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Myanmar_US_Treasury_Banks
Last week, the United States announced that it would lift sanctions on four of Myanmar’s largest banks in hopes of continued economic development in the country, and as a reward for continued improvements in the country’s political system. As sanctions are lifted, the banks will now have access to the United States’ financial system and have the opportunity to interact with U.S. businesses and citizens. The four banks that will benefit, according to the Treasury Department, are the Myanmar Economic Bank, Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank, Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank.

The Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, stated, “Increased access to Burma’s banking system for our companies and non-governmental organizations will help to facilitate Burma’s continued social and economic development.”

Although most restrictions have been lifted, there are still mechanisms in place that allow the U.S. government to monitor the banks in case of a negative change in recent political reforms. In a similar gesture last summer, the U.S. Treasury began allowing U.S. companies to deal with Myanmar by way of investing and administering other financial assistance – as long as all transactions were recorded and disclosed.

This trend has continued for the last two years, as the European Union along with the U.S. have backed away from conditional restrictions regarding Myanmar’s political situation, which included the release of political prisoners.

Myanmar officials stated that previous sanctions had prevented the country from growing its economy and eradicating widespread poverty.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Reuters

 

 

New Proposals for Development in Haiti
In an ambitious goal to help other nations help themselves and possibly shift the paradigm of foreign aid forever, Canadian aid worker Hugh Locke has started a forestry program aimed at fostering a sense of independence in the Haitian citizenry. Lock, critical of the current state of NGO and government involvement in projects, is employing his aptly titled “exit strategy aid” to change the scope of development in Haiti.

The country of Haiti, still emerging from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy and previous natural disasters, has had no shortage of challenges involving their crippled infrastructure and forecasted food shortages. However, Lock, armed with his forestry background, noticed that the Caribbean nation was lacking key ecological resources and decided to embark upon a re-forestation program dependent upon native farmers to encourage development in Haiti. When questioned about the efficacy of such a program, Lock remarked: “A road that is built by donor money using foreign contractors is never going to be fully a part of the national transportation system,” before clarifying that such a project, because of its foreign ownership, would need foreign aid to maintain it, which is neither sustainable nor helpful to empowering local projects.

Lock, along with his Haitian counterpart Timote Georges, were able to bring together a group of farmers in a forestry cooperative whose primary goal is both the growth and sales of trees. The Haitian forests, a natural resource that once afforded certain energy and topsoil advantages, has since been stripped from much of the countryside, devastating crop and charcoal production levels.
Subsequently, by having farmers plant trees, Lock hopes to encourage greater internal participation in the development of Haiti. Thus, by establishing a strong ecological and agricultural foundation, the people of Haiti can look forward to a much brighter, more independent future for years to come.
– Brian Turner

Source: World News
Photo: Trees for the Future

UK Ends Aid to IndiaWhen it comes to foreign aid, most news stories focus on one country starting to give to another, not ending their giving. Usually, one country makes a financial commitment to a developing country, hoping that there will be growth, and they follow through with their promise.

However, the UK recently announced that it would stop providing foreign aid to India in the year 2015. What will this mean for India? What could it signify for the greater developing world?

India has been growing at a pretty astounding rate over the past few years. India boasted extraordinary economic growth rates of 8.2% and 9.6% in 2009 and 2010 respectively, leading the world’s developing countries. India’s success has been incredible. The world’s second most populated country has been experiencing an economic boom that any other country would be envious of. The United Kingdom has been granting foreign aid to India to encourage such growth for the last 50 years. The UK has now decided to cut out its foreign aid to India beginning in 2015.

The UK’s aid makes up about 15% of the total incoming foreign aid that India receives. This statistic has caused some to seriously worry about how other donor countries will react to this motion. Could cutting aid to the most successful developing countries become a trend?

While India is indeed one of the most rapidly advancing nations in the developing world, the country is still home to more than 1.2 billion people. Many of them represent the working poor and the impoverished and have yet to see the benefits of their country’s rapid growth. It is important that other donor countries and charitable organizations continue to invest in India as the country goes through its growing pains and aspires to more widespread prosperity.

Organizations like Oxfam are working to make sure that donors remain committed to their programs in India and other successful developing countries. Simply because the UK will no longer send foreign aid to India, it does not mean that all other donor countries will follow suit. At the same time, we should keep considering the case for foreign aid to the most successful countries in the developing world. These are economies that are growing with astounding speed and to stop giving to these countries now could lead to a serious shortfall in their future development.

This sort of growth does not occur without any collateral damage. In the end, the importance of seeing foreign aid programs through to the end is absolutely paramount.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Digital Jouranl, World Bank
Photo: Disaboom

$70 Million Proposal for Food Security in UgandaIn an ambitious bid to invest in the roads, rice production, and village infrastructure necessary for future food security in Uganda, Parliament has requested over 70 million dollars from several African, Middle Eastern, and U.S. development banks. This money would go on to fund the Millennium Villages Project and the Masaka-Bukakata road project which will allow for better transportation of goods and supplies further bolstering commerce and economic opportunities.

Broken up into four separate requests which include $44 million from the IDB (Islamic Development Bank), $12 million from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), and $15 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the loans were laid out by the Minister for Finance to Parliament on February 12. Prior to moving forward with the loan requests, Members of Parliament expressed their desire for an official report on the performance of the current loans. Furthermore, the performance report must be presented to Parliament by Christmas as a prerequisite for any additional financing towards food security in Uganda.

If passed, these loans have the potential to increase both rice production and transportation and contribute greatly to overall development and food security in Uganda. Financial investments such as these are always good news, and serve as another step forward in the progressive march towards global food security.

– Brian Turner

Source: New Vision
Photo: AllAfrica

Somalia-Construction-Rebuild

Things are looking up for the Somali capital of Mogadishu as the sound of gunfire has recently been replaced by that of construction. Many from the diaspora are finally returning home to rebuild Somalia. As described by journalist Laila Ali of the Guardian, “New buildings and business are emerging from the carnage and lawlessness that pervaded the east African country for more than two decades.”

Many people who fled in the midst of the chaos are now choosing to return home, which has caused the demand for property to skyrocket. Mursal Mak, a British-Somali property developer who is returned after 22 years, has been following the increasing business opportunities. “Real estate is booming in Mogadishu,” he says. “This evening I had a meeting with a client and he said ‘Mogadishu is becoming like Manhattan or central London; you are talking incredible prices when it comes to property.’”

Land rights have become sticky, however, with so much land unregistered or with ownership that cannot be confirmed. At times, people take the risk of buying land at half of its value for cases where ownership is unclear. But this has not seemed to disrupt the surge of buying and developing. From grand beach hotels to commercial banks, many from the diaspora are returning home in hopes of rebuilding business in Somalia.

Omar Osman is another Somali who has returned home to set up an internet company, Somalia Wireless, in hopes of increasing connectivity for the growing private sector. He explains, “We are trying to advocate the setting up of business to be as smooth as possible, because, ultimately, the growth of business will translate into job creation and prevent youngsters from being idle and walking into terrorism. Investing and making money is not the goal. The goal is to create jobs, do something to benefit the masses and make life better for every Somali.”

– Shannon Keith

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Laila Ali

rwanda-hospital

1994 marked the end of genocide in Rwanda and the beginning of an effort to rebuild a country that was dismantled by genocide. Now, almost two decades later, Rwanda has become a story of evident progress.

In the last two decades, Rwanda has seen tremendous social and economic improvement. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line has sharply decreased from 78 percent in 1994 to 45 percent in 2013. The gross domestic product of Rwanda has more than tripled. Average life expectancy has doubled from 28 years to 56 years of age. Maternal mortality has decreased by 60 percent. The chance of a child under 5 dying has decreased by 70 percent. 99 percent of primary-school-age children are in school.

How has this happened?

According to a research study conducted by Partners in Health that was recently published in the British Medical Journal, improved health care has been the Rwandan answer.

Cameron Nutt, a member of the Partners in Health research team, stated, “The Rwandan government has attacked the deadliest diseases in the most vulnerable parts of the population”. It has subsidized the prices of many medicines and made it possible for nearly 98 percent of the population to have health insurance and access to preventative care, such as mosquito nets and vaccines. Rwandan leaders have taken a proactive approach to ensure the advancement of its health care system. The country has successfully utilized Western aid to train Rwandans in medical fields and improve the way in which major diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, are treated.

For Rwanda, health care has meant vast amounts of change and improvement. Health care has equated for fewer people living below the poverty line, more people living longer, and more people being able to work and contribute to their country. Health care has resulted in successful development.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, The Dartmouth

Photo Source: PHR

Broadband – A Basic Human RightMost technology is limited in Mfangano, a fishing community off the Kenyan shore of Lake Victoria. The first time a car drove around the entire island was in 2007. Islanders only receive spotty coverage from cell providers due to the difficulties of building cell towers on Mfangano. Providers face difficulty constructing links from the mainland, and islands perceive key construction platforms as sacred.

Worst of all is the lack of internet access.

Chas Salmen, the director of the Organic Health Response (OHR), a small Kenyan NGO that provides HIV/AIDS-related services, noted the Islanders’ repeated desire for internet at community meetings. OHR started the meetings as a means to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and encouraged feedback in order to understand the lives of the islanders.

One of OHR’s primary difficulties was getting a substantial proportion of the community to attend the meetings. This was solved when OHR built the Ekialo Kiona Center (EK). The EK has a computer center, library and training facility. “Ekialo Kiona” means “Whole World” in the Suba language; the name refers to the OHR’s policy of allowing anyone access to the EK and the internet in exchange for maintaining a schedule of HIV tests every 6 months.

Participation in OHR’s programs has grown rapidly with the internet incentive. Now over 2,000 participants, or 10 percent of the population, use the EK and attend the regular meetings.

“The timing of the project was just perfect,” said Salmen. “It went live just before schools closed for a one-month break and we had 250 secondary students enroll right away. 75 percent of our new enrollment has been young people, under 25. They engage with us in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

The OHR also set up a network-connected radio transmitter to broadcast, which has greatly increased the amount of the population on the receiving end of their educational messages.

Salmen said, “When we broadcast we get SMS messages from a huge area, including Kisumu, 90km away. EK Radio fan pages have started appearing on Facebook without any prompting on our side. It’s a total game changer to start those conversations and have everyone listening at once.”

Broadband connectivity is not a high priority for those aiding developing communities. But, as Cisco’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Tae Yoo noted, it creates jobs, higher productivity and ultimately enables economic and social development.

The United Nations now classifies broadband as a basic human right because it helps developing communities advance economically and socially. Yet, UNESCO estimates that 90 percent of communities in developing areas are without access to broadband.

Inveneo has launched the Broadband for Good Initiative (BB4G) to speed up access to broadband throughout the developing world. BB4BG uses low-cost technologies to deliver broadband into urban and rural areas. BB4G currently provides broadband access to 20 percent of rural Haiti, and certain areas of Micronesia, Kenya, Uganda and the West Bank of Palestine.

“Mfangano is a great pilot for building sustainable broadband networks,” said Eric Blantz, senior program director for Inveneo. “The challenges we’ve seen here are not unique, but the solutions we’re finding are innovative and replicable across the developing world.”

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: The Huffington Post

Photo: Organic Health Response

Measuring the Development of the WorldSince stepping down from his leadership role at Microsoft in 2008, Bill Gates has been writing an annual public letter on global issues as well as the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the 2013 letter, Gates focuses on the issue of measuring development. Measuring progress would allow for a coherent assessment of the effectiveness of the efforts.

Gates’ letter proposes that philanthropy and government programs have to turn towards the business model example. This model emphasizes a clear evaluation of profit in order to measure their rate of progress towards their goals. Gates refers to the quantification of the decrease in child mortality rates in Ethiopia as an example of setting an explicit and measurable goal.

Along with Gates’ letter, Hans Rosling, Swedish academic and developer of the Trendalyzer, produced a video for the release of the letter. In the video, Rosling discusses why the world can no longer be simply divided into two poles of developed countries and developing countries.

Rosling’s study of the number of children per family and mortality rates explains the rapid development that has occurred in the world within the past 50 years. According to this model, a large number of developing countries have moved into the section of the developed countries.

By measuring these global trends, we can better understand the development of the world.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: WSJ
Photo: Flickr

Rebuilding Haiti's RubbleIn 2010, a vicious earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti. Thousands were killed, and untold destruction was wrought upon countless homes and families. Despite its representation of the rampant destruction that once occurred, the remaining rubble is now re-purposed to provide a pathway forward for those who need it most. This is a crucial and hopeful step for the Haitian government to accept help from the United Nations (UN), to focus on rebuilding Haiti’s rubble of the 2010 earthquake.

Thus far, over 80 percent of the rubble is off the streets. Over 20 percent of what has been cleared has been recycled to provide materials for reconstruction. Essentials like stairs and tiles are created with the help of over 20,000 temporary UN and Haitian government workers and Haitian government workers. Construction is focused on making homes that have the capacity to withstand future disasters, including flooding and additional earthquakes.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has provided Haitian citizens grants to purchase repairs and construction materials through monetary transfers via mobile networks. UNDP has trained thousands of Haitians on subjects ranging from home repair to urban planning.

As these projects go on, the Haitian government continues to pursue its “16/6” program, which seeks to close six camps of Internally Displaced Persons and have those people rehabilitate 16 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Recently, over ten thousand families have returned to their homes.

– Jake Simon

Source: UNDP
Photo Source: Christian Science Monitor

UK Labour’s Plan for International DevelopmentBritish Shadow Secretary for International Development Ivan Lewis presented Labour’s plan for development scheme after 2015 when the general election in the UK will be held. The UN Millennium Development Goals are also due for reassessment in 2015. Lewis proposed that the new framework will be based on equal partnership, claiming, “Gone are the days when G8 governments could impose their views on the rest of the world.”

Lewis acknowledged that many of the Millennium Development Goals will not be met by 2015 but cited its significant impact on raising global awareness. Labour’s “One Nation: One World” goal will focus on promoting social justice and dealing with inequality through stimulating economic growth that is sustainable. As Lewis wrote, “Ending aid dependency is the right objective for the dignity, independence and self-determination of nations and their citizens.” Lewis recognized that global issues impact the security of Britain and that globalization in this interconnected world is “a reality, not a choice, both in Europe and the wider world.”

Lewis went on to cite Labour’s accomplishments in establishing the Department for International Development on the cabinet-level, as well as committing to spending 0.7% of the gross national income on aid. Labour leader Ed Miliband is dedicated to building on Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s legacy for working towards a “fairer and sustainable” world. He also faulted Prime Minister David Cameron, who is now a co-chair of the UN high-level panel on development, for having “an ideological reluctance to focus on inequality.”

Lewis ended with an optimistic aspiration, “Our generation can and should be the generation which ends absolute poverty, reduces inequality and safeguards the planet.”

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: Guardian
Photo: Guardian