Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq‘s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq‘s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Effective Foreign AidForeign aid policy can be confusing. Some claim that all foreign aid is useless, while others say it is the only thing our government should fund. All of this is overwhelming, and can drive people away from advocating for aid policies altogether. But choosing which NGO to donate to or which policy to ask your senator to support doesn’t have to be hard. Effective foreign aid policy is out there. By asking these three simple questions, you can spot good policies.

1. Is this policy collaborative?

Effective foreign aid policy is always based around collaboration. Aid organizations and donor governments should constantly be in conversation with aid recipients. Recipients should be able to give feedback on which parts of the aid are working and which parts are not. Most importantly, the people receiving aid should be actively involved in making decisions about the distribution of aid. Collaborating with the people you are trying to help is common sense. People on the ground know better than anyone what will help them succeed and thrive. By making aid collaboration focused, recipients have a bigger stake in the outcomes of aid. They will fight to achieve whatever outcomes the NGO or donor government are working towards.

Aid policies are too often structured to the recipients of aid as passive objects, not active participants. But, as the American Enterprise Institute puts it, “collaboration seems virtually essential for a sustained engagement that brings benefits valued by all.”

2. Is this policy sustainable?

In recent years, many NGOs have adopted ‘band-aid’ policies when it comes to foreign aid. This type of policy includes things like giving out food and medicine to countries affected by disaster.

In the short term, this kind of aid is vital. But in the long term, it can be crippling. For example, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, NGOs and governments mobilized to provide disaster relief. For the first few months after the earthquake, this aid saved thousands of lives. But now, seven years after the earthquake, many NGOs and governments are still providing disaster relief. For example, instead of helping the Haitian government build hospitals, NGOs treat people themselves. These ‘band-aid’ policies do not allow Haiti to become self-reliant. They focus too much on the present and lack vision for the future. The result is a Haitian economy that relies heavily on foreign aid.

The most effective foreign aid policy is top-down. Aid policies that focuses on broad, structural changes have the greatest impact. When deciding which foreign aid policy to subscribe to, consider its sustainability. Ask: will whatever service this policy provides be able to continue without support from the NGO or donor government? Is it focused on building sustainable structures of government, or just helping individual people? These questions will help you ascertain the sustainability of whatever policy you’re considering.

3. Is this policy transparent?

Transparency is a must for both NGOs and donor governments. They should always disclose the money put towards certain aid policies and how that money was spent. The NGOs and donor government initiatives you support should have clear benchmarks that are easily measurable and updated regularly. These acts of transparency put the power in the hands of both the recipients and supporters of aid policies. It assures accountability and maximizes the impact of the aid.

Did you answer yes to all these questions? If so, the policy you’re considering supporting is probably an effective foreign aid policy. So support it! Being an advocate for the global poor is both gratifying and deeply important work. Asking these questions ensures that the policies you end up advocating for do a world of good.

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

Social Inclusion ProjectThe World Bank research supports the stance of many organizations around the world advocating for early childhood development (ECD) programs.

The Bulgarian government has been working to ensure increased educational opportunities for its youth with programs such as the Social Inclusion Project which was completed at the end of 2015.

The Project was designed to increase school readiness in children under the age of seven to ensure equal life choices, targeting low-income and marginalized families. The initiative has reached over 20,000 youth and the country’s kindergarten enrollment rate currently stands at 83 percent.

“Giving people the same life chances requires investments in early childhood development, providing kids, as one says here in Bulgaria, with their proper initial seven years,” said Markus Repnik, World Bank country manager for Bulgaria, in his address to the Minister and the government.

Repnik went on to say that “the project will provide these proper initial seven years for the most vulnerable children through pre-school training and services – so that these kids enter school at an equal footing, allowing them to successfully progress in their later education and life.”

Educational achievements correlate significantly with future employment opportunities. Productivity is declining in many Eastern European countries because many working-age people lack sufficient education to participate in the labor market.

Investing in ECD programs equips a generation to be conscientious, responsible and resilient especially during difficult economic conditions.

The Social Inclusion Project invested in infrastructure, building kindergartens and children centers and in services such as medical screenings, speech therapists, physiotherapists, pediatrician checkups and parental training.

This initiative was possible because stakeholders, policy makers and international partners decided to make a commitment to ECD.

By partnering with the World Bank, the Bulgarian Red Cross, UNICEF, the Bulgarian Pediatric Association and many other supporters, Bulgaria has equipped young people to pursue better jobs and ultimately have the ability to provide for future generations.

Emily Ednoff

Photo: Flickr


Hunger in Pakistan has killed many people and affected the lives of many more, especially children. After a drought hit the Tharparkar district of Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province earlier this year, at least 132 young children died, many as a result of malnutrition.

The problem of hunger in Pakistan is not limited to Sindh Province, however. While Sindh certainly has the highest rates of malnutrition and least access to food, Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey reported that 58 percent of all Pakistani households were food-insecure.

Malnutrition is also widespread; the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey found that 24 percent of Pakistani children under 5 exhibited “severely stunted growth.”

Why is hunger such a prevalent issue in Pakistan? Some of it has to do with past inflation of wheat prices in the late 2000s, as it was more difficult for people to afford domestic grain. Infrastructural difficulty, such as providing electricity to flour mills, also poses a problem.

Still, the largest factor causing food insecurity in Pakistan is the nation’s own government and its policies that hinder food production and distribution.

Take, for example, the deaths from the drought: the government did not work to distribute food until after the crisis. As the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network reports, “the government didn’t act until [it received] reports of children dying” last December, even though animals had been dying since October and rainfall was decreasing. Moreover, government-run hospitals and clinics in the region have been constantly understaffed, making it difficult to get medical care to those who needed it.

Other government policies affect all of Pakistan, not just Sindh. Under the Corporate Farming Ordinance, the Pakistani government leases large tracts of land to foreign investors looking to stockpile crops for their own countries. This takes valuable land away from local farmers while keeping the food away from Pakistani citizens that need it.

The government of Pakistan seems to prioritize profits over its people. During the inflation of wheat prices in 2008, the government increased its wheat exports, depriving many hungry people of food. Even today, much of the wheat that large corporate mills produce leaves the country.

In reality, Pakistan should be capable of providing its citizens with enough food to survive, and there should not be as much food insecurity as there is now. Arif Jabbar Khan, Oxfam’s Pakistan director, affirmed that “missing public policy action and persistent economic inequalities are the main causes of malnutrition,” not droughts or famine.

How can hunger and malnutrition be reduced in Pakistan? Foreign aid providers may be able to earmark funds for the redistribution of grain to poorer areas, and this aid could be cut if the government does not comply.

Nevertheless, political pressure to change food distribution policy must come from within Pakistan itself. The citizens of Pakistan must demand change and hold elected officials responsible for their actions in the polls if the system is to be fixed.

 — Ted Rappleye

Sources: The Guardian, South Asia Masala, Triple Bottom-Line
Photo: Tribune

InterAction is an alliance of 180 U.S.-based international organizations, predominantly NGOs, which work around the world to aid the poor. InterAction brings these organizations together to capitalize on their collective resources, mobilize members, and serve as the premiere thought leader in the NGO community. InterAction’s mission is to eliminate extreme poverty, uphold human rights, safeguard a sustainable planet, and ensure human dignity for poor and vulnerable populations.

InterAction is the largest coalition of NGOs in the United States. Through collaboration and transparency, InterAction partners support one another. According to Samuel Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, “As development shifts toward multi-stakeholder partnerships, U.S. international NGOs are an important ally to reduce suffering and combat global poverty. The many participants in development aid bring different perspectives to the table and use varying means to achieve their goals. Many of these approaches complement each other; but to ensure efficient and flexible development programs, governments, NGOs, and the private sector must build effective partnerships.” In addition, InterAction holds their partners accountable, not only to donors, but also to the general public. Upon membership with InterAction, partner organization are held to high standards of accountability and compliance with international aid effectiveness.

InterAction’s programs focus on international development, accountability, humanitarian action, and policy and action.

International Development: Programs related to international development are intended to uphold the standards of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and aid effectiveness principles. Such programs require participation from the private sector, governments, and citizens. One program, Post-2015, has studied the effectiveness of the MDGs and offered suggestions to the United Nations as to what should be done after 2015 to address extreme poverty.

Accountability & Learning: Programs related to Accountability and Learning empower citizens, governments and NGOs with up-to-date data related to program effectiveness and scope. InterAction believes that, by empowering citizens and NGOs with transparent and easily-accessible data, they can improve NGO programs and ultimately make them more efficient. Such programs include NGO mapping, PVO standards, and regular monitoring & evaluation.

Humanitarian Action: InterAction’s Humanitarian Action programs are guided by the principles of human dignity, neutrality, independence and impartiality. Without taking into account race, gender, ethnicity or political affiliation, humanitarian efforts can save lives and alleviate poverty. InterAction supports NGO humanitarian work by offering a framework for consultation, coordination and advocacy in such situations. In the past, InterAction partners have responded to crises on the Ivory Coast, Liberia, and the Horn of Africa. In June, InterAction pledged to invest $750 million in nutrition programs over the next five years. The program focuses on the critical first 1,000 days of a child’s life in which they are most vulnerable from malnutrition. InterAction estimates that for every dollar invested, $138 will be generated from improved health and increased productivity.

Policy & Advocacy: In addition, InterAction supports the policy and advocacy efforts of their partner NGOs by encouraging substantial US government investment in humanitarian aid. InterAction’s lobbyists and policy experts advocate for Budget and Appropriations, Foreign Assistance Reform, Development Policy and G8/G20. One such campaign, known as Not Just Numbers, seeks to counter the recent budget cuts to the State, Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill. The bill, which was recently unveiled in the House of Representatives, cuts Foreign Aid by 15% from 40.1% to only 34.1%. The social media campaign, which can be found at #NotJustNumbers, seeks to get the Senate foreign aid fund allocation higher than it has been proposed in the House.

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: InterAction

Bread For The World Institute

Finding up-to-date information on research concerning hunger, poverty, and agriculture can be a difficult task.  To make this easier, the Bread for the World Institute compiles all their research into easy-to-understand formats. Bread for the World Institute is the research arm of Bread for the World. The institute focuses on research in several key areas including U.S. hunger and poverty, trade and agriculture, the Millennium Development Goals, maternal and child nutrition, immigration, global hunger and poverty, foreign assistance to reduce poverty, and climate change and hunger.  The staff work on policy analysis focused on hunger and strategies to end it. They use their research to educate world leaders, policymakers, and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad.

Within each research area, working papers can be found highlighting current research and findings happening. In addition, the institute is committed to the idea that development assistance does indeed work. They have a section of seven short essays telling stories and providing facts relating to the results of effective development aid. The essays are available for use by anyone from activists to politicians to Sunday school teachers. The essays serve to help individuals get a better picture of the fight against global hunger and extreme poverty.

The Bread for the World Institute also has a blog that provides current updates on what is going on within the fight to end world hunger and extreme poverty. The blog breaks down some of the information into a more comprehensible format. The goal of the institute and the research is to help people become informed and take action in the fight.

The 2013 Hunger Report is also produced by the Bread for the World Institute. The Hunger Report looks at issues surrounding global hunger such as malnutrition and food insecurity. The 2013 edition calls for a final push towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  Overall, the Bread for the World Institute is an excellent resource for information and facts on global hunger and on the fight to end it.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source:Bread for the World Institute,Hunger Report

Social media has changed the landscape of fighting poverty, creating policy, and changing the world. While there are some negatives to the spread of social media, the United Nations has turned the power of social media into a tool to create the next global development agenda.  In a bold step, the United Nations is reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people around the world to use their voice to shape the next decade of anti-poverty goals.

The United Nations started the process by holding simultaneous conferences in around 100 countries and then added digital media and mobile phone technology to include as many more people as they could in the development of the global development goals. These goals will build on the millennium development goals and set up a new generation of goals ready to fight global poverty.

The web platform, World We Want 2015, allows people to log on and collaboratively create policy ideas and vote on development priorities. Check out the website and cast a vote here.  The website is working to create user-driven communities able to provide solutions to critical global challenges. With more mobile phones than toilets in the world, short message service (SMS) and interactive voice response (IVR) are being used to engage with the public.  It’s working too. In Uganda, the United Nations was able to capture the views of more than 17,000 young people in a survey about their development priorities.

To increase participation, the United Nations is holding workshops in areas like the Amazon where access to the Internet and mobile phone technology is very limited.  Almost half a million people have participated in the global conversation and three key issues have risen to the top of the priority list. Those are:

1. Accelerate the progress to achieve the MDGs by the end of 2015

2. Address sustainability, governance, and security from violence and jobs in future goals

3. Include more opportunities for people to participate in agenda-setting and progress monitoring

All the information gathered from the global conversation is being used to shape the future development agenda to be put in place in 2015.  This is an exciting development in global policy-making. People have the ability to voice their concerns and ideas to negotiators and decision makers directly. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: The Guardian

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times