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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

free speech in sri lanka
The Sri Lankan government’s crackdown on NGO’s this month has initiated claims that President Mahinda Rajapakse is paranoid he will be overthrown, and is quieting critics to strengthen his control and power.

The defense ministry has banned NGO’s from disseminating press releases and holding awareness campaigns, press conferences, workshops and training for journalists. They claimed the ban was necessary in order to stop NGO’s from functioning “beyond their mandate.” The minister said the administration is worried that NGO’s will fuel criticism of Rajapakse and his family.

“The government panicked when they heard that USAID was trying to educate voters about their rights,” the minister said.

However, NGO workers claim that the ban was cracking down on dissent right before the presidential elections. They say it is unconstitutional and violates basic rights of free speech in Sri Lanka.

Civil rights groups have long highlighted problems for the media in Sri Lanka, where most journalists have to practice self-censorship due to the killings of media workers and journalists in recent years.

Activists and civil rights groups have burned notices issued by the government that demand NGO’s to not engage in activities that are “outside the groups’ mandate.” Almost 1,500 NGOs have gotten notices from the government.

Protesters chanted and carried banners during a rally that took place in the capital city of Colombo to protest against the government’s crackdown on free speech in Sri Lanka.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives said that the government’s ban violates the rule of law and the basic principles of a democracy. He said it is an attempt to hush alternative public opinions of citizens.

The United States government has voiced worry over the crackdown on free speech in Sri Lanka.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki urges the government of Sri Lanka to, “…allow civil society organizations and NGO’s, which play a vital role in supporting Sri Lanka’s democratic values, to operate freely.”

– Colleen Moore

Sources: Global Post, NDTV, UCANews, ColomboPage
Photo: Kuwait Times

Amigos de Las Américas
Amigos de Las Américas (AMIGOS) was founded by youth pastor Guy Bevil in 1965 when he and a small group of young adults landed in Honduras to administer polio vaccines in isolated, rural communities.

He knew that people lived off the beaten path, and wanted to provide health services for those who would not normally have access to them. Nearly 50 years later, his philosophy is strongly upheld in the organization.

Amigos de Las Américas has a mission: to make young people leaders and improve underdeveloped communities while doing so. Volunteers are high school or college aged. Summer programs are generally four to nine weeks in length, though college students can take a gap semester or year. All must have a base level of Spanish and an interest in changing the world.

Over 700 volunteers received training in leadership and specific community development projects annually. Volunteers are placed with host families, which gives them a chance to improve their Spanish, learn about the host culture, share their own culture and further integrate into the community.

Accepted applicants to the program must pay a program fee; 80 percent of this goes to cover travel, additional housing and meals. The remaining 20 percent is used for the organization’s administrative expenses.

AMIGOS operates in nine different countries: Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica. Community development projects cover a wide range of services, but are largely dependent on AMIGOS partners.

AMIGOS partners with locally based organizations, often nonprofit, to ensure that its volunteers are doing effective and needed work within a community. There are 25 partners in total.

Organizations like Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca in Mexico and Prodia of Peru, work mainly in health services, sanitation and nutrition awareness. Fundación Paraguaya and Panama’s Ministereo de Deasarollo Social provide investment services in local projects and individual enterprises. Fútbol con Corazón provides workshops on nutrition and life skills to more than 2,000 children in Columbia. This is in addition, of course, to soccer training.

Some might ask why AMIGOS focuses its efforts on Latin America when there is poverty still in the United States. The organization says it builds leaders, and that the compassion and leadership skills learned while on programs abroad are brought back to the U.S.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: AMIGOS, Go Overseas , US Gap Year Fairs
Photo: Vimeo

Ales_BelyatskyLeading Belarus human rights activist, Ales Belyatsky, was released early from prison this week after only serving three of a four-and-a-half year sentence for tax evasion. Belyatsky, who ran the rights group Vesna-96, was arrested for an alleged tax evasion after officials in Poland and Lithuania unwittingly supplied information regarding information in his bank accounts. Belarus, which imposes strict restrictions on the financing of NGOs, rules out virtually any financial help from abroad.

Yet Belyatsky, whose arrest was deemed “politically motivated,” never pleaded guilty for his alleged crimes, and attributed the funds in the bank account to years of supporting victims of human rights abuses in Belarus. In fact, there are at least seven other human rights activists in Belarus currently imprisoned, and while Belyatsky has been released early, many attribute his release to internal–and external–pressure toward the regime. The United States, among other countries, has commended Belyatsky’s release and urged Belarus to do the same for the rest of their prisoners.

Belyatsky claims he still feels part of the system, and while his release was unexpected, he has remained vigilant against the Belarusian regime. The regime, which has kept a tight authoritative control over the years, has consistently worked to eliminate human rights groups, squandering their political rights. While Belaytsky’s release may be seen from the West as a sign of improvement, those from the country fear this may be a political move to ensure a renewal of dialogue with the European Nation.

Despite his stint in prison, Belyatsky does not regret his activism. “I am not sorry for those three years spent in prison,” he said. “This is the price you pay for making Belarus a free and democratic country.” Belyatsky hopes other human rights prisoners, who often face extreme measures of psychological abuse under imprisonment, will be granted the right to follow suit.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: KyivPost, Reuters, Charter97, Index on Censorship
Photo: Ozera