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Human Rights a Priority for World BankIndependent United Nations experts are advising the World Bank to include human rights standards in their criteria for giving loans and all other interactions with developing countries. The World Bank will hold a review in the upcoming months to discuss its social policies and is expected to adopt international human rights standards.

When the World Bank does not consider the human rights of a specific country before investing, the organization risks unintentionally hurting the extremely poor in that country. This happens because some development ends up benefiting the wealthy people while the poor suffer. For example, poor farmers may lose their land, and therefore livelihood, in order to build new housing structures that have been sanctioned by the World Bank.

The group advocating for human rights standards in the World Bank includes representatives for the Special Rapporteur (and its sub-groups on extreme poverty and human rights, rights of indigenous peoples, and rights to food) and the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.

As such, the World Bank can expect to hear arguments from this group urging them to consider issues like “disability, gender, labor, land tenure, and the rights of indigenous people” in the meeting. These suggestions will also be open for public comment. The goal of adding human rights criteria to World Bank standards is to ensure that the poor benefit development as well as wealthy people.

The World Bank will update its “safeguard policies,” its social and environmental policies, to make sure that the voices of the poor are not overpowered by the wealthy. This review, which will analyze the activities of the World Bank for the past two years, is a huge opportunity for the organization to begin to reach out to the world’s poorest.

– Mary Penn

Source: India Blooms
Photo: The Foundry

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It is predicted that by 2015 China will decrease the number of its citizens living in poverty by 50 million. Other developing countries are taking note of China’s success and, with the help of foreign investment, hope to employ the same methods. With its growing economy and monetary assistance, China is, by example, taking a leading role in foreign aid and assisting the developing world.

China’s representative for the World Food Programme, Brett Rierson, explains how China used a bottom-up method of alleviating poverty. The Chinese government focused on aiding poor farmers by implementing policies that permitted farmers to keep a higher percentage of their profits and allocating foreign investment and technology to small villages. Investment in infrastructure, as well as improving nutrition education, women’s health, and agriculture production, are also factors responsible for China’s success story.

A majority of China’s aid goes to countries in Asia and Africa. These developing countries can mimic China’s strategy by investing in infrastructure and farming communities. Deborah Brautigam, director of the international development program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, reminds us that it was China’s decision to invest in agriculture that helped reduce poverty, not just foreign assistance. African countries have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty, but it depends on how they invest the money they received from foreign aid.

China formerly received foreign aid from Western countries and is now ready to begin investing in other developing countries. With China’s help, the United Nations is on track to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

-Mary Penn
Source: SCMP
Photo: The Guardian

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There are many disputing ideas on whether or not America should continue to invest in foreign aid, especially while in the throes of an economic recession. While spending US funds to support countries and people that most citizens will probably never visit or meet may seem counter-intuitive, foreign aid will be a factor in pulling America out of its recession. Lifting developing countries out of poverty creates more customers to buy American products, which in turn creates jobs in America.

Foreign aid job creation is not merely speculation. Currently almost half of US exports go to developing countries and this number can be expected to increase as these new, developing markets continue to open. This will greatly improve the US economy since one in five American jobs, like cell phone chips and food production, are export-based. American businesses recognize the opportunity to grow by alleviating world poverty. In 2012, over 50 US corporations delivered a letter to Congress in support of continuing funding for foreign investment. These corporations included Google, Cisco, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Caterpillar.

These corporations are aware of the huge potential payoffs of foreign investment. For example, the US has given Mexico $1.7 billion in aid over the past 45 years and now exports $16.3 billion in goods to their neighbor every year. The US has also seen its investment in Brazil offer an enormous return. America exports $35.4 billion annually to Brazil after giving $2.8 billion in aid from 1960-2005. Given that a majority of the United States’ top trading partners had previously accepted aid from the US, it is obvious that foreign aid is a good investment.

Foreign aid does not have to be strictly a question of moral obligation; it is also financially and developmentally smart. Many Congressmen are now referring to foreign aid as investment for this very reason. It may take many years until US citizens see the financial benefits of foreign investments but the eventually, revenues from these new markets will be well worth the wait. Foreign aid is less than 1% of United States’ budget and has the potential to create jobs to bring the US out of rough economic times. Contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to support funding for foreign aid.

– Mary Penn

Source: Orange County Register
Photo: Soda Head

Top Priorities for Africa in 2013The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings released a report of top priorities for Africa.  The AGI “brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise, and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.”  The Foresight Africa report shows promising opportunities in Africa.  It outlines the top priorities for Africa in 2013.

Moving from “economic stagnation to above 5 percent GDP growth on average,” Africa is prospering.  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and African governments are embracing this growth by lowering transaction costs.  Africa’s economic growth is creating a new middle class.  This middle class means new markets for goods and services.  The Foresight Africa report notes that it is a prime time for investors.

Some African countries are mirroring Asian models and engaging their diasporas for economic and social development.  South Africa, for example, is using TalentCorp’s model.  TalentCorp is a partnership between the government, the private sector and the overseas diaspora.  The model aims to bring highly skilled Malaysians living abroad back to their home country.

Countries everywhere recognize the potential in harnessing Africa’s diaspora.  In 2011, the United States Congress proposed the African Investment and Diaspora Act.  The bill was designed to support African development.  Ghana and Kenya are on the cutting-edge and have already “established units within their respective governments to oversee diaspora affairs.”  AGI’s Foresight Africa report points to these examples as models for other countries.

Check out the full report for more information.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Brookings
Photo: Daily Maverick

A Solution to Global Poverty: Mobile MoneyKenya has recently gained attention for its successful adaption of mobile money. A majority of its population, two-thirds of which live on less than $2 a day, are able to manage their finances using cell phones. Through this service, which does not require a bank account, millions of customers are able to send a text message to banks to pay bills, receive payment, and transfer money. Given that nearly 2.5 million people in the world do not have bank accounts and 2 billion people have cell phones, the program will make it easy to include a large number of people previously without access to finance management. As of now, there are 15 million mobile money customers in Kenya.

The impact of mobile money on people living in developing economies is vast. They now can boast financial independence, control of their funds, and the ability to assist family members and friends with ease. Mobile money can also improve financial security and local economic activity for small, low-income villages.  Most importantly, this is all available with the convenience and simplicity of a cell phone.

Safaricom developed the mobile money service in Kenya in 2007 and named it M-Pesa. Since then, many other companies have been eager to join the mobile sensation. However, despite the success seen in Kenya, mobile money providers have not been able to reproduce its effects in other countries like Afghanistan and Zambia. Many other factors contribute to mobile money besides technology. One reason why the Kenyan program has been so successful is due to its regulatory policies. The Kenyan government employs flexible regulatory rules after the innovative process occurs in order to ensure protection for customers and service providers.

Before this phenomenon, those living in poverty had little access to financial services. There are now 150 money mobile services throughout the world, which means that every day more and more impoverished people are able to benefit from mobile money. Little by little, one village at a time, we can hope to see improving economies in developing countries thanks to this innovative money service.

– Mary Penn
Source: Brookings
Photo:Business Daily Africa

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According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 870 million people throughout the world do not have access to food. Investment in farmers and agricultural programs in developing nations is heavily encouraged by the FAO in order to help alleviate the issue.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, stated that more agricultural investment needs to take place. Strategic investment has already proven to be one of the most effective means of combating global hunger. He asserted that not only is more investment needed but that investment needs to be “better.”

Graziano da Silva adds that national governments and the global community should be pushed to create a healthy economic environment where farmers have more access to investment, capital, and sustainable technology. He went on to praise Germany for its efforts since the country spends nearly 700 million euros annually on food security in developing countries.

Graziano da Silva’s remarks come just after the Institution of Mechanical Engineers announced that around 30-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten. His comments are also before the anticipated Agricultural Ministers’ Berlin Summit 2013, where greater food production efficiency and eradicating global hunger will be a frequent topic of discussion.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: Blue & Green Tomorrow