United Nations and Global Poverty Reduction

In July 2016, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was convened at the U.N. headquarters in New York.  The purpose of this summit was to discuss voluntary national reviews (VNRs) conducted by 22 different countries. These reviews detailed the process states made in implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  Most importantly highlighting challenges, successes and recommendations for the future.

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs published an overview of the VNRs on Jan. 24, to reopen the conversation on effective implementation of the SDGs.

Five challenges to the implementation of the SDGs:

  1. Raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals amongst city planners, private contractors, and policy specialists.
  2. Coordination between government agencies to monitor, evaluate and report on SDG benchmarks and overall progress, to increase public awareness and personal investment in progress.
  3. Inefficient data processing, collection and registry systems impeded abilities to correctly inform policymakers and stakeholders.
  4. Lack of access to technology, trade and financing was a major inhibitor to implementing the SDGs.
  5. Increasing effectiveness of international assistance. Find out why 70% of World Bank projects fail, increase local investment in development projects to ensure that they are used and maintained.

Five successes that came out of the VNR reports:

  1. Many countries, like Egypt, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Uganda, were able to update their existing development plans so that they were in line with the SDGs.
  2. Countries were able to focus on specific goals that were in their urgent national interest. Venezuela focused on increasing access to education, while France, Germany and Switzerland focused on securing housing for all.
  3. By creating their own reports, all stakeholders became more invested in the successes and failures of the development process.
  4. The VNRs gave countries the opportunity to raise awareness for the SDGs across multiple sectors, bringing together communities and allowing more diverse input and engagement.
  5. Above all, the first round of reviews helped to set a foundation for SDG funding.  Egypt, Madagascar, Mexico, Norway and many others were able to expand on public-private partnerships, as well as reform the tax code to create a business-friendly environment to boost local economies.

The HLPF is getting ready for its 2017 session from July 11 to 21, which will focus on “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” Forty countries have committed to present VNRs this year. The goal of the conference is to share successes as well as failures to collectively learn, spread solutions and save others from avoidable mistakes.

– Josh Ward
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 2010 Haitian earthquake and subsequent recovery has been one of the biggest events of this decade. Still, the nation is attempting to recover even with a lack of resources and funding. Outside groups continue to step up and support the nation’s recovery effort, with the New York Police Department surprisingly being one of them. The NYPD has set up a program where its officers will work in Haiti for four months and train local police. The program is primarily in the capital of Port-au-Prince and the tent cities where 140,000 refugees still reside.

The program has been ongoing since the earthquake in 2010, and in 2013 the NYPD received an assistance award by the State Department for Excellence in Overseas Criminal Justice. The program has sent over 70 officers to Haiti and according to the State Department statement has, “promoted the rule of law and improved Haitian National Police capacities in areas such as patrol and investigations.”

While there is still plenty of work to do in Haiti, the NYPD program is another piece in the rebuilding effort. With better trained police officers, the Haitian people will have one less thing to spend time on as they continue to put together their world. The Haitian National Police Commissioner called the NYPD trainers “miracle workers… they really know what they are doing.”

The Haitian National Police (HNP) did not have special units for sex crimes before the program, and advisors to the department mentioned that as a culture Haiti did not deal with those crimes as they should. The NYPD officers in Haiti have helped set up these sex crime units as well as units focusing on kidnapping cases in the country. Kidnappings in Haiti were once rampant, but the U.S. Ambassador to Haiti credits this program for cutting down on those instances.

The NYPD-Haiti partnership looks to have done some good work in the region and has made an impact in these four years. This is an example of the partnerships between the West and developing nations that advocacy groups like The Borgen Project hope to foster. The West can help developing nations in different ways beyond direct relief, and the fact that members of the NYPD have volunteered in these numbers shows the willingness of people in the West to help. Organizations like The Borgen Project encourage programs such as these that will help improve the living conditions in developing countries.

– Eric Gustafsson

Sources: NBC New York, CBS New York

Water is essential to all life, a phrase often repeated, yet the fact remains that over 800 million people cannot access potable water every day. 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation increasing the likelihood of disease not just in that region but globally, an issue that goes hand in hand with poor access to water. Every year, 3.4 million die of water related diseases, equivalent to the population of Los Angeles.

When successful potable water projects enter a community, it has been shown to have beneficial impacts across many aspects of that communities life. In truth, it lies at the heart of the most cost effective and efficient solutions to global health, population growth, poverty, disease and climate change. The World Health Organization estimates a return of 3-34$ for every dollar invested in a clean water project, given the technology and region.

With such powerful ramifications, the debate on how best to approach this problem is an important one. Over the past 20 years, there have been two main approaches, that of charity/micro-finance projects, and the privatization model, the most famous case taking place in Cochamamba, Belize. Both have their critics.

There is now a third approach, a more holistic one, that considers unique environmental and cultural factors. Overall it has been coined as the Investment in Watershed Services strategy, and it combines tactics from the previous two long standing frameworks for improving access to potable water.

With the latest solution, initial capital for a given project is invested directly to farmers, or potential land owners in the natural watersheds of a given area. The money is used to clean up and maintain the natural functions of the watershed, which perform the same functions of treatment plants or ‘grey’ technologies without the expensive equipment.

Nonprofits and communities all over the world are recognizing the value in this framework as it  creates a co-dependent and cyclical dynamic with downstream water users and polluters funding and investing in the upstream maintenance. The headliner project of this nature is New York ongoing investment in the Catskills Mountains. New York municipality pays for riverbank protection and maintenance that have allowed it to save billions on costly filtration plants. However, there are projects all over the world at all different scales using the very same framework.

By not having environmental damage and natural resources as an externality in the financing of the project, many positive side effects occur wherever these projects are enacted. Aside from addressing the initial issue of access to clean water. The enhanced environmental and farming practices that make up the foundation of this approach, increase food yields and improve the natural habitat.

For more information on the overall framework of the strategy, ongoing projects or how to become involved, go to the Watershed Connect website.

– Tyler Shafsky

Sources: Watershed Connect, USAID, Huffington Post
Photo: Wanah Fong