In many countries that are rich in oil, gas and other non-renewable natural resources, the communities from whose territory the resources are extracted bear the brunt of environmental and human rights impacts associated with extractive activity but see few tangible benefits,” said EarthRights International (ERI) in a statement in 2014. “We, along with our partners in Burma and elsewhere, believe that knowing what governments receive from extractive companies is an important step for communities to hold governments responsible for the use of natural resource revenues and to advocate for a fair share of the benefits.”

Since 2009 ERI has worked with Oxfam and other members of the Publish What You Pay Us (PWYP) coalition to fight for revenue transparency in the extractive industry. The stated mission of the PWYP is to “[help] citizens of resource-rich developing countries hold their governments accountable for the management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining industries.”

“Natural resource revenues are an important source of income for governments of over 50 developing countries,” states the PWYP coalition. “When properly managed these revenues should serve as a basis for poverty reduction, economic growth and development rather than exacerbating corruption, conflict and social divisiveness.”

Proponents of stricter oversight of extractive industries note that a lack of financial transparency raises doubts as to how much civilians in host countries benefit from the extraction of their resources by foreign energy companies. Detailed records published by energy companies will reveal more precisely who is benefiting from extractive industry spending and whether – and to what degree – recipient governments use that spending to benefit their own people.

– Zach VeShancey

Sources: Canadian Securities Law, Devex, Earthrights, Publish What you Pay
Photo: The Star

mining_partnerhships
Business deals between companies headquartered at opposite ends of the earth have become the rule, rather than the exception. These deals may make headlines for their magnitude, but not for their intercontinental nature. But recently, two such deals caught this writer’s attention. Though they received little coverage in the press, these deals exemplify the benefits of poverty reduction and development not only in countries experiencing development, but also in developed and undeveloped countries alike.

Both deals concern Zijin Mining Group Co., a Chinese firm, which late last month purchased large shares of two mines owned by Canadian firms. According to Bloomberg, Zijin bought a 50 percent share of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea from Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. and a 49.5 percent share of Kamoa mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. These deals infuse Canadian physical capital with Chinese financial capital, all while helping Papua New Guinea and the DR Congo grow their exports.

For Barrick and Ivanhoe, these deals amount to a crucial injection of capital. Both companies have faced financial difficulties recently: Barrick aims cut $3 billion of its $10 billion net debt by year’s end, while Ivanhoe declared bankruptcy at the beginning of this month after negotiations with creditors fell through. Both firms are expected to pursue expanded mining partnerships with Zijin in the coming years, so as to keep themselves solvent. For Western firms like Barrick and Ivanhoe, capital-rich corporations based in the developing world represent invaluable allies as global competition grows stiffer.

For Zijin, these deals not only offer a chance to get some cash off its hands, they also represent the culmination of decades-long poverty reduction efforts in China. Fifty years ago, a business like Zijin would have been unthinkable in China or any other low-development country; had China been a capitalist economy, foreign firms would have likely dominated its primary sector. But as China’s domestic industrial capacity grew, poverty rates in China plummeted. Firms like Zijin have turned poor countries into middle-income countries. Now, these countries are poised for a new stage of development as domestic firms go global by partnering with Western businesses.

Last but not least, these deals symbolize an opportunity for development and poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea and the Congo, where the mines in question are located. By aiding struggling Western firms, Zijin ensures that locals will remain employed and that transit infrastructure is well maintained. Employment and infrastructure are not only useful in and of themselves, they also give other businesses a chance to proliferate and make poverty reduction efforts simpler. Furthermore, these deals underscore what happens when a country outgrows its poverty—it begins trading intensively with other countries, many of which it helps to develop in the process.

Zijin, Barrick and Ivanhoe are not household names, and may never become household names. Nevertheless, these three firms exemplify how poverty reduction pays dividends for developed countries, developing countries and countries that have yet to develop. American firms take heed, partnerships with companies in the developing world help all countries, not just your bottom line.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: Barron’s Asia, Bloomberg, Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, The Northern Miner, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance
Photo: Demanjo

aid to iraq
As the U.S. carries out air strikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq, Canada is delivering $5 million of humanitarian aid to the country. The money will fund new assistance projects, and half of the aid money will immediately go to three of the Canadian government’s on-ground humanitarian partners – the International Red Cross, Mercy Corps and Save the Children Canada.

International Development Minister Christian Paradis said that the contribution will be allocated to food distribution, cooking materials, blankets, tents, hygiene kits and other needed supplies, and will also be used to improve the citizens’ information access and repair essential water and sanitation facilities. Canada’s assistance will reach approximately 850,000 displaced Iraqis.

The prime minister’s office condemned the anti-Christian attacks, made by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, previously known in Iraq as Al Qaeda. Ottawa declared ISIS a terrorist organization in 2012. Thousands of Iraq’s minorities have fled from their homes in fear of the extremist Sunni militants, who have violently and forcefully seized large sections of northern Iraq. ISIS fighters have expelled significant numbers of Iraq’s Christian and Shiite Muslim population, viewing these other religious assemblies as heretical groups to be executed or brutally ruled.

“Canada continues to stand by the people of Iraq in these difficult times and condemns the terrorist actions of ISIS and the killing of innocent civilians in northern Iraq in the strongest possible terms,” said Paradis.

The three trusted on-ground organizations will receive an immediate $2.25 million, with the International Red Cross getting $1 million, Save the Children receiving $750,000 and Mercy Corps attaining $500,000. The remaining $2.75 million will be distributed to other units after Canada confers with its partners in Iraq.

“Canada will continue working closely with our allies to determine how we can best continue to support the needs of Iraqi civilians, particularly religious minorities,” said Paradis.

Since the beginning of the year, Canada has delivered $16 million of aid to Iraq, as the country is a recent addition to Canada’s development country partners. $9.5 million was dedicated to helping refugees of the Syrian crisis, while $6.8 million was allocated to victims of civil unrest.

According to Lois Brown, the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of International Cooperation, Canada is particularly attentive to Iraq’s affairs because almost 20,000 Iraqi refugees have flocked to Canada since last year.

“We have seen a vibrant Iraqi community here, and those people are very concerned about their family back home,” said Brown. “The Canadian government condemns in the strongest terms the violent acts of this terrorist group that is killing innocent civilians.”

Annie Jung

Sources: Huffington Post, Global News, CTV News
Photo: CTV News

aids prevention
Since its discovery in the early 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been the subject of intense study and extensive prevention efforts, and for good reason. AIDS, the advanced condition that causes the human immune system to shut down, makes people vulnerable to infections that would otherwise not be life-threatening. As a result, the disease has claimed millions of lives in the last several decades and continues to wreak havoc today, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where 70 percent of AIDS cases now occur.

Significant progress in AIDS prevention has been made since the discovery of the condition in 1981, but Canada has especially contributed to prevention efforts. Though it is often overlooked, Canada is actually a research and technology powerhouse in the fight against AIDS and was among the first countries to understand the urgency of prevention, especially as it relates to development.

What has made Canada so successful? Largely, it’s the country’s varied and unrelenting approach to designing and implementing prevention programs. AIDS first appeared in Canada in 1982, but even before it was detected there, Canadian researchers were hard at work devising prevention strategies.

Canadian research teams were instrumental in the realization that extended periods of breastfeeding dramatically increase an infant’s chances of contracting HIV from its mother. Together with Kenyan researchers, Canadians were responsible for bringing about education and counseling programs for African mothers with HIV in order to prevent both the mothers and their babies from eventually having AIDS.

Other innovations in the AIDS prevention field that were largely funded by or produced by Canada include affordable diagnostic technology, diagnostic education for health care workers in developing countries and the use of anti-retroviral therapy in preventing HIV transmission.

Canada was also one of the first nations to recognize and publicize the link between AIDS and food insecurity. AIDS as a cause of food insecurity is widely understood, but the transmission of HIV/AIDS as a result of food insecurity was an idea that was cutting-edge at the time Canada’s research teams pitched it.

For decades Canada has been committed to using youth education as a tool to prevent AIDS. Its educational programs have been responsible for saving millions from AIDS, as it equips at-risk youth with the knowledge necessary to protect themselves in situations where HIV/AIDS transmission is possible.

Canada’s dedication to fighting AIDS has been particularly commendable. Continued contribution from Canada and other countries alike will only bring closer the day that HIV/AIDS transmission is merely a memory.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: IDRC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health
Photo: Wikimedia

minimum wage
An ongoing dispute occurred in Windsor as Ontario workers rallied to protest for a raise in the minimum wage. The Ontario government raised the minimum wage to the current $11.

“The increase is a good start,” said Canadian Union of Public Employees’ President Fred Hahn, “but still not good enough to bring workers over the poverty line. It needs to be $14. At $11, that means somebody working full-time is not making enough to be above the poverty line.”

According to the Raise a Minimum Wage campaign, the current increase still has full time minimum-wage workers earning 16 percent below the poverty line.“We have to do this because we owe it to our kids, and their kids,” said Hahn.

Currently, there are approximately 500,000 people in Ontario earning minimum wage, according to a Statistics Canada report done in 2011. However, not all workers will receive the same raise in their pay.

Students under the age of 18 will receive a 70-cent raise instead of the 75-cent increase the majority of workers will receive. Liquor servers will only receive a 65-cent raise. Farm workers are completely excluded from the raise in salary.

“$11 per hour is a start,” said Paul Chislett, a representative with the Windsor Workers Action Center, “but it’s not enough. We’re trying to reduce the levels of inequality.”

The last time the minimum wage was increased in Ontario was in 2010. The increase in wage is meant to help the citizens and reduce some of their expenses. According to the National Household Survey released this year, 3.3 million households in Canada are paying more than what they should for housing—approximately 30 percent of their monthly salary.

“I believe the minimum wage should be $14 an hour,” said Leticia Boahen, one of the many minimum wage workers in Ontario. “Yes, $11 is great, but it is still not a living wage. It is not something that families can survive on. That idea that you hear from right-wing Conservatives that $11 is for entrants…it’s not accurate. There are many racialized workers, immigrants, people in the food industry—who are being paid below the $10.25 they should be paid—that are struggling.”

Currently, there is no official poverty line in Canada. Statistics Canada reported that 14.9 percent of Canadians have ‘low income’ but the group is hesitant to label that group as poor. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that poverty had been steadily rising in Canada since the mid-1990s.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business states, however, that an increase in the minimum wage would be a detriment to businesses and may end up costing Ontario citizens jobs instead of easing them out of poverty.

However, supporters of the raise state that a higher minimum wage can only help the economy and elevate the 5.5-6.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product poverty costs Ontario each year.

“It circulates,” said Hahn. “When you give people money in their pocket, they spend it in their community. It helps everyone.”

– Monica Newell

Sources: CBC (1)CBC (2)The Windsor Star
Photo: Linked In

Innovating_for_Maternal_and_Child_Health_in_Africa

In Africa, mothers die at disproportionate rates due to complications from childbirth and the absence of proper pre- and post-natal care. Their children, including those that are born seemingly healthy, die prematurely from disease, injury and malnutrition.

Fifty percent of all maternal mortality and early childhood mortality occurs on the continent, despite making up only 10 percent of the world’s total population.

Though maternal and childhood mortality have not failed to capture the attention of the world’s major humanitarian organizations – after all, “reduce child mortality” and “improve maternal health” are two of the U.N.’s eight Millennium Development Goals – children in Sub-Saharan Africa are still eight times more likely than their European counterparts to die before their fifth birthday. This trend is especially alarming considering that the World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2050, over one-third of the world’s children under 5 years old will live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Increased aid to Africa to implement critical maternal and child health measures, such as obstetric health clinics, is crucial for making sure that more mothers in Africa are alive to see their children turn 5. Canada recognized this need, and on May 21, 2014, at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Canada’s Minister of Health announced the nation’s plan to improve the health of mothers and children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Officially called “Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa,” Canada’s new program allocates $36 million to be spent over seven years in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Tanzania to “better meet the primary health care needs of mothers, newborns and children.”

The $36 million comes in addition to the $2.85 billion Canada has pledged to invest in women and children in developing countries between 2010 and 2015 under their Muskoka Initiative. With just 20 percent of that initiative left to complete in the next year and a half, it is clear that Canada takes its commitment to maternal and child health, a commitment it describes as its top development priority, very seriously.

Globally, maternal and child mortality have decreased steadily over the last two decades. Approximately 17,000 fewer children die per day today than they did in 1990, but even at that rate, too many children will die next year to satisfy Millennium Development Goal number four. The progress made thus far has been disproportionately concentrated in Western countries. Some believe it is time to concentrate our resources, focus and energy in Africa to save mothers and children where they are dying most frequently. Canada is leading the way.

– Elise Riley

Sources: United Nations, IDRC, GHD, Foreign Affairs Trade and Development Canada
Photo: Business Insider

partnership_walk
In 1985, a group of globally-minded women from Vancouver rounded up 1,000 people for what they called the Partnership Walk in order to raise money for global poverty. The instigators had immigrated from Asia and Africa and wanted to make a difference for those still living in poverty.

That first year’s walk raised $55,000 in donations.

Today, the event is sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation and has raised over $82 million for international development programs in the past 30 years. The Partnership Walk is held every year on the last Sunday in May in 10 Canadian cities including Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, London, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Montreal. The walk is Canada’s most successful humanitarian event.

In 2013, the walk raised over $7 million and had 40,000 walkers across 10 cities in Canada. The 2014 walk is anticipated to raise over $7 million across Canada with around 25,000 walkers.

With the money raised, the Aga Khan Foundation puts 100 percent of the donations toward sustainable solutions such as education, clean water and community development.

“We didn’t just give them money or material support, we gave them knowledge and skills as well as advice,” said an Aga Khan representative about a village in Zanzibar that benefitted from the walk.

Aga Khan understands that their efforts cannot be black and white. Each country and community must be approached differently depending on resource availability, government structure and cultural beliefs, among other factors.

For the 2014 walk, the U.N. Women National Committee Canada joined the walk.

“People often say to me, ‘I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference,” said Almas Jiwani, the U.N. Women National Committee’s president. “The World Partnership Walk is something anyone can do to effect change.”

In addition to participants, individuals who sponsor walkers and those who volunteer make a huge difference in the event’s success.

As Jiwani said, anyone can participate in the walk and by doing so be part of the solution to eradicate poverty. The walk offers people an outlet in which they can be a part of something greater than themselves. Individuals can collaborate to affect the world in a much greater way than one individual’s efforts alone.

Heather Klosterman

Sources: Aga Khan Foundation, Global News, World Partnership Walk
Photo: Arlen Redekop