Poverty in Somalia
Twenty years of conflict have led to conditions of abject poverty in Somalia, with the destruction of infrastructure, economy and institutions.

In 1991, the government collapsed, leaving the country fragmented. Even with the establishment of a new government, conflict continues in Southern Somalia, leaving the country in the midst of poverty, famine and recurring violence.

Due to independent governing bodies, two areas, Somaliland and Puntland, experience more stability with regard to socioeconomic conditions.

Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the 2012 Human Development Index putting it among the five least-developed of 170 countries. The poverty rate is currently 73 percent. Seventy percent of the population in Somalia is under the age of 30 and the life expectancy is as low as 55 percent. Unemployment among youth is widespread, as 67 percent of youth are unemployed.

Development is low due to the challenges posed by Somalia’s humanitarian situation and the high level of insecurity, which is another factor contributing to poverty in Somalia. The region is home to more than one million refugees, many of whom are living in conditions of abject poverty. Food prices went up by 300 percent, making it hard for most of the population to buy food. Food insecurity has affected more than two million people. One in eight children under the age of five suffers from malnutrition. Only 42 percent of children go to school. Livestock management is the main source of livelihood.

Poverty in Somalia and Child Mortality

In Somalia, 857,000 people require assistance. In 2014, Somalia was at the bottom of global health rankings in terms of maternal health, child mortality, education and women’s income and political status.

Poverty in Somalia is rooted in civil conflict and limited resources, natural disasters and lack of an active central government. The conflict has emerged between clans for the two basic resources: food and water. The situation has come to political power; whoever is able to claim leadership of a clan can have a share of the limited resources and political power.

Poverty in Somalia has intensified and there exists no easy answer to ending the spiral of conflict and insecurity, which are the roots of the poverty.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

The U.S. refugee vetting process is long and challenging. The vetting process refers to the steps a refugee follows after fleeing from his or her home country and resettling in the United States.

The process begins when a refugee flees his or her home country. Refugees flee their country of origin for various reasons.

After fleeing, a refugee usually registers with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR verifies that under international law, this particular person qualifies for refugee status.

Next, the UNHCR refers the individual to a U.S. Embassy with a Refugee Processing Post. The Department of State then steps in. Many different security checks take place through different federal security agencies. A refugee undergoes more screening than any other type of traveler coming into the country.

The Department of State also has a Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration that partners with different agencies. One of the agencies that the bureau partners with will create a document called an Overseas Processing Entity. This document is given to an officer within the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The officer then interviews the refugee to determine whether or not the person legally qualifies as a refugee and can be admitted for resettlement within the U.S.

Once it is determined whether or not the individual qualifies as a refugee under U.S. law, the case returns to the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration for the final stage of approval. The refugee’s information is then forwarded to the Refugee Processing Center.

The Refugee Processing Center requests “sponsorship assurance” from one of the many refugee resettlement agencies across the country. While these last steps of the U.S. refugee vetting process take place, the refugee will be given a medical exam. He or she also receives a cultural orientation to life in the United States. Upon medical clearance,the International Organization for Migration will book a flight for the refugee.

The refugee will be met at the airport upon arrival in the United States. Now, everything becomes the responsibility of refugee resettlement agencies. A resettlement agency will have already arranged accommodation for the refugee. A staff member of a local resettlement agency will meet the refugee at the airport and take them to the accommodations. Once in the United States, refugees can take classes to learn English and find work.

The U.S. refugee vetting process is slow. Depending on the situation, the process can take anywhere between a year and a half to two years. In 2016, however, 84,995 refugees were resettled in the United States. The vetting process may be long and complicated, but the ability to resettle in the United States has changed the lives of thousands.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

With growing anticipation for the 2018 political midterms, Crowdpac is on a mission to bring politics back to individuals and to assist with their fundraising campaigns.

Crowdpac provides direct access to politician information, simplifying the campaign process for newcomers and connecting people to candidates who are representing their political standpoints. The CEO, Steve Hilton, believes that money supports a majority of the current issues within politics. Large cash donations continually prove to be a vital component in winning an election. “You’ve got to raise money to do your campaign,” Hilton states. “And typically, that forces you to do things and say things and take positions that are not actually what you believe.”

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, 99.31 percent of the source funds for Bernie Sanders’ campaign (229 million dollars) were funded by individual contributions. In comparison, President Trump raised 132.2 million dollars from individual contributions.

Fundraising proves to be effective and critical to the success of a campaign, even in “small amounts at the state level.” A Utah resident, Dr. Kathryn Allen, has gained over half a million dollars for the Utah 2018 primaries. Through Crowdpac, people can find easily access her fundraising profile and can endorse her campaign.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger created a fundraising profile titled, “This is our chance to make gerrymandering unconstitutional” on the organization’s website. The former California Governor has partnered with Common Cause, a nonprofit organization working to create an “accountable government that serves the public interest”.

The fundraising profile includes Schwarzenegger’s reason behind his endeavor; the Wisconsin Republican Party plans to appeal a federal order, redrawing the state’s legislative districts. In November, a federal court ruled that Wisconsin’s districts give Republicans a continual advantage in state elections and must be redrawn.

“They’ve appealed the ruling to the Supreme court,” Schwarzenegger states, “and you can bet they’ll be well financed.”

The bipartisan, fundraising goal is to make gerrymandering unconstitutional and to bring politics back to people who want legitimate candidates representing their political standpoints. The campaign has already received 902 endorsements, 584 donations, and has raised 23,194 dollars. Shwarzenegger has also pledged to match all donations.

Crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and Crowdpac allow people to raise money for the campaigns, representatives and political beliefs they support. America’s political system is founded on the principles of a representative democracy. Legitimate representatives are vital to providing accurate opinions of voting citizens.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Although each shift in U.S. Presidential administrations inspires increases in civic participation by citizens, President Trump’s election in 2016 may prove to be one of the most inspirational of all. For the average citizen with no history of political advocacy, determining how and where to start can feel overwhelming, but knowing how to attend town hall meetings is as easy as following this step-by-step guide.

  1. Identify your political representatives. Your Congressional representatives comprise two Senators and one Representative. To find them, visit and plug your zip code into the box under step one to go straight to the Congressional directory.
  2. Find the next town hall meeting near you. From the directory, you can visit each Congressperson’s official website. Once there, look for a link labeled “Events,” “Meet your representative” or something similar. If you cannot find anything specific, scan the page for a “Contact Us” link and call or email the Congressperson’s staff for information on the next town hall meeting happening near you. Other third-party organizations such as Town Hall Project have streamlined many of these steps to make it even easier to determine how to attend town hall meetings.
  3. Prepare for the meeting. This step is vital to getting your point across and being taken seriously. Research your topic as well as your Congressperson, and be prepared to make an “elevator pitch” about your feelings on the issue. Your opinion is important, but to your Congressional representatives, your well-informed opinion that takes their position into account is unforgettable.
  4. Tell your personal story. Town hall meetings offer the chance to connect with your Congressperson in a human, immediate way. Explaining why you feel passionate about an issue because of its direct effects on you, your friends, or your family is a surefire way to make an impact.
  5. Be polite. There is a fine line between an impassioned plea and a Twitter-worthy rant. Rudeness, insults, or reminding your Congressperson that your tax dollars pay their salary will only damage your credibility and sever the lines of communication.
  6. Talk to the staffers. Staffers will always accompany members of Congress in meetings as part of their administrative duties. Take the time to seek them out. Introduce yourself by asking for their business card and explaining briefly why you chose to attend. Even if you do not get an opportunity to speak directly with your representative because of time constraints or a large volume of participants, talking to the staff can get your voice heard by your representative.
  7. Bring your friends. There is strength in numbers. Bringing a group of friends to the meeting will not only ease any anxiety you may feel, it will provide a visual demonstration to your representatives of how many other voters support your stance on an issue.
  8. Follow up afterward. Send additional emails and make follow-up phone calls to your Congressional representatives’ offices and state that you were in attendance at the recent town hall meeting. Better yet, put the next meeting on your calendar and repeat the whole process. This lets your Congressperson know you mean business, and you will continue to show up until your issue is resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner.

Using this guide to know how to attend town hall meetings will put you in a centuries-long tradition of civic involvement.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

Political life for women in Morocco has long been suppressed because of law and a very conservative culture. Recently, aspects of the nation have changed for the better. After King Mohammed VI’s revisions in the Moroccan Family Code, women were allotted a larger voice.

In 2011, the Moroccan Arab Spring focused on women’s rights and issues. This movement promoted a new voice for women in Morocco.

The percentage of women holding parliamentary seats was only 1 percent in 2001, but since then, the progression of a quota for women’s parliamentary seats was first changed to a minimum of 12 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2010. Currently, 30 percent of women in Morocco are holding parliamentary seats.

In 2012, Nabila Mounib became the first woman ever to be elected to a major political party. She led the United Socialist Party, which is a secular and socialist party.

Mounib is also a professor at the University of Hassan II, in Casablanca. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mounib talked about the future of her party, “Our focus will be to push for a system where people’s rights are respected. We are also pushing for the release of political prisoners and for gender equality.”

NGO’s have heavily impacted political life for women in Morocco over the past ten years. Groups like Mouvement pour la Democratie Paritaire, which is partnered with the British Government, uses the British Arab partnership fund to advocate for women’s representation within government. The group meets with parliamentary groups within the Moroccan government.

Other groups, such as the International Republican Institution, help to give a voice to groups of women in Morocco who are often overlooked. The group sets up workshops for women candidates in rural areas.

Rural areas in Morocco are known for having low rates of unemployment, education, and literacy for women. The International Republican Institution aids political life for women in Morocco by providing women with the knowledge they need to become active in government. When they learn how to campaign, women are able to mobilize what they have learned and can teach other women, creating a bigger voice for themselves.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

When the founding fathers of the United States sought independence from the British Empire, they were determined to create a government based on representation. Many settlers in the new world were not happy being taxed by a government in which they did not have a voice. The desire for a fair democracy that represented the interests of its citizens was manifested in the House of Representatives. The process for how members of the House of Representatives are elected was first laid out in the Constitution, but the process has evolved over time.

The legislative branch was first defined in Article I of the United States Constitution. It is comprised of two chambers, the upper chamber (the Senate) and the lower chamber (the House of Representatives). Article I Section II clarified that members of the house are to represent the interests of the people. Representatives do not have to be residents of the districts they seek to represent, but they are required to be residents of that district’s state. This rule was created to ensure that representatives worked in the interest of the state’s voters.

At the time of the Constitution’s inception, only a few states were part of the union. As states were admitted, the number of representatives was adjusted to ensure equal representation. The House would use the census every 10 years to determine or adjust representative districts. In 1929, the Permanent Apportion Act capped the number of house seats at 435, the same as the number of representatives at the time. This act sought to keep the House of Representatives from growing to an unmanageable number.

Members of the house each serve two-year terms, as opposed to the six-year terms of senators. While the Senate is split into three classes, with one class up for election every two years, the entire House of Representatives is up for election every two years.

Term length aside, the process for electing members of the House of Representatives follows the standard for presidential and senate elections. Party primaries are held first to determine who the individual political parties nominate as their candidate for the seat. The primary is the widest field of candidates for voters. Once parties choose their candidates, a general election is held in November of even calendar years. Whoever receives the popular vote within the specific house district is the declared winner of that House Seat. Since there are no specified term limits for any member in the House of Representatives, it is possible for a representative to hold their seat for the remainder of his or her life.

Jeffery Silvey

Photo: Flickr

Guinea-Bissau is a country in West Africa with an estimated population of 1.8 million. The country gained independence from Portugal in 1974 and has since been marred by high levels of political unrest with repeated changes in government. No elected president in the country’s history has successfully served a full five-year term. The political instability and poverty in Guinea-Bissau has resulted in a lack of development throughout the country.

Guinea-Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita of 1,568 dollars. The country’s economy is highly reliant on subsistence farming, foreign assistance and the export of cashew nuts. International aid to the country has been suspended on several occasions due to concern over governance and the rule of law. Guinea-Bissau has become a way station for drugs bound for Europe due to lack of strong governance, poor economy and its geographical location. There are fears that Guinea-Bissau is becoming the first narco-state in Africa.

Guinea-Bissau has a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.42, which puts the country in the low human development category, ranking 178 out of 188 countries. Life expectancy in the country has increased somewhat but is still around 55 years. The adult literacy rate is 56%. In addition, the average number of years that people go to school in Guinea is only 2.8 years. Nearly 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.

A major contributing factor to poverty in Guinea-Bissau is the fact that almost 85% of the population depends on agriculture as the main source of income. This is not a stable form of income due to several factors, such as political instability, irregular rainfall and volatile prices of imports and exports. As a result, 11% of households in Guinea-Bissau are classified as food insecure and in some regions, this figure is as high as 51%.

While Guinea-Bissau has one of the slowest growing economies in Africa, there is potential for growth in several untapped sectors. This includes adding value to raw exports like cashew nuts and timber, as well as exploring untapped mineral deposits of bauxite and phosphates.

However, effectively addressing poverty in Guinea-Bissau and reaching sustainable economic growth will require long-term political stability.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

How to Remove a U.S. President from Office
The American government provides avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These are the three primary reasons: criminal activity, inability to perform presidential duties and lack of party and public popularity.

Criminal Activity

One way to remove a U.S. president from office is through impeachment and consecutive conviction. This method is intended to be implemented should the president commit a crime. The president has the same rights of due process as any other legal defendant, and therefore must be indicted of an actual crime, which involves violating a law that was passed prior to him committing the crime.

The impeachment process requires agreement between both legislative bodies. The House of Representatives requires a simple majority, more than 50% of the vote, to impeach. The Senate requires a two-thirds majority.

Congress has impeached two presidents in the nation’s history. Congress impeached the 17th president, Andrew Johnson, after he replaced Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton with General Ulysses S. Grant because this violated the Tenure of Office Act.

Congress impeached the 42nd president Bill Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice following Clinton’s testimony of his extramarital affair during a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Arkansas state employee Paula Jones.

Congress did not convict Johnson nor Clinton, however, and they remained in office.

Inability to Perform Presidential Duties

Another enumerated power which facilitates the removal of a U.S. president is the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment allows the president to voluntarily step aside if he feels he may be physically or emotionally unable to perform presidential duties.

The amendment states the president’s cabinet may transfer the powers of the president to the vice president as determined by a majority vote. If the president challenges this decision, Congress determines whether to restore the president to power. In the absence of a two-thirds vote in both houses, the president returns to power. Congress has never fully implemented this method of removal.

This provision of the 25th Amendment, implemented as a safeguard should the president become unable to fulfill his duties, works as a contingency if the president becomes incapacitated or unable to resign. This provision also applies if the president is captured or kidnapped and unable to act or if concerns arise that the president may not be mentally able to continue his term.

Lack of Party and Public Popularity

Last but not least, the president could be denied a second term in one of two ways: by the president’s own party, should it choose to nominate someone else in the next presidential election, or by voters who contribute to the president’s loss in the next election.

Since World War II, three U.S. presidents have lost the election for their second term: presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush.

The government provides multiple avenues on how to remove a U.S. president from office. These account for the variety of circumstances which may warrant a removal.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Democratic Nations

In nations such as the United States, the concept of democracy is sacred as something that has existed for centuries and must be protected. But for many nations around the globe, democracy is a relatively new development. Here are five of some of the youngest democratic nations in the world:

  1. Bhutan
    Once an absolute monarchy in the Himalayan mountains, Bhutan transitioned into a democratic nation in 2008 when its people voted for the first time on the members of its new parliament. Since then, the country has become a constitutional monarchy, with Tshering Tobgay as its current prime minister.
  2. Guinea
    Guinea endured decades of dictatorship before becoming a democratic nation. In 2010, Guinea followed in fellow West African nation Nigeria’s footsteps and had its first democratic election, won by Alpha Conde.
  3. Tunisia
    Democracy has had a tough time taking root in the Middle East, but Tunisia braved the transition in 2011 when the populace successfully rose up and unseated the dictatorship that was in place. Though off to a rocky start, Tunisians are poised to fight for democracy in their nation in the upcoming years.
  4. Myanmar
    After 50 years of military rule, the Burmese junta made way for a new civilian government in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2016 that citizens were able to vote for their first civilian president, Htin Kyaw.
  5. Burkina Faso
    The citizens of Burkina Faso didn’t have their first free and fair elections until November of 2015, making Burkina Faso among the youngest democratic nations in the world.

It’s easy for citizens of the United States to take democracy for granted, especially since it has been a central tenet of American life since the nation’s birth in the late 18th century. But for young democratic nations such as Burkina Faso and Tunisia, democracy is not a birthright, and the fight for it is far from over.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

United Nations and Global Poverty Reduction

In July 2016, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) was convened at the U.N. headquarters in New York.  The purpose of this summit was to discuss voluntary national reviews (VNRs) conducted by 22 different countries. These reviews detailed the process states made in implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.  Most importantly highlighting challenges, successes and recommendations for the future.

The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs published an overview of the VNRs on Jan. 24, to reopen the conversation on effective implementation of the SDGs.

Five challenges to the implementation of the SDGs:

  1. Raising awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals amongst city planners, private contractors, and policy specialists.
  2. Coordination between government agencies to monitor, evaluate and report on SDG benchmarks and overall progress, to increase public awareness and personal investment in progress.
  3. Inefficient data processing, collection and registry systems impeded abilities to correctly inform policymakers and stakeholders.
  4. Lack of access to technology, trade and financing was a major inhibitor to implementing the SDGs.
  5. Increasing effectiveness of international assistance. Find out why 70% of World Bank projects fail, increase local investment in development projects to ensure that they are used and maintained.

Five successes that came out of the VNR reports:

  1. Many countries, like Egypt, Philippines, Sierra Leone and Uganda, were able to update their existing development plans so that they were in line with the SDGs.
  2. Countries were able to focus on specific goals that were in their urgent national interest. Venezuela focused on increasing access to education, while France, Germany and Switzerland focused on securing housing for all.
  3. By creating their own reports, all stakeholders became more invested in the successes and failures of the development process.
  4. The VNRs gave countries the opportunity to raise awareness for the SDGs across multiple sectors, bringing together communities and allowing more diverse input and engagement.
  5. Above all, the first round of reviews helped to set a foundation for SDG funding.  Egypt, Madagascar, Mexico, Norway and many others were able to expand on public-private partnerships, as well as reform the tax code to create a business-friendly environment to boost local economies.

The HLPF is getting ready for its 2017 session from July 11 to 21, which will focus on “eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” Forty countries have committed to present VNRs this year. The goal of the conference is to share successes as well as failures to collectively learn, spread solutions and save others from avoidable mistakes.

– Josh Ward
Photo: Wikimedia Commons