Posts

Healthcare in SwitzerlandMany know Switzerland for its high standard of living and hail its healthcare system as one of the best in the world—in fact, it often ranks as one of the top 10 healthcare systems worldwide. However, while healthcare in Switzerland is universal, it is not free or public, which makes it very expensive.

How It Works

All residents pay for their own health insurance. Unlike other countries, healthcare does not receive funding from government taxes. Even children and retirees must have their own individual health plan. The Swiss government mandates that health insurance providers cannot reject applicants for any reason and that all insurance providers offer a basic level of healthcare coverage to ensure that all citizens can obtain insurance.

The basic level of health insurance is identical across all Swiss insurance providers, covering expenses such as general check-ups and treatments, prescription costs, vaccinations, hospital visits and more. A basic healthcare plan covers around 80-90% of a person’s medical costs.

Health Insurance Companies

The role of health insurance companies in Switzerland is complicated. As private companies, they are competitive and seek profit. However, since law dictates that they all have to offer the same medical services under the mandatory basic health insurance, companies have limited competition.

Healthcare insurance companies have decreased in number within the past 20 years, from over 1,000 to less than 100. Their influence on political decisions is high since many government officials represent and defend their interests.

Pros and Cons

The Swiss government legally requires anyone staying in Switzerland for over 90 days to acquire health insurance, no matter the total length of stay. Healthcare in Switzerland is expensive, and people pay for most treatments out-of-pocket rather than receiving reimbursement later.

Switzerland’s high healthcare costs partially come from the fact that the government-mandated private insurance premiums largely fund the healthcare system. Healthcare providers charge more money from individuals to cover medical costs and business expenses since the government does not fund healthcare.

However, healthcare standards are high and citizens can receive excellent quality care across the country. Since basic healthcare is mandatory for all residents, every person has an entitlement to the same coverage and standard of care.

Swiss health insurance companies cannot deny insurance or charge inflated insurance rates for those with pre-existing conditions. Depending on customers’ age and insurance package of choice, some health insurance companies also will charge the same fee for the duration of the residency in Switzerland. Insurance rates may not increase even in the event of sickness or injury.

Comparison with Other Countries

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared healthcare in Switzerland with healthcare in the 37 other OECD countries. It found that Switzerland’s model of universal health insurance coverage provides a wide variety of medical services and high patient satisfaction, but the percentage of Switzerland’s GDP that goes towards health is the second-highest in the OECD area.

Other OECD countries perform equally as well or even better in terms of healthcare at a lower cost. Switzerland spends the highest GDP, around 12%, on healthcare in comparison to other European countries. Swiss residents also spend an average of 10% of their salary on health insurance.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Unsplash

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Education in Slovakia
Slovakia is a landlocked nation in Central Europe and the easternmost territory that comprised former Czechoslovakia. Slovakia obtained independence and recognition as a sovereign state in 1993, three years after the downfall of Czechoslovakia’s Communist government. As is the case in most of the developed world, Slovakia’s economy is primarily white-collar in nature, so the country relies on high education standards to maintain a population of qualified workers. Here are 8 facts about education in Slovakia.

8 Facts About Education in Slovakia

  1. The Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic determines the broad strokes of the national curriculum. However, the implementation falls under the purview of Slovakia’s eight administrative regions. The local municipalities also create their own guidelines for upper secondary education standards. Although most schools use Slovak as their language of instruction, ethnic and linguistic minorities are free to attend schools with teachers fluent in other languages. German, Hungarian and Ruthenian are among the more common alternatives.
  2. Primary and secondary education is free to all Slovaks, so long as they attend a public institution. Universities are also free of charge, but students who fail to graduate within the expected length of time must pay for any courses they haven’t yet taken. The state mandates that all teachers hold a post-graduate degree as a job requisite.
  3. Some Slovakians opt to send their children to private or church-run schools instead of the nationally managed public school system. Private schools must comply with the same state education requirements and while they do not generally offer free tuition, the Slovakian government does provide them with the same funding public schools receive. Currently, 13 Slovakian universities operate independently.
  4. Education in Slovakia is compulsory from ages 6 to 15. Kindergarten is a voluntary phase of Slovakia’s education system intended for students aged 3 to 6. Kindergarten students learn how to communicate properly, as well as rudimentary knowledge and skills that will prepare them for primary school.
  5. Slovaks enroll in primary school the year they turn six and continue for nine years. Primary school students are separated into two age classes: Junior Students (grades 1 – 4) and Middle Students (grades 5 – 9). Secondary schools specialize in either vocational training or university preparation, and all provide a sequence of general education courses. Pending graduates must pass final exams in order to progress with or complete their education.
  6. As mentioned above, students have a choice between vocational training or college preparatory programs. Following successful completion of their secondary school examinations, vocational students receive advanced training in one of a variety of mechanical and technical disciplines, while college-prep students generally matriculate at universities. Slovakia’s 33 universities offer education within an array of subject areas at the bachelor’s, masters and doctoral levels.
  7. As of 2016, Slovakia’s education funding stood at 3.9 percent of the national GDP, ranking 109th worldwide. In 2019, London think-tank The Legatum Institute ranked Slovakia’s education system 48th out of 167 countries evaluated, and 2019 data from The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted an upward trend in education spending ($15.87 per student). However, the OECD also identified a decline in Slovakian students’ math, reading, and science scores.
  8. Some Slovaks have expressed dissatisfaction with the national education system. A survey conducted by researchers at Bratislava’s Comenius university revealed that around 50 percent of the respondents would rather receive their higher education abroad than at home. They complain the Slovakian schools rely on rote memorization rather than critical thinking and experiential learning, and also indicate that Romani students and those with disabilities feel underserved and marginalized.

These 8 facts about education in Slovakia highlight the accessibility of Slovakian education, as well as some areas that still need improvement. Moving forward, the Slovakian government must address these concerns as it continues to refine its education system.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Wikimedia

Girls' Education in Macedonia
The Republic of North Macedonia, commonly referred to as Macedonia, is a republic in the Balkan Peninsula. After the country’s independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia had a tumultuous relationship with Greece. Macedonia became a U.N. member in 1993, and in 1995, Greece and Macedonia agreed to ease tensions in their relationship. After Macedonia’s 29 years of existence as a nation, girls’ education in Macedonia is coming into the spotlight as part of the country’s initiative to improve its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Macedonia.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Macedonia

  1. Mandatory Education: Both primary and secondary education is mandatory in Macedonia. Primary education lasts for nine years for all children aged 6 to 15. Secondary education lasts for four years for teenagers aged 15 to 19 for both general and vocational education. General secondary education is compulsory between the ages of 6 to 19 and 6 to 17, and vocational training is compulsory for ages 17, 18 or 19.
  2. Decentralized Education System: The education system in Macedonia is decentralized. Except for the secondary schools in Skopje, the capital, Macedonia’s decentralized education system places both the administrative and financial responsibilities of public education in the hands of local governments. The national government provides financial resources for education in each municipality, and local municipality councils are responsible for distributing these resources.
  3. Roma Girls: Early marriage makes Roma girls’ education in Macedonia more challenging. The Romani people, commonly called Roma, are one of the ethnic minorities in Macedonia. In 2002, an estimated 2.7 percent of the Macedonian population was Romani. USAID reported that Roma girls are especially vulnerable to early marriages. This results in lower school-completion rates compared to other ethnic groups in Macedonia.
  4. Roma Women’s Illiteracy: Illiteracy among Roma women is high. UNICEF’s 2013 report highlighted illiteracy among Roma women as one of the key education issues in Macedonia. This Romani education issue parallels with Macedonia’s gender discrimination issues. In 2013, UNICEF stated that only 77 percent of Romani women were literate. The report attributes this to their 86 percent primary school enrollment rate.
  5. Gender and Socio-Economic Situations: Gender, socio-economic situations and race play a role in girls’ education in Macedonia. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that in 2011, the NAR (net attendance ratio) of Roma girls rose from 21 percent to 35 percent. This rise is still a lackluster number of enrollments compared to the 85 percent NAR of Macedonian and Albanian children. This 35 percent NAR showed that the lowest attendance was in both extremely poor and extremely wealthy families. Nearly 60 percent of Romani children did not attend secondary school. This lack of secondary education attendance is the root cause of the continuing cycle of unemployment and social exclusion.
  6. Girls in Rural Areas: USAID’s Gender Analysis Report found that 31 percent of girls in Macedonia between the ages of 14 to 15 do not continue their education after primary schooling, and this is especially in rural areas. In rural areas, 42 percent of secondary school-aged children are out of school. To remedy this, USAID recommends the Macedonian government target girls and boys in rural areas with a high population of ethnic minorities when planning their education projects.
  7. Increasing Girls’ Education: Girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise. UNESCO’s country profile of Macedonia noted an upward trend in Macedonian children’s participation in education. True to the trend in the data, girls’ education in Macedonia is on the rise along with the general education ratio in the country. Compared to 2009, when 4,862 girls were out of school, there were only 2,927 children who were out of school in 2019.
  8. Inclusive Education: The Macedonian government is striving to improve inclusive education. Inclusive education aims to provide quality education to all children regardless of their gender, socio-economic background, disability or race. Working closely with UNICEF and the OECD, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science is training teachers according to the inclusive education guidelines provided by UNICEF.
  9. The Macedonian Government’s Commitment: The Macedonian government has committed itself to the improvement of access to quality pre-primary education. The Macedonian government committed to improving and expanding access to pre-primary school education in the country because around 61 percent of pre-primary aged children do not attend preschools. In April 2019, Mila Carovska, Minister of Labor and Social Policy, told UNICEF that her ministry’s budget for capital investment increased by 300 percent, which shows the Macedonian government’s commitment to the project.
  10. Girls Versus Boys: According to the OECD’s 2019 of review and assessment of North Macedonia’s education system, girls in Macedonia are outperforming boys in school. According to the report, Macedonian girls are outperforming boys by 20 score points in science and seven score points in mathematics.

While there is certainly room for improvement in girls’ education in Macedonia, it is clear that the Macedonian government is taking steps toward improving education. Girls’ education in Macedonia is not a singular issue of gender discrimination. Rather, it is a diverse issue that has its roots in socio-economic backgrounds and race of the girls in Macedonia. With the help of international groups such as OECD and UNICEF, the Macedonian government is improving the education of girls.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

eating plant-based
Many people (820 million) around the world fall asleep hungry every night. Some have taken significant steps to help feed those who lack the significant food necessary to survive, but those steps have not yet been enough to completely combat hunger and poverty. One easy step that every person could take to make a small difference in helping the hungry, though, would be eating plant-based. Studies show that decreasing one’s meat intake could ultimately help save lives and feed those who cannot afford to feed themselves.

The Effects of Meat-Eating on Poverty

Estimates determine that global meat production will steadily increase due to a rise in the pork and poultry industry in developing countries. According to Livestock Production Science, almost two-thirds of all livestock around the world are in developing countries. Yet many of these farms are industrial animal farms that require the importation of grains, animal units, tractors and other necessary processors necessary to raise livestock. Because of inadequate wages for farmers and the excess of tools needed to produce and sell meat, the rise of poultry and livestock farms is creating more poverty in developing countries.

In addition to insignificant wages for farmers, industrial animal agriculture creates problems such as how it can detrimentally affect the environment and human health, put small family-run farms out of business and use food sources inefficiently. According to a joint report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. (FAO), cheap food, such as legumes and cereal, could feed hungry people, but instead feeds livestock. The result of eating more plant-based is that one will waste less energy, save more water and gain additional space and money.

Fighting Poverty

Although the rise of meat production is doing more harm than good, the rise of veganism and vegetarianism is uncovering data that highlights the benefits of eating plant-based. According to a report in The Lancet, “almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, barley, and about a third of all grains are used as feed for animals.” Another study highlights that eating less beef and more legumes would open up 42 percent more croplands, which could grow plant-based foods to feed more people.

In addition to opening up more croplands, eating more plant-based can allow farmers to grow more food with the land that they have. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes 56 million acres of land to grow feed for animals in the United States alone, while farmers use only 4 million acres to produce plants for humans to actually eat. By using this land for plant-based foods rather than meat, farmers could harvest a much larger quantity of food and feed those who are hungry and in poverty.

Every Step Makes a Difference

Scientific research has found that eating plant-based can make a huge impact on human health, the environment and poverty. Although veganism and vegetarianism may not be an option for everybody, every small step can make a huge difference in feeding the hungry and saving lives.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Germany
Germany is a developed country that offers decent living conditions for its citizens. The average life expectancy is 81 years, which aligns with Europe’s average life expectancy. While there are numerous factors that play a role in determining life expectancy, Germany makes a tremendous effort to manipulate these factors and extend the average. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Germany

  1. Education and Skills: When examining the 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany, it is important to consider schooling. To benefit its citizens, Germany features a highly respected dual-apprenticeship system in its high schools. Students receive both general and occupation-specific education, indirectly improving job quality and earning potential. Eighty-seven percent of German adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed upper-secondary education, which is well above the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) determined 78 percent average.
  2. Jobs and Earnings: Job security and salaries often determine the living conditions of families, making it an important factor in determining life expectancy. Seventy-five percent of Germans between the ages of 15 and 64 have a paid job. Only 1.6 percent of Germany’s labor force do not have employment, which is less than the OECD’s average of 1.8 percent. The government recognizes the importance of income and takes a stand by protecting its labor force. In 2015, Germany established a statutory minimum wage. Collective bargaining has diminished, allowing financial-security for low-income workers.
  3. Environment: The German government has made a public effort to make public transportation more efficient by investing in cleaner trains and hybrid buses in order to reduce emissions. The government has also acted to modify heating units such as wood-burning stoves. In 2010, Germany mandated the refitting of these units with particulate filters by 2024 if emissions do not reduce by then.
  4. Social Connection: While it seems odd to include social connections in a list of 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany, people’s social network plays a large role in guiding their life. In Germany, the FAMILIENwerkSTADT project aids migrant families by easing them through the process of assimilation. In this program, childcare facilities focus on providing children with better access to education. Immigrant families are less isolated through such programs. Ninety percent of Germans are confident that they know someone outside of immediate family that they can count on in bad times, similar to the OECD average of 89 percent.
  5. Health Status: Germany has a life expectancy of 81 percent, slightly above the OECD average of 80 percent. The government is able to provide equal health care for all of its citizens by recognizing those with disabilities. Any workers with health issues have the right to receive aid from their employers such as a modified workplace, special help and part-time opportunities. Germany has spent a GDP of nearly 0.3 percent on disabled people, which is much higher than in other OECD countries.
  6. Work-Life Balance: The government encourages flexible schedules because of the importance of family commitments. In 2015, Germany instituted the Erfolgsfaktor Familie (Family as a Success Factor) to achieve work-life balance. This program advocated for flexi-time for all employees as well as more affordable childcare. Later that same year, Germany established a parental reform in which parents receive money for taking more time off. Currently, full-time Germans are able to spend 65 percent of their day (15.6 hours) for personal care, compared to the OECD average of 15 percent.
  7. Civic Engagement: When people are more satisfied, their life expectancy increases. The German government has a “strong youth policy infrastructure,” in which it gives younger generations higher importance. This means to allow people to feel involved in their community and be much happier. In recent German elections, estimates determined voter turnout as 76 percent, which was much higher than the OECD average of 68 percent.
  8. Housing: Clean and safe living conditions determine whether people can have healthy lives. German households have an average of 1.8 people per room, which is in line with the OECD standard. The government launched a program to expand housing in 1993 and it modified 1.1 million units. In fact, 99.8 percent of every household unit in Germany has access to a private indoor flushing toilet.
  9. Personal Security: Another factor that determines life expectancy is personal security. While organized crime was a major hazard in the streets of Germany, the police have conducted a major crackdown on Middle Eastern crime families. Before the police crackdown occurred, “The streets are [were] actually regarded as a separate territory. Outsiders are [were] physically assaulted, robbed and harassed.” The homicide rate in Germany is at 0.5, whereas the average of the OECD 3.7.
  10. Cardiovascular Disease: As the leading cause of death in Germany, cardiovascular disease takes a large toll on the population. In fact, cardiovascular disease caused 92 percent of deaths in 2018 for people 65 and older. In order to draw attention to current research, the government gave the German Heart Center of the State of Bavaria membership in the German Center for Cardiovascular Research. The German Heart Center of the State of Bavaria is the leading center in Germany for therapeutic interventions and treatments. By giving the Center membership in the German Center for Cardiovascular Research, it will receive more funding and opportunities to continue its research.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Germany go well beyond a person’s living conditions, health, happiness or education. In fact, the German government has demonstrated its role in ensuring that people are living their lives to the fullest.

– Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland
Iceland, one of the healthiest European countries, lies between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Icelanders tend to outlive people from other richer, warmer and more educated countries. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland that determine what factors may help Icelanders live longer lives.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland

  1. On average, males and females in Iceland have a life expectancy at birth of 81 and 84 years respectively. Life expectancy increased from a combined national average of 78.8 years in 1994 to a combined national average of 82.4 years in 2016.
  2. Iceland has one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. The average mortality rate is 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants and the infant mortality rate is 2.7 per 1,000 live births, both below the European average of 10.2 and four. Not only do children under the age of five have better survival rates, but they also have a better chance of growing into healthier adults.
  3. Compared to the OECD average of 3.4 and three per 1,000 population, Iceland has a higher number of doctors and nurses with 3.8 doctors and 15.5 nurses per 1,000. A higher proportion of medical practitioners is a reflection of Iceland’s well-performing health care system.
  4. The health expenditure in Iceland picked up in 2012 after a dip following the 2008 financial crisis. The expenditure of $4,376 per capita is higher than the OECD average of $3,854 and accounts for 8.7 percent of its GDP. It has universal health care, 85 percent Icelanders pay through taxes. Private insurance is almost absent. This shows that health care is affordable and accessible in Iceland.
  5. The diet of the Icelandic people contains more fish and less meat. Fish is more beneficial for heart health due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthier diet choices could be one factor that helps Icelandic people live longer.
  6. Research shows that the environment is a major determinant of health, and therefore, longevity. Iceland boasts clean air and water. Its dependence on geothermal resources for energy instead of fossil fuels ensures an unpolluted environment. Further, natural hot springs occur all across the country. The cleaner and colder environment protects people from many communicable and infectious diseases which may help them live longer and healthier lives.
  7. Iceland is the eighth-most urban country in the world. Ninety-four percent of its population lives in urban areas and cities with access to basic amenities like electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Life expectancy for a country increases with an increase in urbanization.
  8. Good genetics may have played a role in higher life expectancy of Icelanders. Studies showed that those above 90 years of age share more similar genes compared to control groups. One possible explanation could be the harsh environmental conditions that Icelanders faced historically, which filtered their genes so that they would pass on the ones that helped them survive.
  9. Despite the harsh weather conditions, Icelanders have higher physical activity when compared to other European nations. Almost 60 percent of the Icelandic people perform some form of exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Icelandic people like to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing.
  10. Iceland has the lowest proportion of substance abusers among all European countries. It reduced its percentage of drug users from 42 percent in 1998 to five percent in 2016. By imposing curfews and keeping teens busy in sports and activities, Iceland was able to divert them from drugs towards healthy habits. This is an important factor when considering the life expectancy of a nation. People do not tend to die from drug-overdose and they also live healthier and economically stable lives.

Icelanders show that lifestyle can have a major effect on how long people live. Both the Icelandic people and their government made efforts to improve their health statistics by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and drugs and increasing physical activity. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland are full of lessons that people of other nations can learn and apply as successful health interventions.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

 

 

foreign aid leader

Sweden is a Scandinavian country known for providing an impressive amount of humanitarian aid. Sweden’s foreign aid strategies are both similar and unique to the objectives of other countries. The Organisation for Economic Cooperative and Development (OECD) praises Sweden as a leader in foreign aid because of the nation’s “consistent generous levels of official development assistance” and for “its global development leadership on peace and conflict prevention.”

Sweden’s Foreign Aid Record

The Swedish government has long shown concern for humanitarian issues. In 1975, the country achieved the United Nations’ goal of providing 0.7 percent of the nation’s gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA). In 2008, Sweden contributed 1 percent of its GNI. This number has continued to escalate and is now at 1.4 percent.

In comparison to other countries, Sweden is the largest donor in proportion to the productivity of its economy. Countries that follow are the United Arab Emirates, which contributes 1.09 percent of its GNI, and Norway, which contributes 1.05 percent. These countries are the only three countries whose foreign aid agenda reserves more than one percent of their GNI.

Equality is a core tenant of the Swedish foreign aid mission. In 2014, Sweden was the first country to implement a Feminist Foreign Policy, a strategy that promotes gender equality and women’s rights. Socially, women in countries receiving aid have been provided with programs on how to prevent and resolve instances of discrimination and abuse. Legally, female representation in the government and in the private sector has improved in these countries as well.

Other long-term foreign aid objectives in Sweden focus on installing democracy, peace and security, health equity and efficient education systems in the countries that lack these necessities.

Sweden’s Foreign Aid Agency

Sweden’s most effective agency that works to downsize poverty and foster development is called Sida, or the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The agency methodically establishes democracy throughout countries in order to achieve these two goals.

Sida provides impoverished countries with humanitarian aid for emergency relief and long-term aid for development. Long-term development is the more intricate of the programs. The Swedish government implements this long-term aid with two principles in mind. First, that varying policy areas need to work together to produce positive development; second, that humanitarian aid should be implemented with the perspective that people are capable and eager to accept change.

As of 2007, Sida has 33 partner countries to which they are currently providing aid. While this number has reduced from approximately 125 since the 80s, the extensive efforts put into individual projects illustrate why Sweden is a leader in foreign aid.

Sida’s Work in Syria

Most recently, Sweden has proven itself as a leader in foreign aid through its dedication to those suffering through the Syrian crisis. Due to the disastrous conflict, there are currently 11.7 million individuals in need of assistance. Many hospitals, schools and markets have been destroyed as well.

Sida has allocated more than SEK 367 million (approximately 37.2 million USD) to humanitarian relief in Syria in 2019. This aid goes directly toward life-saving interventions. Basic needs are given to the country’s most vulnerable individuals who live in refugee camps and other communities. Much of Sida’s aid has also gone to Syria’s neighboring countries who receive the most refugees such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

Lastly, Sida donates to United Nations organizations present in Syria. The Swedish foreign aid machine has worked closely with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as UNICEF, to improve the infrastructure required to fulfill the needs of Syrian refugees. These organizations have access to local partnerships scattered around the region that continue to provide health care, education and safe housing to displaced individuals.

What Does the Future Hold?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates that the number of refugees around the world will increase in the years to come. As this reality materializes, global leaders will only benefit from emulating the Swedish government’s extensive efforts to fund, provide and implement efficient humanitarian aid policies.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

corruption in tajikistan
Tajikistan is a small country in Central Asia with a population of 8.92 million people. Corruption in Tajikistan is widespread and infiltrates all levels of society. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, has been in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. There is almost no political renewal and a small number of the elite class control political and economic relations.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) made a report on corruption in Tajikistan which found that anti-corruption legislation and institutions lack funding and support in the country. The report also found that there have been no major improvements introduced to Tajik legislation to combat corruption as international standards require.

Daily Corruption

Corruption in Tajikistan affects people on a day to day basis, whether dealing with police, traffic guards or even public services. A public opinion survey that UNDP and the Centre for Strategic Studies conducted in 2010 found that 70 percent of the respondents had either paid a bribe or wanted to despite an inability to afford it. The survey showed that farmers and entrepreneurs are the two segments of society that are most vulnerable to petty, day to day corruption.

Citizens suffer daily police corruption that the large networks of organized crime and drug trafficking in the region only heighten. Some view the police and traffic guards as some of the most corrupt state institutions in the country. The same public opinion survey found that 90 percent of the respondents recognized that they experienced corruption when stopped by traffic guards and that these confrontations happen regularly. Traffic corruption can include an authority pulling someone over for speeding, asking them to pay a bribe to avoid a ticket and threatening jail time if the individual does not pay the bribe. Traffic guards will stop people for speeding even if they were at the speed limit, simply to pocket bribed money.

Political Corruption

Political corruption in Tajikistan is also widespread. All of its elections since gaining independence from the Soviet Union do not qualify as democratic electoral processes as international organizations such as the United Nations observed. The Tajik government functions heavily on patronage networks and family ties. Many of the President’s family members and allies hold political positions. For example, his son, Rustam Emomali, is the mayor of Dushanbe and is among the top 10 most influential individuals in Tajikistan.

Solutions

The Tajik government has taken some steps to combat domestic corruption that infiltrates all levels of society. For example, it adopted the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and anti-corruption legislation. The country still lacks many important factors that are essential to cracking down on corruption such as widespread access to information and an independent audit agency, however, international pressures could greatly improve political corruption in the country.

The OECD is an international organization with a mission to work with governments to construct policies that improve the lives of individuals. It is currently working with the Tajik government to come up with corruption fighting legislation. Amnesty International has also called out the Tajik government for its human rights abuses such as the persecution of LGBTQ members and the censoring of human rights activists. Amnesty does not currently have an office in Tajikistan, however, its media campaigns garnered support from activists and foreign governments such as Norway and Denmark.

Further Measures

Further pressures such as sanctions, naming and shaming techniques and advocacy have the potential to greatly reduce corruption in Tajikistan. If economically advantaged countries such as the U.S. placed pressure on Tajikistan to increase anti-corruption legislation and measures, it could vastly increase the quality of life for the citizens of Tajikistan. Naming and shaming is a method that nonprofit and international organizations use to call out a country or organization for unethical practices, which can pressure the Tajik government to crackdown on debasement. Lastly, advocacy and educational campaigns can increase awareness of the issue and also increase the supply of information about corruption in Tajikistan both to its citizens and the international community.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr