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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

education in singapore
Singapore is the most developed country in Southeast Asia and one of the most developed countries in all of Asia. Its education system is an accurate reflection of that development as Singaporean students consistently rank as some of the best scoring students on international assessments.

In the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an annual global study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Singapore ranked second in mathematics, third in reading, third in science and second overall for student performance.

And the students excel in more than just test scores.

Singaporean students won numerous international science and mathematics competitions in 2014. At the 27th International Young Physicists’ Tournament, for example, the Singapore team took first place. At the 25th International Biology Olympiad, the 46th International Chemistry Olympiad, the 55th International Mathematics Olympiad, the 26th International Olympiad in Informatics and the 45th International Physics Olympiad, the Singapore team consistently won multiple gold and silver medals.

Singapore undoubtedly has high quality education and exceptional student performance due to the structure of its education system. For children between the ages of 6 and 15 years old, education is compulsory, but there is also a social norm to proceed on to tertiary education and to succeed.

Singapore currently has four universities and five polytechnic institutions that focus on practical degree programs in disciplines like tourism, biotechnology, engineering, business, communications and hospitality management. The quality of Singapore’s primary, secondary and tertiary institutions is so high that 86,0oo international students come to Singapore to study.

Findings from the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey by the OECD explain how and why Singapore succeeds in providing quality education. According to the survey, teachers receive not only extensive training before they reach the classroom, but also professional development throughout their careers as instructors. School culture is reported to be collaborative and teachers are highly respected in Singapore.

Ho Peng, Director-General of Education, says the quality of education in Singapore starts with creating quality teachers. “Ensuring that our teachers are competent and professional is critical, to bring out the best in every student and prepare him or her to meet future challenges,” Peng said. “We will continue to look for ways to support our teaching force to enable them to do their best for our students.”

Singapore’s education model is successfully rooted in core ideologies, pragmatic approaches and societal norms. Students have for many years performed unparalleled in academic competitions and test scores, and the country will continue to see successful development because of its superlative approach to education.

– Joseph McAdams
Photo: The Real Singapore

current global issues
In the 21 century, the world has made great strides in reducing poverty, eliminating diseases and improving the quality of life for all. However, this progress rests on shaky foundations. Current global issues threaten to undermine humanity’s attempts to better the world and damage all of society.

According to the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, global issues are those that potentially affect everyone on earth, not just large groups of people. Similarly, solutions to global issues require all people to cooperate in order to meaningfully change the status quo. Since they pose a fundamental risk to society as a whole, global issues require much attention.

Here are just five examples of current global issues. Many of them are interconnected, but any one of them could have serious consequences for everyone if left unchecked.

1. Terrorism

International terrorist organizations can cause conflict anywhere, thus terrorism is a global issue. The expansion of attacks by terrorists hurts many people in developing countries; according to the U.S. State Department, terrorist attacks killed over 11,000 and wounded 21,000 in 2012.

Terrorism also had wide-ranging economic impacts. Former U.S. Ambassador Francis Taylor found that global airline industries lost             $15 billion and global insurance industries lost $50 billion in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. World governments will need to strengthen their relations and promote democratic principles to reduce terrorist threats.

2. Lack of International Labor Laws

Weak international labor laws are a global issue because they hurt workers in the developing world and the economies of developed nations. Laws must exist to protect workers’ rights while allowing multinational firms to do business. The World Bank urges countries to cooperate and strengthen labor laws to prevent abuses and ensure fair wages; at the same time, the laws must facilitate wealth creation. Without optimal rules, the world economy weakens and workers face terrible conditions.

3. Climate Change

Climate change affects all of earth’s environments and is thus a global issue. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that droughts and extreme weather would intensify globally, leading to poor crop yield, water shortages and even desertification. The worst-affected areas, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, will have trouble adapting because per capita GDP is low; millions will be unable to grow or afford food and will starve.

As entire regions face food crises, global economic production becomes much lower, and nations have to care for hungry refugees that flee inhospitable conditions. To prevent the situation from becoming worse, the world must adopt more sustainable energy policies and waste management practices.

4. Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is another global issue that threatens the health of millions and the progress of modern medicine. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the discovery of drug-resistant E. coli, staph and pneumonia-causing viruses all over the world; it also found that 20 percent of previously treated tuberculosis cases were drug-resistant.

The emergence of antibiotic-resistant disease is extremely dangerous. Antibiotics that people use to treat serious infections will stop working and disease fatalities will increase. The global community will need to implement stronger restrictions on antibiotic use to curb drug resistance in deadly diseases.

5. Poverty

While many of the above problems exacerbate poverty in many world regions, poverty itself is a global issue because it leads to social problems that affect even the richest people. According to the research site Poverties.org, poverty leads to higher crime rates, more instances of substance abuse and greater susceptibility to infectious disease. This hurts economic productivity and can lead to instability. Poverty also is linked to terrorism. Consequently, the world must fight poverty to address other global issues.

The world’s current global issues are complex, interconnected problems that require concentrated action for systemic change. Any single global issue could become a crisis with huge economic and human costs. Only with strong international cooperation can the world solve global issues.

-Ted Rappleye

Sources: U.S. State Department 1, U.S. State Department 2, World Bank, OECD, WHO, Poverties, Nautilus Institute
Photo: Flickr