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Human trafficking in the Republic of the CongoThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is an African country that is home to more than 105 million people, forming the second-largest country on the continent. The DRC is rich in natural resources such as coal, gold and petroleum, which provide the country with economic sustenance. However, human trafficking in the Republic of the Congo stemming from governmental corruption and internal conflicts continues to plague the country.

Economic Background of the DRC

Economic growth in the DRC decreased from 4.4% in 2019 to merely 0.8% in 2020. The slowed growth rate correlates with limitations related to COVID-19. Private consumption, government investment and non-mining sectors dipped because of pandemic-related complications and limited government spending. The Democratic Republic of the Congo falls in the bottom 10 countries in the Doing Business 2020 annual report. The Human Development Index (HDI), which measures holistic standards of living, placed the DRC in the bottom 15 countries for 2020.

The pervasiveness of poverty in the DRC is reflected in the estimated 73% of Congolese people who lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2018. About one in six people living in conditions of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa are from the DRC, with more than four in 10 Congolese children classified as malnourished. The Human Capital Index (HCI) indicates Congolese children operate at roughly one-third of the potential productivity possible with full education and complete health. The DRC ranks below average in the HCI compared to other sub-Saharan African nations.

Human Trafficking in the DRC

In a 2019 report, the U.S. Department of State classified the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a Tier 3 nation in its handling of human trafficking. The classification is due to the Department of State’s determination that the DRC “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”

While the Congolese National Army (FARDC) showed no cases of child recruitment for the fourth year in a row, the FARDC is said to have recruited child soldiers through partnerships with local militias. The Congolese government reported additional cases of sexual violence but did not differentiate sex trafficking crimes from general sexual violence crimes. Furthermore, there continues to be a lack of victim identification procedures and criminalization of trafficking crimes.

The U.S. Department of State recommends several mitigation methods for handling human trafficking in the Republic of the Congo. Some overarching recommendations include efforts to “develop legislation that criminalizes all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties which are sufficiently stringent.” Additionally, the U.S. Department recommends the use of “existing legislation to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict and adequately sentence traffickers, including complicit officials.”

United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking in the DRC is not going unnoticed. In 2020, the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking announced its commitment to a short-term program to deliver humanitarian aid to human trafficking victims or those who are fleeing crises. For the DRC, the project focuses on “supporting underage girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation in artisanal mining zones in Kamituga, Mwenga territory, South Kivu province in eastern DRC.” Additionally, the project will provide clothes, shelter and mental support to trafficked women and young people in the DRC.

US Assistance

In 2020, the U.S. ambassador to the DRC, Michael Hammer, initiated a $3 million program with the U.S. Agency for International Development focusing on combating human trafficking in the Republic of the Congo. The program prioritizes three tasks:

  1. Create effective anti-trafficking legislation and initiatives.
  2. Gather and communicate data on human trafficking.
  3. Reform “existing legal and medical services for victims of trafficking.”

The program also aims to strengthen prosecution efforts against human traffickers, reflecting the recommendations of the U.S. State Department. “The best way to prevent trafficking is to hold those responsible for it to account and to end impunity for this heinous crime,” said Ambassador Hammer at the program’s introduction. Hammer believes that the program, along with increased accountability for human traffickers, will provide pathways for development, security and humanitarian progress in the DRC.

International aid and development programs from prominent figures such as the U.S. can aid in eliminating practices of human trafficking in the Republic of the Congo. With international assistance, human trafficking may no longer be a prevalent humanitarian problem for Congolese people.

Jessica Umbro
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Human Trafficking in Afghanistan Afghanistan currently faces a large-scale human trafficking crisis that is rooted in centuries of abuse. Children and women are sold or kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery or armed forces. With the Afghani Government failing to properly protect victims and prosecute perpetrators, the U.S. Department of State and a network of NGOs are working to alleviate the problem.

The Systemic Issues

One of the major issues contributing to the human trafficking crisis within Afghanistan is the continued practice of bacha bazi, or “dancing boys”, in which sexual abuse against children is performed by adult men. Although technically illegal, the centuries-old custom has been proven hard to get rid of, with many government and security officials being complicit with its continuation.

The U.S. Department of State has declared Afghanistan Tier 3, the highest threat level, meaning that it does not meet the minimum requirements for combatting human trafficking and is not making a significant effort to do so.

This has a significant impact on Afghanistan because according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the United States will not provide nonhumanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance to a country that is ranked on Tier 3. According to the June 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, the use of child soldiers and bacha bazi has continued. Although there have been investigations and arrests made in an attempt to end bacha bazi, no police officers involved were prosecuted.

Addressing Human Trafficking in Afghanistan

The Afghani Government has shown efforts to end human trafficking within its borders. In 2019, it joined the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on a global initiative to stop human trafficking. This initiative aims to allocate resources to countries in the Middle East and Asia that need assistance in the battle against human trafficking.

USAID reported that in 2019,  Afghanistan increased the number of Child Protection Units within national police precincts, preventing the recruitment of 357 child soldiers. Furthermore, the National Child Protection Committee (NCPC) was created to respond to the practice of bacha bazi.

USAID has worked to assist the Afghani by training government officials to prosecute human traffickers and abusers as well as giving assistance to shelter workers that give legal and social resources to victims. It assisted in the creation of the Afghanistan Network in Combating Trafficking in Persons (ANCTIP), a network of Afghan NGOs that work with victims of human trafficking.

NGOs within the country have provided most of the assistance to victims of human trafficking. Approximately 27 women’s shelters in 20 provinces provided protection and care for female victims of trafficking. NGOs also operated two shelters for male victims under the age of 18.

Eradicating Human Trafficking

In order for Afghanistan to efficiently combat its human trafficking crisis and move to a lower tier level, Afghanistan needs to increase criminal investigations and prosecutions of suspected traffickers, especially in law enforcement and the military. Furthermore, traffickers must be convicted and adequately sentenced. This can be done by increasing the influence and powers of the NCPC and allowing the committee to remove public servants found practicing bacha bazi. Additional support from the country’s government must also be given to survivors of human trafficking. Only by rooting out the systemic abuse within the top institutions of the country can Afghanistan effectively address its human trafficking crisis.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Human Trafficking in Brazil
Brazil is known as the most developed country in Latin America. The country’s rapid economic growth, coupled with urbanization, is attracting more businesses to invest in Brazil. On top of this, Brazil’s strong tourism industry further bolsters the country’s positive image. However, the presence of human trafficking in Brazil is also a well-known fact throughout the international community. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Human trafficking in Brazil is linked to forced labor. The recent economic growth and accelerating urbanization in Brazil resulted in labor abuse of migrant workers. Textile, construction and sex industries are especially well known for abusing smuggled migrant workers. In 2013, the Brazilian police identified a Brazilian gang that specialized in trafficking Bangladeshi nationals into Brazil. These smuggled Bangladeshi workers lived in slavery-like conditions in order to pay off nearly $10,000 to their smugglers.
  2. The U.S. Department of State (USDOS) ranked Brazil as a “Tier 2” country. This signifies that the Brazilian government does not fully meet the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking. USDOS does note, however, that the Brazilian government is making significant efforts to remedy the state of human trafficking in Brazil.
  3. Law 13.344 helps to protect and support victims of human trafficking in Brazil. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MJSP) maintained 12 posts at airports and bus stations known as transit points to identify cases. In addition, 17 out of 27 state governments operate anti-trafficking offices that introduce victims to social assistance centers.
  4. The Brazilian government’s definition of human trafficking needs to be improved. While Brazil’s Law 13.344/16 criminalizes all forms of human trafficking with harsh penalties for perpetrators, human trafficking in Brazil is defined as a movement-based crime. This is a limited definition compared to the U.N.’s definition, which states other forms of coercion or monetary persuasion as different forms of human trafficking
  5. The recent crisis in Venezuela leaves many Venezuelan migrants in danger of human trafficking in Brazil.
    The 2010 crisis in Venezuela created a massive exodus of migrants from Venezuela. These Venezuelan migrants in border cities and other parts of Brazil are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. Traffickers recruited these migrants in Brazil by offering them fraudulent job opportunities.
  6. Child sex tourism is still a major issue. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, many authorities worried that this would worsen the country’s already present child sex industry. The influx of construction workers before the World Cup and an estimated 600,000 foreign visitors unintentionally creates a big market and demand for sex tourism in Brazil. Child sex workers are trafficked both domestically and internationally. In 2016, for example, the Brazilian police rescued eight children from the sex trafficking ring at the beaches near the main Olympic hub.
  7. In March 2019, the Brazilian police took down a trafficking ring that targeted transgender women. The Brazilian police rescued at least 38 transgender women from brothels in Ribeirao Preto, a city in the state of Sao Paulo. The traffickers lured these women in with a promise of paying for their transition surgeries. After the surgery, these women were forced into prostitution in order to pay back their traffickers.
  8. The US law enforcement collaborated with the Brazilian police to capture human traffickers in 2019. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as part of its Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force (ECT) program, cooperated with the Brazilian Federal Police (DOP) to capture three smugglers based in Brazil. The smugglers arranged travel for individuals through a network of smugglers operating in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and many other Latin American countries.
  9. The Brazilian Ministry of Labor (MTE) updated the “lista suja” in 2018 to combat human trafficking in Brazil. Lista suja, meaning “dirty list”, is a document that lists the names of companies that utilize labor that came from human trafficking. In 2018, the Brazilian government added 78 new employers to the list. The companies on the list cannot access credit by public and private financial institutions.
  10. The Brazilian Department of Labor is fighting forced labor through a special task force. Named
    Special Mobile Inspection Group (GEFM), the group was initiated in 1995. GEFM consists of labor inspectors and prosecutors. The group conducts unannounced inspections of factories, farms and firms. The Ministry of Labor reported that, through more than 600 inspections, the task force rescued more than 5000 workers from forced labor between 2013 and 2016.

Human trafficking in Brazil has many faces. Forced labor and prostitution are the main concerns of the Brazilian government when it is dealing with human trafficking in the country. It is clear that the Brazilian
government is striving to remedy the current situation. Laws such as the 13.344/16 help to protect and assist the victims of human trafficking while MTE’s Lista Suja aims to dissuade businesses from utilizing human trafficked labor. With these kinds of continued efforts, human trafficking in Brazil is sure to decrease.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in South AfricaEvery single day, in hundreds of countries around the world, human trafficking is taking place. It is estimated that globally, around 21 million people fell victim in 2018, and South Africa is no exception. Human trafficking is defined as “the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.” While there are many important things to know about this kind of illicit activity, here are the top 10 facts about human trafficking in South Africa.

Top 10 Facts about Human Trafficking in South Africa

  1. Trafficking in South Africa is on the rise. At a press conference in 2018, Lt. Col. Parmanand Jagwa, the Hawks Gauteng coordinator of the illegal migration desk, and deputy director Rasigie Bhika said that human trafficking was a “growing activity” in the region. In response to the rising numbers, the U.S. Department of State released a report criticizing the government’s methodology, noting that “the government made little progress in prosecution of traffickers connected to international syndicates, which facilitated sex and labor trafficking with impunity throughout the country” and that “the government did little to address reports of official complicity in trafficking crimes and efforts by officials.”
  2. Girls are more likely to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Overall, 55 percent of human trafficking victims are women. Additionally, 43 percent of victims were used for sexual exploitation, and 98 percent of which were women and young girls.
  3. Boys are more likely to be trafficked for street vending, food service and agricultural purposes. Around 45 percent of all trafficking victims in the country are boys and men.
  4. South Africa is considered to be on the “Tier 2 Watchlist” for human trafficking. The U.S. Department of State has several methods to track the levels of ongoing trafficking in a given country. There are four tiers: Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watchlist, and Tier 3. These standards are outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Tier 1 represents countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, and Tier 2 represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. The Tier 2 Watchlist is the same level as Tier 2, but these countries have increasing levels of criminal activity. The lowest level is Tier 3, which represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
  5. It is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year, according to UNICEF. Traffickers “recruit” children and give them fake identification documents and are most likely part of a network of organized criminals. Additionally, due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, many children are left without parents and in poverty, making them more vulnerable to these diseases.
  6. Traffickers do not fit a single profile. They can range from strangers to a relative or close friend, especially in cases of child trafficking. They can also pose as significant others and try to convince children to leave to “start a new life.”
  7. South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for victims of human trafficking. Source countries are those which supply the victims of the crime, transit countries are mediums/stopping points which the victims travel through and destination countries are the final locations to which they are brought. South Africa is all three. 
  8. Ninety-five percent of victims experience violence in trafficking. This figure represents both physical and sexual violence and applies to both men and women.
  9. Some victims are forced into drug addiction. Law enforcement in South Africa reported that traffickers drugged victims to coerce them into sex trafficking. At the same time, some government-run shelters denied victims of human trafficking because of drug addiction.
  10. The NGO Love Justice International is working to make conditions better in South Africa. The group has 44 different transit monitoring stations around the world in areas where trafficking is likely to occur. The NGO focuses on monitoring and spreading the message to reduce human trafficking and help victims escape.

– Natalie Malek
Photo: Wikimedia

In March 2019, President Trump announced wanting to cut U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These three countries are known as the Northern Triangle of the U.S. government’s Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity (A4P) Initiative.

This is a U.S. strategy to address the security, governance and economic prosperity of these regions. The effectiveness of the A4P initiative and the numerous benefits it presents to both the Central American region and the United States has led to bipartisan support in the U.S., and to cease the aid to the northern triangle would be counterproductive to both the interests of the United States and Central America as a whole.

Since the 1980s, Central America has seen a decline in armed conflict and has become politically stable. Additionally, in the past decade has become a strong economic partner to the United States. While all of this implies significant progress in the region, the region remains stagnant with high crime rates and nearly half of the population currently lives in poverty.

Honduras: History, Plans, and Benefits

Honduras has received over $3 billion from USAID since 1961. The bulk of this aid impacts sustaining economic growth and establishing economic stability. Some efforts to obtaining these goals are increasing access to health services, expanding exports, improving education infrastructure and strengthening the nation’s democratic systems. In sum, these initiatives address threats to Hondura’s stability.

That being said, included are high crime and violence rates and widespread poverty and food insecurity.  Additionally, there is a presence of government corruption and ineffectiveness. According to the U.S. Department of State, Honduras reliance on foreign assistance, provided by the U.S. is crucial to there development and safety.

El Salvador: History, Plans, and Benefits

Over the past 50 years, USAID assistance in El Salvador has provided economic opportunity. It aids in improving educational and health care systems and supporting disaster relief and economic development.

Specifically, the bulk of assistance in health care is targeting infant and maternal mortality. With the assistance of USAID, the mortality rate in El Salvador has dropped from 191/1000 to 16/1000 between 1960 and  2008. Access to education and literacy rates have steadily increased over the years as well.

Again, with the assistance of USAID, two key organizations for analyzing the major problems facing El Salvador have been developed. These are the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) and the Business Foundation for Educational Development (FEPADE).

Guatemala: History, Plans, and Benefits

Guatemala is experiencing population growth and has become the most populated country in Central America. The Guatemalan government and USAID have been working together to strengthen security for citizens and stimulate economic growth. The efforts of USAID have had a significantly positive impact on addressing some of Guatemala’s security concerns.

For example, there has been an 18 percent decline in robberies, 50 percent decline in the illicit drug trade and a 50 percent decline in blackmail in communities. In order to stimulate economic growth, USAID has focused on agriculture, education, and health. This development has created 8,734 jobs and the country has seen an increase in coffee sales and implemented widespread reading programs.

Importance of Continued Support

The Northern Triangle’s future development and prosperity are heavily reliant on the continued support of the United States. Eliminating U.S. aid in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala would be counterproductive to both the goals of the U.S. and the Northern Triangle. U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will be able to improve the overall quality of life of Central Americans.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

The Militarization of U.S. Foreign Aid to Africa
“If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition” – Secretary of Defense Gen. Mattis. This kind of sentiment expressed by Gen. Mattis is shared by military and civilians alike. As the gap between foreign aid and military expenses increases, so does the concern from these officials toward the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa.

The 2019 U.S. Proposed Budget Changes

The proposed 2019 budget from the Trump Administration underscores this worry. In the anticipated budget, the Dept. of Defense would receive an estimated $686 billion, which would be an increase of $80 billion (13 percent) from 2017. In comparison, the Dept. of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development would only see a budget of $25.8 billion; which means a $9 billion decrease (26 percent) from 2017 levels.

Furthermore, 2016 serves as a case study for how these resources are being applied in Africa. Of the $26 billion given to Africa through USAID, the Dept. of Defense was actually the leading implementing agency (beating out even USAID). While USAID carried out $9.5 billion worth of foreign aid operations, the Dept. of Defense oversaw $10 billion worth. Alongside low funding due to Congressional budget approval, civilian agencies don’t have the resources to operate, disperse and oversee foreign aid.

On the ground, the picture is becoming more and more clear. It was the Dept. of Defense, not the Dept. of State, that was the first to conduct high-level meetings and summits in African countries, such as Libya, Malawi, Chad and Djibouti, signifying it as the lead diplomatic agency in Africa.

Concerns with an Increasing U.S. Military Presence in Africa

When looking at the statistics, America’s leading military officials are among some of the most vocal advocates against the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa. They worry that by cutting aid and favoring the military in poverty-stricken parts of the world, the U.S. is creating an environment for even more conflict. More specifically, they claim that by choosing military bases over schools, the U.S. is allowing more openings for militant groups, hurting U.S. interests in the long-run by pushing development aside.

For instance, Gen. Carter Ham, the former commander of Africa Command, sees the favoring of the military over diplomacy as a loss of hope for the people of Africa. Per his example, a young Nigerian man faced with no work, education or healthcare would much sooner turn to a militant group that offers money, prestige and a purpose.

His view is echoed by a 2017 testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This testimony was written by a long list of retired U.S. military officials, including Gen. Petraeus, Gen. McChrystal and Adm. Michael Mullen. Here, they stated, “…how much more cost-effective it is to prevent a conflict than to end one.” Their views reinforce the idea that Africa is much better served by civilian agencies than by military ones.

The Importance of Civilian Agencies in Africa

Not only do U.S. military officials recognize the harm of militarizing aid but also the importance of returning this role back to civilian agencies. Before leaving office, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates highlighted the importance of the Dept. of State in a 2010 speech. In this speech, he emphasized the necessity of keeping the Dept. of State as the main actor for conducting foreign policy because foreign aid and security reinforce one another. In addition, he called for a new foreign policy, requiring all sectors of U.S. foreign policy to form new partnerships and implement U.S. interests for long-term successes.

Now, the militarization of U.S. foreign aid to Africa does not mean that the military is an adversary to foreign aid. All of the examples used in this article critiquing this militarization process have all been expressed by current or retired military officials who are simply recognizing the need for humanitarian aid and the limits of military power.

Preventing conflict certainly makes more sense than instigating it, but it is up to U.S. citizens to decide whether a voter or a 3-star general holds Congress accountable for a better foreign policy towards Africa. Or in the words of Alexander Laskaris, a senior Dept. of State official with African Command: “How do we operate in an environment when we are willing to send peacekeepers, but we’re not willing to take the steps necessary to make peace?”

Tanner Helem
Photo: Flickr

A Look at Human Rights in St. Kitts and NevisSt. Kitts and Nevis is a state comprised of two islands located between the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. Their system of government is a parliamentary democracy. For the most part, human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis are protected and not under threat, but the small island nation has faced several issues.

The national constitution prohibits torture and cruel and unusual punishment, but police in St. Kitts and Nevis can be aggressive. The police do not need a warrant to arrest someone. As a result, citizens will often not report crimes for fear of retribution. The lone prison in the country was built in 1840 and shows wear. It is overcrowded; a facility built for a capacity of 150 inmates currently holds around 270.

Despite this, conditions there are not necessarily inhumane. A U.S. State Departmentt report on human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis states that “prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors, were permitted religious observances and had reasonable access to complaint mechanisms and the ability to request inquiry into conditions. The government investigated and monitored prison conditions, and the prison staff periodically received training in human rights.”

While arrest warrants are not necessary, the constitution does grant accused citizens the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public trial. There are no political prisoners in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The United Nations has identified rape and violence against women as an issue regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Rape is a criminal offense, but spousal rape is not. Women can file rape claims, but may often be reluctant to do so. St. Kitts and Nevis passed the Domestic Violence Act of 2014 into law to address some of these issues.

Child abuse is a problem in St. Kitts and Nevis. Corporal punishment is legal here. Reports of sexual assault against children are not uncommon, despite such acts carrying a stiff criminal penalty.

The treatment of homosexuality is also a concern regarding human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis. Homosexual acts are still criminalized and carry a certain level of societal stigma. In its review of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis, the United Nations called for the decriminalization of homosexuality on the islands.

The state of human rights in St. Kitts and Nevis is a mixed bag, but perhaps not an unoptimistic one, nor necessarily uncommon for developing democracies. Many of the human rights issues that do exist stem not from the law but from a failure to effectively implement and enforce it. The country has shown a desire to improve its ways, and time will tell whether or not it successfully follows the U.N.’s recommendations.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Gabon
Human rights in Gabon, a country in Central Africa, are not as good as they should be. Even though Gabon is wealthier than many other African countries, human rights violations and poverty are issues the country still deals with.

The U.S. Department of State reports that prison conditions are the primary violation of human rights in Gabon. Overcrowding, substandard sanitation and ventilation, as well as poor food and healthcare quality, are all problems in Gabon prisons. Some people in holding were not allowed contact with lawyers or family for several days, even if he or she had not been charged, which violates Gabonese law.

The 2016 election led to several violations of human rights in Gabon. Many non-warranted arrests were made as a result of the controversial election. Labor unions, politicians and opinion leaders were arrested, and disappearances took place shortly before election day in August. Abusive behavior by prison guards toward detainees was commonly reported after the election, and somewhere between 20 and 50 civilians and protesters were killed by government workers.

Free speech and assembly took hits as well. Some publications in Gabon closed and were threatened by the Ministry of Communications for criticizing the government. Measures such as tear gas were used against activists during protests also.

Women work freely and are able to seek the position of their choosing, but must have their husbands’ consent before traveling. Rape often goes unreported due to unfortunate social stigmas, which may also hinder the LGBT community.

Yet, steps are being taken to improve the condition of human rights in Gabon, including expanding internet access. Since the election, Ali Bongo, the current president, took action toward reducing the government corruption that largely accumulated during the 42-year reign of his father Omar Bongo.

According to Freedom House, Bongo “eliminated ghost workers from the public payroll” and “formed the National Commission against Illegal Enrichment to combat corruption”. He also created a task force to address the millions of missing dollars from previous projects and to donate his portion of his father’s estate to the children of Gabon.

However, additional action will need to be taken to improve human rights in Gabon. It is currently ranked 99 out of 168 countries for government corruption. If Ali Bongo makes the improvement of human rights a priority, Gabon can rise above its current state.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

goals_of_foreign_policyThough the specific goals of U.S. foreign policy have varied with different administrations, the United States’ experience with isolationism in the twentieth century has ushered in a new and more active form of foreign policy. The U.S. Department of State declares that the focus of foreign policy is the promotion of human rights, based upon the content of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To advance the well-being of foreign nations, the Department of State website states that U.S. foreign policy seeks to secure peace, strengthen democracies, fight crime and corruption and “prevent humanitarian crises,” among other goals.

The existence of human rights on a global scale is not only in the best interest of foreign nations but of the United States as well. Successful U.S. foreign policy in defense of human rights often results in the decline of national security threats and the maintenance of the balance of power among nations. U.S. involvement in global affairs also works toward cooperative foreign trade and global economic interaction.

Creating specific U.S. foreign policy is often a balance of interests in which diplomats and leaders must decide which issues require direct and immediate attention at a given moment. Henry Kissinger, National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, stated that when creating foreign policy it is necessary “to separate the urgent from the important and make sure you’re dealing with the important and don’t let the urgent drive out the important.”

One only needs to read the latest newspaper headlines to find that the U.S. government has recently focused heavily on the urgent threats of Iranian nuclear capabilities and Russian force against Ukraine. Although the most urgent foreign affairs have assumed much diplomatic attention, the Obama Administration has recently chosen to shift some of its focus to U.S. relations with Cuba. Affairs in Cuba are at the moment a less urgent national security issue but an important human rights issue.

Goals of foreign policy with Cuba, as listed on the state department’s website, aim at re-establishing diplomatic relations, empowering the Cuban people by “adjusting” regulations and facilitating more travel to Cuba for U.S. businesses. The potential for future health collaboration may also provide greater opportunities to advance the well being of Cubans.

The Department of State hopes that the increased flow of information and goods – up to $400 in Cuban goods, $100 of which can comprise alcohol and tobacco products – will expose the Cubans to democratic society. However, Cuban President Raul Castro still hopes to partake in dialogue with the U.S. that “acknowledges our profound differences, particularly on issues related to national sovereignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy.” Castro plans to maintain a “prosperous and sustainable Socialism,” which could prove a point of contention between the Cuban government and American businesses that settle in the Latin American country.

No policy change in regard to the 1962 embargo with Cuba will occur until Congress officially changes the law, but international progress and cooperation between the U.S. and its offshore neighbor have already returned Cuban and American hostages to their home countries and advanced one of the most important goals of foreign policy, human rights.

– Paulina Menichiello

Sources: The White House, The Guardian, USHistory.org Pew Research Center, The Washington Post 1, The Washington Post 2, CNN, NewsWeek
Photo: The Washington Post