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Corruption in Libya

For decades, Libya has endured countless accounts of corruption committed by the government, the militia and major oil corporations. The corruption in Libya derives from what political scientists call a “resource curse,” a term used to describe a nation that tends to have less economic growth and a weaker democracy due to its abundance of natural resources. Oil production has made the nation susceptible to corruption, leading the country into a civil war due to persistent violence and political unrest. Here are ten facts about corruption in Libya.

10 Facts about Corruption in Libya

  1. In 2018, Libya ranked as 170 least corrupt out of 175 countries, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. In the same year, Libya also scored a low 17 out of 100 in the Corruption Perception Index. The corruption primarily derives from the government, the public sector and private businesses.
  2. Corruption in Libya began during Muammar Gaddafi’s rule from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi’s regime received billions of dollars in bribes from wealthy corporations to make illegal deals in the energy sector. A total of $65 billion of Libya’s wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), was held in private accounts instead of going toward public expenditures. While Gaddafi’s regime was profiting off of Libya’s national assets, more than 40 percent of the Libyan population lived below the poverty line.
  3. Eighty percent of Libya’s GDP and 99 percent of government revenue comes from oil production. In 2018, foreign exports of oil in Libya brought in revenues totaling $24.5 billion. The central bank in Tripoli controls these funds and is responsible for disbursing them throughout the country, but at the time there were no laws in Libya that demand the transparency of the bank to disclose the use of state funds with their constituents.
  4. Libya has anti-corruption laws; however, lax enforcement permits widespread corruption practices such as embezzlement and bribery among the public procurement sector. According to Libya’s Criminal Code, the Law on Economic Crimes and the Law on Abuse of Position or Occupation, “the abuse by a public official of his or her position or functions to obtain a benefit for himself or herself or for others” is established as an offense. Despite anti-corruption laws, the weakness of Libya’s institutional framework has given leeway to Libyan officials to misappropriate funds. Head of Organisation for Development of Administrative Centres (ODAC) Ali Ibrahim Dabaiba misappropriated nearly $7 billion in national assets and laundered them into personal bank accounts abroad. These funds were designated to go toward Libya’s public infrastructure, but Dabaiba instead put the money toward his interests, such as purchasing luxury hotels in Scotland.
  5. Corruption in Libya remains rampant even after the revolution and the assassination of Gaddafi in 2011. After the first civil war, violence and political instability persisted throughout Libya, and government ministers and the military have conflicted control of the country. General Khalifa Haftar is the leader of the militant offensive, and he promises to combat Islamist militias. However, through mobilizing the military to fight armed groups throughout the country and seize control of major cities, violence became even more prevalent and a second civil war was initiated in 2014. Haftar’s group, the Libyan National Army (LNA), has attacked several sites in the city of Tripoli. His military force has killed a total of 443 people, injuring more than 2,000, and displacing nearly 60,000 civilians in pursuit of gaining control over the territory.
  6. Corruption in law enforcement is also prevalent in Libya. Several reports show police officers engaging in malpractice including bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and extortion. According to a survey conducted by the Departments of Research and Studies of Organization for Transparency Libya, respondents ranked the police highest in spreading corruption. Some cases of police corruption that researchers discovered include police officers stopping drivers, seizing their drivers’ licenses and extorting drivers in exchange for their licenses.
  7. Activists and media workers across the nation of Libya are being silenced. In 2017, 11 out of 18 political, civil, and human rights activists and personalities, polled by the Human Rights Watch in Tripoli and Zawiyah, claimed to have been threatened by state militia, government, and armed groups, three have been attacked or harassed, and nine claims to fear for their lives after receiving threats. In 2016, the Libyan Center for Freedom of the Press (LCFP) reported that 107 media workers were attacked by armed groups including two journalists who were killed.
  8. Transparency International is one of the major organizations combating corruption in Libya. They aim to stop corruption in governments, businesses, and civil societies through the “creation of international anti-corruption conventions and the prosecution of corrupt leaders and seizures of their illicitly gained riches.” They have pushed legislation that has made bribing foreign officials illegal by enforcing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, which requires members to outlaw bribery of officials. For instance, In 2017, an investigation in France on Société Générale bank was opened because of its payment of $58.5 million to a Panama-registered company as part of a scheme to secure its business in Libya. A settlement was reached, and Société Générale committed to pay a total of €500 million to close this procedure.
  9. Civil Initiatives Libya (CIL) is a project that aims to empower and support civil society organizations (CSO). CIL is funded by the European Union and implemented by ACTED in 15 different municipalities in Libya. This initiative is imperative to solving corruption because CSOs are able to promote civic engagement and local governance, which can increase the fairness of the Libyan government. CIL centers provide facilities, technical assistance and funding to over 700 CSOs across Libya. In 2012, over 1,400 NGO representatives benefited from CIL’s facilities and training services. The project also involves hosting CSO events, workshops and training that revolves around women and youth empowerment. CIL has expanded the capacity of many CSOs and has made them strong and politically visible enough to be able to lobby the government and acquire funding from the national budget.
  10. Global Witness is a nonprofit that works to protect human rights by exposing corruption in nations that have an abundance of natural resources, including Libya. Their work involves holding hard-hitting investigations on corruption scandals in pursuit of holding corrupt leaders accountable. Their strategies include secret filming, satellite imagery and drone footage, data analysis of companies, and using anonymous sources. Through their resources, Global Witness is able to release detailed investigations on corruption all over the world and advocate for those who are victims of corruption by launching campaigns that bring awareness to global injustices. In 2002, Global Witness, Transparency International and many other NGOs co-launched the Publish What You Pay campaign, which mandates oil, gas and mining companies around the world to disclose their net taxes, fees, royalties and other payments. This campaign led to the creation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Since its launch, the EITI has put $2.4 trillion of oil, gas and mining revenues in the public domain.

These 10 facts about corruption in Libya illustrate the prevalence of abuse and fraudulence in Libya. However, even though corruption still permeates Libya’s institutions, efforts from around the world continue to prevent any further corruption by holding public officials accountable for their crimes.

If support from nonprofits, civil societies and advocates persists, Libya may be able to mobilize their local governments to sustain a better democracy and resist violent and corrupt regimes.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

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

10 facts about living conditions in equatorial guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small nation on the west coast of Africa. While Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producers it also faces many challenges associated with living conditions. Living conditions are poor, due to problems ranging from corrupt politics to low education rates. These 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea shed light on the major issues the country faces.

10 Facts about Living Conditions in Equatorial Guinea

  1. The same president since 1979: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been in power for over 37 years and is currently the worlds longest running non-Royal head of state. Opposition to his office has cited the governments use of intimidation and irregular procedures to remain in power. When his son Teodorin was accused of laundering money by the French government, Mbasogo appointed Teodorin as Vice President and accused the French of violating draconian government laws. Some rights organizations have accused Mbasogo and his predecessors as some of the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
  2. Highest per capita growth rate in Africa, one of the lowest Human Development Indexes: Equatorial Guinea makes most of its income through oil and is one of the highest oil producers in Sub- Saharan Africa. However, it ranks 141 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index, its HDI currently is 0.591. The country’s per capita gross national income was $21,056 in 2014, giving Equatorial Guinea the biggest difference between per capita wealth and human development score in the world.
  3. Few basic services and malnutrition: In 2011 it was found that about half of Equatorial Guinea’s population had access to clean water. Twenty-Six percent of children suffered from malnutrition, and their growth was considered stunted. The country also has some of the lowest vaccinations in the world, with 25 percent of children unvaccinated.
  4. Low Education rates: Equatorial Guinea has some of the lowest education rates in the world, and even those in school do not remain for long. According to UNICEF, as of 2016, A staggering 42 percent of children do not attend primary school, making the country’s rates the seventh lowest in the world. To compound the issue, only half of the students in these primary schools finish or graduate.
  5. Agricultural Economy: Even though Equatorial Guinea makes most of its revenue through Petroleum, 71 percent of the population is agricultural. Some are subsistence farmers, who clear land by burning away other plant life in order to grow the crops that sustain them. Cocoa still remains a significant export, as it has been since before the country became an independent country in 1968.
  6. Large Youth Population: About 60 percent of the population of Equatorial Guinea is under the age of 25. Because of the pervasiveness of the oil-industry, job creation in other sectors of the economy is very limited.  Many young people are having trouble entering the market as they do not have the skills needed because of the low education rates in the country.
  7. Roads and Infrastructure: In the early 2000s,  less than a sixth of the roads in the country were paved. In some islands like Bioko, the systems are of a higher standard. Using tar as pavement, the city can better accommodate traffic. The country also does not benefit from a single railway or track. In the 1980s, multiple ports were modernized to accommodate the country’s increasing commerce.
  8. No Private Media: One of the most pressing of the 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea is that all media outlets there are closely controlled by the government. There are no privately owned or independent papers or websites. As such, it is impossible to criticize the president or the security forces in the country. This, of course, makes it hard for word of Equatorial Guinea’s issues to reach other countries. However, it has been found the internet is being used for people to speak out against the government. The country had about 181,000 internet users out of its 1.2 million population.
  9. Plans to move forward: The World Bank’s presence in Equatorial Guinea has helped it move forward. The country’s economic plan, Horizon 2020, which will develop the country’s economic, national, and social standing, is being partly overseen by The World Bank. The Bank is providing technical services to strengthen the government’s public investment management systems. The first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s improvement plan was completed in 2012 and dubbed a success by the World Bank.
  10. No longer a “Least Developed Country”: In June of 2017, Guinea graduated from its status as an LDC or Least Developed country. Its national income is growing rapidly, and in recent years the infant mortality rate of the country has fallen by 43 percent.

Overall, there is hope on the horizon for Equatorial Guinea. Despite years of problems and issues, many which still remain, the country has seen improvement from many of its sectors. Most importantly, the country is now getting attention from multiple aid groups, who are doing what they can to improve conditions there. With support and attention, perhaps the worse of these 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea can be nothing but history.

Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Flickr

Journalism in Developing Countries
Various studies show that free press and independent journalism in developing countries is crucial to promoting progress. But, this feat is often difficult to achieve.

The Pros and Cons of Independent Journalism

One of the benefits of pluralistic and independent media is increased transparency, which allows citizens to hold their governments accountable. According to UNESCO, it is only “when journalists are free to monitor, investigate and criticize a society’s policies and actions can good governance take hold.”

Credible information also promotes discussions about issues that are critical to a country’s development. Allowing people to access and contribute to credible and independent media can even lead to economic, social and political empowerment. In order to reduce poverty, it is important to provide poor and marginalized people with reliable information as well as platforms where they can voice their stories and struggles.

However, journalism in developing countries poses additional challenges. Reporters face threats and harassment from corrupt governments, militias or local gangs. In addition, they often have low salaries and have to work for politicized media outlets.

This lack of freedom prevents journalists in developing countries from objectively criticizing policies and vocalizing the needs of the marginalized communities. Both of these are necessary to empower citizens and hold governments accountable.

The Current Issues in Journalism in Developing Countries

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), around 80 percent of major media outlets are owned by or affiliated with politicians. These politicians use the media as their own source of political propaganda. The salaries of journalists are directly linked to the content of their articles, so the political owners get to dictate what is reported.

Furthermore, journalists in the DRC often face physical harm if they criticize the government or local militias. Those that do report on the rampant human rights abuses and corruption are in danger of being arrested, beaten or killed.

Unfortunately, the danger journalists face when reporting the astounding information is not uncommon. Earlier this year, a conflict between the Nicaraguan government and protesters led to censorship and intimidation. Journalists who critiqued the government faced online and physical threats. The police, military and some government supporters have stolen equipment and footage, shut down media websites and have even physically attacked and killed some journalists.

One journalist, Josué Garay, shared how two men broke into his house, threatened and beat him and stole his phone, wallet and personal documents. He and some colleagues had been threatened at gunpoint a month earlier while reporting on the protests. Other journalists have had similar experiences. An unknown government supporter even burnt down a radio station.

Journalists Are Finding Innovative Solutions

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index cites an overall decrease in the free press and increased hostility and censorship of journalists across the globe. North Africa and the Middle East were ranked as the worst regions for journalists. This was partly due to the wars in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, but other countries, such as Egypt, are also incredibly dangerous for independent media.

But determined journalists are finding innovative solutions to the pressing problems of the free press. In Liberia, journalist Alfred Sirleaf understands the importance of access to information.

Misinformation, Sirleaf claims, contributed to the Liberian Civil War. The country used to suffer from a repressive regime, as Sirleaf describes: “It was difficult in the past … because of what you publish, people come after you.”  Many Liberians cannot afford radios and newspapers, so for several years now, Sirleaf has been reporting the daily news on a big blackboard in the center of Monrovia.

By providing free and independent information, Sirleaf’s “newspaper,” The Daily Talk, promotes dialogue and can help prevent future conflicts. In 2014, the blackboard spread credible information and prevention strategies about Ebola.

Bringing Independent Journalism to All

The thirst for independent journalism in developing countries is growing. Around the world, journalists continue to hold their governments accountable and tell the stories of marginalized people despite the high risks and low salary. Because of this high demand for good reporting, media outlets from wealthy countries are holding workshops and trainings for their counterparts in developing countries. The journalists receive training in basic reporting skills as well as more specialized areas.

For example, by teaching journalists how to report on business and economic issues, these journalists are able to provide more analysis and skepticism to their work. Previously, the stories were taken directly from the statements of politicians.

The Global Press Institute is another exemplary training program. It aims to boost the type of journalism that tells of everyday “stories of entrepreneurship, human rights and education,” according to Forbes. The program has found the best way to do this is through women, who play a more stable and long-lasting role in their communities.

Based in 26 countries, the training program has no language or education prerequisites. Many enrolled women have not even finished the seventh grade. But in the past, after graduating from the program in about six months, all the women were hired as journalists. Through this program, The Global Press highlights the voices of communities that are often ignored, empowers local women and continues to forward the important mission of independent journalism in developing countries.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy
Much has been written about the Magnitsky Act, especially considering that it is a longstanding source of resentment among prominent Russians. However, remarkably little research has been done about the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy.

What the Magnitsky Act Does

In 2014, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which was an effort to punish Russia for alleged human rights violations surrounding the death of a whistleblower who tried to alert the public to the alleged corruption that had been taking place in Russia for the previous several years. The intent was to sanction the individuals responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, without impacting the majority of Russian citizens who had nothing to do with it.

The Magnitsky Act is notable because it attempts to punish solely the Russians responsible for Magnitsky’s death, rather than Russia as a whole. Rather than blanket import/export bans, the Magnitsky Act freezes the assets of the Russians implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the victim for whom the legislation is named. Additionally, it bans these individuals from obtaining visas to enter the United States.

The Magnitsky Act has been followed by the Global Magnitsky Act, which applies these punishments to any citizen of any country who is suspected of aiding the activity of the Russians in question. Additionally, other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have passed their own versions of this legislation.

Impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian Economy

Although the intent of the Magnitsky Act was to have minimal impact on the Russian economy or the lives of average Russian citizens, it is fair to assume that there has been some effect. Russia retaliated in 2014 by banning all food imports from Europe and the United States for a period of one year. This is in addition to banning all adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, which has become a major point of contention in recent years.

After the passage of the original legislation, its authors stressed that the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy was meant to be positive. The reasoning was that the Magnitsky Act would discourage the corruption and theft that supposedly limit Russia’s economic growth prospects. However, there is little evidence to prove that this has been uniformly the case.

Moving Forward with the Magnitsky Act

As an upper-middle income country, Russia’s standard of living and other metrics of assessing the average Russian’s state of economic affairs continue to lag behind the advanced industrial economies of the world. However, it is not possible to decisively say how much of this is due to the corruption that the Magnitsky Act and its supporters allege. More research should be done into the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy, as it is difficult to say whether the authors of this legislation were right to craft it the way they did.

Because of this lack of decisive data, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy. There is no question that the Act plays an important normative role in signaling that the United States will exact consequences on violators of human rights, but whether it has the positive economic effects that its authors claimed it would is still not possible to assess. It seems likely that targeted sanctions like these could be a valuable tool to respond to potential human rights violations going forward, but they must be used with caution until a clear understanding of their broader impact is reached.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

How Improving Governance Helps Growth in Developing Countries
It’s all too true that in most developing or vulnerable countries, local or national governments are tyrannical and corrupt. These governments have a propensity to abuse power, favor the rich and ignore the oppressed. However, by improving governance in the developing world, there is hope that unethical practices will be removed and replaced with unprejudiced laws that will fairly benefit everyone.

Problems Surrounding Corrupt Government

Numerous problems surrounding nefarious practices in underdeveloped countries stem from a lack of morality, discriminatory systems and misuse of power. The World Bank reports that in vulnerable countries, a disparate sharing of authority is a common problem that causes countries to stay in a state of impoverishment rather than move toward more progressive procedures that would allow for quicker growth and sustainability.

Unfortunately, it’s easier for the already-powerful leaders to resist change rather than consider the development of new policies for improving governance to benefit the whole society, regardless of economic class.

Additionally, there are many other factors that contribute to shady practices in the governments of developing countries. One of these practices is patrimonialism, which is defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica as a “political organization in which authority is based primarily on the personal power exercised by a ruler, either directly or indirectly.” This means that too much power can easily be granted to one person or group of persons (oligarchy), rather than having different governmental branches to limit what can and cannot be done.

What Steps Can be Taken Towards Improving Governance?

In a patrimonialistic society, the land or state is “owned” by a leader, granting that person the freedom to do as he, she, or they please. This power structure contributes to the cycle of poverty — wealthy land is distributed to the other wealthy people, allowing those choice few to access the best schools, homes and healthcare; on the other hand, the slums are given to the lower class, eliminating chances to thrive in a fair economy. Ultimately, this system halts economic growth for all the citizens.

The OECD Observer gives two good examples of a patrimonialistic society; the first being Morocco, where admittance to bureaucracy protects access to economic benefits, and the next being in the Philippines, where political sovereignty can be bought and sold.

Citizen-Based Elections

A great way to combat corruption, poverty and improve economic growth is by initializing citizen-based elections. According to USAID, more than half of the world’s populace live under only partly free governments, which limits their civil liberties, causing the inability to freely engage in politics. In democratic elections, the people are granted a voice in choosing who they wish to run their government.

USAID easily lays out the course for democratic elections. The steps include freedom of speech, association and assembly; elections as an essential tool to bolster political openings and cooperation; assembling advocates and describing different political platforms to the public and encouraging political debate.

Education

Another step toward improving governance is creating equal educational opportunities for all people. A large problem in the political sphere of third-world countries is the lack of education that causes many citizens who live in poverty to not fully understand politics; in turn they lack the skills to actively participate in events such as elections or assemblies.

Not only will education improve political understandings, but it will create jobs and give students the skills needed to be seen as valuable by future employers, improving economic growth and sustainability. With higher education comes higher knowledge and realization, skills that permit citizens to see and understand what areas in their countries need change.

Public Policy and Building Democracy

One of the best ways to promote better government is through improving public policy and actively working on building a democracy. In the developing world, the people and citizens are often ignored, and their opinions are thought to be arbitrary and unimportant to those high on the political spectrum.

However, in a democratic society, the people get to vote in elections for issues such as industrial projects and new laws. To help aid in understanding public policy and democracy, The World Bank created the Governance Global Practice, which aims to initiate trust between the government and the people.

Despite all of the concerns facing governments in third-world countries, these nation-states are not hopeless. Many countries work towards improving governance and government practices. In fact, organizations such as The World Bank, USAID and the United Nations provide hope for those searching for a better quality of life, and thereby foster countries to work towards a brighter future.  

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr

AfricaThe causes of poverty in Africa cannot be narrowed down to one single source. As a developing country, Africa has a lengthy history of external, internal and man-made forces at work to bring about the circumstances this continent suffers from today.

In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 220 million people, half the population, live in poverty. Worsened by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, cultural conflict and ethnic cleansing, Africa faces many challenges that directly correlate with its impoverished status.

Poor Governance

Poor governance, one of the major causes of poverty in Africa, involves various malpractices by the state and its workers. This malpractice has led many African leaders to push away the needs of the people. Having created the “personal rule paradigm,” where they treat their offices as a form of property and personal gain, these leaders openly appoint underqualified personnel in key positions at state-owned institutions and government departments. This type of governance affects the poorest people and leaves them vulnerable, as they are denied basic necessities such as healthcare, food and shelter.

Corruption

Corruption has been and still is a major issue in the development of and fight against poverty in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is considered to be among the most corrupt places in the world. According to a survey conducted by World Anti-Corruption, corruption in Africa is “due to the fact that many people in Africa believe that family relations are more important than country identity. Therefore, those in power use bias and bribery for the gain of their relatives at the expense of their country.”

Corruption costs SSA roughly $150 billion a year in lost revenue. While some countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda, have made some progress in the fight against corruption, there are still many lagging very far behind. A lack of effort to solve this issue only worsens the causes of poverty in Africa today.

Poor Education

Lack of education is also a serious issue that contributes to the causes of poverty in Africa. This absence is especially felt in sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of educational exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about six and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. Almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school.

Education for girls has become a major focus of support groups like UNICEF, UNESCO and the UIS. With poor access to school, lack of sanitary facilities and social norms like female genital mutilation and child marriage, the right to women’s education is even less of a priority in impoverished communities.

However, education, especially girls’ education, has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for promoting economic growth. According to UNICEF, “studies have shown that educated mothers tend to have healthier, better-nourished babies and that their own children are more likely to attend school; thus helping break the vicious cycle of poverty.”

Healthcare

Poor healthcare is a major cause of poverty in Africa because the poor cannot afford to purchase what is needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and healthcare itself. With a lack of education on preventing infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as the costs of consultations, tests and medicine, people living in poverty are at a severe disadvantage that only perpetuates the poverty cycle.

With a strong fight against many forces still ahead of this nation, Africa must weed out the corruption and poor government, and promote strong education and efficient healthcare for all, in order to take a big leap forward in its development as a continent.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

current global issues

Among all the good in the world, and all the progress being made in global issues, there is still much more to be done. Given the overwhelming disasters that nations, including the U.S., have been or still are going through, it is important to be aware of the most pressing global issues.

Top 10 Current Global Issues

  1. Climate Change
    The global temperatures are rising, and are estimated to increase from 2.6 degrees Celsius to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. This would cause more severe weather, crises with food and resources and the spread of diseases. The reduction of greenhouse emissions and the spreading of education on the importance of going green can help make a big difference. Lobbying governments and discussing policies to reduce carbon emissions and encouraging reforestation is an effective way of making progress with climate change.
  2. Pollution
    Pollution is one of the most difficult global issues to combat, as the umbrella term refers to ocean litter, pesticides and fertilizers, air, light and noise pollution. Clean water is essential for humans and animals, but more than one billion people don’t have access to clean water due to pollution from toxic substances, sewage or industrial waste. It is of the utmost importance that people all over the world begin working to minimize the various types of pollution, in order to better the health of the planet and all those living on it.
  3. Violence
    Violence can be found in the social, cultural and economic aspects of the world. Whether it is conflict that has broken out in a city, hatred targeted at a certain group of people or sexual harassment occurring on the street, violence is a preventable problem that has been an issue for longer than necessary. With continued work on behalf of the governments of all nations, as well as the individual citizens, the issue can be addressed and reduced.
  4. Security and Well Being
    The U.N. is a perfect example of preventing the lack of security and well being that is a serious global issue. Through its efforts with regional organizations and representatives that are skilled in security, the U.N. is working toward increasing the well being of people throughout the world.
  5. Lack of Education
    More than 72 million children throughout the globe that are of the age to be in primary education are not enrolled in school. This can be attributed to inequality and marginalization as well as poverty. Fortunately, there are many organizations that work directly with the issue of education in providing the proper tools and resources to aid schools.
  6. Unemployment
    Without the necessary education and skills for employment, many people, particularly 15- to 24-year olds, struggle to find jobs and create a proper living for themselves and their families. This leads to a lack of necessary resources, such as enough food, clothing, transportation and proper living conditions. Fortunately, there are organizations throughout the world teaching people in need the skills for jobs and interviewing, helping to lift people from the vicious cycle of poverty.
  7. Government Corruption
    Corruption is a major cause of poverty considering how it affects the poor the most, eroding political and economic development, democracy and more. Corruption can be detrimental to the safety and well being of citizens living within the corrupted vicinity, and can cause an increase in violence and physical threats without as much regulation in the government.
  8. Malnourishment & Hunger
    Currently there are 795 million people who do not have enough to eat. Long-term success to ending world hunger starts with ending poverty. With fighting poverty through proper training for employment, education and the teaching of cooking and gardening skills, people who are suffering will be more likely to get jobs, earn enough money to buy food and even learn how to make their own food to save money.
  9. Substance Abuse
    The United Nations reports that, by the beginning of the 21st century, an estimated 185 million people over the age of 15 were consuming drugs globally. The drugs most commonly used are marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, amphetamine stimulants, opiates and volatile solvents. Different classes of people, both poor and rich, partake in substance abuse, and it is a persistent issue throughout the world. Petitions and projects are in progress to end the global issue of substance abuse.
  10. Terrorism
    Terrorism is an issue throughout the world that causes fear and insecurity, violence and death. Across the globe, terrorists attack innocent people, often without warning. This makes civilians feel defenseless in their everyday lives. Making national security a higher priority is key in combating terrorism, as well as promoting justice in wrongdoings to illustrate the enforcement of the law and the serious punishments for terror crimes.

With so many current global issues that require immediate attention, it is easy to get discouraged. However, the amount of progress that organizations have made in combating these problems is admirable, and the world will continue to improve in the years to come. By staying active in current events, and standing up for the health and safety of all humans, everyone is able to make a difference in changing the fate of our world.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

 

 

SDGs 2030: Will The Governments Of Developing Countries Deliver?Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs in developing countries have been viewed as ambitious. However, more efforts have been invested in the continuous realization of these development goals by international communities, nonprofit organizations, civil societies and, of course, domestic governments.

SDGs and Developing Countries

According to reports, to achieve one of the SDG targets, the “sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” will cost $27 billion per year by 2030 and the infrastructure will cost up to $290 billion. Is this too ambiguous for the national governments in the developing world? Or a pitiable reason to hide from actualizing these goals nationally.

Developing countries have been a major focus of the SDGs. With the idea that ‘no one will be left behind’, the U.N. and its partners have contributed immensely in solving a long list of issues faced by the developing world. Funds have been deposited and used for different projects. Expertise in creating sustainable solutions and commitments are being made to secure a better future. 

SDG Index

The SDG performance by countries is determined by the SDG Index and Dashboard on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest level of performance and 100 is the highest level of performance. Countries like Sweden (84.5), Denmark (83.9), Norway (82.3) and Finland (81) rank high in achieving their SDGs.

Countries such as the Central African Republic (26.1), Liberia (30.5) and Niger (31.4) are not doing as well as the aforementioned countries. Evidently, these countries are some of the poorest in the world. A poor economy can be one of the causes for weak results.

Politics and SDGs in Developing Countries

One of the reasons slowing down the SDGs in developing countries is that development projects are usually abandoned by their governments. This normally happens in rival socio-political settings.

In Africa, most projects funded and managed by previous administrations are eventually stopped or replaced by the ruling administrations due to different political views, political parties or general lack of interest.

Some farmers in Nigeria have criticized the replacement of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme by the former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration with the current president Muhammadu Buhari’s Agricultural Implements and Mechanisation Services (AIMS).

“There is always a policy somersault. This government will bring this one and when another person comes, they will bring another one whether it is good or not.”, said Daniel Okafor, Vice President of Root and Tubers of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN).

The farmers are upset with their government as it continues to create new programs without improving the old ones. More often, the development policies and programs are often aligned with the vision of developmental goals but may lack seriousness due to the ulterior motives.

In developing countries, parties struggle to own power and when they eventually do gain power, eliminating the projects of the previous administration becomes the primary goal.

The lack of bipartisanship in the polity environment brews enough hatred; shutting down any programs related to the opposition party no matter how promising they are.

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the U.N. noted that bipartisanship can promote peace, unity and growth. Political parties should stand for a common goal regardless of their political views and hustle for power. Ideas can be shared and implemented with the help of the other parties.

Bipartisanship will ease congressional processes in changing, debating and making laws that can benefit the realization of SDGs.

Corruption and SDGs in Developing Countries

Corruption can also cause a lot of setbacks. Africa loses $50 billion every year due to corruption. The Sustainable Development Goal 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, covers commitments to fight corruption and encourage transparency.

Corruption impedes national development, hinders economic growth, slows or shutdown developmental programs on education, labor, healthcare, water and sanitation and leads to more poverty.

Recently, the U.K. suspended funding to Zambia after a report that $4.3 million intended for the poor population had gone missing. 17 million people in Zambia, or half of its population, live below $1.90 a day. It is important to find out how much of the monetary aid is really getting lost to corruption and the best method to curb it.

Criminalization of corruption can serve as a major tool in curbing corruption. Ruling parties must not protect corrupt public servants, especially in Africa where previous corrupt officers collude with the ruling parties in order to be shielded from scrutiny and court cases.

Governments must encourage transparency and promote access to national financial data and budget spending.

SDGs and Subnational Conflicts

Another factor that may impede the success of SDGs in developing countries is tribal or subnational conflicts which are still rampant in Africa and Asia.

While Asia experiences economic growth in the midst of subnational conflicts, Africa’s economy has always been affected by violent conflicts due to terrorist groups, tribal wars and minorities unrest.

Poverty will decrease when inequalities between different groups reduce as also when there are inclusive growth and participation of minorities in resource control. Combating unemployment will also lessen the high rate of conflicts in developing countries.

Conclusion

Domestic policies in the areas of trade, human development, agriculture, economy and climate change can reduce poverty and hunger, improve health systems, create resilient methods toward climate shocks and breed peace in societies.

It is for the central, state and local governments to take up these responsibilities to achieve the SDGs in developing countries. Civil Societies and private sectors should also see this as an opportunity to make the world a better place.

It is possible for developing countries to achieve at least 80 percent of their SDGs: it all depends on good governance and passion for humanity.

Photo: Flickr