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Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

The International Commitment for Foreign Aid SpendingCurrently, there is an international commitment among developed countries to spend 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. The goal for this aid is to assist the world’s poorest countries in developing sustainably. However, the majority of the richest countries in the world have not met this commitment. In fact, the United States ranked last in 2018 (27th) on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) after only spending 0.18 percent on foreign aid. While the U.S. is reducing foreign aid spending, four countries are choosing to invest even more into developing countries than international commitment. They are doing so not only for humanitarian reasons but for strategic reasons as well.

Here are the four countries exceeding the international commitment for foreign aid spending.

4 Countries Exceeding the Commitment for Foreign Aid Spending

  1. Denmark – In 2018, Denmark allocated 0.72 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The majority of this amount took the form of bilateral aid, which means Denmark provided aid directly to foreign governments rather than international organizations. With its commitment to foreign aid spending, the country seeks to enhance its soft power and to reduce immigration to Denmark. Development Minister of Denmark Ulla Tørnæs stated, “Through our development work, we create better living conditions, growth and jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries and thereby help prevent migration.”
  2. Norway – Norway spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Although the country directed a higher percentage of its GNI to foreign aid than Denmark, Norway’s quality of foreign aid is not as strong. According to the Center for Global Development, the country’s aid score has declined due to struggles in the transparency and learning categories. According to Børge Brende, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, foreign aid spending enhances Norway’s soft power and national security interests. Additionally, the promotion of business development in foreign countries “is a good example of how aid can be used as a catalyst to mobilize other, larger flows of capital.”
  3. Luxemburg – Luxemburg spent 1 percent of its GNI on foreign aid in 2018. Luxemburg’s aid score is quite high, ranking fifth out of 27 among CDI countries. As explained by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), efficient bilateral foreign aid spending “enables Luxembourg to maximize its visibility, impact and international influence.” Currently, Luxemburg focuses its foreign aid spending in sub-Saharan Africa due to its particularly high rates of poverty.
  4. Sweden – At 1.01 percent, Sweden ranks first amongst developed nations for the highest percent of GNI directed towards foreign aid. Foreign aid has become a primary focus for Sweden due to the high influx of immigrants Sweden has taken in within the past few years. Like Denmark, Sweden sees foreign aid as an opportunity to reduce the inflow of immigrants by improving the economic conditions and overall wellbeing of developing countries. This high level of foreign aid spending is one of the main reasons why Sweden ranked eighth in the world in terms of soft power in 2018. In that sense, foreign aid spending is a long-term investment for Sweden because it helps Sweden manage immigration flow, build up the global economy and increase its influence on foreign countries. Since Sweden views foreign aid as an investment, the country heavily focuses on learning about the effectiveness of its foreign aid spending in order to maximize results.

Denmark, Norway, Luxemburg and Sweden all demonstrate that foreign aid spending is in the national interest of developed nations. Since these countries do not perceive foreign aid spending as a mere charity, they have become more incentivized than most other developed countries to provide high-quality aid.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global PovertyPeople helping people. Country helping country. Giving back to the world is not a strange concept and is a welcomed idea in most societies. A popular form of global help is foreign aid. The umbrella term commonly refers to monetary assistance provided by outlying or foreign governments. The funds are generally distributed through humanitarian organizations, non-profit groups or directly from a foreign government. As such, the aid is given to citizens in an abundance of forms, such as money, food or shelter. While some can afford to provide more than others on a purely numeric comparison, the amounts are measured or valued differently depending on the country’s economic standing. This list consists of five countries fighting global poverty who outshine the rest.

Top Five Countries Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Norway begins the list as it provides the largest amount of foreign aid in comparison to its GDP. The government put 1.11 percent of its GDP towards global humanitarian aid, spending NOK 455 million as of 2018. The country utilizes organizations such as the U.N.’s CERF (Central Emergency Response Fund), the Red Crescent Movement and the Red Cross. Recently, Norway channeled much of their funds into CERF in order to assist Venezuela in its growing refugee crisis. Norway’s contributions towards these programs effectively fight against global poverty and prove the nation should be in the top five, as its generosity in comparison to its national budget is the highest in the world.
  2. Luxembourg also contributes a significant portion of their GDP towards humanitarian and foreign affairs. Approximately 1 percent of their national budget, or about USD 413 million, is used for aid. Some of Luxembourg’s projects include poverty reduction through community development in Laos, education improvement in Burkina Faso and health care in Nicaragua. These countries receive specific help from various agencies and organizations like LuxDev and the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs. These groups and projects, though just a few select examples, show how much effort Luxemborg puts in fighting poverty.
  3. Sweden comes forward as another example of a smaller country with a smaller budget who still makes a grand impact in the world. As about 1.04 percent of its GDP, or about USD 5.8 billion, is used for humanitarian and foreign aid, Sweden holds a top ranking. While the money touches on a broad range of topics, from civil rights to education, specific Swedish projects focus on poverty issues. For instance, Sweden recently provided aid to Somalia for drought relief through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund. Sweden makes a mark on the world by not only tackling larger, conceptual issues, but by also responding quickly to disasters and world events. Such assistance highlights the country’s proficiency in the fight against global poverty.
  4. The United States is a leader in fighting global poverty as it contributes the most money towards humanitarian and foreign aid. Within the past few years alone, the U.S. contributed USD 30 billion towards various forms of international aid. The nation utilizes several different federal agencies, non-profit groups and other organizations to distribute aid. The U.S. commonly works with popular organizations such as UNICEF or the Red Cross. A prime example of the U.S. effect on the world is with the sheer number of countries it provides for, as it touches nearly 40 different nations, including Pakistan and Mexico.
  5. Germany also provides a significant amount of aid with nearly USD 20 billion contributed towards humanitarian projects in recent years. This accounts for nearly 0.70 percent of the national budget. Popular organizations and agencies include the World Food Program, which Germany utilized to provide relief to Africa. In addition to such organizations, Germany is known to donate large amounts of money to other countries, a notable example being Syria in recent years due to their ongoing crisis. Germany’s monetary generosity also makes it the second-largest donor in the world to foreign aid, falling in just behind the U.S.

Whether it’s a natural disaster or political turmoil, when a country is in need, surrounding neighbors will often step up to help.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Sweden

Scandinavian countries such as Sweden can often be seen as the golden standard of the struggle against poverty. With such low levels of poverty, Sweden has implemented many successful strategies to eradicate poverty. However, a deeper look into the reality of poverty in Sweden reveals that the country is not the utopia it is often made out to be.

Six Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. While Sweden prides itself on transparency, the country’s poverty statistics have been called into question. Although recent government reports have indicated zero absolute poverty, a recent Sweden City Missions report suggests that many basic poverty interventions still involve delivery of essential food and clothing needs. According to Sveriges Stadsmissioner, 62 percent of Sweden’s 200,000 basic interventions still focus on providing basic sustenance.
  2. According to the Swedish government, programs addressing poverty in Sweden take a multifaceted approach. They include long-term benefits such as pension, healthcare and expansive family benefits. These programs do an excellent job of addressing poverty, not with a one-size-fits-all solution, but with various approaches adapting to different beneficiaries.
  3. Despite these programs, a recent University College study suggests that many of those who receive short-term, “get back on your feet” benefits, which are designed for short-term empowerment, use these benefits for anywhere from 5 to fifteen years. The National Board of Health and Welfare indicates that a third of short-term benefit recipients end up receiving these benefits for longer than intended.
  4. Statistics portraying poverty in Sweden can also ignore citizens that qualify for benefits but do not receive them. This is one of the downfalls of the nation’s robust welfare state. With such a massive bureaucracy to navigate, many citizens are simply unable to complete the necessary forms to receive the benefits they qualify for.
  5. Poverty in Sweden is not just limited to its citizens. With nearly 1,500 refugees entering Sweden every week, the government’s welfare system is being stretched. If the current rate of immigration continues, nearly 2 percent of the Swedish population will soon be refugees. In desperate need of help, these refugees have completed arduous journeys often stretching for thousands of miles and many months. Since they have little to begin with, refugees who settle in Sweden need welfare to assist with nearly every facet of life.
  6. Sweden measures its poverty in terms of absolute poverty (income of $2 per day), rather than relative poverty (less than 60 percent of median income). This means that those who are making barely enough to eat two meals a day are not considered to be in absolute poverty. While a zero absolute poverty level is commendable, statistics portraying poverty in Sweden do not necessarily discuss those who live in relative poverty – many of these people cannot afford much more than a single bottle of water.

Sweden can be looked to and praised for its expansive welfare state and statistical lack of poverty. However, poverty in Sweden still exists, and the country’s official statistics often fail to reflect the reality.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Parliamentary Democracy Government
There are several types of democracies, and here we will explain what a parliamentary democracy is by comparing it to a presidential democracy, which we have in the United States.

In short, a parliamentary democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to a legislative parliament to make the necessary laws and decisions for the country. This parliament directly represents the people.

In a presidential democracy, the leader is called a President, and he or she is elected by citizens to lead a branch of government separate from the legislative branch. If you remember back to government class, you will remember that the United States has three branches of the government: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative. The President leads the executive branch of government.

 

Role of Parliamentary Democracy

 

In a parliamentary democracy, you have a Prime Minister, who is first elected as a member of parliament, then elected Prime Minister by the other members of the parliamentary legislature. However, the Prime Minister remains a part of the legislature. The legislative branch makes the laws, and thus the Prime Minister has a hand in law-making decisions. The Prime Minister works directly with other people in the legislature to write and pass these laws.

In our presidential democracy, we still have a legislature, but we also have a president. He is separate from the legislature, so although he works with them, it is not as direct as if he were a Prime Minister. The laws that the legislature wants to pass must first go through the president; he can sign them into being or he can veto them. The President can go to the legislative branch and suggest laws, but they ultimately write them for his approval.

Furthermore, in parliamentary systems, the legislature has the right to dismiss a Prime Minister at any time if they feel that he or she is not doing the job as well as expected. This is called a “motion of no confidence,” and is not as much of a drawn out process. In the US, impeachment is an extensive, formal process in which an official is accused of doing something illegal.

Some countries with a parliamentary system are constitutional monarchies, which still have a king and queen. A few examples of these are the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan.

It is important to remember that both of these systems of government are democracies. Ultimately, the citizens who vote have the voice.

– Alycia Rock

Sources: Wise Geek, Scholastic, How Stuff Works
Photo: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

 

parliamentary democracy government

Sweden's Global Sustainable Development

Since 2003, Sweden has worked to integrate policy for global development, in part of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The development of this policy aims to address world poverty and hunger in the world, with the cooperation of other countries. In 2010, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) recognized Sweden for its efficient work and support in ending world hunger. Year-to-date, Sweden’s contribution to WFP funding has exceeded $100 million. Sweden’s global sustainable development plan is called the 2030 Agenda and focuses on “an equitable and sustainable global development” and working with states in order to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development’s goal of ending global poverty.

The stated purpose of Sweden’s global sustainable development proposal is “a common and long-term sustainable environmental, social and economic development, linked to fighting poverty and hunger and inequality within and between countries”. It aims to ensure a better future and education, especially for the world’s children. Sweden’s efforts will continue to “build broad and innovative partnerships” all across the globe.

The U.N. Millennium Development’s policy wants to “develop an open trading and financial system that is rule-based and non-discriminatory,” and addresses the world’s most poor. This policy urges collaboration with other countries, in order to reach an agreement “on a common agenda for global development,” to aid the world. The U.N. Millennium Development’s and Sweden’s global sustainable development policy states “it is vital that the policy for global development be coordinated clearly, in exactly the same way as when a coherent policy for environmental issues and equality between men and women” is developed.

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is not the sole purpose of Sweden’s global sustainable development policy. Other goals include ensuring environmental sustainability, such as clean water, and combating the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Sweden’s collaboration with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals creates a “concerted effort to improve the conditions affecting the lives of the poor” not just in their own country, but in countries around the world.

Since receiving recognition for their “outstanding support as a donor” of the WFP, Sweden’s global sustainable development has helped “where hunger is most acute.” Sweden has become one “of the first countries in the world to have a fully integrated policy” regarding global policy and development. Sweden’s global sustainable development policy has enabled direct efforts towards alleviating poverty, creating a better future for impoverished people around the world.

Jennifer Lightle

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in SwedenSweden is a nation in northern Europe that is home to about 10 million people. One of Sweden’s defining characteristics is its neutrality. Formerly a military power, it has been more than 200 years since Sweden has gone to war. This is not the nation’s only impressive accomplishment. Sweden’s other notable claim to fame is its robust economy. Overall, the economy is very strong, and measures have been enacted to reduce and alleviate the causes of poverty in Sweden.

Some statistics about Sweden’s economy:
• In 2016, the nation’s GDP was $511 billion
• The nation’s unemployment rate is about 6 percent

One strength that enables Sweden’s economy to achieve as much as it does is how easy the nation makes doing business. In fact, Forbes rated Sweden as the best country in the world for business in 2017. By comparison, the U.S., an undeniable economic power, is ranked 23rd. Some of the factors that Forbes took into consideration were innovation, taxes, technology, levels of bureaucracy and stock market performance.

Another factor that allows for Sweden’s economic success is its interest in defending and promoting gender equality. In 2016, the World Economic Forum created its Global Gender Gap Index and showed the progress that Sweden has made in this area. According to the index, Sweden trails just three nations, Iceland, Finland and Norway, in terms of gender equality. While economic gain may not be the first thing you think of when you improved gender equality, it really is the case. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) believes in a very simple cause and effect relationship: “If the EU stepped up its efforts to improve gender equality, more jobs would be created, GDP per capita would increase and society would be able to adjust better to the challenges related to the ageing population.”

These and other actions have limited the causes of poverty in Sweden and ensure a good quality of life for its citizens.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Pixabay

Human Rights in Sweden

As the first country to legislate freedom of the press in 1766, Sweden has had a history of being a vanguard for human rights for hundreds of years. Human rights in Sweden are a top priority for both its citizens and its government. With its seat on the U.N. Security Council and the establishment of the Human Rights Watch offices within its borders, Sweden sets a remarkable example for other developed countries to follow for upholding human rights.

The strong human rights record in Sweden is due to its governmental determination in uplifting its humanitarian tenets, include fighting discrimination, protecting the rule of law, building democracy and strengthening freedom of expression. Government officials fervently believe in protecting human rights in Sweden because it promotes global development and national security. In 2008, the Swedish government took detailed measures towards eradicating discrimination as much as possible by mandating that human rights must be incorporated into all realms of foreign policy.

Sweden’s international leadership in human rights is a defining characteristic of the country’s view on foreign policy. Given that extensive laws protect Sweden’s citizens within its borders, the country’s current agenda is to protect these rights abroad and to introduce laws that protect those whose rights are not as guaranteed. Sweden assists various international organizations such as the United Nations in extending human rights to those living in developing countries.

In order to combat domestic discrimination, the Swedish government introduced the Swedish Discrimination Act of 2009. It counters discrimination in professional and educational sectors by allowing compensation to be given to those who have experienced discrimination. Although Sweden exerts significant effort to protect human rights, there are still certain demographics that its legislation is not protecting completely. Specific groups that have been targeted include Roma, African, and Muslim Swedes. However, the Swedish government is aware of these reports and strives to assist those who encounter discrimination. According to Sweden’s official website, “Human rights largely begin at home. As Sweden strives to walk its talk, it is important to ensure that the values promoted abroad are upheld at home.”

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Feminist Foreign PolicyAccording to its website, the Swedish government gives gender equality high priority when it comes to foreign aid. Swedish leaders believe fighting for women’s rights is an essential step in establishing a secure and sustainable world. Consequently, they have launched a feminist foreign policy action plan to remove obstacles for women and girls in developing countries.

Since 2015, the nation has revisited and revitalized the initiative regularly. Goals for 2017 focus on increasing rights for female migrants and refugees; creating economic freedom for women via legislation; reducing violence against women; capitalizing on women’s potential to suppress conflict and encouraging sexual and reproductive rights.

A statement on the Government Offices of Sweden’s website details plans to service these goals. Leaders plan to allocate funds through relevant stakeholders, who will utilize aid to combat human rights abuses, endorse women’s financial and judicial empowerment and enact laws that provide women the same rights that men have.

Funds will also benefit initiatives to break down cultural associations between masculinity and violence, encouraging men to act as peacemakers in their homes and communities, as well as bolster movements to provide open access to contraceptives.

Canada has recently adopted a similar feminist foreign policy plan. Like Sweden, Canada recognizes that significant improvements in global poverty over the past few decades have not provided equal benefit to both men and women. To foster equal opportunities, Canada will strategically invest foreign aid in efforts seeking to improve women’s access to resources that can raise them from poverty.

A statement on the Government of Canada website acknowledges the challenges for women in developing countries. The difficulty lies in intersections of deeply-rooted inequality, conflict and consequences of climate change. The statement also highlights that with enough support, women can better help their families and communities.

Human dignity, security, climate action and inclusive governance comprise the core values of Canada’s plan. Their ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and promote economic advancement by empowering women to participate readily in politics, the workforce and their communities.

Canada’s statement also includes plans to involve men and boys by disputing the norms that reinforce gender-based injustice. They also provide an intersectional scope that includes the interests of people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, identities and abilities.

While timeworn power structures cause disproportionate struggles for destitute women and girls, leaders around the globe are eager to eradicate the imbalance. Feminist foreign policy is an essential step toward this goal.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr


Since 1990, Sweden has been working toward reducing the acidification of lake water and reaching its renewable energy goal of 50 percent by 2020. The Scandinavian country ensures that the drinking water conforms to National Food Administration requirements before being released for public consumption.

The water quality in Sweden is currently at a very high standard. The lake water passes through various stages of purification before it is distributed as drinking water. In the initial stage of purification, the water is decontaminated with mechanical and chemical methods. The second stage leads the water through “slow sand filters that extract the remaining organic pollutants.” Once the water is purified of contaminants, it is processed into the distribution network.

According to ClimateChangePost (CCP), which publishes the most recent information on climate change and adaption, water quality in Sweden could face considerable consequences due to climate change. Half of Sweden’s local water supply is derived from the 95,700 lakes and watercourses that dominate its landscape. The other half is extracted from groundwater.

Climate change projections indicate that more frequent heavy rainfall will elevate levels of sewage overflow. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published an article identifying the link between extreme precipitation and the outbreak of waterborne disease. The study analyzed the time period 1948 to 1994 and demonstrates that “51 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks were preceded by incidences of heavy rain.” This is in part because contaminated raw water creates widespread health risks, such as microbiological growth.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that microscopic parasites, Cryptosporidium, were found in Östersund’s drinking water during an outbreak of gastroenteritis in November 2010. Cryptosporidium was found in 174 cases of the 700 cases of gastroenteritis. Located in northern Sweden, Östersund’s drinking water tested positive for Cryptosporidium.

On Mar. 30, 2017, the drinking water in Stockholm received a Certification of Quality by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The certificate states that the drinking water in Stockholm City is of “high and consistent quality.” The water is sourced from Lake Mälaren, Lovö and Norsborg.

With close monitoring of climate changes and scientific studies, it is hopeful Sweden’s water supply will continue to produce high-quality drinking water.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr