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International Monetary Fund Facts
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in combination with the World Bank, is the world’s largest public lender today.

Key Facts About the International Monetary Fund

 

  1. In the 1930’s the world was overtaken with financial turmoil from the Great Depression. Markets all over the world collapsed and countries closed their doors to foreign imports. The IMF was conceived in July 1944 at the United Nations Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire, to protect the world from a similar blow and hasten financial recovery in war-torn nations.
  2. The Fund was created to act as a credit union and watch over the values of the world’s currency, while facilitating International Trade, promote employment and sustainable growth and help to reduce global poverty. Its main aim is to maintain economic stability and help countries complete financial transactions.
  3. The three main responsibilities of the IMF are: Surveillance — specifically to monitor the economic and financial policies of its members; financial assistance through loans to its members experiencing balance of payments issues; and technical assistance to help members design and implement economic policies that foster stability and growth.
  4. Primary aims of the IMF: Promote international monetary cooperation, facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade, promote exchange stability, assist in the establishment of a multilateral system of payments and make resources available to members experiencing balance of payment difficulties.
  5. The IMF is accountable to 189 member countries. Its Headquarters is located in Washington D.C.
  6. A country’s voting power is based on the size of its economy and the amount of the quota it pays when it joins the IMF. The U.S. has the largest share of votes (approximately 17 percent). Decisions require a supermajority– 85 percent of votes.
  7. The IMF advocates currency devaluation for governments of poor nations with struggling economies.
  8.  The largest borrowers of the IMF are Portugal, Greece, Ukraine, and Pakistan. The largest number of IMF loans have gone to the African Continent.
  9. The U.S. contributes about 20 percent of the total annual IMF Budget. The largest member of the IMF is the U.S. while the smallest member is Tuvalu.
  10. The fiscal year for the IMF begins on May 1 and ends on April 30.
  11. The head of the IMF staff is the Managing Director. The Managing Director also acts as Chairman of the Executive Board and serves a five-year term. The present Managing Director is Christine Lagarde of France. The Executive Board Members monitor the day to day work with the guidance of the International Monetary and Financial Committee.

Studies show that contrary to the criticism of the IMF, it fulfills its functions of promoting exchange rate stability and helping its members correct macroeconomic imbalances.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr


Amidst facing a humanitarian crisis and lack of mine regulations, Ukraine received aid totaling one million euros from Italy through the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF to help those impacted by the actions in Eastern Ukraine in 2017. The donation will help the WFP provide basic necessities and humanitarian assistance Ukrainians need to combat hunger, while also fighting against their own government and people.

Among a population of 45.2 million, more than 4.4 million Ukrainians have been impacted, and more than 3.8 million still need humanitarian assistance.

Who the Donation Will Help Most

“Our contribution to WFP and UNICEF operations will help ease people’s suffering, in particular for the most vulnerable, providing food assistance, increasing knowledge and building safe behaviour practices to deal with the risk of mines,” said Davide La Cecilia, the Italian Ambassador to Ukraine in a press release published by the WFP.

Thanks to Italy’s donation, UNICEF will help protect 500,000 children and their guardians from the dangers in mines by supporting the mine risk education program.

The WFP plans to help those who do not receive assistance from other humanitarian actors and further small-scale recovery activities, such as providing food, to aid local citizens. UNICEF will use the funding to promote children’s education programs and for families living in areas close to the contact line, which divides the government and non-government controlled areas and where the fighting is most intense.

Giancarlo Stopponi, WFP deputy country director in Ukraine, said, “WFP greatly appreciates Italy’s support at a time when communities across Ukraine continue to experience the negative consequences of the conflict.”

The WFP has been aiding those experiencing hunger in Ukraine since 2014 by providing emergency food services to internally displaced citizens in Eastern Ukraine, handing out monthly food packages and food assistance. To this day, about 850,000 of most Eastern Ukraine’s most vulnerable people have received food from WFP, despite attempts to bar humanitarian staff.

Ongoing Efforts to Battle Hunger

The program plans to continue its efforts, aiming to assist 220,000 citizens in Eastern Ukraine. These people both rely on and need WFP’s food assistance, along with their other operations, such as the Logistic Cluster Support to the Humanitarian Response in Ukraine.

In 2017, UNICEF has appealed to the U.S. for $31.3 million to be used towards combatting hunger in Ukraine. The money will be used for health and nutrition needs, education, water, hygiene and sanitation, and protection for those most vulnerable to the conflict, such as children and families.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Ukraine
Water in Ukraine is scarce and highly contaminated. The country’s water system is degradable and the tap water should not be consumed by anyone in the southern region of the country.

Overall, water quality in Ukraine has drastically deteriorated in the last decade. Water resources in the country are unevenly distributed and have resulted in high costs for water security. Ukraine’s availability of water has decreased while water contamination has increased due to trace metals and emerging pollutants.

Despite Efforts, Treatment Systems are Imperfect

The water treatment methods for drinking water can only provide partially safe drinking water. The country is concerned that large amounts of chlorine in water treatment processes cause the formation of mutagenic and carcinogenic chlorine organics. These organics have a negative impact on drinking water security and neurogenic health effects. The Ukraine government has recently developed and implemented a national and regulatory framework for strict sanitary measures. Such measures include a law on drinking water standards and increased public awareness on the changing culture of water use in the country.

Water quality in Ukraine is affected by the lack of pipe systems in the southern region of Ukraine and the Crimea. The poor state of water pipelines are a major concern for the country and has led to wasted drinking water and a reduced quality of tap water.

The pressures on water resources in Ukraine are extensive. Eight out of ten southern oblasts, as well as the entire Crimean Republic, do not receive enough water. Poorly treated wastewater is discharged in 136 cities and towns in over 50 urban villages each day. More than 1,000 communities have had to be supplied with delivered water.

Water quality in Ukraine can improve by minimizing contamination of surface and underground water sources. Through improving water treatment, renewing water and sewage pipelines, and funding to implement the country’s draft program that was proposed in 1995,  improvements to water quality in the Ukraine look hopeful.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Russia
The number of refugees in Russia has skyrocketed in the past few years. Multiple migrant crises have affected the Russian Federation, leading to domestic tensions. Where has this influx of refugees come from, and what is life like for refugees in Russia? Ahead are seven facts about refugees in Russia.

    1. In 2013, Russia received 3,458 refugees. The next year there were 235,750. In 2015, the refugee population in Russia was greater than 300,000.
    2. In 2011, the Syrian civil war saw refugees escaping to nearby countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, and by 2013, total Syrian refugees numbered more than two million. The Federal Migration Service of Russia recorded 7,096 Syrian citizens in Russia in 2016. Russia has granted refugee status to just two Syrians.
    3. There are a few charity-run schools for refugee children in Russia. Still, many parents fear sending their children to school, worrying that it raises the risk of being questioned by the authorities. Syrians who have lived in Russia for years and become citizens say that officials are inhospitable, according to VOA News.
    4. In 2015, Russia accepted more than 380,000 Ukrainians seeking asylum. Many Ukrainian refugees are officially registered, and receive financial assistance and amenities from the government.
    5. Based on a poll of Russian citizens in 2014, about one-quarter of the country believes the government does too much for refugees. This number almost doubled in the regions near the Ukrainian border, which received the most refugees and aid.
    6. Many Meskhetian Turks, followers of Islam originating from Georgia or Uzbekistan, have lived in Russia for the required residency period but are still denied citizenship.
    7. Following strengthened ties between Russia and North Korea, Russia agreed to repatriate undocumented North Korean citizens found within its borders. Russian refugee group Civic Assistance says there may be hundreds of undocumented North Koreans living in Siberia and the Far East.

Despite varying policies for refugees in Russia, those seeking asylum have much in common. Many refugees in Russia wish to return home or find a place with better living conditions. Many, however, face hostility from the surrounding community.

Michael Rose

Photo: Flickr

 DonbassThe war in the Donbass region of the Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014 when groups known as the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) broke from the Ukraine. Here are 10 facts about the little-known war in Donbass:

  1. When the DPR and the LPR broke from the Ukraine in 2014 they created a federation called Novorossiya, yet the region is still more commonly known as the Donbass.
  2. In the Donbass region which is largely populated by Russian speakers, a strong “anti-maidan” movement grew in the region after the 2014 coup in Kiev. This movement’s goal was to prevent far-right groups from entering the region.
  3. Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula of Ukraine in March of 2014 following the ousting of a pro-Russia president in Kiev. Despite Russia’s denial that it is supporting the separatists, Kiev claims that many Russian soldiers have traveled to the region.
  4. It is highly unlikely that soldiers from Russia and its allies would have traveled to the Ukraine against the will of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
  5. Fighting remains intense in the region, and civilian casualties still frequently occur.
  6. Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych borrowed $3 billion from Russia to resist protesters in the early days of the conflict. When he was subsequently ousted, the Ukraine failed to pay back the bond, which led to Russia suing for repayment in British courts.
  7. The U.N. human rights office reported that between February 2015 and June 2016, 261 civilians were killed on both sides of the conflict. They stress, however, that these figures are a conservative estimate, and the DPR’s number of reported casualties is much higher.
  8. There have been several truces called, including in September and December 2016, yet they have all failed to secure lasting peace.
  9. There have been two Minsk agreements, the second of which was signed by Vladimir Putin, Francis Holland, Angela Merkel and Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko. Neither agreement has succeeded in ending the war in Donbass.
  10. There was hope that the Minsk II agreement would lead to free elections in the regions and a separate status for the Donbass region.

The conflict may be occurring in a reduced capacity, but the reality remains that there is a war in eastern Ukraine. Ongoing attention is required to create a lasting peace for the communities in this region.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Russia continues to build deteriorating relations with the West. On top of that, the economic turmoil following sanctions imposed on Moscow after it meddled in Ukraine’s business has had a serious impact on hunger in Russia and the country’s likelihood of going hungry in general.

Food is just one of the everyday necessities being used by Russia’s government in the international struggle for peace in the Crimea region of Russia and Ukraine. Russia has banned imports of most food from countries party to the European Union’s (EU) economic sanctions against Russia.

The EU’s economic sanctions against Russia are meant to pressure the Russian government to end its violent campaign against Ukrainian nationalists. The sanctions mainly ban activity that profits banks and some blacklisted individuals.

More Russians have been slipping into poverty and hunger since the Western sanctions have been put into place. Along with that, low oil prices that have battered the country’s energy-dependent economy and significantly diminished purchasing power have taken a toll.

However, 2016 poverty indicators are still much lower than those from the start of President Vladimir Putin’s first term in 2000. During that time, 29 percent of the Russian population found itself below the poverty threshold.

Despite the decrease in poverty indicators, a food shortage has begun in Russia, according to The Moscow Times. Hunger in Russia is a very real possibility. This is due mainly to more than a year of extended sanctions against imported food.

Some food producers have increased productions notably over the last 17 months. This includes the meat and dairy producers as well as beef and potato producers. Unfortunately, it has not been enough to make up for the loss of food imports banned due to these government sanctions.

The silver lining in this whole situation is that Russia is known for its self-reliance when it comes to food struggles. Recently, a study done by Natural Homes revealed that 51 percent of Russia’s food is grown by communities in both rural areas and by peasant farmers.

A great example of Russian resilience is a small business owner, Alexander Krupetskov. Alexander started an artisan cheese shop just a month before the embargo was established last year. His business has flourished since that and he has also opened a second shop.

Although times are tough in Russia, these glimmers of hope and forward movement are great signs for the country’s future. It would seem that even in the toughest of circumstances, Russia’s people know how to pull themselves from the depths and create something beautiful and everlasting.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

 

ukrainian_hackathon
This February, SocialBoost partnered with USAID in Kyiv, Ukraine to host a hackathon in order to generate innovative ideas on delivering services to internally displaced people.

Since February, the number of internally displaces people in Ukraine has reached over 1.2 million because of violence in the Donetsk region. The Ukrainian government supports the internally displaced people; but their methods are inefficient, so they looked towards the young, bright innovators for a better solution.

SocialBoost is a tech nonprofit that promotes Ukraine’s open data law, a newly adopted law that stimulates the startup business environment through free and accessible data, democratic power in taking on problems like corruption, decision-making and public service. With this, SocialBoost hosts hackathons to support socially meaningful IT projects. In this case, it’s how to deliver services to 1.2 million internally displaced people.

Because of the open data laws, all data is at the hacker’s fingertips as they try to create a prototype to help Ukraine’s government. “In Ukraine, the IT community is strong and patriotic,” says SocialBoost founder Denis Gursky. Ukraine’s IT sector is influential to the economy and has been vital in bringing about political change.

Before the hackathon, SocialBoost created a multimedia campaign that allowed people to share their prototype ideas and publicly vote on their favorites. The top ten finalists competed in the Ukrainian hackathon. After two days, the finalists presented their prototypes to the judges, who voted based on five criteria: reach, potential impact, sustainability, technical components and teamwork.

The winning prototype was LifeTag, an SMS service that navigates internally displaced people to the nearest government or volunteer station based on their needs, which can be selected from a drop-down menu. LifeTag was developed by a team of university students.

Jonathan Katz, USAID’s deputy assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia presented the award to LifeTag at the end of the Ukrainian hackathon and concluded with an air of hope, saying, “It really gives me confidence that despite all the challenges, these young people will work tirelessly to ensure a brighter future for the people of Ukraine.”

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: IDMC, SocialBoost, UNDP, UNHCR, USAID
Photo: UNDP

ukraine
This past March, Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk succeeded in securing an impressive amount of aid from the International Monetary Fund, but their work to bring Ukraine to financial stability has only just begun. The restructuring that the IMF and Ukraine agreed on calls for Ukraine to save $15.3 billion over the next four years, a number that would only be attainable if some of Ukraine’s creditors forgave a portion of their principle. So far, nobody seems willing.

After the violence last year sent Ukraine’s economy into a tailspin of high interest rates and dwindling federal bank reserves, the international community stepped in to lend Ukraine a hand – and several billion dollars.

Last April, the IMF approved a two-year loan of $17 billion to Ukraine, but soon deemed the plan insufficient to build reform while the government was busy fighting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

This March, the IMF approved a loan that would deliver $17.5 billion over the next four years, with $10 billion of the money being delivered this year. An official statement by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in Berlin called the program “very strongly front-loaded during the first year.” She went on to express optimism about the plan, saying, “Ukraine has satisfied all the prior actions that were expected and required of it in order to start running the program. … We are off to a good start.”

‘Front-heavy’ loans like this are supposed to kick-start the rebuilding process and bring faltering economies out of their downward spirals. That money was combined with an additional promise of $7.5 billion from other international organizations and an expected $15.3 billion in debt relief.

Even with this assistance and the optimism of the IMF, the Ukrainian economy is expected to contract by 5.5 percent in 2015, before rebounding and growing by an estimated two percent in 2016. While the outlook of the IMF and the Ukrainian government is cautiously optimistic, their goal remains lofty. By 2020, they aim to reduce Ukraine’s debt down to $56.1 billion, from the estimated debt in 2015 of $74.9 billion.

Ukraine’s debt can be broken into four very rough categories: there is debt to international organizations like the IMF, which is unlikely to change. There is debt to friendly governments like the United States, which would also be hard to change. The remaining two kinds of debt are Ukraine’s $17.3 billion in sovereign Eurobonds and $31.4 billion in domestic debt. These are the debts the Ukrainian government has the best chance of re-negotiating, but simple interest alterations won’t be enough. To meet its goal, the Ukrainian government will have to reduce the principle of these debts.

This will not be a task for the faint of heart. The largest private bondholder, asset management company Franklin Templeton, has hired heavy-hitting consulting group Blackstone to advise them during talks, a sure sign that they don’t plan to surrender much. However, the toughest creditor is probably Russia, who holds $3 billion of Ukraine’s Eurobond debt, and has proven intractable to negotiation about restructuring so far.

If Prime Minister Yatseniuk and Finance Minister Jaresko can negotiate a manageable plan for debt repayment, Ukraine’s economy has the potential to make an impressive comeback.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: IMF, Bloomberg 1, Bloomberg 2, Reuters
Photo: Flickr

violence in azerbaijan
As the world’s eyes turn to the ongoing struggle and possible ceasefire in Ukraine, another simmering conflict in Russia’s backyard seems to be flaring up. The long contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies in Azerbaijan but which is a self-declared independent nation and comprised of ethnic Armenians, has seen an increase in violence in 2014 and 2015.

The region devolved into a bloody war immediately preceding the fall of the Soviet Union that killed almost 30,000 people and displaced millions more. A ceasefire brokered by the Russians in 1994 left Karabakh and surrounding territories in the hands of Armenians but legally enveloped by Azerbaijan, which lost 14 percent of its territory in the deal.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan has made great strides in socio-economic indicators including hunger, malnourishment, poverty, GDP per capita and the under-five mortality rate. While improvements can still be made, the country is squarely in the Upper-Middle Income country group and has met or is on its way to meeting all of its Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. Without diversification, however, the economy, which has seen a lot of growth since the early 2000s, may become unstable and create additional social problems.

In its relative state of peace since the turn of the century, Azerbaijan’s poverty rate has dropped from 46.7 percent in 2002 to 8.4 percent in 2011. The economy grew as people felt safe to invest in the country. Hunger very nearly has disappeared from most regions and other indicators are well on their way to the same status. But a rise in violence around the Nagorno-Karabakh region could reverse this progress.

Azerbaijan, claiming a double standard in the West’s handling of Crimea in Ukraine compared to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has increased its annual defense budget from $177 million in 2003 to $3.4 billion in 2013. It has purchased weapons from Israel, Turkey and Russia. Extra dollars mean not only a militarization in conflict areas, but also an economic focus shift from development to power.

The increased militarization of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, coupled with a penchant for violence on both sides, creates “the risk of a war by accident” according to the director of the Regional Studies Center, Richard Giragosian. War in the region could prove to be just as disastrous as last time, forcing millions to flee their homes without promise of return and killing thousands more.

The humanitarian crisis created by war between the two countries could be devastating. Rampant hunger, poverty, displacement and violence among neighboring ethnic groups could reverse the progress made by Azerbaijan in the last two decades. While the threat of open war is relatively low, any increase in violence stokes tensions anew, pushing the region further from peace.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: Economist,  BBC,  UNDP,  Knoema
Photo: The Guardian

Refugee Convoy Attack in Ukraine - The Borgen Project
More than dozens were found perished in a refugee attack on a civilian convoy running away from constant fighting in eastern Ukraine, with the Ukraine government and pro-Russian separatists both putting the blame on each other, according to news source Al Jazeera.

The attack, being described as a “bloody crime,” by a spokesman, has had several people killed, including some women and children. The number perished is currently being established; however, it is known that the toll could be put in dozens.

“The barrage had taken place last Monday morning between the cities of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka, close to the rebel city of Luhansk,” said a Ukraine military spokesman.

As reported by news source BBC, the Ukrainian military has claimed that many have perished due to the influx of rockets and mortars demolishing vehicles moving the refugees from the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine.

Another military spokesman proclaimed that several people had been burned alive inside the vehicles; however, a spokesman for the rebels who are named “Donetsk People’s Republic, “refused the idea that rebel forces had deliberated the attack on the convoy.

According to Reuters, the convoy was involved with ferocious fighting mainly between government forces and the separatists when the fire erupted from rebel Grad and mortar launchers, many spokesmen stated.

According to news source BBC News, it is known that more than 2,000 civilians and fighters have perished since the middle of April, a time in which Ukraine’s government had sent troops to overthrow the rebel uprising in the east.

The separatist rebels have been conspicuously sighted as ambushing a row of cars holding refugees attempting to escape the war in eastern Ukraine. This allegation can be confirmed according to news source New York Times. Ukrainian military officials have accused the separatists vehemently throughout, but the separatists, however, have denied that there has been no attack at all and they are not to be held responsible for the incident.

Luhansk, a city of 250,000 people, is a region where currently civilians are suffering heavy amount of shortages of water, food and electricity.

At the moment, Ukrainian forces are edging into the outskirts of Luhansk, where supplies such as food and water are running out for them.

During a briefing in Kiev, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, has stated that “terrorists” had ambushed the refugee convoy with Grad rocket systems and several other large weapons for combat supplied by Russia.

This could be considered a deadly episode for civilians, as according to the New York Times, separatists have begun to take control of cities and towns in this region approximately more than four months ago.

With over 2,000 people perished and more than 5,000 wounded in Ukraine, a representative for the United Nations human rights office claimed last week, with approximately more than half of the deaths currently happening in just these last two weeks.

The news of civilian deaths has been a grave situation as efforts for diplomacy to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis have been unsuccessful since last Monday; during conversations in Berlin among the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia.

Recently, the United States State Department has condemned the attack; however, it stated that it could not confirm who was responsible.

According to news source Reuters, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk … Sadly, they were trying to get away from the fighting and instead became victims of it.”

The week of August 25, a solution was implemented for the first time in several months. This solution is meant to attempt to end the confrontation between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart. While both their meetings will hold several issues regarding the Ukraine Convoy Attack, their final solution is intended to mend the situation regarding the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

— Noor Siddiqui

Sources: Reuters, Reuters 2, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, New York Times Click On Detroit
Photo: Bloomberg