New Goals for the Fourth World
This past week, the UN considered a set of recommendations for reworking the Millennium Development Goals at their headquarters in New York. This time, however, a new group wants a seat at the discussion: the extreme poor.

The Fourth World, as it is called, has always been home to the population most at-risk and, unfortunately, the most difficult to help. Juan Baltazar, a former street-dweller in Bolivia and current development researcher, says he never knew about development efforts when he was homeless.

ATD Fourth World, an organization dedicated to studying and eradicating extreme poverty, compiled a report based on a three-year action-research program across twelve countries and involving over 2,000 men and women like Baltazar. Entitled “Towards Sustainable Development that Leaves No One Behind: The Challenge of the Post-2015 Agenda”, the report lists the five most important new development goals based on suggestions from the extreme poor. They are:

1. Leave no one behind: Fighting discrimination based on race, gender, and class is the most urgent need of those living in extreme poverty to access education, jobs, and so forth.

2. Introduce people living in poverty as new partners in building knowledge on development: The best way to assist the highly marginalized is to bilaterally share information and support to foster input and agency on their part.

3. Promote decent jobs and social protection: Policies that drive job-creation and fair social outcomes are essential to helping the poor help themselves.

4. Achieve education and training for all: Education must be relevant, equitable, and accessible to everyone in order to provide a firm social foundation for the “Fourth World.”

5. Promote participatory governance: Democracy is key to any sustainable approach to poverty alleviation, and the voices of the disempowered must be heard in order to help them effectively.

The report seeks to shift the emphasis in development from economic and health benchmarks to aligning policy with human rights standards. Pursuant to that, ATD believes that no real progress can be made without hearing the contributions of the poor themselves.

– John Mahon
Sources: Devex, ATD Fourth World
Photo: Amazonaws

Africa Hunger 2025
Africa can end hunger completely by 2025, according to Jose Graniano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Graniano da Silva bases his prediction on the great progress that has been made in Africa since the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000.

Since then, eleven countries in Africa have reduced the number of hungry people within their borders by 50%, and several others are on track to do the same by the end of 2015. With the strong momentum that is behind African efforts to combat malnutrition, Graniano da Silva believes that complete elimination of hunger is attainable in the continent by the year 2025.

The Director-General states that the biggest obstacle to eliminating hunger in Africa is accessibility to food. Africa has the second-highest level of economic growth in the world and a multitude of resources throughout the continent, yet 17 of the 20 countries in the world “suffering from prolonged food shortages” are in Africa and “one in four Africans still suffer from chronic hunger.”

The key to reducing hunger, according to Graniano da Silva, is not necessarily by just increasing food production, but rather by making food more available throughout the continent. Increased access to food can be achieved by increasing access to land for growing food and reducing food price volatility.

Other factors that will help contribute to the eradication of hunger in Africa are increasing national budgets on agriculture and providing women with enhanced access to land and credit. Nearly “70% of Africa’s agriculture workforce is female,” making women’s rights and involvement in development essential to reducing hunger.

Jose Graniano da Silva is a former president of Brazil who headed the nation’s Fome Zero program, which successfully lifted 28 million Brazilians out of poverty. The Director-General hopes that similar strategies to the ones that he helped implement in Brazil will help lift millions of Africans out of poverty in the next decade.

Jordan Kline

Sources: The Guardian, Inter Press Service

On June 16, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) honored Venezuela as one of the 18 nations that has met the Millennium Development Goal of reducing their number of hungry people by at least half over the past two decades. However, this act was met with cries of outrage on Twitter and from Venezuelan opposition leaders.

Statistics on hunger in Venezuela vary dramatically based on their origins. Unsurprisingly, government statistics suggest significant improvements in recent years. They point to figures on overall food consumption, which has almost doubled from 1999 to 2012, increasing from 13.8 millions tons to 26.8 million tons. They further claim that most Venezuelans are well fed, with an average daily consumption of 3,182 calories. These improvements are said to be a result of government programs such as a network of government-run supermarkets put in place by Hugo Chavez that sell goods at radically reduced prices.

On the other hand, the opposition claims that local food production has plummeted in recent years. This, they say, is due in part to price controls strictly enforced by the government. They also argue that local farmers are at a disadvantage because 70% of Venezuelan food is imported. (The government counters that this figure is closer to 30%). Furthermore, escalating inflation rates in Venezuela are making food more expensive, with prices increasing roughly 30% each year.

Critical food shortages are forcing desperate Venezuelans to wait in supermarket lines for hours to get their hands on simple staple foods. This problem is so severe that it has created a market for a free app called Abasteceme, or “Supply Me”. Created for Androids by Jose Augusto Montiel, the app allows consumers to notify each other when they find certain products for sale. It has been downloaded over 12,000 times. Currently, consumers can post about flour, sugar, milk, cooking oil, and toilet paper. However, users are clamoring for the app to be expanded to include chicken, butter, and soap as well. In a revealing example of the severity of the problem, a lot of entries must be deleted quickly because stores sell out so fast.

In the face of this controversy, one thing remains clear: food security in Venezuela could be improved. Regardless of whether or not the government deserves to be so highly commended by the UN, their work is clearly not over. Hopefully, this honor will encourage the Venezuelan government to continue their work to improve food security.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: ABC News
Photo: Guardian

As the Millennium Development Goals come to an end in 2015 the international community is asking what next? Before there can be definite goals set the international community needs to take a look at 5 issues.

1. The changing poverty map

While there have been a huge number of people lifted out of poverty, it has not been a global phenomenon. Most people elevated out of poverty were in large emerging countries such as China that saw a decrease in poverty rate from 85% in 1981 to 13.1% in 2008. However, to eradicate extreme poverty the international community will need to focus on countries afflicted by conflict and instability since this is where poverty is most extreme.

2.  Private sector catalysts

There must be more focus on the creation of tools to encourage the private sector to invest in developing countries. While tools such as impact investing and risk mitigation exist these tools must be developed.

3. The power of technology

Technology has completely reshaped how our world communicates and it cannot be forgotten when it comes to the question of poverty. Technologies can allow citizens, experts and officials to collaborate in new and exciting ways. It must be utilized in the next 20 years to fight back against poverty.

4. Demography and climate change

Demography and climate change are changing the way our world looks. Climate change must be taken into account when creating new solutions and programs; they must be long lasting. In many countries, the majority of the population will be under 25 so policies must focus on jobs and skills.

5. Politics and reform

Currently governments as well as development actors are weak when it comes to implementing new policies as well as they have a heavy reliance on multiple chains of contracting. There will need to be greater transparency, inclusion of civil society, and new financial models to prevent this in the future.

– Catherine Ulrich

Sources: WE Blog, UN
Photo: Hearts and Minds

Poverty in Cameroon and Why it Matters
Cameroon is on track to become a middle-income country, however, nagging poverty spurred by under-funded social programs and ineffective public finance management holds the country in its current limbo.

The country of Cameroon boasts the largest economy in Central Africa. It is one of the oldest oil exporters on the continent, and it receives some of the smallest amounts of aid in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Cameroonian poverty has plateaued over the last several years at 40% nationally, though the rates have actually increased in the poorest areas of the country. Of those citizens living in poverty, 87% live in rural areas. According to a recent report, the World Bank does not expect Cameroon to meet most Millennium Development Goals, except for the ones related to universal primary education and gender equality.

The factors holding Cameroon back are complex. Budget austerity and general governmental inefficiency are at the heart of many of the country’s development headaches. These confounding factors have a crippling effect on the improvement and expansion of modern, secure infrastructure and established a business climate unfriendly to major investors. Thus, a country with impressive natural resources, including high value-added agricultural products like coffee, cotton, and cocoa, is struggling to effectively harness its economic potential.

The varied and fertile landscape of Cameroon enables 70% of the population to earn its living from agriculture and farming. The country is the world’s fifth-largest cocoa producer and has seen sectors outside of its long-established oil industry become the driving forces in the growth of its economy. While modest gains in the agricultural and tertiary sectors have pushed the economy, rich mineral reserves remain untapped, partially due to an infrastructure power deficit.

The World Bank believes further economic expansion and sustainable poverty reduction in the country can best be achieved through a commitment to targeted programs and efforts aimed at improving governance at the central and sectoral levels. Accordingly, such initiatives are key features in the World Bank’s Country Assistance Strategy for Cameroon. The strategy seeks to bring increased coordination and transparency on governance-related issues and to foster competitiveness and service delivery across the country.

Despite these challenges, there is hope for the future of Cameroon. The country has successfully implemented programs that have increased the primary education completion rate to 71% and have pushed gender equality, notably through the school enrollment rate for girls. These successes demonstrate the potential positive impact of effectively implemented development programs. Through cooperation with and commitment to World Bank strategies and other development efforts, the country of Cameroon should, in the not too distant future, experience real success in the fight against poverty and economic underachievement.

– Lauren Brown

Source: World Bank, Reuters
Photo: Health Care Volunteer

Understanding Hidden Hunger
Sight and Life, a prominent group working to fight micronutrient deficiencies prevalent among the world’s poor, has recently released its Hidden Hunger Index. Hidden hunger is defined as a chronic deficiency of necessary micronutrients. Rather than a lack of food or calories, this type of hunger results from a diet low in specific nutrients. This condition affects approximately 1 in 3 people in the world today and accounts for about 7% of diseases around the world. Although the signs are not visible, hidden hunger has long-term consequences for overall health, productivity, and mental development. The most common deficiencies are in vitamin A, iodine, folate, and B vitamins. Women of reproductive age and young children are most severely affected by this condition.

In addition to its negative and often permanent health effects, hidden hunger has numerous economic consequences. It aggravates global poverty in multiple ways and minimizes countries’ growth in economic productivity. It also increases child and maternal mortality, causes birth defects, diseases, and disabilities. Unfortunately, it also restrains the empowerment of women by adversely affecting their health.

The Hidden Hunger Index concluded that hidden hunger in pre-school age children was alarmingly high in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Afghanistan. High Hidden Hunger Index was found to correlate with low Human Development Index, a measure based on three basic qualities of human well-being: a long and healthy life, education, and standard of living. While many micronutrient deficiencies were found to occur in groups, iodine deficiencies were often found independently. This is probably due to differing country laws on salt iodization. Iodine deficiency accounts for approximately 18 million children born mentally impaired each year.

Hidden hunger and its related health issues are significant obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out by the United Nations. The Hidden Hunger Index shines a light on micronutrient deficiencies and acts as a tool for activism. While there is information concerning hunger issues with root causes in a lack of food and calories, and about single micronutrient deficiencies, information about multiple micronutrient deficiencies is sorely lacking. Sight and Life developed the Hidden Hunger Index in the hopes that it will “serve as a tool to stimulate global efforts towards scaling up nutrition interventions”.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: Micronutrient Initiative, Hidden Hunger Index
Photo: The Guardian

UN Honors Victories in Combating Poverty

In 1990, Thailand had a poverty rate of 27 percent. That means more than one of every four citizens suffered from hunger and oppression.

Thailand is now one of 38 countries honored by the United Nations at a ceremony in Rome Wednesday. The celebration? All 38 of these countries have cut their nation’s hunger in half.

This is a significant improvement in meeting the United Nations Millennium Development goals, which plan to eradicate global poverty by 2015. The 8 major goals are listed below:

1.    Eradicate extreme hunger

2.    Universal Education

3.    Gender Equality

4.    Reduction of Child Mortality

5.    Maternal health improvement

6.    HIV/ AIDS/ Disease reduction

7.    Environment sustainability

8.    Global Development

The United Nations set deadlines countries must meet as they work to achieve these eight goals. Halving national hunger is an approaching deadline.

Countries shared different goals of having either the proportion of their hunger levels cut in half or the exact hunger levels cut in half. Notable nations that achieved set goals include Brazil, Chile, Vietnam and Nigeria.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Graziano da Silva said that this success stems from the commitment of each nation to ending world hunger and poverty. This commitment has resulted in many achievements in combating poverty.

“FAO is proud to work with all our member nations, developed and developing, to reach our common vision of a hunger-free and sustainable world,” Graziano da Silva said.

 William Norris

Sources: Ecumenical News, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: Ecumenical News

The High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has outlined a new development framework to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Analysts and UN experts are concerned that we will not be able to eradicate extreme poverty by the end of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Experts agree that the population is growing at too fast a rate to eliminate poverty by 2015. They believe that a more realistic option is to focus on extreme poverty and worry less about “comfortable” relative poverty.

The new agenda was released at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. The new agenda outlines the High-Panels recommendations to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and to complete the promise of sustainable development. Secretary Ban believes the Tokyo Conference should galvanize action to help live up to our pledge to end poverty, educate children, empower women, and provide health services to all.

An examination of the report showed that the panel had a clear sense of respect for the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, showcasing the accomplishments and progress the MGDs have been able to make. Improvements range from poverty reduction, lowered child mortality rates, malaria improvements and more. The panel believes that in order to complete the original goals, updated goals and targets are a must.

The new agenda follows closely in spirit with the old MGDs, focusing on poverty, hunger, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare. The High-Panel criticized the MGDs for their lack of focus on reaching the worlds poorest and more excluded, vulnerable people, and aims to improve on that. The panel also believes the MGDs largely ignored the effects of violence and conflict on development, and would like to see improvements in that area as well.

Additionally, the panel would like the new goals to discuss the importance of good governance, rule of law, free speech, and open and accountable governments. The High-Panel severely criticized the MGDs lack of integration of social, economic and environmental sustainable development strategies. They believe the lack of this integration did not allow for the environment and development to be properly brought together.

The focus of the new goals and agenda rests on five key shifts including: a move from reducing to ending extreme poverty, placing sustainable development at the core of the development agenda, transforming economies to drive inclusive growth, building accountable institutions, and forging a new global partnership based on cooperation, equity and human rights. The new agenda will be applicable to the Global North and South alike, also taking into account survey responses from Africans, and national consultations from more than 90 countries.

Ban has expressed his desire for African nations to become more integrated in the global economy. He would like to see more responsible foreign investment, which would lead to more potential for African countries, providing them access to more markets around the world, increasing their growth potential.

In their report, the panel focused on the best practices to address problems including maternal health, food security, sexual violence, and barriers to women’s economic, legal and political empowerment. The new agenda seeks to make women a more fundamental and important part of the development process. Women have emerged at the forefront of global development and the high-panel, and new agenda is working to utilize and empower women to achieve their goals of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: This Day Live

Increased Immunizations in Zambia
The World Health Organization has reported that increased immunizations in Zambia from GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations) funding are having an incredibly beneficial impact. GAVI funding has exposed Zambia to new technologies and vaccines for a gamut of preventable diseases. These diseases range from Hepatitis B+, influenza, and measles among others. Increased funding for vaccinations allows Zambia to protect a greater percentage of their population, and it allows them to make important strides towards improved health conditions, something they have struggled with in the past.

The country is also looking forward to increasing their Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations in the near future. The main goal of the increased funding for vaccinations is that they will have the ability to help more children. Children are substantially more exposed to hunger, malnutrition and diseases, and this is a step in the eradication of such problems.

Zambia has been the beneficiary of funding totaling the U.S. $3,208,160 for vaccines and immunizations. Representatives from The World Health Organization note that Zambia is striving to greatly improve their child’s health conditions, as well as to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Immunizations have been a great part of this success. Zambia’s government has shown a strong commitment to improvement. The WHO admits that while Zambia has various shortfalls and economic limitations, there are improvements being made. The government is working hard to help and care for its citizens.

This is good news. Increased vaccinations help lower child mortality rates, and increase the overall quality of life in developing regions. They also work to limit overpopulation. Immunizations and health improvements are vital to poverty reduction. International commitment to countries and governments such as Zambia is exactly what we need.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Times of Zambia
Photo: The International

UN Highlights Technological Innovation and African Development
An often overlooked factor that underpins the sustainability of development in a nation is the ability to be innovative in the fields of science and technology. Recently, at a United Nations meeting in Tanzania, senior UN officials repeatedly stressed the importance of technological innovation and African development as key in moving past the 2015 millennium development goals and well into the future.

Of the many beneficial consequences of a robust science and technology sector, none is felt more than the long term effects they have on overall growth and job creation. Innovative Green Farming has produced thousands of new startups across much of the developed world, so too have the various technological enterprises built by well funded post-graduate researchers at various universities and laboratories. By harnessing the entrepreneurial power of science-based sectors, technological innovation and African development can work in tandem towards a sustainable economic future. In regards to the need for more innovation in Africa, President of ECOSOC Nestor Osorio remarked that “Innovation is the essence of our modern society. Without harnessing its power, we will not be able to create healthy, educated or inclusive societies. Greater efforts are needed to build partnerships among government, private sector, civil society, academia, philanthropic organizations and the international community, to promote and spread innovation for sustainable development in Africa.”

By utilizing the minds of the African populace, technological innovation and African development can be used to not only pull much of the people out of chronic poverty but also solve the food security and logistical challenges of the continent. By bringing to light the amazing potential of economic prosperity and a greater quality of life through the science and technological sectors, Africa can dramatically reduce poverty levels and standards of living well into the future.

Brian Turner

Source: UN News
Photo: Guardian