Higher Education in South KoreaDue to its rigorous entrance processes and societal emphasis on university prestige, South Korea spends a large portion of its annual GDP on higher education and the costs associated with college admissions preparation. Acceptance into one of the nation’s high-ranking “SKY” institutions can help differentiate applicants in an already competitive job market, as 70% of South Koreans have a college education. Here are five facts about the higher education system in South Korea:

5 Facts about Higher Education in South Korea

  1. Education and Industrialization: Rapid growth in literacy and education rates coincided with South Korea’s emergence as a newly industrialized nation. Just after WWII, South Korea’s literacy rate was a meager 22%, with few Koreans attending college. Now, its literacy rate sits at 97.9% and over 70% of high school graduates in South Korea go on to attend university. Once a beneficiary of American aid, South Korea now eclipses the U.S. in spending per capita on research and development, much of which is done at the university level.
  2. SKY Universities: Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University are widely viewed as the most prestigious institutions in Korea and three of the top-ranked universities in all of Asia. In fact, employment at elite firms and entrance into social circles is often contingent upon holding a degree from a SKY university.
  3. College Scholastic Ability Test: The eight-hour College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) is an assessment that determines which universities Korean students can attend. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), CSAT scores make up 70% of admissions criteria at Korean universities. Comparatively, high school grades carry significantly less weight, comprising only 10% of a student’s profile. Overall, higher CSAT scores are highly correlated with better job prospects and higher income potential.
  4. Spending on College Prep Classes: Since CSAT scores are viewed as the most important factor in South Korean college admissions decisions, Korean families often invest large sums of money in private tutoring. For example, the OECD estimates that middle-income parents of high school students in South Korea spend as much as 30% of their income on tutoring, with families spending an average of 3.6 million KRW ($2,600) on tutoring per year.
  5. An Increase in International Students: Since the early 2000s, the number of international students studying in South Korea has steadily risen. According to the Center for Strategy & International Studies, the global student population in South Korea has risen from 17,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2019. The South Korean government has also enacted reforms that expanded government tuition assistance to international students and created bilingual courses taught in English.

Admission to Korean universities is a rigorous process that often involves significant amounts of time and money. The expenses involved in preparing for the CSAT — the single most important factor in application decisions — often put low-income families at a disadvantage in the admissions process. However, international aid and education reforms have allowed several Korean universities to climb global university rankings. Moreover, an influx of international applicants is a strong indicator of increased university quality and prestige.

– Salvatore Brancato
Photo: WikkiCommons

Policies to Reduce Poverty in MexicoToward the end of 2021, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the president of Mexico, told the U.N. to “wake up from its slumber” on the issue of global poverty, the PassBlue reported. The popular left-wing president is halfway through his six-year term. He has said that alleviating domestic and global poverty are among his top priorities. In 2020, just one year before López Obrador proposed to the U.N. a first-of-its-kind plan to decrease global poverty, poverty in Mexico increased by almost 4 million people. That year, 55.7 million people in Mexico survived on less than $1.90 a day. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) expected this number to rise in 2022 “due to inflationary pressures.” A closer look at López Obrador’s policies to reduce poverty in Mexico provides insight into the country’s economic future.

Poverty in Mexico

In 2022, about 44% of Mexico’s population lives in poverty, according to the most recent government data. Excluding the negative effects the coronavirus had on economies across the globe, there are three main causes of mass poverty in Mexico:

  1. Poor Educational Attainment. In 2020, about 5.2 million students dropped out of school in Mexico due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic difficulties, requiring children to work, stood as a significant factor in these dropouts. With the onset of the pandemic,  the country also saw domestic violence, child homicides and adolescent pregnancy rates skyrocket.
  2. The Wealth Gap. The top 20% of the wealthiest households in Mexico have “income [10] times higher than the poorest 20%” of households. Wealthy people earn about half of the income in Mexico, while millions of people in poverty endure unemployment, underemployment and unfair wages. The distribution of wealth determines who has access to safe housing, water and other infrastructure necessities.
  3. Corruption. Corruption is rife in Mexico, impacting both political stability and the nation’s economic development as well as “the rule of law, efforts to combat organized crime and the effectiveness of public services.” Money laundering, especially among government officials, is not uncommon. Corrupt local authorities have restricted Mexico’s residents from protesting and expressing their frustrations to the government for generations. Corruption also increases inequality in the country.

López Obrador’s Domestic Policies

In a radical move to change the status quo of policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, soon after assuming office, López Obrador ceased almost all existing welfare programs in the country in favor of a system reminiscent of a universal basic income, where residents received non-need-based cash.

Economists held concerns that the erasure of programs with need-based criteria would result in people not receiving enough benefits. These concerns held weight — For the government to afford to give out cash to all citizens, López Obrador had to cancel the two-decade-long Prospera program. The program “gave cash to mothers living in poverty in exchange for them keeping their children in school and taking them for regular medical checkups.” The program received praise for its success, on an international level.

In 2020, López Obrador transitioned Mexico to remote schooling after the coronavirus hit. Shortly after the implementation of programs such as Aprende en Casa (Learn at Home), which entailed receiving educational content through television and the internet, inequalities became apparent. Especially in rural areas, the inability to connect to the internet meant that rural children could not access the program.

International Policies

In 2021, López Obrador gave a speech to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) proposing a global poverty reduction program where the globe’s 1,000 wealthiest people and corporations would donate 4% of their wealth and G20 countries would donate 0.2% of their GDPs.

In 2021, almost 700 million people lived in extreme poverty across the world, according to Development Initiatives. López Obrador said that his plan could produce around $1 trillion annually to fight global poverty. U.N. members will debate his proposal before deciding on its direction, but some leaders have already come out in support.

Future of Policies

Half of his presidential term remains, and despite growing poverty rates amid his policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, López Obrador is still popular, with a 62% approval rating. Economists suggest that if López Obrador implements successful policies to reduce poverty in Mexico, he will be more reputable on a global scale and in debates over his U.N. proposal.

There is Hope

Others have stepped up to fight poverty, even though policies to reduce poverty in Mexico have had mixed results. One organization stepping up to the plate is Save the Children, a worldwide charity foundation that aids the most vulnerable group living in poverty — children. Since 2000, in Mexico, Save the Children has helped to reduce the prevalence of child labor by 80%. In 2021 alone, Save the Children provided assistance to more than 95,000 children. In Mexico, the organization’s work over the past two decades includes ensuring the health and nourishment of 28,000 children, educating and empowering 19,000 children and taking 3,000 children out of the grips of poverty. Save the Children collaborates with local organizations in Mexico and foundations in the U.S. to help more impoverished children in Mexico each year.

With effective policies to reduce poverty, Mexico’s citizens can live a better quality of life. But, in the meanwhile, organizations are stepping in to assist Mexico’s most vulnerable.

– Delaney Murray
Photo: WikiCommons

Future of India’s DevelopmentCelebrating India’s 75th anniversary of independence from British governance, Prime Minister Modi announced on August 15, 2022, that the country would be working toward becoming a developed nation within the next 25 years. In addition, he promised to lift millions of Indians out of poverty while cracking down on “corruption and nepotism” within the government. With more than 1.4 billion people in India, accomplishing these tasks is a monumental challenge, but one that Modi believes is achievable for the future of India’s development.

Striving for Development

Although there is no single metric that defines a country as developed, ways of assessing development include factors ranging from income per capita to electricity usage. Generally, developed countries will have lower rates of unemployment, higher levels of literacy and industrialization, a diverse economy and high gross national income (GNI). With a GNI of $2,170 in 2021, India holds the status of “lower middle income” according to the World Bank. However, that figure once stood at $440 in 2000, showing a clear upward progression of moving toward the GNI of more developed nations.

India also has a broad network of poverty relief and social welfare programs. One example is the Public Distribution System (PDS), which costs close to 1% of India’s GDP and distributes grain to low-income families, according to the World Bank in 2011. Introduced in 2005, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme ( MGNREG) aims to provide up to 100 days of paid work per year for impoverished adults in rural areas. Lastly, through the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) program, India’s impoverished receive health insurance coverage. By 2011, RSBY served more than 70 million Indians, a huge success given the country has very few insurance programs for its labor force.

Program Shortcomings

Unfortunately, India’s development suffers from logistical issues and mismanagement. According to National Sample Survey data from 2004-2005, grain distributed under the PDS reached less than half of the intended recipients. The cause of this problem is “leakage and diversion of grains,” leading experts to suggest cash transfers that directly give families an equivalent value.

Other programs like the MGNREG also struggle with providing benefits, with fewer than 100 days of work being available, particularly in rural areas. Prime Minister Modi addressed these issues during the August 15 celebrations, promising to curb inefficiencies within the government and fight against corruption.

A Vision for India

Modi’s vision for India’s future development also includes achieving “excellence in science and technology” while attaining “food and energy security.” India’s minister of power, R.K. Singh, said on August 5, 2022, that India is ahead of many developed countries in progress toward achieving clean energy.

Furthermore, India’s strong relationship between itself and the United States is touted as a catalyst for growth, with U.S. President Joe Biden stating that the two countries would work together to bring “prosperity and security for our people.”

Transforming India into a developed nation is a massive undertaking, one which will require an incredible mobilization of human and economic resources. With 21.9% of the population living under the national poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data from the World Bank, substantially reducing this statistic would be a major humanitarian victory. The country’s future 100th anniversary holds massive potential and the opportunity to showcase India’s development.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: WikiCommons

Asylum Partnership AgreementOn April 14, 2022, the U.K. government and Rwanda entered into an agreement, that later became a five-year asylum partnership agreement. The agreement, officially titled “U.K.-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership,” will aim to provide asylum for immigrants traveling to the U.K. illegally, through relocation to Rwanda. As part of the agreement with Rwanda, officials will process refugees on entry into Rwanda, where they will receive a decision regarding their refugee status.

What Does the Agreement Entail?

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta signed the asylum partnership agreement, which falls under the Memorandum of Understanding. The decision to strike an agreement with Rwanda came about as a result of the U.K.’s new immigration policy, which intends to counteract illegal immigration. “The consultation showed public support for the need to disrupt the criminal activity that underpins illegal migration.”

Rwanda will receive financial support from the U.K. government to accommodate and process refugees. According to the House of Commons Library “…the U.K. is providing £120 million funding to Rwanda. It will also pay for the processing and integration costs for each relocated person.”

Is the Agreement Necessary?

The two states signed the agreement in response to the migrant crisis affecting much of Europe in recent times. They intend to provide a safer, more manageable system to combat illegal immigration into the U.K.

It is anticipated that approximately 60,000 people are set to travel across the English Channel by the end of 2022. This figure is more than double in comparison with last year’s 28,526 people crossing the Channel in small boats. There was hope that schemes such as the partnership agreement would present a more viable option to combat future illegal immigration. However, “14,728 people have arrived since the government launched the Rwanda policy,” according to BBC.

Questions Over Suitability of the Deal and Its Potential Impact on Poverty

Many raised notable questions over the suitability and practicality of Rwanda serving as the representative country to accommodate refugees. Significant concern from U.K. officials regarding the asylum partnership agreement with Rwanda has manifested from numerous documents submitted to a high court hearing earlier this year.

A key point raised questions over Rwanda’s human rights status. Rwanda is one of the 14 countries presenting substantial issues in relation to asylum systems and human rights.

Concerns regarding the impact the agreement may have upon refugees traveling to Rwanda and the communities that they could settle in have been a prevalent talking point. Treatment of refugees arriving in Rwanda remains an issue from a human rights perspective, as suppression of freedom of speech, detention and even torture are common practices.

Economically, Rwanda has seen steady progress in recent times, with the country aiming to become a middle-income nation by 2035. However, according to The World Bank, with its poverty percentage standing at 55% in 2017, it may represent a difficult beginning for many refugees. The refugees that could face relocation to Rwanda will indeed discover this and with the right to leave Rwanda available to thousands of them, it has the potential to cause chaos and increase the strain on aid agencies working to combat poverty within Rwanda and across Africa.

The Ethical and Legal Challenges of the Agreement

At this current time, the agreement appears to be shrouded in controversy and indifference due to human rights concerns. The inaugural flight carrying asylum seekers destined for Rwanda should have departed on June 14, 2022. However, the European Court of Human Rights'(ECHR) late intervention successfully halted the first wave of deportations. Prime minister Boris Johnson condemned the ECHR’s decision and threatened to revoke the U.K.’s participation in the convention.

The asylum partnership agreement with Rwanda was met with a considerable outcry in the lead-up to June 14 and efforts to disrupt and put an end to the agreement were voiced in the form of organized protests. The UNHCR commented on the agreement, stating “They should not be traded like commodities and transferred abroad for processing.”

With the considerable legal battles looming over the asylum partnership agreement, any effort to relocate migrants to Rwanda as part of the agreement will not take place before late autumn at the earliest. The next landmark step in the ongoing developments of the agreement will take place on September 5, when a judicial review will take place at London’s High Court to determine the legality of the agreement.

– Jamie Garwood
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous peoples in the U.S.Indigenous people have endured an undeniably long and dark history of displacement, oppression and discrimination; and now subsequently constitute 15% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty. In the U.S., they bear the highest poverty rate compared to other minority groups at 25.4% and often lack access to economically reliable housing, health care and other resources. As the native population grows, so have national movements and tribal rights. In the last 10 years, Native Americans have made progressive strides in the United States. These are some of the advancements indigenous people in the U.S. have accomplished in the past decade.

Land Acknowledgements and Tribal Economic Development Efforts

One way for Native Americans to uplift themselves out of poverty and food insecurity is through acquiring tribal sovereignty. Recently, indigenous people in the U.S. and their allies have further pressured the federal government to amend its federal trust management system.

Indigenous land in the U.S. is abundant in vital natural resources. However, many policies prohibit native leaders from utilizing the resources that could be used to stimulate economic growth in reservations (and reduction in poverty rates).

Tribes like the Oneida Nation have worked around the discrepancies to stabilize their local tribal economy. The nation developed a sustainable food system that would circulate food within the reservation and allow for more job opportunities. The Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems (OCIFS) has thrived since 1994 and continues to influence other tribes.

The native lands are vital to the indigenous communities and the world as they house over 80% of the planet’s biodiversity and natural resources, according to Amnesty International. Governments and corporations continue to exploit indigenous land, which results in the pollution and displacement of the native people. As migration from their lands continue, Native Americans lack access to essential resources and their sacred customs. As a result, indigenous people are more likely to experience economic hardship, abuse, illness and the ultimate threat of extinction.

Electing the First Indigenous Woman as Cabinet Secretary

In 2021, Debra Haaland assumed office and made history as the first indigenous woman to serve as cabinet secretary. Haaland is a 35th-generation New Mexican member of the Pueblo of Laguna currently serving as the United States secretary of the interior. Before becoming secretary of the interior, Haaland served as a tribal administrator, lieutenant governor and a representative in congress.

As secretary, Haaland enacted the Not Invisible Act, a commission in coordination with the Department of Justice to cut down on crimes against indigenous peoples in the U.S. The commission would act as a hub to take on trials, evidence and witnesses. Upon collection the data acquired, the commission would then give the federal law enforcement guidance on how to fight crimes against Native Americans better.

On April 1, 2021, Secretary Haaland declared the creation of the Missing and Murdered Unit (MMU) under the Bureau of India Affairs Office of Justice Services (BIA-OJS). The unit would aid interdepartmental efforts and provide better resources to investigate missing and murdered indigenous people. The unit will continue to work on unresolved and active cases by collaborating alongside the BIA, FBI, Tribal prosecutors and other agencies.

Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

On October 8, 2021, President Biden made the historic decision to proclaim October 11, 2021, “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The presidential action recognizes and honors the diverse communities of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and their contributions to the nation. Moreover, the proclamation acknowledges the extensive history of horror and injustice inflicted on native people within the United States. In addition, it promises to maintain and uphold “a future grounded in tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.”

The Long Road to Reconciliation

Organizations like The Red Road remain at the forefront of advocacy for Native Americans. The organization started in 1999 when its founder Charles Robinson, gave a speech on Native Americans at a school and was disturbed by the misconceptions about indigenous people in the U.S.

The Red Road devotes its efforts to spreading awareness of indigenous struggles and addressing the colonial history of indigenous people. One of the organization’s upcoming projects is to uplift Native Americans from poverty and food insecurity. One project involves establishing a self-sustaining source of healthy food via community gardens as grocery stores are scarce in and around reservations.

The other project looks at the inter-reservation economies. Most reservations have very few tribally-owned businesses and fewer opportunities to build indigenous wealth, hence why countless indigenous communities rely on federal subsidies. The project would assist and promote the establishment of native-owned companies, allowing for greater tribal independence and economic opportunities for the indigenous people in the U.S.

Native Americans continue to endure tremendous hardship but remain resilient. There are many years of decolonization and rebuilding left before reaching true reconciliation. But, with the constant changes occurring throughout the recent decades, the future appears promising.

– Ricardo Silva
Photo: Flickr

United States Foreign AidMany positive outcomes occur when international aid strengthens. Throughout history, there have been substantial global benefits when the U.S. focused on international support. In the past and present, U.S. foreign aid has brought positive effects.

The Marshall Plan

In 1948, western Europe sought postwar aid for rebuilding their nations. The U.S. issued the Marshall Plan, created by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The plan provided $13.3 billion in foreign aid over four years. With this aid, western Europe began successfully rebuilding itself.

Due to this aid, the countries of western Europe are now some of the U.S.’ strongest allies and trading partners. These partners include but are not limited to France, England and Germany. By helping countries in need and investing money into international aid, these countries invest back in the U.S. This has positively impacted the U.S. economy and its global reputation. Those countries now see the U.S. as an ally, not an isolationist state.

The Green Revolution

The U.S. helped to reduce food insecurity and poverty globally by championing the Green Revolution, a 1940s revolution of agricultural techniques started by Norman Borlaug in Mexico. Due to the successes in Mexico’s agricultural sector, countries worldwide began using these Green Revolution techniques in the next two decades. Initially, Borlaug developed resilient and high-yielding varieties of wheat to increase agricultural yields. Later, Borlaug developed high-yielding varieties of rice.

To expand Green Revolution techniques to the rest of the world, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and other government agencies decided to fund further research. In 1963, through this financial support, Mexico established a research center called The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

Nations across the globe reaped the benefits of Borlaug’s and the research institution’s efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development stood as a driving force in expanding the Green Revolution globally, “producing history’s most dramatic increase in food production through the development of high-yielding cereal varieties.” USAID was key in launching the Green Revolution, a term former USAID Administrator William Gaud coined in 1968.

During the middle of the 1960s, Asia noted high rates of famine and malnutrition, especially in countries like India. Higher yielding wheat and rice varieties led to poverty reduction and economic growth. In Asia, real per capita incomes increased by nearly 50% between 1970 and 1995, and poverty reduced from “nearly three out of every five Asians in 1975 to less than one in three by 1995.” In India, the rural poverty rate was as much as 65% before the mid-1960s, but by 1993, it had reduced to about 33%.

Possibilities for the Future of Ukraine

The U.S. can invest more in international aid and foreign affairs. Although the U.S. is the world’s wealthiest country, foreign aid was less than 1% of its budget in 2019. Ukraine and other countries impacted by the Russia-Ukraine war received a $40 billion aid package from the U.S. in May 2022. Yet, the U.S. allocated nearly half for military aid and just $16 billion for humanitarian and government assistance.

Looking to the Past

Past and present examples show the positive effects of U.S. foreign aid. The Marshall Plan shows how the U.S. gained long-term allies, and the Green Revolution highlights how U.S. foreign aid decreased world poverty. The Russia-Ukraine war is a current conflict in which the U.S. can allocate more foreign aid with the assurance of past proven success.

– Thomas Bogucki
Photo: Pexels

Social Entrepreneurship Empowers Disability JusticeThe MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) is carrying out its 16th edition Pan-Arab Startup Competition. Since 2016, the yearly program awards competitors in three categories: ideas, startups and social entrepreneurship. The competition highlights how social entrepreneurship empowers disability justice, among other issues. Winners receive equity-free funding based on scalability, social impact, financial sustainability and innovation. Participants receive top-notch mentoring from some of the leading minds in entrepreneurship and technology, and they also gain networking opportunities with a global entrepreneurial community and investors.

Social Entrepreneurship Track

Social entrepreneurship is quickly gaining popularity in the world of innovation. It is an initiative that pursues an innovative idea to address the root causes of communal issues such as poverty, water scarcity, disability justice and much more.

MIT recognizes the potential of social entrepreneurship. Hala Fadel, the Founder and Chair of MITEF Pan-Arab, commented that “the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem has reached an inflection point as 450-plus alumni are leading their way through the domains of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and environmental infrastructure.”

Money goes into social businesses to create social impact, not to maximize dividends on investment. Without pressure from opportunistic stockholders to optimize profit, these peace-driven projects can expand impact and be self-sustaining and ethical.

A fundamental principle of social entrepreneurship is a pledge to higher than standard working conditions and wages. These initiatives provide proper employment for locals who are working to confront their communities’ problems. The emergence of this new wave of entrepreneurship is productive for social health, innovation and middle-class development. Social entrepreneurs may become major drivers of poverty reduction action in the future.

Social Business Highlight: Entaleq

Entaleq, one of the program’s successful alumni, is a mobile phone application aiming to improve accessibility for people with disabilities in Egypt. The Helm Foundation developed the app, and the nonprofit works to fight poverty and domestic violence.

The Helm Foundation’s mobile app positively influences people’s lives in North Africa. Entaleq allows users to comment and review locations that have disability access. The Helm Foundation also helps build and advocate for accessibility infrastructure in Egypt. As the 2020 winner of MITEF’s social entrepreneurship track, Entaleq hopes to reach the global market shortly.

Disability Justice and Poverty Reduction

Disability justice is essential for global poverty alleviation. According to a report from the International Labor Organization (ILO), people with disabilities are typically among the world’s poorest demographics, especially in low-income countries. According to a U.N. report, people with disabilities are likely 7% to 10% of any nation’s population.

Furthermore, there is an undeniable connection between disability, conflict and poverty. War continues to wound the bodies and minds of people around the world. People from conflict-heavy areas are more likely to have limited support and decreased job opportunities. A focus on disability justice is vital for recently post-conflict countries as they navigate reconstruction and poverty reduction.

Disability justice is often limited to caregiving. However, conceptions of disability justice may expand to more inclusive design and improvements to daily living which the Entaleq app does in Egypt.

How MIT’s Annual Pan-Arab Competition Helps Entrepreneurs

MIT’s annual Pan-Arab Competition is sure to bring together some of the brightest young entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa. Participants will gain valuable training and exposure to a global network of innovators. Successful startups receive equity-free funding to advance projects. MITEF’s ideas, startup and social entrepreneurship tracks offer several routes for budding innovators.

Entaleq won funding in the 2020 social entrepreneurship track. The platform allows people to review disability accessibility at locations around Egypt. There are deep intersections between disability and poverty, and this technology enhances app users’ mobility and agency. Innovative social initiatives such as Entaleq prioritizing community care are making transformative impacts, showing how social entrepreneurship empowers disability justice.

MITEF’s Pan-Arab competition may be used as a model for sprouting innovation. Government funding in social entrepreneurial education will reap benefits, from local communities to the macro global economy. The MITEF Pan-Arab Competition’s proven success is designing a new identity for the world of technology and innovation.

– Samson Heyer
Photo: Flickr

Charities Operating in KosovoKosovo, the smallest country in the Balkans, ranks as “one of the poorest countries in Europe,” struggling with its newfound freedom since declaring independence from Serbia in February 2008. This partially recognized state is home to around 1.8 million people, but Kosovars continue battling for international recognition and an improved economic outlook. With its most recent data in 2015, the World Bank reports that the country has a 17.6% national poverty rate, significantly higher than many European counterparts. As the nation contends with more than 300,000 impoverished Kosovars, five charities operating in Kosovo are making a difference.

5 Charities Making a Difference in Kosovo

  1. Sunny Hill Foundation. Dua Lipa, a world-renowned singer and songwriter, established the Sunny Hill Foundation in 2016 to advance the quality of life for Kosovars. The organization based in Pristina, Kosovo, works to improve Kosovan society, focusing on helping the country’s most vulnerable residents. The Sunny Hill Foundation raises money to donate to local cultural institutions and NGOs, with a requirement of only contributing to volunteer-led organizations. In 2018, this charity contributed €100,000 to 17 local institutions with focuses ranging from educating special needs children to advancing artistic talent. As a result of Lipa’s efforts to support the nation through the Sunny Hill Foundation, in August 2022 she became an honorary ambassador of Kosovo.
  2. The Ideas Partnership. This is a volunteer organization established in 2009 that focuses on improving education in Kosovo. The organization generally focuses on vulnerable ethnic groups in Kosovo, namely the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. Completed projects include sending 10 blind children to learn Braille and providing a kindergarten education for 30 children. One ongoing project assists six families with access to nutritious food. Through its network of volunteers, the Ideas Partnership is advancing opportunities for minority communities in Kosovo to increase their quality of life.
  3. PL4Y International. Since 1999, PL4Y International has promoted youth engagement in sports to encourage educational attainment and spur societal change. The NGO has helped more than 500,000 children across 15 countries through its programs. In Kosovo, PL4Y International launched a project called “YOUth can change the future for Kosovo,” concentrating on bridging ethnic, religious and cultural differences in Kosovan society through child sports. As Kosovars struggle to overcome the lasting societal impacts of the Kosovan 1998-1999 conflict and the lingering uncertainty associated with the nation’s international status, PL4Y International is working to bring Kosovan youth together and build a more promising future.
  4. Action for Mothers and Children (AMC). Also known as Akcioni per Nena dhe Femije, AMC concentrates on improving maternal and child health in Kosovo. Since the organization’s founding in 2013, AMC has specialized in projects focusing on education, fundraising, research and advocacy. AMC successfully developed five Women’s Health Resource Centers in Kosovo, helping to educate thousands of women on their pregnancies, deliveries and newborns. In August 2016, AMC expanded its services to an online platform called Beba-ks, offering remote assistance in English, Serbian and Albanian to deliver evidence-based information to new and expecting parents.
  5. HALO Trust. Beginning in 1988, the HALO Trust has worked to unearth landmines and prevent fatalities in former war-torn communities. Because of the 1990s conflict between Yugoslav forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army, landmines and other unexploded ammunition remain buried throughout Kosovo, presenting a fatal threat to Kosovan communities. Since then, 580 people faced injuries and fatalities in Kosovo due to these remaining explosives, driving the HALO Trust’s mission to remove and dispose of these threats. These ready-to-explode landmines are especially dangerous for poor Kosovans in rural areas. Many farmers, for instance, risk their lives by simply going into a field to maintain their crops. Therefore, the work of the HALO Foundation in Kosovo is critical to improving the lives of impoverished Kosovars.

Looking Ahead

From sponsoring youth sports and opening centers for reproductive health to unearthing landmines, these charitable institutions are truly improving Kosovan society. These philanthropic organizations are helping Kosovo achieve a brighter future with less poverty and fewer societal divisions.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in ChileWith the highest GDP per capita in South America in 2020, Chile’s growth in the last few decades has been viewed as a model for Latin American development. Adopting a laissez-faire approach, the government shied away from significant spending on welfare, with the few existing programs geared toward middle and upper-class Chileans. However, recent administrations have made combating poverty a central theme of their campaigns, with presidents like Sebastián Piñera and Gabriel Boric both committing to the elimination of extreme poverty. Poverty reduction in Chile and the challenges the country faces serve as an inspiration and a warning for other developing nations.

Chile’s Approach to Poverty Reduction

Chile’s approach to poverty reduction is based upon a series of programs that focus on short-term income support and long-term economic security. During the 1990s, the Aylwin administration invested in hospitals and schools while also increasing the minimum wage. These reforms halved the number of Chileans living in poverty while contributing to the country’s steady growth throughout the decade. However, the highly centralized and inefficient public services system, coupled with strikes from teachers and health workers, meant Chile required a new solution for the new millennium.

Chile Solidario

With a new presidential administration and the need for change amid stagnating results, the government introduced ‘Chile Solidario’ as the country’s newest front in reducing poverty. Conceived in 2002, the program aimed to help low-income Chileans on an individual level while simplifying the arcane bureaucracy behind the country’s welfare system. Chile Solidario provided those in extreme poverty with cash stimuli and “psycho-social support” from social workers, assisting with immediate needs and future plans. In addition, the program synthesized many smaller financial assistance programs into a cohesive system, aiming to make aid more accessible to low-income citizens.

The program showed some successes with poverty reduction in Chile, albeit with limitations. The clearest evidence supporting Chile Solidario is the rapid decline of the percentage of people living in poverty in the years after the program’s introduction in 2002, from 29% to 8.6% by 2017.

Furthermore, attendance in schools and hospitals rose significantly, suggesting health and educational benefits in the future. A significant drawback of Chile Solidario is that while many in the program leave poverty, the rates of exit from the program are not as high. A study during Chile Solidario’s early years also found that household income per capita among recipients did not significantly increase.

The administration of Piñera further modified Chile Solidario. In 2012, President Piñera replaced Chile Solidario with the Ingreso Ético Familiar (Ethical Family Income). As part of his broader promise to end extreme poverty in Chile, IEF focuses primarily on conditional cash transfers to eligible Chileans, requiring school attendance and regular health checkups.

Looking Ahead

Unfortunately, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and Chile’s strict lockdown has challenged the nearly continual progress of poverty reduction in Chile, with the poverty rate increasing from the 2017 low of 8.6% to 10.8% in 2020. Chile’s new president Boric promised $3.7 billion in aid in April 2022, undertaking to create new jobs while raising the minimum wage.

The ongoing debate over Chile’s draft constitution offers hope in the fight against poverty, promising to end job insecurity and institute a universal basic income. However, it also risks undermining the gradual, albeit successful progress of the last four decades in its radical rejection of the blueprint of the 1980 constitution.

Poverty reduction in Chile stands at a crossroads, able to embrace more direct government involvement in reducing the poverty rate or continue to let economic growth naturally spread to its poorest citizens. President Boric’s government seems to firmly favor the former, but in September, it is up to Chileans to decide whether they agree with his vision for the country.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

Egyptian EconomyEconomies worldwide have been hit hard by the pandemic. However, few have been able to come out positively. The Egyptian economy has been able to make meaningful economic progress, such as through GDP growth, throughout 2020 and 2021. As it is working toward poverty reduction, Egypt is an example of how to keep an economy steady. Egypt has been fighting poverty for more than a decade now – a third of Egyptians live in poverty and half of the population is either in or near poverty.

Egypt’s Economic Steps

The Egyptian economy has taken economic hits in the past several years. However, that does not mean recent steps are not worth mentioning. Egypt has recently seen poverty reduction for the first time in 20 years due to the reforms taken by the government. At the end of 2016, several economic reforms started a turning point for Egypt. The Economic Reform Program is made up of currency policies, decreasing dependence on fuel and electricity, increasing job opportunities (particularly for women), implementing structural business reforms, and endorsing economic acts to further progress. Certain moves also attracted many investors to Egypt, boosting the economy. Social programs targeted at more individual and community levels have also lifted 1,000 villages out of poverty. These broad economic reforms have also strengthened Egypt for the pandemic.

COVID’s Impact, and Fighting Through It

The past few years have had a monumental impact worldwide. Nearly every economic power has suffered a decline or a recession. One worry within Egypt is that the recent growth would collapse on itself. The pandemic did impact job creation and the private sector, but not enough to make a dent in progress. Previous actions have cushioned Egypt, such as the poverty rate going down from 32.5% to 29.7% in the fiscal year 2019-2020. This monumental victory for Egypt and for poverty worldwide took place over two years.

The Future of Egypt

Egypt Vision 2030 is the long-term future that is planned out for Egypt. As Salah Hashim, advisor for the Ministry of Social Solidarity for Political Policies, put it, “Egypt Vision 2030 has focused on promoting social justice, not only helping the poor and low-income people like before.” This shows that Egypt is willing to tackle injustice in multiple systems. The Egyptian economy should be an example for other countries struggling to build economic growth sustainably. While poverty is still abundant, this growth shows a bright future for Egypt’s economy and its future.

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr