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World Food Programme Solutions for 2021
A United Nations General Assembly meeting took place on December 4, 2020. Its primary focus concerned the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic as precautionary measures continued and vaccines emerged. With 2020 nearly over, the resounding political, social and economic effects of the pandemic began to materialize. But all did not disappear despite the grim outlook. A handful of humanitarian organizations are busy strategizing solutions for 2021.

Closing 2020

The last few months of 2020 showed the world that the pandemic is just the beginning. The disease itself constitutes merely one of a myriad of societal problems that a pandemic can bring. COVID-19 has had an unpredictable ripple effect. PPE loans in the United States, damaged food supply chains in Africa and the closings of borders all over the world demonstrate the pandemic’s extent.

Earlier in December 2020, before the General Assembly meeting, the UN estimated that the pandemic, the resulting economic impact and the concurrent precautionary and protective measures that governments were taking had already caused a 40% rise in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance. What may be the most evident incoming challenge is global famine. David Beasley, chief of the World Food Programme (WFP), warned that famines “of biblical proportions” are imminent for dozens of countries.

2021 Predictions

David Beasley spoke at length at the General Assembly meeting. His prediction for a catastrophe in 2021 made headlines and effectively set the tone for the entirety of the 193-nation conference. The upcoming COVID-19 vaccines constituted a positive note, though greater concerns regarding distribution overshadowed them. Speakers at the meeting warned against a stampede for vaccines that could result in wealthier countries crushing others in the race to eradicate COVID-19. While the pandemic is global, the UN fears that the fight against it may become individualistic and needlessly competitive.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, echoed fears of the COVID-19 vaccine competition. He called for $4.3 billion USD to go into a global vaccine-sharing program, saying “solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods.”

Solutions for 2021

Despite the dire circumstances, Beasley and his organization have the leverage to play a crucial role in manifesting solutions for 2021. The World Food Programme works as more than just an international food bank: it enjoys the global spotlight after winning the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for “bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

The achievements that landed the World Food Programme this coveted prize also provided some positivity at the December conference. The General Assembly served as the WFP’s proverbial megaphone to world leaders. Thanks to the publicity surrounding the meeting, the WFP could grab the world’s attention.

As COVID-19 continues to rise and economies across the world take a resounding hit, humanitarian budgets stretching thin. Low- and middle-income countries particularly suffer. Beasley predicts that the WFP needs $15 billion in 2021 to address the global famine conditions that the pandemic has caused. Beasley says that the inability to meet leaders or address parliaments in person may hinder fundraising efforts. It will be difficult to sensitize those in charge of financial allocations.

Nonetheless, the World Food Programme and similar organizations are working tirelessly to raise money and create frameworks for solutions to the pandemic and its concurrent issues. Events as routine as a UN General Assembly meeting have provided the podia necessary for titans of humanitarian aid to make their causes known. With any luck, their solutions for 2021 will keep millions afloat.

– Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

examples of human rights violations
A human rights violation is the disallowance of the freedom of thought and movement to which all humans legally have a right. While individuals can violate these rights, the leadership or government of civilization most often belittles marginalized persons. This, in turn, places these people in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Individuals who approach life with the attitude that not all human lives are of equal value then perpetuate this cycle. This article will explore examples of human rights violations, and what people can do about this phenomenon.

A Brief History

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emerged in 1948. Of the 56 members of the United Nations at that time, eight of them did not vote in favor of equal human rights. Since then, international human rights have made monumental progress. This does not mean, however, that some do not violate these rights every single day.

The development of human rights advocacy is not a linear process; the last two decades have shown that human rights advancements have remained stagnant or declined in some parts of the world. Socially disadvantaged groups of society are especially susceptible to discrimination. This includes women, children, ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, refugees, indigenous peoples and people living in poverty.

Discrimination

The ramifications of human rights violations disproportionately affect those living in developing nations due to compounding factors and difficulties. The marginalization of groups based on gender identity and sexual orientation has become a prevalent issue of the 21st century. Although there are exceptionally progressive parts of the world that have made advances toward the inclusion of the LGBTQIAPK (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual/polyamorous, kink) community, stigmatization remains a dilemma that lacks a clear resolution. Other stigmatized cases include persons living with HIV/AIDS and victims of rape or other forms of gender-based violence.

Abuse of the Death Penalty

There are countless examples of human rights violations. One example that is especially heartbreaking is the Islamic Republic’s execution of children. The United Nations special investigator of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehmen, stated in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2019 that the use of the death penalty continues to be at the top of global charts. This is despite significant progress in the two years prior.

Iran has a long way to go. This is considering that religious and ethnic minorities still face high levels of discrimination. Rehmen described the recent maltreatment of human rights activists: “[they] have been intimidated, harassed, arrested and detained.” Rehmen goes on to inform the assembly that between the months of September 2018 and July 2019, eight well-respected human rights defense attorneys were arrested and sentenced to an extended time in prison.

New Wave of Human Rights Violations

Those living in the least developed nations experience some of the worst human rights violations. The U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986 to address this issue specifically. The declaration is radical in the sense that it acknowledges development as a right for all humans. This is something that people clearly do not enforce, although it is a legal right. This provides an understanding that development is a crucial component in reaching equality and protecting human rights.

Prisoners of war and torture victims are also examples of human rights violations. The War on Terror sparked a new influx of human rights abuse acts that has continued over the last two decades and supported the destabilization of international human rights. In order to recover this lost sense of humanity, a common understanding of the rights of human beings is essential.

The western mindset, which takes these rights and freedoms for granted, contributes to this issue as a whole. The question is how can leaders with limited resources enforce the protection of the people’s rights?

The Solutions

Achieving a sustainable, practical and effective method of protecting human rights around the globe that also allows local values and culture to remain intact is a difficult ambition. Humans must recognize the beauty of individual differences and attempt to understand each other before a change can happen. Starting with the smaller steps, like understanding victims of rape, violence and discrimination instead of perpetuating a victim-blaming culture, might be more influential than viewing the situation through such an expansive lens. Only then will these examples of human rights violations turn into examples of human kindness.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Egypt
Egypt is a country located in the northernmost corner of Africa. A rather religious country, people often push issues surrounding HIV/AIDS under the rug and view the disease as a non-issue. The reasons for this are not hard to understand considering that the estimated population of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Egypt in 2018 was a relatively small 22,000 people out of its 97.5 million inhabitants. Egypt has long been a low HIV-prevalent country with only specific groups of people being susceptible to the disease. These groups include prisoners, migrants and street children. Although there have been no studies conducted to prove this, professionals have hypothesized these are the most susceptible groups.

An Increase in HIV/AIDS

Despite the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Egypt, the country has seen an increase in the disease in the past years. In fact, Egypt has the fastest-growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa. There was a 76 percent increase in the number of cases between 2010 and 2016 alone. There has also been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. In fact, the numbers have increased by up to 30 percent every year. While the number of people with HIV/AIDS was 11,000 in 2016, the number doubled in only two years.

The issue must be addressed soon, not only because of the observed increase but also because of several factors within Egyptian society that leaves the country at risk for developing more cases of HIV/AIDS and the threat of an epidemic. Besides the previously mentioned groups, others susceptible to the disease include sex workers, homosexual males and drug users. Because of their hidden nature in a culturally conservative country and the stigma surrounding them, they perform unsafe behaviors and are unwilling to talk about their issues.

Talking About and Treating HIV/AIDS

Despite the cultural stigma, people are coming out with their stories and advocating in and out of the country. Magid is one example. After finding out that he had been living with HIV/AIDS through military testing, he decided to become a voice for other people in the country facing the same problem but too ashamed to speak out in fear of societal repercussions. Magid joined the organization Friends for Life which aims to help people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Magid also addressed a session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and became the first Arabic person to speak publicly about their life with HIV/AIDS.

Along with locals making an effort, UNICEF is working toward recognizing and stopping any further growth of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. One outcome resulting from the work of UNICEF and its partner organizations is in its support of the procurement and supply management of anti-retroviral treatments. Through its efforts, 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are able to receive high-quality medicines and treatment on a monthly basis. These people include pregnant women, infants and adolescents. It also treats people of refugee status in addition to those of Egyptian nationality.

While Egypt might be a low HIV/AIDS-prevalent country now, there have been recent trends showing that there needs to be some change. Organizations and people are coming out and working toward recognizing the issue of the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Through this, there is already an increasing amount of attention and funding going toward the issue.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

World Leaders Committed to Tackling Global Education CrisisToday, approximately 265 million children of primary schooling age do not have access to quality education – or any education at all. According to UNICEF, only one in 12 young people in low-income nations are on the correct path toward acquiring secondary level skills, which are required for sustaining the development of their respective communities. However, world leaders have committed to tackling the global education crisis, setting the foundation for a brighter future.

In fact, it has been announced that world leaders re-committed to tackling the global education crisis once more at the 72nd U.N. General Assembly. Included in the list of countries are some highly developed nations and groups including Denmark, France, Norway and the EU, as well as low income nations such as Malawi and Senegal. These nations have decided to dedicate more of their national budget toward country-wide education improvement.

“I started as a teacher. I saw for myself decades ago in the schools and slums of Lisbon why education is a basic human right, a transformational force for poverty eradication, an engine for sustainability, and a force for peace,” says U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Financing education is indeed the best investment we can make for a better world and a better future.”

Furthermore, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the world’s only global fund dedicated exclusively to education in developing nations, has set out for itself the goal of reaching a budget of $2 billion by 2020. The GPE has also earned support from French Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron; Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg; and the U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown. When these world leaders committed to tackling the global education crisis, they started by setting out the goal of increasing national budgets to more directly and effectively address the issue. The EU, for example, has dedicated eight percent of its humanitarian budget to accommodate education during emergencies in 2018. The Malala Fund, additionally, has pledged to increase its funding for education-based investments to $13 million.

But how does this compare to progress made already?

As one of the main world leaders committed to tackling the global education crisis, France has accounted for approximately 14 percent of the Official Development Assistance’s annual funding. With close ties to many nations in Africa – particularly in the northern and western regions of the continent – France was keen to see Africa successfully meet the Millenium Development Goals, which ended in 2015. However, according to France Diplomatie, the momentum of global education has slowed, likely triggering the government’s decision to continue to re-affirm commitment to tackling this issue.

Ultimately, this announcement from the U.N. is nothing short of positive news. This re-affirmation of global leaders committed to tackling the global education crisis is an excellent step to continuing the trend of more children in more developing nations receiving access to education – a highly necessary factor in ensuring the sustainable development of any nation around the world.

Bradley Tait

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable DevelopmentThe High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will meet in July 2017 at the U.N. Headquarters in New York to discuss the U.N. 2030 Agenda, which was adopted on September 25, 2015 at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit. The theme of the forum is “Leaving No One Behind,” and it will meet from July 11 to 20.

The HLFP replaced the Commission on Sustainable Development in 2013 and meets every four years under the U.N. General Assembly and under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) during other years.

According to the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, the goals of the Forum include to guide the execution of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), give suggestions about the 2030 Agenda, incorporate and apply science and international experiences and track the SDG.

The President of the ECOSOC, Oh Joon, stated that the Forum also aims to focus on the national ownership of the SDGS and incorporating the Goals into development plans.

Among its many objectives, the Forum will review the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs with help from reviewers from 22 countries across the world. The President of ECOSOC stated that the reviews are part of the new ways that the Forum works to secure that the world achieves the 2030 Agenda amidst changing global conditions.

The Forum will also take into account the inaugural report entitled “Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals” presented by Wu Hongbo, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for ECOSOC. The document is the first real report of the progress of the 17 SDGs.

As Wu said in an interview, eliminating poverty is both “the greatest global challenge” and a “requirement for sustainable development” that the Forum aims to address with improved methodology.

Although the HLPF is just one event among the many that it will take to create a sustainable, poverty-free world, the deliberations of the Forum are a crucial first step to continual progress.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr.

2030 Agenda
In a February 2016 meeting that marked the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) 50th anniversary, representatives of more than 120 countries, including Ministers and Heads of Government from over 80 U.N. Member States, gathered in New York’s General Assembly to decide the trajectory of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

According to the UNDP, the meeting had a clear agenda: to transform ideas into “actions and results.”

The Ministerial Meeting itinerary included several thematic subgroup debates that focused on implementation questions, derived from topics that included eradicating poverty; sustainable development; preventing violent conflict and building peaceful societies; managing risk and building resistance and financing the SDGs.

Opening the meeting with a speech, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said that the UNDP’s fundamental purpose remains the same and is “more relevant than ever- that is, to support countries to eradicate poverty in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, while protecting the planet on which we all depend.”

She added that the 2030 Agenda will require increased preemption, receptiveness,and improvement on the part of the UNDP and that global cooperation is crucial to facilitating lasting development.

Emphasizing the need for global consensus, Clark said that meeting discussions “strongly suggest that there is a shared understanding of the road ahead for development and for UNDP as a trusted and strategic partner.”

Ministers and U.N. partners unveiled strategies to assist the UNDP in its pursuit of the 2030 Agenda. Clark suggested that analyses and proposals originating in discussions at the meeting will be used as a benchmark for the framework of future UNDP work as a global partner.

The UNDP, according to News Ghana, has programs in more than 170 countries and is one of the most influential anti-poverty organizations in the world.

The organization is known worldwide for its efforts to fight poverty and inequality through government partnerships. Established as the U.N.’s development center in 1966, the UNDP works with the word’s most vulnerable people to boost gender equality, enhance sustainable farming, improve the quality of health and education and combat climate change.

Heidi Grossman

Sources: UNDP 1, UNDP 2, UNDP 3, News Ghana

70th_UN_General_Assembly
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed leaders from all over the world in September, calling on them to join him in ending poverty.

“Our aim is clear,” he said during the 70th UN General Assembly meeting. “Our mission is possible. And our destination is in our sights: an end to extreme poverty by 2030, a life of peace and dignity for all.”

Ki-moon proposed a new UN framework for addressing global issues. The new 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a continuation of the eight Millennium Development Goals introduced in 2000. The 17 goals focus on the UN’s agenda for the next 15 years.

The new framework, he said, “weaves the goals together, with human rights, the rule of law and women’s empowerment as crucial parts of an integrated whole.”

Poverty was a top priority during the 70th UN general assembly. President Barack Obama, among many other world leaders, voiced concern about global poverty, citing urgency and opportunity at this year’s meeting.

Obama’s speech drew attention to the importance of collective diplomacy between nations on issues of poverty and economic inequality. He commended the gathering of nations for securing, as he said, “a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty.”

At the same time Obama warned that much is left to be done, saying “the march of human progress never travels in a straight line,” and that “dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.”

Obama summarized the UN meeting with a sense of hope. He emphasized progress requiring “a sustained commitment to our people — so farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs can start a business without paying a bribe; so young people have the skills they need to succeed in this modern, knowledge-based economy.”

Obama and Ki-moon’s speeches were preliminary descriptions of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals project proposal. The proposal creates a novel structure of how the UN concentrates on global issues.

The UN Sustainable Development agenda outlined problems nations face in the next 15 years. The UN document acknowledges global issues but also envisions, as it says, “a world in which every country enjoys sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.”

The document both analyzes challenges and presents solutions.

Nations are meeting at “a time of immense opportunity,” the document says in its message. “Within the past generation, hundreds of millions of people have emerged from extreme poverty.”

The 17 development goals for 2030 aim to make the dimensions of the environment, economics and government sustainable. Human rights are at the forefront of the goals, with the alleviation of poverty and curable diseases major points.

“What counts now is translating promises on paper into change on the ground,” Ki-moon said, concluding his speech. “We owe this and much more to the vulnerable, the oppressed, the displaced and the forgotten people in our world.”

Michael Hopek

Sources: General Assembly of the United Nations, Millennium Project, The White House, UN, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform
Photo: Wikimedia

human_rights_day
December 10th, 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the World Conference on Human Rights.

The UN General Assembly first proclaimed Human Rights Day in 1948. However, the efforts were renewed in 1993 at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna through The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. It consists of a preamble and 30 articles.

The Declaration has been translated into more than 380 languages and dialects: making it the most translated document.

This universal document defines fundamental human rights and freedoms that are to be applied to protect anyone, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.

The human rights theme this year is Working For Your Rights, with an emphasis on looking forward to looming challenges.

At this time, let us reflect on and celebrate the achievements in human rights over the past 20 years. Broadly, there have been notable advancements in the areas of women’s rights, the development of law to achieve accountability for human rights abuses, the protection and promotion of the rights of marginalized groups and a much greater understanding of the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) provides 20 specific accomplishments.

1.Economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights and the right to development are recognized as universal, indivisible, and mutually reinforcing rights of all human beings, without distinction.

2. Human rights have become central to the global conversation regarding peace, security and development.

3. New human rights standards have built on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the implementation of international human rights treaties is significantly improved.

4. Additional explicit protections in international law now exist covering, among others, children, women, victims of torture, persons with disabilities, and regional institutions. Where there are allegations of breaches, individuals can bring complaints to the international human rights treaty bodies.

5. Women’s rights are now acknowledged as fundamental human rights. Discrimination and acts of violence against women are at the forefront of the human rights discourse.

6. There is global consensus that serious violations of human rights must not go unpunished. Victims have the right to claim justice, including within processes to restore the rule of law following conflicts. The International Criminal Court brings perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice.

7. There has been a paradigm shift in the recognition of the human rights of people with disabilities, especially and crucially, their right to effective participation in all spheres of life on an equal basis with others.

8. There is now an international framework that recognizes the challenges facing migrants and their families which guarantees their rights and those of undocumented migrants.

9. The rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals have been placed on the international agenda.

10. The challenges facing indigenous peoples and minorities are increasingly being identified and addressed by the international human rights mechanisms, especially with respect to their right to non-discrimination.

11. The Human Rights Council, set up in 2006, has addressed vital and sensitive issues and its Universal Periodic Review, established in the same year, has allowed countries to assess each other’s human rights records, make recommendations and provide assistance for improvement.

12. Independent human rights experts and bodies monitor and investigate from a thematic or country-specific perspective. They cover all rights in all regions, producing hard-hitting public reports that increase accountability and help fight impunity.

13. States and the United Nations recognize the pivotal role of civil society in the advancement of human rights. Civil society has been at the forefront of human rights promotion and protection, pinpointing problems and proposing innovative solutions, pushing for new standards, contributing to public policies, giving voice to the powerless, building worldwide awareness about rights and freedoms and helping to build sustainable change on the ground.

14. There is heightened awareness and growing demand by people worldwide for greater transparency and accountability from government and for the right to participate fully in public life.

15. National human rights institutions have become more independent and authoritative and have a powerful influence on governance. Over a third of all countries have established one or more such institutions.

16. The United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture has assisted hundreds of thousands of victims of torture to rebuild their lives. Likewise, the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, with its unique victim-oriented approach, has provided humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to individuals whose human rights have been violated through more than 500 projects.

17. Victims of trafficking are now regarded as entitled to the full range of human rights and are no longer perceived to be criminals.

18. A growing consensus is emerging that business enterprises have human rights responsibilities.

19. There are now guidelines for States which support freedom of expression while defining where speech constitutes a direct incitement to hatred or violence.

20. The body of international human rights law continues to evolve and expand, to address emerging human rights issues such as the rights of older persons, the right to the truth, a clean environment, water and sanitation, and food.

There is much to be celebrated. However, many people continue to not have a voice.

How can you participate?

-Support education through programs such as UNICEF’s Education First, as education is an empowering tool.

-Protect and use your freedom of speech. Journalists work to give a voice to oppressed people, and are often oppressed themselves while doing this valuable work. Find ways of supporting journalists and using your own voice to protect the human rights of oppressed communities.

-Use social media to raise awareness of Human Rights Day and human rights accomplishments or concerns that interest you.

-Contact your congressional leaders and ask them to support USAID or specific bills dealing with human rights issues, such as the Global Food Security Act of 2013 (H.R. 2822). For additional human rights related bills visit: https://borgenproject.org/legislation/

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: UNOHCHR, UN, Huffington Post, USAID

Omar Al Bashir Denied US Visa UN General Assembly War Crimes ICC The Hague Genocide
As police cracked down on protests against the slashing of fuel subsidies in Sudan, which have resulted in at least 50 deaths, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Ahmed Karti used the nation’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly to protest the U.S. decision to deny a visa to the country’s president, who faces international war crimes and genocide charges.

Despite an outstanding warrant for his arrest from the International Criminal Court, linked to the conflict in the Darfur region in which around 300,000 people have died since 2003, Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir planned to attend the U.N. General Assembly this past week and had already booked a hotel in New York.

Ali Ahmed Karti called the alleged visa denial an “unjustified and unacceptable action,” while the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, had called Bashir’s intention to travel to New York “deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate.”

The U.S. has never denied a visiting head of state who wants to speak at the United Nations entrance into the country. Under a treaty between the U.S. and the U.N., Washington is obligated to issue the visa as the world body’s host country. Despite this, the country had made it clear that it did not want al-Bashir to arrive in New York. Had he been granted entrance, al-Bashir would have been the first head of state to address the world body while facing international war crimes and genocide charges.

Meanwhile, in Sudan, protests broke out in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities over high fuel prices, while the country’s internet was cut off on the third day of protest. In an effort to turn a wave of popular anger into a full-fledged uprising against the 24-year rule of al-Bashir, 5,000 protesters demonstrated in some of the biggest protests in many years in the Khartoum area.

The country’s economy has worsened in the past few years, especially after southern Sudan seceded and took the country’s main oil-producing territory. Still, al-Bashir has managed to keep a grip on the regime, surviving armed rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis, and an attempted coup last year. He also continues to enjoy support from the army, his ruling party, and wealthy Sudanese with wide-ranging business interests.

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer

Sources: AP, Reuters, ABC News
Photo: The London Evening Post

accountability in development aid
According to an article on the Guardian’s website by Thomas Pogge and Mitu Sengupta, two university professors and executives in Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP), in order to push forward and meet development goals, concrete tasks must be assigned to specific influential actors and agents in the development community.

In their contribution to the Guardian, the professors state, “To eradicate poverty, we must understand why it persists on such a huge scale in an affluent world.” They go on to assert that only the rich can influence the institutional arrangements which create the large income gap between the rich and poor in the globe.

The current network of supranational laws and obligations is influenced heavily by the wealthiest people and organizations of the world that have enormous “advantages in scale, expertise and political influence,” which enable them to do better than others in the current global state of affairs.

The article calls on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in September to move beyond the general wishes and goals that the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) consist of by naming specific actors as responsible for specific tasks, and calling for systemic reforms of the global institutions which contribute to global poverty.

The “special responsibilities,” which the UN high-level panel on development attributed to developed countries, should be clearly and concretely defined and those not living up to them should be held accountable, according to the professors.

It is important to realize that when these two professors talk about the wealthiest people in the world having influence, they are including American citizens. Living in a democratic country that has a spending budget of $3.8 trillion for the 2013 fiscal year, citizens of the U.S. have significant influence in the fight against poverty, especially considering that official estimates put the cost of eradicating global poverty at only $30 billion.

The biggest obstacle to accountability in development aid and poverty eradication is leadership from Congress and White House. The best way to create that leadership in a democratic society is by designating responsibility, as the authors continually state. U.S. politicians should be accountable for their foreign aid decisions. This can be done through the voting process, of course, but also can be done by contacting legislators and informing them of how important poverty eradication is to their constituents and to U.S. strategic interests.

It is unlikely that the UNGA will assign specific tasks to specific players in the developed world, given the political nature of the organization. But, on a small scale level, the citizens of the wealthiest country on earth—and the agenda setter for the developed world—have the influence to fight global poverty effectively.

– Martin Drake

Sources: The Guardian, US Government Spending, The Borgen Project
Photo: UN