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Lab-grown diamondsThe inhumane conditions of diamond mines have become a widely scrutinized issue in recent years. Critics have labeled these diamonds as “blood diamonds” or “conflict diamonds”. These evocative epithets illustrate the historically exploitative labor practices prevalent among the diamond industry. Due to the growing consumer awareness of unethical mining practices, the criteria for purchasing diamonds have experienced a crucial shift. Since the turn of the century, consumers have largely stopped settling for anything less than ethically produced diamonds. Recently, lab-grown diamonds have emerged as a certifiably ethical alternative to traditionally mined diamonds.

The Rise of the Lab-Grown Diamond

Lab-grown diamonds are synthesized in laboratories with industrial processes that mimic how diamonds form inside the Earth or in outer space. In recent years, scientists have greatly improved the techniques needed to synthetically manufacture diamonds. As recently as the early 2000s, the only lab-grown diamonds available were either very small or tinted with impurities. In the last five years, however, the diamond industry has perfected the synthetic fabrication of diamonds. These technological advancements allow for the production of large, clear stones that bear no significant difference from natural diamonds.

This technological advancement has taken off quickly. In 2016, around a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers formed a trade group called the International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA). The IGDA now has around 50 members. Lab-grown diamonds now account for around 2-3% of the $14 billion diamond market. Some analysts predict that lab-grown diamonds will occupy up to 10% of the market by 2030.

Growing Acceptance of Lab-Grown Diamonds

Large corporations and organizations have made adjustments to welcome the lab-grown diamond into the diamond industry. The Federal Trade Commission has expanded the definition of a diamond to include lab-grown gems. In addition, the FTC has dropped “synthetic” as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown diamonds. The success of lab-grown diamonds has even pushed De Beers Group, the global diamond monopoly which once vowed never to sell man-made diamonds, to create a lab-grown diamond line known as Lightbox Jewelry.

Consumers have also demonstrated their interest in the lab-grown diamond. Primarily, lab-grown diamonds are often cheaper than mined diamonds. This allows consumers to purchase a larger diamond ring than they otherwise would be able to afford. In a 2018 consumer research survey conducted by MVI Marketing, around 66% of millennials said they would consider a lab-grown diamond and 23% said they would definitely buy a lab-grown diamond ring.

Merging Lab-Grown Diamonds and Activism

Several smaller companies that offer lab-grown diamonds have formed as well. These companies utilize their diamonds’ ethical sourcing and sustainability as a major selling point. Additionally, these companies are engaging in many forms of activism. Many of these companies divert a percentage of their profits to poverty reduction and humanitarian efforts around the world.

Collectively, the efforts of these companies will bring more awareness to issues in the diamond industry as well as aid the communities that were directly exploited by unethical mining practices. As technological and industrial capabilities increase, it is hoped that the diamond industry will take advantage and slowly transition away from its dependence on hazardous mines and labor practices.

Lab-Grown Diamond Companies Funding Humanitarian Projects:

  • MiaDonna: In 2007, Anna-Mieke Anderson founded MiaDonna. She felt compelled to offer a sustainable alternative to mined diamonds after researching the history of conflict diamonds. In the last three years, this company has dedicated more than 20% of its earnings towards its charity foundation, The Greener Diamond. The Greener Diamond gives back to those harmed by the diamond trade and educates consumers about their role in buying conflict diamonds. In addition, this foundation also funds various initiatives in Liberia, Togo and Sierra Leone that address food insecurity and education.
  • BrilliantEarth: Brilliant Earth sells both carefully sourced and lab-grown diamonds. Each year, they pledge 5% of profits towards giving back to mining communities. Presently, BrilliantEarth is funding the Brilliant Mobile School in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This school serves primary aged students in a mining community. The school aims to educate young children and ultimately expand their economic opportunities beyond working in the nearby diamond mine.
  • Do Amore: Do Amore was founded by Krish Himmatramka after struggling to find an ethical and sustainable engagement ring for his girlfriend. His company sells both carefully sourced and lab-grown diamonds. Additionally, Do Amore tries to use recycled materials in both their jewelry and packaging. Their main philanthropic focus is fighting the water crisis. So far, Do Amore has built 39 wells in five nations and helped 9,885 people.

– Antoinette Fang
Photo: Flickr

Rohingya CrisisThe Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Many Rohingya trace their roots in Myanmar back to the 15th century, yet they have been denied citizenship since 1982. For decades, the Rohingya have also been denied some of the most basic human rights that are “reserved for citizens only” such as access to secondary education and freedom of movement. Additionally, the Rohingya are constantly subjected to arbitrary confiscation of property and forced labor. Tension has long fomented between the Rohingya and their Buddhist neighbors; however, the current Rohingya crisis has seen tensions escalate into deadly violence.

The long-persecuted Rohingya civilians are bearing the brunt of death and destruction caused by this conflict. Hundreds of Rohingya villages have been burned to the ground, leaving more than a thousand civilians dead. The violence has caused more than half a million Rohingya to seek refuge in Bangladesh since August 25, 2017, and has emptied at least 175 Rohingya villages in Myanmar.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing on October 5, 2017, to discuss the U.S.’ response to Myanmar’s escalating violence against the Rohingya and how to best address the multifaceted crisis.

The goal of the U.S. is to address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian needs of the Rohingya crisis. Yet, there is a major obstacle in the way of the U.S. response: “Our main challenge in responding to the humanitarian crisis is not due to a lack of resources, but a lack of access,” Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for the USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, Kate Somvongsiri announced at the hearing.

Although the White House, State Department, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations have all issued statements calling for immediate unfettered humanitarian access to all affected populations, relief agencies remain severely limited and even suspended in some regions.

“In Myanmar, there is no coverage of [the ethnic cleansing] so people do not actually know what is happening. The generals that run the country have a different narrative and so there is very little recognition of the reality,” Chairman Royce (R-CA) said, “In order to get to that reality it is important to get reporters and [relief agencies] on the ground. As long as that presence is there, it is a check on these types of atrocities.”

The honest and forthright assessment of the Rohingya crisis at the hearing was crucial. Leaders are not complacent and there is a common understanding that increased humanitarian action is desperately needed.

The United States is providing $32 million in additional humanitarian assistance to address the urgent needs of the Rohingya, bringing the U.S. 2017 fiscal year total to $104 million. Additionally, the hearing on October 5, 2017, solidified the opinion of the U.S. that the Rohingya crisis is, in fact, ethnic cleansing. Immediate action is required to stop the violence, deliver humanitarian assistance and hold accountable those who have perpetuated abuses and violations of international standards.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

United_nations_reliefCurrently, 60 million people have been forcibly displaced globally. Ongoing conflict around the world has led to large populations to flee and start over with nothing, creating a situation where humanitarian relief agencies can’t keep up with the amount of services and funding they need.

Fortunately, in early August, UN under-secretary-general of humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, announced that $70 million had been allocated for the worst kinds of under-funded emergencies. The money comes from grants from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and is viewed as a last resort for aid operations.

The United Nations relief will provide much-needed resources to those who have fled their homes, in Bangladesh, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

Each country faces varying challenges, most of which have to do with conflict. Sudan and Chad, for example, will receive $20 million for basic services and protection from Sudan’s Darfur region which has endured 13 years of conflict.

Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia will receive $33 million, to deal with the recurring conflicts and climate shocks in its region. Somalia has more than 730,000 people continuously needing emergency food and nutrition assistance, also a result of the Yemen conflict with the number of people fleeing their homes.

Myanmar and Bangladesh, will receive $8 million. Both of these countries have some of the world’s most neglected communities and displaced people that need access to emergency shelter and healthcare.

Afghanistan will receive $8 million for humanitarian operations, where relief agencies have decreased services due to underfunding, although they really need to increase their services as a result of ongoing conflict.

CERF was created in 2006, has 125 member states, totaling $4.1 billion to support 95 countries and territories since 2006. It receives most of its funding from governments, as well as foundations, companies, charities and individuals by placing it into a single fund and then distributing the funds in emergency situations.

Considering the alarming amount of people that have been forcibly displaced and desperately need basic services, we should all be doing more to not only meet the basic human demands they so desperately need, but also help stabilize these areas.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: UN News Centre, Xinhua
Photo: Flickr

how-to-pick-charity
There are many great charities out there doing much-needed work to reduce global poverty. Here are some tips on deciding which charity you should give to.

1. Clarify your beliefs

Before you start looking for a charity to give to, be sure you know what you believe. Figure out what missions matter the most to you and your family. Do you care the most about protecting the environment? Fighting human trafficking? Providing education? Once you have selected the category that you care about most, you can begin to research the different methods of solving that problem.

2. Start broad

Use websites like CharityNavigator.org, GuideStar.org or GiveWell.org to learn how different charities in the category you picked spend their money. Sites like these aggregate tax information and other records you can use to learn how different charities spend their money.

3. Do your research

Find a clear description of the charity’s mission, programs and achievements. Figure out what their goals are, how they measure their success and how they use that information to function better. If you can’t find this information easily, be wary. But be aware that some problems are hard to solve. Don’t place a dollar sign on a human life. Some organizations invest thousands of dollars rescuing women and children from slavery because, simply put, extracting slaves is hard and expensive.

Nancy Lublin CEO of DoSomething.org  knows that “Low overhead doesn’t necessarily mean an organization is awesome at fighting poverty, or that its turnover is low and its people productive. And it certainly doesn’t guarantee that the group is spending wisely.”

Lublin cited Apple as an example from the for-profit world of a company with high overhead but incredible products.

“According to Apple’s Q4 2008 report, 78% of its expenses were sales, general, and administrative — the corporate equivalent of overhead. Seventy-eight percent! Yet nobody flinches,” she wrote.

4. Contact the charity and become personally involved

If you’re going to establish a long-term relationship with an organization, take the time to call them, or at least email them about your interest. Best of all, take the time to become personally involved in the charity you donate to allows you incomparable insight into how they operate.

“Be very reluctant to give to strangers,” Dan Moore, vice president of public affairs for GuideStar, an online source of financial information on charities told NBC. “If you know the organization and you know their work, you will know with some degree of confidence that your gift will be put to good use.”

5. Trust your gut

If an organization seems questionable, don’t give. Find a group that you feel comfortable supporting and give what you can.

Picking a charity to support can be daunting but taking the time to give well is incredibly rewarding.

– Sally Nelson

Sources: Fast Company, NBC
Photo: Infiniti

dalai_lama
The 14th Dalai Lama is a man with great wisdom and high morality. He is looked at in times of great need, times of compassion and times of guidance. He has given hundreds of words of advice, through speeches, books and interviews that people are able to reference for inspiration. Below are ten wise quotes from the Dali Lama that will bring clarity to the world around us.

 

10 Inspirational Quotes by the Dalai Lama

 

  1. “I consider human rights work or activism to be a kind of spiritual practice. By defending those people who persecuted for their race, religion, ethnicity, or ideology, you are actually contributing to guiding our human family to peace, justice, and dignity.”
  2. “Human rights are of universal interest because it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality, and dignity and they have the right to achieve it.”
  3. “Rich or Poor, educated or uneducated, belonging to one nation or another, to one religion or another, adhering to this ideology or that, ultimately each of us is just a human being like everyone else. We all desire happiness and do not want suffering.”
  4. “We need to address the issue of the gap between the rich and poor, both globally and nationally. This inequality, with some sections of the human community having abundance and others on the same planet going hungry or even dying of starvation, is not only morally wrong, but practically also a source of problems.”
  5. “Even though they will lose money in the short term, large multi-national corporations must curtail their exploitations of poor nations. Tapping the few precious resources such countries possess simply to fuel consumerism in the developed world is disastrous; if it continues unchecked, eventually we shall all suffer. Strengthening weak, undiversified economies is a far wiser policy for promoting both political and economic stability.”
  6. “To me, it is clear: a genuine sense of responsibility can result only if we develop compassion. Only a spontaneous feeling of empathy for others can really motivate us to act on their behalf.”
  7. “Wherever it occurs, poverty is a significant contributor to social disharmony, ill health, suffering and armed conflict. If we continue along our present path, the situation could become irreparable. This constantly increasing gap between the haves and halve not’s, creates suffering for everyone.”
  8. “It is not enough to be compassionate we must act.”
  9. “Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. I t does not comfort those who have lost their homes in floods caused by senseless deforestation in neighboring countries. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.”
  10. “We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity.”

Hopefully, these ten inspiring quotes will bring peace and guidance to the world around. The eradication of global poverty, world, suffering, and senseless destruction of humanity is the core vision of the 14th Dali Lama.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: DalaiLama.com (1), DalaiLama.com (2), DalaiLama.com (3), DalaiLama.com (4), DalaiLama.com (5), Dalai Lama Quotes (1), Dalai Lama Quotes (2), Dalai Lama Quotes (3)
Photo: Oregon Herald

Scarlett_Johansson_Celebrity_Oxfam
Scarlett Johansson’s recent success in movies such as “The Avengers” and the 2014 Academy Award nominee for best picture, “Her,” has made Johansson a household name. Off the screen, Johansson has made the most of her celebrity status by influencing political leaders and everyday citizens to stand up and fight the ongoing war on poverty.

Recently though, Johansson parted ways with Oxfam, a global organization who assists impoverished nations with finding innovative ways to pull their people out of poverty. Serving as the Oxfam Ambassador since 2007, Johansson has provided much support for the organization by increasing awareness, participating in fundraising, promoting advocacy and profile-raising activities.

While this breakup is unfortunate for the parties involved, what remains a positive aspect in the situation is the good that Oxfam and Johansson have mutually accomplished over the past 8 years where she served as their Global Ambassador. Johansson’s motivation to get involved with humanitarian efforts spawned after she made a life-changing trip to India and Sri Lanka. There she met tsunami survivors and witnessed several Oxfam-funded projects whose purpose was to rebuild ravaged communities in the area.

Over the years, Johansson joined forces with a plethora of different movements such as the “We Can” campaign that aimed at shifting attitudes which support violence against women in India and Sri Lanka. Johansson was also involved in Oxfam’s GROW campaign which advocated reforming bad policies and increasing ways to make food sustainability more efficient.

“Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. On a global scale, we don’t share fairly. Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is: the global food system is a broken one. All of us, from Kentucky to Kenya, deserve enough to eat,” said Johansson.

Oxfam accepted Johansson’s resignation after much controversy was stirred from her participation in a SodaStream commercial which was set to air during the Super Bowl. Her affiliation with the Tel Aviv-based soda machine company which operates in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim was criticized by several pro-Palestinian groups as well as Oxfam itself, who are opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements deeming them illegal under international law.

“While Oxfam respects the independence of our ambassadors, Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support.”

Johansson stated that Oxfam and her had “a fundamental difference of opinions,” when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the 29-year-old actress has parted ways with the organization, she reassured the public that she remains, “a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine.”

Regardless of the fallout, the one thing that can’t be denied is the effects Johansson’s efforts have had on many struggling communities. From providing funding for underprivileged students seeking education, to increasing US consumer interest, Johansson has made a significant difference when it comes to fighting global poverty.

– Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Oxfam, LA Times, Oxfam
Photo: Business Insider

george_clooney
Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg honored George Clooney at a fundraising gala this month with the Ambassador for Humanity Award.  Spielberg described Clooney as a “humble humanitarian” and “an unparalleled example of action over apathy.”  Other celebrities there to praise Clooney’s work include Gravity co-star Sandra Bullock, who opened the evening, and Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” who hosted the event.

The gala was held at the New York Museum of Natural History to raise money for Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation.  The foundation was originally created to record interviews with Holocaust survivors, and has now implemented a broader phase, which involves collecting video testimonies of other survivors of genocide in places such as Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia.

Clooney is the founder of the Sudan Sentinel Project, co-founder of the Not on Our Watch Project, and has worked for numerous human rights efforts, including extensive work in Darfur.  During his acceptance speech, Clooney said, “Our job is to make it harder for the bad guys to do what they do and harder for the good guys to ignore it… It’s hard for bad things to happen in bright lights.”

The Sudan Sentinel project works to bring attention to mass atrocities in Sudan, using images and analysis to elicit responses about human rights concerns.  It uses DigitalGlobe satellites to capture images of possible threats, which are then analyzed by experts to produce reports to be released to policymakers, organizations, and activist networks.

The Not on Our Watch Project uses the voices of artists, activists, and leaders to bring global attention and resources to stopping mass atrocities around the world.  To achieve this goal, they implement advocacy campaigns that target mass media and international press and engage world leadership.

In a past interview, Clooney described the importance of utilizing his fame for good.  “There is more attention on celebrity than ever before,” he said, “and there is a use for that besides selling products.”

Clooney’s focus on the Darfur region has made him a resource for policy makers, where he has briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the U.N. Security Council.  He was even arrested in 2012 outside of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., when he took part in a protest to press for diplomatic intervention in Sudan.

The Spielberg gala was held on the 20th anniversary of Schindler’s List and raised nearly $3.7 million.

Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Huffington Post, Parade, Newsweek, ABC News, Satellite Sentinel Project, Not On Our Watch
Photo: BBC

Aid_Worker
For many, spending their lives working to bring positive change to impoverished countries and underprivileged communities is the most rewarding job in the world. Being an aid worker is an incredible, though challenging, position that allows people to physically promote change in the world. While lots of people hold romanticized ideas about travelling the world as an aid worker, it is important to keep in mind that the job isn’t always going to fulfill idealized expectations. It’s hard work, but the reward is far greater. In order to become a relief or aid worker there are some steps to follow and some things to keep in mind.

First, evaluate your motives for wanting to be an aid worker. Think about what humanitarian skills you have that prompt you to want to enter this field. This, undoubtedly, will be a question that resurfaces as you talk to aid agencies so it’s important to have a good grasp on what your skills and motives are. Again, romanticized ideals about leaving a comfortable living to go live in a war zone, or region marred by poverty won’t go far in a serious interview. There need to be deeper motives that can be expressed in a way that the interviewer can understand and believe to be genuine.

Participate in aid work training and heavily research the humanitarian field. Experience in any and every aspect of aid work is very important when preparing to make it a career. Some aid agencies offer workshops or various training services that can help you prepare for the field. Always keep up to date with the latest news in the humanitarian field, paying close attention to the standards required by certain agencies when employing aid or relief workers. This will give you a better edge to market your abilities to particular agencies. Technical positions such as engineers, medics, linguistics, and environmentalists are almost always in high demand. It’s important to know what agencies are looking for in order to tailor your training and capabilities accordingly.

The cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still holds significant value especially in the case of becoming an aid worker. It is crucial to network as much as possible so that when opportunities do present themselves, you have a contact to better your chances. Meet people who are already working in the relief field, ask them questions, learn from their experience. Aid agencies have a tendency to hire people that they trust, and this comes from having prior knowledge or relationship with the person.

International travel is a great way to gain the necessary experience to become an aid worker. Agencies are going to be looking at where you have travelled, what you did there, and how long you stayed. Stay involved in volunteer opportunities; it will show agencies how committed you are to the humanitarian field, automatically making you a more reliable candidate.

Once you feel like you have a good grasp on each of these steps, you’re ready to get in touch with an agency and apply for a position. Some of the best resources to find agencies to work for are listed below. Good luck!

·      Aid Workers Network
·      Reuters AlterNet
·      DevNet Jobs
·      Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
·      ReliefWeb

– Chante Owens 

Sources: Transitions Abroad, Redr UK
Photo: UN OCHA

tom_hiddleston_unicef
Tom Hiddleston is best known for playing Loki in the blockbuster hits Thor and The Avengers. Although he plays a despicable villain on-screen, his true persona is much more akin to that of the heroes his character so ardently despises. Since January 2013, Hiddleston has been an active and vocal supporter of UNICEF.

The British actor first became involved with UNICEF when he went on a trip to Guinea in West Africa to see the work that the organization is doing. While there, he met with children and members of the communities to see how UNICEF has impacted their lives. Hiddleston wrote six blog posts about his experiences there, ranging in topic from the various projects that have been implemented to playing soccer with local children.

As a ‘high profile’ supporter of the cause, much of his role is to raise awareness of UNICEF’s work and make their efforts known to a wider audience. His efforts have found resounding success: social media sites are rife with groups eager to support Hiddleston and his efforts. One group, called Hiddlestoners Have Heart, started an online fundraising event to support UNICEF UK with the goal of raising £14,000. To date, they have more than doubled that sum, raising a total of £32,771.34 (about $52,522 USD).

To further his advocacy efforts, Hiddleston also took part in 2013’s Live Below the Line Challenge. This annual campaign raises awareness of global poverty by challenging its participants to “live on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for 5 days.”  That means living off of £1 or $1.50 per day. As one would expect, he found the challenge to be extremely difficult, but ultimately very enlightening.  He again wrote about it for the UNICEF blog, saying that the challenge taught him to think about food differently, to be less wasteful, and that it instilled in him a sincere sense of gratitude that he has never faced such hunger.

Tom Hiddleston’s involvement with UNICEF stands as an important reminder of the need to be active participants in the fight against global hunger and poverty. If the villainous Loki can find it in his heart to become a global citizen and to help those less fortunate, then certainly anyone can.

– Rebecca Beyer
Feature Writer

Sources: UNICEF, Live Below The Line, Hiddlestoners Have Heart
Photo: BuzzLamp

brad_pitt_bono
Most well-known for his performances on the big screen, Brad Pitt is showing the world that he has much more to offer than just cinematic entertainment value. Pitt has been involved in a number of projects and activist campaigns to help those in need around the world.

Below is a list of five remarkable and inspiring things that Brad Pitt has done for the world:

1. In 2004, Pitt joined the One Campaign as a spokesman alongside Bono to help advocate for an additional 1 percent of the U.S. budget to go towards supplying Africa with basic needs such as clean water, education, medicine, and food. Pitt has made frequent trips to Africa using his celebrity status to successfully draw media attention and support for the campaign.

2. Pitt traveled to Haiti in 2006 to visit a school supported by the Haitian foundation, Yéle Haiti Foundation. There, he assisted the charity by aiding projects focused on bettering health, community development, environment and education in Haiti through media, sports, and music.

3. In 2007, following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pitt started a project in New Orleans to help build environmental friendly housing in the Ninth Ward. He and Angelina Jolie bought a mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans to ensure that the project would be a part of their daily life. Pitt also teamed up with Global Green USA as a sponsor of a competition to design and build energy-efficient housing in the Ninth Ward that was both environmental friendly and affordable.

4. In addition to physically joining the ranks of advocacy campaigns and organizations, Pitt and Jolie continually show their support for global issues by donating to various foundations. In 2006 alone, the couple is reported to have donated more than $8 million to charity.

5. Last on the list of inspiring things, but certainly not the least, is Pitt’s history of adopting children with Jolie. The couple currently has six children, three of whom were adopted from different countries. The celebrity couple has certainly shown the world that adoption is a powerful way to make a big difference in a child’s life.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Today News, Look to the Stars, About.com
Photo: U2 Station