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Foreign Aid AssistanceThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Middle Eastern country made up of seven emirates. Each emirate has a unique ruler, but one of those rulers acts as the president of the entire UAE. The population of the UAE is 9.2 million and their GDP was $421.14 billion in 2019. This makes them one of the richest countries in the Middle East. Thankfully, over the years, the UAE has been utilizing a portion of its GDP to provide foreign aid assistance.

The Goal of the UAE’s Foreign Aid Assistance

The UAE aims to be unbiased in its humanitarian assistance, not focusing on politics or beliefs. This is a byproduct of the UAE’s mission for tolerance. The UAE has made multiple initiatives in recent years to promote tolerance not only in their foreign affairs but also in their domestic affairs. At the end of 2018, President H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. To push this goal forward, the UAE began teaching tolerance in schools, focused on promoting more tolerant policy, and created a number of organizations to promote tolerant objectives. In order to carry out these aims internationally, the UAE’s Cabinet formed the UAE Humanitarian Committee. The committee brings together experts in the field to ensure that their foreign aid is efficient and moral.

History

According to the UAE’s website, the UAE provided more than 47 billion AED in foreign aid assistance from 1971 to 2014. Africa is the largest recipient of the UAE’s foreign aid. However, the UAE also provided assistance to those in their neighboring communities. In 2015, the UAE was named the World’s Top Humanitarian Donor as a percentage of its GDP for the year 2013. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development gave this award. In 2013 the UAE provided roughly 5.89 billion U.S. dollars in foreign aid, equal to about 1.33% of their GDP. More than 140 countries received this aid, and it focused on issues such as health, education and social services.

Present Day

The year 2020 has been tumultuous for every country due to COVID-19, causing many nations to focus solely on domestic affairs. The UAE has remained dedicated to its mission regarding foreign aid assistance. It has also been making strides to ensure that both their people and other countries have the tools they need to combat this global pandemic.

A major factory was repurposed to produce only N95 masks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. This factory has the capacity to produce more than 90,000 masks per day. To date, the UAE has provided more than 1,000 metric tons of foreign aid assistance in response to COVID-19. Additionally, $10 million was donated by the UAE via the World Health Organization. The donation went toward COVID-19 testing kits.

In addition to their COVID-19 foreign aid response, the UAE has been a major player in foreign aid assistance to those affected by the Beirut Port explosion. On August 4, 2020, two explosions caused the death of close to 200 people. They also destroyed the homes of many more in Lebanon. The UAE has utilized its organization, the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), to provide foreign aid assistance in Lebanon after this tragedy. This aid focuses on providing medical supplies and medical support.

 

The UAE has set an example not only of the degree in which countries should engage in foreign humanitarian assistance but also in the way they should do so. Humanitarian assistance is not about a country’s beliefs, geography or affairs. Instead, humanitarian assistance is about facilitating a more equal society where everyone is able to fulfill their basic needs.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: The National

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan
In November of 2019, approximately 500 protestors assembled in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to express their dissatisfaction with the corruption in their country. The protestors demanded that law enforcement further investigate a $700 million money-laundering scheme, first discovered by the media. This incident of corruption is nothing new in the country of Kyrgyzstan.

Corruption is a common occurrence in the everyday life of Kyrgyzstan. The issue is especially common among businesses and in the government. Across the country’s judiciary and police forces, along with other sectors, corruption prevails. While many efforts to reduce fraud in Kyrgyzstan have had little effect, there are still routes the country can take to combat the large amounts of corruption within the country.

Judiciary

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan’s judiciary is extremely troublesome. This means that any anti-corruption legislation is implemented inadequately by the judiciary itself. Because of this, many efforts to reduce corruption in Kyrgyzstan have been largely unsuccessful. Attorneys in Kyrgyzstan’s legal system have often reported that giving bribes to judges is a regular occurrence. Many attorneys make the complaint that no matter how well organized their arguments might be, they know that ultimately it is these bribes that determine the decision of the case. In 2010 there was an attempt to reform the judiciary in order to eliminate corruption within it. However, the attempt failed because the government politicized the reform. Specifically, the president and parliament sought to use it as a way to assign judges that suited their political preferences.

Police

Corruption in Kyrgyzstan also extends to the police force. Unprofessional behavior among police officers is a regular occurrence, and as a result, law enforcement is much less effective in performing its duties. Some evidence has also shown that local law enforcement units answer directly to local government officials rather than serve the citizens. This type of behavior is especially common amongst police forces in Southern Kyrgyzstan. There are also reports that police will arrest people and threaten prosecutions in order to extort money from these “suspects”. Foreigners in Kyrgyzstan are especially at risk. The cars that foreign people drive in Kyrgyzstan have specialized license plates, making it easier for police officers to target them.

Reform

Despite the pervasive amount of corruption in Kyrgyzstan and the ineffective reforms that have passed, various institutions studying the corruption within Kyrgyzstan have made suggestions. One such institution is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. After conducting extensive research on the issue, the OECD concluded that the best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed is to not rely on the judiciary and prosecution service. The OECD recognizes that the judiciary stands in the way of truly preventing and eliminating corruption in Kyrgyzstan. Another possible solution is that Kyrgyzstan uses specialized law enforcement that deals specifically with corruption cases.

While not the sole cause of poverty, corruption definitely can have an effect on it. This is especially the case when corruption affects businesses, which can negatively impact business owners and thus their employees. The best way for Kyrgyzstan to proceed in preventing corruption is by making some changes in the judiciary as the OECD recommends.

Jacob Lee
Photo: Flickr

The Security of Foreign Aid in a Radical Right Shift
Across the globe, and particularly in Europe, there has been a rise in nationalism and radical right-wing political parties have gained momentum and government positions. For many, this is concerning as their rhetoric tends to me anti-Semitic, xenophobic and anti-immigrant.

Those dependent on foreign aid may also fear that aid will decrease as these parties gain power; however, the good news is that the security of foreign aid has yet to be affected by this radically rightward shift.

Recent Developments

The success of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party upset the predictions of many political pundits. In the September German elections, the radical right-wing party easily did better than any other party in the election, advancing from zero to 94 seats in the Bundestag.

According to Dr. Erica Edwards, a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio who specializes in nationalism and European political parties, this was not the expected outcome — due to their history with the Nazi party, the German political system has buffers in place to prevent such a party from gaining power; yet, the AfD still prospered.

Germany has been an incredibly significant contributor to foreign aid within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and is the third largest contributor within the Development Assistance Committee providing $17.8 billion in 2015. A drop in aid from the country would have significant impacts, but if Germany follows suit with other increasingly nationalized countries, the security of foreign aid will remain intact.

Security So Far

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, has members all over the world, including the major European powers, and works “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” The organization measures net ODA, Official Development Assistance, for each of its members along with other measures of foreign aid output.

Hungary, a member of the OECD along with Germany, has faced a resurgence of radical right-wing sentiment in recent years. Viktor Orbán has been Prime Minister since 2010 and has made some radical and nationalist remarks exacerbated by the growing popularity of Jobbik, the second most popular and most radical right-wing party in the country.

Foreign Aid

Despite being ahead of Germany in radical right popularity, Hungary experienced a 13 percent increase in net ODA in 2014 and allocated up to $152 million in development aid in 2015.

Hungary has not been the most substantial contributor to the Development Assistance Committee, particularly in comparison to Germany, but the nation still continues to increase its foreign aid and has secured it up to 2020, despite popular nationalist rhetoric. Poland, another increasingly nationalist country and member of the OEDC, has also kept their foreign aid output fairly steady.

Maintaining a Watchful Eye

Although the rhetoric of these radical right parties can be problematic and oppressive to many, it does not appear to affect the security of foreign aid. However, Dr. Edwards believe it is important to keep an eye on these parties and the countries they govern as the situation is still unpredictable.

If citizens remain engaged and vigilant, then they have the power to maintain the security of foreign aid for those who depend on it.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Seychelles

Located in the Indian Ocean just northeast of Madagascar, Seychelles is an archipelago nation of 115 islands. With an economy focused mainly on tourism and fishing, Seychelles boasts the highest GDP per capita in Africa at $15,476 in 2015.

In 2016, the World Bank reported an extreme poverty level of 1.1 percent in Seychelles, using the global mark of $1.90 per day. Additionally, moderate poverty was reported at 2.5 percent, using the global mark of $3.10 per day. This poverty rate puts Seychelles among the lowest in the world among nations that are not part of the 35-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

While these numbers are very low, the poverty rate in Seychelles as reported by the government is vastly different from the World Bank data. A 2013 study by the Seychelles National Bureau of Statistics put the poverty rate at 39.3 percent. The large difference is due to using a national basic needs poverty line. This poverty line is SCR 3,945 per month, equivalent to roughly $300 per month or $10 per day.

Other structural challenges also exist for the country. While unemployment is low, high-quality job creation is hindered by skill mismatches. Youth poverty rates run three times higher than the reported World Bank statistics, with female youth poverty nine times higher than male youth poverty. Economic inequality is also a major concern in Seychelles.

After an outcry in the country regarding poverty statistics, the National Bureau of Statistics completed a poverty survey on the country’s main island in May and June 2017. The survey focused on four central districts which have the highest poverty rates in the country. The survey revealed housing issues, including a lack of running water, electricity and toilet facilities in some houses. Overcrowding, unemployment and drug abuse were also identified as major issues in the survey area.

The Seychellois Secretary of State for Poverty Alleviation Dick Esparon laid out a short-term intervention plan for the members of the study. This plan includes access to electricity, water, food and hygiene, as well as employment opportunities and social work support.

Moving forward, Secretary Esparon has announced a targeted policy approach to fighting poverty that will be specific to different household situations. In addition, a second phase of the poverty survey will cover five more districts on the main island, with the rest of the country being covered by the end of 2018. Results from the surveys will be combined with the targeted policy approach to create a national anti-poverty strategy which will be used to fight the poverty rate in Seychelles.

Erik Beck

Photo: Flickr

Australia's Foreign Aid Program
Australia’s foreign aid program has seen many changes since it first became a single government agency in the 1970s. Besides the name, changes have taken place within the program’s administration, its focus, the countries that receive aid and the type of aid provided.

Australia provided aid to other countries well before there was an official government program. In the 1950s, Australia granted aid to Papua New Guinea in the form of grants and to South and Southeast Asia by way of educational scholarships and assistance with employment.

In 1974, under Prime Minister Whitlam, Australia established the Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAA) as a single government entity that would administer the country’s aid. Since that time, the name of the program has changed several times, first to the Australian Development Assistance Bureau (ADAB), then to the Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB), then to the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and finally to its current name, Australian Aid.

In 2010, Australia established AusAID as an executive agency within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In Australia, an executive agency is separate from its department for staffing, accountability and reporting purposes. However, the 2013 change to the country’s current program, Australian Aid, integrated the executive agency into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade so that it was no longer a stand-alone agency.

In a 2014 press release, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, introduced Australian Aid: “The Australian Government’s new approach to overseas development assistance will focus on ways to drive economic growth in developing nations and create pathways out of poverty. Strict performance benchmarks will ensure aid spending is accountable to taxpayers and achieve results.”

The program incorporated a new development policy that focused on promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability. A new performance framework, Making Performance Count, enhanced the accountability and effectiveness of Australian aid by establishing performance benchmarks and impact assessments in targeted aid areas.

Australia’s foreign aid program will also have a new focus on the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific regions. In 2014, Minister Bishop gave a speech in which she further explained the reason for the change in focus. “In the past, [our aid program] has been spread far too thinly across the globe…We must direct our aid to where we can make the biggest difference and align it with our national interest.”

According to preliminary data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) was $3.22 billion in 2015, which was 0.27 percent of their gross national income (GNI). The United Nations adopted a resolution in 1970 stating that ODA spending in developed countries should be at least 0.7 percent of GNI. Preliminary data from the OECD shows that only Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Kingdom met that target in 2015.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Internet Use
Long considered the means by which the democratization of information would be achieved, the internet is increasingly becoming a platform where wealth disparities are made evident. According to a report released in July 2016 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the quality of internet use among students seems to be influenced by socioeconomic status.

The OECD report, which studied teenage students’ time spent online, highlighted the so-called “digital divide” that exists between their respective, qualitative internet use. In addition to this, the report found that despite having equal access, which theoretically should imply equal opportunity and success, poor students were less likely to know about or take advantage of the myriad benefits internet access affords.

Interestingly, in 21 out of the 42 countries from which data was collected, poor students actually spent more time online than wealthier students. Wealthy students, according to the study, spend their time online reading the news and learning. “But disadvantaged students may not be aware of how technology can offer opportunities to learn about the world, practice new skills or develop [professional plans or internet-based communication opportunities],” according to the OECD report.

The report noted that internet use among rich and poor students is strongly correlated with more general academic performance measures. It appears that the problem of ignorance about internet benefits both perpetuates and is perpetuated by lack of education.

A separate, unrelated study by the London School of Economics, published in February 2016, showed that people of the “higher social status” (wealthier and more educated people) benefited from their time spent online. “To some extent, the findings suggest that access to and use of the internet might exacerbate existing inequalities offline,” the study’s author remarked.

The OECD report noted that work aimed at ending these disparities is underway but that far more needs to be accomplished in order to make a difference.

One related effort attempting to tackle the issue of internet access is the Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act, which is currently making its way through Congress. This legislation is designed to bring internet access to the 60 percent of the world that is currently offline.

Though not directly related to efforts to leveling the playing field among people who are already online, the Digital GAP Act should have indirect but related benefits, as its passing will mean wider dissemination of internet education.

James Collins

Photo: Flickr

Important to Vote
Exercising one’s right to vote is about as American as one can get. The U.S. is a country that was founded with the intention of providing freedom and allowing one’s opinions to shape policy. As it follows, it is important to vote. However, the Pew Research Center found that compared to other democratic countries, the U.S. pales in comparison regarding voter turnout.

In fact, after the 2012 election, the U.S. had the ninth lowest voting rate out of 35 other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The country with the highest voter turnout rate was Belgium during its 2014 election, with over 89 percent of their registered voters exercising their democratic right. In comparison, less than 54 percent of registered voters in the U.S. voted in the 2012 election.

There is a myth in the U.S. that one’s vote does not matter. While it is the Electoral College that ultimately determines the outcome of the election, the vote of the public is still crucial. The popular vote often influences the electoral vote. Though the popular vote does not directly determine the presidential outcome, it does dictate which of the elected officials in each state get to vote in the Electoral College.

The popular vote can also help determine policy long after the election is over, especially if the winning candidate’s margin of victory is low or high. If the former, the candidate will likely push for more moderate policy and if the latter, the candidate will listen to the majority. Thus, if more people vote, the more representative the democracy will likely become.

It is important to vote not only because it helps determine the political outcome, but because it is a right that was fought for by a majority of people in the U.S. and is still being fought for in other democratic countries around the world.

When the U.S. was founded, only white men of a certain faith who owned property could vote. In 1870, the right was extended to former slaves. In 1920, the women’s suffrage movement prevailed.

It was not until 1965 that discriminatory voting practices of any kind were outlawed on a federal level with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, many voters still experience prejudice at the polls.

Women in Saudi Arabia just recently gained the right to vote in 2011. Currently, the only democratic country that does not allow women to vote is Vatican City. Not even all men can vote — only cardinals can vote in Vatican City. This is because only cardinals can vote for the Pope, who presides over the country, and as of now, only men can become cardinals.

The suffrage of citizens is a key component of political efficacy. When one has the ability to vote, they feel that they are involved in their government and can potentially create change.

Extending the right to vote to all citizens not only creates a more representative democracy but also creates a sense of community because everyone’s voice is heard — not just those in power.

Laura Cassin

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable_Relief
When fighting poverty, reaching the most people possible with the least amount of resources is the goal of many organizations providing direct help, but this may not be a sustainable relief method.

Most international groups provide relief through vast shipments of medical supplies, food and clean water. Such large-scale approaches do their best to relieve the pressures of malnourishment and poor sanitation, but they are temporary solutions that require constant replenishment.

More sustainable relief methods are being used which empower an individual or a group of individuals to create solutions that are self-sufficient. When one person can resolve their own situation, the group benefits from that individual’s new income, access to food or other general life improvements.

An example of this is the empowerment of Edith, an urban farmer in Zimbabwe. A food shortage in the country has caused many communities to experience stunting in the growth rates of the youth and adults. According to ONE, an organization working to end preventable disease and extreme poverty in Africa, “less than a fifth of children [in Zimbabwe] under two receive the recommended minimum acceptable diet for adequate nutrition.” The result has been that “28 percent [of children in Zimbabwe] are stunted or have heights too low for their age.”

Directly providing the proper nutrients to the individuals that need them is a big challenge. Instead of large-scale international shipments, local projects financed by the U.N. are empowering individual farmers in the community, like Edith, to provide the necessary food to her peers. Without the financial aid of the U.N., “we cannot afford to water our home gardens as the municipality imposes stiff penalties on excessive water use,” she says.

Edith is part of a program that provides small community farmers with the appropriate seeds and tools like a solar-powered borehole. With the new machinery, she and a handful of other farmers have successfully reduced the level of malnutrition in her village. “This is certainly boosting not only our purses but most importantly nutrition,” reports Edith.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has endorsed this bottom-up approach as an essential way to reduce poverty. In a paper produced by the organization, individual empowerment is heralded as the key to achieving sustainable development goals. More specifically, these four good donor practices are highlighted by the research:

  • Donors should support “poor people’s rights and access to natural resources.”
  • Donors should support “participatory and accountable knowledge and advisory processes.”
  • Donors should enhance “the participation of poor rural producers in agricultural and related markets.”
  • Donors should support “poor rural people’s participation in policy and governance processes.”

All of these points stress the importance of an individual’s political and economic freedom, allowing them to rise out of poverty on their own. Edith’s story exemplifies the ability of financial empowerment to expand the potential of the individual, ultimately benefiting his or her community as a whole.

– Jacob Hess

Photo: Public Domain Image

Gerd-Müller-Boosts-Germany’s-InvestmentBenin and Togo will see increased financial support from Germany for agriculture and development opportunities this year.

Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, traveled to Benin and Togo to promote partnership in January 2016. Müller hopes the increased funding will allow both countries to make advances in sustainable agriculture and, ultimately, help eradicate hunger.

“You need more than just water and fertilizer for agriculture,” Minister Müller said in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation’s Jan. 3 press release. “You also need knowledge and innovation!”

More than one-third of Benin’s population and over half of Togo’s population is living in poverty, according to the World Bank. For this reason, “advancing food security and providing job prospects in these two partner countries of German development cooperation are so important,” the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation’s press release also stated.

Gerd Müller announced Benin would receive €20 million to support agricultural innovation at the inauguration of the green innovation center in Cotonou, Benin. Green innovation centers are part of A World Without Hunger, an initiative of Germany and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“The centers provide innovative technologies and extension services and thus help to increase smallholders’ incomes, create employment opportunities and improve the food situation in rural areas,” the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation said.

While in Togo, Müller inaugurated the first vocational training course for motorcycle mechanics based on the dual system, which provides an apprenticeship in a company while the student earns a vocational education.

“Togo is a young and vibrant country,” Müller said. “That is why the country needs more than modern technology and an enabling environment. More than anything else, it needs its people – qualified workers.”

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is working with Togo to establish a dual system of vocational training for five trades.

“Togo is an anchor of stability in West Africa, and must remain so,” Gerd Müller said. “That is why we want to help create better prospects for the people living there through better vocational education and training, better agricultural yields, and better conditions for investments in Togo’s economy.”

Müller also announced in the Jan. 4, 2016 press release for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation that Togo would receive €6.5 million to innovate agricultural methods and fight hunger.

Summer Jackson

Sources: BMZ 1, BMZ 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, Deutschland, IFPRI
Photo: Google Images

Nordic Countries Poverty Rates
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the poverty rate as the ratio of the number of people in a given age group whose income drops below the poverty line, which is taken as half the median household income of the total population. Nordic countries have some of the lowest poverty rates in the world due to a number of factors.

 

Top Reasons for Low Poverty Rates in Nordic Countries

 

  1. Low Unemployment Rates. In Sweden, the unemployment rate has averaged 5.87 percent between 1980 and 2015. In November 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate declined to 6.2 percent from 6.7 percent in October, the lowest reading since August 2008, according to Trading Economics. Notably, the number of unemployed fell by 55,000 compared to the previous year.
  2. The standard of poverty changes over time as countries become richer. As poverty researcher Peter Townsend notes, “Individuals, families and groups can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and the amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved in the societies to which they belong.”
  3. Transparency. Nordic countries, such as Sweden pride themselves on their honesty and transparency of their governments. In Sweden, everyone has access to all official records. Sweden’s trust for public institutions was at 55 percent compared to Russia’s 25 percent, according to The Economist.
  4. Individual autonomy. Nordic countries have let go of the old social-democratic consensus and presented new ideas from across the political spectrum. They continue to invest in human capital and protect people from the disruptions that are part of the capitalist system, according to The Economist.

According to the OECD, the 2012 poverty rates for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland stood at 9 percent, 5.4 percent, 8.1 percent and 6.5 percent respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Mexico had the highest poverty rate at 18.9 percent.

The “Nordic Model” presents a starting point for other countries to develop methods to attack poverty as they work towards sustainable development.

Jordan Connell

Sources: The Economist, The Organization for Economic Cooperation, Trading Economics, Vox
Photo: Vox