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NGO Innovation AwardEach year the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) host more than 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations around the world in their Annual Consultations in Geneva. These delegates debate refugee issues affecting both international and regional audiences as well as discuss new advocacy issues.

These annual consultations discuss data analytics as a pathway to better welfare systems; the implementation of the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees; the maintenance of moral, legal and safe aid to refugees; and UNHCR’s transition to an increasingly decentralized, local system.

Starting in 2018, the UNHCR has presented annual NGO innovation awards to celebrate NGOs they believe embody innovative practices required to truly integrate refugees into their new societies.

Honoring Partnerships and Connectivity in NGOs

Through the NGO Innovation Award, the UNHCR showcases exceptional NGOs with new kinds of solutions in refugee aid in order to inspire further innovation in the field. Recipient NGOs fall into two categories: inclusive partnerships and connectivity.

UNHCR describes previous winners of the partnership category as having people-centered, community-based, non-traditional and creative partnerships. Focusing on inclusion and diversity, these organizations drive solution-based, positive interventions in their environments.

In the category of connectivity, UNHCR looks for organizations that demonstrate creative and novel solutions to connectivity challenges of displaced people (e.g. literacy or access to finance).

The Winners Are Archetypes of Innovative NGOs

One of the 2018 winners was SINA Loketa (SINAL), a team of six Africans from different countries helping young refugees and marginalized youths become self-sustainable and self-actualized members of their (new) communities. Specifically, this NGO aims to help individuals from these two disadvantaged communities to design and launch social enterprises from their refugee camp and host community in Uganda.

Each year, SINA Loketa leads 90 new scholars through a personal and professional transformation based on project-based learning and hands-on experimentation. After being matched with a mentor, these individuals go through training covering team building, trauma healing, one-on-one life coaching, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

SINA Loketa envisions directly creating thousands of jobs by their startups and reducing Ugandan youth unemployment by three percent by 2028.

The second winner of the 2018 NGO Innovation award was Artemisszio, a charitable foundation based in Budapest, Hungary. It strives to build an open, tolerant society based on interculturality. Artemisszio focuses on young people disadvantaged by rural circumstances, incomplete schooling, Roma ethnicity and migration. This organization helps them integrate into the labor market and into society as a whole.

Artemisszio works with central members of these marginalized individual’s communities to create supportive relationships outside of the NGO. For example, the organization hosts classes for health care workers, educators, police and military personnel, about interculturality and stress management. Artemisszio also spearheads a multitude of other innovative outreach programs, including teaching at local primary and secondary schools.

An Archetype for Future NGO Innovation

The first two winners of the NGO Innovation Award, SINA Loketa and Artemisszio, engage disadvantaged members of society as well as society as a whole to create cohesion between them. Their multifaceted approach bridges what initially seems like a fixed divide between these two groups in both Hungarian and Ugandan communities.

UNHCR is calling for innovative solutions to issues that are constantly evolving. Each year they celebrate solutions that introduce refugees as positive influences in their new communities.

The answer to what is the NGO Innovation Award lies in the annual celebration of organizations that fill a need in their communities that had not been duly addressed previously. These two winners can serve as an inspiration for current and future NGOs to better their communities.

– Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

Jobs for Refugee Women

Lara Shaheen, a Syrian woman in Jordan, has managed to create jobs for refugee women while taking advantage of pre-existing skills. The Syrian Jasmine House in Amman, Jordan allows displaced women to monetize their crafting abilities by giving them the resources to create and sell handmade items, most commonly artisan soaps. According to the Jordanian Ministry of Planning, Jordan hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees who migrated after a civil war broke out in 2012. The conflict between the Syrian government and rebel forces destroyed significant infrastructure and caused the displacement of 13.5 million Syrians.

The Origins of Syrian Jasmine House

Shaheen fled Damascus in 2012, settling in Jordan with the common mindset that the displacement was temporary. But as the war continued, she decided to create a business that would help her break free of the aid dependence many refugees find themselves reliant upon. The initial team comprised of Shaheen and five other Syrian women who left Zaatari camp in 2014 to work on expanding their marketing of hand-sewn goods.

Since that time, the Jasmine House has created jobs for over 40 refugee women and trained thousands of women of all ages in tailoring, embroidery, stained glass, wool knitting, crochet and natural soap making. Females head over 30 percent of Syrian displaced households. As many women have lost husbands or sons due to the war, the need for female financial independence is critical. 

Although Shaheen named the company in honor of her home Damascus, often called “the capital of Jasmine,” her objective is to give Syrian women a way to integrate into Jordanian society so that they can be both productive and dependent on themselves. According to The Jordan Times, she has also trained numerous Palestinian and Jordanian women to create handmade Syrian goods, promoting independence for all vulnerable women in Jordan. 

How Syrian Jasmine House Benefits Others

 Once Shaheen realized the situation in Jordan might not be temporary, she created a for-profit initiative to help women become less dependent on aid agencies. The women first sell their products to Shaheen, making an average of $280-560 a month, according to National Geographic. Shaheen then uses her contacts and social media platforms, such as her Facebook page, to sell the goods to the general public. The income women can make through the Syrian Jasmine House is higher than the average $218 a month UNHCR gives refugee families in Jordan.

The Syrian Jasmine House helps bring in an income which can be difficult since work permits are challenging to obtain in Jordan due to already scarce jobs for Jordanians. In February 2019, Shaheen received her first large international order from the United Kingdom. The Jasmine House also offers workshops through the Airbnb Experiences network for tourists to learn new Syrian skills. A writer for The Medium, Ashlea Halpern, learned the craft of making Aleppo-soap while listening to the story of Maya Albabili who is part of the Syrian Jasmine House.

As conflict dies down in Syria and the country stabilizes, organizations have begun to look at repatriation as an option. UNHCR has labeled repatriation as the only durable solution for Syrians in Jordan, however, they are still not able to safely recommend return. Until it is absolutely safe for Syrians to return to Syria, larger organizations, such as UNICEF, are focusing on providing education and employable skills to people. Smaller organizations emphasize small business building through workshops and microloan services. 

In June 2019, Shaheen opened her second location in Istanbul, Turkey. According to UNHCR, Turkey hosts 3.2 million Syrians and Shaheen is hopeful that she can provide jobs to more refugee women and enable them to become self-dependent. The Syrian Jasmine House denotes the motto “we are producers, not refugees,” and continues to work at breaking the aid-dependent cycle countries post-conflict often find themselves in.


– Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Rwanda
As of early 2019, estimates determine that Rwanda is host to approximately 150,000 refugees. To support this number, Rwanda maintains six refugee camps and four transit/reception centers, in addition to supporting refugee integration into urban areas. Rwanda is remarkable for its inclusive approach to refugees, most of whom are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national government, UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Government of Japan and other international, national and local organizations are all working to improve opportunities and livelihoods for refugees in Rwanda.

Approximately 79 percent of refugees in Rwanda live in the refugee camps, with the remainder — about 13,000 — living in urban centers. Rwanda gives refugees the right to do business and access health services, insurance, banking and education to promote integration. As of 2017, Rwanda had integrated more than 19,000 refugee students from Burundi into its national school system.

According to UNHCR, enabling the self-reliance of refugees is an essential part of its mission. UNHCR creates and supports initiatives that allow refugees to contribute to the economic development of their host country.

Ali Abdi has lived in Rwanda for 20 years after fleeing Somalia. After applying for a business card, he now runs a small convenience store and lives with his Rwandan wife. Ali described Rwanda as “a peaceful country” where “people do not discriminate.” He is thankful for his ability to be independent.

Supporting Refugee Entrepreneurs

In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, many refugees like Ali are finding success in entrepreneurship. UNHCR labels Kigali as a “City of Light” for its accepting and supportive attitude toward refugees. The Government of Rwanda is actively working to promote the integration of refugees into the city with targeted assistance.

For refugees aspiring to own their own business, Inkomoko is a local business consulting firm that trains and supports refugees with UNHCR’s support. Beginning in 2016, Inkomoko’s refugee program has worked with 3,300 refugees, resulting in the creation of 2,600 new jobs across the country, a significant boost to the economy. The director of Inkomoko’s refugee program, Lydia Irambona, stated, “Our main goal is to help them increase their revenue, get more customers and understand how to do business here.”

Annick Iriwacu, a Burundian refugee, went to Inkomoko after a referral from her cousin. She has since opened a successful business selling liquid petroleum gas. The business has grown enough for her to now have five employees. She stated, “They gave me the strength and hope to continue, because I was giving up.”

Financial Support for Refugee Camps

While refugees in Rwanda’s refugee camps have fewer opportunities for economic independence and contribution, supporting and protecting them is still crucial. In June 2019, the Government of Japan donated $270,000 to UNHCR Rwanda to cover the needs of 58,552 Burundian refugees in Mahama, the largest refugee camp in the country. This is one of many donations, as the Government of Japan has supported Rwanda for six years and provided a total of approximately $7 million to the UNHCR to support Rwandan refugees.

UNHCR intends to use the 2019 money to maintain and improve refugees’ access to legal assistance and protection against violence, as well as health care services. Refugee camps in Rwanda provide primary health care and send refugees to local health facilities if they require secondary or tertiary care, which can be costly.

Supporting Refugee Farmers

Many refugees living in Rwandan camps want to become more economically independent, however. While the refugee camps provide displaced people with access to basic education and health facilities, many refugees have found that working allows them to take further advantage of what Rwanda can offer them and their families.

The IKEA Foundation, UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the Government of Rwanda and the Food and Agriculture Organization have all provided funding. These organizations are working together to improve the livelihoods of both refugees and local Rwandan farmers.

In the Misizi marshland, 1,427 Rwandans and Congolese refugee farmers are working together for agricultural success. The project is also generating social cohesion, as the Rwandan and refugee farmers are learning to work together and recognize the benefits of cooperation. As of early 2019, these farmers had produced more than 101 tonnes of maize, the profits of which enabled them to feed their families.

Rwanda’s Example

Rwanda intends to continue its inclusive approach to refugees them become successful and independent whether they live in camps or cities. Refugees have found success in Rwanda because its government and international partners are working hard on their behalf.

While there is still more work to do to ensure that refugees in camps have access to work opportunities and that refugees in cities receive support in achieving economic independence, the nation serves as an example of how to successfully help refugees begin new lives and contribute to a country’s economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

AI to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals
Tech giants are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create innovative strategies to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate global poverty by 2030. A central barrier to development in third-world nations is in-access to high-quality, timely and accessible data.

Big data platforms like AI expand capabilities to acquire accurate, real-time, micro-level information, while ML allows pattern recognition at a macro-level. Combined, these data advances can make data more accessible, applicable and finely scalable while accelerating the speed and scale for private and public development actors to implement change. Companies are partnering across public, private and nonprofit sectors to broaden the collective impact.

Take a look at the innovative approaches tech giants are taking to help global poor communities with data and what the incorporation of AI technologies means for the future of global poverty initiatives. These approaches aim to employ AI to meet the SDGs within its allotted time frame.

Education and Digital Training

On June 19, 2019, the day preceding World Refugee Day, Microsoft announced the inception of two projects partnering with Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). These projects supplement its AI for Humanitarian Action group to help incorporate AI to meet the SDGs.

The AI for Humanitarian Action group is a $40 million, five-year program part of Microsoft’s larger AI for Good suite (a $115 million, five-year project). The projects will provide AI tools to help staff track court dates, prioritize emergency cases and translate for families with AI speech-to-text. Microsoft also has continuing partnerships to incorporate AI/ML into educational services for refugees with the following groups:

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): This committee works to provide humanitarian aid through the creation of sustainable programming for refugees, displaced populations and crisis-affected communities. This includes career development programming and digital skills training to empower refugees and make them relevant for the job markets in each affected country. Microsoft and IRC’s Technology for Livelihoods in Crisis project in Jordan is an example of this.
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Together with the University of Cambridge, the UNICEF is developing The Learning Passport. The digital platform will ensure better access to education and facilitate learning opportunities for youth displaced by conflict and natural disasters. It creates scalable learning solutions tailored to each child. Crises have affected the quality of education for 75 million youth.
  3. Norwegian Refugee Council: This council is providing an AI chatbot service that uses language understanding, machine translation and language recognition to deliver high-quality education and digital skills training to refugees. This helps to close the education gap for the millions of youth affected by conflict. It will also help humanitarian workers communicate with migrants who speak other languages, which will help them best provide the best service.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): UNHCR plans to provide 25,000 refugees in Kakuma with access to high-quality, accredited, context-appropriate digital learning and training by 2020 for development in Kakuma markets. UNHCR intends this project to expand across multiple countries.

Food Security and Agricultural Development

The fact that farms do not always have power or internet security limits technological developments that address food security and agricultural development. Here are some efforts that consider the capabilities of farmers and the respective developing regions:

  1. Microsoft FarmBeats: It aims to enable data-driven farming compatible with both the capabilities of the farmer and the region. FarmBeats is employing AI and IoT (Information of Things) solutions using low-cost sensors, drones and vision and ML algorithms. This combined AI and IoT approach enables data-driven improvements in agriculture yield, lowered costs and reduced environmental impacts of agricultural production, and is a significant contribution to help AI to meet the SDGs.
  2. Apollo: Apollo uses agronomic machine learning, remote sensing and mobile phones to help farmers maximize profits in developing markets. Apollo delivers scalable financing, farm products and customized advice to farmers while assessing the farmers’ credit risk. Apollo customizes each product in order to double farm yields and improve credit. The beta project is starting in Kenya.
  3. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)/CGIAR research group: It aims to implement preemptive solutions rather than reactive solutions to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. CIAT has developed a Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS), which uses machine learning to make predictions on malnutrition patterns based on current and future estimates of crop failures, droughts and rising food prices. This approach is able to detect an impending nutrition crisis and take action instead of responding after the crisis has taken hold.

Socioeconomic Data Collection

According to a report by The Brookings Institute as a part of its “A Blueprint for the Future of AI series,” data providing national averages “conceal more than they reveal” and inaccurately estimate and map patterns of poverty. Survey data is often entirely unavailable or otherwise low in quality in many of the poorest countries where development needs are greatest. 39 of the 59 countries in Africa conducted less than two surveys between 2000 and 2010.

Even in large countries with sophisticated statistical systems, such as India, survey results remain inaccurate, with the gap between personal reporting and national accounts amounting to as much as a 60 percent difference in some countries. Companies are addressing this by utilizing big data from remote sensing satellites.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is using Earth Observations (EO) to provide finely-tuned and near-real-time data on economic activity and population distribution by measuring nighttime luminosity. Researchers have noted a correlation between luminosity and GDP as well as subnational economic output. Collecting socioeconomic data in this way can ensure higher quality data important to policy implementation and direction to countries with the greatest development needs.

Timothy Burke and Stan Larimer launched Sovereign Sky in 2018, putting satellite data into action. Sovereign Sky is the world’s first space-based blockchain which provides secure private internet networks and powers a new Free World Currency to redistribute the world’s wealth with a goal of eradicating poverty by 2032.

The eight current satellites cover Africa and India and the organization will send boxes of StealthCrypto phones, digital wallets, smart cards and modems to people in need. Sovereign Sky will deploy 36 satellites within three to 10 years to cover the entire world in a secure blockchain internet connection, closing the gap on technological interactions between all nations and including the world’s remotest and poorest areas in internet connectivity.

Pitfalls of AI-Driven Global Development Initiatives, and Moving Forward

AI and ML have crucial capabilities in reshaping education, agriculture and data collection in the developing world. However, these technologies have a history of producing unethical racial profiling, surveillance and perpetuating stereotypes, especially in areas with a history of ethnic conflict or inequality. AI and ML applications have to adapt in ways to ensure effective, inclusive and fair distribution of big data resources in the developing world. Development experts need to be in close collaboration with technologists to prevent unethical allocations.

This diversification is why it is important that tech giants like Microsoft, and projects like those by the ICAT/CGIAR, are created in collaboration with various nonprofit, public and private sector groups to ensure interdisciplinary ethical liability for big data applications in sustainable development contexts. Ensuring the use of AI technologies is context-specific to the affected regions and populations will help prevent misappropriation of the technology and increase quality and effectiveness.

Working with local companies and sectors can create long-lasting engagement and grow permanent technology sectors in the developing areas thus contributing to the local economy. These strategies can put forth effective, ethical and productive applications of AI to meet the SDGs.

– Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

Angelina Jolie
Unlike her character as a bad girl in Tomb Raider or as a vengeful Maleficent, Angelina Jolie has a soft spot when it involves philanthropy work. The American actress has a long record of helping communities globally. Although a mother of six, Jolie pauses her mom duties to find time to visit developing countries, improve the lives of refugees, get involved with charitable work, create foundations and fund schools in other countries. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is serving as the co-chair of the Educational Partnership for Children of Conflict.

Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador

Jolie uses her role as a Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for those who are no longer safe in their home countries. Most recently, Jolie has traveled to Peru and Colombia to visit Venezuelan refugees. During her trip to Peru, she spent two days in Lima at the border where massive groups of refugees enter daily. She spoke with a few refugees to hear stories of what their lives were like before migrating in hopes of a better life and freedom.

Crisis in Venezuela

Nearly 1.3 million Venezuelans are living in Columbia, and Jolie made it her mission to visit a few of them during her trip there. Jolie met with Colombian President Ivan Duque to express concern over the 20,000 Venezuelan children who are at risk of being without basic citizenship. They discussed how children can become nationalized and the importance of international support.

In a statement given at the press conference at the Integrated Assistance Centre, Jolie expresses how serious the influx of refugees affects not only the refugees themselves, but the countries they settle in.“The countries receiving them, like Colombia, are trying to manage an unmanageable situation with insufficient resources,” Jolie said. “This is a life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans. But UNHCR has received only a fraction of the funds it needs, to do even the bare minimum to help them survive.”

Rhoyinga Refugees

In February 2019, Jolie visited Bangladesh for three days to provide help for over 700,000 Rhoyinga refugees who have settled in the country. Jolie expressed concern over the challenges Bangladesh may face as a host country to a great number of refugees. Jolie was especially focused on making sure the refugees were comfortable and content after being forced to leave their home country, Myanmar. “I am here to see what more can be done to ensure Rohingya children can gain an education with recognized qualifications that they need to retain a clear vision for their futures, and, when conditions allow, rebuild their communities in Myanmar,” Jolie said. While there, she also created a new appeal of almost $1 billion dollars to support the rise of refugees.

Angelina Jolie’s fight to improve the lives of refugees dates back to 2002, a year after receiving the role as Goodwill Ambassador for UNHC for Refugees. Her consistent commitment to those who are displaced by force shows she is someone who genuinely cares for the lives of those who are struggling. Angelina Jolie is a prime example of someone using your voice and resources to help those who are in need.

– Jessica Curney

Photo: UNHCR

 

 

Conflict in Burkina Faso
In late January 2019, the eruption of conflict in the Centre-Nord and Sahel regions displaced thousands of people in rural Burkina Faso. The recent attacks are an extension of a disturbing trend involving the displacement of more than 115,000 people since 2015. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, extremist attacks and conflict in Burkina Faso have quadrupled since 2017 as groups like al Qaeda, Ansar ul Islam and ISIS continue to gain support in the north.

Burkina Faso and the Situation

One of the more inspiring success stories in Western Africa, Burkina Faso was on track to implement sweeping political reforms this year, including presidential term limits. Since the country ousted former authoritarian ruler, Blaise Compaoré, in 2014, voter registration increased by 70 percent as scores of Burkinabè grew excited by the prospects of democracy. However, this March 2019, the government put the referendum on hold indefinitely while it struggles to bring stability back to Burkina Faso.

The conflict in Burkina Faso has come at a considerable human cost, with over 70,000 people displaced since January alone. The majority have fled within the country’s borders, finding refuge in the nearby regions of Foubé, Barsalogho and Déou. Though the camps provide families with relative safety, the hastily built, government-sponsored structures are far from adequate. The state is already overwhelmed by a recent influx of Malian refugees and resources are stretched thin as a result.

In refugee encampments like Foubé, a shortage of shelters has forced the roughly 8,000 refugees to live in extremely crowded conditions, increasing the likelihood of measles and other outbreaks. The lack of sanitation has resulted in hygiene-related illnesses, respiratory infections, malaria and parasitic diseases. Meanwhile, in Barasalogho, the nearest clean water is an hour drive from the encampment, sometimes forcing residents to drink unsafe wells or streams and increasing the prevalence of cholera or other illnesses.

UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders

Despite the severity of the conflict in Burkina Faso, the situation has received shockingly little international attention. While the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have played a prominent role in refugee support, the conflict continues to restrict access to many northern communities. MSF, whose primary goal in Burkina Faso is to issue vaccines and curb outbreaks, is working in only two refugee camps. With the situation becoming increasingly tense, the U.N. is urging refugees to seek shelter in camps where the UNHCR and MSF are active.

The sluggish international response has placed the burden of responsibility on the already overwhelmed Burkinabè government. While government rhetoric continues to support democracy and political reform, its response to the extremism has resulted in an unknown number of extrajudicial killings. In less than a year, Human Rights Watch documented at least 116 civilian deaths from government security forces, although the real number is unknown.

As the Burkinabè government struggles to regain stability, the U.N. is calling on the international community to do more. The U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund allocated $4 million early this March, although experts say roughly $100 million is needed to adequately address the crisis. Although the 115,000 forcibly displaced people face a stout uphill climb before the restoration of peace, the future of the Arizona-sized nation is still bright. While a new date for the referendum has not been announced, the steady rise in voter registration and political mobilization suggests reform is on Burkina Faso’s horizon.

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Flickr

stopping the slave trade in Libya

The rise in immigration and an increase in criminal activity are going hand in hand in Libya. Since immigrants are an especially vulnerable population with so many seeking asylum or other needs, criminals are more likely to target them. CNN released a report on the slave trade that is still occurring in Libya today. This report showed many people what is happening. With the influx of immigrants, it is important to see what efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya.

Libya has officially become a lawless state. The government has little to no control over what goes on, and criminals are taking advantage of this. Due to the large influx of vulnerable immigrants, the slave trade has now risen to an all-time high. Slavery has been outlawed in other countries; however, criminals don’t follow the rules. Dozen of people are still being auctioned off, some only being sold for $400. Immigrants often live in poverty and don’t what to do improve their conditions. Slave traders pick up on this vulnerability and use it to their advantage. Libya is the main transit point for immigrants that are trying to make it to Europe.

Stopping the Slave Trade in Libya

While looking at Libya and the events that are occurring there, a question arises: What efforts are being made in stopping the slave trade in Libya? The U.N. and the U.S. have been putting pressure on the government to investigate more into the crimes being committed. They urged Libya to take urgent action in these matters and to make it come to an end. So far, Libya went from not having the resources or support to track down these traffickers, to accusing and sanctioning six men. Since 150,000 immigrants cross into Libya each year, the U.N. involvement has been a huge milestone for Libya and those being sold into slavery.

Additionally, a new transit system has been put in place to make sure that immigrants are able to travel more safely. The more immigrants are provided safer ways to travel, the lesser the likelihood of being sold into slavery. At this new transit facility, run by the UNHCR, immigrants are not only being provided with safe shelter but also food, medical care and psychosocial support. UNHCR is bringing new hope for immigrants that are looking for a better life. It is a necessary facility that will bring international protection to those that are most vulnerable.

Many news outlets and people from different communities are now raising awareness on this topic. The more people to find out about what is being done in Libya, the more solutions can be found up and more actions can be taken. CNN is the original news outlet to exposed the slave trade that is happening in Libya. Afterward, more people started to take action and contribute to the conversation. By someone speaking out, it causes a ripple effect for organizations to come together and make a plan to help those being sold.

Canada is Providing a Refuge

Canada has taken action in making sure that those who were once former slaves are able to rebuild their lives. Providing the necessary housing and support can help those that fell victim to slavery to regain their life. More than 150 people who had immigrated to Canada were victims of the slavery that occurred in Libya. Canada will also be resettling another 600 people that are at risk of being sold into slavery. With the number continuously rising, Canada is doing it’s best to keep up with those that are seeking asylum and providing options for settlement.

Although the fight for stopping the slave trade in Libya is still raging on, new support systems are being brought in and making it so immigrants can feel safe. Governments, like in Canada, are now taking action, as well as organizations uniting together. The slave trade in Libya is still continuing today, but the situation in improving. By raising awareness about important topics such as this, it can act as a catalyst for other people to step in as well.

Hopefully, the immigrants and other vulnerable populations that are currently living through this tragedy can find some consolation in the fact that the world finally sees what is happening. The United Nations, the Libyan government and other organizations have dedicated their time to working towards one goal: stopping the slave trade in Libya. The measures that have been put forth thus far have already helped many people, and the next step in this journey is making sure that the rest people and immigrants of Libya are safe from slavery.

Emme Chadwick
Photo: Flickr

EUs Progress in Chad

The European Union (EU) is one of the major donors to Chad, a country where 46 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The reasons for the high amount of people living in poverty include the fact that the country finds it difficult to accommodate the more than 300,000 refugees it houses, occasional droughts destroy food security and there is poor healthcare and inefficient farming techniques. In 2018, the EU’s progress in Chad stems from providing more than $74 million in humanitarian aid to Chad.

Influx of Refugees

With more than 46 percent of Chad’s population living in poverty, it’s difficult for the government to even provide aid to the native population. The EU is helping Chad by providing basic needs, such as healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation. It also provides care for refugees, host communities and internally displaced people. The refugees arrive from neighboring countries Sudan and the Central African Republic, amounting to more than 300,000 refugees fleeing to seek protection and job opportunities in Chad. Though Chad doesn’t have the capacity to take care of these refugees, outsiders like the EU, are providing aid to those in poverty.

Agricultural Practices

Another way to show the EU’s progress in Chad through its focus on agricultural self-sufficiency and self-reliance. More than 80 percent of Chad’s labor force involves agriculture. Agriculture also accounts for half of Chad’s GDP. One major way EU is helping Chad prosper is by providing efficient and sustainable farming techniques. A lack of capital has created a major strain on the government helping its citizens, so the EU is also helping by providing financial assistance.

The country of Chad is divided in half by the Sahara Desert in the north, the Savanna in the south and the Sahelian belt in the center where the transition from desert to Savanna takes place. The environment makes it difficult to farm, and poor farming practices contribute to poverty conditions. The government of Chad believes the future lies in the mobilization of the private sector, including improving the business environment concerning agriculture and mining. The EU’s involvement is helping to improve the lives of millions of people in Chad who struggle to find clean water and produce an adequate amount of crops.

Seeds for Solutions is a project aimed at helping host camps and villages. This project is located in the eastern portion of Chad where Sudanese refugees and Chadians work together to cultivate crops. The region is arid, but the fields are provided daily water thanks to an irrigation system maintained through solar energy. The advanced farming technique helps yield a greater output of crops. About 70 percent of harvested crops are sold, and the farmer’s family then consumes the rest.

Training Programs

In partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Lutheran World Federation, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations helped to create a vocational training center where people are taught masonry, carpentry, mechanics and sewing. Estelle, a young Chadian woman, is one of the hundreds of Chadians taking part in the program. “In our country, women are in the field or in the kitchen; I want to participate in the construction of my village and my country,” stated Estelle during her nine-month training at one of the four vocational training centers in the country.

The UNHCR and its partners are involved in hosting income-generation activities for refugees and citizens. The IT centers are involved in teaching sewing, masonry and carpentry, and have more than 300 students. The income and products from these activities enable the people to accomplish the EU’s goal of improving self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The EU’s progress in Chad is visible through the many programs implemented to help alleviate poverty. Although conditions in Chad are still far from perfect, the EU is providing some important resources to help improve the lives of the people in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Women RefugeesGlobally, various disasters and conflicts displace approximately 68.5 million people—half of whom are women—and force them to turn to refugee camps in order to fight for survival. But these women refugees are not on their own.

A global campaign, “Girls’ Education and Empowerment,” is headed by a nonprofit organization known as Girl Rising. Girl Rising sheds light on refugee crises which affect women and girls the most. Since 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that a multitude of factors, such as persecution, violence, conflict, natural disasters and human rights violations displace refugees. Of the millions of refugees, more than 50 percent are under the age of 18.

Girl Rising: Examples of Progress

Upon the launch of the global campaign in the year 2012, Girl Rising’s goal was to change how people value and invest in girls and girls’ potential. To complete this goal, the organization created a media-driven campaign and grassroots programming with on-the-ground partners in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For 2019, the organization wants to expand its on-the-ground partners to include Kenya and Guatemala. To date, results for Girl Rising’s efforts include girls re-enrolling in school, parents deciding against early marriage, girls learning their rights and teachers creating gender-equal classrooms.

Release of “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story”

As a way of bringing awareness to challenges faced by refugee women and girls, Girl Rising produced and launched a film titled “Brave Girl Rising: A Refugee Story.” Released on International Women’s Day in 2019, the 20-minute film told the story of a 17-year-old girl, Nasro, in Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. In order to capture the true, raw reality of life in these camps, Girl Rising wrote and made the film in collaboration with other refugees.

One of the founders of the Time’s Up movement and powerful women’s advocate, Tessa Thompson, is the voice of the film. Poet, Warsan Shire, was in charge of writing the screenplay. To promote the film, the social change agency, Amplifier, had the street artist, Ashley Lukashevsky, create art. The film also received support from the projects founding partner, Citi.

In collaboration with Girl Rising, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had a hand in the creation of this film. The IRC is an organization that works to respond to humanitarian crises. The committee helps to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people who have been greatly affected by conflict and disaster. They engage with girls, their parents, caregivers and community leaders to combat harmful gender norms and practices.

Many people and organizations have come together to bring awareness to refugee crises and women refugees in creative ways. The continued advocacy and fight to end these crises has to be consistent and passionate to make a change.  

– Lari’onna Green
Photo: Google

Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations
In a historic moment in the year 2018, Eritrea-Ethiopia relations were finally reinstated with the opening of the border between the two former rivals. The landmark occurrence finally signaled an end to the nearly two-decade-long conflict and regional destabilization in the Horn of Africa. It also provides equally strong potential for poverty alleviation as 70 percent of the Eritrean population continues to live under poverty.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Relations

To provide historical context, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a war that resulted in casualties of nearly 80,000 in 1998. Despite the signing of the Algiers Agreement between the two countries in 2000, leaders of the previous administrations refused to reinstate ties till the agreement made between Prime Minister Abiy and President Isaias in July 2018. Ethiopia also began withdrawing its troops from the Eritrean border in December 2018.

Ethiopia continues to condemn Eritrea of backing rebel groups in the Afar region as well as undermines and opposes the government seated in the Eritrea capital of Asmara. Owing to the fact that Ethiopia refused to acknowledge the joint Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), Eritrea began to stir up support among rebel groups like the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Bridging the Divide

Eritrea has been accused of gross human rights violations and condemned for its suspension of the constitution and ban on press freedom. Ethiopia, in turn, is accused of similar actions and has tried to suppress protest movements that have echoed across the country in recent times.

However, the new open borders between the two countries could bridge shortages and deficiencies that Eritreans previously faced as they will have access to Ethiopian markets, goods and services. Cross border trade between the two countries may begin to flourish as lorries have already started transporting goods like construction cables and cement to and from Ethiopia. Additionally, Ethiopia will also now have access to Eritrea’s ports which will help maximize the benefits of new sea trade.

The newly forged Eritrea-Ethiopia relations is also a good sign for neighboring towns along the border between the two countries as families and communities plagued by conflict can finally unite and celebrate their shared culture, heritage and language.

Reintegration and Renewed Hope

The new budding diplomatic relationship also resulted in Eritrea’s reintegration — particularly with the country’s readmission into the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The possibility of joint-development programs between the two countries could boost economic and financial potential along with the collaboration of financial bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A report by the Guardian in 2018 remarked that the move was akin to “…the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only amplified 1,000 times.”

Moreover, the move may also hint at a possible solution for the Eritrean refugee crisis as refugees can now cross the borders safely to seek a new home. The UNHCR also reported an increase in the number of refugees arriving at the border since its reopening.

Overall, the renewal in Eritrea-Ethiopia relations will maintain regional stability and provide an impetus to resolve similar border conflicts and proxy wars. The noteworthy historic move may help build a strong foundation for further development and prosperity for Eritrea in the long run and hopefully reinstate its reputation and influence on a global scale.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Google