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director of unicef
U.S. businesswoman and former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, Henrietta Holsman Fore, became the seventh executive director of the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on January 1, 2018. Fore is replacing Anthony Lake as director, whose term began in 2010. The following are 10 facts about the new director of UNICEF.

  1. Fore was the first woman to hold the position of USAID administrator, which she served concurrently while being the director of U.S. Foreign Assistance from 2007 to 2009.
  2. Prior to her senior roles in the U.S. Department of State, Fore was the 37th director of the U.S. Mint. She initiated the 50 State Quarters Program and introduced laser engraving during her tenure.
  3. She was the chairman and CEO of her family’s investment and management company, Holsman International. She also was connected to at least 14 other companies, nonprofits and think tanks, according to her professional LinkedIn page, including the Aspen Institute, the Center for Global Development, General Mills and ExxonMobil.
  4. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres announced Fore’s appointment as executive director of UNICEF on December 22, 2017. The announcement received acclaim from multiple organizations, including the U.S. State Department and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  5. Fore was chosen by Guterres in consultation with the executive board of the U.N. The executive director position of UNICEF has gone to the U.S. candidate since the organization’s creation in 1947.
  6. Fore is committed to modernizing and revitalizing foreign assistance. In a 2008 keynote address to the Center for Global Development, she discussed reforming priorities to meet the most critical needs, promoting program coordination among agencies and increasing the number of U.S. foreign assistance personnel.
  7. To Chief Executives Organization, American diplomat John Negroponte said, “[Fore] likes to roll up her sleeves…she’s an incessant traveler.” In a speech at the 2014 International Financial Forum, Fore said she had traveled to countries such as Indonesia, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil and India.
  8. At the same forum, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Fore as, “one of the best appointments that I made,” and as, “one of the best public servants I’ve ever met.”
  9. Fore’s appointment aids Guterres’ mission for gender parity at U.N. senior leadership levels by 2021 and throughout the whole organization before 2030. Current findings suggest there is an inverse relationship between women’s representation and seniority at the U.N.
  10. As executive director of UNICEF, Fore will head one of the most important agencies within the U.N. The organization’s budget was $5 billion in 2017, the second largest of the U.N. agencies.

In his announcement, outgoing UNICEF director Anthony Lake said, “Henrietta Fore will bring a wealth of experience to UNICEF’s work for children.” Her appointment certainly excites individuals committed to ending global extreme poverty, and it will be compelling to witness what UNICEF accomplishes under Fore’s leadership.

– Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

Help People in the Solomon IslandsThe Solomon Islands, located in the south Pacific Ocean, make up a country that lies to the east of Australia. The Solomon Islands is one of the least developed countries in the Pacific for a few reasons.

Why the Solomon Islands Are Vulnerable
Between 1998 and 2003, the Solomon Islands suffered ethnic tensions and civil unrest. As result, the domestic infrastructure of the country was severely damaged. The geographic location of the islands makes the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, especially those that are water-related.

International Assistance
After the ethnic tensions and civil unrest had dramatically affected the Solomon Islands, the country’s prime minister requested Australian assistance. In response, Australia and New Zealand worked with the Solomon Islands to draft the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The Pacific Islands Forum wholeheartedly endorsed RAMSI, and was supported in its undertaking by then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

RAMSI set up a comprehensive assistance plan focusing on the economy to better help people in the Solomon Islands. On June 30, 2017, RAMSI concluded, having improved the Solomon Islands’ economic capacity. RAMSI will likely be replaced by a new bilateral policy development program to ensure that the Solomon Islands’ growth continues in leaps and bounds.

The United States is helping the Solomon Islands work towards such a bilateral policy. In particular, the State Department has done detailed research into the ongoing policies of the Solomon Islands. There are opportunities to work to help people in the Solomon Islands through the U.S. State Department’s internship program or its career options.

Help from Organizations
There are several organizations helping to eliminate the causes of poverty in the Solomon Islands. Caritas Australia is one such organization. Caritas Australia focuses on helping people through community-driven efforts: improved access to water, sanitation, hygiene and heavy investments into education. Along the way, Caritas Australia promotes social justice for those living on the islands, and also prepares permanent residents of the islands to face natural disasters. For example, in 2012 and 2013, Caritas Australia trained more than 80 teachers to use nursery rhymes and games to prepare children for natural disasters.

The organization has vacancies, so those interested can work to help people in the Solomon Islands. While serving with organizations that directly help people in the Solomon Islands would be a powerful way to make an impact on people’s lives, other forms of advocacy from home are also important. Political advocacy for legislation that impacts international policies is an influential way to ensure that poverty across the world is reduced, bit by bit.

Smriti B Krishnan

Photo: Google

How to Help People in KazakhstanThe Republic of Kazakhstan faces many medical and environmental challenges; however, human rights violations and failure to adhere to the rule of law are also significant problems. Kazakhstan secured independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and subsequent major investments in the oil sector brought large gains economically with sustained growth. This is primarily attributed to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was reelected after the Soviet break-up and elected again four more times. The economic growth that he spurred has solidified his popularity, but he allows no challenges to his power.

In examining how to assist the people of Kazakhstan, attention should be given to the organizations that monitor and assist human rights in the Central Asian nation. So, what can be done to help the people of Kazakhstan?

USAID is a U.S. government agency that is working in Kazakhstan monitoring human rights. Soon after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and USAID partnered together to work toward creating and implementing laws, regulations and infrastructure vital for capital markets. Part of USAID’s focus in helping the people of Kazakhstan is creating programs that “address the limited media activity and low civic participation.” They also work closely with the government to further democratic reforms.

USAID maintains that the corruption in Kazakhstan is a continuing problem. The nation’s executive branch maintains a large portion of control with little allowance to the media, political institutions, civil society or the judiciary system. Dividing power more equally is pivotal in allowing Kazakhstan to flourish, and USAID programs serve to help Kazakhs create a democratic culture. USAID states this is accomplished by “supporting civil society, increasing access to information, strengthening citizen initiative groups, promoting an independent judiciary and encouraging the protection of human rights.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, in a March 2016 resolution, the European Parliament called on Kazakhstan for the cessation of harassing journalists. The U.N. Human Rights Committee called on the Kazakhstan government to redouble efforts regarding violence against women, eradication of torture, guarantees of liberty and security and protection of an independent judiciary. In October 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan expressed concerns about the convictions and sentencing of two journalists in a rare statement regarding media freedom.

The Executive Summary of the Kazakhstan 2016 Human Rights Report by the U.S. State Department noted the same human rights problems as the Human Rights Watch. In addition, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights observed that the last presidential election was marked by irregularities and lacked genuine political competition.

In order to help the people of Kazakhstan, support of these organizations and ongoing communications with congressional leaders is necessary. For the benefit of all Kazakhstan citizens, continued vigilance must be maintained.

Michael Carmack

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions and Venezuela's Poor
With the recent political unrest in Venezuela surrounding the controversial election of President Nicolás Maduro, the United States has placed financial sanctions on Maduro and some of his high-ranking officials. These sanctions are aiming to freeze any of Maduro’s U.S. assets as well as halt all business between him and U.S. citizens. However, there may be an unfortunate connection between U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor.

These individual embargoes may not be enough, though. The Trump administration is still considering whether or not to place economic sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, according to Reuters. This would hit the country hard, as the oil industry accounts for upwards of 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings. Venezuela is also the third largest supplier of oil exports to the United States.

While it is important to analyze the effects of economic sanctions on a nation’s elites, what are the effects of these actions on Venezuela’s general populace? More specifically, what effects will these actions against President Maduro have on his people, and are there potential collateral effects linking U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor?

First, it should be noted that there are multiple types of sanctions that a country can pass. In terms of U.S. embargoes pertaining to Venezuela, the kinds of sanctions being enacted and debated are in regard to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List and the Sectoral Sanctions Identification (SSI) List, respectively.

As described in a case study by the U.S. State Department, sanctions targeting the SDN List are against individuals and entities, such as President Maduro and his high-ranking officials. SSI sanctions, on the other hand, target sectors in a foreign economy, such as the oil and gas industries in Venezuela.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. uses economic and financial embargoes more than any country or any body of countries in the world. As of 2015, the most notable U.S. sanctions historically have been levied against Cuba since 1960, Iran since 1984, North Korea since 2008, and the Ukraine/Russia since 2014.

U.S. embargoes against Venezuela began in 2015 when President Barack Obama issued an executive order targeting seven of Maduro’s high-level officials. New sanctions from late July added President Maduro himself to the SDN List.

In general, embargoes levied against individuals on the SDN List appear to have minimal collateral effects on that person’s respective regional economy. This is what the Obama administration argued when it placed sanctions on Venezuelan officials in 2015, and it is what the Trump administration is arguing now.

Sectoral sanctions, however, seem to have a broader impact on the country at large. The more a sanctioning country is a contributor to the economy of its target, the higher the potential is for collateral damage to occur.

For example, after monitoring the effects of sanctions placed on Russia by the United States and the European Union in 2014, U.S. State Department Deputy Chief Economist Daniel Ahn and Georgetown University professor Rodney Ludema concluded in a study that “sanctions [on Russia]…appear to be ‘smart,’ in the sense of hitting the intended targets…while causing minimal collateral damage.”

The E.U., however, who is Russia’s largest trading partner, had a different story. A study by the European Parliament in 2015 noted that Russian officials predicted an 8-10 percent loss of the country’s GDP due to the E.U. sanctions, resulting in a multitude of indirect collateral effects on the Russian economy and its people.

The scale of trade relations, therefore, directly correlates to the collateral damage sanctions have on an economy, and this must be considered when discussing U.S. sanctions and Venezuela’s poor. The oil sector accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings and 25 percent of their GDP, and because the United States is the country’s largest export destination according to OPEC, a sectoral sanction of this size could potentially have massive effects on Venezuela’s populace.

If Venezuela were to cease relations with their primary trade partner and lose the respective export earnings from their primary resource, the result would be a substantial decrease in national revenue. Money that would normally be used for social programs would be stifled, bringing more harm to a population that is already suffering from economic and political hardships plaguing the country.

Because of all this, it is important to watch the Trump administration and see how the President decides to handle the complex issues surrounding Venezuela. There is a viable argument that collateral damage would result from U.S. oil sanctions and Venezuela’s poor would bear the brunt of that damage.

John Mirandette

Photo: Flickr

Country_Reports_on_Human-Rights
On June 24, the US State Department released the Country Reports on Human Rights. The Country Reports on Human Rights are mandated by Congress in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974. These acts describe the performance of governments that receive U.S. foreign assistance and of all United Nations member states. The performance of a government is determined by how much a country conforms to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that outline civil, political, individual and worker rights.

The Department of State prepares these reports using information from U.S. embassies, foreign government officials, nongovernmental organizations and published reports. U.S. diplomatic missions prepare the initial drafts of the individual country reports. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and other Department of State offices work to document, evaluate and edit the reports.

In 2014, there were a few trends in regard to human rights abuses. While many governments repressed and harmed citizens, many non-state actors also committed horrible human rights atrocities. As observed before, there is a correlation between corruption, human rights abuses and repressive governance.

Many countries had many human rights abuses. The President of Syria, Bashar Asad, continues to attack innocent civilians in an ongoing civil war between the government and citizens who oppose the government’s leadership. ISIL emerged partly because of a non-inclusive government in Iraq. In the Middle East and Africa, ISIL has both killed people and sold girls into slavery. In Nigeria, Boko Haram attacked school children and captured young girls. Countries such as China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia do not allow open media markets and imprison journalists.

Even though many countries still do not recognize certain human rights, or disregard human rights altogether, many countries have given more rights to citizens than ever. In Afghanistan, millions elected a new President. Similarly, India had one of the largest parliamentary elections in history in 2014. Indonesia elected a leader who challenged traditional centers of power. In addition, Tunisia held its first democratic election in 2014.

These reports, along with other reports on human rights from other countries, will help educate the public about international human rights. These reports will allow citizens to learn more about human rights abuses, but they can also help people learn about human rights successes. Education is a vital step to help foster human rights internationally.

Ella Cady

Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Flickr

human_trafficking_israel
In the span of about five years Israel has seen monumental changes in its country’s reputation as being sympathetic to human trafficking.

As of 2005 Israel was listed on Tier 3 by the U.S. State Department in its efforts to fight and prevent human trafficking. As the bottom in the scale Tier 3 is reserved for those shame-faced countries whose governments “do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Israel at this time was still considered one of the main destinations for the trafficking in woman – primarily those from the former Soviet Union.

The U.S. State Department’s harsh labeling of Israel as being on the same Tier as non-democratic countries such as Sudan and Somalia shamed Israel into action. Knesset member David Tsur of the HaTenua Party and chairman of the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution stated, “If I were a seasoned and professional politician, I would say that the decision to act was not related to the Americans, but the reality was that without the whip of the State Department, we would not have taken serious steps. We understood that if we didn’t address the problem, aid funds would be stalled, and very quickly we would have a new center of criminal activity on our hands.”

As the law stood, victims of human trafficking were treated as criminals, making it very difficult and unlikely for them to come forward and report their abuse. This was one of the first things to be changed as Israel began to make anti-human-trafficking a priority. Government-funded shelters were set up for trafficked women who’d filed complaints where they received medical treatment and underwent rehabilitation.

Congruent to decriminalizing the victims, starting in 2006 perpetrators were given 20 year sentences for human trafficking violations. As of the U.S. State Department’s 2013 report on Trafficking in Persons, they declared that this still wasn’t a sentence that “Commensurate[d] with the gravity of the offence.”

The addition to Israel’s pre-existing barrier in 2005 was monumental in preventing the trafficking of people from Egypt, which at one time was the post popular through-country and entrance into Israel for traffickers.

Since prostitution is legal in Israel there are still issues of sexual exploitation and cases of trafficking within the country, but Israel has been hugely successful in abolishing human trafficking across its borders. In a statement to Israel’s Daniel Shapiro a U.S. Ambassador said, “I applaud the Government of Israel for continuing to focus on eliminating the scourge of modern day slavery. Israel has taken an all-of-government approach to tackling this global phenomenon, including legislative action in the Knesset, police training, and providing shelters and services for trafficking victims.”

Other countries stand to learn a lot from Israel’s example. Human trafficking has been reported in nearly every Western country, including each state within the U.S. As Israel has demonstrated, governments must recognize trafficking as a threat and allocate a full-on attack to stand a chance in eliminating it.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: The Times of Israel, Al-Monitor, Atzum, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Jerusalem Post

US_Human_Rights_Report
The United States State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in late February. After examining data from the past year, the U.S. named Syria as the country with the worst human rights violation in 2013 for its chemical weapons attack in August 2013.

In the introduction to the report, Secretary of State John Kerry specifically names Syria, Russia, China, Ukraine, Cuba, Egypt and South Sudan as nations in which extreme human rights violations are taking place.

Kerry also reflects on the fact that this year is the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Kerry notes the commitment of not only the State Department and U.S. government agencies to improving human rights, but also “U.S. citizens, international nongovernmental organizations, foreign governments, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, scholars and others.”

Furthermore, Kerry notes, “As Secretary of State, I meet with many brave individuals who risk their lives daily to advance human rights, in spite of the threat of violence and government attempts to silence their voice.”

There has been a noticeable reaction to the release of the Human Rights Report, especially the emphasis on human rights violations in Syria. The chemical attack on August 21, 2013 resulted in the deaths of over 1,400 people, including about 400 children. These figures are a product of U.S. intelligence, but the British-run Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported data that suggested the death toll may have actually been under 1,000.

The great deal of violence in Syria appears to have become intensified n 2012, after a number of groups boycotted the May 2012 parliamentary elections, sparking a civil war. Syrian President Bashar Asad’s authoritarian regime has used force to put down protests, as well as air and ground military assaults on a wide of range of areas including cities and residential areas.

In terms of the number of the abuses in the country, the reports cites rape and domestic violence against women, genital mutilation, reproductive rights, child abuse, forced and early marriage, sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, discrimination against persons with disabilities, discrimination against national, racial and ethnic minorities as well as abuses against people because of sexual orientation or gender. Activists also believe that there has been discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, but that these cases may not be reported.

The Human Rights Report also seems to foreshadow the recent crisis that has broken out in Ukraine, due to the people’s desire to have more of a say in their government and refusal to live under a government so strongly influenced by Russia.

In 2013, the Ukrainian government used violence against journalists and other members of the media. Furthermore, the governments of both countries have recently started implementing a harsher punishment for any peaceful protests against human rights violations.

More recently, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee Kiev, the capital, and was reported to have taken refuge at a Kremlin sanatorium located outside of Moscow.

Finally, Kerry highlighted the connection between issues of national security and human rights, citing that, “The places where we face some of the greatest national security challenges today are also places where governments deny basic human rights to their nations’ people, and that is no coincidence.”

Julie Guacci

Sources: ABC News, BBC News, U.S. State Department, CBS News
Photo: US News

african-women-entrepreneur-program
Last week, Washington welcomed 30 small and medium-sized female business owners from 27 countries in Africa, who are participants in the African Women’s Entrepreneur Program (AWEP). Every year, 30 female entrepreneurs are invited to the U.S. to attend professional development meetings and network with U.S. policy makers, companies, industry associations, nonprofit groups, and multilateral development organizations. For the past two weeks, the women have traveled throughout the U.S. to meet with scores of professionals in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle.

The visit marks three years of success for AWEP, which was launched by the U.S. Department of State in July 2010. The program is an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that works with African women entrepreneurs in several main focus areas. AWEP supports the Presidential Policy Directive on U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa by operating on two parallels: it spurs economic growth and trade by involving female entrepreneurs in the sector, and promotes opportunity and development throughout the continent for women and youth.

The Department of State acknowledges that supporting growth in Africa is economically and politically vital; doing so opens up trade to U.S. markets and creates positive business environments both at home and abroad. In addition, AWEP helps to empower women in their respective countries; in Africa, women are the backbone of communities, and by enabling them to utilize their economic power, the program is helping to reduce the gender gap in education and improve health, political participation and economic inclusion.

The women in the program include Mame Diene from Senegal, whose organic cosmetics and nutraceuticals company, Bioessence Laboratories, employs almost 4,000 people. The visit to Washington enabled Ms. Diene and her peers to discuss business growth and female empowerment in Africa. When the women return to their countries, they join AWEP chapters where they can connect with other successful businesswomen; by building networks, the initiative is enabling these women to become voices for social advocacy in their communities.

AWEP is a prime example of U.S. commitment to foreign investment in developing regions. Globally, women constitute 50% of the global population and 40% of the global workforce, yet they own just 1% of the world’s wealth. By providing a platform from which women can effectively run their own businesses, AWEP is resulting in positive economic, social and political changes that are beneficial for the U.S. both abroad and at home.

– Chloe Isacke
Sources: DipNote, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Acumen-poverty-development

A U.S. State Department Advisor, Jacqueline Novogratz, is advising developing countries to embrace new ideas when discussing how to defeat world poverty. She recently said in a speech in the Pentago, “The world is at an extraordinary moment in time to harness new ideas to defeat global poverty.”

One way to do this is through the a new website created by the State Department, which is devoted to advising and providing a discussion board for combating poverty. The site will be a way for individuals and countries to share research and strategies as well as new innovations and possible global threats.

This approach will mostly benefit non-government organizations and other individual groups that do not have the capacity to perform their own research or are in need of recommendations.

Despite technological advances and increased global connectivity, Novogratz is concerned that the developing world is not engaging in seeking out new ways of addressing poverty and are “clinging to old ideas.” This, she says, it what causes a “persistent poverty cycle.”

Some concepts that need to change are relying on private companies, which often exclude the poor, and the idea of top-down economics. Instead, the future lies in the hands of companies and organizations that focus on helping the poor and improving the lives of ordinary people, not just the wealthy.

Although applying these changes may be a slow process, Novogratz is adamant that the results will be worth the investment. Rather than merely trying to improve people’s incomes, she believes in improving overall lifestyles, which includes clean water, affordable housing, agriculture and healthcare.

Once these changes to our systems occur, people will truly be lifted out of poverty.  Novogratz urges her listeners to start thinking about global poverty from a different perspective. She states, “The more we do it from a place of honesty and start by looking at the problem at hand from the perspective of the poor themselves and build from there, the more we actually have the chance to extend that assumption that all men are created equal.”

– Mary Penn

Source: U.S. Department of Defense
Photo: Acumen