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The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in KenyaSeahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is addressing the issue of clean water in Kenya. Currently, 41 percent of Kenyans (19 million people) still lack reliable, safe water sources for drinking water. While on vacation in the Maasai Mara region, Wright witnessed the challenges faced by locals, especially females, when it came to collecting drinking water and decided to start a fundraising campaign with the goal of building two wells in the village he stayed in.

The Global Issue of Clean Water

The availability of clean water has been a major issue across the globe. In July 2010, the United Nations deemed access to clean water and proper sanitation a human right. Yet in 2017, 2.1 billion people still lacked safe drinking water and 4.5 billion did not have sufficient sanitation services. Without safe management of sanitation services and wastewater from cities, businesses and farms, waterways are likely to be polluted. When these water sources are used by community members as drinking water, many health risks arise.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation remain the most common reason for child mortality and are associated with diseases including cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid and polio. By creating the infrastructure for water services, an impoverished community can significantly reduce the number of preventable health issues.

K.J. Wright’s Fundraiser for Wells in Kenya

Clean water infrastructure, however, can be expensive. To build a single well in the village K.J. Wright visited will cost $20,000. In order to adequately cover the expense of two wells, Wright has set a goal of $50,000 for his fundraising campaign. He will personally be donating $300 for every tackle he makes during the football season, which has added up to $1,500 as of November 2018. He has also created an online donation page through Healing Hands International for individuals wishing to support clean water in Kenya.

Women and girls are particularly affected by this problem because water sources are often miles away, and females are usually the ones expected to collect water for the family. Aside from the health impacts of walking great distances daily, the time invested in this chore also prevents many girls from attending school.

Seeing this had a profound effect on Wright. Commenting on his trip to Kenya, Wright said, “I noticed this young girl had dirty brown water. So, I just wanted to help this community. The young ladies have to walk many miles twice a day just to bring back water, and when they do get the water, it’s not even clean. […] I just want to bless this community that blessed me.” By building these two wells, Wright will be helping these young women not only by reducing the time it will take to collect water but also by giving them access to a clean water source.

Changing Lives

Local access to safe drinking water will drastically alter the lives of residents and improve the overall health of the village. Clean water in Kenya is just one example, but celebrity efforts, such as the steps taken by Wright, can have significant positive impacts on impoverished communities.

Fundraising campaigns and advocacy from public figures affect change quickly and can reach diverse audiences that otherwise would not be educated on issues of poverty, clean water, women’s rights and more. Wright plans on returning to Kenya next year and hopefully will continue supporting the world’s poor and inspiring others to take action as well.

– Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in LibyaLibya, located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, has been marked by turmoil since the Arab Spring that occurred in 2011.

Formerly a dictatorship, the country has undergone many changes in recent years.

The top 10 facts about living conditions in Libya presented in the article below highlight what life is like in the country today.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Libya

  1. Libya is in a state of political unrest. Since the fall of former leader Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan government has splintered into multiple factions, including two parliaments, two central banks, three potential prime ministers and multiple armed militia groups.
  2. Recent plans to hold general elections in early December have been canceled. Due to stalled talks between factions, the elections did not take place, but a recent summit in Palermo saw both factions recognized by U.N.- Government of National Accord and General Khalifa Hafter, who holds sway over much of Eastern Libya, open to holding elections in early 2019.
  3. A recent ceasefire in Tripoli is still active. The ceasefire, brokered by the U.N. in September continues to hold, with armed groups within the capital withdrawing from key locations. Libyan officials hope to replicate the success achieved in the capital elsewhere in the country.
  4. Libya relies heavily on its oil reserves. The country has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, estimated at 48,363 billion barrels. Oil and natural gas are out of most importance for the country economically, accounting for about 60 percent of GDP and 82 percent of export earnings. Sadly, due to the current climate in the country’s crude oil production has fallen, from over 1,500 barrels per day before the 2011 war to 1,000 barrels per day in 2018.
  5. The current political situation and a drop in oil production have led to a high unemployment rate, but the situation is improving. In recent years, unemployment has been slowly but steadily decreasing, from 19 percent in 2012 to 17.7 percent in 2017.
  6. One of the biggest challenges facing the Libyan population is access to health care. As a result of the recent conflict, only four of the country’s hospitals are functioning at high capacity, and over 20 percent of the country’s primary health care facilities are closed.
  7. Improvements in health care are underway. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been able to distribute the first batch of essential medicines to multiple primary health care centers. The medicine will benefit an estimated 19,000 people for three months, and a second and third batch of deliveries are in the works.
  8. The life expectancy in the country is high. Since the middle of the 20th century, life expectancy has improved dramatically. In 1950, the average lifespan was just 52.9 years. Since then, the average lifespan has increased to 76.7 years in 2018.
  9. Unrest in the country has led to intermittent access to water. The country’s largest city, Tripoli, saw its supply of water cut off by armed groups twice- at the end of 2017 and in September 2018, with one such cut lasting nearly a week, forcing residents to rely on potentially unsafe water.
  10. Programs are in place to improve living conditions in Libya. The Government of National Accord, with the U.N. support, launched the Stabilization Facility for Libya. Through the program supplies such as ambulances, garbage trucks, solar panels and computers are being provided to schools and government offices. The program is also helping repair damaged infrastructure and provide education to millions across the nation.

Although there is still uncertainty for the country’s future, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Libya show that there is a reason to believe things are getting better.

Projects like the Stabilization Facility for Libya, the decreasing unemployment rate and the potential for new general elections all show that things are getting better for Libyan citizens.

– Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

Outlook for Sustainable DevelopmentIn 2015, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to expand upon the progress of the Millennium Development Goals that were set from 2000 to 2015.

Comprised of 17 goals, the SDGs address issues such as poverty, education and health with the overall aim of achieving worldwide peace and prosperity by 2030. Three years into the initial reports on the outlook for Sustainable Development Goals express skepticism that these goals can be reached at the current rate of progress. The problems in meeting these goals are described below.

Eliminating Poverty

According to the World Bank, the rate of poverty reduction that more than halved the world population of people living in extreme poverty from 1990 to 2015 is currently in decline. The organization estimates that the annual rate of poverty reduction that was 2.5 percent from 2011 to 2013, will decrease to less than half a percentage point.

The World Bank has also calculated that the bottom 40 percent of people in terms of income would need to see a yearly income increase of eight percent or more for the next 12 years in order to meet the first SDG of reducing the global poverty rate to 3 percent or lower. The report also notes that income growth never reached this height from 2000 to 2015, despite the notable progress in poverty reduction during these years.

Improving Education

Although the information is scarce, the available data suggests that the current rate of progress in education is also too slow to meet designated targets by 2030. In its 2018 report, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) projects that at least 22 million children worldwide will be unable to participate in pre-primary education unless the current rate of progress doubles in countries that lag behind.

Low reading proficiencies among 15-year-old adolescents are of additional concern. According to the same UNICEF report, 26 percent of countries and 36 percent of 15-year-olds need to see faster improvement in reading proficiency in order to meet the target for quality education. This is without accounting the 70 percent of countries and 61 percent of 15-year-olds for which there is little or no data.

Providing Better Health Care

Along with education, health is considered one of the most important factors in fostering economic and other forms of development. The Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Report provides recent data and future projections for 18 SDG indicators as a way of tracking the overall progress of the initiative, the majority of them pertaining to health. According to the 2018 report, the U.N. estimates that by 2030:

  • Mortality of children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 3,9 percent of live births to 2,6 percent, which is 1,4 higher than the target.
  • The rate of stunting in children under the age of 5 will be reduced from 27 percent to 22 percent, which is 7 percent above the target.
  • Basic vaccines will be available to anywhere from 74 to 90 percent of the world population, falling short of the goal to be accessible to all people.
  • Neglected tropical diseases will see a decrease from 17,000 to 13,000 per 100,000 people, well above the goal of 15,000 cases per 100,000.
  • Universal health coverage will be available to 72 percent of the global population, 3 percentage points higher than in 2017 but well below the goal of achieving universal coverage for everyone.

The Good News in the Outlook for Sustainable Development Goals

While the outlook for sustainable development in each of these reports is not ideal in terms of the time it will take to be achieved, data trends still show progress, not regression, in development. With 12 years remaining, the United Nations is still in the initial stages of its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If the projections for 2030 fall short of the targets for the SDGs, they at least provide a better understanding of the extent of the resources necessary to improve the outlook for sustainable development goals going forward.

In consideration of the data, the World Bank, UNICEF and the Gates Foundation have all called for increased investment in world development. As a specific example, the World Bank has invested $3.2 billion in education programs for girls between 2016 and 2018, exceeding a commitment of $2.5 billion.

If all actors in the 2030 Agenda follow suit, the current outlook for Sustainable Development Goals does not have to determine the final extent of the world’s progress.

– Ashley Wagner
Photo: Flickr

UN Peacekeeping Mission Celebrates its 70th Anniversary

Raising awareness of human rights is one of the key missions of the United Nations (U.N.), founded in 1945. Part of the mission’s responsibilities is to promote peace in conflict-stricken areas such as the African continent. The U.N. peacekeeping mission plays a crucial role with 14 active operations worldwide, and its 70th anniversary in May 2018 was a just cause for celebration due to its impressively impactful efforts.

U.N. Mission’s Main Functions

One relevant fact about the U.N. peacekeeping mission is that it does not interfere with a country’s authority during a conflict; rather, it works as a peace-promoting partner.

U.N. peacekeepers are members of the local military force who can be distinguished by the use of a blue U.N. helmet or beret, and a badge. These workers also have the role of aiding post-conflict areas with extra support so as to rebuild a safe community.

Reestablishing Peace in Côte d’Ivoire

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, is one such example of success. When a second civil war broke out right after the election of President Alassane Ouattara, 2011 became an increasingly intense year for the already-weakened country.

The former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to let the newly-elected President Ouattara take office. As a result, numerous conflicts between their supporters caused the exodus of about 200,000 people to Libya. The death of 400 people marked the three-month period after the 2010 election.

The early days of the U.N. peacekeeping mission consisted of ensuring the implementation of a cease-fire agreement after the 2002-2003 conflicts between the religiously-divided northern and southern regions.

The conflicts kept increasing after the first civil war in 2002, but so did the U.N. peacekeepers — their ranks eventually totaled 11,792 in 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The rape of women and torture were some of the human rights violations the mission worked to combat, and in 2011, 1,726 human rights violations were reported. Thankfully, the presence of the U.N. troops reduced them to the impressive number of 88 in 2016.

Due to such consistent efforts, the refugees that fled the region during the long civil war period could finally return and have the chance to live a stable life again. The mission was successfully closed on June 30, 2017, and Côte d’Ivoire now has a promising future as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

U.N. Mission Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but its citizens have struggled with the effects of never-ending conflicts among President Salva Kiir, and his former Vice President Riek Machar.

Tension escalated between the two parties, leading to the formation of a rebel group lead by ex-Vice President Marchar. Ethnic disputes from the Dinka and Nuer groups marked a series of manifestations of violence such as village pillages and the murder of 50,000 people since 2013.   

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has 16,987 members serving in the area while South Sudan has 2 million refugees. The troops have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the 210,000 displaced citizens who temporarily live in the Protection of Civilian (POC) sites located in the country.   

Peacekeeping Challenges

Peacekeepers face numerous challenges, one of which being that they were implemented for aid on a short-term level, but as the conflicts continue to grow the sites have become a long-term refuge to the citizens. In fact, $50 million has been allocated to the implementation of POC units as of 2014.    

Another problem for the peacekeepers is the violence that sometimes erupts inside their own camps. In 2016, tension between the ethnic groups Dinka and Shilluk caused the damage of a POC unit located in Malakal. Unfortunately, 1,521 shelters were burned, along with clinics and medical schools.

Women’s Role in Peacekeeping Missions

Women serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions have the important role of bridging relations with groups that can not be easily reached due to national cultural norms.

Female victims of violence have a higher probability of reporting cases to women holding peacekeeping positions. A teenage rape victim in Monrovia, Liberia, opens up: “I can be scared to talk to a man; a woman is better. She is like an auntie or mother.”

The recently closed U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia is an example of how women can empower each other through service — 125 female officers from India positively influenced and helped foster success for Liberian women between 2007 and 2016.

Their work was so remarkable, in fact, that the country had an increase in the number of women interested in serving as police officers. This new group of officers will continue to ensure that other females can have a voice if future conflicts emerge.

Maintaining Stability

Women also hold a crucial function in maintaining stability in war-torn areas. Armed robberies went down to 65 percent in Monrovia because of the presence of Indian female officers patrolling the city on foot.

Gerard J. DeGroot, a professor from the University of Saint Andrews who studied cases of women in the armed forces, stated: “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.” 

Global Influence of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission

World leaders can strongly benefit from seeking partnerships with the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Despite the challenges some of these missions faced, the efforts have provided well-structured plans overall to post-war countries.

The restoration of peace in many communities could have taken much longer without the U.N. peacekeepers’ help. The years of service the peacekeepers have dedicated to the world is an example that selfless acts produce the best results when it comes to crisis response.

– Nijessia Cerqueira
Photo: Flickr

United Nations Empowers Women
The United Nations (UN) is a multinational organization that promotes universal human rights, encourages global cooperation and establishes international law and order among nation-states. The United Nations empowers women because they are the spearhead of social equality. The organization has made great strides in the fight against gender inequality, and the United Nations empowers women socially, politically and economically.

Five Ways the United Nations Empowers Women Globally

  1. Within Kyrgyzstan, the U.N. is teaching 15,000 young people to respect and appreciate gender diversification. The United Nations’ education program in the Chui region of Kyrgyzstan is tackling issues that impact girls and women. The program will consist of seminars that discuss a variety of different topics, such as violence, diversity and livelihood skills.

    The main objective of these discussions is to bring awareness through education, creating harmonious, respectful relations between men and women. They will enlighten the youth on both human rights and fundamental business skills, allowing the youth to grow together to form more inclusive economic, political and social initiatives for the present and future.

    Girls are facing many challenges within Kyrgyzstan. The United Nations empowers women by spreading a message of universal human rights. The country is adopting these morals in order to make a better tomorrow for the women of Kyrgyzstan.

  2. Several African countries are currently bringing an end to gender-based violence in education systems. The United Nations, Education International and Gender at Work founded “Education Unions Take Action to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence” in 2016, and the initiative continues to be implemented today. The United Nations empowers women in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia through this program.

    The goal of this program is to decrease gender-based violence within schools across Africa. Unions have banded together in order to strengthen the cause, learning that education plays a vital role in providing safety to young girls, boys and educators. Discussions and classes have proven to be effective in the fight against gender-based violence. Now, these unions are introducing a global campaign in order to educate the world about the challenges their communities face and the practices they use in order to decrease violence.

  3. The U.N. is hosting workshops in African countries in order to encourage education among girls. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) has a vision for the year of 2030: an inclusive, fair education system that supports equality among women. The workshops across Africa will help with this vision.

    Called the “Gender-Responsive Education Sector Planning Workshop,” planners for the academic school year will learn about new ways to incorporate young girls in classes. They will also effectively and fairly include both genders in lesson plans. These workshops are sure to provide more opportunities to young girls through West and Central Africa.

  4. The U.N. is giving rural women access to digital technology in order to fortify their economic equality. Many women across the globe work in agriculture, yet they do not have the same property rights as men. The United Nations reported that rural women make up over 25 percent of the world’s population. Rural women provide the food for their communities, yet landowning and financing are just two liberties that they often cannot obtain; the U.N. is working to make that different.

    The U.N. is breaking gender barriers by giving rural women digital technology so that they can compete with men in the agricultural business. Women are now better able to access agriculture inputs and technologies for climate resilience.

    The indigenous women of Guatemala are further examples of how the U.N. is empowering rural women globally. These ladies participate in a joint program of many international organizations that help women become financially stable and independent. They are now saving money, which results in better conditions for their home life.

  5. Marta Vieira da Silva is now a Goodwill Ambassador, through which she can empower young ladies to accomplish their dreams. Marta Vieira da Silva is a Brazilian soccer player who now works for the U.N. as a Goodwill Ambassador. She has committed herself to helping young women achieve their goals, whether it is through sports, politics, medicine, business, engineering, etc.

    Vieira da Silva will work closely with the U.N. Women Executive Director in order to increase opportunities for girls in sports. If complete equality is to be reached, it means equality in all things—including sports. World leaders and international organizations view sports as an engaging way to strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The United Nations empowers women of all backgrounds and proves that women can do anything if they are only given the chance. With continued efforts from organizations like the U.N., total gender equality is within the world’s reach.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts about the Rohingya GenocideThe Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is not just persecution, but a genocide. According to an April 2018 Al Jazeera feature article, Myanmar has taken part in “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people by not recognizing the group as people and stripping away basic human rights such as food, shelter and clothing. There is also extreme military violence to eradicate the Rohingya, which has led to seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

7 Facts About the Rohingya Genocide

  1. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries. They speak Ruaingga, which is distinct to other Myanmar languages, and they are primarily Muslims. According to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, evidence of a 1799 document shows that the Rohingya have resided in Myanmar since the 18th century and possibly earlier, considering the earliest records of Muslims in Myanmar are from the 12th century. Today, there are 1.1 million Rohingya living in Buddhist Myanmar.
  2. The Rohingya have had no state identity since 1982. The British rule (1824-1948) considered Myanmar as a province of India, and there was a high volume of Indian and Bangladeshi migration of laborers to Myanmar, which was considered an internal migration. After independence from the British, the Myanmar government recognized the migration as illegal. According to a 2015 report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, The Union Citizenship Act was passed in 1948 following independence, and the Rohingya were not included. A 1962 military coup required citizens to obtain national registration cards, and the Rohingya were only given foreign identity cards, which limited jobs and educational opportunities. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed, which did not recognize the Rohingya as one of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups.
  3. Religious violence plays a large role in the tension between the Rohingya and the Myanmar government. Since 1982, the Rohingya have been persecuted and victims of violence. The Rohingya make up 2 percent of Buddhist Myanmar’s population but represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar. Often overlooked, religious violence has been key in the tension between the Rohingya and the military. In 2012, Muslim men had allegedly raped a Buddhist woman, which created massive religious violence against the Rohingya, forcing about 140,000 into camps for internally displaced people. According to CNN, from August to September 2017 alone, 6,700 Rohingya were killed by the Myanmar government while 2,700 died from disease and malnutrition.
  4. The majority of the Rohingya live in the Rakhine state, one of the poorest states in Myanmar, and it is illegal for the Rohingya to leave. In addition, 362 villages have been destroyed by the military. Rakhine is filled with “ghetto-like camps” and lacks access to education, healthcare, services, homes, water, etc., stripping the people of basic human needs.
  5. Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and Burmese leader, has kept quiet on the genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi has neither criticized nor praised the Myanmar government for the genocide and does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group. The Myanmar military claims it “maintains peace and stability,” although the U.N. states that the Myanmar military has committed crimes against humanity. Aung San Suu Kyi and her government, in fact, recognize the Rohingya as terrorists, in particular to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
  6. The U.N. states that the Rohingya genocide is the “world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.” UNICEF estimates 687,000 have sought refuge dangerously by boat, primarily in neighboring Bangladesh, and over half of them are child refugees. However, Bangladesh has presented resistance to the refugees, because a poor, densely populated country such as Bangladesh will be unable to sustain them. In August 2017, the U.N estimated that there are at least 420,000 Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Additionally, there are around 120,000 internally displaced Rohingya. An estimated half a million Rohingya are still in Myanmar.
  7. International aid has provided 700,000 Rohingya with food, and aid is imperative to save the ethnic group. International help has greatly impacted the Rohingya community. In addition to food, countries, such as Pakistan and India, have helped with providing refugee camps for the Rohingya. Almost 100,000 people have been treated for malnutrition. By January 2018, 315,000 children have been vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The U.K. has provided 59 million euros for those fleeing Myanmar, and the U.N. Security Council has appealed to Myanmar to stop the violence against the Rohingya.

The Rohingya genocide is described as “the world’s most persecuted minority.” Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity with ongoing violence, refugees, disease, malnutrition, poverty, etc. The Rohingya genocide must be seen through a humanitarian and moral lens to put an end to the atrocities being committed.

– Areina Ismail
Photo: Flickr

child labor
The worst forms of child labor by international definition is: the enslavement, sale, trafficking, debt bondage, serfdom or compulsory labor of anyone under the age of eighteen. In the United States, minors are a protected class under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

This act prohibits the oppressive labor of children, and is meant to include anything deemed physically or emotionally damaging, hazardous, or would inhibit the well-being and education of such individuals. Outside of the United States, however, minors are not necessarily granted such special protection and may begin working under hazardous conditions without profit, access to education, ability to escape or hope of a future.

International Labor Organization

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency founded in 1919, estimates that there were 40.3 million people in modern slavery, a quarter of whom are children; in fact, in 2017, 152 million children were in child labor around the world.

“Alliance 8.7 is a global strategic partnership committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7, which calls on the world to ‘take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 to end child labor in all its forms.”

This organization has made tremendous efforts towards attaining its goals to eliminate child labor completely. As evidence of progress, there has been a decrease of 94 million children previously engaged in child labor since the year 2000.

Slavery vs. Child Labor

The distinction between slavery and child labor is important to note, as it distinguishes between what is considered labor and involuntary servitude, which by definition is forced. “Slavery is the holding of people at a workplace through force, fraud, or coercion for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor so that the slaveholder can extract a profit.”

Of the 40 million slaves today, the majority are female, and the prevalence of slavery is most common in the Asia & Pacific regions, as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. As noted above, slavery takes many different forms and about 10 million of the slaves in existence today are children.

Forms and Causes of Slavery

The most typical forms of slavery are: debt bondage, contract slavery, sex trafficking, forced or servile marriage, domestic servitude, worst forms of child labor and child soldiers. The breakdown of industries where slavery takes place is fifty percent through forced labor in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, fishing, mining and other physical labor industries; 12.5 percent sex slavery in forced prostitution; and 37.5 percent forced marriage.

Poverty alone clearly does not cause slavery to occur, however, it is a large determinant of what allows slavery to catalyze in the first place. Slavery arises out of vulnerability and, as with all forms of cruelty and evil, predators prey on the weak.

In addition to poverty, other susceptibilities to one being subjected to involuntary servitude include: a lack of awareness of rights and risks, absent or weak protective organizations, absence of critical services, inadequate legal protection and survivor vulnerability. Human trafficking occurs within approximately twenty-three percent of the people who make up the slave population.

A Network of Support

The creation of stronger support systems is one key action item to putting an end to slavery. This is termed capacity building, and includes improved training, technical training and assistance to already existing organizations. Support systems aid in identifying those at risk to poverty and child slavery, preventing slavery from occurring and helping those in the aftermath to thrive under post-traumatic conditions.

As with all other inhumane acts, raising awareness is a crucial component to the creation of a world without child slaves.

Child Labor

While slavery is an obvious unspeakable injustice that strips the innocence of nearly 10 million children, the other 152 million children who are child laborers equates to one in ten children across the globe.  The child labor statistics mentioned are primarily related to work in agriculture, with a smaller amount who work in the service or industry sector.

By continents it is estimated that 72.1 million child laborers exist in Africa, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 62 million, the Americas at 10.7 million, Europe and Central Asia at 5.5 million and the Arab States at 1.2 million. Thirty-eight percent of children in hazardous work conditions were between the ages of 5 to 14 when this data was collected.

A Child-Slave-Free World

One way to commit to the creation of a slave-free world and end child labor is to be a responsible consumer. Simply buying products from reputable companies who use ethical practices to produce their goods is a step in the right direction towards positive change. For business owners or those in corporate professions, knowthechain.org aids businesses in how to make ethically sound choices with respect to labor practices.

Demonstrating support for legislation crafted to prohibit child labor and the creation of stricter deterrents to using slave labor is a means to a solution. Finally, preventative measures can be taken by raising awareness, and increasing availability of education so that all people around the world know their rights. It would also help if funding is allocated to organizations that work to create positive change through both prevention and assistance.

Also, Free the Slaves contains additional information on what can be done to fight slavery and make ethically sound purchases.

– Bridget Rice
Photo: Flickr

In a recent internal memo titled “America First Foreign Assistance Policy,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley outlines possible aid cuts to nations that vote against U.S. initiatives within the U.N. It is suggested that foreign assistance programs should be partially contingent upon voting with the U.S. at the U.N. The memo comes in the wake of the United States’ motion to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a move that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Although the motion passed, it was also met with widespread condemnation; 128 countries in total condemned the move. In response, the United States threatened to cut foreign aid programs. Commenting on the vote at a recent AIPAC conference, Haley stated, “We’re not forgetting that vote. As I said at the time: On that vote, we were taking names.”

As of today, only Palestine has received cuts in foreign aid assistance. This is largely due to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to enter into peace negotiations with Israel. In the view of the Palestinian government, the United States has lost its position as the neutral-party at the negotiating table.

A major element of Haley’s “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” is the direct link between foreign assistance programs and American security interests. For example, Iraq and Egypt remain exempt from cuts in foreign aid even though both countries have voted against the United States in the past on multiple resolutions. It is argued that continued aid to Iraq and Egypt is vital in protecting U.S. security interests in the Middle East.

Countries not exempted from cuts who offer the U.S. little economic or security benefit could see major shifts in aid assistance. Specifically, American foreign assistance programs in Ghana, Vietnam and Zimbabwe are under fire. $4.9 million to aid in Ghana’s construction of schools, Vietnam’s $6.6 million climate change program and a $3.1 million job training initiative in Zimbabwe are highlighted in the document. Currently, aid programs for roughly 40 countries who have voted against the U.S. in the past are under review.

In addition to the details of the “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” document, the State Department has put more than $100 million on hold in funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Another $100 million requested by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has also been denied. It is unclear as to why the funds have been denied or when they may be approved.

With the recent release of U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s proposal for major changes to American foreign assistance programs, there is much concern for countries that receive U.S. aid, most notably for nations viewed as nonessential to U.S. economic and security interests. Furthermore, countries that lack a track record of voting with the U.S. on U.N. resolutions could face serious cuts.

It is unknown whether these policy changes will be formally adopted in Washington, D.C. The proposed changes have seen much backlash from both the Department of Defense and intelligence community. Ultimately, the American mission to eradicate international poverty and obtain global security is at risk.

– Colby McCoy

Photo: Flickr

SomaliaThe debate over the efficacy of humanitarian aid in impoverished countries has been a hot topic in recent years. Some people believe that humanitarian aid breeds dependence, while others argue that it can exploit some of the most vulnerable people in impoverished countries. To provide better and longer-lasting aid, the U.N., the U.N.’s International Children’s Emergency Fund and the World Health Organization, among others, are taking a new approach to humanitarian aid. The new method, dubbed “A New Way of Working,” combines the short-term aid for emergency relief with long-term development efforts. The organizations are testing this model for development in Somalia, one of the more embattled nations on Earth.

Finding a Solution

Whether it’s disaster relief or funding for infrastructure projects, foreign aid does help people who need it. Despite the horror stories in the news concerning corruption, mishandled aid only accounts for an estimated 9 percent. Not perfect, but not as bad as some purport.

Many issues still plague not only the development in Somalia but in humanitarian aid and global investment around the world. One reason is modern humanitarian assistance finds its roots as a disaster response mechanism, whether it’s man-made or natural, and funds need to be spent within 18 months. Conversely, developmental aid sprung up as a result of colonialism and seeks long-term solutions such as education and agriculture, with funding plans structured in three to five years cycles. So, the projects needed to accomplish these varying goals are often very different.

Development in Somalia: A Guide for Others

Somalia is a country recovering from a two-decade civil war and a 2011 drought that killed over 260,000 people. With the government declaring 2017’s drought another national emergency, aid organizations realized a different approach was necessary.

In January 2018, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the U.N.’s Development Program (UNDP) set out to provide immediate assistance to those in desperate need of water. It also tried to identify the root of the emergency and establish projects that will allow everyday people to tackle the problem on their own when the next drought inevitably comes along.

While this sounds great in theory, there needs to be a practical element for improving development in Somalia. The current drought has lasted three growing seasons and is killing crops and livestock at alarming rates, which precipitates into a nationwide famine. In response, the OCHA-UNDP project built a sand dam in Bandarbeyla.

This dam allowed farmers to maintain their livestock, a vital resource for the agricultural economy in Somalia. Farmers say they can now save up the money they used to have to spend on water. Finally, these aid groups no longer have to focus solely on subsistence and can invest their energy and resources on education and security projects that will make Somalia stronger and more stable as it progresses as a nation.

Where Will It Be Seen Next?

The success of this project for development in Somalia is giving hope for other nations dealing with similar environmental and security-related emergencies.

  • South Sudan:
    The world’s youngest nation has over 1 million people at risk of famine. Luckily, the massive humanitarian response has kept the situation from getting worse.
  • Nigeria (Northeast region):
    Due to the Boko Haram insurgency, more than 5 million people need housing and food assistance.
  • Yemen:
    A brutal civil war has left more than 75 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid.

These three nations face similar problems to Somalia in that they endure a vicious cycle of drought and insecurity. The UNDP and other organizations are hoping to implement strategies similar to what is occurring in Somalia with the goal that “A New Way of Working” will allow these countries to flourish on their own.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr