Curacao Poverty RateOn October 10, 2010, after centuries operating as a deep-water port for the Dutch, the small Caribbean island of Curacao gained autonomy as a state in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 80 percent of the country’s debt was forgiven by the Dutch, and most government positions were undertaken by local citizens. For many who lived on the island, 10/10/10 marked the dawn of a new era of opportunity. “We were confident that we were going to have this perfect future,” said political analyst Michiel van der Veur.

Enthusiasm was short lived. Soon after gaining autonomy, the assassination of politician Helman Wiels plunged the island into turmoil. Between 2012 and 2013, Curacao had four prime ministers, greatly increasing the instability. As a country plagued with such unrest, it should be no wonder that the Curacao poverty rate is over 25 percent.

A small island country located in the Caribbean, much of the economy in Curacao is based around tourism and is thus highly sensitive to fluxes in the world market. Most of the country’s necessities are imported, leading to large trade deficits.

The Curacao poverty rate is likely increased by the country’s “brain drain” problem. Like many other developing island nations, citizens who are ambitious and educated often leave, moving to other countries with better opportunities for people with their skill sets.

However, Curacao has committed itself to addressing the country’s widespread poverty. With the support and assistance of the U.N. Development Program, Curacao has created a National Development Plan (NDP), which will focus on improving the economy through a series of steps from 2015 to 2030.

The NDP focuses on five themes to accomplish its goal: education, economy, sustainability, national identity and good governance. As diminishing the Curacao poverty rate is a priority, economy is one of the most important themes. In order to accomplish this, Curacao will focus on structural reform, government support, sectoral growth, supporting investments and broadening ownership of industry and land.

With the NDP, Curacao has taken a significant step towards strengthening the economy and the country as a whole. While there is much work to do, the country’s history as a long time trading center and large deep water port point to a high probability of success.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Norway

Norway is a small Scandinavian country with a population of approximately 4.9 million. It is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, and a range of political parties operate freely there.

Recent reports on human rights in Norway show it is one of the best countries for political, civil and individual rights except a few minor, worrying trends in immigration and the rights of religious minorities. “Norway has ranked first on the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index for 12 of the last 15 years, and it consistently tops international comparisons in such areas as democracy, civil and political rights, and freedom of expression and the press.”

Below is a breakdown of characteristic details of human rights in Norway in the past couple of years.

Political pluralism: Norway’s Constitution promotes political pluralism and guarantees it in practice. All political parties from a range of ideological backgrounds participate freely in elections. The country’s political freedom is such that the indigenous Sami population, “the only group in Scandinavia recognized as an indigenous people by international conventions,” has its own legislature, the Sameting, which works to protect the language and political, cultural and economic rights of the group.

Press freedom: Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and protected in public life. The government subsidizes the majority of newspapers, although private and partisan, in an effort to promote political pluralism and democracy. Citizens’ digital rights are respected. Internet access is free and unimpeded. There is respect for academic freedom, and private discussions are free and vibrant.

The freedom of belief: The freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice. Norway is a secular country where the church and the state were separated by a 2012 constitutional amendment. All religious beliefs enjoy freedom, but lately, there is seemingly a rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence and harassment.

In 2015, a new special police unit in Oslo – founded to strengthen efforts against hate crimes – reviewed 143 crimes, roughly double the number reviewed in 2014. “In June of this year, Norway became the first Nordic country to propose a ban on the burqa -full face and body covering- in kindergartens, schools and universities.”

Although according to the Huffington Post “very very few” of three percent of Norway’s Muslim population, or roughly 150,000 individuals, wear a niqab – the veil that covers the face, showing only the eyes – it still is a matter of civilian liberty and has to be dealt with accordingly. In August 2015, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticized the country for lack of a comprehensive approach to halt these crimes, as it scars the overall picture of human rights in Norway.

Associational/organizational rights: The Norwegian constitution guarantees the rights to assembly and protest. In 2015, following a terrorist attack on a synagogue, hundreds of Norwegians made a “ring of peace” around an Oslo Synagogue to show solidarity with the Jewish community. The right to assembly and strike is guaranteed to labor organizations/unions and workers except for senior civil servants and the military.

Immigration: Like many other European countries, Norway has seen a surge in the immigration in recent years as it has increased fivefold since the 1970s. “In 2015, Norway received asylum applications from 31,000 people, primarily from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; this was a significant increase from the 11,000 applications received in 2014.” The country is witnessing the rise of anti-immigration right-wing politics. Consequently, the controversial practice of refoulment, which the international law forbids, continued in 2015, affecting more than 1,000 people.

Prisoners’ rights: Norway is known globally for its radical humaneness toward prisoners. The incarceration rate is among the lowest in the world at 75 persons per 100,000. In the U.S., it is 10 times higher. There is no death penalty nor lifetime imprisonment, and the maximum sentence for most crimes is 21 years. Norway’s recidivism rate of 20 percent is one of the lowest in the world. However, the country’s capacity has not been sufficient with more than 1,000 prisoners waiting to serve their sentences in recent years.

Individual rights: Norway is also one of the best countries for personal autonomy. Citizens from the European Union do not need a permit to work in Norway. The Gender Equality Act provides equal rights for both men and women. Conscription in armed forces is gender-neutral according to a law that took effect in 2015. In 2013, women won 40 percent of seats in parliament. A gender-neutral marriage act passed in 2009 granted Norwegian same-sex couples identical rights as opposite-sex couples, including in adoption and assisted pregnancies.

Given its credible record in the past, it is very likely that the strong presence of NGOs and civil society networks with the cooperation of government, will strengthen efforts to redress discriminatory practices because they are a threat to pluralism and the positive image of human rights in Norway.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Poverty in Nepal has experienced a steady decline since the 1990s. The country’s efforts to further reduce poverty will build off existing success, population growth control and using sustainable development goals to promote development.

Between 1995 and 2015, Nepal’s poverty rate declined by an estimated 2.2-3.2 percentage points each year. The national poverty rate in 1995 was 41.8%, a figure that was reduced to 21.2% in 2015. The main drivers of Nepal’s poverty decline are remittances from migration, more diverse labor income and slowed population growth.

Migration remittances increased from less than 1% to 29% of Nepal’s GDP between the late 1990s and 2014. Remittances have caused wage increases within Nepal and driven demand for non-food items and services, generating employment in more diverse industries.

Population growth control has been a main fixture of the government as a means to combat poverty in Nepal. The country’s population doubled between 1960 and 1990 and was expected to double again between 1990 and 2015. However, beginning in the 1990s, the average number of births for a Nepali woman dropped from six in the 1970s to two in 2014, slowing population growth.

Population growth still hinders progress in Nepal’s more rural regions, where the number of births has not declined. In Nepal’s mountains, hills and Terai plains regions, there is insufficient land to accommodate the livelihoods for an increasing number of people. The Nepali government is continuing to make population growth control a central tenant of its poverty reduction plans by promoting a two-child family as the norm.

While progress is underway, natural disaster hinders Nepal’s growth. The 2015 earthquake pushed 700,000 Nepalis under the poverty line. Recovery is ongoing and can appear slow. Distribution of aid is often uneven and cash grants needed for reconstruction have been distributed slowly and in small increments.

While there are areas of recovery in need of improvement, international support programs show hope for regrowth. The U.N. Development Program has implemented cash-for-work programs and supported the restoration of micro-enterprises, both of which build individual recovery and community resilience. Sustained commitment to the SDGs will facilitate earthquake recovery and continued poverty reduction in Nepal. Two main objectives of earthquake recovery are poverty eradication and gender equality, both of which align with the SDGs.

In order to promote sustained growth, Nepal must frame its commitment to the SDGs in a national context. “What works for Bolivia might not work for Nepal,” says UNDP resident representative in Nepal, Valerie Julliand. Identifying the precise ways in which the SDGs can benefit Nepali citizens will facilitate their implementation and enable further poverty reduction.

Between the Nepali government’s plans and programs enacted by international organizations, Nepal is progressing towards sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in Nepal has experienced a steady decline in recent decades and continued commitment to earthquake recovery and the SDGs proves promising for the country’s development.

McKenna Lux

Photo: Flickr

Madagascar's Millennium Village is Independent
Madagascar’s Millennium Village, Sambaina, is functioning independently after five years of support and development from the UN Development Program and the Millennium Villages Project. With a donor investment of $400,000 per year, or just $50 per person per year, living conditions have improved dramatically.

The country of Madagascar has suffered in the last five years as a result of political upheaval. Following a coup in 2009, foreign aid to the country has remained frozen, and the government does not have sufficient funds for social programs or the salaries of civil servants. In the commune of Sambaina, where over 60 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty when the project began, residents say that their lives have improved.

Targeted investments in the areas of agriculture, education, sanitation, health care, infrastructure, technology, and local business have made a world of difference in Madagascar’s Millennium Village. Implementing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has helped farmers increase yields to the point of achieving food security for eleven months out of the year. Previously, their harvests only lasted three months. About 70 percent of Sambaina farmers now use the SRI method, and have seen sustainably increased rice production.

Pumps have ensured access to clean drinking water, while health education has encouraged people to maintain good hygiene and utilize the village’s health care facilities. Other investments include computers in classrooms, renovations in schools and infrastructure, and funding to start-up businesses.

Now that initial investments have been made in developing Sambaina’s basic necessities, the villagers will be responsible for maintaining them. To this end, committees have been established, which will collect contributions from residents to fund maintenance projects.

The success of Madagascar’s Millennium Village is undeniable. Even in a country with almost no economic growth and four years of political crisis, targeted investment and development assistance has nearly eliminated extreme poverty in Sambaina within just five years. The country of Madagascar has no hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But Madagascar’s Millennium Village Project in Sambaina proves that foreign aid, when responsibly managed, is instrumental in improving the lives of the world’s poor.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN