Posts

The Unequal RealityThe next global development agenda has been set. The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, hosted the meeting to determine such an agenda; he also served as the co-chairman to the UN High-Level Panel for the post-2015 plan with an emphasis on eradicating extreme poverty. Despite the general success of the UN Millennium Development Goals which includes pulling people out of poverty since the 1990s, an increasing number of children are attending schools, and much fewer children are dying due to curable causes: “political will and commitment can bring about real change.”

The issue is that the majority of these successes are happening on the surface, on the “aggregate” levels as opposed to on the extremely low levels. A report done by Save the Children evinces the hidden inequality behind improvements arguing that only wealthier parts have been directly affected by these successes. For example, rich women in Indonesia now have a skilled attendant; however, between 2007 and 2010, children in poorer households continued to experience severe malnutrition despite overall nutrition improvements.

“Aggregate targets” are dictating such unequal distribution of improvement vs. worsening because governments are naturally choosing to aid and invest in what is easier to help; “this means that those close to the poverty line experience improvements while the very poorest are left behind.” Children are the most vulnerable group affected by such inequality because they are dependent on others for development and growth. Therefore, price increases affect their meal intakes, health budget cuts could cause deaths, and low-quality schools have the potential of keeping these children in poverty. In order to fight off inequality, there is a need for quality services such as availability and equal access to schools and health facilities to all kinds of people.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: South China Morning Post

What is our Return on Investment for USAID?Many people ask, what is our “return on investment” for USAID? One clear answer is that we substantially improve public attitudes about the US. America offers humanitarian assistance all around the world, and there is growing research to suggest that US aid to developing nations results in substantial benefits to the US itself.

The non-profit group Terror Free Tomorrow, in Washington DC, has done extensive surveys:

  • Two-thirds of Indonesians favorably changed their opinion of the US because of the US tsunami response in 2004. Most significantly, 71% of self-identified Osama bin Laden supporters adopted a new favorable view of the US.
  • As a direct result of American efforts in 2004, support for Al Qaeda and terrorist attacks dropped by half in Indonesia  (the largest Muslim country in the world). Even two years after, 60% of Indonesians continued to have favorable opinions of America.
  • After the U.S. Navy ship Mercy, fully equipped floating hospital, docked for several months in local ports in 2006, provided medical care to the people of Indonesia and Bangladesh, nationwide polling in Bangladesh found that 87% said the activities of the Mercy made their overall opinion of the US more positive.
  • Indonesians and Bangladeshis ranked additional visits by the Mercy as a higher priority for future American policy than resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • After the US war in Afghanistan, and the drone strikes inside Pakistan, anti-American attitudes in Pakistan were among the strongest in the world. However, on a local level, where USAID had been active after an earthquake – there was still significant trust in the US, even four years after.
  • Even more dramatic change in public opinion can occur when American aid is targeted and focused on directly helping people in need and not foreign governments.

Humanitarian aid saves lives and helps to improve living standards during horrible disasters. It builds allies and strengthens our national security by doing so. It changes public opinion toward the US and can lead to significant changes in values. It can increase understanding across borders – lessening inter-tribal, religious, and regional conflict, and enhance support for free markets, trade, and democracy.

In this time of limited government funds, the effectiveness of American foreign humanitarian help must be protected. A full understanding of humanitarian aid shows that it helps donors and recipient nations alike.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Brookings Institution
Photo: Truth-Out

Sustainable Fishing in Indonesia
The practice of overfishing can have catastrophic effects on both marine biodiversity and local fish populations. In an effort to ameliorate overfishing while simultaneously bolstering local development and entrepreneurship, the Indonesian government has enacted a program that encourages sustainable fishing in Karimunjawa National Park.

For the past 5 years, Indonesian government officials have implemented a plan that effectively hands over management of the 1,100 square kilometer area to the park’s 9,000 residents. By enabling communities to form a co-op, they help encourage the long term goals of maintaining sustainable fishing practices, thus promoting foreign tourism and greater economic opportunity for their residents.

In addition to the environmental benefits that sustainable fishing has had, the empowered local communities have also stepped up to participate in local projects and political meetings, a behavior considered invaluable in long term developmental sustainability. In regards to the development in the National Park, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Marine Program Dr. McClennen remarked that “The current plan’s economic, legal, and participatory incentives have created a self-perpetuating system of exclusive access rights for local communities, who in turn support and enforce the protected area’s policies and regulations.”

Programs such as these, that combine the well-researched policies of the government along with the participation of local communities, consistently lead to positive results and mutually beneficial economic opportunities. Furthermore, by encouraging sustainable fishing through government development, both parties can realize their full potential for responsible environmental stewardship and financial gain.

– Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Antara News

Indonesia Seeks to End Shackling of Mentally IllFor many Indonesians, having a mental health condition can be like a prison sentence — literally. “Pasung,” or shackling, is still a common practice in many areas of the country, particularly in rural areas with little capacity for medical treatment. Those who are seen as suffering from mental illness are sometimes bound and held captive behind their home, or inside a small room. Those who engage in “pasung” believe that they need to restrict the mentally ill from attacking or hurting themselves or others. However, shackling has been banned as a solution for mental illness in Indonesia since 1977.

As a member of a Parliamentary Health Commission, Nova Rianti Yusuf claims that “pasung” persists because people “cannot afford mental health care and [try] to escape the stigma associated with mental illness.” Unfortunately for many of those individuals who are shackled, there was often no official diagnosis before they were victimized.

Indonesia is working to centralize its mental health system in order to better serve its large population, which is the fourth largest out of all the countries in the world. A psychiatrist known simply as Asmarahadi, who works at a state mental hospital in Jakarta, claims that conditions have drastically improved over the past decade. The old problems, like a lack of infrastructure and medication, have faded away. New problems remain, but they seem less impossible to solve: Asmarahadi explains that nowadays, “treatment failure is usually caused by a lack of patients’ compliance and family support.” And as far as “pasung” goes, the director of mental health at the Health Ministry, Diah Setia Utami, lists ending the practice as one of her priorities for 2013.

Jake Simon

Source: IRIN News