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gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea
The land that encompasses the modern-day state of Eritrea is vast and old. The country itself, however, is one of the youngest countries on the African continent. After winning its independence from neighboring Ethiopia in a 30-year-long war of liberation, Eritrea emerged on the world stage as an underdeveloped and rural nation. While Eritrea has dealt with more than its fair share of struggles in its first 30 years of independence, sanitation and water usage continue to challenge communities. Many consider sanitation to be a gateway to development and modernization, and subsequently, Eritrea is taking steps to address this rising national issue. Here are nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea.

9 Facts About Sanitation in Eritrea

  1. As of June 2019, Eritreans have received encouragement to ration water, reduce flushing and prepare for more drastic water limitations. This reactionary measure was in response to the nationwide water shortages that mismanagement and intense drought caused. Most Eritreans live in rural or semi-rural areas where seasonal rivers run dry for most of the summer. They rely on wells and government-supplied tankers for their daily water. As these water supplies dwindle, the rural inhabitants often do not have a reliable water source. Some people have even begun to migrate to different areas of the country in search of new water sources.
  2. Community-led endeavors make up most of the efforts currently combating a lack of sanitation in Eritrea. In late 2007, the Eritrean government adopted a new initiative called Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). Through this program, villages appointed hygiene promoters to assess the sanitation needs of approximately 20 homes and advocate for new community measures. One significant breakthrough came when the 2008 pilot village of Adi Habteslus achieved 100% of households having and using a toilet, after the implementation of CLTS in 2007. A conference on community-led sanitation in December 2018 established an initiative to end open defecation by 2022. Thus far, the results have been promising, with a total of 163 villages declared open-defecation-free. This translates to around 135,109 people across Eritrea gaining access to established latrines. This progress is due in part to the widespread initiative of the Ministry of Health to establish CLTS in communities across Eritrea, not just in villages in close proximity to the capital.
  3. Community-implemented fines have had a positive impact on community health. For example, in late 2019 the U.N. volunteers reported that after implementing a penalty of 100 Nfk (equivalent to $7) for open defecation, a village in Anseba is now reporting “a significant decrease in the diarrheal diseases.” Today, Eritrea is still on track to meet the goal of declaring an open-defecation-free state by 2022, thanks in part to the continued success of CLTS.
  4. Community activists are also organizing the construction of latrines at their own cost to promote cleaner sanitation habits. In a program meant to reduce and even eliminate open defecation, many rural Eritreans are constructing communal latrines without any subsidies and using locally available materials. One woman, Amna Abdela Mussa, age 45 from the Emberemi Village, benefited greatly after constructing her own latrine, saying that it was empowering to give back to her community and improve her own sanitation.
  5. Poor sanitation in Eritrea disproportionately impacts women and girls. It is a long-standing cultural expectation that women and girls in rural and urban Eritrea are responsible for overseeing the water collection and usage in each household. As the main users of water, women have also been playing a decisive role in the planning, implementation and operation of sanitation projects. Yirgalem Solomon is one of these women. She is currently spearheading a project to introduce an open dialogue in Eritrean middle schools about menstruation and sanitation to “break the taboo and help the girls address the many challenges they face.”
  6. Waste disposal still proves to be a difficult issue to manage, as many rural areas have no sanitary facilities. Open defecation is not the only cause of this. Additionally, latrines without proper sewage allow human waste to go back into the soil. This, combined with flash flooding that deforestation and mismanaged agricultural practices intensified, increases the chance of water pollution and eutrophication. Unfortunately, there are no large-scale projects yet to oversee the development of sanitation facilities.
  7. Consistent infrastructure, like the Khashm el-Girba Dam, is in jeopardy in response to water shortages. Many rivers in Eritrea are seasonal, however, the Setit River flows all year and forms a small reservoir at the base of the Khashm el-Girba Dam. Through proper irrigation, the dam allowed for steady water supply until recently. Due to the prolonged drought, there are more than 500,000 people seeking shelter in refugee camps neighboring the dam. This influx of improper usage is making it difficult to keep the water clean.
  8. Japan is collaborating with the Eritrean government to lessen the effects of the drought. The small town of Dbarwa proved to be a valuable example of this outreach. The drought heavily impacted this rural community and caused it to lose all assurance of well- and tanker- supplied water. However, the Japan International Cooperation Agency assisted in drilling five boreholes for the town, providing water to almost 30,000 inhabitants.
  9. The most effective way to ensure a path towards equal sanitation is to promote sustainable habits that keep water clean and available. Current projections estimate a temperature increase of 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) by 2050 and increasing variability in rainfall, making clean water more difficult to obtain. Eritrea is trying to combat this through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This program has already led to advancements in irrigation and soil erosion reduction through an emphasis on the adaptive capacity to climate change.

These nine facts about sanitation in Eritrea provide a glimpse into the current modernization techniques that the country is pursuing. While Eritrea still has plenty of work to do, thanks to the participation of rural and urban communities alike, sanitation across the country is increasing both in quality and reach.

Elizabeth Price
Photo: Flickr

HIV in Djibouti
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), addressing poverty means first reaching those who feel the greatest impact; progress does not necessarily trickle down to the population that is most disadvantaged. The 2016 Human Development Report found that one-third of the world’s population lives in low human development circumstances. Furthermore, some sectors of society are more disadvantaged than others. Inequalities and social exclusion that people such as those living with HIV face present larger barriers to development and access to health programs. For this reason, the World Food Programme, alongside UNDP, UNAIDS and the national network of people living with HIV in Djibouti (RNDP+), have created an income-generation program that provides loans for people living with HIV. Such loans are empowering women with HIV in Djibouti to live dignified and successful lives.

Men and Women with HIV in Djibouti

As of 2017, 1.3 percent of the adult population in Djibouti was living with HIV, a decrease from 1.6 percent – or 9,900 people – in 2014. Social and cultural norms, destructive policies, improper medical services and restrictive laws impede HIV treatment and prevention measures. In Djibouti, women are most vulnerable to stigma and social exclusion and therefore often suffer the most.

The Income Generation Programme

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative supports and empowers women through longterm aid. By providing a regular, stable income, the World Food Programme is creating financial security for women with HIV in Djibouti. The money that women receive typically goes toward starting and running a retail business. These loans generally range from $141 to $148 per person and include a training program teaching effective business skills.

How it Works

Recipients of the loan become chosen from two networks in Djibouti that specifically support those living with HIV: ARREY and Oui à la Vie – Yes to Life. Oftentimes, those diagnosed with HIV are susceptible to deteriorating conditions, are unable to hold down a job and face discrimination, causing the citizens to be unwelcome in public sectors. Women with HIV in Djibouti that receive these loans are able to make a consistent income for themselves and overcome the stigma that some associate with HIV. Further, these women are able to take back control of the lives they previously led.

The Outcome

One such recipient of the loan stated that she was “no longer a desperate woman.” She now makes enough to support her family and other dependents. Additionally, once this loan gave her the capital to launch a sustainable business, she was able to repay the loan in only 10 months. During that time the recipient was also able to expand the retail business to include furniture and electronics.  

The World Food Programme’s income-generation initiative aids the Sustainable Development Goal of ending HIV by 2030, and furthermore, leaving no person behind. According to UNDP’s findings, development itself does not automatically ensure that the entire population is included. Programs such as this target the multidimensional factors involved in people receiving proper aid.

Empowerment is an essential part of development; without the ability to feel successful and fulfilled, women often lack the means to seek treatment and make educated decisions regarding health. The loan initiative empowers women living with HIV in Djibouti to combat the associated stigma and obtain financial investment necessary to develop a sustainable business. With a stable income, women are able to seek health services that might not have been previously accessible. 

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

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