Posts

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Global ActivismPrince Harry and Meghan Markle, England’s Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are frequently in the news for their stance against paparazzi and their decision to step back from the British Royal Family in early 2020. But behind the scenes, this famous couple advocates for various matters. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism expands beyond their home countries of the United States and the United Kingdom. They are frequent vocal supporters of global poverty issues, particularly those that affect children.

Meghan Markle’s Activism Before Becoming the Duchess of Sussex

Prior to her marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, Meghan Markle was an outspoken advocate of gender equality in developing countries. She became a U.N. Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership in 2015. The following year, Markle traveled to Rwanda and India as an ambassador for World Vision. World Vision is an organization that fights global poverty in children. The experience inspired her to write an op-ed in Time magazine about the effect stigma around menstruation can have on a girl’s future.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Activism

When she married Prince Harry and became a member of the royal family, Markle stepped down from these roles. However, this does not mean she stopped being a voice for those in need. Now, Harry and Meghan’s activism has launched programs and supported charities around the globe that fight to eradicate global poverty. Additionally, they inspire fans of the royals to become advocates themselves.

Their Trips and Projects in Africa

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, along with their young son Archie, took a 10-day tour of Africa. They visited South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Malawi in late September and early October of 2019. While there, the couple announced a variety of projects, including protecting forests, investing in technology and ridding the land of dangerous landmines. The Duchess of Sussex additionally announced grants and scholarships from the Association of Commonwealth Universities. This is an international organization that supports higher education and supports African girls in their journey to university and beyond.

During this same trip, Harry and Meghan met with members of the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) Association. CAMFED is a group of women advocating for girls’ education and global poverty issues throughout Africa. The royal couple used their platform to support these women. In addition, they shared their work with their 10 million Instagram followers.

Activism Work on Social Media

This was not the first time that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism could be seen on their social media accounts. In August of 2019, the official Instagram account for the pair, @sussexroyal, began a series entitled ‘Forces for Change.’ They highlighted 15 organizations that they found inspiring or noteworthy. These organizations include Children International and Plan International United Kingdom. These two groups care and advocate for children living under the poverty line around the world. The simple act of sharing these organizations online spread awareness of the fight against global poverty. It also prompted followers of the Duke and Duchess to support these incredibly important causes.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s global activism continues to inspire their followers and motivates them to take action just as the couple has done time and time again. In April of 2019, weeks before the birth of baby Archie, thousands of fans of the royal family donated to Meghan Markle’s favorite charities as a baby shower gift in what’s now known as the ‘Global Sussex Baby Shower.’ One of these charities is the aforementioned CAMFED. Additionally, this money directly supported global poverty and girls’ education initiatives in Africa.

In April of 2020, the couple announced their new non-profit: Archewell. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled their plans to launch the organization. Once it launches, we can be sure that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will continue the global activism that has defined their two years as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Agenda 2063The Organization of African Unity (OAU) officially disbanded on July 9, 2002. OAU accomplished its primary goal after nearly 40 years: independence. Nearly every former European colony on the African continent had gained its sovereignty in the decades following the end of the Second World War. The replacement for the OAU came in the form of the African Union (AU). It is a new continental organization born to continue and expand on the work of the OAU. In addition, the AU created Agenda 2063 as a part of the 50th anniversary of the OAU.

The African Union

The African Union is a sort of ‘United Nations’, exclusive to the African continent. Consisting of 55 member states with its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU was founded on the basis of Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism is the ideal of collaboration and unity among all people of African descent, whether they live on the continent or not.

The AU came into being at a time of great change in the world order. African leaders found themselves struggling to keep up with current affairs and often react rather than govern. The various heads of state of the members of the AU ultimately decided that they needed a plan to make Africa the global player they believed it truly could be. As a result, they created Agenda 2063.

Agenda 2063

The goals of Agenda 2063 are to transform the nations of the continent into democratic, peaceful and innovative powerhouses that will aim to be global players in the next 50 years. Included in Agenda 2063 are what are known as the Seven Aspirations. These objectives encompass all the goals of Agenda 2063 and are crucial to the success of the agenda. The aspirations are as follows:

  1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  2. An integrated continent politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of African Renaissance
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  4. A peaceful and secure Africa
  5. Africa with a strong cultural identity common heritage, values and ethics
  6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential offered by the African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children
  7. An Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner

Each of the Seven Aspirations makes up a key to Africa’s future on the world stage, particularly at its inception in 2013. Seven years on, each of Africa’s five regions is still working towards completing all of the aspirations. Some regions have had more success with some aspirations than others. However, it is important to note how much progress has been made and how much more there is to go.

Southern Africa

Southern Africa has made significant progress in Aspirations one, two and four. Protected fresh waters sites have become widely available across the region. Internet access has increased by over 200% since the Agenda was introduced. Additionally, all Southern African states have established stable peace and security councils in their respective governments. Good progress has been made in these areas. However, Southern Africa has not devoted as many resources to advancing in Aspiration five, which is crucial to an educated and culturally strong Africa.

East Africa

In East Africa, notable progress has been made under Aspirations four and six. Similar to Southern Africa, East Africa established responsive security councils across the region. This contributed to a drastic decrease in armed conflicts in the coastal areas, where piracy had been a major issue for years. Furthermore, the number of women with access to sexual health and reproductive services has seen a large increase since 2013. Despite this, Aspiration three has not seen much progress. Several states have not been able to establish heavily influential governmental institutions to get a handle on, for example, human rights issues.

West Africa

West Africa has seen substantial advancement in Aspiration two and four since the inception of Agenda 2063. The tourism industry in West Africa has seen substantial growth over the last seven years, as have fishery industries in the coastal nations. Regional access to electricity saw its highest increase in 2019. With these successes, progress has stalled in other areas, particularly in Aspiration three and five. In a region that has great agricultural potential, reports have noted that attempts to revitalize this industry have failed to meet set targets in 2019.

Central Africa

Of the five regions, Central Africa has seen the lowest amount of progress across the Seven Aspirations. The only tenet where some significant headway has been made is Aspiration two. Similarly to West Africa, many more families have access to electricity as well as the internet. Little to no progress has been made in most of the other objectives, particularly in Aspiration six and seven. This is due in part to low enrollment in primary and secondary education across the region.

North Africa

In North Africa, serious progress has been in Aspirations two and four. Notably, the number of malnourished children under the age of 5 in the region has been reduced by 97% since introducing the Agenda. In addition, the rates of malaria and tuberculosis have seen a remarkable decline, exceeding their 2019 target. However, more progress is needed in Aspiration five and six. The number of women facing violence and discrimination in the region has not seen the decreases projected in 2019.

Overall, the progress on Agenda 2063 across the continent has been focused primarily on governmental destabilization, defense and security in each of the five regions. Most states have set up individual security councils and work with one another to preserve peace and settle conflicts. On the other hand, the areas of the Agenda that have seen the least amount of progress include human rights, democracy and education in Africa’s rich culture and heritage. Individual states have held back resources that could be spent on educating their youth and preparing them for the future. This can make the continent more secure in terms of security and defense. While there is still undoubtedly a long way to go before Agenda 2063 is achieved, the progress made in the last seven years is noteworthy.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Flickr

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan‘s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan‘s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a small nation located in Oceania, a region near the South Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago nation made up of approximately 80 islands and is best known for its touristy capital, Port Vila. Much like many developing nations, issues are living conditions are not black and white. Instead, they are rife with complexity and nuance. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu

  1. First on the list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu is that it is comprised of more than 80 islands, many being volcanic islands, covering more than 1,300 kilometers.  Vanuatu’s population is estimated to be 299,882 people. Most of the islands are not close in proximity, and dangerous waters and unpredictable weather make travel between the islands difficult. This creates problems with securing access to vital places, such as hospitals, especially for people who do not live in Port Vila. Vanuatu’s vast geography also hinders government delivery services because access to the smaller islands is limited. Remote villages are the primary standard of living as citizens have discovered the best habitable locations and resources in this volcanic nation.
  2. Homes on the islands of Vanuatu are primarily made of branches, grass and leaves woven together to provide good protection from frequent heavy rains, but they can be unstable in more severe weather conditions.  Certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, can cause these homes to be stripped away completely. This especially became clear after Cyclone Pam hit the Vanuatu islands in 2015. 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings were destroyed, including many homes.  Many people were left homeless after this natural disaster hit. Many of the islands are still in the process of rebuilding after the effects of Cyclone Pam.
  3. The economy is agriculture-based.  Therefore, most citizens of Vanuatu earn their living through means such as small scale farming. Agriculture is Vanuatu’s biggest industry, and 75 percent of its population depends on it for a living.  The domestic sales of agricultural products are not as strong as exportation sales. When Cyclone Pam hit the region in 2015, approximately 64.1 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP was heavily impacted since most of its crops were damaged or destroyed from the cyclone.
  4. The beef industry is one of the most popular and profitable industries in Vanuatu.   In fact, Vanuatu is the only Pacific country capable of exporting beef. The GDP percentage of animals is only six percent.  While beef is not the main meat consumption product in Vanuatu; pork is, it is the most well-known and lucrative agricultural item exported from the small country.
  5. Since rainwater and freshwater sources are the basis of survival on these islands, the nation makes maintaining reliable and clean water a priority. However, clean water is not always easy to access. For example, Tanna is one of the most inhabited islands of Vanuatu, but it has trouble getting and sustaining clean water. Recently, a pilot project was developed that converts sunlight, air and rainwater into freshwater that is drinkable. ADB and Zero Mass Water created and implemented the solution by installing 20 solar panels with safe drinking-water technology.  Each solar panel provides three to five liters for a total of approximately 100 liters of clean water each day. Vanuatu citizens with no direct access to a clean water supply system are being aided by the implementation of this project.
  6. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu hard. Eleven people were killed, and the cyclone caused major damage to homes and facilities such as hospitals, schools, etc. The damage caused by this cyclone showed Vanuatu’s fragility when it comes to natural disasters. Multiple aid agencies, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were quick to donate money to Vanuatu in order to help them recover from the destruction. Since then, Vanuatu has continued to receive disaster aid funds.
  7. Australia is a major economic partner of Vanuatu and has recently donated around $66.2 million for developmental assistance. With Australia as it’s biggest financial partner, Vanuatu has become more financially stable. Australia also provides plenty of tourism (which is one of Vanuatu’s biggest markets). In addition, in 2016, Australia committed to a support program to help the residents of Vanuatu handle issues associated with climate change. Australia pledged 300 million dollars over four years to the Pacific region to respond to and prepare for natural disasters and climate change.
  8. The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster has recently launched an initiative that aims to give Vanuatu 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This plan is known as the Nationally Determined Contribution. Vanuatu is hoping that this initiative will be the first step in mitigating climate change within its own land.
  9. Education faces limitations in Vanuatu because schooling is not mandatory.  Only 60 percent of children graduate to secondary school. School is taught in either English or French. The literacy rate is only 64 percent, but most of the literate citizens are under age 35. In remote island locales, schools can be temporary structures built from wood and leaves and are affected by storms and weather conditions. Since education has not experienced major improvements, organizations such as the Vanuatu Education Support Program was created in 2012 to better the education system. It aims to provide support for the Ministry of Education and Training’s corporate plan and the Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy. One of the solutions includes “improving literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 3.”
  10. The health care system in the Vanuatu islands suffers from a lack of facilities and qualified staff.  There are five public hospitals and one private hospital for the 80 plus islands. Two are on the modernized islands of Port Vila and Luganville. The doctor to patient ratio is 8/10,000. If someone is in dire condition, they often are flown to other countries such as Australia or New Zealand which can make an emergency situation more complicated and dangerous.  All pharmaceuticals are imported from other countries.

This concludes the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu. This archipelagic nation is very independent and allows its citizens to choose how they want to live, but, due to the structure of a nation of small islands, this way of life comes with setbacks.  The citizens of Vanuatu have seen some small improvements in their way of life, and with the positive aspects of this country, improvements can continue with the right steps.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

 

East African FederationA proposed federation between Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda seeks to establish a single currency, political unity, modern infrastructure, improved trade relations and ensured peace. In the 1960s, when many of the above countries won their independence, a political federation was first proposed. Today, all six countries are members of the East African Community (EAC), which started in 1999 as a less ambitious form of unity. The East African Federation remains mostly an idea; however, leaders in all six countries are now working together to see the idea come to fruition.

Where it Stands

The countries began drafting a unified constitution in 2018, which would render each member’s individual constitution subordinate to that of the East African Federation. They have set the deadline for its completion to 2021. The EAC has already neared completion of a monetary union, likely being something akin to the European Union’s euro. The euro has allowed for the free movement of capital, stimulating trade activity between member states. Additionally, all six countries are planning to hold a referendum with their own citizens in order to gauge support.

Ambitions

The countries’ leaders say that a federation will lead to economic development and greater African sovereignty. The advantages of the East African Federation include linkages of infrastructure, which will allow four of the landlocked members to have access to the trading ports of Kenya and Tanzania. Further, the East African Federation, due to its enormity, will have more influence in international diplomacy, and its governmental institutions will become more robust through information sharing.

Limitations

When integration efforts were attempted in the past, they became derailed by individual national interests and existing tensions. While the East African Federation attempts to overcome these tensions, some doubt its ability to do so. Critics point to trade disputes between Rwanda and Uganda and military rivalries between Tanzania and Rwanda as prominent examples for why unity will remain unaccomplished.

The Promise

East Africa’s economy is the fastest-growing on the continent; GDP increased by 5.7 percent in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 5.9 percent in 2019. According to the World Bank’s most recent data, the average poverty rate for the 6 countries is 49.6 percent. Kenya has the lowest rate with 36.8 percent, and Burundi has the highest with 71.8 percent. The East African Federation promises to improve cooperation methods and increase economic potential, yielding greater growth, quicker development and lasting stability for the region.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF
UNICEF is an organization which assists children in over 190 countries. The organization focuses on saving the lives of children, defending children’s rights, and helping them fulfill their potential as individuals. Founded in December of 1946 in an effort by the United Nations to support children in post-war Europe and China, UNICEF has been active ever since.

Here are the top 10 facts about UNICEF and how their impact has been felt around the world.

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF

  1. UNICEF is an organization which helps children receive necessary vaccinations. The organization gathers vaccines for 40 percent of children globally. Annually, this amounts to roughly three billion doses of vaccines.
  2. Globally, UNICEF is the largest buyer of mosquito nets which can be used to protect children from harmful insect bites. Malaria is an example of a disease which can be preventable through the use of a mosquito net. In 2006, UNICEF purchased 25 million of these mosquito nets.
  3. In 2006, UNICEF procured 10 million-plus malaria treatments. ACT, which stands for pyronaridine- artesunate, is a form of therapy which has been shown to be just as effective as other drugs for treating Malaria. The WHO recommended that this type be used to treat P. falciparum malaria.
  4. UNICEF embraces a wide variety of social issues. Among these are the protection of children, girls education, HIV/AIDS, immunization, malaria, nutrition, South Sudan child soldiers, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).
  5. In April of 2005, UNICEF released a publication which documented the organization’s work between 1995-2005. Titled ‘A Pivotal Decade’ the publication covered the 10-year span during which UNICEF helped ensure that millions of children survive who could have been lost. The publication explores how UNICEF is well-equipped to handle its main goal; striving to give each and every child a better future.
  6. According to UNICEF, human trafficking has been reported in all 50 US states. The highest rates have been reported in CA, FL, NY, OH, and TX. These are the statistics reported by UNICEF in one of their fast facts publications.
  7. UNICEF’s overarching goal is to achieve worldwide equality. Especially in the lives of children afflicted by illness, hunger, or war, who cannot attend school and receive a proper education as a result. There are also instances where children are prohibited from attending school. Specifically in the lives of young girls, which UNICEF works hard to support.
  8. Vaccines for diseases such as polio and typhus cost one dollar or less per 1 (unsure of currency) per vaccination. Despite the price, many still cannot afford these vaccines which prevent dangerous, if not deadly, diseases. UNICEF gives out free vaccinations to one in three children worldwide.
  9. When first launching in 1946, UNICEF concentrated primarily on supplying food, clothes, and medicine to young children and mothers in post-war Europe, China, and Palestine. Beginning in the early ’50’s, UNICEF sought to create more long-term goals for developing countries. As a result of these efforts, UNICEF constructed health stations in third world countries and began starting projects to ensure children and adolescents attend school.
  10. UNICEF’s long-running history of seeking to make the world a better place has resulted in them putting vast amounts of money towards public health efforts. The organization reportedly sets aside 80 percent of its funds towards public health initiatives.

Since their launch 73 years ago, UNICEF has become one of the most well-known and renowned organizations dedicated to public health and the well-being of children. These top 10 facts about UNICEF are just a few of this organization’s incredible accomplishments. Striving to make the world a better place since December of 1946, UNICEF shows no sign of slowing down.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr

zero extreme poverty
The Philippines ranks on the top twelve list of the most populous countries in the world. Yet, in 2015, the number of Filipinos living under the poverty line made up over 21 percent of an already large 100 million people. While this rate indicates improvement, in 2006 the rate was 5 percent higher, NGO leaders such as Armin Luistro and Reynaldo Laguda knew that more could be done.

Specifically, operational changes for NGOs Philippine Business for Social Progress (BSFP), Habitat for Humanity Philippines and Peace and Equity Foundation had to be made. These NGOs rolled out plans dedicated to special and long-term interventions that targeted extremely impoverished Filipino families. The focus of these plans centered on rural fishing and agriculture communities, as well as marginalized indigenous peoples.

The Zero Extreme Poverty Goal

In 2015, 17 NGOs unified to form The Philippines’ Zero Extreme Poverty Goal (ZEP PH 2030). Together, they strive to lift at least one million Filipino families from extreme poverty by the year 2030. This is the year that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are due which adds momentum to the cause.

Beginning as a coalition of a handful of NGOs, ZEP now houses corporations who wish to join the Filipino fight against poverty. Indeed, ZEP prides itself in maintaining a diverse team made up of groups with unique strengths. Different members and partners of the coalition are organized into eight different clusters. They are as follows:

Various Programs

  1. Education seeks to ensure that youth have access to education and employment opportunities. ZEP aims to ensure that two million youth are employed by 2030.
  2. Health supports the health of Filipinos in impoverished communities. The program conducts awareness campaigns on maternal, child health and nutrition in target areas to promote health policy advocacy.
  3. Livelihood is led by the Peace and Equity Foundation within ZEP, and with fellow committee members, ensures the coalition’s ability to provide assistance to the extremely poor.
  4. Environment works to maintain and improve upon ecosystem services within The Philippines in order to sustain healthy communities. They aim to guarantee a number of benefits to the country, like a 10 percent increase in agricultural areas by 2028.
  5. Agriculture and Fisheries seeks to bring complete self-sufficiency to small fisheries and farms by 2030, through initiatives such as market empowerment and accessible support services.
  6. Housing and Shelter provides safe and sufficient homes with basic facilities to extremely impoverished families. Involved organizations within the cluster, including Habitat for Humanity, also work with local governments to implement social housing programs and projects.
  7. Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples helps build self-sustaining indigenous peoples communities, whether it be through advocacy means or by establishing community-based plans. Implemented programs include promoting women and children’s rights.
  8. Social Justice serves as the overarching cluster and theme of ZPH, in which the coalition’s diverse private and public groups align in the Filipino fight against poverty. By engagements with local governments and through policy programs, ZPH aims to end conditions within the Philippines that prevent the poor from finding self-sufficiency.

A Personal Approach

A primary strategy used by ZEP in order to maximize their efficiency is community consultation. Participating NGO programs employ a personal approach. They ask local Filipinos for their experiences and stories to truly understand the needs of poor communities. Organizations within the community can then easily refer to other member organizations of ZEP, whether they be businesses or NGOs, who specialize in the community’s needs.

In one case study, ZEP assisted an indigenous father of two in the foundation of a basket business. His business has since expanded, employing dozens of workers. ZEP reports that 63 families have benefitted in the process. In another case, ZEP assisted a single mother of seven children in improving her family’s living conditions. Moreover, the education cluster is supporting the families oldest child to pursue her academic career. Stories like these illustrate the promise of the ZEP goals.

Hope for the Future

By December of 2018, the coalition had implemented poverty-reduction programs in 109 cities. 10,000 families were provided with aid and assistance. However, ZEP’s Filipino fight against poverty is far from over. They continue to relentlessly assist communities in need as well as work to further expand themselves as a coalition. Nevertheless, the Zero Extreme Poverty goal coalition always stays true to its core values of social justice, service and diversity.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

the urban-rural poverty gap in morocco

Though Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Resiliency in Sint Maartin
Located in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten and St. Martin comprise one small island of fewer than 80,000 people. The northern part of the island, St. Martin, is a French territory, while Sint Maarten, the southern portion, is a former Dutch colony that gained independence within the Dutch Kingdom in 2010. The local island economy centers around tourism, as the island draws more than one million tourists every year to its scenic beaches and resorts.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 182 miles per hour, devastated the once serene and lively island. Responsible for 14 fatalities, Irma destroyed infrastructure and left residents without electricity, running water and telecommunications. Nearly two years after Irma hit the shores of the dual-country island, here are five facts about the resiliency in Sint Maarten.

Five Facts About Resiliency in Sint Maarten

  1. Irma took a massive hit on the island’s economic powerhouse: tourism. Since more than 99 percent of employees work in the service or industry sectors, many locals faced unemployment due to the destroyed restaurants and shops, the drastic drop in tourism and devastated resorts.
  2. Hurricane Irma caused as much as $3 billion in damages. Collapsed infrastructure, roofless buildings and homes and a deserted airport are all signs of how much physical damage Irma caused. However, some see reconstruction as an opportunity for new and improved resorts and tourist attractions, which will hopefully boost the tourism economy again, attracting millions of cruisers and destination vacationers who can revitalize the tourism-dependent economy.
  3. Improvements to Sint Maarten surpass improvements to St. Martin. This Caribbean island is unique in that both the Dutch and French governments preside over their half of the island. The relief responses of the European nations differ greatly and the results are visible, as the Dutch side rebuilt quicker than the French. The Dutch government also offered $650 million for relief and recovery efforts, which the island eventually accepted. However, residents report lacking basic necessities, even after the interim government accepted the sum.
  4. Prime Minister Leona Romero-Marlin has a seven-year recovery plan. This plan estimates $2.3 billion to recovery for the island. After two years, that included emergency, immediate and short-term needs, and the next five years include plans for recovery, resilience and development. Examples of disaster mitigation include improving emergency response coordination, involving the community in climate-change adaptation curriculum, awareness campaigns and emergency drills at all levels of society.
  5. The island still has access to the sea, a connection to nature and a feeling of home and community. Although residents withstood a terrifying storm and face the fear of uncertainty for the future, Sint Maarten/St. Martin is still home to thousands of residents who know and appreciate the natural beauty and deep-rooted connection to the island. Hurricane Irma brought together the local community, uniting residents to aid each other in rebuilding the place they know as home. The eye of the storm has long passed, but locals have a long way before returning to a sense of normalcy they had before the 2017 hurricane.

Almost two years since the winds and rains of Hurricane Irma transformed the once welcoming island into a deserted entity flooded with water and rubble, the remaining residents remain to show the resiliency in Sint Maarten to rebuild their homes and return the island to its former beauty.

– Keeley Griegor
Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau

World Heritage Sites
Chew Jetty is a small town in Malaysia’s George Town that achieved Unesco World Heritage status in 2008. On Penang Island, the town contains wooden piers that used to belong to a bustling seafront hub and represents the vitality and dynamic nature of one of the last intact bastions of Malaysia’s old Chinese settlements. After World War II and Japanese occupation, the piers decayed immensely until the settlement’s economy was hardly able to sustain itself. In a final attempt to preserve the economy and the once-vivacious settlement, the town made a bid to Unesco for protection.

Chew Jetty Tourism

When Chew Jetty was awarded World Heritage status, the change was not at all what the residents had expected. Two of the clan enclaves had been demolished to create new housing complexes. Additionally, flocks of tourists infiltrated historical homes, vendors installed flashy commercial stalls and encroaching developers urged locals to alter important structures to make room for new developments. Suddenly, Chew Jetty’s status as a Unesco World Heritage site attracted thousands of tourists by the boatload, effectively uprooting the culture and traditions once held sacred to the old Chinese settlement.

And yet, receiving its status as a World Heritage site seemed to be the only measure of action that prompted Chew Jetty out of its declining economic state. Therein lies the dichotomy in in Unesco’s attempt to benefit economies and its detrimental effect on the local population.

Anti-Tourism Conundrum

This anti-tourism sentiment can be seen worldwide. In 2017, local communities in Venice and Barcelona gathered together in an outburst of anti-tourism marches, complaining about rising rents, overcrowding, and the increase in pollution due to cruise ships. Local residents and activists are demanding authorities to alter the management of tourism, as it has significantly altered their normal daily lives and actually increased the cost of living for them.

At first glance, the influx of tourists is interpreted as an increase in the tourist economy and consequently an increase in the state economy. However, upon a further breakdown of this effect on the locals of any given city, the influx of tourists increase costs and overcrowding, making living conditions more difficult and less affordable for local residents. This could, in turn, actually increase poverty rates among the citizens who once inhabited these locations.

World Heritage Sites

There are 1,052 World Heritage sites across the world, and most of these locations struggle with the same conflict of striking a balance between tourism and the preservation of culture. Several organizations, including Unesco itself, have been working towards a solution to this problem. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has stated that the goal should not be to limit the number of tourists visiting these cities, but rather to better manage the flow of tourism by perhaps redirecting them away from main city centers and city attractions and formulating a more sustainable form of tourism.

Additionally, the Unesco World Heritage Tourism Program has identified the adverse effects of tourism on World Heritage sites and is making active efforts to thwart the increasingly adverse effects of tourism on the local population. For instance, the Program is implementing appropriate tourism management workshops for its annual conventions and adopting a new set of standards and principles relating to sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites.

While there are negative socio-cultural and economic effects on World Heritage sites, there are several movements that are working together to bring a more sustainable form of tourism and enhancement of a city’s economy without sacrificing the well-being of the locals.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr