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Horizon 2020The National Economic Development Plan: Horizon 2020 in Equatorial Guinea was launched in 2007 with the goal of overcoming social and economic challenges in the country. The initiative is divided into two phases beginning in 2008 and ending in 2020. The initial phase aims to produce a framework for economic development that would foster development for future generations fueled by the private sector, followed by consolidation within economic sectors.

The Embassy of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea outlined five key goals of the Horizon 2020 initiative: invest in strengthening economic growth, strengthen the development of structured investments, promote and strengthen the development of social policy actions, ensure a transparent social climate and develop the prospects for better monitoring and evaluation of poverty.

Secretary of state for Planning and Development, Hon César Mba Abogo, also cited the declaration of Article 8 in the country’s new constitution that emphasizes a commitment to abide by international laws as they are set forth, as well as the limitations on executive mandates.

Regardless of the restriction, significant amounts of oil revenue were discovered to be invested into private western and offshore bank accounts via an investigation conducted by the United States Senate, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in 2004.

However, constraints on the growth of Equatorial Guinea’s economy have begun to arise in 2016 as a result of decreasing oil output and notably low crude oil prices. Human Rights Watch reported an increase of over 5,000 percent since the country struck oil in 1992.

As a part of the Horizon 2020 in Equatorial Guinea initiative, the government created the Social Development Fund that budgeted $1 billion for spending toward equality, transport, water, education, social welfare and housing infrastructure. Government programs to develop public governance and investment through mobilizing and educating human capital.

An emergency program, Holding Equatorial Guinea 2020, has already been launched as a conduit to foster growth in the economic sector, promote human rights, and secure good hiring and employment practices. The main aims of the initiative are founded in economic stability and the eradication of poverty and the success of such programs exemplify the potential outcome for Equatorial Guinea at the conclusion of the initiatives.

Amber Bailey
Photo: by

Refugees_Turkey
Refugees in Turkey impose a crisis on the country, as it is currently hosting over 3 million people — the largest refugee population in the world. Syrian nationals embody a majority of the refugee population — a consequence of the devastation inflicted by five years of civil war.

Here are 10 facts about Turkey’s refugee population:

  1. As of July 28, 2016, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR) reports that there are 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. Those registered as of July 31, 2016 have origins in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
  2. Human Rights Watch estimated that 250,000 Syrian refugees are residing in one of the 25 government administrated camps. The remaining estimated 2 million refugees in Turkey live outside the camps and often struggle to find housing while they live in abject poverty.
  3. According to Project Hope, an international health care organization, Turkey has created an ID card system to provide registered Syrian refugees free health care and education.
  4. Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that since 2011, Turkey has spent more on those living outside the camps (around $30 billion), compared with about $10 billion on those living in the camps. And according to Human Rights Watch, the government has been increasingly under pressure to generate sufficient resources for a growing refugee population.
  5. The World Food Programme joined the Turkish Red Crescent in 2012 to form the Electronic Food Card Programme for Syrian refugees residing in camps. Each card given to households has a monthly stipend which allows individuals to purchase food.
  6. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) reported that it will fund the Faculty for Refugees in Turkey, providing €3 billion in humanitarian aid and development in 2016 and 2017.
  7. In the last year and a half according to the Washington Post, about 1 million refugees, mostly Syrian nationals have travelled illegally to Greece via Turkey. The journey by sea on small boats is costly and very dangerous — many have died.
  8. In January, Syrian refugees were permitted to work legally in Turkey after the government issued work permits, and in July, Al-Monitor reported that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was planning to offer citizenship to 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
  9. According to The Economist, the flow of refugees traveling to Europe has slowed in recent months because of a deal brokered between the EU and Turkey in March. The plan is controversial with human rights groups but allows migrants and refugees that came to Europe from Turkey to be sent back. In exchange, Turkey is to receive €6 billion in assistance for refugees, have renewed EU membership talks and visa-free travel in the Schengen area for Turkish citizens.
  10. In an August interview with Le Monde newspaper, President Erdoğan said that readmissions of migrants and refugees will stop if the EU does not implement the visa-free travel. The readmissions were to begin on June 1.

A thwarted coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 has generated concern as to the possible implications it could have on the March EU-Turkey deal to end erratic migration from Turkey to the EU. Prior to the coup attempt, there were EU concerns going forward with the deal, and this unease may now be heightened due to the internal disquiet occurring presently in the country.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act is a bill currently in the Foreign Relations Senate committee.

Sponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D), the bill’s intent is to “impose sanctions with respect to foreign persons responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and for other purposes.”

Having been introduced in January of 2014, and then reintroduced in January 2015, the bill has yet to reach the Senate floor. However, it has earned the sponsorship of Senators like Marco Rubio (R) and John McCain (R).

This bill would give the president the power to impose sanctions on any entity or government who abuses the rights of people. The definition of these abuses is in accordance with the “internationally recognized human rights.” These abuses include human trafficking and extrajudicial killings. The bill would not only serve to punish governments who are actively participating in the abuses but those who are providing financial assistance to the individual or entity wreaking havoc.

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Watch testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urging Congress to pass the bill.

In their testimony, they mentioned the fact that in many countries (especially those affected by Arab Spring), “conflict and repression” were unexpected consequences, affecting large quantities of people. During their testimony, they also spoke of how the U.S. and other Western democracies rarely speak harshly of the atrocities taking place.

Because of the lacking dialogue taking place in mainstream media, and in the interest of the people being affected by the negative choices made by people in high positions of power, the Human Rights Watch supported the passage of this bill so that it is “harder for authoritarian rulers, dictators and kleptocrats to recruit and maintain a coterie of supporters.”

Erin Logan

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Congress
Photo: Sputnik

child_marriage
Is it possible to end child marriage in Bangladesh, a country that has the highest rate of child marriage in the world? The Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization and other child and women activist groups are calling it an epidemic that can only be stopped with enforcement from the country’s government.

In October 2014, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, pledged that she would bring an end to child marriage of children under age 15 by the year 2021. She also promised to decrease the number of brides age 15-18 by a third and eventually end all child marriages by 2041.

Bangladesh made child marriage illegal back in 1929 and set the minimum age for marriage for girls at 18 in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the government neglects to legally enforce it or handle the problems that cause girls to get married so young.

HRW asks that the government authorize a plan to stop child marriages that would include required marriage registration for religions, an increase in national birth registration and help for young girls recently married or adults that were married below the minimum age.

Despite the government’s promises to tackle the problem, they have not followed through. Instead, it did not reply to HRW’s demands and Hasina has mentioned revising the Child Marriage Restraint Act (CMRA) by lowering the age limit for girls to just 16. The Act was originally passed to give family courts the ability to cancel marriages if necessary and mandate a penalty of two years in prison and a fine of Tk50,000 (US$647).

HRW responded in frustration, “The Bangladesh government has said some of the right things, but its proposal to lower the age of marriage for girls sends the opposite message. The government should act before another generation of girls is lost.”

HRW is not the only one displeased. Plan International Bangladesh, Save the Children and Girls Not Brides have all insisted that minimum age be left unchanged. Girls Not Brides is an organization made up of 450 members from more than 70 countries. They look to create national and global policies to bar child marriage.

HRW published a report, “Marry Before Your House is Swept Away,” that details the struggles of 59 girls and young women who were married before age 18 since 2010. One girl was married at just 10 years old. The 124-page report reveals what contributes to child marriage and how it affects these young brides. It contains interviews with parents and community leaders that help draw a larger picture of the situation.

In 2011, UNICEF estimates that 65 percent of women in Bangladesh aged 20 to 24 were married by the time they were 18, 29 percent by age 15. According to Girls Not Brides, one-third of girls worldwide are married before age 18. That is 5 million girls every year— 28 girls each minute. Some are as young as 8 years old.

In developing countries, girls are viewed as burdens to their families. It is one more person to feed, clothe, school, etc. The dowry a family must raise can be less if the girl is young and uneducated. Bangladesh is troubled with more natural disasters and effects from climate change than most other countries. These manage to bring people into worse poverty and even steal away their home and land.

Besides governmental intervention, education is necessary in the fight to stop child marriage. Studies find that when girls attend school for seven years or more, she marries, on average, four years later. Education is a source for empowerment, important skills and networks of support — essential tools needed to lift her family out of poverty.

The U.N. approved a resolution in November 2014 that encouraged countries to adopt new laws and policies to stop child marriages. Hopefully, laws to eliminate child marriage will be a part of the new Sustainable Development Goals to be implemented by the U.N. in September 2015.

– Lillian Sickler

Sources: The Guardian, Girls Not Brides, Dhaka Tribune, HRW, Al Jazeera
Photo: The Guardian

hungary_wall
The dangerous Mediterranean journey that many migrants take from North Africa and the Middle East in order to reach Southern Europe has been well-reported in the media, with countless news stories chronicling the boatloads of immigrants who die attempting the treacherous voyage. Second to the Mediterranean route, but far less covered, however, is what is known as “the Western Balkan route”—which 40% percent of migrants use in order to cross into Europe. Many using the Balkan route are Syrians and Afghans who take boats from Turkey, or elsewhere, to Greece, where they then walk for thousands of miles through Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and finally Hungary, in order to attempt to then cross over into affluent Western European countries, such as bordering Austria.

In recent weeks, however, the “Western Balkan route” has gained unprecedented attention thanks to plans by the Hungarian government to erect a 4-meter (13-foot) wall along Hungary’s 109-mile border with Serbia, which they hope will prevent incoming flows of Syrian and Afghan refugees into the country.

Moves by the Hungarian Parliament to construct the wall, which began on Monday, June 15, come following Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s frustration over the European Union’s (EU) ineffectiveness in dealing with the increased flow of migrants pouring into the region. Denouncing the EU’s plan to evenly redistribute migrants throughout the region’s 28 member-bloc as “border[ing] on insanity,” Orban has justified moves to build the wall by arguing that Hungary suffers from a higher rate of incoming refugees then neighboring EU states. According to Orban and the Hungarian government, about 54,000 migrants entered the country this year, compared to only 43,000 in 2014. The EU’s Eurostat Agency has also revealed that Hungary received the second highest number of applications for asylum in the EU after Germany in 2015, with most applications coming from Kosovo.

Hungary’s wall has received extraordinary levels of criticism from the rest of the EU and from neighboring Serbia, who argue that plans to erect the wall reflect growing levels of blatant xenophobia within Hungary’s illiberal government. Critics also point to national campaigns that were conducted in the past year, in which posters reading anti-immigrant sentiments such as “if you live in Hungary, you have to respect our laws,” were put up throughout the country, helping to paint refugees residing in Hungary as lawless job-stealing thieves and criminals.

Human rights organizations have further critiqued the Hungarian government’s response to the migration crisis, arguing that it requires desperate refugees to put themselves at ever greater risks in order to escape the violence of their home countries. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has argued that Hungary’s “wall” is not only morally wrong, but also hypocritical, based on Hungary’s own authoritarian past. Alluding to the fact that Hungary was an axis power during World War Two (in fact Hungary was the first country to join Hitler’s cause), HRW has stated that “[it is] tragic… that Hungary, from where about 200,000 Hungarians were forced to flee in 1956 to obtain protection from Western Countries, is currently closing its borders to those fleeing their countries for similar reasons.”

This frustration has been echoed by the refugees themselves, who argue that a wall isn’t going to stop them from attempting to reach safety in Western European countries. Mr. Nayab, for example, who was a surgeon working for the Afghanistan government before he was stabbed four times by the Taliban, believes Hungary needs to focus its efforts on stopping the Islamic State rather than on building a wall to curb migration flows into the country. According to Mr. Nayab, “In Afghanistan, life is not safe, and every human who wants a safe life will make a hole in that wall, or find another way.”

Indeed, it is undeniable that alarming and ever-increasing rates of refugees pouring into Europe from all sides is one spill-over effect of the horrifying wars ravaging parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. But, it is also undeniable that building walls—which has also been contemplated by the British government in order to resolve the refugee crisis in Calais, France and the Kenyan government in order to prevent Al-Shabaab from crossing over from Somalia—fails to effectively discourage desperate refugees from attempting the journey. The only way to begin to resolve Europe’s current refugee crisis is to spend energy and resources attempting to contain the source of the problem, rather than on attempting to contain the victims of the problem.

Ana Powell

Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters News Agency, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, US News
Photo: Newsweek

afghan_woman
In 2011, Newsweek and The Daily Beast published a list of countries, titled “Best Countries for Women,” that ranked the living conditions for women in various parts of the world. Out of 165 countries analyzed, Afghanistan ranked second-to-last at 164th.

Afghanistan is well known for its cultural and religious mistreatment of women. During the height of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, fundamentalists in accord with a strict interpretation of Islam implemented a wide array of behavioral laws against Afghan women.

According to the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), woman could be criminalized for working outside of the home, participating in any activity outside of the home (unless accompanied by a mahram, or a male relative), not wearing a burqa, wearing heels or makeup, laughing loudly, being photographed or filmed, playing sports, riding unaccompanied in a taxi, riding on a bicycle or motorcycle, looking at strangers, appearing on the balcony of her own home, receiving medical treatment from a male doctor and being educated, among others.

These regulations seriously constrain the personal freedoms of women in domestic and social realms of interaction. Women who violate or are even accused of violating these strict rules are subject to lashes, public stoning and other cruel policing tactics. Fear is used as a control mechanism to suppress women’s voices and actions on a daily basis. In Afghanistan, each woman must choose between expressing her free will and being violently punished for doing so.

Afghan women activists who try to rebel against this unfair treatment are often threatened with death in order to suppress their voices. Human Rights Watch reported in 2015, “Other setbacks for women’s rights in 2014 included a continuing series of attacks on, threats toward, and assassinations of, high-profile women, including police women and activists, to which the government failed to respond with meaningful measures to protect women at risk. The implementation by law enforcement officials of Afghanistan’s landmark 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women remained poor, with many cases of violence against women ignored or resolved through ‘mediation’ that denied victims their day in court.”

Women for Women International is one of several organizations working to help women suffering from abuse, marginalization, poverty and lack of human rights due to war and conflict in Afghanistan.

They state on their website, “Decades of violence in Afghanistan have left millions of women and girls displaced or widowed. Common discriminatory practices, amplified by extremist groups, often make it dangerous for women to seek education, healthcare services, employment, or, in some cases, even to leave their homes.”

The Afghan Women’s Mission, founded in 2000, is another such organization created to support the humanitarian and political efforts of RAWA. Their website states, “Projects include many programs run by Afghan women including Malalai Clinic, schools, orphanages, agricultural programs, demonstrations and functions in support of women’s and human rights. We are an all-volunteer organization based in the United States.”

Despite the noble efforts of organizations like these, the situation remains virtually the same since the Taliban regime. Just earlier this year, the violent burning and murder of several women’s rights activists in Afghanistan shocked the world. If the situation for women is ever going to get better, meaningful reform needs to happen now.

– Hanna Darroll

Sources: Afghan Women Mission, Trust in Education, Scribd, Women for Women, Human Rights Watch,
Photo: RT

malnutrition in myanmarMyanmar, formerly known as Burma, has an estimated population of 53 million people. Of this population, 2.5 million children in Myanmar suffer from stunted growth as a result of being malnourished over an extended period of time. Malnourished children often experience long term debilitating mental and psychical effects. These effects also impact the community and health resources available.

Currently the rate of malnutrition in Myanmar is staggeringly high. The western area of the country, where 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live, has unprecedented levels. More than 140,000 people are subjected to living in filthy, overcrowded camps. Others face restricted movement from villages and a lack of access to basic needs, such as clean water, food, education and healthcare. Political issues and ethnically motivated crimes have caused over 200,000 people to flee to neighboring areas such as Bangladesh to save their lives.

Human Rights Watch reports have indicated that ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have occurred in Myanmar as a result of the atrocities faced by the Rohingya people. However, this minority is not recognized by the government, and the term Rohingya is prohibited from being used by the government in Myanmar.

In accordance with Millennium Development Goal One, to end hunger and extreme poverty, Myanmar has attempted to make progress. As of 2013, it has been collaborating with UNICEF in order to help combat child malnutrition. Myanmar has joined other countries in the global ‘scaling up nutrition’ movement.

The United States and other countries need to work with the government of Myanmar to help it create reform programs that provide equality to all its people, including equal rights protection and access to food, clean water and sanitation. Progress has been made, but the potential for more is great.

Erika Wright

Sources: The Parliament Magazine, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

Burma Discrimination
Discrimination affects global poverty by breeding an environment of inequality that limits one’s access to fundamental rights and basic needs.

Discrimination against people or groups based on race, religion, ethnicity or other factors can foster segregation, which impoverishes the particular population who cannot obtain access to fundamental needs for basic living.

The groups discriminated against include minorities, indigenous people and migrants. Discrimination against these groups and poverty are connected in more ways than one. Being discriminated based on race or gender has a direct impact on one’s economic opportunity and makes it increasingly difficult to navigate familial, social and economic institutions. Additionally, one’s low economic status can be a target for discrimination causing a cyclical pattern between discrimination and poverty.

The link between discrimination and poverty is largely based on inequality in opportunity. In Burma, for example, widespread discrimination against minority groups such as Muslim minority groups has influenced the way in which that specific group lives. The marginalized minority group has been denied rights to citizenship, which restricts their access to employment, education, opportunity and fundamental living in general. Government forces also play an important role in the group’s limited access to equality, partly due to unfair, violent and sometimes abusive treatments of the group solely based on religion and ethnicity. The discrimination observed in Burma has pushed the minority group into poverty due to restricted social and economic rights.

Furthermore, discrimination hinders one’s ability to partake in government policies, especially policies centered on the development of strategies for poverty reduction. Limited justice then becomes more than an issue of inequality, but also an issue of poverty.

Discrimination can be a result of poverty and also an obstacle for ending global poverty. According to Human Rights Watch, two thirds of those living in poverty in low income nations reside in households led by an ethnic minority group specific to that country.

Lack of basic access to education due to discrimination, for example, serves as an important contributor and obstacle standing in the way of alleviating global poverty. According to Social Watch, a report revealed that among those who are illiterate, a vast majority belong to ethnic, religious or racial minority groups. Additionally, due to economic and social inequalities, minority groups are more likely to become exposed to health issues such as infectious disease.

The link between discrimination and poverty suggests that in order to completely eradicate global poverty, inequalities due to discrimination need to be addressed. Protecting minority groups from discrimination can help alleviate the number of people who fall or get trapped into poverty solely because of race, gender, ethnicity, religion or any other characteristic. Amending laws that pose a threat to minority groups as well as enacting laws that fight discriminatory policies can be a means of reducing discrimination, which will ultimately alleviate poverty.

– Nada Sewidan

Photo: Burma Times

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Social Watch

ukraine
While the Ukrainian government has denied any use of Grad rockets — a high explosive rocket that can reach up to a range of 20,000 meters — a recent Human Rights Watch investigation proved both government and separatist forces have used the rockets in recent attacks.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Ukrainian government has killed more than 15 civilians and wounded numerous others in at least four separate attacks between July 12 and July 21. Separatist forces aren’t so innocent either. According to a statement made by the Pentagon last week, Russian forces were planning to transfer “heavy-caliber multiple-launch rocket systems” to Ukraine separatist forces. The rockets, which are in the 200mm+ range, pose as a looming threat for a country already proliferated with terror.

The use of unguided rockets in populated areas is a breach of international and humanitarian law and could result in war crimes. According to HRW, these crimes could be faced by both government and separatist forces. While the report certainly condemns government and separatist use of these rockets, it further criticizes separatists for not taking proper measures to avoid encamping in densely populated areas.

Senior Emergencies Researcher for Human Rights Watch, Ole Solvang, condemned commanding officers on both fighting sides for using the rockets, claiming that “[G]rad rockets are notoriously imprecise weapons that shouldn’t be used in populated areas.”

These most recent accusations come just a few weeks after the July 17 downing of the Malaysian Airlines Jet, MH17, in Ukraine. The crash, which was caused by a “massive explosive decompression” from a rocket, resulted in 298 deaths. The downing, which is still under investigation, was immediately addressed by the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who hinted her suspicion that the attack may have been a war crime by the separatists.

More than 1,129 people have been killed and at least 3,442 others have been wounded as a result of the Ukrainian conflict since mid-April. The anti-government protests, which came as a result of former President Yanukovych’s failure to partner with Europe over a trade deal, have resulted in increased division among the country.

Fighting in Ukraine has only further exacerbated the country’s economic problems. With many families forced to vacate cities in major turmoil, displacement has caused an inevitable increase in unemployment and, predictably, poverty. One such city is Lugansk, which — at once a city of 420,000 — now occupies less than half of its original population.

Those left in the city are faced with an incredible lack of medical supplies, lighting and electricity. Those still living there, including retirees or families with small children with hardly any money, are basically trapped. Lugansk — and other Ukrainian cities — citizens are forced to endure inhumane conditions of fighting, violence and medical neglect. While a cease-fire from both ends is the country’s primary solution, Ukrainian citizens will continue to suffer until the violence is halted.

Nick Magnanti

Sources: Huffington Post, SOS Childrens Villages, RT
Photo: WN

ugandan street children
The Human Rights Watch has exposed the terrors that occur on the streets of Uganda every day. Homeless children are beaten and abused by police forces, local government officials and city authorities.

In a country where poverty rates are already very high, child abuse is a daily occurrence on the streets. Children are harassed, threatened, beaten, arrested, robbed and detained. They are accused of being criminals and scavengers. Some children, boys and girls, have even been raped by older boys and men, but these rarely get reported to the police.

There have been reports of police tying boys’ arms and legs and forcing them to lie under metal car seats, as well as being tied to motorbikes to be taken to police stations. Pepper spray has also been used on several street children.

It is estimated that there are 2.7 million orphans in Uganda. Additionally, a study by the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect estimated that 10,000 children live on the streets of Uganda. This number has increased by 70 percent since 1993.

These large numbers of street children make it difficult for cities to determine the real criminals. Instead of differentiating, authorities simply treat them all like they deserve to be punished.

The HRW report explains that many of the street children “fear the authorities and that police are a source of violence, not protection.”

In an attempt to minimize the problem, a free national child helpline was created about a month ago by Plan International. It receives around 1,500 calls each day from children and adults reporting various abuses seen around the country.

With the help of agencies like the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, this problem can be fixed. The Ugandan street children need to be cared for, rather than beaten. The HRW report set forth a call for the Ugandan government to focus on improving the lives of street children and to prosecute those who abuse them.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, BBC News
Photo: The Guardian