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Refugee NonprofitsWhile forced migration is a constant problem, advances in technology have changed the playing field, and aid organizations are struggling to keep up.

Today, refugees are using their smartphones for both practical uses and methods of comfort in a difficult situation. For efficient aid distribution, change in refugee behavior must be accompanied by a corresponding change in nongovernment organization (NGO) structure.

“Our phones and power banks are more important for our journey than anything, even more important than food,” a refugee from Syria, Wael, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

When Hassan, a 28-year-old teacher fleeing the Syrian civil war, found out his rubber dinghy was sinking in the middle of the Aegean Sea, he used WhatsApp to alert his friend in New York of his location. He was found by the Turkish Coast Guard 45 minutes later.

Hala, a refugee from Aleppo, uses her phone as the only means of contact left between her and her husband, who was kidnapped by ISIS prior to her departure.

“That’s why I’m always holding it. I’m holding on to it like I’m holding on to an address of my own, my family. This metal device has become my whole world,” said Hala to a Channel 4 film documentary crew.

Smartphones have become such vital tools that it is now standard practice for NGOs to distribute chargers in refugee camps.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Google Maps – they’re commonplace applications that have helped refugees quickly navigate their way to safety. Perhaps even a bit too quickly.

“You see their [NGOs] logos, but you don’t see them,” said Hassan.

International aid workers have struggled to keep up with the pace of migrants, often ditching the practice of establishing camps in favor of delivering aid to wherever refugees might happen to be.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) changed their policies in 2014, funding hackathons across Europe so app developers throughout Europe could create new tech-centric solutions to their problem.

These hackathons proved themselves instantly effective. Instead of relying on static means of distribution, new projects like Germany’s Refugees Welcome and Comme à la Maison (CALM) created a channel for refugees to find necessary contacts to help them wherever they may be.

In the future, huge aid organizations should back the winners of hackathons like Techfugees, which generates a variety of smaller startups that are more intuitive and problem-specific.

Regina Park

Photo: Flickr

Libyan
The United States declared it carried out a series of airstrikes on the Libyan city of Sirte, an ISIS stronghold, at the request of the Libyan government in August 2016.

The strikes came after nearly two years of concentrated efforts by the U.S. and Libyan governments to remove ISIS from Sirte; a strategically important city located directly between two of Libya’s largest cities, Benghazi and Tripoli.

The erasure of ISIS’s presence from Sirte means the city’s residents will be able to enjoy a higher standard of living, increased access to food and fuel and control of their incomes. Reclaiming the city from ISIS also means that healthcare in Libya will be one step closer to returning to pre-2011 standards.

Regaining control of Sirte will allow the Libyan government and certain NGOs, such as Doctors Without Borders, to begin safely providing much-needed healthcare services to the city’s residents.

Healthcare providers in Libya will be able to distribute resources across the country more evenly as they are needed, especially between Benghazi and Tripoli.

On a more significant level, overcoming the ISIS presence in Libya will remove one of the larger issues that the country has had to contend with during its rebuilding process, which has been ongoing since the country experienced a wave of revolutionary action during the Arab Spring in 2011.

Currently, the country lacks a central government as numerous opposing factions emerged after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

A U.N.-backed entity known as the Government of National Accord recently made the most significant strides in uniting the country. They will undoubtedly find the task easier with ISIS’s removal.

A successfully unified government would likely see the return of a functioning and well-equipped healthcare system; something that the country has been sorely lacking since 2011.

According to Doctors Without Borders, many hospitals have been forced to close in recent years due to lack of funds, lack of staff members and concerns about security.

A fully functioning government would be able to solve the coordination problems currently preventing the distribution of funds and supplies.

They would be also able to effectively provide secure environments for hospitals and healthcare providers to safely operate.

More funds, supplies and increased security would allow for the return of foreign-born healthcare workers, many of whom left in the wake of 2011 upheaval.

Will Clifft

Photo: Flickr

Improving Education
Education is essential to achieving a higher quality of life. Many individuals in developing countries find it difficult to access quality education due to poverty, violent conflict and a myriad of other issues.

Global access to education may seem like a daunting problem, but there are numerous organizations you can support to increase a child’s access to education in the developing world.

The African Children’s Educational Trust (A-CET)

A-CET focuses on developing education in Ethiopia. It provides long-term scholarships to at-risk children that are funded by individual donations. The charity also works to improve and build schools within the country.

The BOMA Project

The BOMA Project is based in the U.S. and strives to better the lives of women in drought-prone areas. The organization gives grants to women within various communities as well as provides a two-year “poverty graduation program” which teaches these women how to run a small business.

By educating vulnerable women about business, the BOMA Project helps to create self-sustainable communities. The NGO is only operating in Kenya currently, but it hopes to expand its reach in the near future.

She’s the First

She’s the First is another organization focused on impoverished women within developing countries. The NGO provides girls throughout the world with the resources and connections essential to a quality education and future.

UNICEF

UNICEF is a well-known UN program dedicated to providing aid to developing countries. Access to education in these countries is among the numerous humanitarian issues UNICEF aims to address through collaboration with governments and NGOs.

Save the Children

Save the Children was originally founded in London in 1919 to address hunger caused by World War I. Today, the organization fights for vulnerable children throughout the world. Through teacher training and empowering parents and their children, Save the Children helps improve the quality of education in developing countries.

All of these organizations strive to increase education in the developing world. While some work on a smaller level, they are all making a difference. Donating or even volunteering for these and similar organizations are just a few ways you can help a child in need access a quality education and escape the cycle of poverty.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

What is Advocacy?-TBP
Advocacy is a concept with a short definition but an extensive explanation. In a very broad sense, advocacy is simply supporting a cause. The cause could be anything from human rights to animal rights and anything in between and beyond. An advocate works on behalf of another person or a group of people (or animals) who are voiceless or too vulnerable to promote their own causes and obtain help.

Advocates can work on the behalf of individuals, such as a parent for a child. Other examples include a teacher for a student, a doctor for a patient and a lawyer for a client. Relatives can also hire individual advocates who are trained and specialize in specific causes. Advocating for the disabled is one example.

Advocates can also work for groups that support individuals or larger numbers of people. Nonprofit organizations, such as charities or public arts organizations, are one type. An example is The Borgen Project. Another type are nongovernmental organizations that include Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International.

Depending on the context of the situation, whether it be social, legal, medical or political, advocates use different skills and types of activities to benefit the people they support. Most advocacy involves at least researching, educating and organizing. The following list of activities, while not comprehensive, includes the most common advocacy activities.

  1. Research to gather the necessary information that reflects the reality as well as expose the myths of a cause or a person’s situation. Research also includes discovering relevant, beneficial resources.
  2. Educate legislators, school administrators, the public or other parties who change the laws, make the decisions or can in any other way provide what is necessary. The education may include composing fact sheets, writing letters or speaking at meetings or with individuals.
  3. Organize meetings, conferences and rallies in order to build a foundation of support and power within a community.
  4. Collaborate with other advocates or groups of the same philosophy to fortify resources and staff. You’ll be better prepared to campaign for shared goals.
  5. Attend conferences in order to network and share information with others of similar needs. This is one way to both research and collaborate.
  6. Act as a watchdog to ensure that government agencies comply with existing laws and regulations.
  7. Litigate to win in court for a person or cause.
  8. Lobby for or against specific legislation in order to benefit a person or cause.

These activities help form the backbone of advocacy. They enable advocates to support, defend and safeguard the children, families, communities and causes they represent. In these small and large ways, advocacy efforts effectively empower the vulnerable and give voice to the voiceless.

– Janet Quinn

Sources: Alliance for Justice, Citizens’ Committee for Children
Photo: NAGC

NGOs
Information and Communications Technology, or ICT for short, is the way of the future for non-government organizations (NGOs). By effectively using new ICT, all types of NGOs are becoming more efficient in how they track and record data, as well as plan for future projects.

This new technology breaks down the complexity of information that NGOs handle on a daily basis and helps format it in a way that makes it simpler for these groups to utilize in their future endeavors.

Information and Communications Technology encompasses all sorts of specific fields. It covers things such as radio, television, cellular phones, and computer technology.

By using ICT, NGOs can spread their messages more efficiently through a wider array of platforms, develop better on-site technologies in third-world countries, and establish long-term methods to record information on poverty levels around the world.

An article by the Dhaka Tribune delved into the many benefits that ICT brings with it for non-government organizations. An excerpt from this article, published on July 31, 2015, reads, “Using ICT for social development helps NGOs to have accessible, timely, relevant, and updated information to make on-time decisions and improve social policy.”

The article goes on to pose a scenario in which an NGO makes monthly visits to an area to provide villagers with resources and other aid.

The scenario focuses on two children who received inadequate amounts of milk based on their growth in between visits from the NGO. When ICT is instituted into this scenario, the NGO workers can enter into their phones the exact height, weight, and age of the children each visit in order to chart growth and provide the necessary amount of food and aid.

Today’s society is all about maximizing efficiency. Technology has evolved faster in this period of time than at any other point in history. With this evolution comes the betterment of all mankind. By using technology as a means to maximize the eradication of poverty, people all over the world can begin to feel hopeful that their lives are about to change.

Diego Catala

Sources: Dhaka Tribune, Tech Target
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

windows_10
For the past two decades, Microsoft has been a staple for innovation and progress society. While its achievements have touched billions of people across the globe and made its founder the world’s richest man, the technology giant has found ways to reshape the lives of those less fortunate. In launching its newest software update in Microsoft 10, Microsoft has made a huge investment in bettering those entrenched in poverty.

When it launched at the end of July, the Windows 10 operating system promised to be the most accessible and groundbreaking version put out by this conglomerate. As part of this new release, Microsoft has made a monumental pledge to donate large sums of money to ten non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to facilitate the alleviation of global poverty.

Some of these organizations include Save the Children and Keep a Child Alive, which are set to receive $500,000 each. An excerpt from an article in the Inquirer reads, “Microsoft will collaborate with 10 non-government organizations (NGOs) with causes on education, environment, poverty, HIV, and humanitarian relief, among others.” These collaborations were born out of a vision for technology to be the driving force for development in third world countries.

By instituting a grassroots approach to integrating technology with poverty zones, Microsoft 10 is hoping to be a bridge between previous centuries of poverty worldwide and a completely accessible society in the future. By donating an estimated $10 million combined to all of its nonprofit partners, Microsoft’s “Upgrade Your World” initiative is looking at some extremely promising results.

In addition to the massive success of this update, Microsoft has gone further by re-establishing its image as a global force for positive change. Its partnership with these NGOs, as well as all of its contributions, are an inspiration to groups all across the world to become more involved in the fight against poverty.

Diego Catala

Sources: Game Politics, Inquirer
Photo: Wired

Newly Formed "Sports & Rights Alliance" Advocacy Group-TBP
The Sports & Rights Alliance (SRA) is a newly formed coalition of NGO’s focused around preserving human rights in relation to global sporting events. The list of issues the SRA advocates for includes, but is not limited to: ending citizen displacement from sport infrastructure, imprisoning protesters, exploitation of workers, unethical bidding practices and environmental destruction.

The SRA is composed of various international NGO’s such as Amnesty International, FIFPro – World Players’ Union, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, Supporters Direct Europe, Greenpeace, Transparency International Germany and Terre des Hommes.

This past February, the SRA penned a letter to the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stressing an adherence to the principles regarding the 2020 and 2024 games. The approved standards mandated by the International Labor Organization was a point of emphasis in addition to increased oversight and inspections for human rights conditions. For the bidding process, the letter requested robust efforts to maintain and enforce ethical business and anti-corruption in choosing a host city.

The IOC met this past February in Brazil to discuss “Agenda 2020,” the strategic outline for the future of the Olympics, which was passed by the committee in December of 2014. The closing of bid registration for the 2024 Olympic games is set for September of 2015 so the timing is most appropriate.

Many recent international games have come under intense scrutiny for similar violations. Free speech issues and poor treatment of their LGBT community has cast many questions and doubts regarding Russia’s selection as 2018 World Cup host. The 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were tarnished due exploitation of workers, suppression of free speech and corruption. The SRA cites these as examples of a divergence from what international sport and competition should stand for and symbolize.

Additionally, the inaugural European Games are currently being held in Baku, Azerbaijan causing concern and objection throughout the continent. The country has a questionable human rights record and in recent months, government protesters, human rights advocates and international journalists have been detained and imprisoned on inflated charges. This causes great concern for the international community and for Europe in particular.

Another letter written to the President of the European Olympic Committee stressed the immediate and unconditional release of all current activists and journalists who are imprisoned. Furthermore, the letter called for an end to ongoing intimidations, detainments and persecutions of the aforementioned individuals.

FIFA’s selection of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup host has also been met with serious concern and criticism. In lieu of a pre-existing Football infrastructure, the country has relied upon migrant laborers to build multiple stadiums to host the Cup. This arrangement of labor is common throughout the Arabic Peninsula and known as the “kafala” system and is likened to modern day slavery.

FIFA has been inconsistent in their actions to condemn working conditions. The organization has stated their concern for the workers welfare, but also deny responsibility for their treatment. Referring to the government contractors, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, is quoted as saying “they are responsible for their workers.”

Before the FIFA Presidency election, the SRA wrote to President Sepp Blatter and his three opponents citing their grave concern for the condition of the workers. The letter included a questionnaire about their views on the current state of human rights in their sport. It also called for the victor in the election to take action to rectify any violations in the first 100 days of their presidency.

The SRA has proven to quickly become a powerful voice in international sports relations and gathered a following through their advocate efforts. Regarding the allegiance to human rights principles, the SRA have consistently ended their letters by saying, “All these standards should not be based on goodwill, but must be non-negotiable and absolutely binding for all stakeholders.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: The Globe And Mail, Human Rights Watch 1, Human Rights Watch 2, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Rising_Poverty_in_Pune_India
A history of deep-seated poverty and vulnerability lies within the urban city of Pune, India. It is estimated that 40 percent of the population lives in slum dwellings—and this number is projected to increase in the future. Because of the rise in population and scarce affordable housing, slums endure and contribute to the persistent poverty in Pune.

Pune is considered to be the third city in India with the largest number of slums. These dwellings fail to provide basic human needs: access to clean water, proper sanitation and infrastructure and quality housing. Tenants also struggle with overcrowding and secure residential status.

Without these basic needs, communities are unlikely to thrive. For instance, proper sanitation majorly contributes to health and the success of future generations. In 2012, it was estimated that over 100,000 people did not have a toilet within walking distance. This issue not only challenges health, but also safety.

“Many toilets are not safe or useable: they are used as meeting places by criminals, do not have adequate water, or do not have electricity,” reports InfoChange, an online source for social justice and development in India.

While these factors determine safety, they also challenge health, especially for children. Lack of proper sanitation is detrimental to a child’s health, and causes diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. In India, roughly 1,600 children under the age of five die every day from these illnesses.

But what about access to health facilities? The story is the same. Often times, there is no access to a public health facility, or the wait time is too long, creating a perception of poor service in public health.

A woman who was interviewed by InfoChange states, “When we tell staff in government hospitals to cater to us promptly, they say: ‘This is a government hospital…not private. If you have money why don’t you go to a private hospital?’” Perceptions like these force communities to seek out private institutions, which can be expensive.

Private education is also expensive, which represents almost half of children’s education in Pune. In 2008, it was determined that 44 percent of school-going children were going to private-aided institutions, and only 26 percent were going to public schools. The main reason for this, again, is that there are not enough public offerings in slum areas.

While these statistics present a multi-layered issue of poverty in Pune, there is a much larger disconnect. The disconnect is between slum communities and people in position of power. For instance, slum households face broken toilets, clogged drains and flooding; however, there is little action taken to fix these problems. Overall, administrations have created a pattern of inaction (sometimes linked to class prejudice), which has spawned distrust from locals.

How can efforts, then, be redirected for poverty in Pune? People are seeking out NGOs to fix the problem.

Sunil Bhatia, a professor of human development at Connecticut College, is currently contributing to this idea. Recently receiving the American Psychological Association’s 2015 International Humanitarian Award, he states, “Poverty is the result of social and economic inequality, so we need to address this challenge globally, via effective policies and mobilizing the people affected by it.”

Briana Galbraith

Sources: Connecticut College, InfoChange, The Times of India
Photo: Flickr

NGO Jobs in Seattle
The city of Seattle is a goldmine for those looking into careers with NGOs (non-governmental organizations). NGOs are typically philanthropic, nonprofit organizations. As a progressive urban center and major economic hub, Seattle is a particularly well-suited place for NGOs to thrive. Below are three of the many great NGOs in Seattle.

 

The Borgen Project

Openings for paid positions are listed here. Seattle Internships are incredibly competitive with many candidates coming from across the country for the opportunity to be part of The Borgen Project. To improve your chances apply for a winter or spring internship.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Founded in 1994, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has grown to become the world’s largest private foundation. Though the Foundation focuses on global issues of poverty and development, it is based in Seattle and does many local jobs on the side. The Foundation primarily supports development projects around the world by providing grants. As of 2011, the Foundation was responsible for a grand total of $24.81 billion in grants. As such a large and prosperous organization, there are always openings in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for those with the right skill set.

World Affairs Council

The World Affairs Council has taken a much different take than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The nonprofit organization is over 60 years old — founded in 1951 — and is geared more towards community outreach and involvement than in money and grants. The Council’s goal is to get Seattle residents more involved in topics of global development. Much like The Borgen Project, the World Affairs Council is a great place to get experience through volunteering and internships — though more long-term opportunities are available for those with more experience under their belts.

Vittana

Vittana is a noteworthy Seattle-based nonprofit organization fighting to end global poverty through microfinancing. The NGO is committed to providing education to troubled and impoverished youth around the world. With very small loans — often only in the hundreds of dollars — Vittana is successfully fighting poverty through education. The organization has limited openings, though its unique approach toward global development makes it an exciting and rewarding place to work.

Seattle is home to a wide variety of NGOs that are devoted to fighting global poverty. Many of them, like Vittana, use atypical methods to great effect. The right combination of innovation and capital has made Seattle a great home for NGOs. For those looking to work at great organizations like these, there is a wealth of job options in Seattle.

– Sam Hillestad

Sources: Devex, The Borgen Project, Vittana.org
Photo: Washington.edu

 

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reject drones
Drones buzz through the skies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to monitor this mineral-rich country that has been racked with war for 20 years. The U.N. Stabilization Mission, or MONUSCO,  a peacekeeping operation with over 21,000 personnel, brought two of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles into action in the DRC last April. MONUSCO then offered to share drone-collected information with humanitarian NGOs working in the DRC.

The offer was emphatically rejected.

The NGOs reject drones because MONUSCO is a military operation. International NGOs are humanitarian and as such are bound to the principles of “neutrality, impartiality and operational independence.” Using drones for both military and humanitarian information gathering compromises these principles.

A July 14, 2014 statement released by NGOs working in the DRC pointed to the potential for data gathered with a humanitarian objective nevertheless informing combat operations.

2006’s guidelines for how humanitarian actors and MONUSCO are to coordinate has recently been revised, but IRIN reports that a final draft “does not directly address the use of info gained through drones.”

NGOs are concerned that they have no guarantee the info will come from non-drone sources.

Drones have served both military and non-military purposes in the past. For example, while one drone might use its infrared camera to search for people congregating at night (a sign of an attack brewing), another drone might be tasked with monitoring the geological activity of a volcano.

On May 5, 2014, drones in Rwanda that were flying over Lake Kivu relayed information indicating a ferry had capsized, leaving 20 people in the water struggling for their lives. Rescuers saved 14 people who probably would have drowned otherwise.

However, the issue here is not whether drones are capable of serving a non-military function; humanitarian organizations know they would find information gathered by drones helpful. The issue is that, according to certain core principles, humanitarian NGOs cannot take sides in a war.

The drones’ many uses could embroil the NGOs in the conflict because MONUSCO might use “humanitarian information” for military purposes.

The region these drones patrol is highly unstable, with many armed groups fomenting conflict there. Last June, members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a militia group with a large presence in the DRC, proclaimed their desire to disarm and negotiate. Provided the offer to disarm was genuine, some thought this might stabilize the region to a certain extent.

However, recent attacks on barracks in Kinshasa by a separate group highlight how one party’s exit from the conflict can hardly be used to foretell an end to the larger conflict. Because of this, drones will remain a fixture in the DRC’s skies.

-Ryan Yanke

Sources: IRIN, BBC News, The New York Times
Photo: BBC