Posts

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

parliamentary governmentsA parliamentary government is a system of governance that ensures democratic ideals. National parliamentary governments create laws for its citizens, while international parliamentary institutions govern globalization.

What is the Difference Between the Two?

National parliamentary governments create laws for their nation that applies to citizens. International parliamentary institutions are organizations that allow officials to represent their country in worldly discussions and bring awareness to global problems.

A parliament is a democratic system of government. A national parliament is a means in which a country governs its people and creates laws. More countries have started actively participating in international parliaments due to globalization. An international parliament does not have the power to govern countries but instead uses diplomacy to influence world governments.

What is a Parliamentary Government?

Great Britain laid the groundwork for a parliamentary system in the 1200s, and today more than 51 countries use parliamentary governments to represent citizens and pass laws.

A select number of parliamentary governments, such as Great Britain, are aligned with a monarchy. In a constitutional monarchy, a king or queen is the head of state but retains no political power. A few governments, such as France, are a hybrid of both a presidential system and a parliamentary system.

The main feature of parliamentary governments is the power of the legislative branch and the inclusion of the executive branch. Most parliamentary governments have a two-chamber or bicameral procedure to pass laws, although some may have a unicameral parliament. Citizens directly elect members of parliament; however, citizens do not elect the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is voted into office by the party who obtains the majority of members of parliament. The Prime Minister is the executive leader, who also participates in legislative lawmaking activities. This is different from a presidential system, in which the legislative branch and the executive branch are separate.

A parliamentary system is known to be effective due to its accountability and responsiveness. If the majority party becomes disliked, the Prime Minister can instantly be removed with a vote. This holds members of parliament responsible for their actions. Within a presidency, the system of checks and balances may result in gridlock. The power of the legislative branch in a parliamentary system results in a faster way to pass laws.

Growth of International Parliamentary Institutions

The number of international parliamentary institutions is growing, as the world becomes more interconnected. The first international parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, was established in 1889. Later, the aftermath of World War II resulted in the need to resolve conflicts peacefully. The idea of international parliamentary institutions became a means to represent a country and its concerns, on a world stage. Currently, there are around 70 International Parliamentary Systems.

As globalization becomes more prevalent, international parliamentary institutions play a greater role in global affairs. It can be challenging for an ordinary citizen to voice their concerns to other countries. With international parliamentary institutions, parliamentarians represent their citizens globally.

International parliamentary institutions create awareness of global issues. Global issues include “environmental problems, nuclear disarmament, corruption, women’s rights, and population growth”. When these universal problems produce national concerns, countries collaborate with one another or with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) through international parliamentary institutions. This builds new relationships to solve matters, and country representatives then counsel their national governments. Although most international parliamentary institutions cannot enforce laws on nations, creating awareness brings societal change. Citizens who acknowledge these international issues can advocate for new laws within their own government.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Union Parliament are examples of highly influential international parliamentary institutions. Currently, the United Nations is proposing the idea of an international parliamentary assembly, so all countries can participate in policymaking with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This article highlights why national governments and international institutions favor a parliamentary system. National parliaments are successful in promoting democracy in governments. As the world becomes more connected, international parliamentary institutions serve as a forum between governments to solve global problems and ensure peacekeeping.

– Hannah Nelson 
Photo: Flickr

In comparison to other partners of the United States, such as Saudi Arabia and China, Montenegro appears to be quite small and insignificant. It is true that Montenegro’s total population is less than a million people. Furthermore, the country itself is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. However, Montenegro has proven to be a sturdy economic and military partner to both the United States and European Union. The overall goal of this piece will be to explore how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Montenegro. 

History and Renewed Relations

U.S.-Montenegrin relations officially began in 1905 and lasted until 1920. Montenegro eventually became a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until its dissolution in 1992. Montenegro wouldn’t achieve independence again until May 2012. In a referendum, rough 55 percent of the population voted for independence from the state union of Serbia-Montenegro. As a result, the United States re-established relations with Montenegro in 2006.

Quoting the U.S. Department of State on current relations with Montenegro, “The relationship between the U.S. and Montenegro has promoted peace and prosperity in the region and around the world.” For the FY 2019 budget, Montenegro is earmarked to receive $2.5 million in U.S. foreign assistance. Of that, 35 percent is geared towards bolstering democracy, human rights, and governance. The remaining 65 percent will be invested in peace and security.

Benefit: Influence in the Balkans

As aid continues to Montenegro, the U.S. gains a foothold in the Balkan region and can further promote its agenda. In recent years the U.S. has aimed for Montenegro to achieve Atlantic-Euro integration. On June 5, 2017, Montenegro became the 30th member to join NATO. In addition, Montenegro entered into accession negotiations with the E.U. to become a full member.

As a potential member of the E.U. and a part of NATO, Montenegro is of strategic significance to the U.S., particularly in reducing Russian influence and aggression in the Balkans. To reduce crime, the U.S. has sought to increase Montenegro’s ability to fight organized crime and corruption. If U.S. assistance continues as such, Montenegro has the potential to become a stronger economic and military partner which, in turn, affects greater U.S. influence and support in the region. This is a major example of how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Montenegro. 

Benefit: Foreign Investment

Montenegro’s low corporate tax rates and business-friendly policies have enticed foreign investment from the U.S. and E.U. The U.S. Department of State explains that Montenegro has enacted the following incentives to potential investors:

  • a business-oriented economic system
  • a high level of economic freedom
  • a stable currency (euro)
  • macroeconomic predictability
  • and openness to incentivized tax structures.

If Montenegro enters the E.U. it has the potential to gain increased investment from U.S. companies.

U.S. foreign assistance and economic investment in Montenegro has proven to be both beneficial and successful. Montenegro’s unemployment rate has decreased noticeably as U.S. and E.U. investment has increased. The country has also become a full member of NATO and is projected to enter the E.U. in 2022. As Montenegro strengthens, U.S. interests are further protected in the Balkans which is essential in limiting Russian influence. Overall, Montenegro has helped protect U.S. economic and strategic interests in the region. These two serious factors prove how much the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Montenegro.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

How to help people in Seychelles
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands located off the eastern coast of Africa, north of Madagascar. It has the highest GDP per capita in Africa at $15,476 in 2015. Its extreme poverty rate is low (1.1 percent in 2013) as is its moderate poverty rate (2.5 percent in 2013).

Despite the low poverty rates, inequality is an issue in Seychelles. The poorest 20 percent of the population only holds 3.7 percent of the country’s wealth. The disparities between urban and rural areas are also substantial. The poverty rate in rural areas (as a percentage of the rural population) is 37.2 percent.

The economy of Seychelles depends on fishing (particularly tuna fishing) and tourism, both of which are impacted by the environment. Climate change disproportionately affects people in Seychelles. They also lack access to natural freshwater resources and face water pollution due to poor sewage management and industrial runoff. Natural and manmade disasters such as landslides, fires and oil spills affect the environment and hamper tourism.

The issues of piracy that have plagued the coast of Somalia also affect Seychelles. Due to the spread-out nature of the islands, it is difficult to guarantee the security of all people. The threat of pirates affects tourism, yachting and fishing which damages the economy.

Previously, NATO ran a counter-piracy operation called Operation Ocean Shield that was designed to protect people from pirates on the eastern coast of Africa. However, this program ended in 2016, once again leaving the people of Seychelles vulnerable.

With an understanding of the issues that Seychelles faces, the question now is how to help people in Seychelles. There are several steps that can be taken:

  1. Urge representatives to support American and/or NATO anti-piracy measures.
  2. Support climate change policies and solutions. Those who contribute the least to climate change are those who are affected the most.
  3. Consider donating to one of the following organizations that address some of the above concerns in Seychelles:

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in LatviaOne of the smaller Baltic states, Latvia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and ever since has been shifting to catch up to the rest of the economies in the EU. Although Latvia is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, nearly one in three Latvians is at risk of severe poverty and nearly one in five suffer severe material deprivation. Additionally, the GDP per capita of Latvia is only $13,700 – in contrast, the United States’ GDP per capita for 2016 was over $52,000. Considering the close strategic ties between the U.S. and Latvia, this all begs the question of how to help people in Latvia who suffer from poverty.

With the aim of helping Latvia develop as a nation and stamp down its poverty rate, here are some ways to get involved and help the people of Latvia:

  1. In 2014, the U.S. provided Latvia with $67 million worth of assistance through an assortment of military programs run in the country. Writing to members of Congress in favor of continued support for Latvia can allow them to focus their attention and finances on their own economy.
  2. Similarly, the U.S. and Latvia are members of many of the same economic groups – such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and NATO. Urging your representatives in Congress to support these groups provides Latvia with access to the resources and assistance provided by them.
  3. Latvia is currently in the process of becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – an international group that seeks to assist nations in improving their economies and the livelihoods of their citizens. Getting involved with the OECD and supporting their initiatives is a tangible way of helping make an impact in the lives of Latvians.
  4. Investing in and purchasing the goods and services of Latvian-based companies puts money directly into the Latvian economy, which is largely based on industries such as transport and telecommunications. For example, choose to fly Air Baltic next time you take a trip to Europe.
  5. Volunteer your time or donate to the American Latvian Association, which has been providing aid to Latvia since 1989.

Ultimately, the choice of how to help people in Latvia most effectively lies in the hands of the Latvian government, but urging U.S. representatives to consider ways to assist Latvia as well as volunteering your own time and money can assist the poor in Latvia in making life a little bit better for themselves.

Erik Halberg
Photo: Flickr

The Poverty Rate In BelgiumBelgium is a country located in western Europe between France and the Netherlands. It became an independent nation from the Netherlands in 1830 and was then controlled by Germany during World War I and II. The foundation of the EU and NATO allowed the country’s capital, Brussels, to become the home for numerous international organizations. The influence of the organizations and membership in the EU and NATO has allowed the poverty rate in Belgium to remain low.

Currently, the poverty rate in Belgium rests at 15 percent. Like many other European nations, Belgium has a high standard of living and per capita income. Belgium consistently ranks among the top nations in the Human Development Index (an index that measures the quality of life in countries). In 2007, Belgium ranked number seven, which was ahead of the country it once was a part of — the Netherlands.

When measured in 1992, 3.7 percent of the population was in the lowest 10 percent of the income bracket. About 9.5 percent were in the lowest 20 percent, 14.6 percent were in the second 20 percent, 18.4 percent were in the third 20 percent and 23 percent were in the fourth 20 percent of income.

The highest 20 percent made up 34.5 percent and the highest 10 percent made up 20.2 percent of income. These statistics indicate the low poverty rate in Belgium and the little income inequality.

Although there is little income inequality in Belgium, 16.7 percent of people under the age of 18 lived in families that fell below the poverty line. Since 2012, the risk of being under the poverty line for people under the age of 18 has decreased considerably. Thanks to numerous social welfare programs, the risk of a person under 18 being under the poverty line in Belgium has fallen from 27 to 15 percent.

The social welfare system is a primary reason for why the poverty rate in Belgium remains low. The country has programs for family allowance, retirement, medical benefits, unemployment insurance and even a program that provides a salary in the event of an illness.

Belgium is a country that has managed to tackle the issues of income inequality and poverty while remaining a small nation. The social welfare system in Belgium in conjunction with its cooperation with the EU and NATO are one of the primary reasons for the success of the country. Thus, countries interested in lowering their poverty rates should follow Belgium’s example.

Nicholas Beauchamp
Photo: Flickr

Kosovo War
The Kosovo War was a quick and highly destructive conflict that displaced 90 percent of the population. The severity of the unrest in Kosovo and the involvement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) brought the Kosovo conflict to international attention in the late 1990’s. The conflict led to the displacement of thousands and lasting tension between Serbs and Albanians. The brutality of the war is largely credited with launching The Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people.

10 Facts about the Kosovo War

    1. The Kosovo War was waged in the Serbian province of Kosovo from 1998 to 1999. Ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo faced the pressure of Serbs fighting for control of the region. Albanians also opposed the government of Yugoslavia, which was made up of modern day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia.
    2. Muslim Albanians were the ethnic majority in Kosovo. The president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, refused to recognize the rights of the majority because Kosovo was an area sacred to the Serbs. He planned to replace Albanian language and culture with Serbian institutions.
    3. The international community failed to address the escalation of tension between the Albanians and the Serbs. In doing so, they inadvertently supported radicals in the region. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo formed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the early 1990s. The militant group began attacks on Serbian police and politicians and were engaged in an all-out uprising by 1998.
    4. Serbian and Yugoslav forces tried to fight growing KLA support through oppressive tactics and violence. The government destroyed villages and forced people to leave their homes. They massacred entire villages. Many people fled their homes.
    5. As the conflict grew worse, international intervention rose. The Contact Group (consisting of the U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Russia) demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serbian forces from Kosovo and the return of refugees. Yugoslavia at first agreed but ultimately failed to implement the terms of the agreement.
    6. Yugoslav and Serbian forces engaged in an ethnic cleansing campaign throughout the duration of the war. By the end of May 1999, 1.5 million people had fled their homes. At the time, that constituted approximately 90 percent of Kosovo’s population.
    7. Diplomatic negotiations between Kosovar and Serbian delegations began in France in 1999, but Serbian officials refused to cooperate. In response, NATO began a campaign of airstrikes against Serbian targets, focusing mainly on destroying Serbian government buildings and infrastructure. The bombings caused further flows of refugees into neighboring countries and the deaths of several civilians.
    8. In June 1999, NATO and Yugoslavia signed a peace accord to end the Kosovo War. The Yugoslav government agreed to troop withdrawal and the return of almost one million ethnic Albanians and half a million general displaced persons. Unfortunately, tensions between Albanians and Serbs continued into the 21st century. Anti-Serb riots broke out in March 2004 throughout the Kosovo region. Twenty people were killed and over 4,000 Serbs and other minorities were displaced.
    9. In February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Subsequently, Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003 and became the individual countries of Serbia and Montenegro. Serbia, along with numerous other countries, refused to recognize Kosovo’s independence.
    10. At the end of 2016, a tribunal was established in the International Criminal Court to try Kosovars for committing war crimes against ethnic minorities and political opponents. Additionally, an EU taskforce set up in 2011 found evidence that members of the KLA committed these crimes after the war ended. Previously, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia tried several the KLA members.


Overall, the Kosovo War was one of Europe’s most chaotic conflicts, leaving lasting impressions on all those living in the region. Not only has the conflict been coined with the terms genocide and crimes against humanity, but the involvement and bombings from NATO also caused widespread controversy.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

 

8 Facts About the Libyan Crisis
Disputes in Libya date back to the 7th century when the Arabs conquered Libya and first spread Islam. Since then, it has developed first into a united country, then into a divided one. Now, the Libyan crisis is worsening. Here are eight facts about the Libyan crisis:

  1. Conflict in Libya has a long history. The beginning of the conflict in Libya dates back to the 7th century when Islam spread widely and became the national religion. In 2011, Arab Spring protests led to the first civil war in Libya.
  2. The conflict that led to the 2011 civil war began in 1969. Muammar Gaddafi led a group of military officers in a protest against King Idris in 1969, which landed Gaddafi in power of the new Libyan African Republic. As all power and wealth within Libya were under Gaddafi’s control, many pro-monarchy civilians lashed out, and anti-Gaddafi groups formed.
  3. Protests in neighboring countries spurred the war on. Word spread of revolts in neighboring countries, which inspired protests in Benghazi and other cities in Libya. War broke out in early 2011 as rebels opposed the Gaddafi government, but security forces defeated them. With the National Transitional Council, the main opposition group, now recognized as the new Libyan government, the first civil war ended in October 2011. The second civil war began in 2014, as the conflict began between various rebel groups seeking control of Libyan territory.
  4. During the Libyan civil war of 2011, it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed. Death sources are from rebel sides, government forces and civilians. To date, since the 2014 crisis broke out, there have been 5,871 civilian deaths in Libya.
  5. Countries across the world have aided Libya’s citizens in a number of ways. Over the course of the Libyan crisis, the European Union has given almost $160 million in aid. Aid came in different forms: civilian resources, transportation, sanitation, healthcare resources, food supplies. Many other countries around the world have also donated generously, but those within the EU take the lead as a combined force.
  6. The Libyan crisis has produced thousands of refugees who flee to neighboring countries, for example, Egypt, seeking asylum. In May 2011, already around 746,000 people had fled Libya since the beginning of the War. Most Libyans fled to Italy, where 36,222 refugees currently reside. Surrounding European countries also continue to allow migrants to seek refuge.
  7. Gaddafi’s capture was a major turning point. The rebels captured and killed Colonel Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011. This is a key event within the Libyan crisis because the beginning of the conflict started with pro-Gaddafi forces and anti-Gaddafi rebels.
  8. International organizations tried to help Libya in solving civil issues. In March 2011, the United Nations Security Council issued a no-fly zone over Libya. NATO then authorized air strikes in order to protect civilians. Many countries give help by providing Libya with vital resources for its citizens, such as warmth, food and shelter.

For now, Libya continues its division while the international community continues providing aid. Recently, African leaders have held a mini-summit in Congo to discuss what further action is necessary. They decided that lifting the arms embargo was necessary to begin a more proactive approach to ending the war in Libya. Over 29 countries in the Middle East and Europe are continuing to open their borders to refugees, which is the greatest help that Libyan citizens can receive at present.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Afghanistan War
Following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington D.C., President George W. Bush vowed to “win the war against terrorism.” This included the launch of a U.S.-led operative in Afghanistan, with the goal of toppling the terrorist groups Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Today, going into its 16th year, the war is the longest conflict the U.S. has ever been involved in and continues to inhibit the lives of thousands of civilians. Here are 10 facts about the ongoing Afghanistan War.

  1. The current volatile situation in Afghanistan is the latest in a long history of conflicts. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 came after over 20 years of war in the country. A Soviet Invasion in 1979 prompted opposition from several militant groups, called the Mujahideen. The U.S., Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia all provided funding and arms to the Soviet opposition. These contributions stemmed from a desire to resist the Soviet spread of communism but ended up contributing to budding extremism and violence in militant groups.
  2. By 1985, half of the Afghan population was already displaced due to war and conflict with the Soviets. By 1989, the last of the Soviet troops left Afghanistan after peace accords were reached between the USSR, Pakistan, the U.S. and Afghanistan. However, the existing government quickly toppled and the country dissolved into a brutal civil war, resulting in the Taliban seizing Kabul and quickly enforcing their influence across the country.
  3. President George W. Bush signed a joint resolution into law on September 18, 2001, authorizing the use of force against those responsible for the September 11 attacks. The resolution was later cited as justification by the Bush administration for decisions such as the invasion of Afghanistan, eavesdropping on American citizens with the absence of a court order, and the operation of a detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
  4. The movement in Afghanistan began covertly by the CIA on September 26, 2001. Just 15 days after the attacks in the U.S., the CIA backed Northern Alliance Liaison Team – codenamed JAWBREAKER – and was on the ground and operating in Afghanistan, thus officially beginning the Afghanistan War.
  5. The British invaded Afghanistan alongside the U.S. In October of 2001, the U.S. and British militaries began a bombing campaign against the forces of the Taliban. Other countries, like Canada, France, Australia and Germany pledged future support at the time the bombing began.
  6. On November 14, 2001, after the fall of the Taliban in Kabul, the UN Security council passed Resolution 1378, which called for the participation of the United Nations in forming a transitional administration and facilitating the growth and spread of stability. In December, several leaders from major factions in Afghanistan traveled to a U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany. The factions signed and an interim government was decided upon.
  7. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than four dozen countries have contributed troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
  8. In April 2002, President Bush promised: “By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from evil and is a better place to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.” The statement was meant to invoke reconstructions similar to that of post-World War II. Soon afterward, the U.S. Congress appropriated over $38 billion in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2009.
  9. In 2011, President Barack Obama pledged the gradual exit of American troops from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, due to continuously escalated situations with the Taliban, 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. “We have to deal with the realities of the world,” says President Obama.
  10. As of 2015, the U.S. committed over $685 billion to funding the war in Afghanistan. Along with the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War has been the most expensive in U.S. history.

Stability in Afghanistan has made significant strides in the past several decades. The country’s GDP grew an average of 9.4% per year from 2003 to 2012. Life expectancy in the country has increased by nearly 20 years in the past decade. In 2002, less than a million children were enrolled in school, while now the number surpasses eight million. When the U.S. first invaded the country, only six percent of citizens had access to reliable electricity, while the number now reaches more than 28 percent.

Despite the country’s advances, basic amenities such as infrastructure and access to healthcare and education are still severely lacking. The length of the Afghanistan War and U.S. airstrikes, drone presence and ground troops have devastated the country’s ability to develop independently, and the Taliban continues to terrorize much of the country, causing thousands of Afghan refugees to continue to flee persecution.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan_economy Afghanistan is a nation with a turbulent history. It is a nation embattled as a result of the many conflicts that have transpired within its borders. In recent years, Afghanistan has sustained a steady disfiguration of its landscape as a result of the protracted War on Terror, along with the various terrorist activities in the nation which several militaries, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) most notably among them, have sought to suppress. Before the War on Terror, Afghanistan started to incur devastating losses in a war with the Soviet Union from 1979 to 1989, during which over one million Afghanis were killed. Afghanistan was again challenged by a brutal civil war in the 1990s in which extensive violence led to more casualties and internally displaced persons. Conflict in Afghanistan has thus resulted in enduring regional instability over the past 35 years, much to the detriment of national infrastructure improvement. Consequently, economic development has been difficult to implement as well as sustain. Afghanistan performs poorly in many areas considered benchmarks of human development. On the actual human development index, Afghanistan ranks 172nd in the world out of the 187 countries that were surveyed. The performance of the nation’s economy is consistent with the assertions of its human development index ranking. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Afghanistan is $1,399 and is ranked 161st in the world by the World Bank. The country’s literacy rate is also among the lowest in the world at 28.1%. In spite of Afghanistan’s persisting limitations, it has seen significant progress over the course of the past decade. Enrollment in Afghanistan’s schools has increased to nearly eight million from its 2002 total of just one million. Access to basic health resources increased from 9% to 60% between 2003 and 2012, and the number of healthcare facilities saw an increase of over 100% in the same period. Significant improvements were observed in the country’s energy infrastructure as well. Since 2004, the number of Afghani homes with access to grid power increased from 6% to 25%. As a result of investment in these areas, especially in the case of healthcare, both employment and the economy at-large have performed well and experienced steady growth. For the entirety of the War on Terror, total GDP exhibited average growth of 9.2% topping out at 11.8% in 2012 as a result of advantageous weather conditions and, as a result, a booming agricultural sector. The agricultural sector in Afghanistan, which constitutes over 70% of the country’s economy, has been aided by the administration of the World Bank’s National Solidarity Program. The National Solidarity Program has also led to the creation of 34,000 Community Development Councils. Many of these councils have garnered further investment from the World Bank totaling $1.12 billion, funding thousands of projects that these local collectives have sought to introduce. With the complete withdrawal of NATO security forces from Afghanistan set to take place in 2014, the economic outlook for the country is riddled with unresolved security concerns. Since 2001, the security apparatus in Afghanistan has been comprised almost exclusively of foreign troops, and their withdrawal is anticipated to have potentially severe implications for future development efforts. Contrastingly, in yet another period of war, Afghanistan has seen unprecedented growth of infrastructure considered necessary for poverty-reduction. In spite of security concerns that will likely take a long time to address, there is certainly cause to be optimistic about the progress that has been forged in Afghanistan since 2002. – Benjamin O’Brien Sources: Transparency International, World Bank Photo: Able2know