Humanitarian Use of Nuclear Technology
Signed in 1968 and implemented in 1970, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) has been a lasting, positive force in regulating nuclear weapons internationally and foregrounding the humanitarian use of nuclear technology. Since its conception, the U.S. has not only been committed to upholding the initial conditions of the treaty but also expanding its efforts through the support of organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF). Further development of nuclear techniques in agriculture, environmental preservation and medicine all contribute to improving living conditions and reducing poverty in less developed countries.

History of US Support

Since the treaty went into effect in 1970, the involved parties met every five years to discuss its renewal until it was extended indefinitely in the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. It has been largely effective, with nuclear weapons stockpile falling by 88% in the U.S. and 80% globally since 1986.

However, it was not until more recently that the members of the NPT began working more vigorously in their efforts to aid in meeting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Though humanitarian use of nuclear technology has been central to the NPT since its founding, in 2010 the IAEA introduced the Peaceful Use Initiative (PUI) as a way of generating even more funding in support of these goals. The U.S. is the leading contributor to the PUI, donating $395 million to the initiative since 2015 and pledging another $50 million over five years in November 2020.

Lastly, at the most recent NPT Conference in August 2022, the U.S. and 29 other countries gave $3.9 million to launch the “Sustained Dialogue on Peaceful Uses” and delegated its operations to the CRDF.

Success in Reducing Hunger and Improving Quality of Life

Nuclear technology can benefit humanity in a myriad of ways. Scientists have made great strides in increasing yields in agricultural production. Using various techniques, they have discovered ways of making hardier, more resistant crops, maximizing water use efficiency, reducing populations of invasive insect species that kill crops, cleaning crops through irradiation and diagnosing livestock with dangerous illnesses. It has also been very useful for understanding and protecting the environment and, of course, medicine.

Various governments and organizations across the world have been able to implement technologies like these because of U.S. funding. For example, more than $8.4 million that the U.S. provided to the PUI fund helped Vietnamese authorities combat a swine fever outbreak in their livestock using nuclear technology. Another instance is in 2017 when the IAEA used $6 million of U.S.-backed funds to develop more nutrient-rich crops as a means of reducing malnutrition in Sierra Leone. Additionally, in March 2019 $4.3 million in U.S. support went to the development of isotope hydrology, a cutting technique that “allow(s) national experts to identify and assess the availability of groundwater resources.” These are just a few of the ways that U.S. support has been instrumental in the proliferation of the humanitarian use of nuclear technology.

Looking Forward

International cooperation to further develop the peaceful use of nuclear technology is essential in the fight against poverty, and U.S. financial support is instrumental for organizations like the IAEA and CRDF to continue innovating and implementing these solutions.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid in Times of Crisis
The world seems to be dwindling under a series of historic shocks. Beginning with a global pandemic in 2020 and moving to a new war in Europe as well as significant changes in abortion legislation in the U.S., many parts of the world are moving into an energy crisis. With wealthy nations having their hands full with domestic issues and geopolitical antagonism, developing countries are on their own. Here is why foreign aid in times of crisis is a critical issue and what some are doing about it.

Partnership and Security

When globalization is on the decline, poorer countries often end up on their own. That puts the countries in a position where they have to find countries and organizations that are still willing to provide foreign aid in times of crisis to them after wealthier western countries have disregarded their needs. Instead wealthier western countries defaulted on their promises to raise living standards and increase national security. With the world becoming increasingly fragmented with a lack of genuine cooperation, global welfare and security are at a large risk. Further, global issues, such as the climate crisis, that require a joint effort from as many nations as possible, will be even harder to address.

Changing Weather Patterns

Whilst changing weather patterns are a hurdle that every country needs to face and adapt to, it is the low-income countries that carry the brunt of it. Especially, the sub-Saharan regions in Africa that such weather phenomena affect leading those regions to be reliant on long-term investment. A study that the IMF conducted has shown that one draught can decrease an African country’s medium-term economic growth potential by one percentage point. Meanwhile, savings from long-term investments that go towards improving resilience and coping mechanisms have proven to be of great significance. Some of the coping mechanisms include improved seed varieties, durable health systems and refined access to finance and telecommunications.

In Ethiopia alone, farmers’ yield increased by 40% as a result of improved seed varieties that proved resistant to rust, a fungus. Unfortunately, countries that face challenges of adaption most often do not possess the means to do so. The farmers lack funding and institutional capacity, hence why it is down to the international community to prevent changing weather patterns from threatening development and stability in low-income countries.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost 15 million lives and pushed 100 million people into poverty in 2020 alone. The pandemic demanded a unified response across nations, constituting large amounts of foreign aid in times of crisis, to prevent a setback in human development and human rights. Yet, that did not happen. Instead, developed countries injected trillions of dollars into their own recovery, leaving poorer countries to mend themselves. It does not come as any surprise that in May 2022, 72% of people in high-income countries received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, contrary to 17% in low-income countries.

With developing countries entering the pandemic with lower fiscal buffers than they had in 2008-09, in the aftermath they are now faced with unequal recovery, effects of the climate crisis and economic shocks to food, fuel and financial markets. Arguably, the neglect of the global responsibility that wealthy countries cause this. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ stressed to the Economic and Social Council segment on operational activities for development, in New York, in May that “In a world of crisis, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is more important than ever.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

More encouraging is the 2030 Agenda that the United Nations developed which constitutes a reformed development system to provide foreign aid in times of crisis that matches countries’ needs and priorities. No poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education and gender equality are only some examples of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to accelerate progress in low-income countries.

To promote substantial change, funding is necessary. With less than 10 years left, world leaders at the SDG Summit in 2019 promoted “A decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. This represents the kind of innovative, cooperative model the world needs to rekindle relationships, strengthen organizations and expand financing in times of crisis.

The World Bank Suspends Debt

In an attempt to ease the burden COVID-19 and other shocks have put on low-income countries, the world has introduced the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The initiative suspended $12.9 billion in debt-service payments for 48 participating countries, allowing them to focus their financial capacities on protecting the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.

Looking Ahead

The multitude of crises and complexity of domestic and global issues that the world is facing has led to a demand for stronger leadership and cooperation at all levels. Moreover, the bar is rising higher for the wealthier nations to live up to their responsibility to lower-income nations by providing enough funding to prevent setbacks in human development and promote sustainable progress.

Pauline Lützenkirchen
Photo: Flickr

China’s Global Development Initiative
China has proposed global goals for improving the process of global development amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening of the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2021, China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI) has support from nearly 100 countries and international organizations. Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations has emphasized that the initiative is just one action of many that will accelerate the U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The U.N. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has ambitious goals of eradicating poverty and hunger everywhere, combating inequalities, building inclusive societies, promoting human and gender equality and more by 2030. While these goals are hefty and require immense work, China’s Global Development Initiative is opening doors for the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda to become a reality.

In China’s initiative, the goals of “re-prioritizing development, renewing commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), revitalizing global partnerships and reactivating development cooperation” are consistent with the U.N.’s Agenda. Many working with the U.N. greatly support China’s goals. For example, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has remarked that China’s Global Development Initiative will keep the U.N. 2030 Agenda’s pledge of leaving no one behind.

What is China’s GDI?

As with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development agenda, China’s Global Development Initiative involves international cooperation and efforts to support less developed countries, especially those the pandemic hit particularly hard. For example, the initiative’s goals could include alleviating poverty, managing food security, aiding COVID-19 support, financial development, green development and more.

To make the goals successful, the GDI will work with other organizations and countries to build a community-based network to assist struggling countries. Building strong networks will allow the performance and value of countries to flourish. The organization is only beginning to develop plans of synergy and a strong global community to assist fellow countries.

COVID-19 has been the source of tremendous hardship and struggles for many people globally. The World Bank Blog has reported that a 2015-2021 figure of projected poverty in 2021 was estimated to be 613 million pre-COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, that projection has spiked to 711 million people estimated to live in poverty for the same year. That is 98 million more people who could experience poverty as a result of the pandemic.

Numbers in relation to poverty in lower-income countries may see a reduction with help from the GDI, which some have dubbed “China’s contribution to global development, prosperity and humanity.”

Support From UNIDO

One of the organizations supporting the GDI is the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). China has already made connections with UNIDO regarding the initiative. Cooperating with the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) developed in 2018, UNIDO’s work with CIDCA would serve as the intent to promote aid to developing countries.

Both organizations see promise in the partnership in support of China’s Global Development Initiative, with the Chairman of CIDCA, Luo Zhaohui, noting that he looks forward to “developing concrete projects together.”

UNIDO’s director-general Gerd Muller commented that the initiative “is in line with UNIDO’s mission to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development.” UNIDO and China’s Global Development Initiative share similar goals for global community development and both strive toward supporting fellow countries financially.

While to some, the objectives laid out by the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda may seem far-fetched, those working alongside China’s Global Development Initiative believe otherwise. There is hope and promise for those struggling against poverty and hunger and officials around the world are banning together to fight against these issues with tangible optimism.

Michelanie Allcock
Photo: Flickr

Lifelong Learning and Poverty
Lifelong learning is the ongoing development of personal, social, civil and employment-related skills, an endeavor continuing throughout life. The acquisition of learning past one’s initial education is becoming more important in finding new opportunities. High-skill jobs are becoming more prevalent in many parts of the world, creating a larger demand for skilled workers. For this reason, lifelong learning can be a powerful tool in addressing poverty across nations. By 2030, 600 million people will be living in poverty, according to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). The United Nations acknowledges the role lifelong learning can play in dwindling this statistic through its inclusion of lifelong learning in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To that end, here are three ways that lifelong learning can address poverty.

3 Ways Lifelong Learning Addresses Poverty

  1. Financial Literacy: Financial literacy is the ability to apply various skills to effectively manage one’s finances. It can be a strong tool against poverty as families with this knowledge can take advantage of helpful tax credits and public programs. Unfortunately, this is a skill that seems to be lacking even in developed nations. Through a survey, the OECD found that only 52.5% of respondents across 12 member nations had sufficient financial knowledge. Financial literacy has only become more important as people have more choices regarding retirement planning, investment strategies and tax programs. Focusing on initiatives that support the acquisition of these skills for all ages can be an effective strategy to address this issue. A 2007 study by Peng et al shows that personal finance lessons enhanced rates of savings and investment knowledge “among high school and college students.” Financial literacy classes with a focus on lifelong learning and poverty relief strategies could help reduce the economic pressure many families face.
  2. Health Literacy: Health literacy is “the ability to process and understand basic information needed to make appropriate health decisions.” People with poor health literacy skills are more likely to have poor physical health in general. In addition, these people “receive less preventative care,” struggle to manage chronic illnesses and have higher rates of hospitalization. People who do not manage their health are more likely to require costly medical services in the future for avoidable ailments. Maintaining one’s health is important to be able to participate in the labor market. Those living in poverty can rarely afford to miss out on employment. Knowledge on health and self-care must be accessible among people of all ages and literacy skills are a major factor in accessing these competencies. Children who are born to literate mothers are 50% more likely to live beyond the age of five than children of women who are illiterate. A study in Indonesia revealed a 19% vaccination rate among the children of uneducated mothers in comparison to 68% among mothers with at least secondary level education. It is clear that health literacy is crucial in maintaining the health of the next generation.
  3. Income: Educational attainment closely links to income. Those with more education are likely to earn more than those with less education. Frequently, many find that their jobs do not provide the level of compensation necessary to meet their needs and those of their families. To find better employment opportunities, it is important to continually develop one’s skills and education. In fact, just one more year of education has the power to increase income by 10%, according to World Bank data. Despite this, many of those who would benefit the most from lifelong learning find it difficult to access these opportunities. A 2007 survey in Kenya revealed that 30% of individuals did not participate in literacy programs due to a lack of learning centers nearby. Programs promoting income growth must integrate lifelong learning and poverty relief solutions in an appealing and available manner to better support marginalized groups.

Looking Ahead

Lifelong learning opportunities can influence many areas of one’s life. In promoting education, it is important to remember that people can develop new skills at all stages of life regardless of age. Programs focusing on lifelong learning and poverty show promise in improving conditions for many global citizens.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Moving Toward Veganism
In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger, aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” for all people by 2030. However, the world is not on track to achieve this goal. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), in 2019, 821 million global citizens, equivalent to “more than one in nine” people, suffered from hunger. In a world that already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, 3 billion more than the current global population, many wonder how this is possible. The answer has to do with existing diets and food waste. In particular, moving toward veganism has the potential to end world hunger.

Plant Agriculture as a More Sustainable Alternative

Currently, close to 50% of the world’s land goes toward food production and farmers use 83% of this land exclusively for animal agriculture, which is responsible for 44% of all harvested crop losses. Animals farmed for meat and dairy “consume five times as much food as all human beings” and have incredibly low conversion efficiencies. It takes about 13-20 pounds of grain to produce a single extra pound of beef. About 36% of the total crop calories that farmers produce globally act as food for farmed animals and humans eventually consume just “12% of those calories” in the final meat product. Animal agriculture also drains the world’s fresh water supply. Producing 1 kilogram of bovine meat requires 15,415 liters of water compared with 322 liters of water per kilogram of vegetables.

As the world population grows to a projected 9.7 billion by 2050, animal agriculture will become increasingly unsustainable. If agriculture does not change, feeding the world’s population will require “a 119% increase in edible crops grown by 2050.” Growing more crops will also increase the need for arable land, leading to more deforestation. Meat consumption already contributes “more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined.” Increased greenhouse gas emissions coupled with increased deforestation could exacerbate changing weather.

Animal Agriculture Aggravates Extreme Weather Conditions

According to Sentient Media, changing weather is a “threat multiplier.” It exacerbates pressures like natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, which cause hunger by decreasing crop yields and increasing food loss. Changing weather may also affect the types of crops that can grow in certain regions. This is especially problematic in regions that depend on specific weather conditions to grow their staple crops, such as Africa, where most crops require a certain amount of rainfall. Without the right conditions, subsistence farmers and their families will suffer and people unable to pay the increased prices for scarce crops will fall into food insecurity.

Moving Toward Veganism

Many organizations are working to alleviate world hunger and scientists are developing GMOs to fight malnourishment. However, some entities are only addressing surface-level problems. In order to address the causes of world hunger, the United Nations (U.N.) is calling for a global effort involving deep, systematic transformations in agriculture and food systems worldwide.

One transformation that may help end world hunger is shifting consumer demands toward a vegan diet. By consuming crop calories directly from the plant source, people can avoid the loss of two-thirds of potential calories. According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if U.S. farmers used all the land currently devoted to animal agriculture to grow plant crops instead, they could double the number of people sustained, feeding an additional 390 million people.

While a vegan diet is the most sustainable, vegetarian and plant-based diets also contribute to ending world hunger. These diets all use fewer resources and contribute less to the harmful effects of changing climate than meat-heavy diets do. Eating meat just once a week instead of four times a week “would reduce commodity prices as less grain would go to feed animals, making food cheaper for the urban poor,” said Michael Obersteiner of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Plant-Based Diets Worldwide

While switching to a plant-based diet may cause concerns of possible undernutrition, animal intermediaries are not necessary for humans to experience full nourishment. On the other hand, it is possible to eat a meat-inclusive diet and still suffer from malnutrition.

Ending world hunger is everyone’s fight. Even food-secure areas may suffer from political unrest due to wars in food-insecure areas or may become destinations for those seeking refuge from hunger. With a global plant-based diet, more food than ever before would be available to humans. Additionally, “it is possible that an atmosphere of abundance could facilitate cooperative attitudes toward funneling more food to combat hunger.” As a bonus, moving toward veganism would be much healthier since studies link animal products to increased rates of lifestyle diseases like obesity.

Preventing Food Waste

In addition to moving toward a vegan diet, the push to end world hunger will require addressing food loss in developing countries. More than 40% of food loss in developing nations occurs post-harvest due to poor refrigeration. In sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, per capita food loss equates to 120-170 kilograms per year. India loses about 40% of its food production due to a lack of cold storage. Jomo Sundaram, assistant director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), believes improved food transportation methods and technologies are already strengthening the fight to eliminate hunger.

In the fight against global hunger, moving toward veganism holds significant potential to increase food security in a sustainable manner.

Serah-Marie Maharaj
Photo: Flickr

Will and Jada Smith Together BandTogether Band is an organization that raises money for various causes in an innovative and trendy way aimed at persuading younger generations to support issues they care about most. It works toward the United Nations’ 17 global goals to create a more sustainable world by 2030. Recently, Together Band also partnered with Will and Jada Smith.

Together Band

The U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals include no poverty, zero hunger, gender equality, clean energy, equal education, good health, clean water, economic growth, industry innovation, sustainable communities, responsible consumption and production, marine conservation, land conservation, justice, reduced inequalities and partnership.

Each U.N. SDG has an associated color and Together Band produces bracelets of each color. The bracelet color a customer purchases determines which goal their money targets. Together Band directs proceeds to The Freedom Fund, Renewable World, Women Working Worldwide and Power for the People, among others.

Not only do the proceeds go to humanitarian funds but the materials and production of the bracelets are impactful as well. The clasp on each bracelet is repurposed metal derived from seized illegal firearms in Central America. The aim of this sourcing is to end armed violence in conflict-torn countries. The band is made from 100% upcycled plastic found on shores in coastal communities and on remote islands. Finally, formerly trafficked Nepalese artisans use the materials to craft the final product. The jobs created help communities build stable economies.

Together Fund

Together Band created the Together Fund to combat COVID-19. Now, when a customer purchases a bracelet, 50% of the proceeds go to support COVID-19 relief while the other 50% continue to go to the original organizations that the bracelet supported before the pandemic. The organization splits COVID-19 relief funds between the U.N. COVID-19 Solidarity Fund for WHO and Médecins sans Frontières.

Together Band added COVID-19 relief to their initiatives because communities around the globe urgently need accessible healthcare. “It’s important that we act quickly in response to COVID-19 to ensure patients can access the care they need as well as supporting disease prevention and frontline health workers across the globe.”

Partnering With the Will and Jada Smith Foundation

Celebrities Will and Jada Smith created the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation in 1996 in order to make the world “better because we touched it.” The foundation has donated millions of dollars for innovative solutions to the world’s problems. Recently, the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation partnered with Together Band to tackle both COVID-19 and racial injustice. Working with WJSFF, Together Fund has expanded to support U.N. Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Money can be donated to the fund directly from the WJSFF homepage. Half of the proceeds go to additional COVID-19 relief funds such as the World Health Organization, Alight and Doctors Without Borders. The remaining half supports nonprofits that fight racial injustice. They include My Brother’s Keeper, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

In addition, Will and Jada Smith’s son, Jaden Smith, founded an eco-friendly version of bottled water called Just Water. Just Water customers now have the option to round up their purchases in support of the Together Fund.

Overall, the Smiths are an inspiring example of a celebrity family using their fame to support humanitarian causes and reduce global poverty.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr

Decent LifeEgypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi kicked off the first stage of Egypt’s groundbreaking anti-poverty project, the “Decent Life” (Haya Karima) Initiative, at the first conference on July 15, 2021. Al-Sisi declared that this initiative would kickstart “Egypt’s New Republic” especially in the Egyptian countryside. The massive development and resource injection into education and health infrastructure, primarily in rural areas, appears as if it will significantly improve the Egyptian landscape for the future. This initiative comes at a crucial turning point in a country that has struggled significantly with poverty over the past years. Statistics such as how 32.5% of Egyptians reported being below the poverty line in 2019 or how the pandemic has increased the official unemployment rate to 9.6% as of November 2020 highlight Egypt’s difficult poverty battle. However, with the ‘Decent Life’ Initiative in action with its numerous quality components, Egypt’s economy looks to be turning a corner.

Four Pillars

Within the framework of the UN Egypt Vision 2030 Strategy, the initiative consists of four main pillars:
1. To ameliorate living standards and invest in human capital,
2. To grow infrastructure services,
3. To improve human development services,
4. To spur economic development especially by contributing to the poorest villages with increased access to basic services such as sanitation and education infrastructure.

These pillars provide the foundation for how Egypt is tackling poverty in a more assertive manner.

First Phases

Prior to President Al-Sisi establishing the initiative, he launched an unofficial phase of the project in 2019. This came in the form of him pressuring the Minister of Social Solidarity to develop Egypt’s 1,000 poorest villages. After the success of this stage of the process, the official first phase started in January 2021. This first phase expands the number of targeted villages to 4,500, covering 58% of the country’s population.

Since January 2021, the initiative has taken crucial steps in developing Suhag water and sanitation services in 33 villages, renovating transportation stations at a cost of EGP 183 million (almost $12 million), and creating new transportation stations at a cost of EGP 219 million (almost $14 million). This process forms as the initial stages of the 2021-22 plan of the initiative, which carries with it a budget of EGP 200 billion (almost $13 billion).

The 2021-22 plan for the initiative has specific and bold aims that ensure Egypt is tackling poverty in a decisive and thorough manner. Details of the 2021-22 plan include:

  • To set up 10,828 classrooms,
  • To improve 782 youth centers,
  • To renovate 317 public service buildings,
  • To develop 1,250 health care units, establish 389 ambulances and 510 mobile clinics, and 112 veterinary units,
  • To create 191 agricultural service centers.

Final Targets

The “Decent Life” Initiative has several end goals it aims to achieve which President El-Sisi set out. One of the main goals is that the Egyptian government plans to utilize overall investments amounting to EGP 700 billion (almost $45 billion) by the end of the project, demonstrating that Egypt is tackling poverty in an aggressive manner. President El-Sisi has also made the promise that “the Egyptian countryside will be transformed in three years’ time,” signifying an attempt to minimize the rural-urban inequality.

Regarding education and health services, the initiative is aiming to build 13,000 classrooms and activating the new Universal Health Insurance System by the project’s conclusion. The Universal Health Insurance System will consist of mandatory coverage to all citizens by unifying with the private healthcare sector and minimizing existing health insurance disparities.

UN Response

The UN has responded extremely positively to the official launch of the initiative, with the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, stating that the UN considers the “Decent Life” project at top spot for the best application for sustainable development goals around the world and has full confidence that it will provide essential job opportunities for Egyptians in impoverished areas. Furthermore, the UN has praised the initiative as it also confirms the country’s willingness to “implement the participatory planning approach through integrating citizens in the need’s identification stage.”

–  Gabriel Sylvan

Photo: Flickr

Female Empowerment in PoliticsThe high rate of preventable maternal mortality rates in developing countries continues to be a cause of concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines maternal mortality “as the death of a woman from pregnancy-related causes during pregnancy or within 42 days of pregnancy.” Maternal mortality occurs almost entirely (99%) in low-income countries. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of impoverished countries estimates 239 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This rate is 12 per 100,000 in high-income countries. Research shows that female empowerment in politics links to reduced maternal mortality rates.

Reasons for High Maternal Mortality in Developing Countries

Female Representation in Government

Global female representation in government has increased to more than 20% while maternal mortality has declined by 44% since 1990. Is this a cause-and-effect scenario or merely coincidence? A recent study titled, “Maternal Mortality and Women’s Political Participation” offers data to support that it is not just happenstance and that female empowerment in politics has a direct effect on maternal mortality levels.

In 2020, female participation in parliament reached 24.9% globally. One reason for the rise in women’s representation in government is the fact that several countries are adopting gender quotas. Gender quotas secure a number of seats in government for women. At least 130 countries have adopted gender quotas and have an average of 26.9% female representation. Countries that have implemented quotas have seen maternal mortality decline at an accelerated rate. Estimates have determined that gender quota application results in an average of a 9-12% drop in maternal mortality.

Female Policymakers Prioritize Women’s Health

Health is a vital contributing factor in empowering women. Women statistically prioritize policies aimed at improving female conditions at a higher rate than their male counterparts. These policies often target issues such as education, child marriage and maternal health. Countries with gender quotas in place show an estimated 8-11% rise in “skilled birth attendance” and a 6-11% rise in the use of prenatal care.

A paper that Cambridge University published in 2016 asserted that an increase of only 1% in women’s representation in government resulted in five fewer maternal deaths and 80 fewer infant deaths out of 100,000 live births. These studies and statistics conclude that women’s participation in legislatures improves the health of its female constituents.

Eradicating Maternal Mortality

Female empowerment in politics contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals, which the U.N. established, include reducing maternal mortality (SDG 3.1) and increasing the number of women in government (SDG 5.5). These goals are complementary to each other. By working toward SDG 5.5, which is to “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life,” it is reasonable to conclude that the world could achieve, SDG 3.1, which is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” by 2030, in tandem.

Rachel Proctor
Photo: Flickr

Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Private Sector JobsThe private sector makes up nine out of 10 jobs in the global market and with about 735 million people living at or below the extreme poverty line, it is essential that this vulnerable population has access to private sector jobs. The private sector, also known as the citizen sector, is owned by private corporations rather than the government and companies all around the world make up the majority of the economy with private sector jobs. Companies within the private sector can greatly benefit from providing people living in poverty with jobs as an investment that will lead to global poverty reduction.

The Role of the Private Sector in Poverty Reduction

It is crucial that the private sector takes responsibility for providing jobs, even in situations that require extensive training and infrastructure, as an investment in people living in poverty will lead to competition within the market as well as exponential growth within the company. The Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC) created a toolkit to provide private sector companies with the skills and knowledge necessary to reduce poverty through employment. This toolkit outlines the benefits of workplace inclusion for people living in extreme poverty, not only from an economic standpoint but as a social responsibility as well. Outlined in the toolkit is the importance of networking and creating opportunities for people to fight poverty.

Microlending as a Poverty Reduction Tool

The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) prioritizes microlending from the private sector as a source of poverty alleviation. Microlending is the act of loaning out very small amounts of money to self-employed individuals living in developing countries by banks and institutions. The FEE highlights a famous example of this, Grameen Bank, founded by Muhammed Yunus in Bangladesh in 1983. The Grameen Bank makes loans of $30 to $200 per person and has been able to reach millions, majority of whom are females who use the money to buy supplies in order to make and distribute their products. This is just one example of private sector work being done to connect people with limited access to resources to the job market and create opportunities.

Social Impact Matters

Traditionally, poverty has been a focus of governments rather than private companies and institutions, however, recently, partnerships between these two have been sought as the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals are focused on poverty alleviation. These partnerships between governments and private organizations are focused in areas of development, education, health, agriculture and climate change, all of which prioritize private sector jobs to fight poverty. One motivation for the private sector to participate in expanding its labor force to vulnerable communities is that of reducing reputational risks and beneficial brand awareness. PYXERA Global looks into the opportunities provided by public-private partnerships through the lens of economic development and explains that customers are now more than ever likely to consider the social impact of a specific company when it comes to purchasing products.

Social Responsibilities of the Private Sector

In order for private sector jobs to fight poverty, it is essential that organizations and corporations take social responsibility to invest in vulnerable populations that will lead to long-term positive impacts for the global economy. Strategies to employ impoverished communities in the private sector workforce have already been put in place and will continue to be essential in both alleviating poverty and expanding the global economy.

– Caroline Pierce
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