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Landmines in Tajikistan
Tajikistan, a Central-Asian country bordered by Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, has been fighting poverty and food insecurity for years. As of 2018, 27.4% of the country’s 9.1 million population live in poverty. The landscape is particularly rural, with a majority of the population relying on the agricultural industry for both food and employment. However, the lack of fertilizers and proper machinery makes it difficult for people to care for agricultural land in Tajikistan. In order to help remove farmland overgrowth and landmines in Tajikistan, the U.S. Department of State and Defense intervened.

Landmines in Tajikistan

Currently, Tajikistan possesses a number of landmines on its border with Afghanistan. Russia, which partnered with Tajikistan in defense efforts against Afghanistan about 20 years ago, placed these landmines. Landmines continue to pose a threat to Tajikistan civilians who wish to utilize this land for farming and crops. In addition to the landmines, this land has become overgrown with vegetation and would cost a great sum to restore to its original state. The amount of physical labor would be extensive, and the presence of landmines makes the task prohibitively risky.

To assist with the efforts to clear this land, the U.S. Department of State and Defense used a $1.2 million Foreign Military Financing grant to supply the Tajikistan National Mine Center with a mini-Mine Wolf, a machine that remotely removes a number of explosive devices. In addition to the machine itself, the grant covered the deployment and the training of members of the Tajikistan Ministry of Defense to learn how to properly use the machine. The machine simultaneously cuts down overgrown vegetation and removes landmines from the surface, solving the two major problems with this land at the same time.

Since the machine’s deployment, six acres of land have recovered and irrigation channels have reopened to supply towns near this land with clean water. As poverty and food insecurity exists at higher rates in rural areas, access to clean water and this land for farming will provide food for thousands of families, as well as employment for jobless citizens living along the border.

Global Landmine Removal

While the United States has provided assistance in the removal of explosives and harmful landmines in Tajikistan, it has provided aid to other countries as well. In 2019, the United States Department of State and Defense funded conventional weapon destruction in 18 African countries, and during its active years, the department has funded more than $845 million toward weapon destruction in the Middle East. By freeing these lands of explosives and weapons that pose danger, the U.S. has helped support the economies of numerous countries by giving them access to land to farm and battle food insecurity. Food insecurity and poverty go hand in hand, and by enabling countries to cultivate the land they were able to in the past, these countries will be able to battle the hardships of poverty in years to come.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

How The State Department is Curbing Violent Extremism
In August 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry wrote a chilling letter where he outlined the roots of violent extremism — “Far too many who join the ranks of violent extremist organizations do so because they have trouble finding meaning or opportunity in their daily lives, because they are deeply frustrated and alienated — and because they hope groups, like Boko Haram, will somehow give them a sense of identity, or purpose, or power.”

Extremist groups, however, exist beyond the continent of Africa; it is a problem that concerns the international community as a whole.

The Department of State created the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which classifies extremist groups in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The FTO serves as the beginning U.S. effort to counter violent extremism.

Traditional measures to prevent the spread of violent extremism include the use of American, regional and global military force. Past strategies, however, do not address the systemic causes of extremism — poverty-stricken communities cannot provide basic necessities for its citizens.

Recently, the U.S. recognized the limitations of a force-only approach. Consequently, The White House hosted a summit on countering violent extremists, which collaborated with international organizations and civil society across the world to cultivate a new strategy.

In late May, the Department of State and the United States Agency for Development unveiled the first ever joint strategy to counter violent extremism.

The innovative diplomatic approach calls for a new application of American resources to counter violent extremism. Specifically, strengthening the capabilities of governments; increasing developmental assistance; furthering research on the origins of current extremist movements; and empowering local anti-extremist advocates.

Furthermore, Secretary Kerry expanded on the joint strategy in his article addressing the importance of community-building and countering violent extremism.

The August 2016 article notes the consequences of corruptions, as a primary contributor to violent extremism. Secretary Kerry made an impassioned plea for global leaders to use the 2 million dollars of annual money lost to corruption towards addressing basic human needs.

Providing a compelling alternative to curbing violent extremism and increasing the quality of life in vulnerable communities requires serious dedication among the international community. Americans can no longer consider the humanitarian travesty of the developing world as a far-way problem that does not concern them, because as recent events have demonstrated, failing to counter violent extremism has reached American shores.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Fiscal Year 2017 BudgetOn Feb. 9, President Obama unveiled the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, which will allow the U.S. to lead on global issues. The Budget calls for $50.1 billion to go to the Department of State and USAID foreign assistance programming. The Budget will fund several initiatives, with a key focus on aiding those living in extreme poverty.

Government agency USAID has fostered economic growth and strengthened democratic governance in developing nations. The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget enables USAID to double down on these efforts, as it has lifted millions out of extreme poverty. Nearly $3 billion is requested for health programs, $978 million for food security and ending hunger, $376.3 million is to connect and empower Africa and $2.3 billion is requested to promote democratic societies.

Part of the Budget encourages USAID to prevent, mitigate and respond to global humanitarian crises. In order to provide effective responses to developing areas vulnerable to natural disasters, the Budget requests $3.3 million for food supplies in emergencies and for helping victims hurt from the disasters. An additional $107.6 million is also requested to implement democratic processes and prevent conflict during these times and $352.2 million is requested to respond to issues related to climate change.

USAID is instructed through the Budget to utilize the funds for confronting threats to national security and global stability. President Obama’s Budget specifically calls for a strengthening of reforms in Afghanistan and Pakistan, countering Russian aggression, seizing opportunities to promote stability and peace and addressing root causes of migration from Central America. A sum of $2.7 billion will go toward funding these efforts and will address critical issues such as violent extremism and corrupt government institutions.

Aside from the extreme poverty focus, the Budget also intends to prioritize other various global problems. These plans include leading the coalition that will destroy the Islamic State group, mitigating the crisis in Syria and Iraq, securing overseas diplomatic facilities, strengthening the Young Leaders Initiative – which ensures young leaders in areas across Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America have the skills to be productive adults – and more.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget focuses heavily on increasing global development. Strengthening our interests and relationships abroad protects Americans, prevents international dilemmas and fosters current development progress.

Kerri Whelan

Sources: State.gov 1, State.gov 2, USAID
Photo: International Business Times

10 Ways To Be Involved in Foreign Affairs
Directly from the Department of State Official Blog (yes, they have a blog), here are 10 ways to be involved in foreign affairs – how the average U.S. citizen can engage in international issues:

1. Travel. Nothing is better for understanding the world than travelling in it. Apply for a passport and download the free “Smart Traveler” App.

2. Study abroad. The U.S. Department of State offers programs for U.S. citizens to go abroad for cultural, educational and professional exchanges.  Get truly immersed in another culture – go to exchanges.state.gov to find a program that’s right for you.

3. Host an international student, scholar, or professional. There are a variety of hosting opportunities where you can invite an international visitor to your home for a meal, a place to stay during a week-long training program, or a semester of academic study.

4.  Export. The Dept. of State encourages and supports any business looking to begin or expand their exporting. Find information online to assist and participate in the State Department’s Direct Line Program — a unique opportunity for American businesses to speak directly with U.S. Ambassadors overseas.

5. End hunger. Almost one billion people suffer from chronic hunger, and, astonishingly, more than 3.5 million children die each year from under nutrition. Visit feedthefuture.gov to find out how you can partner with the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative by donating products, services, or resources.

6. Stop wildlife crime. Take the online pledge to learn more about wildlife trafficking, inform others and commit to become a more responsible consumer in order to help save the planet’s wildlife.

7. Fight modern slavery. Twenty-seven million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, or modern slavery. There are many ways you can help stop it; read the full list. 

8. Partner with the Dept. of State. The U.S. Department of State has entered a new era of collaboration and partnership with non-governmental groups. Find out how your organization can promote economic growth and opportunity by investing in the welfare of people around the world.

9. Invest in women and girls worldwide. The Secretary’s International Fund for Women and Girls helps combat violence, improve education and health, and creates economic and political opportunities for women worldwide. Or be a mentor with TechWomen, matching mentors with emerging female technologies in the Middle East and North Africa.

10.  Follow the Dept. of State on social media – and engage. More than 25 million people around the world follow the U.S. Department of State and U.S. diplomatic missions on social media. People are contributing their ideas to a global online conversation; join in!

 – Mary Purcell

Source: Department of State Blog

 

impatient-optimists-blog-bill-gates
These top 10 global poverty blogs are some of the best of the best in addressing the issues, solutions, and concerns surrounding the global battle against extreme poverty.

1. The Borgen Project – Works with US Congressional leaders to improve the USAID response to the global poverty crisis; advocacy to secure crucial poverty-reducing legislation, mobilization and awareness campaigns making poverty a political priority. The blog addresses the impact of poverty from every angle, and highlights innovative and dynamic development successes.

2. The Impatient Optimist – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation blog features the work of the foundation’s grantees, partners, leadership, and staff, as well as other bloggers, to provide commentary and insight on the issues of poverty. Stories and updates from the people working every day to help alleviate poverty, help promote health, and to help every student in the United States realize his or her full potential through education.

3. The Huffington Post – The highly respected news agency developed their Impact blog with reputable contributors from around the world, renowned journalists, stories about celebrities and average people, domestic and global poverty concerns and innovations, and good-news-stories. Type in the search word “poverty” and find a vast archive of videos and articles covering poverty concerns.

4. The World Bank – “Working for a world free of poverty,” this blog is a forum for discussing development issues and provides open access to WB data. Open access to data is a key part of the WB’s commitment to sharing knowledge to improve people’s lives.  The Open Data Initiative believes that “statistics tell the story of people in developing countries, and can play an important part in helping to overcome poverty” – WB’s President, Robert Zoellick.

5. The United Nations Development Programme – Details the UNDP’s 6,000+ development projects and 8,000 outputs in 177 countries and territories worldwide; comprehensive, qualitative and timely information about how aid flows and its results. The blog is also part of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to which UNDP is a signatory, advocating voluntary transparency aimed at making information about aid spending easier to access, understand and use.

6. The U.S. Department of State – Mission: to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world for the benefit of the American people and the international community. Blogs.state.gov offers up to the minute news coverage of U.S. foreign policy information; their blog offers the opportunity for participants to discuss important foreign policy issues with senior Department officials. Blog.usaid.gov shows exactly what America is doing around the world to help reduce poverty and improve development.

7. InterAction – An alliance organization of more than 180 U.S. based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), working around the world. InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader and voice of their member community. Their blog represents the collective mobilization of its members in: international development, humanitarian aid, accountability and policy creation.

8. ONE – Is a global mobilization of over three million people, unifying to fight “the absurdity of extreme poverty.” Co-founder Bono is part of the group’s influential leadership team, joined by other political and humanitarian experts from around the world. Their blog aims to educate and facilitate the general public in direct action for poverty reduction, and subsequent issues resulting from poverty.

9. Oxfam America – “Working together to end poverty and injustice,” Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice and to develop long-term solutions for social change. The international Oxfam confederation works in more than 90 countries, and their blog is a comprehensive look at all political, economic, humanitarian angles of poverty issues.

10. Business Fights Poverty – The world’s largest network of business and development professionals, NGOs and academia all focused on fighting poverty through business. Their blog highlights how business can combat poverty, providing resources, methods and tools for business and thus economic development, showing impact and opportunities.

– Mary Purcell

Photo Source: Impatient Optimist

Hilary-Clinton-Arab-League
The media is constantly overflowing with updates on technological advancements and products, but their emphasis is truly reflective of the most important aspect of our changing world. Technology, as the humanitarian world has seen in the past decade or so, is not just a luxury for consumers in the first world. In fact, perhaps the greatest use of technology has been in developing countries.

Last week, the now-former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a small ceremony for the newest collaborative initiative coming out of the Department of State called “The Open Book Project”. Along with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), MIT, Rice University, and the non-profit Creative Commons, among other educational organizations, The Open Book Project strives to extend open educational resources (OERs) to the Arab world in their native language.

While many countries are familiar with OERs, which allow free access to non-commercial users to legally license material for educational or research purposes, translating American textbooks and materials into Arabic is a huge step towards providing much-needed information in an area that does not have adequate access to the best universities or schools.

Websites such as KhanAcademy.org or Coursera.org are priceless tools for young children and adults alike who want to learn more or further their knowledge. In the Arab world, where education can be limited by wealth, geography or gender, The Open Book Project hopes to break these boundaries. This is much more than a technological program; it can and should be seen as an example of “educational diplomacy”. It is a promising relationship between the United States and the Arab League as they come together on the issue of improving the opportunities for young people around the world.

Ambassador Mohammed Al Hussaini Al Sharif, the Arab League’s envoy to the U.S., sees The Open Book Project as “a huge step forward in the Arab-American relations”. By presenting themselves as supporters of increasing education and access to such resources, not only will the United States be improving its public image but more importantly, it is making huge strides in terms of addressing the many issues surrounding global poverty. Education is the main key to achieving success no matter what country someone lives in. By opening up this portal to documents, textbooks, lectures, research and other types of media, The Open Book Project will help people around the world to become productive and active members within their own communities.

Deena Dulgerian

Source:U.S. Dept. of State,Voice of America