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Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in New Caledonia

New Caledonia is a French territory island off the coast of Australia that retains almost full autonomy. There have been strong pushes to keep the nation as a whole from suffering from any significant diseases, but there are still people living below the poverty line, which has meant hunger for those who cannot afford food. This hunger in New Caledonia poses an issue for France and the local government that needs to be remedied.

In 2009-10, France sent more developmental aid here than any other territory, and the results are obvious. With a 96.9 percent literacy rate, 100 percent access to sanitation facilities, and 98.5 percent having access to improved water sources, it is obvious that France is taking the care of its people seriously. But this does not mean that the nation is not having issues with poverty.

New Caledonia had a significant unemployment rate of 14.7 percent in 2014, rising slightly from 14 percent in 2009, despite having strong service and industrial sectors. Along with 17 percent of people living under the poverty line in 2008 (the most recent data), this shows that not everyone who is employed can earn enough to bring themselves out of poverty or feed themselves.

Having a large segment of their economy based on mining and exporting nickel has disadvantages at times because the prices rise and fall, leaving the people at the mercy of an unstable market. The government has tried to find ways to combat this fluctuation.

New Caledonia set up a Nickel Fund to aid its biggest and most unstable industry when prices fall. In 2016, the first ever payments to come out of the Nickel Fund were dispersed when nickel prices plummeted. However, of the $23 million in the fund, the less than $1 million dispersed barely reached 500 employees, because a majority of the businesses involved in nickel mining are covered by this contingency. Still, even though it is early in the process, it shows an attempt to provide a safety net for its people to help fight against poverty and hunger.

France’s continued involvement in New Caledonia’s progress saw French Prime Minister Manuel Valls confirm $500 million in continued support for 2016-20 to continue to develop New Caledonia. This money will help create contingency plans with industries to help people out of poverty and to be able to afford all that they need.

Though there is no new data on the poverty rates, the slightly increasing unemployment shows that there is room for improvement. However, it is clear that between France and the government of New Caledonia, there have been significant efforts to raise the status of the small territory’s status in its continuing development efforts. There is little doubt that they will be able to stamp out hunger in New Caledonia in the years to come.

Rebekah Covey

Photo: Google

Education in Spain

Education in Spain is a broad and extended topic. Although the federal form of government in the country resides in Madrid, and is lead by the prime minister Mariano Rajoy, the country is divided within 17 autonomous regions that have smaller forms of government within each one. This leads to some schools in Spain teaching Spanish in the particular dialect from each region, such as in Catalonia, the Basque country, Galicia and more.

The Spanish schooling system is divided within three categories: public schools, private schools and state-funded private schools. Regardless of public schools being completely funded by the state, thus free of charge for the students who attend such schools, class materials, books and sometimes uniforms still need to be paid with citizens’ own money.

Sunken within the 2008 economic crisis, the European country of Spain has just now started to recover its economy and generate interest, breaking the loop that has positioned the country at the second highest unemployment rate within the European Union, Greece taking the first place. The sector that has been most affected by the economic crisis of the past several years has been public education in Spain. This issue has been a notoriously increasing one since the economic crisis started, due to extreme budget cuts on the public schooling system within the European country.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy declared José Ignacio Wert as the minister for education in the year of 2011, and from then to 2015, when Wert was substituted by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, education was greatly affected. From the year 2012 to 2013, public schools’ teaching systems declined when sharp cuts forced the government to leave up to 25,000 teachers unemployed. Public universities’ tuition fees increased by 66 percent, taking Spanish citizens out on the street to protest the dreadful management that increased the numbers of people who could not afford education for their families.

The main consequence regarding these issues has been the increase of school dropouts, which stood at an alarming rate of 25 percent in 2014, the highest school dropout rate in the European Union. However, there is good news. Even with high levels of poverty, education in Spain was ranked as having the 12th lowest inequality gap for students of all the countries in Europe.

Spanish residents fight for a better schooling system and education in Spain everyday. The lack of teachers, economic resources and the increase of students per class have lead to a series of educational strikes in order to make the Spanish government understand and respond to the gravity of the issue.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking Crisis in Yemen
Amid the continued civil unrest and armed conflicts, the Republic of Yemen’s human trafficking crisis is continuously getting worse. The weakening of Yemeni government control over a significant portion of territory, following the 2011 uprising, has allowed human trafficking to thrive. Now, NGOs are reporting that vulnerable populations are at an increased risk of falling victim to the human trafficking network.

Yemen’s human trafficking crisis has not been properly addressed since 2006. According to the U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report, released in 2014, Yemen was demoted from a Tier 2 to a Tier 3 rating. Tier 2 recognizes that a nation does not comply with Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act’s (TVPA) standards but is making efforts to achieve compliance.

Yemen’s current Tier 3 rating (since 2011) means that Yemen is not complying with the TVPA and that it has ceased making significant efforts to improve. That same year, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported over 103,000 new arrivals in Yemen, having been smuggled or trafficked to the country.

As of 2017, Yemen’s human trafficking crisis has not changed for the better. Due to the tenuous political circumstances, the government faces serious obstacles in combatting trafficking. Yemen is dealing with substantial internal security threats, weak institutions, widespread corruption, economic dilapidation, limited territorial control and a poor law enforcement capacities.

However, the greatest threat is the inherent increased risk for human trafficking due to the nation’s failure to implement and enforce any anti-trafficking laws. The lack of government control has also resulted in little oversight or activity in the courts. Without the government to prosecute, convictions and punishments are not being sought.

Allegedly, some officials willfully ignore the trafficking crimes in their regions. The most vulnerable to Yemen’s human trafficking crisis are migrant workers who attempt to flee poverty by finding work in the Gulf states and are unaware of the situation. As they travel to their destination, they are caught in large crowds, pushed overboard, and taken hostage by the smugglers.

Locals are also at risk. A common practice known as “sex tourism” (described as brief marriages between visitors and young Yemeni girls) has largely resulted due to rising poverty levels in rural areas.

The criminal networks do not stop at Yemen’s borders, but rather extend to Ethiopia, Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. As the smugglers continue to move victims internationally and Yemen further develops into a place of origin and transit, the chances that victims are recovered and returned to their families decreases.

By combatting poverty in Yemen, many of the workers who desperately search for opportunities and fall prey on fraudulent job offers would decline. However, until people can provide food and basic necessities for themselves, they may have no choice but to accept any work they can. Unfortunately, smugglers will exploit this. Thus, by combatting poverty, Yemen’s human trafficking crisis can be addressed, too.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Traffic Accidents Disrupt Cambodia's Millennium Development GoalsThe main cause of death in Cambodia is traffic accidents. While there are expected damages to the car and its surroundings, the effects of the accidents extend much further than the intersection where it occurred. As a result of the traffic issues, Cambodia is suffering from the destruction of lives and property and from reduced development efforts. Specifically, traffic accidents disrupt Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals efforts, the first of which is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

The challenges to national development arise directly, and indirectly, from the costs associated with each traffic accident. According to a 2013 study, traffic accidents cost the government about $337 million. That is equivalent to nearly three percent of Cambodia’s GDP. The costs stem from the destruction of the roads and cars, medical expenses, court service fees and non-productivity. The Minister of Health, Dr. Nuth Sokkom, reported that upwards of 50 percent of hospital patients are there because of traffic accidents. Costs accumulate when injuries are severe, as some riders need a year’s worth of treatment or are permanently disabled. When these cases arise, the financial burden shifts to the government to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Specifically for low-income families, the effect of a traffic accident is even more costly. A family can spend years trying to pay off the debt incurred. Even for the survivors, victims and their families are often forced to sell land and livestock in order to make ends meet. Further, since a majority of victims are young men who are the head of their household, the children of the victims’ families are impacted on an educational level. To help with work at home, many children drop out of school. Research shows that the dropout rate has increased to 30 percent among victims’ families.

Ear Chariya, director of Cambodia’s Institute for Road Safety, has made statements regarding the number of accidents and attributes the problem to a couple of different sources. First, traffic signs and lights are already in place, so driver caution needs to increase. Second, the government simply is not doing much to enforce the traffic laws and hold abusers accountable.

The good news is that in 2016, Cambodia experienced a significant drop in the number of traffic accidents. Not only did the number of accidents decrease by about 12 percent, but the number of deaths and injuries decreased as well. With a more active law enforcement to implement the rules of the road, Cambodia saw a positive turn away from traffic-related incidents. With new traffic laws in place, the government is focused on spreading awareness about the laws with the intent to continue increasing driver accountability. Given the success in the first year’s implementation, how long traffic accidents disrupt Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals is surely limited. As the costs of the accidents are removed, both the government and people of Cambodia can reallocate the resources toward ending the pervasive hunger and poverty throughout the nation.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Bullet TrainIndia’s first-ever high-speed rail (HSR) network, the bullet train project, has been approved by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi, along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will be laying the foundation stone for the first track between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

The train will reach top speeds between 320 and 350 kilometers per hour, making the 508-kilometer route between Ahmedabad and Mumbai five hours shorter than the usual seven-hour trip. The bullet train’s first route will contain 12 stations, four being in Maharashtra and eight in Gujarat, with about 92 percent running on an elevated track.

The bullet train will start underground with a station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex in Mumbai, which will then run 27 kilometers through a tunnel in the sea until it pulls into the over ground station in Thane.

India has received about 85 percent of its funding for the bullet train project from Japan, according to Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu. In return, the Japanese E5 Series Shinkansen train will serve as the bullet train in India.

Prabhu and his ministry have drawn extensive maps for high-speed corridors on various routes between Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Mysuru and Bengaluru. These trains will also have the potential to reach a maximum of 350 kilometers per hour. Other routes – including Chennai-Hyderabad and Chennai-Mysuru – will have trains traveling at around 160 to 250 kilometers per hour.

Although the bullet train project has been undergoing feasibility testing since 2009, the project is just now in the soil-testing stage. The foundation stone is expected to be laid by both Indian and Japanese Prime Ministers in September of this year. Construction will follow in early 2018, and the launch of the first section’s operations is scheduled for 2023.

Once the track is completed, the bullet train will have the capacity to seat 731 passengers – 698 standard class and 55 business class. In addition, the train has an extended long nose to prevent damaging tunnel boom – the loud noise made when the train exits a tunnel at high speeds – which is due to uneven air pressure.

With luxury leather seating, adjustable reading lamps and foldable dining tables, the trains were designed with passenger comfort in mind. Additionally, the trains are fully accessible and equipped to serve any passengers with disabilities.

In the next six years, the bullet train system will make India a lot more manageable to get around for locals, business professionals and other travelers. The Indian government is also hopeful that the bullet train will lead to more opportunities to form deeper ties with Japan and eventually China, too.

Kassidy Tarala
Photo: Flickr


Poor water quality is a prevalent epidemic in the Polynesian islands of Tonga. Despite the fairly steady supply of water in the islands, sourced from rainwater catchment systems and groundwater, water quality in Tonga needs improvement to prevent potentially deadly waterborne illnesses. The inability to access appropriate sanitation, as well as the cultural absence of hygienic attitudes, led the Tongan government to intervene in community affairs.

A major contributor to poor water quality in Tonga is the lack of any statistical information about water distribution or a centralized sewage system. No data exchange systems have been enforced because much of the country’s water consumption is managed at a communal level, bearing little to no legislative authority. Although Tonga’s Ministry of Health attempted to keep the water supply free from wastewater contamination, the local community remains in control of wastewater due to the culture of the islands.

Another factor that inhibits water quality in Tonga is that the population has grown by 46,000 people in the last decade, according to the Pacific Community. The steady increase of population created greater pressure on how the water supply is managed and treated. It is now more important than ever for Tonga to ensure that the quality of water is acceptable.

Despite the absence of authority regarding water resources, the Tongan government recently enforced the Water Supply Plan. The World Health Organization defines this as “a risk assessment and risk management plan for water supplies that, when implemented, reduces or eliminates the water becoming contaminated by pathogens, chemical or through physical means.” Part of this plan includes educational programs which are also successful in raising cautionary awareness towards water quality and personal sanitation.

The road to improvement for Tongan water quality is optimistic. According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, external aid from the EU provided 1.1 million euros to address water security for the Kingdom of Tonga, which is used for innovative technology to make collecting and cleaning water more efficient and secure. However, establishing lasting improvement of the water quality in Tonga is ultimately dependent on members of the community who must comply with the governmental pleas to change.

Mary Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in TaiwanThe calculation of poverty in Taiwan is a bit different. Families are considered poor if their monthly income is below a threshold set by the city or province. This means only 1.78 percent of the population, or about 130,000 people, are considered poor.

Each city in Taiwan has a different monthly income that is considered as a minimum. For example, while a family’s minimum income should be $171 to meet their basic needs in Kinmen County, the minimum is $337 in Taipei City.

The low percentage of poverty in Taiwan is not a coincidence, but rather is the result of efforts of the Taiwanese government alongside with various civic organizations, private foundations and academic institutions. For example, in 1999 the government spent $5.08 billion on social welfare programs.

However, there are problems in the government’s standards for calculating poverty rates. In 2004, the Taipei Times reported an interesting example. In Taiwan, low-income households are provided 13 benefits and services by the government such as living subsidies, medical grants and emergency funds.

These services are given on an “all or nothing” basis, so if a family rises slightly above the poverty threshold, they lose their rights to all of these services. The article reports, “Given this ‘all or nothing system,’ low-income households do not wish to rise above the poverty line, for if they do, they would really fall into poverty.”

In 2011, the government raised the poverty line. With this, an additional 588,000 people became eligible for social assistance and subsidies. The article “Changing Times Force Taiwan to Raise Welfare Spending” notes the tradition of taking care of one’s elders, which means taking care of them financially, as a reason for the necessity of raising the poverty line.

Looking at it from a cultural perspective, the article points out that the tradition of extended families living altogether (usually three generations under one roof) is starting to break down. “The family are no longer as close-knit as they once were. Grown children, for example, do not necessarily care for their elderly parents,” reports Cindy Sui.

Despite some of these structural problems with the government subsidies, many NGOs are working to help those who are not regarded as poor but who nevertheless are barely getting by.

One of the most prominent organizations is the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. Promoting and advocating for the well-being of children, youth, and underprivileged families, the organization was formed in 1950 and now has a force of 8,000 volunteers.

Although the percentage of those in poverty is very low, Taiwanese are worried that the poverty line is not high enough. Looking at the cultural and financial conditions, there are definitely areas that need improving.

Dilara Alemdar

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New Zealand
Child poverty in New Zealand remains a major issue, with over 300,000 children affected. This is an increase of 45,000 from last year and is double the number of impoverished children in 1984.

A recent study conducted by Auckland University found similarly troubling information that 20 percent of the country’s high school students live in poverty. Looking at ethnic groups, one third of Maori students and nearly half of Pacific students struggle with poverty.

To rectify this situation, New Zealand’s government has announced the foundation of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. As the name might imply, this organization hopes to give the government concrete responsibility for the welfare of these students.

The study’s definition of poverty was obtained by looking at various indicators in students’ lives, such as concerns about and lack of food, technology and stable living situations. If students reported two or more of the indicators, they were defined as experiencing poverty.

Unsurprisingly, higher rates of poverty correlated with higher rates of depression and smoking. This is due to growing up in families who face the stress of poverty, then having to face those stresses themselves.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children hopes to combat these issues. Yet despite its positive mission, there has already been some controversy surrounding the ministry’s announcement. Some people believe that the government should be concerned with all children, not just vulnerable children as the ministry’s name implies.

However, the Ministry of Vulnerable Children may still be poised for success. This is because the most recent report on income and poverty in New Zealand shows that there have been no increases in either. In fact, incomes have risen by nearly 12 percent overall since 2011.

This increase in income is sure to help offset the very high cost of housing that much of New Zealand faces. For some families, 60 to 70 percent of income is spent on housing and there is little money left to cover other expenses.

Hopefully, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children can take advantage of rising incomes and improve quality of life for all those affected by child poverty in New Zealand.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Mexico's Poverty Rate
The number of Mexicans living in poverty increased by two million between 2012 and 2014, according to Reuters. These figures of Mexico’s poverty rate highlight the challenges President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing in meeting pledges to help millions in need.

 

President Enrique Peña Nieto Struggles with Mexico’s Poverty Rate

 

“With his six-year term half over, Enrique Peña Nieto is trying to rally public confidence in his government’s economic plan amid lackluster growth projections,” said International Business Times.

While his efforts have focused on making Mexico a competitive nation, “the government is flailing in its battle against staggering income inequality and poverty rates that have remained virtually unchanged over the past 20 years,” according to International Business Times.

In 2014, Mexico’s poverty rate increased from 45.5 to 46.2 percent, corresponding to 55.3 million people in the country of approximately 120 million, said a spokesperson for the government’s social development agency.

According to Oxfam Mexico’s executive director, “while the wealth of Mexican multimillionaires is multiplied by five, 48 percent of state schools have no access to sewage, 31 percent have no drinking water, 12.8 percent have no bathrooms or toilets and 11.2 percent have no access to electricity.”

Under Peña Nieto’s administration, the problem has only worsened. While many Latin American countries have diminished their levels of poverty, Mexico’s have continued to increase.

Peña Nieto recognizes that income inequality, global economic turmoil and corruption have prevented Mexico from both an economic boost and a diminished poverty rate.

Jonathan Foxx, a political science professor at American University in Washington, D.C. suggested that “neither inequality nor poverty reduction have been major priorities of this administration, nor the previous administrations.”

The government has been criticized for being too focused on attracting foreign investment and strengthening large-scale private industries, rather than concentrating on reducing its poverty rate.

Professor Foxx added that Mexico’s poverty rate remains the largest concern, regardless of wide income disparities. “If the government was more effective at reducing poverty, then people would worry less about inequality,” he said. “But since neither is getting better, it’s hard to disentangle.”

A major shift in focus and strategy is needed if Mexico is to succeed in combating its increasing poverty rate.

Isabella Rölz

Sources: International Business Times, Reuters, World Bank
Photo: Flickr