Relief International, or RI, is a humanitarian nonprofit committed to serving the world’s most vulnerable by providing emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance and program services.

This nonprofit’s mission recognizes that providing multi-sectoral, pro-poor programs that bridge emergency relief and sustainable development at the grassroots level is the best approach to empower the communities they serve.

By increasing local resources in both program design and implementation, the most vulnerable can then become self-reliant. This applies especially to communities that have been hit by natural disasters, which are subject to the most negative impact on those already in poverty.

But RI sees this as opportunity to bring about positive, social change using disaster as a catalyst for profound humanitarian efforts that foster an environment of self-help and sustainability.

They do this through six sectors:

  • 1. Emergency, Health and Sanitation
  • 2. Food and Agriculture
  • 3. Education and Empowerment
  • 4. Livelihoods and Enterprise
  • 5. Shelter and Infrastructure
  • 6. Protection and Human Rights

RI believes that by working through these sectors focused on large-scale crises, they can then provide the high-impact development emergency programming to communities in need.

According to their website, they claim to be the first U.S.-based agency to do this. Since its founding in 1990, their team has grown to be around 17,000 professionals working in 24 countries around the globe.

Though these numbers prove to be impressive for any nonprofit, RI continues to seek enthusiastic and committed individuals to join their team. There are a variety of ways to join by volunteering and interning in both the U.S. or abroad. This can be in development or in emergency response capacities.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: Relief International, Santa Fe New Mexican

InterAction is a coalition of U.S.-based international non-governmental organizations dedicated to improving the lives of the world’s poor and most vulnerable. It has 190 members working in every developing country to expand opportunities and support gender equality in the areas of health care, education, agriculture and small business, among others.

Their membership is wide and inclusive, including faith-based groups, secular groups, advocacy-focused groups, or groups focused on public education and other media education related to international issues. While different, all work toward common goals.

All members of InterAction share a set of common values that drive their work: to “foster economic and social development, provide relief to those affected by disaster and war, assist refugees and internally displaced persons, advance human rights, support gender equity, protect the environment, address population concerns, and press for more equitable, just and effective public policies.”

In 2013, in alliance with FedEx, InterAction launched “The FedEx Award for Innovations in Disaster Preparedness,” aimed at promoting and sharing ideas about preparedness and emergency relief. The award will recognize innovative strategy in preparing for vulnerabilities and dealing with emergency situations.
Moreover, as the largest coalition of its kind, InterAction hosts a wide array of educational and training events, development related research and disaster data all available on its website. In recent years, InterAction has published over 5000 documents with findings and policy recommendations about the successes of various development strategies in developing countries and disaster relief measures.

InterAction’s work has been sub-divided into four main categories: international development, accountability and learning, humanitarian action, and policy and advocacy. This makes its work wide-ranging, going from the goal to improve social and economic conditions for the worlds poorest, to relief activities to alleviate suffering during critical moments.

– Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: InterAction, PreventionWeb

This year, from November 26 to the following day of the same month, world leaders will gather at the European Union Development Days (EDD) in Brussels to discuss the future of international development. Among the speakers are the Prime Minister of Jamaica, members of the European Parliament, representatives of the International Trade Centre and more.

The aim of the EDD is to “foster engagement and facilitate the implementation of the agenda for greater aid effectiveness.” The event also helps create and share new strategies, networks and relationships in order to improve international aid and development. The EDD also allows individuals to become involved and attend the event as “stakeholders” as the issue at hand is one that affects us all.

This gathering is occurring at a monumental time as countries across the globe have been cutting back on international aid. The European Union recently agreed on a seven-year budget framework and is in the process of trying to implement it. By making aid more efficient, the E.U. and other countries can remove corruption and disorganization from the process of international aid.

The issues that will be discussed at EDD include climate change, food security, health, human rights, the post-2015 agenda, youth and other pressing matters. The willingness of representatives and individuals from areas all across the globe to unite in the name of international aid proves the significance and wide impact of international development. This event should bring about new approaches and motivation within the realm of international relations and development. The conference can be monitored on the European Union Development Days Website.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete
Sources: EU Dev Days, Devex

What Does BRAC USA Do?
BRAC USA is part of the largest international development program in the world, BRAC, which aids the world’s extreme poor through sustainable solutions to poverty. Though the program focuses on an American audience, its effect is felt globally. By raising awareness in the United States and other developed nations, BRAC USA allows Americans and others to invest in their own future, as well as the futures of those in extreme poverty.

BRAC is an international development organization that focuses on alleviating poverty and issues related to poverty in 11 developing nations across the globe. Their organization model concentrates on empowerment of the poor through local, community-based programs, such as “barefoot lawyers,” a project that increases awareness legal rights and delivers services to the doorsteps of the poor. This program helps impoverished individuals recognize and defend their legal rights, including vital property rights.

Most important to its continued success, the international organization takes an approach mindful of establishing self-sustainable programs to better equip target communities, both women and farmers, to continue to address the causes and symptoms of extreme poverty and take matters into their own hands. The organization’s micro-financing program offers micro-loans to women to promote economic entrepreneurship in local communities and revitalize local economies, while also addressing issues related to gender inequality.

BRAC USA, a sub-group of BRAC, reaches out to Americans to encourage support for the global program in three ways: public education, strategic and program services, and grant-making. In the context of public education, the United States-based BRAC branch employs social and traditional media, as well as speaking engagements and word of mouth initiatives to increase American awareness of global poverty and the organization’s work. Some of the strategic and program services supported by BRAC USA include assistance with design and implementation of international development projects in developing nations, alongside enabling access to financing that makes these projects feasible. This assistance also takes the form of grants, made possible by the American program.

Programs like BRAC USA that encourage sustainable development in developing nations actually give back to developed nations, like the United States. By promoting development abroad, the program increases the likelihood that target nations will foster a market for developed-world goods. That is, by creating sustainable markets, we also create sustainable consumers that are historically proven to direct their newly-acquired purchasing power toward the nation providing initial development aid. To encourage investment in our own economy, we have all the more reason to encourage market development and a sustainable economy in developing nations abroad.

– Herman Watson

Sources: BRAC USA, The Borgen Project

US Military Leaders Want Congress Helping Poor
Foreign aid has long been a very small piece of the United States’ federal budget, coming in at less than 1%. But this does not reflect the important significance of that aid, diplomacy, and development strategies have in the world. The National Security Council is now joining the fight for increased foreign policy funding lead by its leaders Admiral James M. Loy and General Michael W. Hagee.

In a letter to the Appropriations Committee, the two co-chairs explain their position saying, “Our nation’s military strength is not sufficient on its own to defend America’s security, protect our most vital national interests, sustain and bolster economic growth and, in particular, address the deep-rooted causes of violence and instability around the world. To deal with these challenges, the U.S. must balance strategically all three aspects of national power and international influence—defense, diplomacy, and development.”

These military leaders have first-hand seen the need for assistance overseas and encourage the greater focus of foreign aid because it will be able to achieve goals at a far lower cost “in lives and dollars” than the military can. Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, also spoke on the necessity of supporting international development saying, “It is a vital investment in the free, prosperous, and peaceful international order that fundamentally serves our national interest.”

Promoting national and international security is vital to the U.S.’s strength as a nation, and can be better attained if proper funding is allotted. The National Security Council knows firsthand the international efforts taken for civilian assistance, and the co-chairs saw their resources for assistance often insufficiently funded and staffed. This lack of funding puts a serious damper on any efforts we may undertake in terms of diplomacy and development, where proper funding and investment could cause a dramatic decrease in poverty and hunger levels around the world.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: USGLC,The Foreign Policy Initiative
Photo: Elevation Networks

Social Impact Bonds Work for Int. Development
Ben Schiller, a writer for Fast Company Co. Exist Magazine, highlights a new financial mechanism to promote international development: social impact bonds (SIBs). SIBs are private sector investments in social outcomes like reducing homelessness or cutting prison reoffending rates. In the last few years, governments and nonprofits have become increasingly interested in the idea of SIBs.

SIBs are more than just a new source of cash. They place risk with investors, rather than nonprofits or governments. Investors only get paid a return, if the outcome materializes–say if the homeless rate decreases a certain level. And that potentially leaves more room for experimentation. If taxpayer money isn’t on the line, governments can afford to be innovative.

New York City is experimenting with a SIB for Rikers Island prison, with Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies investing. Goldman Sachs has invested $9.6 million to reduce the rate at which young males re-offend. If the rate falls by 10%, the bank – which has most of its loan guaranteed by Bloomberg – will recoup its money. If it drops by more than 10%, it could make up to $2.1 million; less than 10%, and it could lose money. Goldman is working through a nonprofit to deliver the program, and the idea is that its profit if there is one, would come from savings to the city. In theory, that amount should be a lot less than the costs of recidivism, which runs up to many millions every year.

It is too early to say whether SIBs will actually work. The Rikers Island contract, for instance,  will not be resolved until 2016. But people in the field are already exploring the possibility of taking the model further, including looking to international development.

Instiglio is one of the first organizations orchestrating SIBs for projects overseas. Co-founder Mike Belinsky calls the nonprofit a “market builder” meaning a group that links up high net worth individuals with projects, and evaluates local “service providers” (other nonprofits) to carry them out. “We design the actual program and performance management system,” he says, “and also work with investors, and educate them about what this program is like. Then we facilitate the program, and do some handholding.”

Instiglio has announced two projects so far. One, in the city of Medellin, aims to cut the rate of pregnancy among girls aged 10 to 19. Instiglio is advising on legal, financial, and practical aspects, including finding groups to work with kids while they are still in school. Belinsky says potential returns for investors are still being negotiated, but previous SIBs have paid 8% to 15%.

Instiglio is also working with a nonprofit in Rajasthan, India. The SIB will aim to reduce the rate at which adolescent girls drop out of school.

Belinsky, who was recently nominated for an Echoing Green fellowship with his colleague Avnish Gungadurdoss, believes that SIBs could eventually become an asset class like 401Ks. He says, as well as investing in your retirement account, and stock picks, we might have a SIB on the side for our favorite social cause. But it might be a while before that happens. For one thing, SIBs have to prove that they work and don’t present new sets of problems.

Some critics have said that SIBs could skew programs, invite litigation as parties argue over what “success” is, and that the costs associated with setting up SIBs (say, to arrange to finance) could outrun the benefits. Morally, they wonder whether it’s really right for investment banks to be placing bets on recidivism rates.

Belinsky concedes that the early SIBs are taking a long time to draw up and that the model won’t work for many types of programs. Only time will tell if SIBs bring in the hoped-for benefits, but still, he thinks it’s an idea worth trying because there’s too much potential upside.

“The way we look at it, this is a way of giving nonprofits access to capital. And it [allows] governments to take a serious look at their programs, and see which ones work. They can increase funding for those, because they pay at the end, and then only if it works.”

– Maria Caluag

Source: Fast Company Co.Exist Magazine
Photo: Vimeo

DFID is the Department for International Development.  Set up in 1997, DFID leads the UK government’s fight against world poverty. They are responsible for the implementation of long-term programs to help stop the underlying causes of poverty and to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

DFID is a ministerial department that is supported by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact. The department is responsible for honoring the UK’s international commitments and taking action on the Millennium Development Goals. These include: targeting international development policy on economic growth and wealth creation, improving international development coherence and performance in fragile and conflict-affected countries, improving conditions for women and girls, including, education, family planning and violence prevention, and finally, working to prevent climate change.

DFID has prioritized several goals to create the most effective aid organization possible. These priorities include education, health, economic growth and the private sector, governance and conflict, climate and the environment, and water and sanitation. Many of their goals within the individual categories closely align with those outlined in the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.  DFID is a state-funded department, which accepts applications for various aid programs.

DFID works in 29 countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. They are working with international organizations and the governments of poorer countries to help end poverty. They are taking action to mitigate climate change, help developing countries’ economies grow and countering weapons. They expel a great deal of energy working to create stability in the developing world as well as fight corruption, forcing countries to become more transparent and accountable. DFID also understands that children in developing countries need improved access to education, health services, and sanitation, and they are implementing programs in many countries to improve these standards.

DFID is headed by three ministers. Justine Greening serves as the Secretary of State for International Development, Alan Duncan serves as the Minister of State for International Development and Lynne Featherstone serves as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development.

-Caitlin Zusy

Following Seattle's Lead in International Development

The city of Seattle has teamed up with the Seattle International Foundation (SIF) to launch the Seattle Ambassador program, a campaign intended to educate residents about how their community is making some pretty amazing strides in the global fight against poverty, and inspire even more locals to pitch in.

Seattle is a leader in international development efforts; over 300 local organizations are working in 144 developing countries. The Borgen Project has been headquartered in Seattle since 2003, and we are honored to be part of a community that cares so much about the rest of the world.

We have more than a few neighbors who are doing incredible things; Literacy Bridge develops and distributes Talking Books so that illiteracy doesn’t prevent education. Ayni Education International began building schools for girls in rural Afghanistan after 9/11, in an effort to counteract growing prejudice on both sides. One By One fights to end Fistula, which is directly related to maternal mortality during childbirth.

Residents who sign up for the Seattle Ambassador program will receive updates on the efforts of these organizations and others, and also learn ways that they can help. As a bonus, registering for the program automatically enters you for a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to Africa, Asia, or Latin America, too see up close how your home is improving the world.

The first winner will be announced in June, so visit Seattle Ambassador or text SEATTLE to 80088 to register. If you don’t live in Seattle, contact your government representatives about following Seattle’s lead. Just imagine what ten, twenty, fifty cities like Seattle could accomplish.

– Dana Johnson

Sources: Seattle Ambassador, Seattle Globalist
Photo: Global Journal

Due to the recent surge of postmodernism and secularism, religious organizations have been greatly discredited in recent years concerning the fight against international poverty. Nevertheless, a nation’s religion can be one of its strongest institutions, instilling beliefs about how property should be handled and how the poor should be treated, both of which are vital to international development. Yet, despite the fact that they are extremely involved in education and health programs around the world, religious organizations have been largely excluded from the broader development agenda.

Those that seek to keep development and faith separate are barring themselves from certain communities. In many developing nations, communities are close-knit and knowledge is often most trusted when it comes from religious figures. Thus, even though religious officials and development experts will still continue to have different approaches to solving the problems that plague the communities they serve, secular organizations only cheat themselves by not collaborating with local religious organizations.

In the New Testament alone, there are over 2,000 references to poverty. The giving of alms to the poor, or zakat, is a pillar of Islam. And even though it admonishes attachment to material things, even Buddhism espouses dukkha, or “ill-being.” Therefore, religious groups and development organizations share common concerns.

Opponents of such collaboration, however, often speak to the divisiveness of religion. In the fight against HIV/AIDS, for example, many religious leaders (both in the developing world and in the United States) have had a history of discriminating against and stigmatizing those with the virus, which has only led to a spread of the pandemic. A similar phenomenon is currently occurring in Pakistan where radical Muslim groups are encouraging parents not to inoculate their children against the polio virus due to distrust of the West. But these are, above all, examples of why increased cooperation is sorely needed. Information is power. The truth is power. When people who are working toward eradicating poverty and disease collaborate with those involved with religious institutions, life-saving knowledge and resources can be more effectively imparted to those who need it most.

– Samantha Mauney
Source: The Guardian,Pew Forum
Photo: YWAM Madison


The Minister of Development and International Co-operation (UAE), Lubna Al Qasimi, met with the Chief Minister of Island of Jersey, Senator Ian Gorst yesterday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss international developmental and humanitarian actions and to boost cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. According to Shaikha Lubna, the UAE is trying to “align their points of view, in order to enhance the development and humanitarian efforts globally in the underprivileged countries.”

The contributions made by the UAE has allowed it to advance its rank globally in its achievement of developmental and humanitarian aid; thus, the UAE’s acquirement of the 16th rank pushes donors to raise their efforts in supporting developing countries. Senator Ian Gorst examined the “potential cooperation opportunities with UAE” and highlighted the projects and the mechanisms as to how these international development programs will be handled. The Senator went on to commend the UAE’s expertise in international development and the humanitarian standpoint. He applauded the successful efforts of the UAE in delivering aid and assistance to “affected people of man-made crises, such as in wars, food deficiencies, drought, poverty, in accordance with the directions and estimations of the international institutions.”

– Leen Abdallah
Source: Khaleej Times
Photo: UAE Interact