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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

 

Extreme PovertyNot all poverty is created equal. Poverty in a developed country is not the same as poverty in a developing nation. Here are 5 things the U.S. needs to know about extreme poverty.

  1. People who live in extreme poverty are deprived of basic human needs such as access to food, clean water and shelter. To be classified as a person living in extreme poverty, one must be living on or below $1.90 a day.
  2. Extreme poverty in a developing nation is different from poverty in a developed nation. The U.S. is a developed nation. In the U.S., government benefits keep millions of Americans out of poverty. These programs mostly tend to target women, children and the elderly, the nation’s (and the world’s) most vulnerable populations. Due to programs such as Social Security, unemployment benefits and food stamps, these people are shielded from the harsh realities of extreme poverty.
  3. Unfortunately, government benefits tend not to exist in developing countries to aid their poor. In addition, due to fear of corruption, the world’s poorest do not receive as much foreign aid as their better-off peers. Low-income countries remain in poverty due to being too poor to be trusted with funds. An effect of this is that the most defenseless population in the world, children, suffers the consequences. The World Health Organization estimates that about 16,000 children under the age of five die each day from preventable causes associated with extreme poverty. The causes of death are lack of access to clean water, lack of access to healthcare, malaria, newborn infections, poor nutrition and diarrhea. Death from these ails is unfathomable in developed countries.
  4. An estimated 766,010,000 people live in extreme poverty today. This is double the size of the U.S.’s population
  5. The number of people in extreme poverty is declining. In 1990, there were 1.1 billion people living in extreme poverty. Today the number is 766 million. This is an amazing feat that can be attributed to a combination of factors such as trade between developed nations and developing nations, foreign aid that reinvigorated economies, increased education, improved infrastructures and investment in basic health.

As with most things in life, poverty cannot be viewed through a single lens. It is a complex social issue, but gains over the past few decades have shown that it is a solvable issue. With continued foreign aid and trade, the world can get that much closer to realizing the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Why is Papua New Guinea Poor?
Papua New Guinea, the name given to a group of islands situated in the southwest Pacific ocean, has experienced tremendous economic growth since its days of being an Australian colony, and has gone on to hold elections involving the indigenous population. Despite this, however, many people on the island still experience extremes of poverty. 80 percent of Papua New Guinea’s people live in rural communities with little to no modern conveniences, and 39.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. So, why is Papua New Guinea poor, despite economic growth? Here’s a brief look at some of the reasons behind this.

 

Why is Papua New Guinea Poor? 3 Simple Reasons

 

Income inequality
In 1996, the Gini index rated Papua New Guinea’s income inequality as 55.43 on its scale from 0-1, with 0 being perfectly equal (for comparison, the U.S. was rated around 45 on the scale in 2007). The evidence would seem to suggest that this inequality is due to the failure of economic growth to keep up with population growth, but could also have been caused by structural adjustment policies that came about along with rapid economic growth. Whatever the reason, it is clear that income equality has led to much greater poverty within Papua New Guinea. The good news is that this inequality has gone down significantly since the 1990s: In 2009, Papua New Guinea scored a 43.88 on the Gini scale.

Lack of long-term planning
Many citizens are critical of the fact that the government of Papua New Guinea has had little to no plan in place to modernize the country, which would include steps like building permanent houses, supplying water and sanitation and building infrastructure. The government, instead, acts reactively, creating short-term solutions only when it is absolutely necessary. For example, in 2002, Papua New Guinea faced an incredibly violent and chaotic election, but it was not until 2004 that police were deployed to fight this rampant violence. This lack of planning makes it difficult for real progress to be made in terms of poverty.

Corruption
Why is Papua New Guinea poor? Perhaps the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s continuing poverty problem is the fact that so many government officials, in charge of funds that could help, have historically chosen to pocket the money instead. Michael Somare, prime minister of Papua New Guinea from 1975 to 2011, faced charges of political misconduct and misappropriation of funds spanning over 20 years, while in 2014, Paul Tiensten, former senior minister and later MP, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for misappropriating over $1 million. Somare’s replacement as prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has also been accused of political misconduct involving a loan of $1.3 billion.

So, why is Papua New Guinea poor? In short, because of income inequality, aggravated by years of poor planning and corruption by the government. To correct this problem, new measures will need to be taken to outline and enforce government oversight and the proper use of government funds. Thankfully, awareness has risen about these issues over the past few years. During the last election, many people in Papua New Guinea protested and called for Peter O’Neill to resign after more corruption allegations were brought to light. And while O’Neill still won re-election, the fact that these protests exist shows that the citizens of Papua New Guinea are beginning to demand more from their politicians, hopefully a first step in strengthening the government and using it to enact real change.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in KazakhstanThe Republic of Kazakhstan faces many medical and environmental challenges; however, human rights violations and failure to adhere to the rule of law are also significant problems. Kazakhstan secured independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and subsequent major investments in the oil sector brought large gains economically with sustained growth. This is primarily attributed to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was reelected after the Soviet break-up and elected again four more times. The economic growth that he spurred has solidified his popularity, but he allows no challenges to his power.

In examining how to assist the people of Kazakhstan, attention should be given to the organizations that monitor and assist human rights in the Central Asian nation. So, what can be done to help the people of Kazakhstan?

USAID is a U.S. government agency that is working in Kazakhstan monitoring human rights. Soon after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and USAID partnered together to work toward creating and implementing laws, regulations and infrastructure vital for capital markets. Part of USAID’s focus in helping the people of Kazakhstan is creating programs that “address the limited media activity and low civic participation.” They also work closely with the government to further democratic reforms.

USAID maintains that the corruption in Kazakhstan is a continuing problem. The nation’s executive branch maintains a large portion of control with little allowance to the media, political institutions, civil society or the judiciary system. Dividing power more equally is pivotal in allowing Kazakhstan to flourish, and USAID programs serve to help Kazakhs create a democratic culture. USAID states this is accomplished by “supporting civil society, increasing access to information, strengthening citizen initiative groups, promoting an independent judiciary and encouraging the protection of human rights.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, in a March 2016 resolution, the European Parliament called on Kazakhstan for the cessation of harassing journalists. The U.N. Human Rights Committee called on the Kazakhstan government to redouble efforts regarding violence against women, eradication of torture, guarantees of liberty and security and protection of an independent judiciary. In October 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan expressed concerns about the convictions and sentencing of two journalists in a rare statement regarding media freedom.

The Executive Summary of the Kazakhstan 2016 Human Rights Report by the U.S. State Department noted the same human rights problems as the Human Rights Watch. In addition, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights observed that the last presidential election was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.

In order to help the people of Kazakhstan, support of these organizations and ongoing communications with congressional leaders is necessary. For the benefit of all Kazakhstan citizens, continued vigilance must be maintained.

Michael Carmack

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid

Foreign aid is a topic that stirs controversy, with each side maintaining significant weight in their argument.

“You know the excuses: We can’t afford foreign aid anymore, or we’re wasting money pouring it into these poor countries, or we can’t buy friends—other countries just take the money and dislike us for giving it. Well, all these excuses are just that, excuses—and they’re dead wrong,” Ronald Reagan said in 1987.

The United States’ stance on foreign aid changes with each administration. The phrase, “you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t” comes to mind.

Foreign aid has been categorized as “soft power” since the late 1980s. “Soft power” is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. Joseph Nye coined the phrase, arguing that security relies on winning people as much as winning wars.

Since the 1980s, soft power has become central in U.S. foreign policy practices. Is foreign aid a tool in the soft power toolbox?

Nye believes aid is purchasing power, not soft power. Despite the nuances of whether aid is categorized as purchasing power or soft power, foreign aid is important for the United States to achieve interests abroad.

According to Phil Vernon, “currency of soft power is values, institutions, culture and policy, then soft power is exercised by the choices you make and the actions you take, not by what you say.” If this is true, aid should be accompanied by anti-corruption monitoring organizations, tools of economic sustainability and keys of independence. The goal is not to have a country depending on the United States, but to provide the tools for a state to become independent.

If the United States does not ensure and monitor the aid given, corruption will prevent the money from reaching the population in need. Monitoring programs are even more vital than aid itself. Corruption is the kryptonite to foreign aid.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the more corrupt the government is, the more aid the state receives. There is no evidence that an increase in foreign aid reduces corruption.

Currently, corruption is not being punished. This lack of acknowledgment is only encouraging governments to abuse international funds. If corruption is reflected in next year’s funding, people will suffer. If the population suffers on the government’s behalf, this is motivation for the population to vote in order to correct the situation. Thus, reducing corruption will be imminent.

Despite the controversies and arguments surrounding international aid, it is important to remember that giving aid to corrupt governments is not giving aid to the people. Corrupt governments must be punished in some way in order to reduce international corruption. Corruption is the kryptonite to U.S. foreign policy success. U.S. interests must be maintained, and aid is a tool in the toolbox for doing just that.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Guinea-Bissau
While the nation does possess legitimate political rights, including free and fair elections, lack of human rights in Guinea-Bissau continues to make victims out of its citizens. As of 2016, these included abuses such as corruption of government officials as well as violence and discrimination of women and children.

The list continues on, according to the U.S. Department of State. Other abuses included unfair and abusive treatment of detainees, lack of due process and human trafficking. No effective action was taken against the perpetrators of human rights in these situations.

In particular, prisoner detention stands out as one of the most grotesque human rights abuses. The conditions of detention facilities are life-threatening, according to the state departments.

“Cells lack running water, adequate heating, ventilation, lighting and sanitation. Detainees’ diets were poor and medical care was virtually non-existent,” stated the human rights report in 2016. The means by which detainees arrive in these deplorable conditions often violates another human right, lack of due process, as authorities often “arbitrarily” arrest and detain people.

Police are, for the most part, ineffective and corrupt, which might result be a result of their lack of regular payment by the state. Lack of funding results in insufficient of training as well as scarce resources for police to carry out their duties properly. Unfortunately, almost all levels of law enforcement are susceptible to coercion, threats and bribes, including the attorney general’s office.

Consequently, unlawful arrests continue to be made, violating human rights in Guinea-Bissau. These include arrests without warrants and the holding of detainees for longer than the permitted period of time. Additionally, military detainees were often not informed of charges against them.

To add to the human rights abuses conducted throughout the justice system, the independent courts, including judges, were “poorly trained, inadequately and irregularly paid and subject to corruption.”

It appears that those accused of suspected of crime in the state have very little security, as human rights in Guinea-Bissau are not enforced. Furthermore, there continues to be no administrative means of addressing human rights violations.

Little progress had been made in improving these conditions, and the justice system remains extremely weak to this day. One of the only few actions of accountability undertaken by the state was in July 2015 in the Oio region, where three officers were sentenced to imprisonment for human rights abuses.

Investigations continue to be made by human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International. The citizens of Guinea-Bissau are desperately in need of intervention from the international community.

Melanie Snyder

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a small country in Oceania, just north of Australia. While PNG has enjoyed the benefits of economic improvement due to extractive industries, more than 40 percent of its population of six million live in poverty. Across government corruption, abuse of female rights, inhumane conditions for asylum seekers, police brutality, lack of minority rights and prosecution for sexual orientation and gender identity, the state of human rights in Papua New Guinea is severely lacking.

Police abuse is rampant in PNG, and, between 2007 and 2014, a total of 1,600 complaints regarding police brutality were logged by the Internal Affairs Directorate. The government has yet to release how many of these cases resulted in judicial proceedings. Since 2014, the Anti-Corruption Directorate has held a warrant for the arrest of Prime Minister O’Neill, but in April 2016 the Supreme Court dismissed the suit. As a direct result, in June 2016, police forces shot at University of Papua New Guinea students for peacefully protesting government corruption. Over thirty people were injured.

The United Nations has not overlooked such violations of human rights in Papua New Guinea. In May 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a 687-page World Report. The report was critical of PNG’s government and its authoritarian actions.

Police aggression and abuse have also reportedly been highly gendered, with PNG remaining one of the worst in the world for its rates of family and sexual violence. A study conducted by The Lancet in 2013 reported that 41 percent of people on Bougainville Island admitted to raping a non-partner. This statistic neither includes other parts of PNG nor accounts for marital rape. The normalization of these actions has prevented aggressive prosecution of perpetrators or prosecution of these men by police and judiciaries. In fact, the Human Rights Watch notes that police demand “fuel money” from victims before considering their cases any further.

The government has failed to rally legislative or judicial action against gender-based corruption and coercion, and much of it is deeply ingrained in the different cultures of PNG. Historically, violent groups of people have attacked individuals and families for alleged acts of witchcraft. The normalization of severely violating human rights in Papua New Guinea requires serious action but proves difficult because of cultural complexities.

Undoubtedly, there is no simple solution in breaking cultural and national norms. The nuanced approach towards fighting against governmental corruption and gender-based violence, among many other human rights issues, requires federal and community-level strategies.

Sydney Nam

Photo: Flickr

Corruption in TunisiaIn 2010, a 26-year-old fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in the rural Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid while protesting a corrupt and undemocratic government. In the proceeding months, popular protests spread like wildfire from the inland region of Tunisia to the coastal capital, and on to Egypt and Syria.

Since then, the country has held its first successful democratic elections. Still, corruption in Tunisia has not subsided. This development has been cynically dubbed the “democratization of corruption.”

The most pernicious form of corruption in Tunisia can be found in the credit industry. In recent years, the government has received between $2 billion and $4 billion worth of foreign loans, which officials then allocate to private banks – usually those with close clientele relationships with the government.

Moving down the line, nepotism also decides which private companies can acquire credit from banks. More often than not, investments end up in the major coastal cities, leaving almost four million rural Tunisians – 35 percent of the population – working and living in only 15 percent of the total Tunisian economy.

Last May, a “Second Revolution” erupted outside Tataouine, a rural city in the south, protesting corruption in Tunisia. Demonstrations called for increased regional investments and jobs and demanded that one local oil company in particular implement employment quotas for Tunisian nationals.

In tandem with the democratization, a number of anti-corruption agencies like the National Authority for the Fight Against Corruption (INLUCC) have been created. In an ironic twist of fate, the current government used the widespread anti-corruption sentiment to accuse recent protesters of colluding with smugglers and violent extremists.

While much of the called-for investments in inland Tunisia may, no doubt, end up in the hands of corrupt officials and businesspeople – just as it does in coastal cities – capital flows will nevertheless begin to amend regional economic disparities and prevent future conflict. Indeed, the World Bank notes that rather than improving since the 2011 revolution, the economic divide between the inland and costal regions has grown more severe.

To fix these problems, the International Crisis Group recommends encouraging the Tunisian government to give more funding to the INLUCC and facilitate an economic dialogue between regional elites. Until corruption in Tunisia is brought to an end, foreign loans will continue to merely stimulate certain segments of the Tunisian economy and exacerbate regional tensions.

Nathaniel Sher
Photo: Flickr

Social Media and Poverty ReductionThe U.N. first asked “how can the international community best harness the power of media…to educate and transform?” in a 2017 conference. Although this requires a complicated answer, social media and poverty reduction can be connected by harnessing the power of information to foster development in a technologically advancing world.

The link is clear: the U.N. recognizes that there are many “opportunities for the media to play a strategic role for eradicating poverty.” This rests on the media’s ability to inform the public about poverty, in many cases by disseminating information through the voices of who have truly experienced it. This provides “an inclusive platform and an open forum to share the views and concerns of people living in vulnerable situations.”

 

Media and Poverty Reduction: Syrian Civil War

 

But what does this look like firsthand? When a video of a young Syrian boy named Omran Daqneesh covered in rubble surfaced in 2016, millions of people disseminated the video through their social media channels hours after its publication. The New York Times called the video “an image of civil war,” as for many it humanized the violent events taking place far from home.

Sharing these shocking images can spur quick action. A different image, that of Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned while leaving Syria for Greece, gained similar attention. Sharing it via social media had real outcomes: MercyCorps garnered $2.3 million for Syrian refugees in one month, compared to the $4.5 million raised in four years before.

The information-sharing that took place with these images spurred discussions about poverty and war on social media. In many cases, the power in information-sharing means that “the media can play a major role in developing public understanding of economic, social, and environmental issues: the three pillars of sustainable development,” according to the U.N.

 

Governments Utilize Connection Between Media and Poverty Reduction

 

Many organizations and governments are harnessing the power in social media and poverty reduction. Rwandan health minister Agnes Binagwaho provides an example with #Ministermondays. Every other Monday, Binagwaho opens a discussion via Twitter for people to voice their concerns about health in the country. Listening to real voices, she is able to craft policies using the experiences she absorbs through social media.

Others are doing similar work. An online social media platform called Digital Green provides farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia a network to discuss best practices for farming. Similarly, the World Bank Finances app ensures that sustainable development initiatives put funding into the correct hands, preventing fraud via social media.

Unlike other media sources, social media gives a voice to those who have lived in poverty by creating public platforms to spread experience. In this way, the media “affords individuals and communities the possibility to become active in the development process” by using social media platforms as safe spaces for discussion, according to the University of Namibia. Over time, this is generating “long-term suitability and sustainability” for poverty reduction.

Social media and poverty reduction works for other forms of development. Success for the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals largely rests on the power of the media, according to the U.N., based on its ability to instigate change with credible information sharing. And media hides other tools for poverty eradication; the University of Namibia explains that it also “creates a platform for non-violent discussion and issue resolution” to prevent conflict.

Social media and poverty reduction can be linked through holding guilty parties accountable for their actions. An established social media source known as I Paid a Bribe is doing just this; it creates a space to safely expose corruption in developing countries by text or email. Stories are shared without fear of retaliation, exposing illegal actions and fighting corruption.

 

Media and Poverty Reduction: Shortcomings

 

Even so, media does not always work in favor of poverty reduction; many argue that poverty is often given little coverage time via traditional media sources. For example, a study of three prominent U.S. nightly news sources found that in 14 months, an average of only 2.7 seconds in every 22-minute program mentioned poverty. And not all people are able to access social media channels; ending the digital divide that leaves four billion people without internet can harness the power of social media to share stories for reducing poverty.

In some cases, “the knowledge and experiences of people living in poverty are often undervalued” in the media, and “solutions to their own problems are ignored.” This can improperly portray real world experiences. Giving little recognition to those who have lived in poverty, according to the U.N., ultimately plays a role in distorting public perception and negatively influencing policies about poverty reduction.

Despite barriers, the U.N. explains that “the time has come for all policy actors to recognize and support the vital contribution of the media” in reducing poverty. Developing the tools that social media provides to reduce poverty, when done effectively, is gaining traction for development today.

And although Omran Daqneesh’s video alone can not end a civil war, his impact is igniting progress for sustainable development. In a world like today, change stems from diverse voices, making way for progress that was impossible only decades ago.

Cleo Krejci

Photo: Flickr