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current global issues

Among all the good in the world, and all the progress being made in global issues, there is still much more to be done. Given the overwhelming disasters that nations, including the U.S., have been or still are going through, it is important to be aware of the most pressing global issues.

Top 10 Current Global Issues

  1. Climate Change
    The global temperatures are rising, and are estimated to increase from 2.6 degrees Celsius to 4.8 degrees Celsius by 2100. This would cause more severe weather, crises with food and resources and the spread of diseases. The reduction of greenhouse emissions and the spreading of education on the importance of going green can help make a big difference. Lobbying governments and discussing policies to reduce carbon emissions and encouraging reforestation is an effective way of making progress with climate change.
  2. Pollution
    Pollution is one of the most difficult global issues to combat, as the umbrella term refers to ocean litter, pesticides and fertilizers, air, light and noise pollution. Clean water is essential for humans and animals, but more than one billion people don’t have access to clean water due to pollution from toxic substances, sewage or industrial waste. It is of the utmost importance that people all over the world begin working to minimize the various types of pollution, in order to better the health of the planet and all those living on it.
  3. Violence
    Violence can be found in the social, cultural and economic aspects of the world. Whether it is conflict that has broken out in a city, hatred targeted at a certain group of people or sexual harassment occurring on the street, violence is a preventable problem that has been an issue for longer than necessary. With continued work on behalf of the governments of all nations, as well as the individual citizens, the issue can be addressed and reduced.
  4. Security and Well Being
    The U.N. is a perfect example of preventing the lack of security and well being that is a serious global issue. Through its efforts with regional organizations and representatives that are skilled in security, the U.N. is working toward increasing the well being of people throughout the world.
  5. Lack of Education
    More than 72 million children throughout the globe that are of the age to be in primary education are not enrolled in school. This can be attributed to inequality and marginalization as well as poverty. Fortunately, there are many organizations that work directly with the issue of education in providing the proper tools and resources to aid schools.
  6. Unemployment
    Without the necessary education and skills for employment, many people, particularly 15- to 24-year olds, struggle to find jobs and create a proper living for themselves and their families. This leads to a lack of necessary resources, such as enough food, clothing, transportation and proper living conditions. Fortunately, there are organizations throughout the world teaching people in need the skills for jobs and interviewing, helping to lift people from the vicious cycle of poverty.
  7. Government Corruption
    Corruption is a major cause of poverty considering how it affects the poor the most, eroding political and economic development, democracy and more. Corruption can be detrimental to the safety and well being of citizens living within the corrupted vicinity, and can cause an increase in violence and physical threats without as much regulation in the government.
  8. Malnourishment & Hunger
    Currently there are 795 million people who do not have enough to eat. Long-term success to ending world hunger starts with ending poverty. With fighting poverty through proper training for employment, education and the teaching of cooking and gardening skills, people who are suffering will be more likely to get jobs, earn enough money to buy food and even learn how to make their own food to save money.
  9. Substance Abuse
    The United Nations reports that, by the beginning of the 21st century, an estimated 185 million people over the age of 15 were consuming drugs globally. The drugs most commonly used are marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, amphetamine stimulants, opiates and volatile solvents. Different classes of people, both poor and rich, partake in substance abuse, and it is a persistent issue throughout the world. Petitions and projects are in progress to end the global issue of substance abuse.
  10. Terrorism
    Terrorism is an issue throughout the world that causes fear and insecurity, violence and death. Across the globe, terrorists attack innocent people, often without warning. This makes civilians feel defenseless in their everyday lives. Making national security a higher priority is key in combating terrorism, as well as promoting justice in wrongdoings to illustrate the enforcement of the law and the serious punishments for terror crimes.

With so many current global issues that require immediate attention, it is easy to get discouraged. However, the amount of progress that organizations have made in combating these problems is admirable, and the world will continue to improve in the years to come. By staying active in current events, and standing up for the health and safety of all humans, everyone is able to make a difference in changing the fate of our world.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

 

 

Female Peacekeepers
Nearly 16 years ago, in response to the disproportionate amount of violence against women in countries enduring post-war conflicts, the U.N. adopted resolution 1325. The resolution targets the issue that when countries that have achieved reform, the post-war conflicts frequently bring more violence, specifically more violence toward women.

The U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 calls for the inclusion of women in all efforts maintaining and promoting peace and security. Even though the likelihood of achieving peace increases when female peacekeepers are included in the discussion, women living in countries that are at war often remain ignored.

Research has confirmed that women are a significant influence in promoting peace. Also, humanitarian efforts are more effective with women’s participation. The inclusion of female peacekeepers yields stronger protection efforts for U.N. peacekeepers, contributes to the implementation of peace talks, and accelerates economic recovery.

Experience has shown the inclusion of women in U.N. peacekeeping missions elicits more trust in communities and result in peace operations that are more customarily fit to a communities’ protection needs. Peace negotiations recommended by women are more likely to be accepted and retained.

However, women in countries where terrorism and extremism are prevalent face disparity, and the fragile state contexts affect their rights. Women often are forced into marriage, forced to engage in sexually based crimes prohibited to get an education or get a job or even engage in public life.

Despite the strides made by the U.N. to integrate women into the peace-building agenda to combat these problems, there has not been much progress since the resolution was first adopted by countries in 2000. There have been reports of incidents wherein U.N. peacekeepers preserved sexual violence and stood by as women were raped. The inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations could diminish the chances of this occurring.

In order to better serve women, the individuals most affected by post-war conflicts, there must be women within the peacekeeping force. Having female peacekeepers who can understand the difficulties and threats women face will better enable the effort to ensure safety. Thus, enforcing a concrete number of women to be included in peace operations is a way to hold U.N. peacekeeping operations accountable.

Although war impacts all, women can address this issue and improve conditions for women more so than men, yet women continue to be excluded from peace talks. 55 countries have adopted national strategies to implement the resolution, and an additional 10 have pledged to do so.

It is still up in the air whether these countries’ political wills for the inclusion of women in peace talks be translated into political action. In order for U.N. peacekeepers to actually fulfill their political wills, it would be accommodating for them to provide a target number of female peacekeepers to include in their peacekeeping operations.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Alliance for Peacebuilding
The Alliance for Peacebuilding, or AfP, seeks to find innovative approaches to Peacebuilding through a number of related fields, including development, relief, human rights, democracy and security sector reform.

Launched in 1999 as the Applied Conflict Resolution Organization Network, the organization obtained a $1 million dollar funding grant from the Hewlett Foundation in 2003. Following the grant, ACORN became the Alliance for International Conflict Prevention and Resolution. In 2006, AICPR became AfP with a focus on collaboration among organizations and different peacebuilding parties.

Today, AfP aims to innovate, influence and connect Congress as well as the general public to strengthen peacebuilding activities. Consisting of more than 70 peacebuilding organizations from across the world, AfP has over 15,000 volunteers and employees throughout the globe and employs 1,000 professionals.

With its headquarters in Washington, D.C., AfP focuses it energy on eight different programs as it advocates for peacebuilding. These include policymaker engagement, human security, strategic communication and genocide prevention. The organization also hosts an annual conference where AfP members can reach out to other members of the broader peacebuilding community to share ideas and insights within the field.

The keynote address at this year’s AfP conference, hosted in May, focused on developing games as a tool for peace. Asi Burak, the president of Games for Change, noted how the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that draws gamers throughout the world of different races, genders and nationalities. “Peacemaker,” a game based on the events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, allows players to become their own leader and to try to bring peace to the region.

May’s conference also featured discussions on the challenges facing African countries, including Nigeria and Kenya, the need for peacebuilders to collect relevant data in their fields and a discussion on providing peacebuilders with the necessary communication tools for storytelling purposes.

AfP maintains partnerships with a number of organizations, coalitions and platforms. These include the United States Institute of Peace, the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum and the Peace Portal, among others.

AfP also publishes an online magazine titled “Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century.” With its most recent publication being March of this year, each issue features a variety of stories following a particular theme. The most recent theme, detailing men, women and peace, featured stories exploring the role of gender in peacebuilding activities.

Along with other human rights organizations, AfP recently announced its support for the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution of 2014. The resolution, introduced by 19 senators in March, expressed concern for the crisis in the country and “the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis.”

AfP and the organizations in support of the resolution stated in a joint statement their commitment to ensuring the Syrian nation does not “lose another year to bloodshed and suffering…We stand with the people of Syria…in calling our leaders to make the same commitment and engage the public. We urge strong support for and swift passage of this critical resolution.”

At last year’s U.N. General Assembly, AfP asked members of the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding and people on the street what they believed the post-Millennium goals should be. Numerous interviewees said they intended to see advances in human rights and gender equality as well as an increased awareness in climate change.

Additionally, those interviewed stated such goals could help to promote global peace.

As death tolls in Iraq soar into the hundreds following jihadist violence in the past several weeks, calls for nonviolent resolutions to issues separating different cultures and countries remains at the forefront of the world’s collective consciousness.

— Ethan Safran

Sources: Alliance for Peacebuilding, Building Peace
Photo: CNN

security_in_Kenya

Within two days of each other, recent attacks in Kenya have left at least 64 people dead. On June 15 in Mpeketoni, Kenya, at least 49 people were killed and another 12 women were abducted by the attackers. The very next day a similar attack took place in the nearby town of Lamu and killed another 15 people. These events immediately led to protests by those living in Mpeketoni, claiming that the government had been ignoring them, thus highlighting a general lack of security in Kenya.

Kenya has been increasingly targeted by the al-Shabab militant group, as the extremist Islamic group has claimed responsibility for some of the most recent attacks that have taken place in the past months. However, there are a couple of characteristics that make these most recent attacks stand out from the others, most notably the location and nature of the attack. Mpeketoni is a farming village, not known to be a tourist attraction, unlike many of the previous targets of similar attacks.

Representatives from al-Shabab have claimed credit for the attack. According to al-Shabab, the attack was done in retaliation against the Kenyan troops that had been placed in Somalia and the subsequent Muslim deaths at their hands. However, the attacks that took place in Mpeketoni and Lamu are noticeably different from other attacks launched by al-Shabab. Not only was the attack directed at a village instead of a larger town or city, but only men were killed and women were abducted. This is in stark contrast to the indiscriminate violence that the group has been traditionally known for. If it was al-Shabab that committed this crime, it could possibly be an attempt to help the group clean up their grotesque image and reputation.

The aftermath of the attacks were further complicated when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the attacks were not committed by al-Shabab, but instead were politically motivated. In an official statement, Kenyatta said that the attacks were “well planned, orchestrated and politically motivated ethnic violence against the Kenyan community. This therefore was not an al-Shabab attack. Evidence indicates that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of a heinous crime.”

What’s especially intriguing about his statement is that no specific ethnicity, organization or group was named. The government under Kenyatta’s rule has been criticized for not protecting its citizens and increasing national security. Because of this, the statement could potentially be an attempt from the government to ease the pressure it has been facing recently.

However, this statement from Kenyatta could cause more harm than good. By citing political motivations, Kenyatta could potentially reignite ethnic tensions that have been simmering under the radar for many years. The potential for ethnic conflict looms large, but there are already noticeable consequences from the attack.

The tourist industry has already plummeted and negatively affected the economy, which is a major form of income for the country. In addition to the already tallied death count, these attacks could have further humanitarian consequences. It could lead to people fleeing the area, greater insecurity in the area and potential escalation of conflict in the already tense region.

All of these remain possibilities, but the public has yet to see the full effect these events will have on the government and stability of the already fragile Kenyan nation.

— Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, Kenya Red Cross, Reuters
Photo: War Is Boring

Syrian_Refugee_Camps_in_Demand
Overfull and varying widely in accommodation, Syrian refugee camps have become an international crisis. The United Nations has made the largest humanitarian appeal for aid ever at $5 billion to relieve the situation but has received less than $2 billion to date. Some 2.2 million refugees are currently scattered across Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt while more Syrians are fleeing war at an alarming pace. Estimates say more than 3 million refugees will be in those areas by January.

Such numbers are startling given the Syrian population before the onset of war was only  22.5 million. Lebanon, for example, has no official camps despite having more than a million refugees in its borders and does not allow the building of permanent refugee structures. Those who can afford it rent apartments or rooms in the cities at an exorbitant rate while others share the homes of sympathetic civilians or even inhabit abandoned buildings in depressed areas. In the northeast region, an average of 17 people per household are packed together according to a study conducted by Doctors Without Borders last year.

Water, food and healthcare are rationed out slowly and insufficiently, with less to go around as numbers rise. Employment for refugees was around 20% last year in Lebanon, and the economies of Iraq, Turkey and Jordan are in little better position to provide opportunities for such a rapid influx of labor.

Dependency on humanitarian aid is heightened and the desperation of the situation has many refugees working for extremely low wages in poor conditions and engaging in child labor. Economic and physical insecurity in Jordan’s Zataari camp has led parents to arrange hurried marriages for their teenage daughters as young as 14. Matchmakers recruit young girls for Saudi husbands but often end up as prostitutes or victims of “pleasure marriages” where the suitor divorces them after consummation.

Though some of Syria’s displaced persons find bourgeois  housing in Cairo or end up in one of Turkey’s refugee camps that consist of metal trailers with access to satellite T.V. and air conditioning, most see basic necessities and sanitation as luxuries. The Domiz camp in Iraq is made up primarily of tents and has 45,000 residents despite being designed for just 30,000. In just two weeks between August and September, more than 1,500 people were treated for upper respiratory infections there by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Security is also an issue in these camps with reports of rape, theft, kidnapping and murder being common. In the Zataari camp, Jordan security forces restrict entry but lack the manpower to adequately police the camp’s 120,000 residents. Other camps in Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey reportedly funnel arms and recruits back into Syria. In Lebanon, crime has increased by 30% and increased tensions between Hezbollah and Sunni refugees may be behind the recent bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut.

Syria’s bordering nations are gradually increasing restrictions for entering refugees. Lebanon and Turkey are both planning to relocate some people to camps they wish to build within Syria’s insecure borders. Only about 25% of Syria’s refugees are actually in camps now, the rest are trying to survive by their own means. There are also an additional 3.8 million who are internally displaced.

Despite their faults, the refugee camps provide essential support and the need for more camps is evident, but where they can be built and how they will be funded is not so clear.

– Tyson Watkins

Sources: Medecins Sans Frontieres, World Health Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Syrian Arab Republic,
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Moving Refugees, The Guardian, Integrated Regional Information Networks, BBC, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Syrian Regional Response Plan, Aljazeera, The Daily Star United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: Stories from Syrian Refugees, The New York Review of Books
Photo: NPR

central-african-republic
The Central African Republic is now facing a food crisis nearly four months after a coup overthrew the government and proclaimed the leader of the Seleka rebel coalition, Michel Djotodia, as president. More than 60,000 people are suffering from severe food shortages, and 200,000 have been forced to flee their homes due to instability in the region.

Food shortages are nothing new for the country, as last year the United Nations claimed that upwards of 800,000 people, nearly 20% of the country’s population, experienced some level of food crisis. However, the current shortages have the potential to be much more severe as the fighting has severely impacted the country’s agriculture, with many families losing food stocks, seeds, and livestock.

Due to the new government administration, and ongoing political turmoil following the coup, access for humanitarian agencies throughout the country has been restricted, especially in some of the hardest hit rural areas. Yet before this can change, security throughout the country must improve. This lack of security has further led to the closing of health centers and schools due to safety concerns. Nearly a million children are out of school as a result of these closures, and a significant percentage of those have missed nearly a full school year due to the ongoing conflict.

Funding for humanitarian work is an ongoing issue. Current donations account for only about 43% of the $125 million in aid that the UN estimates is needed in the Central African Republic. The Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, said, “The current humanitarian crisis is the worst in the country’s history. It is urgent that the international community provides funds quickly to help and to save lives. The world can’t turn a blind eye on the crisis here. The country is bordered by six of the most fragile African nations—there is a high risk of destabilization throughout Central Africa.”

– David Wilson

Sources: WFP, The Examiner, Action Against America

_africa_aid_growth
In their joint op-ed for the Washington Times, former Congressional representatives Howard Berman and Connie Morella refer to US development efforts, saying, “We’re not just talking altruism. We’re talking sound, smart business.”

Berman, a Democrat, and Morella, a Republican, collaborated the op-ed entitled “A Smart Investment in Africa”, which was published Monday, July 1 in the Washington Times. Their overall message: help the developing world.

The article pointed out how in this globalized age, our security and economy have never been more closely tied with that of the African continent. Over half of US exports go to the developing world. This fact, combined with the vast population of the developing world, makes these countries the biggest potential for growth of American businesses and innovations. Investments in the continent of Africa advance economic and governmental reforms, which give American businesses a better foundation with which to expand into the continent.

The former Congressmen also pointed out that, while Americans are often given an image of Africa as a continent fraught with conflict and despair, African economies are growing at an astounding rate, like much of the developing world. Seven of the most rapidly expanding economies in the world are in Africa. As these economies expand and Africans are lifted out of poverty, American businesses will be able to market their products to the vast amounts of new wealthier consumers.

The article also highlighted how important US investment in Africa is for America’s security interests. Extremist groups, such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, are looking for ways to take root in Africa, and countries without the economic capacity to build strong infrastructure or security forces are the most vulnerable to these forces. Investing in African economies gives countries the resources and stability to resist extremist influence.

The security benefits of bolstering African economies are exemplified clearly in The World Bank report entitled “Breaking the Conflict Trap” which argues that an unequal distribution of wealth exacerbates societal tensions and “increases the perception of relative deprivation.” Therefore, reduction of poverty in African countries will reduce conflict in these areas which are critical to US security interests.

The former Representatives pointed out in their op-ed on Monday just how important US aid to Africa is, not just for humanitarian reasons, but for the future of US economic and security interests.

– Martin Drake
Source: Washington Times, World Bank

emilia_clarke_in_hbo_game_of_thrones_opt

HBO’s Game of Thrones is escapist fantasy at its finest. The sprawling world of Westeros has a rich and complicated history, scores of characters, and enough intertwining storylines to make Greek mythology look simple. The show has been lauded for its ability to transport an audience away from their current lives and immerse them into Martin’s fantasy world.

At the same time, behind the direwolves and dragons, much of the success of Martin’s series lies in the fact that it resonates so strongly with our own world. From love to loneliness to injustice, the personal feelings of the characters, which so strongly push forward the plot, hit close to home. It reflects the failings we see around us, in our own lives, in politics, and perhaps most disturbingly in our social system.

Game of Thrones, for the sharp viewer, has important messages to be sent about what it is to wield power and how to do it, lessons that could be applied to the most powerful nation in the world.

 

[dropcap3]1[/dropcap3]The importance of the poor for security. In Game of Thrones, the greatest threat to the throne is not the various potential usurpers who are vying for it. Rather, it is far more insidious; it is the threat of the people the King tramples and abuses through neglect. The main motivation for one of the potential rivals, often repeated, is that she has the support of the people. The raw power of the populace is seen in the scene where the royal family ventures out of the castle, and is set upon by a starving, angry mob. The only thing that saves the Lannister family from their misrule is the arrival of the charitable Tyrells, who floods the city with food, resources, and much-needed PR for the royal family. Though intangible, a good reputation image can be as powerful as military muscle. This is why top military leaders like former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stress the importance of international humanitarian assistance by USAID.

 

[dropcap3]2[/dropcap3]Past injustices become present day tragedies. Old grievances have a way of resurfacing. Throughout the series, we are told more and more of the backstory, because so much of it is relevant to the present events. Theon’s capture and subsequent service to the Starks came full-circle in Theon’s betrayal, despite how well he had lived as a steward. There are lessons to be learned from this; bad deeds live longer in memory than good ones. George W Bush’s legacy, for example, will not be his HIV program, but instead, plunging the nation into Iraq.

 

[dropcap3]3[/dropcap3]The rags-to-riches story is largely a myth. It is a tenet of the American belief system to place a lot of power in an individual’s determination to change her or his own circumstance. It is easy (and comfortable) to blame lower classes for their own misfortune; either through laziness, carelessness, or a simple lack of worth. It is a natural – though erroneous – human reaction to assume that those who have, deserve and those who do not, have not earned it. There are a number of social climbers in Martin’s series who are smart, savvy, brave, determined – and are crushed. Roz, the plucky girl from Winterfell, endures indignity, torture, and abuse only to meet an untimely end. Mance Rayder, the brave and charismatic leader of the Wildlings, has been exiled to lead a bare and miserable existence. The elite in Martin’s world are often the most despicable, with the bravest and best – Osha, Tyrion, Arya, Bran and Jojen Reed, for example – being the crippled, the overlooked, the downtrodden, and the poor.  For the 2.6 billion people across the globe living on less than 2 dollars a day, the only way to significantly improve their well-being is with a helping hand from people and governments in more privileged positions.

 

[dropcap3]4[/dropcap3]Equality is not a simple matter. While followers of the show who have not read the books will not yet be aware, Daenerys Targaryen’s noble campaign to end slavery does not go as smoothly as planned. Though well-intentioned, her somewhat blind rush to right all the wrongs she saw in front of her bears little fruit, and she quickly loses her way in politics, poverty, and a lack of foresight. Aid is not simply a matter of giving, and it cannot be left unplanned or unsupervised. The story bears similarities to the current restructuring of Afghanistan and Iraq; after a bloody decade in the countries, US citizens are demanding withdrawal of troops, with US Generals stating the grave dangers of leaving such a large job unfinished. Sieges and wars are dramatic and make good stories, but the most important work lies in the far less flashy and far more tedious affair of slow and steady empowerment.

 

[dropcap3]5[/dropcap3]Poverty begets violence. Poverty does not stay a problem of the poor. It seeps into all parts of a society in the form of crime, violence, and corruption. In an increasingly globalized world, the importance of stability cannot be understated. The seeds of terrorism are in poverty; its strength lies in the desperation of the most downtrodden. The most powerful governments, France, Russia, and most recently the Arab Spring – have all fallen in the face of the power of those they previously deemed unworthy of consideration.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Global Issues The Borgen Project
Photo: HDW