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Plastic Waste Action and Poverty in IndiaWithin the last year, more information has come out about the consumption of plastics and their mismanagement. The information has spread awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics and encouraged using paper or reusable straws along with a number of other initiatives. Few, however, have been as transformative as one undertaken in India by the NGO Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha (SSVAJKS). SSVAJKS has spearheaded a streamlined process of plastic waste collection and sell to recyclers. Though SSVAJKS may be the only organization connecting plastic waste action and poverty in India, others are joining the efforts to mitigate the problem.

Large Scale Support

At least 16.5 million tons of plastics are consumed annually, 43 percent of which are single-use, packaging material. Around 80 percent of these plastics are discarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Drive promises to address pollution in India. In March 2019, India banned imports of plastic waste. By September, it banned single-use and disposable plastic products. Headlined by Modi’s speech on August 15 calling for the elimination of such items by October 2, the Indian government aims to reduce disposable plastics to zero by 2022.

In alignment with this initiative, Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart announced actions to remove single-use plastics from their packaging. They will instead opt for entirely paper cushions and recycled plastic consumption by March 2021. In June 2018, PepsiCo India vowed to replace its plastic Lays and Kurkure bag with “100 percent compostable, plant-based” ones. This was countered by Coca-Cola’s goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one sold by 2030.

Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha

While governments and corporations have addressed the future of plastic consumption, they neglect the areas where SSVAJKS helps the most. SSVAKLS is dealing with the existing plastic that has already been produced. SSVAKLS has the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program under the advisement and jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These efforts have connected the campaigns against plastic overconsumption and mismanagement with SSVAJKS’ recycling initiative.

The NGO began linking plastic waste action and poverty in India in the city of Bhopal in 2008. It developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for the city’s five wards, a model that expanded to the state level in 2011. Replicated across India in all of its states, this model relies on ‘ragpickers’ to sift through the waste and pick out plastics returned to municipal collection centers. These collectors come from highly vulnerable, socially marginalized castes and are predominantly poor, illiterate women.

Since partaking in this initiative, the incomes of the ‘ragpickers’ have vastly improved, doubling in many cases. The plastic they collect and submit to the collection centers is recycled into roads and co-processing in cement kilns, benefitting upwards of two million people. The overwhelming success of the NGO led to another SGP grant that enlisted “2,000 unorganized waste pickers” across the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s 70 wards.

The Endgame

SGP hopes to build a sustainable plastic waste management system and ensure the co-processing of plastic waste. It will also increase the standards of living for 2,000 ragpicker families. New initiatives are introducing vermicomposting along with paper bag and cotton making units. The results are phenomenal. Ragpickers have collected 4,200 megatons of plastic, saving plastic from burning and emitting 12,000 megatons of carbon. Additionally, the ragpickers themselves are able to open bank accounts to accumulate their savings, lifting them slowly but surely out of abject poverty. The success of the SSVAJKS in combining efforts to address plastic waste action and poverty in India demonstrates the NGO’s capacity to tackle multiple issues at once and incentivize the solving of one through the other.

Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

poor in Myanmar
Agriculture is Myanmar’s most important sector and provides jobs for more than 60 percent of the population. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, decreased its poverty rate from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017. One of the reasons for this huge reduction in poverty is its transition from a military-led government through economic reforms and development in sectors such as agriculture, finance, transportation and energy. The poor in Myanmar reside mainly in rural areas, and have poor education and employment in the agriculture field. By developing the agriculture industry, the government intends to continue to reduce its poverty.

Developing the Agriculture Sector

A 2018 report launched by the Central Statistical Organization, with technical support from the UNDP and the World Bank, provided data on poverty in Myanmar and what the country needs to do to continually reduce poverty. The report acknowledged the success of reducing the poverty rate in half, yet brought up challenges in alleviating poverty in rural areas such as the Chin State. The Chin State is a state in western Myanmar with about a 60 percent poverty rate. Approximately 500,000 live in the Chin State. Since the poor in Myanmar have employment in the agriculture sector, the key findings show that the country can achieve poverty reduction by focusing its efforts on improving agricultural productivity.

Myanmar is the second-largest exporter of beans and pulses and the ninth-largest exporter of rice. In 2016 and 2017, Myanmar exported agricultural products worth more than $3 billion, yet productivity was less than neighbors such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Low productivity has stalled poverty reduction in areas such as Chin State due to relying on crops that are expensive to maintain and less profitable than most other crops that endure the same climate.

How Exactly Can Myanmar Reduce Poverty?

Findings from a separate report delved into even greater detail about what Myanmar needs to do to improve agricultural productivity, and therefore, increase income for the poor in Myanmar. The report, Myanmar: Analysis of Farm Production Economics, stated that a single day’s harvest during the 2013/2014 monsoon season produced 23 kg per paddy. In comparison, Cambodia produced 62 kg, Vietnam 429 kg and Thailand 547 kg per day. Reasons for lower production of paddy than Myanmar’s competitors include poor seed quality, insignificant use of fertilizers and a lack of infrastructure.

The conclusion to the report mentioned the need for broad-based agricultural development, as most farmers in the country produce paddy and not much else. Paddy is more expensive to produce and less profitable than other crops in the region. A lack of infrastructure further impedes progress and causes farmers to seek employment in distant urban areas for higher wages. The poor in Myanmar could benefit from diversifying into low-cost crops, especially ones that can handle the typical monsoon weather that the country experiences.

Investors Taking Action

The government and private investors are currently investing in Myanmar’s agriculture sector, particularly the growing fertilizer sector. Myanmar Awba Group received a $10 million loan from the International Finance Corporation to construct a chemical plant that will produce fertilizer. The Hmawbi Agricultural Input Complex opened in August 2018 and is expected to meet 50 percent of the demand for fertilizer in Myanmar. The demand for fertilizer has increased in the country, attracting investors from across the world. The Japanese conglomerate Marubeni Corporation invested $18.5 million in a fertilizer facility in the Thilawa SEZ.

Myanmar is also dealing with infrastructure, low productivity and poor seed quality this year, 2019. In January 2019, CITIC Corporation collaborated with Myanmar Agribusiness Public Corporation (MAPCO) to invest $500 million into constructing high-end rice mills and agribusiness service centers across Myanmar. Ye Min Aung, the Managing Director of MAPCO, said, “The establishment of the high-end rice mills will boost both the local and export market.” Thanks to foreign investors and government initiatives, Myanmar is seeing action in poverty reduction by focusing efforts on improving the agriculture industry.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Yemen
Yemen has become increasingly war-torn since 2014, and as a result, poverty in Yemen has significantly increased. In 2014, poverty in Yemen was at 45 percent. The percentage should reach 75 by the end of 2019.

This war-torn region has not yet recovered from political instability. Because of this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that it has lost 21 years of development.

The UNDP published a report, Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, on September 26, 2019, which is the result of five years of research on how war has impacted Yemen’s social and economic structure and how the international community can successfully invest in Yemen.

Poverty in Yemen

The UNDP report found that the instability in Yemen has had disastrous effects on the Yemenese people. It reports that 11.7 million individuals have become impoverished as a result of the war. In addition, 4.9 million are malnourished. Of this number, 600,000 are children under the age of 5. The report also found that the war reduced economic growth in Yemen by $88.8 billion. This resulted in Yemen’s status as the world’s second least equal country in the world in terms of income. Without any change in the status quo, Yemen will become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022.

Yemen is largely reliant on food and imports for economic stability. Because of this, the economy has been unable to recover quickly without international intervention. The public sector employed 30 percent of the Yemenese population. However, a crash in the availability of assets left those individuals unemployed and unable to contribute to a jumpstart in the economy that would feed, clothe and put money in the hands of the impoverished.

The report concludes that the international response to the extreme poverty, economic crises and inequality in Yemen must be holistic and address both the root of the problem and the result of the issue.

Potential Investment in Yemen

The report examined four criteria: poverty, work and economic growth, hunger and inequality. Increasing international aid and investment can help with all four criteria. The article outlines a method of aid for addressing each area. A combination of efforts would resolve each criterion and address the issue of poverty overall. Increasing household consumption to pre-war levels which reflect “the spirit (though not the magnitude) of current cash-transfer programmes operating in Yemen,” can also combat hunger according to the report. This, combined with the distribution of food that would provide sufficient caloric intake and support Yemenese food exports, would alone prevent 73,600 death by 2030. A focus on improving access to clean water via changes to food prices through sanctions and providing sanitation implementation would save 255,000 lives by 2030.

Direct foreign investment into the Yemenese economy would significantly improve the everyday living conditions of Yemenese citizens. Without increased aid, Yemen will continue to stay on track to become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022. Direct aid programs and an increased amount of liquid capital poured into the economy would decrease poverty in Yemen, jumpstart the economy and improve the overall standard of living.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Modern Irrigation Technology in Turkmenistan
Large swathes of the world still rely on irrigation infrastructure as an integral component of agricultural production. According to the U.N. World Water Development Report of 2015, a global average of 70 percent of water use goes towards agriculture, encompassing both modern and traditional irrigation technology methods. Although modern irrigation technology continues to progress, historical and geographical circumstances remain impediments to the sustainability and efficiency of irrigation in some regions — including Turkmenistan.

The experience of the 20th century left the country with a decaying, unsustainable irrigation system, prompting a scholarly investigation into the subject. However, today, government initiatives — bolstered by international support —  have resulted in creative solutions to the country’s modern irrigation technology crisis.

Soviet Mismanagement

Turkmenistan, which attained independence from the USSR in 1991, lies at the intersection of West, Central and South Asia. Although agricultural land comprises 72 percent of Turkmenistan’s terrain, only 4.1 of that land is arable, while pasture lands encompass 67.8 percent. Irrigated land comprises 19,950 sq km out of the 469,930 sq km of terrain. As the Kara-Kum desert extends through 80 percent of the territory, the country depends heavily on the Amu Darya river as a water source.

Soviet rule initiated unprecedented changes to Turkmenistan‘s traditional irrigation system, the consequences of which would prove environmentally and economically unsustainable. The country is heavily dependent on the Karakum Main Canal, which includes channeled water from the Amu Darya river, leading to waterlogging and salinization. Compounded by poor drainage, this precipitated the abandonment of arable land at a rate of 46,000 hectares per year. The use of unlined irrigation canals and ditches produced loss rates of more than 30 percent, a consequence of neglect by engineers at the design stage.

However, upon independence, Turkmenistan boasted 1.3 million hectares under cultivation, accounting for 40 percent of the GDP. By this time, the clogging of irrigation canals from inadequately drained river sediment became a costly problem that dated equipment and reduced carrying capacity poorly addressed. It also contributed to the formation of uncultivable salt marshes. As of 2007, as much as 73 percent of irrigated land, in excess of 1.6 million hectares, suffered from salinization.

Early Modern Irrigation Technology Strategies

A study published in 2007 proposed several mechanisms by which Turkmenistan could ameliorate the devastation and inefficacy wrought by decades of water overuse and mismanagement. For instance, one proposed solution involves lining ditches with concrete or plastic to mitigate soil salinization, groundwater flooding and waste of water resources. The study also outlined technological advancements in techniques other than furrow irrigation, such as drip, sprinkling and subsoil irrigation. The study’s authors insist that costliness aside, these strategies and technologies would prove highly beneficial, increasing efficient water use, crop productivity and land usage while mitigating environmental harm.

Strategies that the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Agriculture successfully developed and implemented primarily concern the growth of cotton and wheat crops. Most significantly, by sowing and concentrating water and fertilizer between ridges and at the bottom of irrigation furrows and by rotating crops each year, irrigation is no longer necessary for draining purposes. Though distinct from the ditch lining proposal of the 2007 study, this strategy appears to combat the same leakage issues effectively. This process may save as much as 130 million cubic meters of water, thus ensuring efficient land and water use. Energy, labor and fertilizer expenditures are likewise more efficient under this system.

Recent Modern Irrigation Technology Strategies

The government of Turkmenistan has not worked on modern irrigation technology initiatives alone, but have involved international collaboration. For instance, a climate-resilient farming initiative for Turkmenistan, under the aegis of the UNDP, produced favorable outcomes. In 2014, a new law incorporated the UNDP’s suggested amendments and revisions to Turkmenistan’s Water Code. The same year, progress in community-based adaptation initiatives resulted in the introduction and development of community-oriented water-collecting techniques, water management strategies and irrigation services.

In another transnational initiative in 2017, specialists from Turkmenistan participated in a seminar on irrigation strategies in Israel that explored techniques Israel has employed in attaining agricultural success despite the harsh topography and arid climate. The subject matter of these seminars ranged from irrigation planning and greenhouse versus open irrigation to the use of drip and sprinkling styles of irrigation (the latter in line with the 2007 study above). The application of these techniques will improve efficiency and mitigate the negative externalities of modern irrigation technology in Turkmenistan. Successful administration of these strategies in Turkmenistan likely will, in the long term, increase crop yield, expedite economic development and reduce poverty in a large part of the population, as the example of Israel demonstrated.

Throughout the 20th century, Soviet irrigation practices in Tajikistan precipitated environmental degradation and economic decline. However, the introduction of modern irrigation technology in Tajikistan since independence has improved the economy and mitigated ecological harm. International cooperation and government initiatives now lay the groundwork for a more efficient, productive and environmentally conscious irrigation system. If efforts persist, the future of agriculture is bright for Tajikistan.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Eradicating Poverty Through ICTs
Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) are social networking websites, instant messaging programs, cell phones and other technologies that allow people to communicate quickly and globally. Information emanates through these technologies allowing developing countries to step into the digital world. Eradicating poverty through ICTs now seems plausible as citizens include themselves in new economic and coordinated opportunities.

ICTs’ Range of Impact

In the Asia-Pacific, governments utilize ICTs to expand markets and introduce services. They have adapted to using e-commerce, supporting businesses that allow more people to become engaged with the government and programs. New strategies constantly emerge as Asian-Pacific authorities and organizations address poverty.

Bangladesh

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provides solutions globally for poverty and these differ depending on the country. In Bangladesh, the UNDP pushed an initiative called the Access to Information Act or the a2i. The main focus of this act is to offer citizens the right to public information, allowing multiple interpretations for data such as records. By implementing this act, Bangladesh has reduced the costs of access to health and education information services. The amount of time it took for residents to receive information on their phones or computers dropped by 85 percent and the cost dropped by 63 percent. Digitization of rural areas has saved the local residents half a billion dollars.

Vietnam

The UNDP focuses on e-government policies. According to the United Nations, e-government encompasses the delivery and exchange of information between government and citizens. Vietnam now supports online businesses and allows people to pay taxes over the computer. Services, as an effect, run more efficiently and people have more ready access to transfers or deposits. The number of internet broadband subscribers reached 11.5 million and many expect it to grow 9 percent annually along with 47.2 million on cellular data due to the rapid growth of applications. ICTs affect the way the country runs as well; towns have adopted ICTs, using them in creative ways to provide water and electricity.

Taiwan

Recently, Taiwan has grown into a major manufacturer of ICTs, leading to the export of its products. The Cloud Computing Association of Taiwan (CCAT) devotes itself to making the country an exporter of cloud software. At home, these developed cloud systems save service providers 50 percent, avoiding the need to purchase from overseas. The country’s National Communications Commission proposes to provide all of its citizens with ICTs. It appoints companies to offer universal broadband access to mountain villages, projected to make Taiwan the first country with complete internet coverage. Rural peoples have access to data, and the government offers programs to teach rural residents how to properly use technologies, adapting more to the digital age, helping the goal of eradicating poverty through ICTs.

How ICTs Affect Poverty in the Long Run

The UNDP believes that ICTs should create a direct change in the economy and welfare of various nations. However, failure to address the issue to all people in a country, globally too, creates a gap between those accustomed to technology and those who are not. To continue on the path of eradicating poverty through ICTs, governments must continue to pledge support and work with organizations. The countries above benefit by having their governments providing opportunities to learn new technology as well as adapting technology for other everyday services.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

corruption in tajikistan
Tajikistan is a small country in Central Asia with a population of 8.92 million people. Corruption in Tajikistan is widespread and infiltrates all levels of society. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, has been in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. There is almost no political renewal and a small number of the elite class control political and economic relations.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) made a report on corruption in Tajikistan which found that anti-corruption legislation and institutions lack funding and support in the country. The report also found that there have been no major improvements introduced to Tajik legislation to combat corruption as international standards require.

Daily Corruption

Corruption in Tajikistan affects people on a day to day basis, whether dealing with police, traffic guards or even public services. A public opinion survey that UNDP and the Centre for Strategic Studies conducted in 2010 found that 70 percent of the respondents had either paid a bribe or wanted to despite an inability to afford it. The survey showed that farmers and entrepreneurs are the two segments of society that are most vulnerable to petty, day to day corruption.

Citizens suffer daily police corruption that the large networks of organized crime and drug trafficking in the region only heighten. Some view the police and traffic guards as some of the most corrupt state institutions in the country. The same public opinion survey found that 90 percent of the respondents recognized that they experienced corruption when stopped by traffic guards and that these confrontations happen regularly. Traffic corruption can include an authority pulling someone over for speeding, asking them to pay a bribe to avoid a ticket and threatening jail time if the individual does not pay the bribe. Traffic guards will stop people for speeding even if they were at the speed limit, simply to pocket bribed money.

Political Corruption

Political corruption in Tajikistan is also widespread. All of its elections since gaining independence from the Soviet Union do not qualify as democratic electoral processes as international organizations such as the United Nations observed. The Tajik government functions heavily on patronage networks and family ties. Many of the President’s family members and allies hold political positions. For example, his son, Rustam Emomali, is the mayor of Dushanbe and is among the top 10 most influential individuals in Tajikistan.

Solutions

The Tajik government has taken some steps to combat domestic corruption that infiltrates all levels of society. For example, it adopted the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and anti-corruption legislation. The country still lacks many important factors that are essential to cracking down on corruption such as widespread access to information and an independent audit agency, however, international pressures could greatly improve political corruption in the country.

The OECD is an international organization with a mission to work with governments to construct policies that improve the lives of individuals. It is currently working with the Tajik government to come up with corruption fighting legislation. Amnesty International has also called out the Tajik government for its human rights abuses such as the persecution of LGBTQ members and the censoring of human rights activists. Amnesty does not currently have an office in Tajikistan, however, its media campaigns garnered support from activists and foreign governments such as Norway and Denmark.

Further Measures

Further pressures such as sanctions, naming and shaming techniques and advocacy have the potential to greatly reduce corruption in Tajikistan. If economically advantaged countries such as the U.S. placed pressure on Tajikistan to increase anti-corruption legislation and measures, it could vastly increase the quality of life for the citizens of Tajikistan. Naming and shaming is a method that nonprofit and international organizations use to call out a country or organization for unethical practices, which can pressure the Tajik government to crackdown on debasement. Lastly, advocacy and educational campaigns can increase awareness of the issue and also increase the supply of information about corruption in Tajikistan both to its citizens and the international community.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

History of The United States Agency of International Development
Foreign aid refers to any donation that one country makes to help another. The United States has proven itself to be a leading figure in foreign aid projects through the work of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). This article focuses on the history of USAID.

USAID is the United States’ foreign aid branch which is responsible for diminishing poverty, innovating development and ideological progress around the world. The organization harbors an interesting history scattered with different approaches and methods. Each decade has acted as an era to test new theories on how to best assuage purveying poverty.

A Quick Historical View

On November 3, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that created the first U.S. agency that would take on global development challenges. USAID emerged “with a spirit of progress and innovation.”

The need for a specific agency to handle global development projects became clear after World War II. The Marshall Plan, active from 1945 to 1949, focused on rebuilding European nations after the damaging war. This demonstrated to U.S. lawmakers that providing assistance to stabilize countries is an effective way of initiating positive change. The 1960s was the decade of development. International powers united under the belief that poverty was a moral blot in the world. Groups like UNICEF and UNDP formed to strengthen infrastructure and industrialization in third-world countries.

Since its early stages, USAID has morphed and shifted focuses. The 1970s had a humanitarian ideal, the 1980s a market-based one and the 1990s saw an effort to stabilize democracy. The 2000s have thus far been reminiscent of USAID’s original purpose.  The all too numerous episodes of violence and war have caused much of USAID’s efforts to go towards rebuilding destroyed neighborhoods and governments.

How Does USAID Implement Aid?

The history of USAID shows that while the organization has taken on multiple approaches, funding methods have remained stagnant. USAID sometimes gives donations to governments and predominantly channels them through NGOs that use the money for very specific purposes.

Many NGOs use their budget to directly affect the lives of individuals and families. Communities receive humanitarian aid in the aftermath of natural disasters. Events like these are particularly harmful to impoverished individuals, as many of them rely on agriculture as the sole means of income. Education and health services are also a primary focus of NGO groups as these are both methods to bring third-world countries onto the modern development stage.

 Which Countries Receive the Most Aid?

There are over 100 countries that receive foreign aid assistance from USAID. The history of USAID shows that countries riddled with violence are often the highest receivers.

To date, USAID has given Afghanistan the most foreign aid from the United States. The country has received a considerable $4.89 billion in total. About 73 percent of this aid has gone directly to military projects. Counter-terrorist projects are particularly important in Afghanistan, as USAID attempts to stabilize legal and judicial systems that work to hinder the threat of violent groups. This not only protects the domestic Afghan population but also works to improve U.S. national security.

Iraq, Israel and Jordan are the next three countries that receive the most foreign aid assistance from USAID. The purpose of these donations is similar to that of Afghanistan.

Ethiopia, South Sudan and Kenya are also big receivers but for different reasons as economic aid is the primary concern. These programs are diverse and unique to the concerns of each country. Many, however, focus on relieving the spread of disease and allocating food security to suffering populations.

 A Recent Project

When reviewing the history of USAID, it is difficult to pick just one outstanding success. The record has shown that it has integrated democracy, erected countless schools and brought the miracles of modern-day science to neglected regions.

One of its recent projects that focuses on agriculture shows that USAID plans for the future and is also pragmatic. The Avansa Agrikultura Project from April 2015 to March 2020  focuses on farming in East Timor. At its completion, the project should help 5,500 individuals in earning more income and benefitting from a nutritious diet. USAID hopes to improve the daily goings of farm life in East Timor in addition to opening international trade markets to recipients.

A glance at the history of USAID personifies it as an organization dedicated to eradicating worldwide poverty through appropriate methods. With its record, it is no secret that this U.S. foreign aid branch poses as an international leader and will more than likely continue to be so in the future.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Countries being helped by the UNDPThe United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a U.N. network that aims to eliminate poverty, increase resilience in poor communities, improve access to education and develop policies in struggling countries. One of the UNDP’s major projects is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This project focuses on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, clean water and sanitation and climate action.

The UNDP works with multiple struggling countries around the globe to meet these goals. Out of the 170 countries and territories being aided, below is a list of eight countries being helped by the UNDP.

8 Developing Countries Being Helped by the UNDP

  1. Nigeria: Nigeria is home to the highest number of people in poverty in the world, making it one of the poorest countries being helped by the UNDP. Due to this, the UNDP’s main focus in Nigeria is eradicating poverty. Since a large percentage of the poor population are farmers, the UNDP is working to make agricultural progress in communities and addressing challenges faced in terms of sustainability. In addition, the UNDP is working to create more jobs and improve access to sustainable energy sources.
  2. Afghanistan: A large part of Afghanistan’s population faces issues with the quality of life. The UNDP in Afghanistan aims to fight extreme poverty and inequality for the most vulnerable. Significant progress has already been made in terms of education. In 2001, only 70,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan were attending school. Currently, eight million children are attending school. The UNDP worked with the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan in 2015 to spread the importance of Sustainable Development Goals for the country.
  3. Nepal: Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Due in part to the UNDP’s efforts in Nepal, major progress has been made in terms of eliminating poverty. Within four years, the country has reduced the poverty rate from 25.2 percent in 2011 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Specific goals the UNDP has for Nepal include building resilience against natural disasters, improving education access and improving access to basic resources such as electricity and clean water.
  4. Côte d’Ivoire: Through the anti-poverty program that was established by the UNDP, more than a quarter of a million people’s lives have significantly improved in Côte d’Ivoire. Through this initiative, 62 community organizations received monetary donations, project funding and vocational training to help them progress and reach their goals. In terms of agricultural issues, due to this program, fishing equipment has become more easily available and affordable. In addition, crop diversity has increased, providing more income and food options.
  5. Syria: Syria is a war-torn, impoverished country. As a result, Syrian people face issues with access to basic needs. This includes housing, access to necessary services and basic needs for women and the disabled. In 2018, the UNDP introduced the UNDP-Syria Resilience Programme, that focuses on improving the livelihood of such vulnerable groups. Through this project, more than 2.8 million Syrians were able to receive aid and benefits. These interventions have also produced benefits on a larger scale, including the creation of jobs, productive assets distribution and vocational training.
  6. Thailand: A large percentage of Thailand’s population lives in rural areas. Major problems for the rural poor include human rights issues, considerable economic inequality and weak rule of law. In Thailand, the UNDP is supporting and providing aid to ongoing projects and operations dedicated to problems being faced by its citizens. A major program the UNDP is supporting is the Thailand Country Program which focuses on environmental regulation and economic development. The UNDP is also working with the Thai Royal Government.
  7. Bangladesh: One of the biggest problems faced by Bangladesh is natural disaster risk. The UNDP started a project in January 2017 which is an ongoing collaboration with the National Resilience Program, the government, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and U.N. Women. It aims to develop strategies to create lasting resilience against unpredictable natural disasters, shocks, and crisis, that strongly impact the poor community. Specific aims of the project include strengthening communities, improving recovery and response to disasters and local disaster management.
  8. The Philippines: Approximately 25 percent of the Philippines lives in poverty. The UNDP’s projects in the Philippines include development planning, policymaking and implementing sustainable practices. One of the main aims of the UNDP is to localize poverty reduction and increase community involvement. The UNDP is also going about development planning in a way that will include increasing the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner while reducing poverty.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr

Best Ways to Reduce Global Poverty

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank’s partnership established the Global Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth Portal (GPIG) on May 6, 2016. The portal specializes in “policy research, data analysis, country profiles and news on poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” It does this through online and offline events that aim for the increase of international cooperation in collaboration with China’s International Poverty Reduction Center (PRC). This article demonstrates the best ways to reduce global poverty according to GPIG.

The GPIG Portal

GPIG’s area of studies falls under the aim of successfully achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, SDG1 aims for the elimination of poverty, SDG2 aims for zero hunger, SDG10 aims for reduced inequalities and SDG17 aims for partnerships in achieving these goals. Along with the SDGs, GPIG’s ultimate goal is to support China’s efforts to end poverty by 2020. It would do so through its exhaustive research and analysis on ways to reduce poverty.

The Portal emphasizes the importance of international exchange and cooperation to reduce poverty as well as the need for aid towards China’s efforts to achieve the aimed reduction. GPIG supports the idea of using the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China’s Rural Areas (2011-2020) as a guideline for international cooperation.

The document focuses on supporting the reduction of domestic poverty by introducing international resources, spreading China’s poverty reduction methods and promoting relations between China and other countries to strengthen the “experience-sharing” in poverty reduction. Within this document, GPIG recommends focusing on applying newer innovations on such mechanisms to expand the platform and better enhance economic and social development.

How should we reduce global poverty?

The best ways to reduce global poverty, according to GPIG, involve the inclusion of the whole society. GPIG believes poverty reduction methods are ineffective if the entire society does not participate. Inclusion of the whole society brings several advantages such as mobilizing strengths to reduce poverty. It also diversifies poverty reduction and its development strategies by combining the efforts of different parties such as domestic offices, government departments, private businesses and NGOs. More importantly, it ensures the sustainability of the poverty reduction achieved since it seems to be the fastest and most consistent method.

GPIG suggests developing projects that create an encouraging environment that keeps the focus of the government’s social organization on poverty reduction. To achieve the most effective project on reduction, GPIG suggests research and interviews on the PRC and on international experiences in social organization’s service contracting, PRC’s roles and motivations in poverty reduction and previous ways the social organization has achieved poverty reduction. Finally, GPIG suggests using such analysis to develop effective and efficient recommendations that focus on expanding the social organization to involve a national rural poverty reduction program.

More about GPIG

GPIG research methods and recommendations are co-managed by the International Poverty Reduction Center in China and the China Internet Information Center. To ensure its best possible functioning and the provision of the most effective recommendations for poverty reduction, UNDP also contributed to the Portal’s establishment along with WB and ADB. The three parties allowed the creation of a clear mission: to create an international platform that will provide the best ways to reduce global poverty by focusing on areas such as research, exchange, training and cooperation.

– Njoud Mamoun Mazhar Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Fighting radicalization in Mauritania

The Mauritanian government, with the help of outside organizations, has been working to decrease radicalization in Mauritania since the early 2000s. While Islamic terrorist attacks have been effectively stopped, there are still concerns about the spread of extremist views throughout the nation as well as in the surrounding countries. Several Islamic extremist groups have bases in Mauritania, including Al-Qaeda. Fighting radicalization in Mauritania requires a multi-faceted approach that tackles the factors contributing to radicalization and proactively dissuades extremist views from being able to gain traction.

Factors Contributing to Radicalization

The common problems many impoverished countries face include high unemployment, food insecurity, violence and political turmoil, all of which cause great suffering. These issues can sometimes make individuals more likely to adopt extremist views.

In Mauritania, unemployment is high, particularly for the youth with approximately 18.6 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds unemployed. Combined with poverty and a disconnect from political and civic life, this creates a population of young people who feel disillusioned by the options available to them. These individuals may then look for alternative and sometimes extreme methods through which they can exhibit their frustrations.

A majority of the Islamic jihadists in Mauritania are middle or low-income people, the majority of whom are below the age of thirty. Underemployment and delinquency are two additional factors common in the experiences of these individuals.

Racism in Mauritania

Another contributing factor to radicalization in Mauritania is ethno-racial tension. Conflicts between Arab and black Africans go back as far as the 1960s with the government giving preference to the Arab population. For example, when Arab leaders gained control of the nation’s education system, they reformed the system according to their values and mostly excluded black Africans from administrative positions.

Black Africans are also excluded more generally from society. Even those who have assimilated to the Arab culture are more likely to be illiterate, viewed as second-class citizens and sometimes denied basic rights. In combination with the poverty that many black Africans face, these genuine grievances contribute to the appeal of extremist views.

Additionally, it is important to note that much of what Islamic extremists are protesting – authoritarianism, torture, corruption and Mauritania’s relationship with the West – are genuine grievances. While extremism is never tolerable, the presence of these significant problems will continue to create a context in which extremist ideas are considered attractive.

Fighting Radicalization in Mauritania

The government’s efforts to combat terrorism have included arrests, raids, strengthening border control, improving military and intelligence capabilities and cooperating with the United States. While this is an important part of reducing the threat of terrorism, it is also important to implement programs and policies intended to prevent radicalization in Mauritania.

In 2015, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and UNDP created the National Strategy for Youth and Sport to encourage youth participation in society as a method for preventing radicalization. A youth center in the city of Nouakchott began providing opportunities for young people to discuss the problems as well as their aspirations for the future. Young people also participate in educational programming that teaches them important skills for employment. Discussion forums hosted by the center help train young people to recognize and resist extremist rhetoric and give them the tools to engage in productive dialogue in their communities.

One high school student indicated that her goal is to become a surgeon, but without the support of the youth center, she wouldn’t be prepared for this level of education. Another student expressed the desire to become a teacher and noted that he was “struck by the ignorance that still exists in poor suburbs, and by the lack of teachers in rural areas.” His hope was to be able to help by teaching in those communities.

Another participant noted that being unemployed and religious, he had been “tempted in the past by extremist ideas because of intense frustration,” but the center steered him away from radicalization through training sessions and debates. Over time, he recognized that he had a place in society and began to feel less disillusioned. Centers like the one in Nouakchott are essential for preventing extremism amongst Mauritania’s youth by providing an opportunity to engage in dialogue as well as prepare for a successful future.

Moving Forward

UNDP is also working with the government to create other projects aimed at fighting radicalization in Mauritania. It is focused on tackling the root causes. Starting with the youth is important, but based on the contributions poverty and ethno-racial tensions play in promoting extremism, these issues also need to be addressed more fully in counter-terrorism efforts.

Moving forward, extremism needs to be more fully recognized as a product of poverty and inequality. Efforts to decrease radicalization in Mauritania, therefore, should focus on decreasing poverty more broadly as well as promoting human rights for all Mauritanians. Only through a multi-faceted approach that seeks to tackle the factors contributing to extremism in the nation will fighting radicalization in Mauritania become truly successful.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr