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Facts about the Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, writes in his book The Joy of Living and Dying in Peace, “the more we care for the welfare of the majority, the more we work for social welfare, the greater will be our own peace and happiness. Just as the citizens of a particular country have certain obligations as well as enjoy certain benefits, our obligation as followers of the Buddha and bodhisattvas is to benefit all sentient beings.” The Dalai Lama is a pivotal figure on the topic of spiritualism, politics and the oppressed people of the world. Learn more facts about the Dalai Lama.

Top 15 facts About the Dalai Lama

  1. The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born on July 6, 1935, and was originally named Lhamo Dhondup. He was one of five children born to a peasant family in Taktser, a village northeast of Tibet.
  2. Gyatso grew up in Tibet’s ancient Potala Palace in Lhasa after being found at age two to be the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. In 1939, he took the throne in Potala, and two years later, at the age of six, he became a monk.
  3. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Dalai Lamas are the reincarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate in order to serve people.
  4. Dalai Lama means Ocean of Wisdom. This was put to the test for Tenzin Gyatso, as in 1950, the Dalai Lama was asked to assume full political power as Head of the Tibetan Government while the country was being threatened by China.
  5. One of the more unique facts about the Dalai Lama is that he was forced into exile in 1959 following China’s military occupation of Tibet. His official residence was moved to Dharamsala in northern India. Dharamsala is now the seat of the Tibetan Government.
  6. In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented a five-point peace plan at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, D.C., as a first step toward resolving the future status of Tibet. This plan called to designate a Tibetan zone of peace, end the massive influx of Chinese into Tibet, restore fundamental human rights, end China’s dumping of nuclear waste in the country and urge negotiation on the relations between Tibetan and Chinese people.
  7. Of the 15 facts about the Dalai Lama, his dedication to preserving the lives of his people is perhaps the most recognized. On Dec. 11, 1989, the Dalai Lama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize due to his ceaseless goodwill and desire for communication with China as opposed to conflict, as well as his humanitarian work.
  8. The institution of the Dalai Lama is relatively young. There have been thirteen previous Dalai Lamas, and the first two were given their titles posthumously. Buddhists believe the first reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion was Gedun Drub, who lived from 1391 to 1474.
  9. Following the death of a Dalai Lama, it has traditionally been the responsibility of the High Lamas and the Tibetan government to find the reincarnation. The search for the 14th Dalai Lama took four years.
  10. The current Dalai Lama is extremely interested in the sciences. He has a particular fondness for ecology and believes that working toward the preservation of the planet embodies the ideals of Buddha.
  11. The fourteenth Dalai Lama is unique in that he is the first Dalai Lama to have visited the U.S. and traveled the western world.
  12. He is also unique in that he has suggested the line of reincarnation may cease entirely. In 2015, he made comments to the New York Times to that effect, fearing that the Chinese government will use the issue of succession to split Tibetan Buddhism, with one successor named by the exiles and one by the Chinese government.
  13. China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. Chinese police in Tibet urge locals to report suspected supporters of the Dalai Lama and his “evil forces” in Tibet. China has become increasingly worried about how Tibet is portrayed throughout the world and are attempting to dissolve Tibetan culture. Tashi Wangchuk, an activist, could face 15 years in jail for promoting the use of the Tibetan language in schools.
  14. Mercedes-Benz issued an apology to Chinese consumers on Feb. 6, 2018 for an Instagram post showing one of its luxury cars along with a quote from the Dalai Lama. The quote: “Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.” Instagram has been blocked in China since 2014.
  15. In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama is the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. Upon learning this, China put the boy under house arrest and installed another in his place.

These 15 facts about the Dalai Lama showcase the plight of Tibet and the tenacious tenderness of its spiritual leader. Tenzin Gyatso is the only Dalai Lama to have been exiled from his own country. He is no longer allowed to freely visit his own place of birth. Even though the people of Tibet support him and would gladly start an uprising to take back their country, he has urged them not to in order to maintain peace and preserve the lives of his people. He holds true to his teachings of openness and communication, as well as his dedication as a follower of the Buddha to benefit all sentient beings.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Colombia 
Colombia is a beautiful country with a landscape marked by rainforests, Andes mountains and numerous coffee plantations, but poverty in Columbia remains a problem. Below are facts about Columbia’s poverty problem.

10 Facts About Poverty in Colombia

  1. The population living below the poverty line is 34 percent. Though the economic growth of Colombia is among one of the world’s emerging economies, more than three out of ten Colombians still live in poor conditions. Colombia is also the world’s seventh most inequitable country.
  2. Colombia’s unemployment rate grew to 9.4 percent in 2017, making it the country with the highest unemployment rate in Latin America after Venezuela. According to Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics, another 8.5 percent of the population was underemployed in the last quarter of 2017.
  3. Colombia has been experiencing violent internal conflicts for more than 50 years. Since 1985, over 5.9 million Colombians have been displaced. People then migrate to urban areas and create informal settlements on the cities’ borders.
  4. There are about 3.8 million households, nearly 30 percent of all families in Colombia, that do not have adequate homes according to Ministry of Housing estimates. About 662,146 families are homeless, which is five percent of the population.
  5. Columbia’s informal settlements result in challenges. These include lack of access to basic services, poor structural quality and low accessibility to resources for the progressive construction of a house. There is a lack of secure land tenure, meaning people are building homes on land they don’t own. Informal settlements also result in limited access to social and health services, education and employment possibilities.
  6. Colombia has dealt with internal struggle for more than 50 years. According to The World Bank, if the country had found even 20 previous years of peace, the income per capita could have been 50 percent higher than it is now. Economic growth was responsible for over 70 percent of extreme poverty reduction between 2002 and 2013.
  7. More than 12.7 million people in Colombia live on less than $2 a day. According to Opportunity Columbia, an organization to enable marginalized people to engage in the local economy, only 2.5 percent of Colombians are using microfinance services.
  8. Additional facts about poverty in Colombia show that in rural areas, more than 7 million people are poor and 2 million are living in extreme poverty.
  9. The unequal distribution of the country’s wealth and welfare resources affects Colombian people and is a cause of poverty. The country’s income concentration is very high compared to the international averages. The per capita income of the richest ten percent is 46 times greater than those of the poorest ten percent.
  10. In 81 percent of poor rural homes in Colombia, there is no connection to the piped-water network. Additionally, 68 percent of the population suffers from overcrowding.

These facts about poverty in Colombia will help provide a better understanding of the social and economic situation in the country, as well as the progress made and the work that still needs to be done.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Brazil
The biggest country in South America is dealing with one of the most drastic poverty issues on Earth. Despite billions of dollars invested in event tourism like the World Cup (2014) and the Olympics (2016), Brazil’s economy has begun to spiral downward as the country faces its biggest decline in over a decade. These crucial facts about poverty in Brazil offer insight on the issues that plague them.

Poverty in Brazil

  1. The homeless population is revolutionary
    One of the recent facts about poverty in Brazil is that squatters there have collectively chosen to occupy abandoned hotels and are now facing the threat of eviction. One example is the Mauá Occupation, which houses over 1,000 people that make up around 237 families. Mauá was a unique idea back in 2007 when the homeless population was barely surviving on the streets and began taking up land by way of force. Now, it has become a full-blown movement. Like many countries, Brazil suffers from gentrification and increased living costs. Brazil’s gentrification has created a revolution of homeless people occupying space both as a protest and out of necessity. This past November, over 20,000 homeless marched throughout the city in direct protest of the housing inequity.
  2. Slavery ended only 130 years ago; inequality still devastating
    In 1888, Brazil became the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, and the social, economic and moral ramifications of it still ripple throughout the nation. This is one of the more subtle and lesser spoken facts about poverty in Brazil because it reflects an ugly part of a recent history. Known as Afro-Brasileiros, black and brown Brazilians make up 51 percent of the nation’s population and suffer from discrimination and exclusion more than their lighter-skinned neighbors. Afro-Brasileiros also make up the majority of the homeless and poor population, and only seven percent of the city’s rich self-identify as such. Despite being known as a racial democracy, 80 percent of Brazil’s richest one percent are white, while only 13 percent of black and mixed-race Brazilians between 18 and 24 are currently enrolled in college. Afro-Brasileiro activism takes many forms; the Quilombos are descendants of slaves fighting for reparations. Another group focuses on the disproportions of blacks dying at the hands of Brazilian police. They have the slogan #VidasNegrasImportam, which translates to “Black Lives Matter.”
  3. New spending cap is making matters worse
    The new spending cap, known as PEC 55, will cut public spending for programs that help the poor. A U.N. official lauded it as the most socially regressive austerity package in the world. With 60 percent of Brazilians opposing it, the 20-year spending freeze inducted by President Temer has been protested and deemed a direct attack on the poor by many analysts.
  4. Unemployment was once slow growing; now it’s much faster
    Since the end of the World Cup in 2014, Brazil’s economy has been steadily declining to a new low. Unemployment grew from about six percent in December 2013 to nearly 12 percent in November 2016, despite almost 30 million Brazilians rising out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. Economic inequality is now expected to increase and around 2.5 million more Brazilians will be forced into poverty in the coming years.
  5. Water everywhere but not much to drink
    Roughly 20 percent of the world’s water supply is in Brazil yet much of the population suffers from a water shortage. The problem is that water is being used to power the economy, not the people. This is actually one of the older facts about poverty in Brazil, as the nation’s water misallocation has always been notoriously underserving. More than 60 percent of the nation’s energy is from hydropower plants while 72 percent of the water supply is consumed by agriculture via irrigation. In fact, Brazil is one of the most water-dependent nations in the world. More than eight percent of its GDP is agriculture and agroindustries, making it the world’s second-largest food exporter. Allocation of most of the nation’s water goes to the business sectors, and between 2004 and 2013, there was only a 10 percent increase in sanitation networks among the poorest 40 percent (i.e., households with toilets).
  6. From an emerging economy to a shrinking one
    Formerly an emerging economy growing at a rate of 7.5 percent in 2010, it shrunk at about the same rate over the last two years. Shrinkage is expected to increase due to President Temer’s privatization plan, and around 57 state assets are set to undergo a privatized makeover. From highways to airports and even the national mint, the privatization is in an effort to increase employment and improve quality of the service provided by the sectors. There is some proof that this could work; back in the 90s, the privatization lead to the considerable modernization of several crucial sectors. The best possible scenario still leaves the majority of the population, specifically the poorest, out of the financial loop.  Attracting international interests is great for the richest population looking to sell land to the highest bidder which happens to be China.
  7. Deforestation of the Amazon by China hurts locals directly
    China’s overwhelming demand for food meets Brazil’s immense agricultural production in a way that primarily benefits the wealthiest of Brazil. The Brazilian government has been selling off large parts of the Amazon to China directly, ironically in an effort to help China’s pollution while hurting Brazil’s sensitive ecology and economy. China’s deforestation of the Amazon temporarily increases employment in Brazilian cities near the forest, but then once first stages of production are over, massive layoffs result in a plummet of employment with the social climate (increased crime and violence) going with it. The massive deforestation even threatens Brazil’s ecological promises involved with the Paris Agreement.
  8. Infant mortality has dropped significantly but could be lower
    As of 2016, Brazil has significantly lowered it’s infant mortality rate from about 53 deaths per 1,000 (circa 1990) live births to about 14. While this is quite an achievement for such a developing country with so many social problems, UNICEF, the organization most responsible for helping the decline, remarked that the indigenous children of Brazil’s mortality rate is twice as high as those of city-born children. This shows that even for countries with relatively low levels of mortality, greater efforts to reduce disparities at the sub-national level are still needed. According to UNICEF, back in 2013 at least 32 municipalities still had an infant mortality rate of 80 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  9. Worker’s Unions are going extinct
    A recent law passed by President Temer allows employers to bypass nearly all hurdles set up by unions by eliminating a “union tax” that generates funding for worker’s unions. Designed to aid multinational corporations and not workers, the “reform” has been criticized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as being in violation of international conventions. This permits inhumane working conditions and legalizes free labor. Legislation changes like this alter the future of the Brazilian workforce exponentially as multinational companies begin their migration into the Amazon.
  10. The right conditions for slavery
    Temer altered the definition of slavery so that it is defined by the victim’s freedom to leave. Meaning if a worker is kept in all the same living conditions as slavery, but not being physically forced to stay, it is to be considered legal labor. This is an emerging fact about poverty in Brazil because it has not happened yet, but legislatively, the absurd conditions do exist and the threat of slave labor is very real. This critical alteration of the definition has lead to the need for deeper investigations and, in alignment with the new changes, requires a police report with every case, creating more complications with each case. This drastically hurts the effectiveness of the ILOs ongoing fight against slavery which saw the liberation of more than 30,000 slaves in Brazil since 2003. The migration of businesses to the Amazon has made investigations much harder for the ILO and the conditions under which slaves work have gotten more brutal as well.

– Toni Paz
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in India
A young nation with a long history, India has the second largest population in the world. India is also a regional power with a stable democratic government and an economy that is growing quickly. Despite this, poverty in India is high. This is often portrayed throughout history as “growing pains”. To mitigate these pains, the government is working to diminish poverty in India.

 

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in India

 

  1. In 1947, India gained independence from Great Britain. Its poverty rate at the time of British departure was at 70 percent.
  2. India is the country with the highest population living below the poverty line. Today, the poverty rate in India is 21.1 percent, which is an improvement from the 31.1 percent in 2009. India’s estimated population in 2016 was 1.3 billion.
  3. An underdeveloped infrastructure and medical sector hinders equal access to medical care. People living in developed urban areas have a higher chance of receiving medical attention and are at lower risk of becoming ill compared to people living in rural areas. Less than 20 percent of the rural population of India have access the clean water. Unsanitary water conditions increase the spread of both viral and bacterial infections.
  4. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a strong supporter of development in Asia, India’s economy grew by 7.1 percent in 2016. The Asian Development Bank began assisting the Indian government with infrastructure and economic development in 1986.
  5. The following four facts highlight the 2016 successes from the joint projects undertaken by the ADB and India beginning in 2010. With the help of the Asian Development Bank, 344 million homes have either gained access or improved access to clean water thank to increased investment in irrigation, water treatment, and sanitation. In addition, 744,000 homes are no longer at risk due to flooding.
  6. To boost economic growth, India and the ADB have constructed or improved 26,909km of roads though out the country, of which 20,064km are in rural areas, increasing the rural populations access to the economy and healthcare.
  7. Thanks to funding from the ADP, the Indian government has been able to build 606,174 units of affordable housing since 2010.
  8. To connect these new houses and improve older structures, 24,183km of power lines were hung or laid, while decreasing India’s carbon footprint by 992,573 tons of CO2.
  9. Independent of the ADB, the Indian government is considering testing a universal basic income program. Each person would receive 7620 Indian Rupees ($113) from the government to spend, however they choose. A similar program is being tested by Finland. The aim is to fight poverty in India by relieving pressure on the poor. The cash handout would help to alleviate the pressure of any unforeseen expense. However, opponents fear that their banking systems would not be able to handle the sudden increase in cash flow and that food prices may drastically increase.
  10. To combat black market corruption and increase tax compliance, the Indian government decided in 2016 to phase out the 500 Rupee and 1000 Rupee notes. All notes were to be deposited within the deadline, and remaining notes would not be considered legal tender.

Poverty in India is slowly but surely being diminished. Careful planning by the government will continue to benefit those stricken by poverty. Proof of this can be seen in the success of the government’s use of invested funds from the ADB. With a growing economy and responsible government, poverty in India will surely continue to decrease.

Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Circassian genocideThe facts of the Circassian genocide haunt the region today. Following the 101-year-long war, led by the Russians against the Circassians in the Caucasus, the Russian army finally succeeded in subduing the region. The result of this incredible period of resistance, however, was the development, in the Circassian social consciousness, of an undeniable hatred for the foreign invaders who sought total control of their homeland.

It was for this reason that the Russian army commenced a campaign, now seen by most of the world as a genocide, to oust the Circassians from the conquered region. The Circassian Genocide of 1864 is now remembered all over the world as one of the most gruesome genocides of the 19th century. The campaign utilized tactics, such as deportation, resource deprivation and mass murder. The idea was simple, conquer the land – extinguish the people. Prior to the Genocide, the region had roughly 1 million residents – by the end, all but 80,000 were either forcefully expelled or murdered.

Top 10 Circassian Genocide Facts

  1. Who are the Circassians? Since the fifteenth century, Circassians have adopted Islam as their religion, though most were Christian prior to then. They are a group native to the Caucasus.
  1. How long did the Russian campaign in Caucasia take? The Russians fought to take control of the Caucasus from the mid-eighteenth century until 1864. The genocide was perpetrated between March 6 and May 21, 1864.
  1. How did the Circassians hold the Russians back for so many years? The Circassians, unwilling to bow to the authority of a Christian foreign power, united with the forces of Chechnya and Dagestan. This alliance allowed for years of successful resistance, but it could not be maintained forever against the Russian Empire.
  1. Who decided to utilize this method of expulsion to conquer the Caucasus region?Count Dmitri Milyutin decided, after assuming his new role as Alexander II’s Minister of War in the 1861, to implement a strategy presented in 1854.
  1. How many Circassians were killed? According to Russian government accounts of their final campaign in the Caucasus, more than 400,000 Circassians were murdered.
  1. How many Circassians were displaced? 497,000 were forced to leave the empire.
  1. Where were they sent? They were sent into the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, many perished of starvation and/or from drowning in the Black Sea, after leaving from the Port of Sochi.
  1. How many Circassians survive today? The diaspora populations are biggest in Turkey and Syria. Worldwide there are roughly 1.5 million ethnic Circassians.
  1. How does Russia view 1864? Russia officially denies the campaign as being a genocide. However, many citizens do recognize their nation’s actions as extremely devastating for the Circassian population.
  1. How do Circassians remember this day in their history? Ethnic Circassians observe a day of remembrance for their murdered ancestors each year, on the 21st of May.

Today, these events are classified, internationally, as a genocide. In this case, the qualifier was that the actions taken by the Russian army had the clear intent of extinguishing the presence of Circassians from the region, so as to ensure little resistance to their rule. This explanation is in line with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’s definition.

Despite the international recognition of the nature of these events, the Russian government refuses to do the same. What’s more, they continue to exercise autonomous control over the affairs of the region and have since divided it into five administrative districts with little regard to the ethnic divisions in the area.

The government’s primary reason for not recognizing the Circassian genocide is, of course, political in nature. If the Russian government were to officially recognize the Circassian genocide, it would likely result in a push by Circassian diaspora communities to return to the land their forefathers were forced to flee from. This could result in a massive shift in demographics, and power, in the Caucasus.

– Katarina Schrag
Photo: Flickr

Facts About the Ustase GenocideMost people know little about or have never heard of the Ustase – a Croatian, racist, Nazi-like movement formed in 1929 that ruled Croatia during World War II. Modeled after the Italian fascists, the Ustase sought to separate Croatia from Yugoslavia in order to attain Croatian independence and create a “pure” Croatian state, using genocide to rid the country of “impure” people. This dark period for Croatia resulted in the Ustase genocide.

Top 10 facts about the Ustase Genocide:

  1. The targets of the Ustase genocide were mainly Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. These groups were also the main targets of the German Nazi genocide (the Holocaust).
  2. Initially, the Ustase’s enacted race laws against the groups they saw as non-Croatian and who they felt threatened Croatian identity, much like how the Nazi’s established race rules against those who weren’t considered pure Germans.
  3. Additionally, like the German Nazi’s, the Ustase also established concentration camps to carry out their ethnic cleansing. The largest was Jasenovac where the Ustase murdered around 70,000 to 100,000 people.
  4. The Jewish population of Croatia was practically eliminated – almost all of the 40,000 Jews that resided in Croatia were murdered.
  5. It is estimated that about 30,000 Croatian Gypsies were murdered as well. The most number of deaths comes from the Serbs killed by the Ustase; it is estimated (on the low end) that 300,000 to 400,000 Serbs were murdered in the Ustase genocide. Some reports estimate that around 750,000 Serbians perished.
  6. The leader of the Ustase movement, Ante Pavelic, fled to South America after the end of World War II in 1945. He eventually moved to Spain and died in 1959 at the age of 70 and was never prosecuted for his crimes.
  7. The racism in Croatia did not end after the end of World War II, it continued into the later twentieth century with Serbs still being persecuted and even murdered as late as 1991.
  8. Even the United States was complicit in the continued racism in Croatia. The Assistant US Secretary of State who served as the American Ambassador to Germany during the beginning of the Yugoslav War, Richard Holbrooke, represented the US view that “The Serbs started this war.”
  9. Unlike the German concentration camps, which most often used gas chambers to murder the innocent people they targeted, the Ustase genocide was carried out through much more brutal means. Croatian Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies were cruelly beheaded, drowned and murdered in other barbaric and torturous ways.
  10. Even the German Nazis noticed the brutality of the Ustase. A Gestapo report to Heinrich Himmler from 1942 stated, “The Ustaše committed their deeds in a bestial manner not only against males of conscript age but especially against helpless old people, women and children.”

The shocking cruelty of the Ustase genocide has gone forgotten but should be remembered as an example of the senseless tragedy that occurs from allowing nationalism and racism to fester rather than rooting it out immediately.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

4 Reasons Gender Equality Benefits EveryoneIn 2006, the Economist proclaimed that women are “the world’s most underutilized resource.” While gender equality mainly entails giving women rights and opportunities that are equal to those which men have, achieving this equality will provide benefits to all. Here are four benefits of gender equality:

  1. Increased human resources spur economic growth
    Raising female employment to be equal to male employment levels could increase GDP by 34 percent in Egypt, by 12 percent in the United Arab Emirates, by 10 percent in South Africa and by nine percent in Japan. Empowering women to become active in their economy boosts productivity, a benefit that could help the poorest countries rise out of poverty. Based on these findings, many international companies have created programs to empower women economically and improve the productivity of their business.
  2. More resources reach children
    When women have more control over family resources, spending patterns tend to benefit children. Gains in women’s education and health have also been shown to result in better outcomes for children. Improving the lives of young people enhances the growth prospects of their countries.
  3. Decision-making is more reflective of collective interests
    Empowering women politically and economically so that they have a voice in the decision-making process of their community makes community policies more reflective of all members’ interests. In India, increased political participation by women has lead to more funding being allocated towards public goods, such as water and sanitation initiatives.
  4. Family planning improves quality of life
    When women are empowered to make decisions about when to have a child, the quality of their children’s life improves. Children born less than two years apart are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as children born further apart. Being unable to spread out pregnancies also interferes with breastfeeding, which has a crucial role in child nutrition.

Nestlé has decided to promote gender equality as a means of improving their business. The company partnered with COPAZ in 2010, a female cocoa cooperative in the Ivory Coast that has about 600 members.In 2014, Nestlé expanded its efforts to empower women by establishing local women’s associations, listing the wives of male cocoa farmers as members of cocoa cooperatives and helping women to increase their crop yield.

Several other companies, including Coca-Cola, Kate Spade & Company, Avon Products and Abbott Laboratories have realized that promoting gender equality is both a morally and economically sound investment. Unlocking women’s potential will improve life for both genders.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

Urbanization
Since 2013, the U.N. has celebrated October 31 as World Cities Day in support of global urbanization and sustainable urban development. This year’s theme of “Innovative Governance, Open Cities” highlights the important role of urbanization as a source of global development and social inclusion. Urbanization in developing countries contributes to poverty reduction, access to sanitation facilities and education equality if managed correctly.

Urbanization is the result of an increase in population in urban areas. Urban areas differ from rural areas due to numerical and occupational differences in population. For the most part, urban areas have more inhabitants with more industrial professions than the less populated, more agriculture-centric rural areas. Each country sets certain criteria to distinguish urban areas; “some countries define any place with a population of 2,500 or more as urban; others set a minimum of 20,000.”

 

These six numbers represent urban development in the world:

  • 54.5 percent
    In 2016, more than half of the world’s population resided in urban areas. From 30 percent in 1950, the urban population of the world has grown rapidly. An estimated 54.5 percent of the globe now resides in urban agglomerates. By 2030, 60 percent of the world is expected to reside in urban areas.
  • 33.2 million
    The biggest city in the world today, Tokyo, has a population of 33.2 million. Tokyo’s high population, over 10 million, qualifies the city as a megacity. In 1970, Tokyo and New York were the only megacities in the world. Today, Tokyo is one of 23 megacities, including 13 in Asia, four in Latin America and two each in Africa, Europe and North America.
  • $600 million
    UN-Habitat has set aside $600 million to focus exclusively on urbanization issues, including “growth of slums, inadequate and out of date infrastructure and escalating poverty and unemployment.” While urbanization brings many positive changes, the related potential for dislocation and destabilization is the focus of the UN-Habitat for a better urban future.
  • 99 percent
    According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies 2015 report, “nearly 99 percent of urbanization between now and 2050 will take place in the developing world.” The report maps out urbanization as an economic opportunity for donors of developing nations, as long as urban challenges are addressed.
  • 80 percent
    In 2013, the World Bank reported that over 80 percent of global goods and services are produced in cities. Just the year before, “large cities made up 33 percent of the world’s global population, but produced more than 55 percent of all global economic output.” The amount of goods and services produced in cities exceeds those produced elsewhere in the world.
  • 82 percent
    The most urbanized region in the world is Northern America, with 82 percent urbanization, according to the U.N. Latin America and the Caribbean follow with 80 percent urbanization and Europe with 73 percent urbanization. Africa and Asia are urbanizing faster than any other region. While they are mostly rural now, Africa and Asia are projected to become 56 and 64 percent urban respectively by 2050.

Urbanization is spreading across the world at a growing pace. If managed properly, urbanization in developing countries can help lift many people out of poverty by providing better access to jobs, education and services. Supporting this goal is a worldwide effort.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone
From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone was embroiled in a devastating civil war, fought primarily between the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Sierra Leone Army (SLA). This civil war garnered international attention for its blatant use of child soldiers and for the skyrocketing of child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

Child soldiers are children (defined under international law as individuals under the age of 18) who are used for any military purpose. In the Sierra Leonean civil war, children made up between 40 and 50 percent of the RUF’s military force and approximately 20 percent of the government’s military force. In total, approximately 10,000 children were exploited and forced to be child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Discussed below are the leading facts about child soldiers in Sierra Leone.

 

Top 10 Facts About Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone

 

  1. The term child soldier does not only include those who carry a gun and fight. Children also served as messengers and porters, and young girls were conscripted into sexual slavery or forcibly married to generals.
  2. Children are chosen to be soldiers because they are easily manipulated. They are more loyal and obedient than adults and they are far less likely to revolt. They also do not require wages, making them a cheap alternative to traditional soldiers.
  3. Children are more likely to become child soldiers if they are poor, living in a combat zone, displaced from their homes, separated from their families or have limited access to education.
  4. The process of reintegrating child soldiers is called Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR). Compounds were created to reintegrate child soldiers in Sierra Leone by providing them with education, food, shelter and psychiatric services.
  5. DDR is not necessarily 100 percent effective. Children may relapse into violence in adolescence and adulthood. Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone, said: “One of my greatest fears in Sierra Leone now is, if you have a large number of disgruntled and idle young people who have nothing to do with themselves, you have the possibility of sparking anything.”
  6. DDR camps were also not completely safe. Rebel soldiers would hang around the camps and convince previously demobilized child soldiers to rejoin the army by promising to reunite them with their families or simply threatening to kill everyone else in the camp if they did not comply.
  7. Children were often forced to use drugs (typically marijuana or crack cocaine) to enable them to commit violence. As a result, they had a reputation among civilians for extreme cruelty. Many boys belonged to the infamous Small Boys Unit.
  8. This reputation for violence was one of the key barriers to reintegration. Child soldiers had lost their childhoods and been traumatized, but many could not return home because they were seen as murderers.
  9. In 2013, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire founded a nonprofit called the Child Soldier Initiative (CSI). It designed a mandatory training manual and seminar for police and local armed forces to inform them of children’s rights and how to handle child soldiers in the field. This training has also been used in Sudan, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, though it is not mandatory there.
  10. The second phase of CSI’s project is to have former child soldiers run the program and train other children on their rights and the alternatives to joining the conflict.

Recent innovations in international human rights law, such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (which has been ratified by more than 110 countries) are a reason to have hope for the future of children in conflict, as are nonprofits like the Child Soldier Initiative.

According to Theresa Betancourt, an expert in the field of child psychology in conflict and child soldiers, “We need to devise lasting systems of care, instead of leaving behind a dust cloud that disappears when the humanitarian actors leave.”

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr