Women’s Empowerment in ArgentinaWhile many challenges around the world exist concerning enhancing women’s empowerment and forging a path toward equality, the Argentinian government has been a proactive example. In 1991, Argentina became a pioneer country for women’s political participation. The country established a quota to ensure that 30 percent of all candidates standing for elections are women. Those who fought for the law initially commended the quantitative leap and hoped that it would promote qualitative changes in the future.

Across national and local governments, women face several obstacles to participating in political life. However, women’s leadership in government has been shown to benefit society at large.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has noted that supporting the participation of women in politics is essential for advancing issues of importance to women on national agendas, which in turn benefits both women and men. Ensuring that financial assets are in the hands of women not only promotes women’s economic participation, but also speeds up development, helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and improves children’s health and nutrition as well as school attendance. Additionally, keeping girls in school further empowers women’s status in society and politics. Properly addressing these issues has the potential to provide tangible benefits for everyone. With women participating in politics, these topics receive much-needed attention.

The United Nations recognized that quotas, such as the one in place in Argentina, could be a fast track to enhancing women’s representation. These legal quotas are binding for all political parties, and legal sanctions or penalties for non-compliance can be enforced. Unlike voluntary party quotas, sanctions upheld by the law are the most effective to reject political party lists that do not comply with the quota regulations. However, it is important to note that quotas come with limitations. The regulations must work with the already in place electoral system, or they will have little or no effect. Furthermore, these systems only provide women with a chance to stand for election, as they do not guarantee the election of women candidates.

While as of 2016, women held 35.8 percent of the elected seats in the national Lower House, Argentina ranked in sixth place among Latin American nations in terms of female participation in politics and 28th in the world. However, this ranking far surpasses the United Kingdom and the United States, ranked at 48th and 97th respectively.

Though female representation in the Argentinian government complies with the 1991 quota law meant to increase women’s empowerment in Argentina, many feel that the country has not made enough progress. A movement launched in part by Amnesty International Argentina, #MujeresALaPolítica (Women to Politics), has been pushing for a law to be approved by National Congress which would dictate that any ballot list for elected office must contain equal percentages of male and female candidates.

Using parity as a tool to ensure the fulfillment of women’s political rights enforces equality, autonomy and collaboration in decision-making processes. Increasing the number of women participating in politics can not only help further the women’s empowerment in Argentina, but it can send a powerful message to the rest of the world.

– Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr

How the Elimination of U.S. Special Envoys Impacts Foreign Relations

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, outlined his elimination of U.S. special envoys to reorganize and expand upon other positions. Many of these special envoy positions that are being eliminated are integral to global health initiatives. They include the U.S. Special Representative for International Labor Affairs and the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change. Further, senior representative and special coordinator positions for impoverished areas including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Burma and Syria are being eliminated.

Tillerson’s plan prioritizes other special envoy positions that reflect the current administration’s focus on topics including business and the War on Terror, and the reorganization plans to place a heavier emphasis on positions within the commercial and business affairs and anti-Islamic State military coalition.

In his statement, Tillerson noted that his choice of elimination of U.S. special envoys was based on whether or not the positions have “accomplished or outlived their original purpose.” In response, Column Lynch, diplomatic reporter to Foreign Policy, stated that Tillerson’s plan, “downplay[s] African peacemaking and outreach to the Muslim world.”

Special envoys are important positions to fill for the U.S. government to reach out and help global communities because the presence of U.S. representatives in underdeveloped countries contributes to development and growth. Lynch fears that many of the positions being eliminated by Tillerson are considered unimportant to the current administration.

However, special envoys exist to represent the U.S. government on issues like climate change, food insecurity and water resources around the world, which are issues that are critical and impact global health. The removal of special envoys in positions that aid such issues in underdeveloped countries impacts U.S. foreign relations in several different ways.

Namely, according to Ngaire Woods, Global Economic Governance professor at the University of Oxford, the health of a country is directly correlated to the functioning of its government. Thus,  a lack of special envoys and foreign assistance in underdeveloped countries, which may ultimately have negative impacts on health outcomes, has the potential to intensify political instability in such countries. Political instability is a large predictor as to whether or not a country poses a national security threat to the U.S.

On the other hand, many additional positions will remain intact by the current administration, and some will be expanded upon. The special envoy for the Office of Global Food Security will be moved to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tillerson stated, “I believe that the department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus,” and so, many positions will receive better funding and direction under specific entities that are reflective of each position’s respective values.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

US Ambassadors Fight Global Poverty
On August 19, 2017, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. wrote to President Donald Trump urging him to appoint a U.S. ambassador to India.

As of August 4, President Trump has only nominated 36 of the 77 ambassador posts he is authorized to fill. In an unprecedented move, Trump has not allowed any appointed officials from the Obama administration to reapply for their positions, opting instead to fill all the positions himself. Despite this decision, Trump is nominating ambassadors slowly compared to past administrations.

Rep. Pallone was motivated to write to President Trump after the president announced that the U.S. would increase troops in Afghanistan and put pressure on India and Pakistan to do the same. Pointing out that India is one of the U.S.’s strongest allies in south Asia, Rep. Pallone claimed that the appointment of an ambassador to India is “long overdue.”

U.S. ambassadors are the president’s highest-ranking representatives assigned to a foreign nation or organization. They reside and keep offices at embassies, which are centers for U.S. diplomatic affairs located in the capital of a given country. Ambassadors are strong leaders adept at negotiation. Most importantly, they promote peace and prosperity while helping to support U.S. interests abroad.

Even when U.S. ambassadors aren’t working on issues concerning global poverty, their efforts can help reduce global poverty indirectly. The more stable the political and social climate of a given country is, the more opportunity there is for local growth in the economy, agriculture, education, health and other sectors. In turn, stable countries with a diminishing poverty rate benefit the U.S. as they become more viable markets.

When Trump appoints ambassadors to India and the other 76 posts he has yet to fill, the ambassadors will surely reinforce the U.S.’s relationship with individual countries. However, the appointment of ambassadors is important on a global scale because it will demonstrate that the U.S. takes the well-being of diverse peoples seriously and means to thoroughly address political, economic and social disparity in different countries.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

How Are Presidents Impeached

Impeaching a president is one of the ultimate forms of checks and balances within the United States government. Article two, section four of the U.S. Constitution states the president can be impeached on conviction of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” This raises an important question: how are presidents impeached?

Impeachment can remove an unfit president from the highest office in the nation, with no chance for an appeal. The serious, multi-step process of impeachment  involves specific roles for each party involved.

How are presidents impeached?

  1. The House of Representatives brings impeachment charges. This process begins when representatives introduce impeachment resolutions just like they would with regular bills.
  2. The Committee on the Judiciary decides whether to pursue the impeachment. A special committee investigates if impeachment charges are needed based on the president’s actions. If a majority of the committee finds grounds with the impeachment, it reports back to the House.
  3. The House then votes to impeach. The House technically impeaches the president if an impeachment article gets a majority vote. If that happens, the House then appoints a team to oversee the following trial on its behalf. These so-called managers are usually members of the Judiciary Committee.
  4. The House gets the Senate involved. After the House decides to impeach, it adopts a resolution to tell the Senate of its decision. The Senate then adopts an order saying it is ready to hear from the managers.
    The managers will appear before the Senate bar to explain the impeachment articles against the president. The managers present back to the House afterward.
  5. The president is summoned. The constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try all impeachments. The Senate begins this by calling the president to appear in court on a chosen date to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the president or the president’s consul does not show up, the Senate assumes a not guilty plea. It then sets a trial date.
  6. The Senate holds trial. An impeachment trial is similar to a criminal trial. The House managers act as prosecutors, and the president has defense lawyers. Witnesses are subpoenaed to give testimony and answer questions, and evidence is presented.
  7. The senators take over the role of jurors, and the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the trial, sometimes ruling on procedural questions. If at least two-thirds of senators find the president guilty, he or she is formally convicted.
  8. The president is removed, and the vice president becomes president. When the Senate finds a president guilty, it can also vote on whether the president should be disqualified from holding office again. A majority vote decides this.

How are presidents impeached? The House of Representatives brings impeachment charges based on a president’s misconduct, and the Senate determines his or her fate.

Two presidents have been formally impeached, but neither of them were convicted or removed from office. President Andrew Johnson was impeached, but his conviction failed by one vote in the Senate. Bill Clinton was impeached, but the Senate found him not guilty. President Richard Nixon came close to being impeached. He had pending impeachment charges against him in the House, but he resigned before the process could start.

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Google

What do most developing countries have in common that most developed countries do not? Global poverty is a complex issue that involves many historical, regional and social factors. One important factor that most developing countries have in common is a history of agricultural dependence.

Some regions, like Latin America, are in prime geographical positions for growing important foods such as produce, sugar and cacao. Countries in these farming-friendly areas have historically been colonized and exploited by industrialized nations who are unable to grow these crops in their own countries. As a result of this historical process, many agricultural countries have been devastated by foreign influences in their countries and overzealous farming practices on their lands.

Agricultural countries are also challenged by their dependence on many factors beyond their control. Uncontrollable issues such as the environment disproportionately affect those whose livelihoods come from the natural world. The emphasis on producing certain crops for the rest of the world also limits these countries’ agency in the global market. When the international demand for a product such as sugar decreases, countries that focus on sugar production are helpless to find other sources to bolster their economies.

A focus on farming can also limit these nations’ abilities to develop infrastructure and diversify their economies. Agricultural work requires a lot of manpower but little education. In agricultural countries, the educational levels and human capital are not always sufficient to advance beyond the production of a few crops.

Understanding the answer to the question of what do most developing countries have in common can help these countries escape global poverty. Industrialized nations can help their agricultural counterparts through strategy and technology. For example, researchers in the United States can help farmers in Bangladesh by equipping them with the best irrigation practices, most cost-effective tools and highest yield crops.

Climate change is another important area that those in developed countries should focus on in order to help their developing counterparts. Addressing the impact of climate change is a priority for all, but farmers in poor countries feel its effects most strongly.

Foreign aid from wealthy nations is also an important way for developing countries to diversify beyond agriculture. With start-up funding from rich countries, more agricultural nations can follow in the footsteps of rapidly developing countries such as India and China.

Agricultural countries feed the world, yet many of them cannot meet their own people’s needs. Understanding the link between agriculture and poverty is important for dispelling myths about why certain countries prosper while others struggle. Realizing what most developing countries have in common is crucial to truly helping these populations emerge beyond the developing world.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr

Women in IranOn May 19th this year, Iranians held presidential and local elections in their country. This particular election saw an increase in registered women candidates, along with the number of elected women officials, bringing hope and giving voice to women in Iran at both the national and local level.

In some parts of the country, there was a 34 percent decrease in the number of women elected compared to 2013; however, although the number decreased in 16 provincial capitals, 3 remained the same, while 11, including Tehran, saw increases in women being elected to councils. Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province—an underdeveloped and impoverished area in the southeast of Iran with the highest percentage of illiterate girls and women in the country—saw a total of 415 women elected to office. In a village called Afzalabad located in the province’s Khash district, all of the 10 elected candidates were women.

Some of the concerns that women in Iran campaigned on included women’s civic engagement, citizens’ rights, employment, education, health and social security and welfare.

Recently, Iran’s newly reelected president Hassan Rouhani has been under pressure to appoint female ministers to his cabinet. During his last term, his all-male list of ministers disappointed his followers, even though he appointed a number of women to vice-president positions. Despite this, Shahindokht Molaverdi, Rouhani’s vice-president for women and family affairs, has won support among women’s rights advocates in Iran.

Ghonchech Ghavami, a leading women’s rights activist based out of Tehran, has said that “this structure has eliminated women on the excuse of meritocracy and experience but it looks like that main criteria for them is being male. That’s why appointing female ministers is symbolically important and would send a powerful signal in a country where politics still originates from men.”

One may find it surprising, though, that Iran as a whole has near-universal female literacy: women make up the majority (60 percent) of university students, as well as the majority of graduates earning degrees in science (68 percent). Furthermore, women in Iran are consistently outperforming their male counterparts.

Workplace biases in general are very much alive for women in Iran, and these biases often compel employers to hire male workers that are of identical or even lesser qualifications than their female counterparts. Although women in Iran have been as whole increasing their political participation within their government, they clearly still have a long way to go before achieving true gender equality.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr/span>

Human Rights in MalawHuman rights in Malawi have gone through periods of both exacerbation and improvement. The new constitution that was ratified in 1994 – which included a section specifically dedicated to human rights – guaranteed every individual’s right to life, right to be protected from genocide, entitlement to education and other basic rights. With the adoption of this constitution, multi-party democracy was introduced to the country’s government, which led many to expect noticeable improvement of human rights in Malawi.

Unfortunately, toward the end of the presidency of Bingu wa Mutharika, who died while in office in 2012, the situation worsened. As stated in the U.S. State Department’s 2010 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, numerous cases of the state’s violation of human rights were reported, such as: the security forces killing innocent individuals; torture, sexual abuse and other inhumane treatment of prisoners; and arbitrary arrest or detention.

Fortunately, inauguration of the new president Joyce Banda in April 2012 brought about positive changes to the country. While her attempt to overturn the law banning homosexuality turned out unsuccessful in the end, she did manage to repeal a section of Malawi’s penal code which banned all publication not to be deemed in the public interest. Moreover, she announced that she would arrest the infamous Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir – who was convicted of genocide – if he entered the Malawian territory. This helped her gain favor among international donors and improved Malawi’s international relations.

Although human rights in Malawi have improved, problems do still exist. For instance, since November 2014, people with albinism have faced an increased risk of being abducted or killed in murders associated with witchcraft. On March 9, 2017, four men attempted to drill through the house of Gilbert Daire, former president of the Association of the People with Albinism, while he was asleep. Highlighting the lack of protection and safety for people with albinism in Malawi, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, strongly suggested that the “Malawian authorities must end this cycle of impunity of perpetrators of these crimes.”

Minh Joo Yi

Photo: Flickr

Lake Victoria's Failing StateResponsible for over 35 million lives, Lake Victoria is a vital resource for the people of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. However, overfishing, pollution and mismanagement threaten its existence. The threat of Lake Victoria’s failing state is a danger to those who have built their livelihoods around it. Fortunately, there are multiple initiatives being implemented by humanitarian organizations to restore the lake and the people who live by it.

After coffee, Uganda’s second biggest export is fish. Lake Victoria gained international attention the 1980s when the native species of Nile perch and tilapia came into high demand. This fishing boom acted as an economic boost for fishermen, but it costs the lake severely.

Unfortunately, whilst the fishing boom was in full motion, the government’s environmental policies had yet to progress. Even when laws were implemented, they were scarcely enforced. Unregulated pollutants from agricultural run-off, sewage and industrial waste became a large contributor to Lake Victoria’s failing state.

With the pollution in the lake suffocating fish, desperate fishermen have resorted to practices that deplete the lake even more. Illegal fishing methods, such as using an insecticide as poison, have led to the destruction of breeding grounds. Fishermen use these techniques in order to catch more fish but add to Lake Victoria’s failing state.

While the average weight of a perch was 50 kilograms in 1980, it is now just 10 kilograms. Even more, about 300 smaller species have gone extinct. With the fishing industry in Lake Victoria producing about $640 million a year, it is vital to the 35 million who have built their livelihoods on the lake. However, it is being threatened by the environmental impact of pollutants.

Fortunately, there are many initiatives working to help both the fishermen and the lake. The World Bank started The Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project as an effort to both restore the lake’s environmental status and improve the lives of those who depend on it. One program this project is working on is providing income to fishermen through fish farms to alleviate the pressure on Lake Victoria.

This crisis occurring in Lake Victoria can still be solved. Until fishermen are educated on their impact on the lake and practices becomes more regulated, the problem will continue to grow.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Pixabay

Operation Good NeighborUnder the cover of darkness, Syrian children and their adult chaperones cross the border into Israel. They are greeted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but not with guns or bombs. They are greeted with medical care and food. This is Operation Good Neighbor.

The beginnings of this aid project started in 2013, when injured Syrians arrived at the Israeli border. The government made the decision to give them treatment. Since then, 4,000 Syrians have been treated. Operation Good Neighbor, started in 2016, expands this humanitarian initiative to a larger scale. The IDF serves around 200,000 Syrian residents who live in southwestern Syria. These Syrians are close to the Syrian-Israeli border, along the Golan Heights. One-third of them are displaced refugees and half of them are children. They all have been devastated by the Syrian civil war.

The IDF not only gives out medical care, it has begun supplying other necessities as well. The list is expansive and includes medicines like painkillers, anesthetics and insulin, 450,000 liters of fuel for heating, baking and energy for water wells, generators, water pipes, equipment for schools, 12,000 containers of baby formula, 1,800 diaper packages, 12 tons of shoes and 55 tons of clothing for cold weather.

In a statement, the IDF explained its two reasons for helping Syria. The first was the obvious “moral imperative.” The second was more nuanced. It contended that “the aid will ultimately create a less hostile environment across the border.” This security would “lead to improved Israeli security.” These two reasons are both compelling arguments for providing aid to Syria.

Operation Good Neighbor becomes more incredible after considering the historical Israeli-Syrian animosity. Currently, Syria and Israel are technically in a state of war. Syrians have historically been taught to resent Israel and vice-versa. But citizens on the ground in Israel and Syria have found ways to look past their history of enmity. In fact, Israeli citizens have been pressuring Israel’s government to give more aid to Syria for years.

Syrian victims bear striking resemblance to Jews displaced by tyrannical regimes throughout history. Gadi Eizenkot of the IDF puts it best: “I think this [Operation Good Neighbor] is our basic obligation as neighbors and as Jews.”

Being a good neighbor means watching out for everyone around you, even if they don’t look like you. It means treating others how you would like to be treated. It means reaching out, with a helping hand, when someone close to you is hurting. With this in mind, it becomes clear that Operation Good Neighbor is aptly named and that the work that it’s doing is indispensable.

Adesuwa Agbonile
Photo: Flickr

Why the EPA Budget Is ImportantPoverty and the environment are often treated as separate problems, each with their own set of issues and potential legislative solutions. These issues are actually intrinsically linked, however, as the work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demonstrates.

The agency’s mission is to ensure access to clean water and air for underprivileged Americans. This extends abroad, where the EPA promotes sustainable development. As a result, it contributes to poverty alleviation efforts around the globe. These projects include assisting with urban air quality management in India, and advising the International Water Association in East Africa to improve access to safe drinking sources.

In 2017, the EPA is experiencing a particularly severe series of budget cuts and limitations as a result of the new administration’s policy toward it. Newly-appointed administrator Scott Pruitt is a long-time fossil fuel industry ally, and the agency is expected to see 30 percent of its budget cut – around $2.6 billion.

Many of the programs the agency has expanded in recent years emphasize why the EPA budget is important in the fight against global poverty. The Border 2020 Program combined domestic environmental protection with poverty alleviation on the U.S.-Mexico border. The initiative was able to provide clean air and water to poverty-stricken communities on both sides of the border; however, it is now slated to be dismantled under the EPA’s new budget. Ongoing projects such as a wastewater infrastructure system would therefore have to be stopped.

Many of the most pressing problems facing the world’s poor population stem from the environmental degradation the EPA seeks to inhibit. Rising temperatures are linked to more frequent droughts in Guatemala and Ethiopia. Erratic rainfall causes floods, and changes in crop conditioning make food shortages more likely. Research suggests that recent strides made in poverty reduction could be undone by inaction regarding climate change. To avoid this, the EPA’s budget needs to be preserved.

Congress has the capability to prevent these potentially devastating EPA cuts. Members of the House Appropriations Committee, both Democrats and Republicans among them, have already spoken out in support of the current EPA funding level. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, commented that Pruitt would be the first EPA administrator who “has come before this committee in many years who actually gets more [money] than he asks for.”

Congress clearly recognizes why the EPA budget is important in the fight against global poverty. By preserving it, Congress can ensure the EPA’s work can continue contributing to global poverty alleviation efforts, which will ultimately help prevent environmental degradation in the process.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr