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Renewable Energy
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it aims to achieve them by 2030. The SDGs are a comprehensive overview and effort from the global community to bring prosperity, aid and development all around the world. In September 2021, a major first step toward achieving SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy occurred. Major U.N. participating countries and leaders came together in New York to discuss and present plans to move forward with the pursuit of clean, renewable, affordable and eventually universal energy for all peoples of the world. The meeting laid out financial, societal and scientific goals to help develop and prepare the world for renewable energy.

Energy Poverty

The U.N. participating countries decided that they will largely aid countries experiencing “energy poverty” clean and renewable energy sources and the infrastructure necessary to support the production of those sources largely towards those suffering from “energy poverty.”

“We have a double imperative… to end energy poverty and to limit climate change. And we have an answer that will fulfill both imperatives. Affordable, renewable and sustainable energy for all,” said the U.N. Secretary-General.

Energy poverty is defined as “a lack of or limited access to modern energy sources.” This lack of modern energy sources means a lack of technology and technical assistance; everything from transportation, to light, heat and modern medical technology is all restricted. The use of polluting and dirty fuel sources and excessive time spent collecting fuels further burdens low levels of energy consumption.

Energy Access

One cannot overstate the pertinence of energy access and the lack thereof can be severe for those struggling in poverty. About 3 billion people or 40% of the world have no access to clean cooking fuels and about 13% lack access to electricity entirely.

People in poverty spend a vastly higher percentage of their income, effort and time on the energy that they use. “In situations where people do have access to energy, it is often the poorest that end up paying disproportionate shares of their income to energy, in part because the higher upfront costs of investments in energy-efficient equipment are more difficult to bear for low-income households,” reported Policy Brief 08. Lack of access to energy services is a form, an outcome and a cause of poverty.

The U.N. Energy pledge, stemming from SDG 7, is looking to provide 500 million more people with electricity and 1 billion more people with reliable access to clean cooking fuels by the year 2025. These milestones are shorter-term goals that aim to pave a road to eventual zero net emissions and universal access to clean energy.

The Future

Various member states, NGOs and other third-party organizations interested in aiding the people of the world suffering from energy poverty, committed more than $400 billion to this cause over 40 years. Beyond the money, there has been a global acknowledgment of the importance of energy access and conservation and a surge of resources and general support from around the world.

SDG 7 and the global effort against energy poverty is just another step in the struggle to help those around the world. Although there is quite a bit of work ahead, the global community’s drive, funding and planned approach are enough to warm and light up a room.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Great Green Wall
Refugees in Northern Cameroon have “planted 360,000 seedlings” since 2018 to combat desertification in the Minawao refugee camp. The refugees grew the “Great Green Wall” with help from their host communities, the U.N. and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The Dutch Postcode Lottery funded the project with $2.7 million as part of an initiative to plant a continent-wide, 8,000-kilometer barrier of trees to prevent desertification, land degradation and drought. The Great Green Wall now provides ample shade to refugee families in Minawao, allowing them to grow crops and support themselves with a sustainable food supply.

Education and Execution

The Great Green Wall project began with educating the refugees in Minawao on how to plant seedlings using “cocoon technology,” which Land Life Company developed to protect seedlings against harsh environments. Cocoon technology functions by burying water tanks made of recycled cartons in donut shapes around plants’ roots. As a result, the plants have steady access to water, which the plants receive through a string that connects to the water tank. Knowledge of how to plant and sustain seedlings allowed the refugees in Minawao to plant trees in the area without relying too heavily on outside coordinators for help. With the assistance of LWF and the United Nations, the Cameroonian refugees were able to plant a thriving forest to support crops and life in an area that was once bare and dry.

The Wall’s Impact

More than 70,000 refugees have fled to Minawao since 2014 to escape violence from the militant group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria. When the large groups of refugees first arrived in Minawao, the area’s desertification worsened, largely because refugees cut down the few remaining trees in order to survive. The Great Green Wall project committed to addressing deforestation, desertification and land degradation in the area by planting more than 100 hectares, the equivalent of 250 football fields, of trees. Trees from the Great Green Wall project now provide shade, improve soil quality and attract water, all of which improve the quality of life for the refugees living in Minawao.

Development and Sustainability

The next step in the Great Green Wall project is to expand upon its growth and sustainability. The U.N. and LWF are working together to address challenges that arise, in part through reforestation and raising awareness about how the project and planting processes work. LWF has also created a strategy to promote more sustainable energy sources, including eco-friendly briquettes. Briquettes are energy-efficient and pollution-reducing alternatives to firewood. Many women have found new sources of income because of the eco-friendly charcoal, which they sell to refugees and surrounding communities.

The Great Green Wall project is still in progress, but so far, it has provided better living conditions to thousands of refugees in Minawao, Cameroon. Other countries may look to the project as an example of the benefits that arise from addressing desertification in refugee camps. Sustainable reforestation does not only benefit the environment — it can transform communities, offer economic opportunities and improve quality of life.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

UN Food Systems Summit
The U.N. Food Systems Summit recently took place on September 23, 2021. The U.N. Food Systems Summit highlighted the key nexus between food sustainability and food insecurity. The Summit was a virtual conference, and it described the food-related challenges that many people around the world are currently facing. Statistics highlighted the magnitude of the nutritional issues.

The UN Food Summit: Igniting Action and Hope

The World Food Program’s (WFP) Executive Director, David Beasley, mentioned several concerning facts. For example, 3 billion people are unable to attain a balanced diet. Beyond that, 9 million people die from hunger each year. In 2020 alone, 25,000 people died per day due to starvation. However, following these morbid realities, the Summit revealed the goals of the U.N. and some solutions to the pre-established issues. The emphasis was on galvanizing people to care for one another. At its core, the Summit was a rallying call to action.

Main Objectives of the Summit

The main objective of the Summit was to raise awareness of the food system’s importance to the entirety of the sustainable development agenda. The urgency of addressing the issues plaguing global food systems has increased, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Summit also aimed to unite stakeholders around a common understanding of food systems as a foundation for action, to recognize the necessity of innovation addressing global food obstacles and catalyze action for the transformation of food systems in every corner of the globe.

António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General, issued a summary and statement of action for the Summit. One of the key points of the statement was how the pandemic has significantly worsened food insecurity, resulting in a 20% increase in the number of people facing hunger between 2019 and 2020. Furthermore, the Secretary-General established five action areas to help ensure the necessary changes to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030:

  1. Nourish All People
  2. Boost Nature-Based Solutions
  3. Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities
  4. Build Resistance to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses
  5. Accelerating the Means of Implementation

This statement of action was very robust. It included details about how the U.N. Resident Coordinators and U.N. Country Teams will work with national governments to develop new national pathways to improve food systems and ensure the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.

Global Leaders Reactions

During the Summit, leaders from a variety of countries spoke in an attempt to elicit empathy and initiative in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Agriculture Ministers and others were present at the Summit. The Summit’s goal was to “transform food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” Many of the leaders who spoke focused on the specific issues plaguing the food systems within their state and established courses of action and priorities for tackling those issues.

Spain stated that it will be focussing on boosting family farming, with President Pedro Sanchez saying that “family farming…contributes to the economic and socio-cultural fabric of rural areas.” He followed that statement by announcing that the Spanish government will support family farming by boosting the coalition for the Decade of Family Farming. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), made a strong statement condemning humanity’s current state of production and consumption. He emphasized the urgency of investment into global food systems and called upon food manufacturers to change the composition of their products.

The Conversation Needs to Continue

The U.N. Food Systems Summit provides hope and reassurance that action will occur to address food insecurity and poverty worldwide. The Summit was available to watch for anyone with internet access, and those who registered were able to connect in chat sections. Globalizing the combat of food insecurity and reaching the individual level increases awareness and participation in the Summit, which is beneficial to the U.N. cause. International humanitarian organizations and NGOs should continue to host these community dialogues to raise awareness of the issues plaguing humanity and to establish roadmaps to alleviate these issues.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Flickr

Floods in Timor-Leste
Between April 29 and March 4, 2021, extreme weather struck the nation of Timor-Leste. Cyclone Seroja created “strong winds and heavy rain,” according to the Associated Press. The U.N. explained that heavy rain, in turn, led to landslides and flash floods during the cyclone. The challenging weather struck Timor Leste’s capital city, Dili, particularly hard. In fact, around 8,000 Timorese people had to move to temporary shelters and 34 people died due to the floods in Timor-Leste.

Since April 2021, the floods in Timor-Leste have received little coverage from Western news sources and the work of rebuilding and providing resources is ongoing. In fact, the country’s government requested more “support to address residual humanitarian needs” in June 2021.

The Current Situation

A U.N. report, dated July 16, 2021, has provided details about which areas still require attention. These include the evacuation centers, which are still housing 730 people, as well as food and water accessibility. As part of its section on “Gender & Protection,” the report stressed the necessity for well-lit bathrooms with lockable doors for both men and women at the evacuation centers. Additionally, the report noted that those living in evacuation centers will need access to materials so that they can fix their damaged homes or build new ones. 

More broadly, clean water and COVID-19 are major concerns. Initiatives to restore the country’s piped water supply system is on their way in order to deliver water to the capital and other areas. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have risen, and the country lacks supplies and equipment to deal with the pandemic effectively. Cyclone Seroja resulted in the flooding of Timor Leste’s national medical storage facility, leading to the destruction of medical supplies.

The report from the U.N. shows that there is a demand for information as well. In its section on “Education,” the report noted that “[d]etailed information on damages and losses in schools not yet available.” The report listed the problem in regard to its “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene” section as well.

USAID Food Assistance

Shortly after the floods in Timor-Leste, The New Humanitarian reported that “food affordability [was] emerging as [a] growing [worry]” due to the impact of the floods on crops. In fact, the cost of rice increased by more than 20% in one year. The U.N. has suggested that Timor-Leste implement a referral system to resolve malnutrition. 

On July 8, 2021, USAID announced that it would give Timor-Leste an additional $900,000 in assistance after having given $100,000 in the aftermath of Cyclone Seroja. On July 9, 2021, Kevin Blackstone, the U.S. ambassador to Timor-Leste mentioned that the U.S. aimed to impact “farmers in remote areas” by providing “cash or vouchers to buy seeds,” as well as necessary farming tools.

Further Assistance

USAID’s contribution is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.N’.s report lists many other actions that governments and organizations have taken to aid the Timorese government. Among other measures, the Timorese government has given out 36,600 water purification tablets. Additionally, UNICEF gave supplies to a Tasi Tolu community so that education for children could continue and the UNDP began a cash-for-work program, offering jobs to those who need them. Finally, various organizations have worked to provide education about gender-based violence.

The New Humanitarian’s coverage in April 2021 highlighted the actions of local volunteer groups in Timor-Leste. One woman named Berta Antonieta Tilman Pereira worked on fundraising so that she could start community kitchens for evacuees in the aftermath of the floods. Pereira stated that “the community themselves needs to be organized” because “the system that we’re…supposed to trust and rely on…is totally slow and not responding.” The New Humanitarian pointed out that the Timorese government did not request help from international bodies until April 8, 2021, which was four days after the disaster.

Three months after Cyclone Seroja, much still needs to occur in regard to dealing with the effects of floods in Timor-Leste. According to the U.N., 26,186 “affected families…have received emergency support,” and “[t]he majority of the temporarily displaced have returned home.” However, organizations are also carrying out a great deal of work in the hopes of long-lasting recovery.

– Victoria Albert
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Nigeria
Nigeria is currently facing a daunting challenge that impacts the lives of millions in the country: hunger. Hunger in Nigeria has been escalating in recent months for various reasons and it has received international attention.

The Scale of the Crisis

Hunger in Nigeria is an immense problem that is currently putting millions at risk in the country. Between the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, almost 4.5 million people are now at risk of hunger. Of that 4.5 million, more than 700,000 are at imminent risk of starving to death.

Economics and Food

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a critical contributing factor in the ongoing rise in hunger in Nigeria. Unemployment has skyrocketed in the country, as one-third of the population does not have a job. Additionally, 70% of Nigerians have lost at least one form of income because of the pandemic.

Food inflation has also skyrocketed, worsening the state of hunger. Food inflation reached a 15-year high in 2021, rising to 22.95% in March. Import restrictions on rice and rising fuel costs have both contributed to this inflation.

Overall inflation and poverty levels have been on the rise, further compounding the hunger crisis. Inflation in Nigeria is the highest in the region, and the World Bank predicts the 2021 Nigerian inflation to be 16.5%. The inflation prediction for the sub-Saharan Africa region, excluding Nigeria, is only 5.9%. In the past year, food price inflation alone has accounted for 70% of Nigeria’s inflation.

The economic fallout of the pandemic could put more than 11 million Nigerians in poverty by 2022. The effects of the pandemic created a dangerous mix of unemployment, increased poverty, increased overall inflation, increased food inflation and widespread loss of income.

Conflict and Hunger

Conflict in Nigeria has contributed to the current hunger crisis. The impact of conflict in Nigeria is especially apparent with food inflation. Food costs have risen due to conflict between farmers and herders in the agricultural sector, as well as the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram terrorist organization.

Further, the ongoing conflict has made the state of hunger in Nigeria even worse by displacing many Nigerians. The states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, which are at high risk of widespread hunger, have also seen mass displacement due to conflict. In recent years, 8.7 million people have experienced displacement in these states due to the violence that “non-state armed groups” instigated

These large numbers of displaced persons often move into host communities that are ill-suited to the task. Such communities end up under the tremendous strain, as they have insufficient supplies, including food, to serve their newly enlarged populations.

Armed conflicts that prevent humanitarian aid from reaching those who need it is complicating the addressing of this crisis. Estimates indicate that aid cannot reach more than 800,000 people who live in areas that non-state armed groups control.

Aid Efforts

International organizations are trying to address hunger in Nigeria. The U.N. and other international organizations have continued to provide food assistance in Nigeria thanks to a process called localization. This process involves international organizations partnering with local NGOs to assist those in need, which enables local people, who might understand more, to help with local problems.

This coalition of organizations has provided support to camps for internally displaced persons. For example, the World Food Programme (WFP) has given starving Nigerians money to purchase food. However, this assistance has had a limited scope, as some camps only offer food support to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. All of these efforts to assist have not proven to be enough to address the crisis. 

Looking Ahead

Much work remains to address the current state of hunger in Nigeria. The U.N.-led coalition of organizations is attempting to reach more than 6 million Nigerians with humanitarian aid. However, this effort has received limited funding as it has only garnered 20% of the necessary funds.

To address this crisis, a significant amount of funding is necessary. The U.N. is calling for $250 million in food aid to meet Nigeria’s severe hunger situation.

The situation of hunger in Nigeria is in a state of crisis. Millions of Nigerians are at high risk of becoming food insecure, and hundreds of thousands are at risk of starving to death. Conflict, widespread displacement and high food inflation all impact the hunger situation in Nigeria. While a coalition of organizations provides as much aid as possible to those at risk, these organizations need more support from the international community.

– Coulter Layden
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Israel
With the marvels of medical technology, medical professionals can now cure most infections and diseases with a combination of treatments and pharmaceutical drugs. However, it is challenging for them to treat some viruses still. Amongst the stubborn viruses that still elude the medical communities’ ability is the HIV/AIDS virus, a diagnosis that for too many means the end of living a normal life. The effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel have been profound and COVID-19 may worsen the situation.

The Effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel

Following the first case of AIDS in the 1980s, the world bore witness to an epidemic that swept the globe in an unprecedented manner. From 1981 to 2010, Israel reported nearly 10,000 cases, with around 7,000 of them still ongoing in the country. People living with HIV/AIDS in Israel fall into some of the most vulnerable groups in society. This includes injecting drug users and immigrants. Israeli immigrants, often from countries like Sudan, China and Eritrea, often face obstacles receiving treatment for AIDS. While testing is free, the pathway to HIV/AIDs drugs remains expensive and out of reach for many. This creates a socioeconomic divide on who has access to treatment and who does not. According to a report by the Israeli Task Force, many immigrants are unaware of their access to free testing.

COVID-19 Compounding Consequences

Since the beginning, nation-states have strived to mitigate the effects of the HIV/AIDS virus on their populations. Communities most at risk often face marginalization and are disproportionately at risk of poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has halted services to help these groups. This has caused many to fall into poverty. The Health Ministry of Israel worries that poverty and food and housing insecurity will rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the Health Ministry of Israel is collaborating with other government sectors to create and strengthen initiatives to fight HIV/AIDS. For example, needle exchange programs, homeless shelters and meals all function as efforts to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS in Israel. Health officials in these programs are now essential as the government prepares for a rise in cases.

The Good News

As a result, Israel is taking steps in the right direction to fight HIV/AIDS. Within society, a conservative outlook on sex and the religious practice of circumcision keep the numbers relatively low. In addition regional cooperation inside of Israel with IGOs like the UN and WHO have made workshops and collaboration with Israeli NGOs and the Jerusalem AIDS Project. Israeli researchers are some of the world’s foremost pioneers and drivers of HIV/AIDS vaccine research and in 2019 introduced a ‘mosaic’ vaccine that identifies and responds to more variant strains of the HIV virus. Though HIV/AIDS is still a prevalent issue, Israel is making great strides in combating the virus.

– Alex Pinamang
Photo: Flickr

The Tigray Conflict
Thousands of refugees have fled the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia since early November 2020 to seek safety in eastern Sudan. This has resulted in a full-scale humanitarian crisis. Refugees, many of whom are children and women, have been arriving at remote border points that take hours to enter from the closest towns in Sudan. Most of them do not have any possessions and arrived exhausted from walking long distances over harsh terrain. The steady influx of daily arrivals is exceeding the existing capacity to provide assistance.

The Tigray Conflict

The Tigray conflict is an ongoing armed conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. According to the International Crisis Organization think-tank, the violence in Tigray has left thousands dead and sent tens of thousands of refugees into Sudan. Estimates have determined that the conflict has displaced more than 222,000 people, in addition to the 100,000 people who experienced displacement prior to the conflict. Moreover, the loss of livelihoods, destruction of homes and lack of resources have affected local neighborhoods. As a result, people living in those areas urgently need shelter, food, water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as health and protection.

Humanitarian Efforts

While humanitarian efforts are emerging to provide aid after the Tigray conflict, they remain challenged by the insecurity and bureaucratic constraints throughout the region. As a result, it can be challenging for humanitarian groups to access countrysides as well as Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps.

The U.N. is working with Ethiopia’s government and all relevant interlocutors to aid in the safe passage of humanitarian personnel and the provision of supplies to all parts of the Tigray region. Meanwhile, health facilities in major cities are partially working with limited-to-no stock of supplies and the absence of health workers and facilities outside major cities are not operational.

In addition, UNHCR and Sudan’s Commission for Refugees are continuing to relocate refugees from the border to designated refugee camps. These are further inland in Sudan’s Gedaref State, in support of the government-led response in Sudan. Um Rakuba refugee camp is approaching its full capacity. UNHCR and its partners are swiftly relocating refugees to a newly opened refugee camp, Tunaydbah, in order to keep refugees safe and offer them better quality living conditions.

Humanitarian Funding

In 2020, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, launched an appeal for $147 million to support as many as 100,000 people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region into neighboring Sudan. In its appeal document, UNHCR said that it took an anticipated increase of refugees into account during its planning. At the minimum, it planned to be able to help a total of 100,000 by April 2021, whereas at the maximum, it intended to be able to provide aid to an influx of 200,000 refugees.

In November 2020, UNHCR began airlifting aid to refugees, sending the first of four planeloads of supplies to Khartoum. One of the flights to Khartoum brought 100 tonnes from Dubai comprising mosquito net, blankets, plastic sheets, solar lamps, tents and prefabricated warehouses. The intention behind the appeal for $147 million was to fund UNHCR so that it could help Sudan manage the humanitarian crisis over the following six months.

Looking Ahead

CSW’s founder and president, Mervyn Thomas, urged Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to prioritize the protection of refugees within Ethiopia’s borders. These refugees’ forcible return to a country that many deem to have committed crimes against humanity is an appalling violation of international law and humanitarian norms.

Abiy Ahmed needs to take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict and enter into meaningful dialogue with regional representatives who the people of Tigray recognize. People can also call on the government of Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Tigray immediately and end its egregious violations of the rights of Eritreans, both at home and abroad. More nations also need to step up their humanitarian support for the region, including Sudan, which is suffering the brunt of the refugee wave from Tigray.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Botswana's Renewable Energy
Nearly half of Botswana’s population remains poor despite its economic strides. About 46% of children under the age of 15 are vulnerable to poverty. In 2013, UNDP measured Botswana’s rural areas as having the highest poverty rates with nearly 45% of people living below the poverty line. Botswana has abundant solar and biogas resources that it can harness to increase access to affordable, sustainable energy alternatives in rural populations while providing opportunities to grow local economies and jobs through investments in solar plants and biogas digesters. Leveraging natural sources such as these could alleviate Botswana’s reliance on more expensive imported petroleum sources and centralized electric grids. Communities can bridge the gap between their demand and supply with affordable, viable options that are sustainable. Current investment levels do not fully exploit the potential of Botswana’s renewable energy options.

About Botswana

With its stunning landscapes and majestic wildlife, Botswana has long been a magnet for travelers and adventurers the world over. Nestled and landbound between Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, deep in the Kalahari desert, some have touted Botswana as an economic and political success story in the region. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and political stability primarily due to its diamond and tourism industry.

Solar Power

Botswana has lots of sunshine. Per the World Bank, Botswana “has abundant solar energy resources receiving over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year with an average insolation on a horizontal surface of 21MJ/m2, one of the highest rates of insulation in the world.” With its annual sunshine among the highest globally, there is much potential for Botswana to advance its solar energy capabilities. The far-flung desert spaces of rural areas lend themselves well to establishing vast solar farms.

The Botswana government has indicated an interest in growing its renewable energy sector, hosting its first large workshop on the topic in 2014.

While adoption of solar technologies holds great promise for Botswana, legacy financial, policy and institutional frameworks are barriers. Botswana’s government has also highlighted a lack of knowledge on the evolving technologies and practices in the renewables area as a challenge to the advancement of its goals.

Biogas

Biogas, which producers generate from waste, has much potential as a renewable energy source. This type of energy source is useful in the generation of heat and power, replacing conventionally used fossil fuel sources, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while recycling agro-waste such as cow-dung and chicken litter. The high quantities of manure from the large cattle population enable the necessary capacity to establish independent biogas-based power plants in addition to solar farms. Countries can explore methane capture technologies for local energy options while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Success Stories

The Botswana government is working strategically to diversify its energy sources and build resiliency in its energy sector by investing in new solar power plants. As of 2020, plans for building four new solar plants over the next six years for a cumulative 610MW capacity are underway.

The Biogas Project of Botswana supports the production and use of biogas for agro-waste producing farms and organizations. The project is a part of Botswana’s 11th National Development Plan (NDP11), seeking to promote equitable, affordable energy while reducing the country’s carbon footprint by leveraging renewable energy sources public-private partnerships. The Biogas Project intends to build 200 digesters with a focus on addressing the needs of current underrepresented and vulnerable parts of the community, such as women and children. One of its beneficiaries speaks of how it has reduced her fuel costs by relying on locally generated manure as well as eased her daily burdens of collecting firewood for her chores of cooking and other household needs.

Looking Ahead

Investment in renewable energy such as solar power and biogas technologies in rural Botswana empowers rural communities by reducing their reliance on imported fuels such as petroleum and large-scale centralized electric grids. Building renewable energy plants closer to rural communities bolsters rural economies, promotes autonomy and improves adaptability to changing energy circumstances and costs.

The U.N. has laid out key global objectives to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030 that includes doubling the share of renewable energy globally. Given the plummeting costs of renewable sources in recent years, the government of Botswana is moving to articulate a renewal energy strategy as part of its overall energy objectives. Achieving self-sufficiency and establishing sustainable energy sources is of great importance to Botswana.

While Botswana has far to go in advancing these objectives, it shows promise in its abundant solar and other local energy resources to alleviate living conditions for the rural poor. Botswana should continue its path to sustainable, self-sufficient energy focusing on enabling private-public partnerships and investments in solar power programs. The country will benefit from the expertise, learnings and perspectives of collaborators worldwide. It is well-positioned to meet its challenges in alleviating rural poverty with thoughtful investments in Botswana’s renewable energy sector, given its historically stable governance, well-regarded global economic standing and long hours of sunlight.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Tunisia
Human trafficking in Tunisia is prevalent, while also existing in several other countries. Trafficking has three parts including the act of moving an individual, manipulating an individual’s free will and using an individual for exploitation.

The Situation

Between April 2019 and February 2020, the National Authority identified 1,313 trafficking victims from among the potential victims that some government agencies referred to it along with 780 victims that the previous reporting period identified. Tunisia is a destination for human trafficking involving forced labor and forced prostitution, where traffickers coerce or manipulate individuals to work under no contract for less than minimum wage.

Trafficking is a large topic of world discussion. Most victims in Tunisia are children, women and people with disabilities. Women and young girls are the most at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Traffickers force the victims into a domestic servitude partnership or involvement in criminal activities. Due to the severity of human trafficking in Tunisia, many new tactics have emerged to tackle the issue. Here are seven facts about human trafficking in Tunisia.

7 Facts About Human Trafficking in Tunisia

  1. Tunisia passed an anti-human trafficking law. In July 2019, the government of Tunisia started making procedures and guidelines for the National Authority and four other trafficking commissions to put more focus on monitoring, testing, studying, developing and tracking trafficking victims’ cases. The new law will criminalize sex and labor trafficking. Thus far, the new law has helped identify victims of human trafficking in Tunisia and push victimizers into the courtroom to undergo prosecution. The Tunisian government is also making efforts to address human labor trafficking recruitment practices. The Agency for Placement Abroad in Private Establishments (EPPA) filed 30 complaints to private employers for cases of fraud, extortion or abuses of Tunisian workers. The Tunisian government has officially requested that the Ministry of Women shut down the seven private employers that are recruiting Tunisian workers without proper EPPA registration.
  2. The National Authority created an anti-trafficking efforts website in February 2020. This online platform helps to provide education on how to stop and fight against human trafficking. This website is open to anyone who is a victim of human trafficking or has witnessed someone be a victim of human trafficking. The website includes a human trafficking hotline, education for health care professionals on red flags, shelter resources and more. To date, the website has aided trafficking victims so that they can receive medical and social support.
  3. More accountability exists for traffickers in Tunisia. Tunisia has implemented an increase in trafficking investigations. Tunisia increased its investigations in 2016 due to the passing of new legislation in July of that year. Human trafficking in Tunisia now has a punishment of 10 years in prison and a 50,000 Tunisian dinar fine, or $16,620 USD for cases with adult victims. Meanwhile, trafficking cases involving children in Tunisia are now punishable with 15 years in prison and a fine of 50,000-100,000 Tunisian dinar or $16,620-$33,230 USD. Tunisian law enforcement has worked on the implementation of several anti-trafficking laws as well.
  4. Human trafficking victims in Tunisia can receive legal assistance with protection and medical care. When Tunisia adopted legislation in August 2016, it started providing medical and social help for victims of all types of human trafficking. Tunisia is currently working on providing employment to victims as well. It has also assured rights to protection and medical services for human trafficking victims. The Ministry of Health runs hospitals in Tunis that have units with trained personnel committed to helping victims of trafficking in Tunisia. Additionally, Tunisia has dedicated 79 centers to trafficked youth in Tunisia and another three for men. These centers have provided health care to 69 foreign and local trafficking victims. Moreover, the Ministry of Social Affairs gave psychological and socio-economic assistance to 83 victims.
  5. The U.N. and Tunisia hosted workshops to aid in the fight against human trafficking. The Tunisian Ministries of Justice and Interior worked along with the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) to hold three-day workshops called “Capacity-Building for the Fight against Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling in Tunisia.” These workshops operated from April 16, 2013, to December 31, 2018, with the purpose of addressing topics like identifying human trafficking, judicial considerations, protection and help for victims and international assistance in fighting the problem of human trafficking in Tunisia. The meetings tried to dismantle the trafficking systems by implementing new tactics. The session of meetings led to Tunisia drafting anti-trafficking legislation.
  6. National victims referral mechanisms aid in rescuing Tunisian trafficking victims. The new national victim’s referral mechanism in Tunisia is helping trafficking victims. These new centers, which work to specifically target victims of human trafficking in Tunisia, utilize national hotline systems. Tunisia has used the network to rescue over 150 victims.
  7. Governmental efforts create positive changes for trafficking operation investigations. From 2014 to 2018, the number of victims Tunisia identified increased from 59 cases to 780 cases with a significant number of those cases being foreigners. A judge ended up overseeing 31 of the cases with one case ending with a conviction. Four of the cases against human trafficking in Tunisia will now undergo criminal prosecution, while the rest require further investigation.

Looking Ahead

The Tunisian government is steadily working toward reducing human trafficking. Tunisia is making victimizers more accountable and providing victims with further protective resources, while national organizations like the U.N. are stepping in to lend a helping hand. The fight to ending human trafficking is long but Tunisia is headed in the right direction.

– Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

New Zealand's Foreign Aid
A small country can have a big impact beyond its borders when it knows what it is doing. While the United State’s foreign aid receives significant attention, some pay considerably less attention to the efforts of nations in uniquely beneficial positions to help, such as New Zealand. Here is some information about New Zealand’s foreign aid.

Unique Location

New Zealand is far from its nearest big neighbors. This relatively small island of about 100,000 square miles and just under 5 million people brought the world the film adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings,” the comic musical duo Flight of the Conchords and what some call the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the world. Despite a rich cultural impact, New Zealand also has a history of others overlooking it. On a world map or globe, New Zealand should show up to the right and slightly downwind of Australia. Instead, it almost looks like it went the way of the fabled Atlantis, swallowed up by the ocean, vanishing mysteriously without a trace, ready for adventurous archaeologists to make endless documentaries trying and failing to find it.

This modern mapmaking tendency to treat New Zealand like it went the way of the Dodo ended up turning into a tourism campaign that ran the tagline of “Getting New Zealand on the Map.” This happenstance showcases the humor and humility that Kiwis, the nickname for New Zealand citizens after the namesake unique bird, are known for. But while the country is breathtaking in its own right, perhaps its gifted application of focused foreign aid is what will really put New Zealand on the map in years to come.

New Zealand’s Foreign Aid and the Pacific Islands

While remote, New Zealand is not isolated in the sense of its outreach focus and capabilities. The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has received praise for her empathetic approach to leadership which seems to extend to the foreign policy that her administration enacts. While New Zealand provides aid across many regions including Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, a particular focus goes to its closest neighbors in the Pacific Islands region. This includes countries known as small island developing States (SIDS) like Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa to name a few.

While undeniably beautiful, many of these islands are extremely remote making it challenging to provide them with a steady flow of viable trade and resources. The situation has worsened in part because the islands have also been among those that tend to experience significant natural disasters and environmental challenges. The UN reported that a fourth of all Pacific Islanders live below what it considers the basic needs poverty line.

This is where New Zealand comes in. As a nation that consistently ranks as having a high quality of life, it is working to provide aid to its fellow islanders. New Zealand is also arguably better equipped to understand the challenges facing island dwellers than larger landlocked nations governments.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) website, its policy acts on the notion that stability in the region surrounding a homeland is crucial for the success and stability of the homeland as well. This type of foreign aid does not intend to be a charity endeavor, but rather an investment that has shown great promise in minimizing and even sidestepping unnecessary conflicts entirely. To that effect, roughly 60% of New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance funds go toward “…shared community interest in the prosperity and stability of the [Pacific] region.” The dollar amount of this contribution is around $1.331 billion and helps the collective efforts of more than 30 government agencies throughout the Pacific region.

MFAT sets criteria and monitors the implementation plans of the countries that receive these funds. The overarching aim of these allocations and efforts is to foster infrastructure and trade development. Like many nations that have significant foreign aid programs, the result is potentially mutually beneficial as new markets emerge in tandem with stable governments and societies. To understand the success of its programs as objectively as possible, MFAT has stated that it uses external evaluators. Such a strategy is one of increased accountability without crossing the line into overbearing and overregulated. MFAT also focuses on humanitarian outreach and disaster relief, again with a specified focus on the Pacific Islands region. It acts as a support rather than a domineering neighbor.

Uniquely Focused Scholarships

New Zealand offers a clever array of scholarships with different beneficial outcomes in mind. Of particular interest are the short-term training scholarships for pacific citizens which provide comprehensive skills training as well as valuable job experience. For those struggling in the Pacific Islands, an opportunity like this can provide them with a relatively quick and practical way to change their lives. An English Language Training for Officials Scholarship is also available to government officials from qualifying African and Asian nations. From workers making a livable wage to those governing entire countries, these educational focuses do well to showcase the different angles in which New Zealand is hoping to foster more stable communities near and far from home.

A Useful Blueprint

New Zealand’s efforts provide a wonderful blueprint that other small, but economically strong nations worldwide could apply. While a greater challenge, the largest developed countries could utilize its strategy in foreign aid practices. If New Zealand’s foreign aid practices show the world anything, it is that insurmountable problems seem more manageable when empathetic eyes view them.

– Jack Leggett III
Photo: Flickr