There is an inextricable link between the commodity dependence of developing countries and their susceptibility to poverty. The tie to poverty in nations that heavily rely on one or two products to boost their export revenue may be closer than current research demonstrates. This phenomenon, which will hereafter be referred to as “one product poverty,” needs additional study.

The extreme reliance on select commodities is especially harmful at the household level. This is in large part due to price volatility. Price volatility refers to fluctuations in worth resulting from unanticipated supply and demand that is reflected in a commodity’s price. In recent years, commodity price volatility has increased as a partial consequence of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Some of the effects of price volatility must be taken as a given. In a free market, supply and demand are the driving mechanisms that affect commodity prices. However, price volatility is especially harmful to one product countries. It creates barriers in economic markets and discourages entrepreneurship by heightening the risk of investment. Commodity dependency and price volatility, then, are a recipe for one product poverty.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s 2014 State of Commodity Dependence report shows that high commodity dependence is concentrated in impoverished regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, for instance, have the highest percentage of commodity exports in relation to gross domestic product (GDP). Some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Mozambique, have some of the highest percentages of commodity exports as a percentage of GDP.

The instinctual solution to one product poverty is variance in commodities. In other words, developing countries should strive to increase their revenue-making operations from one commodity to two and then three. These countries should stay away from over-specialization.

By doing so, developing countries can lessen the vulnerability of their commodities to fluctuating markets, which would benefit their economies and encourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship. Households can then take a final step out of poverty as self-sustaining business owners.

The role of developed countries in this equation is to encourage sustainable development. Policies that promote the broader production of commodities, stabilize prices and increase exports must be considered as solutions for one product poverty.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

The Resource Curse?
A strange correlation between natural resource-rich countries and human rights abuses has emerged over the past decade.

In 2001, Michael Ross discovered that the majority of states who are high oil-exporters also employ undemocratic policies.

An oil-rich state is classified by dividing total oil exports and by the total population of the country. To be considered a long-term oil-rich state, a country must produce over $100 per citizen for two-thirds of its sovereign years.

Ross found that oil-exporting states enjoy the “rentier effect”, which allows authoritarian regimes to use the revenue collected from oil sales to levy lower taxes. Consequently, the reduced taxes enable regimes to operate without accountability to its people.

The resource curse also has other negative consequences. According to Oil Change International, oil states employ a “repression effect”, which is the violation of human rights through the appropriation of land, forced migration and brutality on its citizens.

An example in which the resource caused human rights abuses in Nigeria. During the mid-1990s Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were executed for their roles in a successful campaign to remove Shell from the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Burma in the late 1990s also was a victim of the resource curse. The Burmese army and Unocal corporation were caught “clearing routes for the pipelines, including forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder”. In 2005, Unocal offered conciliatory compensations to local villagers in lieu of a lawsuit engendered by Earthright International and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Beyond authoritarian rule and the oppression of its people, the resource curse is linked to internal conflict. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) found that over the past 26 years, oil-rich states have been twice as likely to experience civil war compared to their non-oil-rich counterparts, using the example of oil-rich states the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Niger Delta, Iraq, Libya and Angola.

Similarly, the NRGI coined the term “petro-aggression” to define oil-rich states’ heightened likelihood to engage in an inter-state conflict such as Iraq’s invasion of Iran and Kuwait.

The resource curse also bears a direct relationship with the restriction of gender parity. Research has demonstrated that oil-rich states have fewer women in the workforce and government. Additionally, oil-rich states often have higher rates of HIV/AIDS, a consequence of the influx of male mine workers that travel from one oil-rich country to another.

An indirect consequence of the resource curse is the Dutch disease, which is the process of eliminating all non-oil industries. Consequently, states are dependent on a volatile market, undermining the stability of their economies.

The resource curse has incontrovertible and severe consequences. It is incumbent on democratic leaders to encourage good governance and strict adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, democratic states must continue to encourage the diversification of oil economies through foreign assistance.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

ForestsOn March 21 of every year, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Forests.

Forests play a key role in maintaining the water resources and overall equilibrium on Earth. The following are seven important facts about forests as stated by the FAO:

1. Wetlands and streams running through forests supply 75 percent of the human population’s fresh water.

2. About one-third of the world’s largest cities rely on forested areas for their drinking water.

3. Almost 80 percent of the global population is living in area that is threatened by water security.

4. Forests act as water filters, trapping pollutants and reducing sediment in rivers and wetlands.

5. Trees are very important in the climate change arena. Not only do they have a cooling effect on the environment but they also regulate water flow and influence the availability of water resources.

6. Unless conservation strategies are enacted, by 2030, the world will see a 40 percent deficit in water resources.

7. Forests have a vital role in reducing natural disasters such as landslides and avalanches, as well as in strengthening resistance to erosion.

People living in poverty often lack access to clean drinking water sources. They also tend to be the hardest hit by natural disasters such as severe storms and floods. While trees can help keep drinking water sources clean and mitigate the effects of natural disasters, illegal logging is a fact of life in many parts of the world.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “illegal logging accounts for 50 to 90 percent of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those of the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15 to 30 percent of all wood traded globally.”

In an article on the WWF website, the organization says that increased demand for forests products has brought some financial benefits for poor people living in or near forests. “But there is also evidence to show that usually, poor communities who are completely dependent on forests lose out to powerful interests, logging companies and migrant workers who reap most of the benefits.”

Often poor communities that are dependent upon forests for harvesting wood for fuel for cooking, heating and occasionally for selling lumber lose all control of the forest when powerful outsiders come in and strip the land for the lumber or for agricultural interests.

To combat illegal logging and drive improvements in the forest products sector, the WWF created the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) to help keep track of where wood products come from. It was created in 1999 and now works with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Governments that maintain control of large areas of forests can take advantage of this vital resource by managing forests sustainably, selling the lumber and taxing the products. If governments do not exact control over their forests, Marianne Fernagut writes in GRID-Arendal Publications that the “loss of revenues as a result of illegal logging can cost governments and economies millions of dollars each year.”

In countries where a fair tax system has been put in place, the resources can be used for schools, or other infrastructure. For example, in Bolivia 25 percent of monies made from forest resources is kept by the government.

In another article in GRID-Arendal by David Huberman and Leo Peskett, the authors posit a mostly theoretical framework called ‘Reduce Emissions for Deforestation and Degradation’ (REDD), in which developing countries can be paid to keep their land forested. “Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regime, substantial amounts of money could be transferred to developing countries: some estimates suggest more than USD 15 billion per year would be available, a figure which dwarfs existing aid flows to the world’s forest regions.”

Rhonda Marrone

Sources: FAO, Panda 1, Panda 2, Grida 1, Grida 2
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Zimbabwe seems like a fact of life. However, Zimbabwe used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems.  Between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.  Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas.  This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.  As such, food shortages  in the country are rising.  HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.  Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production.  But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.  Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.  Nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.  Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region.  Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

– Martin Drake

Source: Rural Poverty Project, World Bank
Photo: Action Aid

A proper education is often regarded as the gateway to success and esteem, particularly for impoverished students who lack close social connections with esteemed individuals or a family legacy of wealth to fall back on. However, achieving a proper education necessitates educational facilities to provide adequate funding and a successful allocation of resources to students. Oftentimes, the communities that need adequate educational institutions the most are the very same communities that are most deficient in them.

As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the United States’ Department of Education has allocated a total budget of $24.8 billion for the 2013-2014 school year, approximately 5.7 percent of its GNP. However, accounting for pensions and service costs, the actual operating budget is $19.8 billion. The operating budget must pay for standardized tests, transportation, safety, school meals, supplies, and school utilities, just to name a few conditions necessary to maintain an educational institution.

On the other hand, Kenya allocated approximately 6.7 percent of its GNP on education in 2010. Although this percentage ranks higher than the percentage of GNP that the U.S. puts forth towards education, Kenya still retains a lower GNP and thus provides less overall educational funds. This inadequacy in resources has significant implications on the number of Kenyans who are able to achieve an adequate education.

For instance, in the U.S., roughly 75 percent of the population, the highest percentage within the last four decades, graduates from high school. In contrast, a whopping 60 percent of residents are unable to attend secondary school, perpetuating the cycle of illiteracy and reliance. Although the dropout rate is high for all Kenyans, it disproportionately affects young girls who are trapped into early marriages and motherhood. Oftentimes, Kenyan children are unable to pay school tuition, which includes covering the cost of supplies and uniforms, and are forced to stay home to support their family.

Furthermore, in Kenya, the majority of educational funds, approximately 80 percent are given towards tertiary education, which typically only individuals from more-advantaged backgrounds are able to achieve in the first place. There is great speculation that the Kenyan education system may be improved by shifting the allocation of funds towards lower-tier education enabling less advantaged students to obtain an adequate education and break through poverty. Unless resources are not only expanded but also allocated properly, this discrepancy in educational achievement will continue to exist not only in Kenya but worldwide.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: NYC Department of Education, Global Education Fund, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Nation Master
Photo: Vintage 3D

We currently stand with a global population of around 7.2 billion people and that number is expected to rise over the next few decades. A United Nations agency has recently projected a world population growth of 9.6 billion people by 2050 and a continuation of this trend through 2100 with a projected population growth of 10.9 billion.

We can expect to see most of this growth in the developing world and will continue to see countries like China and India providing impressive growth figures. We will also see new countries emerge globally with significant populations. Nigeria is expected to surpass the United States by 2050, and could even compete with India and China in terms of population.

These numbers have implications for our global economy and for many issues of development and conflict.

Population demographics can impact the futures of nations and the trends of growth shape our shared economy in this age of post-globalization. A successful and thriving population is a healthy one with stable growth. Growth can mean more business activity and therefore more tax revenue. Conversely, if a growing population’s needs like social services and infrastructure cannot be met, population growth can lead to economic decline and political instability.

The vast majority of growth, both current and projected, is happening in Africa. World population growth is mostly happening in developing countries. When looking at the figures, nearly all of the states whose populations are growing at a rate of 2 percent per year or more are in Africa, with the majority of those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Similarly there has been high growth in countries in the Middle East. Populations on both continents have high fertility rates. Women in Africa are averaging more than five children per family. Additionally, recent improvements in health standards and development have led to higher life expectancy. Over the past few decades in Africa, there has been a significant decline in conflicts and wars, leading to more security and a better quality of life.

In addition to the growth in numbers in the developing world, there has been a decline in other populations globally. Europe has incredibly low figures of fertility, along with Japan, and has seen a decline in growth for decades. There has been a similar decline in Asian countries, which have been reporting slowing growth as well.

The truth to these projected figures and the actual world population growth we will experience lie in factors like development and government stability. So long as populations continue to grow, they will have needs as a society to be provided for and will require a stable government to administer to these needs.

The world population doubled from 1960 to 2000, and unless governments can more effectively implement policy that can keep food production and services at pace with growth, the results could be extreme and damaging. When burgeoning populations experience food insecurity and vulnerability, the cost can not only be measured by military budgets during war and food programs during famine but by government collapse and the loss of human life.

Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: Washington Post, Scientific American
Photo: Robert Filip

Make a Difference
The world is a big place filled with billions of people. It can be easy to think that one person couldn’t possibly do enough to change the world. When the weight of global issues simply feels too huge for one person to handle, we have to remember that we do have power to make a difference, even if it starts on a small scale. Below are ten things you can do that may not change the whole world, but will change someone else’s world.


Simple Steps to Make a Difference


1. Smile: Who knew that a smile could go so far? Being friendly to others is a great way to brighten up someone else’s day. Whether it’s at the store, work, or simply walking along the street, a nice gesture like a smile could go a long way for someone having a bad day.

2. Do Some Volunteer Work: Volunteering is an amazing experience that gets us out of our daily routines and allows us to turn our efforts outwards. Go out and help feed the homeless, volunteer at local events – even picking up trash in your city is a great way to give back to the community!

3. Sponsor a Child: There are tons of organizations looking for people to sponsor children in need in countries around the world. These organizations are literally only a click away, and don’t take much time to sign up for. It is a small price to pay to make an incredible difference in a child’s life.

4. Invest and Listen: Society has become so drenched in the buzz of technology that real face-to-face interaction and relationship is growing scarce. Next time you throw out the standard, “Hi, how you doin?” make an effort to really invest in what is going in that person’s life. Ask questions that show you really care and want to listen.

5. Teach!: Go out and teach a skill to someone who wants to learn. Whether it’s teaching someone how to drive, or helping a student with their homework, your lessons will make a huge impact on their lives.

6. Donate: If you’re anything like the typical American, you probably have a lot of stuff. When it comes time to get rid of something or buy something new, make a donation instead! There are many ways to make donations online and in your community.

7. Stop What You’re Doing and HELP: It’s easy to think that our priorities are the ones that matter the most. When you’re driving and see someone along the road struggling with a flat, stop to help. Wouldn’t you want a person to do the same for you? There are tons of ways for us to lend a helping hand throughout our day.

8. Team Up with Someone to Live Healthier: Oftentimes having a workout partner is the best kind of motivation out there. If someone you know keeps talking about how he/she wants to get in shape, join them! This will make a huge impact on their lives, and together, you’ll both be on your way to a healthier life.

9. Make a Care Package: Care packages are easy and affordable to make and they can be used in so many different ways. They can be sent overseas or used locally! Next time you’re out and about and see a homeless person, offer them a care package. Keep a supply of the packages in your car and they can go a long way.

10. Having an Outward Gaze: We live in a pretty self-centered society. Many of us are taught at a young age to do what is going to make us most successful; this can lead us to do a lot things that are only self-serving. It’s time for a change of perspective! Start thinking in ways that turn that self-centered gaze outward. See what it’s like to put others needs before yours. You won’t regret it.

– Chante Owens

source: Zen Habits
Photo: ActionAid


Working for an organization that stands for an important cause is very appealing to many people. Nonprofit internships are great ways to be a part of something bigger, while gaining experience in the world. With the opportunities so vast, it’s hard to know where exactly to start. Below are the Top 10 sites for finding internships with a nonprofit organization.

1. Encore

Encore is a powerful resource in the nonprofit world. With a listing of over 5 million opportunities in nonprofit sectors, Encore is one of the biggest sites for navigating jobs and internships in encore careers.

2. Idealist

This site is a huge resource with close to 80,000 nonprofit organizations and 10,000 job/internship listings.

3. The Foundation Center

Known for bringing forth developing information about philanthropy, The Foundation Center has an easy-to-navigate job board featuring openings at nonprofit organizations.

4. Internmatch

Internmatch provides a comprehensive listing of nonprofit organizations across the world, and the internship opportunities therein. The site is tailored to meet visitors’ needs, making it easy for an individual to choose a nonprofit organization based on his/her preferences.

5. Commongood Careers

This search firm helps nonprofit organizations hire and recruit individuals based on their skill set and talents. Boasting a 93 percent successful hire, and retention rate, Commongood Careers is a great resource to help people find the right nonprofit for them.

6. Bridgespan Group

The Bridgespan Group operates the online Nonprofit Jobs Center with approximately 350 open positions. Their site also provides people looking for leadership opportunities within a nonprofit the necessary tools to get started.

7. The Nonprofit Times

This site provides visitors with a newsfeed that tracks events in the nonprofit world, and a huge database in which visitors can enter key search terms to find the nonprofit of their choice.

8. Greenlights

Greenlights is home to a large number of nonprofit members whom they help support by giving people a way to join their organization. Along with offering training and other services to nonprofit organizations, Greenlights makes the process in finding a job/internship position very informative and easy.

9. The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Another site that provides news and information on philanthropy, The Chronicle of Philanthropy also has a jobs listing with over 1,000 positions in various fields in the nonprofit sector.

10. is an easy-to-use site that directs volunteers looking for internship opportunities with nonprofit organizations that suit them the best. It also provides those in search of an internship with a way to communicate with one another.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Interns, Greenlights, Internship Match, Huffington Post

The conflict that has ravaged Syria since March 15, 2011 has had worldwide ramifications. The civil war started as a response to the Arab Spring, government corruption, and the abuse of human rights. The government responded to this uprising with lethal force, and as of June 2013 the death toll has been suspected to surpass 100,000 casualties. By late April 2013, President Bashar al-Assad began launching full-scale military operations upon city enclosures, officially opening the country for civil war. The Middle Eastern country’s conflict could potentially rock the entire world, and for one seriously misunderstood fact: the location of the country.

The location of Syria holds significance not because of the country’s resources, but of the countries located around it. The Middle East is the oil production giant of the world, and is a sensitive spot for intervention. The location of Syria brings out legitimate reasons to be wary of intervention, as the civil war must be contained at all costs. The addition of a foreign power may allow the war to spill over into neighboring countries, inciting a deadly Middle Eastern war that would be devastating.

Not only is Syria close to the Middle Eastern oil titans, but the continent of Africa lays not far away. Africa is one of the most vulnerable places on earth, one rocked by poverty, hunger, and disease. The feeble economies of the poverty-stricken Africa could not take the outcome of a war spilling into its borders. Containing the war to the country of Syria is a precaution that must be taken carefully. If the conflict somehow spreads to Africa, the continent and its emerging countries will face the fallout of a war they had no stake in.

The majority of citizens in the United States do not support military intervention in Syria. Citizens do not want another drawn-out affair like the wars of the previous Bush administration. Whether military intervention is agreed upon or not, the effects of the decision upon Syria could be monumental. The civil war has reached a deadly number, as evidenced by the 100,000 casualties already listed. This number could exponentially increase, regardless of intervention. If the United States does intervene, it could potentially lose control of the situation, or allow the other Middle Eastern to beef up their weaponry with Western troops in such cl0se proximity. But by leaving the conflict to fester on its own, the United States takes any convincing power out of its hands. Not having a say in which way the conflict heads could be as potentially dangerous as being directly involved. By not intervening, the neighboring countries and poverty-racked Africa could be left in the fray.

The Syrian situation has become one of great interest. Understanding the location of the country, and what ramifications the location could have, is crucial to fully comprehending the condition. Not only will the war have complications upon the Syrian government, the neighboring countries and Africa could become involved. Stay tuned, because the land is hot with anger and strife, and only time will tell where these emotions will take the warring country.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: dailyprincetonian, Maps of World
Photo: Al Hdhod

When petroleum, minerals, and natural gas discoveries in Kenya started grabbing international headlines last year, Kenyans weren’t sure whether the discoveries were good or bad news. Many wondered if the so-called “resource curse” was lurking in the shadows, waiting to bring a whole host of political and economic problems. Historically, this has been the case with other mineral-rich African nations such as Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – just to name a few. Why would Kenya be any different?

The nation wants to join Botswana in being one of the few to break the curse by treading lightly, for starters. First of all, it is seeking guidance from the World Bank to revise the legal, regulatory, and fiscal framework of its petroleum sector. According to this institution, the country is also engaging stakeholders at the national and local levels to discuss how to share the wealth between the central government and resource-rich counties.

“We will put together an all-inclusive framework owned by Kenyans and endorsed by parliament to ensure that contracting is done properly and that the local communities are fully on board,” David Chirchir, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, said.

Besides striving to align the petroleum sector with global best practices in accountability and transparency, Kenya is also increasing royalties on minerals produced in the country and revoking certain mining licenses to get a bigger share of earnings from its mining sector. Although this is an unexpected move, it should allow more of the estimated $100 billion in hidden mineral deposits to benefit the Kenyan population.

To further secure Kenya’s mineral wealth, the country has set up a sovereign fund that will hold the industry’s proceeds in trust for investment in other sectors of the economy. The Mining Bill 2013 proposes that money in the fund be used to cushion the economy against shocks associated with sudden massive FOREX inflows and to store wealth for future generations.

The initiative comes as a result of the lessons learned from Botswana’s rare success story. Experts believe that it has effectively managed its resource wealth thanks mainly to a three-pronged strategy: economic diversification, which helped avoid over-reliance on the mineral sector for the majority of its revenue, strict control of public expenditures, and investment of surplus revenue for use by future generations.

If the right measures are put in place – good governance, transparency, economic diversification, strong fiscal discipline, and strategic investments – then Kenya might yet be able to race past the middle-income threshold before its Vision 2030 projected.

– Nayomi Chibana

Sources: World Bank, Business Daily Africa