International Volunteering
International volunteering is the process of completing unpaid work in a foreign, and often developing country in great need. It is an extremely diverse practice and includes teaching, environmental conservation, and supporting communities. This is an excellent practice to have a positive impact on the people and environment of the country.

One can view international volunteering and poverty reduction as two interrelated aspects. The practice has received great commemoration for its impact and success in addressing poverty. For example, the U.N. recognizes international volunteering with International Volunteer Day, celebrated every year on December 5. Despite this, it is not without its criticisms.

International Volunteering and Poverty Reduction

According to World Vision, about 9.2% of the world’s population (689 million people) live in extreme poverty and survive on less than $1.90 a day. Poverty has extensive repercussions including hunger and food insecurity, increased crime and child mortality rates, political instability and corruption. Many households that suffer from poverty are exposed to precarious situations. For example, they deal with exploitation due to their limited access to employment. Poor labor laws, insufficient political and trade-union representation and general economic issues are making this issue worse.

Oftentimes, in these low-income and developing countries, there is a lack of key public infrastructure including schools, hospitals, security services and social protection schemes for people to access. Even in areas where they do exist, there is no way for the poor and marginalized to engage with them.

Others have regarded international volunteers as an under-recognized yet essential source to support poverty reduction and service delivery in low-income countries. In a 2015 report, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) discovered how they play a significant role in “bridging the gap.” Not only do they add to the number of those working, but they also bring their own experiences to the workforce, helping to ensure that the services are relevant to those using them.

In Mozambique between 2004 and 2008, the number of those providing home-based care for AIDS patients increased from 17,170 to 99,122 because of international volunteers.

In Lesotho in 2015, international volunteers had the task to design and implement training programs for more than 400 youth leaders in an initiative that was volunteer-run. Using social media, the volunteers were able to teach the youth leaders how to establish their own platforms and engage with other young people, thus, creating a sustainable method of poverty alleviation.

In Burkina Faso, a partnership between the Ministry of Youth and Employment, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Volunteers and France Volontaires had tremendous results. They established programs designed to target the employability of young people in the early 2010s. They mobilized more than 13,000 youth volunteers which gained many new competencies such as how to access information on gender issues and learn about labor market competitiveness. Overall, the program resulted in 66% of the youth gaining ‘decently paid jobs’ after.

Disadvantages of International Volunteering

Despite international volunteering having a fruitful impact on poverty reduction in low-income and developing countries, it has been receiving extensive criticism as well. Perhaps the most condemned aspect of going abroad to volunteer is the idea of ‘stealing’ local job prospects. Rather than prioritizing local needs, organizations place money, effort and energy into international volunteer programs where the volunteer’s experiences and activities are often more important to some. Furthermore, volunteers tend to be young and inexperienced, and thus, can hinder poverty reduction. Shannon O’Donnell, the author of the Volunteer Traveller’s Handbook, stated that ‘”there is no doubt that volunteer programmes shift jobs from locals to potentially less skilled labour.”

Another key disadvantage is the duration of volunteer projects. Although many organizations offer and promote long-term projects, most of them are short-term. This is mostly based on the volunteer’s ability and time available to commit to a project. Like the criticism above, these projects become ‘volunteer centric,’ creating an array of short-term placements which enable a constant flow of new volunteers. This means that the organizations put more effort into training them rather than actually supporting poverty reduction initiatives.

An interrelated criticism focuses on international volunteering projects which focus on poverty reduction for children. During their time, volunteers build deep connections and relationships with children. They might do this by supporting their education in schools through lessons or extracurricular activities, community events or even helping in orphanages, all of which prove how the existence of volunteers is beneficial on multiple levels. As a result, the departure of these volunteers at the end of their projects may lead to psychological and emotional consequences for the children. Stephanie Halksworth from ReSet stated how these consequences include a “sense of abandonment, invalidation and stagnation.”

Ethical Volunteering: The Future of Poverty Reduction

The disadvantages stated above of international volunteering question its ethics and how these may be skewed in favor of the volunteer. A new form of volunteering branded as ethical volunteering emerged in 2016 to address these concerns. Ethical volunteering ensures that volunteers are not only doing so for themselves but also providing aid in a responsible and sustainable way. With support from the U.N., such activities are relevant to poverty reduction and staying aligned with this cause.

Here are five ideals associated with ethical volunteering:

  • Making a sustainable impact
  • Contributing to community development
  • Interacting with the environment (including animals) responsibly
  • Personal development grounded in ethics
  • Gaining a global perspective

International volunteering can be a positive force for supporting communities and poverty reduction. Regardless, its core elements have received critics, something which hints at the need for a change within the practice. Ethical volunteering overcomes these considerations and represents the future of international volunteering for poverty reduction.

– Harkiran Bharij
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in BelizeAlthough gender roles in the Americas are constantly evolving, Belizean women still face discrimination. Women make up more than 50% of Belize’s population, yet they are approximately 30% less likely to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Belizean women also have little representation in the country’s political, social and economic spheres. The fight for women’s rights in Belize aims to remedy gender-biased treatment by prioritizing equality.

Gender Roles and Gender Gaps

Gender roles in Belize are typically traditional, with significant value placed on marriage and childbearing for women. Belizean women are often expected to stay home and look after the children, while men are the primary breadwinners. In families living in poverty, women often depend on men for economic stability.

The rate of employed people older than 15 and living under the international poverty line in Belize falls at 8.8% for women and 11.3% for men. However, the U.N.  Women Count Data Hub finds that Belize’s unemployment rate for people older than 15 is 9.8% for women but only 4.6% for men.

In regard to political representation, women held only 12.5% of the seats in the nation’s parliament as of February 2021. Women in Belize also face exploitation in the workforce, earning “only 56% of the income” earned by their male counterparts, according to Statista. Yet, in terms of literacy rates for people older than 15, Belizean men and women are on par at 70.3%.

Belize’s gender gap is often attributed to chauvinistic societal standards that favor men and traditional masculinity. Additionally, the lack of gender-based data makes it difficult to assess the true state of women’s rights in Belize. Only about 37% of the data needed to monitor sectors such as unpaid domestic work and violence against women was available as of December 2020.

Violence Against Belizean Women

In the year 1992, “the Belize Domestic Violence Act was passed.” The act was reenacted in 2007, with broadened and extended protections. The Women’s Commission of Belize is an instrumental figure in gender-responsive legislative reform and women’s rights.

In June 2010, the Belizean government adopted the three-year National Gender-based Violence Plan of Action, which aimed to remedy the domestic violence, assault and abuse that disproportionately affects women and young girls. The Women’s Commission also developed a “domestic violence protocol” for Belizean police, “with the goal of improving the effectiveness of police investigative practices in addressing violence against women.”

However, many Belizean women continue to suffer violence, especially those who live in rural areas. More than 70% of rural women experience violence at the hands of their partners. Not only do these women often lack basic infrastructural resources but they also face difficulties in accessing protective services. Additionally, domestic violence studies often overlook Belizean women in rural areas.

Improving Women’s Rights in Belize

In order to promote gender equity, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) guided the creation of the 2017-2021 Country Programme Document (CPD). The CPD outlines a program that prioritizes three focal areas covering issues such as safety, sustainability, health, justice and resilience, “with gender as a cross-cutting theme.” As the CPD addresses poverty, the CPD also aims to address gender equity as part of bettering Belize.

In addition to helping develop domestic violence protocol for law enforcement, the National Women’s Commission of Belize partners with organizations such as the Belize Crime Observatory and the Ministry of Human Development, Families & Indigenous People’s Affairs. As an advisory board to the government, the Commission promotes women’s rights in Belize through political and social advocacy and provides resources to women facing domestic abuse.

In a year, the Belizean police receive more than 2,000 “domestic and sexual violence reports.” However, victims often endure “unfair treatment when reporting.” The National Women’s Commission aims to remedy this with the launch of the Gender-Based Violence Services Complaint Form in 2020. The form encourages reporting and identifies the authorities involved in unjust treatment.

Efforts from the government and organizations contribute to a more equitable future for women in Belize, empowering women to rise out of poverty.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 and Conflict in Myanmar
As new variants of COVID-19 spread across the world, outbreaks in Southeast Asia are particularly severe. Myanmar shares a 990-mile border with India, the origin of the highly transmissible Delta variant. The Delta variant is largely responsible for the most recent rapid outbreak in Myanmar, with new cases rising from 72 on June 2, 2021, to more than 2,000 on July 1, 2021. Myanmar’s rising case numbers come soon after the military coup that occurred in February 2021. The last five months since then have been rife with civil strife as the military responds with violence to any protests for the return of democratic leadership. COVID-19 and conflict in Myanmar pose significant challenges to the struggling country and further imperil Myanmar’s most vulnerable.

The Coup

On February 1, 2021, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, seized control of the government in a bloodless coup. The Tatmadaw disabled communication channels and raided the houses of government officials, putting some 400 members of parliament under house arrest. The members of parliament largely belonged to the National League of Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s ruling party led by President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

NLD leaders have been charged with corruption and engaging in electoral fraud. Over the course of the five months since the coup, Burmese citizens have engaged in constant protest against the military regime. While the protests have largely taken the form of peaceful marches and street barricades, the military has often responded with live ammunition. In areas where protesters have been more aggressive toward security forces, the Tatmadaw has answered with destructive and indiscriminate airstrikes. Burmese civil society has mobilized in support of democracy but communication blackouts are a core piece of the Tatmadaw’s strategy to suppress information and frustrate organizations.

COVID-19 and Conflict in Myanmar

Many blame the Tatmadaw for the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The country’s previous outbreak that began in September 2020 was just winding down when the coup took place a few months later. While the first few months of military rule saw no rise in COVID-19 cases, it appears that the abandonment of the NLD’s policies of testing, lockdowns and vaccination has produced the country’s fastest rise in cases to date.

Myanmar’s healthcare infrastructure struggled with the first wave and the second wave is already exerting even more acute pressure on Myanmar’s health systems. Furthermore, healthcare workers, as well as workers in many other sectors of the economy, are also protesting the coup. Vaccinations are proceeding at a sluggish rate as international organizations, notably COVAX, have delayed shipments of the vaccine to the military regime, which many have accused of prioritizing shots for its soldiers over the elderly.

Humanitarian Assistance

The combination of post-coup conflict and the rapid outbreak have further endangered those living on the margins of Burmese society. According to the latest available estimates, Myanmar’s poverty rate stands at 25% as of 2017 — a rate that the United Nations Development Programme thinks could double by 2022 if left unaddressed.

The military coup has put the international community in a difficult position. In response to the coup, in February 2021, President Biden announced his decision to redirect $42.4 million of aid to Myanmar “away from work that would have benefited the Government of Burma.” Biden said that “Rather than supporting the military, we will redirect these funds to support and strengthen civil society.”

While the international community refuses to prop up the military regime with economic assistance and sanctions relief, there is no doubt an urgent necessity to provide relief for the impoverished caught between COVID-19 and conflict in Myanmar. NGOs have come together to call for an end to the fighting in order to deliver assistance to those in need.

Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders issued a statement that it would “continue to deliver impartial medical care to the most vulnerable to the best of [its]capacity while access and circumstances still allow for the provision of care.” Even though “staff movements [are] restricted” its programs are still operational. The organization emphasizes that it is “ready to adapt [its] medical humanitarian response as needed.” Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the organization is assisting with COVID-19 screening, testing and monitoring while treating infected patients. Doctors Without Borders also “continues to share COVID-19 prevention and health promotion messages” in Myanmar and educates communities on handwashing and mask-wearing.

Donors and organizations must try to find ways to deliver relief that circumvents the military. International humanitarian assistance in Myanmar is necessary now more than ever as Myanmar’s most vulnerable people find themselves between a pandemic and civil strife.

– Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

IDPoor Card
Poverty could double in Cambodia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, pulling an estimated 17.6% of the population below the poverty line. Faced with a shrinking economy, Cambodia teamed up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF to issue IDPoor cards, which give struggling families 176,000 riels, or about $43 per month. With an IDPoor card, a family can buy dry food ingredients and products with long shelf lives to ration throughout the month.

The IDPoor card is part of the “Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households,” a government initiative designed to help strengthen social protection in Cambodia in the face of COVID-19.  Based on the country-wide poverty identification system launched in 2007, the cash transfer programme is a game-changer for Cambodians across the region.

Inside the Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households

Each household has an entitlement to $20 or $30 monthly. Families with members of vulnerable groups–such as individuals living with disabilities or HIV–are eligible for additional monetary support.

A partnership between the UNDP, Australia and the Cambodian Ministry of Planning made the cash transfer programme possible. With 1,700 tablets and the necessary software supplied by the Australian government and the UNDP, local officials interviewed and registered families who had fallen into poverty during the pandemic. In total, nearly 700,000 people in the database received funds in a cashless form, either through their phone or a card.

The Groundwork and The Future

The U.N. worked swiftly alongside the Cambodian government, developing the IDPoor cards just three months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country. The groundwork for such an agile response took the form of a 2015 pilot program that supported vulnerable mothers and children before the pandemic. The onset of COVID-19 expanded the program to include low-income families across the region. UNICEF Chief of Social Policy, Erna Ribar, noted that the expansion of the 2015 pilot occurred in hopes of “[laying] the foundations for Cambodia to develop greater resilience to future economic shocks, ultimately paving the way towards a more equal society.” As the program came to fruition, the money transfer service extended its reach to even more remote populations, some of whom were handling money electronically for the first time.

In addition to the IDPoor Card, the U.N. continues to support the Cambodian government by providing medical equipment and technical support. The U.N. has also helped the country battle the pandemic by raising awareness about COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is among the greatest challenges in the modern world, and Cambodia believes that it should deal with it swiftly. Thus far, the country’s success in its money transferring service mirrors its success in controlling community spread. As Cambodians across the region continue to weather the economic consequences of COVID-19, the IDPoor card scheme remains a signal of hope.

Jai Phillips
Photo: Flickr

How the Disha Project Empowers Women in IndiaIn India — a country surging with sustained economic growth — more than two-thirds of women do not have a profession or are outside of the workforce. This level of engagement also varies between rural and urban areas due to a divide in, among other things, access to training and schooling. Despite the growth in the past few decades in terms of education rates, as well as a similarly important decline in birth rates, women in rural India are still not as able to pursue or secure jobs as their male counterparts are. The Disha Project was an international effort that acted as a catalyst for improvement and provided diverse resources and plans to empower underprivileged Indian women across the nation.

The Disha Project’s Mission

The Disha Project set out to be a three-year united effort between the United Nations Development Programme, the India Development Foundation and the IKEA Foundation. The three groups, together with their networks of experience and assets, came together to provide women in India with opportunities for income growth and management. Skills training remained the primary tool of the Disha Project and teaching women essential skills alongside separate enterprise teachings, participants could gain valuable and diverse knowledge that set them apart from other job seekers.

The original goals of the project included a target goal of introducing and linking a million women in India to a growing chain of economically independent job seekers and makers. Beyond applying skills that would greatly increase the possibilities for job acquisition, the Disha Project also marked replicability and scalability as its goals, which explains the strong focus on self-sustained community growth.

The Models Used

To fulfill the intentions the Disha Project laid out for itself, planning and execution were paramount. Clement Chauvet led the Disha Project and served as the United Nations Development Programme’s chief of skills and business development. In his capacity as Disha Project’s head, he outlined four principal models by which the project would take shape.

Chauvet detailed how model one is primarily educational, providing advice and direction for female job seekers. By surmounting this first barrier to self-sustainable economic growth, the program’s participants can begin to pursue their own aspirations much more aggressively.

The second and third models rely on the market and social networks, leading women seeking to fill these roles to established needs in professions. Additionally, by connecting mentors and those with guidance to women who wish to start with “micro-entrepreneurship,” the UNDP initiative directly provides resources and support. The final and fourth model is that of production and economic efficiency. This model seeks to unite women in India to make sure those producing salable products and practicing profitable skills can expand their reach and value as a part of the system.

Meaningful Success

For the Disha Project, countless personal stories of women in rural India initiating businesses, gaining greater social power and supporting their households and communities financially stand as testimony of success. On a larger scale, Chauvet reports, “With the support of IKEA Foundation, since 2015, 800,594 women in Delhi NCR, Haryana, Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra have been enabled with employable skills.”

These women in India also act as a greater example of societal change. Due to the sheer scale of the Disha Project’s impact, small systematic changes, carved in the footholds of agricultural villages and towns, will slowly become more noticeable. Each woman among the almost 900,000 participants carries within herself the tools to inform her family, engage her neighborhood and teach other women in the community.

Through the efforts of organizations like the Disha Project, women are becoming more empowered worldwide, which contributes to a more secure financial future for all and paves a way forward to a world that is more equally accessible, regardless of sex.

Alan Mathew
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Bangladesh
About one in four Bangladeshis live in poverty, making poverty in Bangladesh an ongoing fight for the nation. However, there has been significant economic growth and improved education and infrastructure. With international development assistance, poverty in Bangladesh is on a downward trajectory, especially in rural areas. These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show the country’s improvements.

 7 Facts About Poverty in Bangladesh

  1. International Assistance. The International Development Association (IDA) has been a large part of Bangladesh’s success in education, health and infrastructure. Funded by member countries, IDA coordinates donor assistance. Additionally, IDA also works to provide development assistance to countries around the world. Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of IDA funding. In fact, its program totals $11.3 billion. Also, multilateral organizations, like the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations, have worked with the IDA to lower poverty in Bangladesh.
  2. Economic Growth. Bangladesh has made strides in alleviating poverty through sustained economic growth in recent years. Impressively, steady growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) allowed Bangladesh to reach lower-middle-income status in 2015. Bangladesh remains one of the fastest-growing economies among developing nations. Its GDP in 2018 was $274.02 billion, a 9.73% increase from 2017. With these steady increases, the GDP should grow another 8% in 2020.
  3. Education. Bangladesh has seen an increase in education enrollment. In addition, more girls are going to school. The enrollment rate at the primary school level increased from 80% in 2000 to above 90% in 2015, and from 45% to 62% at the secondary school level. Bangladesh has also achieved gender equality in education enrollment. It sent almost 6.4 million girls to secondary school in 2015. This makes the nation a frontrunner among developing countries to achieve gender parity in education.
  4. Health. Bangladesh has also made important progress in its health indicators over the past few decades. This includes improvements in maternal and child health. There was a 40% reduction in maternal mortality, from 322 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 194 deaths in 2010.  Credit goes to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) work with local groups.  The USAID work provides high-quality reproductive services and brings integrated health care to Bangladeshis as well.
  5. Agricultural Growth. The agriculture sector is essential to Bangladesh, and its growth has been among the highest in the world for the past 25 years. Through IDA, more than a million households have modernized food practices and 500,000 households have increased grain reserve. Natural disasters are a primary threat to Bangladesh’s success in agricultural production. IDA is also financing almost $1.5 billion in aid to Bangladesh’s resistance against natural disasters. This leads to further increases in agricultural production and promotes food security.
  6. Sustainable Development Goals. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh is making strides in attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and improve its quality of life. For example, Bangladesh is well on its way towards reaching the access of 100% of households to electricity by 2025, which is SDG 7. Bangladesh has also seen improvements in sanitation and access to clean water, which the SDGs also include. In 2019, 87% of the population had access to clean water and 61% had access to sanitation.
  7. Rural Infrastructure: Efforts to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh have occurred in rural areas, and IDA has provided support to build roads and increase access to water in these areas. According to the World Bank, 1.1 million people in rural areas now have access to clean water, and support measures have led to the paving of 800 kilometers of new roads in these areas. This infrastructure allows for easier transportation to school and the creation of jobs for men and women, improving the quality of life in several rural areas.

These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show that efforts to alleviate poverty in the country have been remarkably successful in the past few decades. Still, much work remains essential in order to alleviate poverty in urban areas and bring about continued growth in Bangladesh’s economy, infrastructure and access to food security. However, with continued international assistance and Bangladesh’s commitment to reducing poverty, there is hope that Bangladesh will continue to be a global model for poverty reduction.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe (STP) is a small island nation just north of the Equator. This formal Portuguese colony achieved its independence in 1975. As a Portuguese colony, from 1470 to 1975, people knew Sao Tome and Principe for its sugar production and trade. The slave labor utilized in the island’s sugar industry persisted into the 20th century. The country’s economy is largely dependent on agricultural exports, but the Sao Tome and Principe government is making efforts to diversify its economy. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe

  1. Life expectancy in Sao Tome and Principe is 70.2 years old. While this is lower than life expectancy in developed countries such as the U.S. or the U.K., STP’s life expectancy is higher than its neighbors. Compared to other developing nations in Africa such as Gabon, Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, STP has a higher life expectancy.
  2. As of 2018, the literacy rate in STP was 92.8 percent. Primary level education, which lasts for six years, is compulsory and free of charge. This, combined with a high primary school enrollment of 97 percent, resulted in a high literacy rate. However, the quality of education and teachers raises some concerns. To remedy this, in cooperation with the Global Partnerships for Education (GPE) and the World Bank, the STP government is striving to improve the quality of education facilities and training of teachers.
  3. About 97.1 percent of the STP population has access to an improved water source. While STP has access to more than 50 natural water sources, these sources are unevenly distributed within the island. With the support of the U.N. Environment and the Global Environment Facility, STP enacted its first water law in January 2018. The new law guides the use and control of water with the aim of long-term water sustainability and access to water for all populace in STP.
  4. Sixty-eight percent of the population in STP has access to electricity. While 87 percent of the urban area has access to electricity, only 22 percent of the rural areas in the STP have access to electricity. This lack of access to electricity for the rural populace negatively affects the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. To remedy this, the STP government is cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in creating hydro-powered power plants which will utilize STP’s multiple rivers to generate power.
  5. Approximately 66.2 percent of the STP population lives below the poverty line. STP’s economic dependence on cacao export resulted in the country’s over-dependence on its agricultural sector. The majority of STP’s population depends on agriculture for their income. The recent fall in cacao prices severely affected the STP’s economy. To remedy this, the STP government is investing in the country’s tourism industry. STP is also co-developing the recently discovered oil in the Gulf of Guinea with Nigeria.
  6. STP relies on foreign imports to support itself. Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe depend heavily upon foreign imports. The majority of food, fuels, manufactured goods and consumer goods enter STP as imports. This leaves STP’s economy and access to goods vulnerable to the fluctuating international prices of goods. For example, of the estimated GDP of $686 million in 2017, $127.7 million went into foreign good imports.
  7. STP also relies heavily on foreign aid. UNICEF’s 2018 report showed concern that the GDP of the STP is still heavily dependent upon foreign aid. According to the report, only 14.9 percent of STP’s GDP came from domestic resources. In 2019, 90 percent of STP’s country budget received funding from foreign aid.
  8. Infant mortality in STP is in sharp decline since 1992. Compared to the 69.5 per 1,000 infant mortality rate in 1992, infant mortality in STP declined to 24.4 per 1,000 as of 2018. In UNICEF’s 2018 annual report, UNICEF noted the continuous progress that the STP government is making in improving access to basic services, education, maternal health and treating HIV/AIDS and malaria.
  9. STP will graduate from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries. According to the World Economic Outlook report, STP and Angola will leave the U.N.’s group of least developed countries. Angola will graduate from the list in 2021 and STP will graduate in 2024. This reflects the continuously improving living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe and Angola.
  10. As of 2017, the unemployment rate in STP is 12.2 percent. This unemployment rate was a 0.4 percent drop from 2016. However, some experts wonder if this truly represents the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. Since many workers in STP work as farmers, experts are calling for improvements in STP’s manufacturing and tourism sectors.

Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe are steadily improving. There are still many mountains that the STP government must climb in order to lead its country into a more prosperous future. While the STP economy’s dependence on agriculture and foreign aid is concerning, the high literacy rate in STP reflects the potential for growth. STP’s planned graduation from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries certainly seems to reflect this optimism. With this progress, a better future is surely coming for the people of STP.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction Advocacy in Pakistan
Pakistan is a South Asian country with a population of approximately 212 million people. According to the World Bank, the population of people living below the national poverty line in Pakistan decreased from 64 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2015. However, as of 2015, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that in rural communities in Pakistan, 35 percent of people lived below the poverty line. This highlights that rural communities in Pakistan need the most aid. However, there are significant examples of poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

IFAD is a U.N. based agency that focuses on helping rural communities. IFAD aids these communities by strengthening food security and local businesses. Southern Punjab, cited as the poorest part of Pakistan, is a major center point for IFAD in the country. In 2010, IFAD initiated the Southern Punjab Alleviation Project and it is still ongoing until 2020. The project seeks to enhance agricultural productivity in Punjab by aiding laborers, farmers and women-led households.

As of May 2019, working with the government of Punjab, IFAD raised approximately $195 million for the project—Punjab governmental and beneficiary donations included. IFAD reported in 2019 that 5,500 new community organizations started in Punjab, with 70 percent of women forming these groups. The report also cited that 50 percent of people became newly or self-employed after receiving vocational training from IFAD. Moreover, as of 2018, IFAD reached 92 percent of women-headed households. IFAD also uploaded a YouTube video in September 2018 to highlight specific people and families in Punjab that benefited from its projects. The organization prominently initiated poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The Ehsaas Program

The Ehsaas Program is a government-led poverty reduction program initiated in 2018. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr. Sania Nishtar are responsible for the program. Ehsaas focuses on economic growth and obtaining sustainable development goals in Pakistan. The program uses a strategy of four pillars that include addressing the elite and making the government system work for equality, as well as providing safety nets, human capital development and jobs and livelihoods.

The Ehsass Program will push to increase social protection funding by providing an additional $80 billion from 2019-2021. The Kafalat program will give around 6 million women financial inclusion through a one woman, one bank account policy. Nutrition initiatives will address malnutrition and health issues impacting stunted children. The Solution Innovation Challenge will address citizen employment by developing micro-credit facilities for daily wages so that those in poverty can afford monthly groceries. The Ehsaas Program plans on developing rickshaw garbage collectors to employ people and benefit the environment and water sanitation simultaneously. The Ehsaas Program also seeks to build 20 centers for physically challenged citizens and create orphanages for 10,000 homeless children. These are just some of the programs Ehsaas plans to initiate to implement poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ehsaas Program

As of September 2019, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the Ehsaas Program through a Memorandum of Understanding between Bill Gates and Khan. This collaboration prompted the Gates Foundation to plan on spending $200 million toward poverty reduction in Pakistan by 2020. Bill Gates and Dr. Nishtar conducted an interview in September 2019 with the U.N. SDG Action Zone to educate others about the Ehsaas Program and answer questions. This is an example of a multicultural support system toward poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

To alleviate poverty in Pakistan, the government recently started initiatives that the people support. Examples such as the IFAD and the Ehsaas programs show that partnerships between governments, organizations and citizens work to tackle poverty. With these organizations and funds in place, poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan has a positive outlook for the future.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Pixabay

Tourism and Poverty in ArmeniaArmenia is not the first country one usually thinks of for a vacation. Some world organizations are taking the initiative to develop a sustainable tourism sector in Armenia. Tourism and poverty in Armenia are considered related factors, and the growth of tourism can have a large impact on alleviating poverty in the country.

Integrated Rural Tourism Development

Unfortunately, in Armenia, there has been a widening disparity in income between rural and urban regions. To potentially alleviate the disparity, the United Nations suggested the development of the tourism sector in rural communities and stated that they would assist with this development because of the reduced tourism infrastructure in Armenia.

The United Nations Development Programme and the Development Foundation of Armenia created the Integrated Rural Tourism Development Program on January 28, 2016, to support the development of tourism in Armenia, which would further sustainable economic growth. The increase in the role of tourism in the country would provide sustainable income-generating opportunities for rural populations.

Local Economic Infrastructure Development

Additionally, the World Bank contributes to Armenia’s local economy by strengthening economic growth and livelihoods. They assisted the Armenian government in 2014 to identify regional, mostly rural, development inequalities and then help prepare a tourism strategy to increase economic development.

The World Bank’s board of executive directors authorized a $55 million loan for the Local Economic Infrastructure Development Project on December 22, 2015, to help Armenia advance its infrastructure services and institutional capacity for tourism. The project called for the development of tourist destinations in rural regions of the country, potentially assisting the rural economies and addressing tourism and poverty in Armenia.

Laura E. Bailey, the World Bank Country Manager for Amenia, described “one of the major strengths of the proposed project is that it motivates the communities to preserve their unique Armenian cultural heritage.”

My Armenia

Since Armenia gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, the country has been receiving yearly aid from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Between 2005 and 2012, the USAID started long-term development initiatives to increase Armenia’s economic competitiveness.

My Armenia is a cultural preservation program implemented by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, a research and education unit that advocates for a better understanding of cultural heritage in the United States and around the world through research, education and community commitment. The project is a collaboration between the people of Armenia, the Smithsonian and USAID.

The four-year My Armenia program, started on November 20, 2015, aspires to develop an understanding of the country’s living traditions and heritage sites. Long-term cultural vitality in addition to economic growth can be reached through the program’s methods of research, documentation, storytelling and capacity building.

All of the program’s methods assist in the main goal of My Armenia. Research and documentation in the program happens in collaboration with Armenian scholars and an extensive archival record. Cultural storytelling will delve deep into the intricacies of the culture not learned through general reading. Capacity building at local sites like museums and archaeological sites will build a repertoire of substantive historical material, leading to global interest and popularity.

Various international development organizations have implemented programs to help facilitate infrastructure in Armenia for sustainable tourism. The preservation of cultural heritage proves to instill cultural tourism that will assist in economic development. Tourism and poverty in Armenia are related through the benefits of sustainable tourism for economic development, especially in rural regions.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Flickr

Development projects help sustainability in Belize

Belize is a country in Central America, which is located south of Mexico, bordering the Caribbean Sea. Being the last British colony in the Americas, Belize gained independence in 1981. Its 400,000 citizens rely on agriculture, oil production, and fishing as the main sectors in its economy. Unfortunately, poverty remains rampant throughout the country. On the positive side, there are numerous development projects in Belize which have sought and continue to seek sustainability and growth within the country. Here are five examples

Youth and Community Transformation Project

Little more than a third of Belizeans advance to secondary school. The lack of education coupled with the stark number of children coming from single-parent families, nearly 25 percent, has contributed to poverty and high crime rates among youth in Belize. To combat this trend, Belize’s Ministry of Human Development has created the Youth and Community Transformation (YCT) project. The YCT project serves to bridge the gap between youth and much-needed social services. It seeks to improve literacy rates and teach vocational skills, as well as to provide access to other assistance programs throughout Belize.

United Nations Development Programme

Since 1982, the United Nations Development Programme has worked alongside the government of Belize. Its purpose is to provide support and resources to development programs maintained by Belize, including better access to water, access to sanitation and health services, as well as supporting the empowerment of local leaders in rural areas. This partnership has been very successful since its origin and recently celebrated 35 years of cooperation. More must still be done, however, and a recent 16 million dollar allocation will seek to fight poverty, address climate change and improve security by 2021.  

Belize City Infrastructure Project

The 1990s saw a massive need for improvement to infrastructure in Belize City. To this end, The World Bank provided 20 million dollars. The project sought to improve drainage systems and most importantly, roads. The improved roads allowed for better networks for the delivery of goods and services and boosted Belize’s capacity for the booming tourism industry. This project set up Belize City for future success through improved systems and infrastructure management.

Primary Education Development Project

In congruence with the Belize City Infrastructure Project of the 1990s, The World Bank allocated seven million dollars to support Belize’s primary education development plans. The Primary Education Development Project focused on primary education to Belizean children. This included new teacher training systems, improved facilities, and strengthened management which helped improve the national system. Like the infrastructure project, the Primary Education Development Project created immediate fixes to the broken educational system and has impacted policies to build upon it for generations to come.

Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy

Each of the above development projects in Belize shares the common vision for sustainability and continuous improvement. Belize’s 2016 Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy (GSDS) serves the same purpose on a national scale. This plan, built upon the existing plan to create sustainable growth and development called Horizon 2030, focuses on a three-year window between 2016-2019. With it, Belize hopes to cut poverty and hunger, increase access to quality healthcare and education, and improve Belize’s environment, infrastructure and economy. While Belize is facing a tall order with this plan, it has been proven that it can be done through evidence of the country’s history of successful national projects.

Belize remains a developing country. Poverty, hunger, poor health, and poor education are immense problems throughout the Central American country. While these development projects in Belize are certainly making an impact, more must be done to ensure long-term sustainability and growth.

– Eric Paulsen

Photo: Flickr