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Vanuatu's Graduation Vanuatu is a southwestern Pacific Ocean country made up of about 80 islands with a small population of around 300,000. Vanuatu has recently graduated from the list of least developed countries (LDC) despite setbacks due to ongoing natural disasters and other factors. Vanuatu’s graduation from LDC status took place on December 4, 2020. It was first recognized as an LDC in 1985.

What is the Least Developed Country List?

Less developed countries are countries that struggle with maintaining sustainable development, causing them to be low-income countries. In 1971, The United Nations created a category list of the least developed countries in the world. The United Nations reviews and checks the list every three years based on the country’s economic vulnerability, income per capita and human assets. There are currently about 46 countries on the least developed country list. Angola is another country that will be scheduled for its graduation in 2021. Vanuatu has recently joined the five other countries that were able to graduate since the creation of the least developed country list.

Although less developed countries are economically vulnerable, they receive special international aid to help with creating sustainable development. These countries also have specific trade with other nations that are not accessible to more developed nations. This is why less-developed nations are sometimes referred to as “emerging markets.” The majority of the support that countries in the least developed countries list receive is either directly from or set up by the U.N. Committee for Development Policy.

The Success Behind Vanuatu’s Graduation

Vanuatu graduates form the least developed country list despite major setbacks due to climate change, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to other countries that graduated, most of Vanuatu’s success is as a result of the international aid which enabled the country’s stable economic growth. In addition to the aid, Vanuatu has also had success in its strong agriculture sector. The increased diversification in agricultural crops and stocks has helped with the per capita income and human assets criteria for the least developed countries list.

When it comes to the economic vulnerability criteria, Vanuatu is still at risk despite graduating. The risk of economic vulnerability stems from the prevalent natural disasters. Even though the country has shown consistent economic growth, the external shocks from natural disasters are out of the country’s control as it faces about two to three disasters a year. However, there is still a great chance that Vanuatu will have continued success in maintaining sustainable development.

Maintaining Sustainable Development

The most well-known source of maintaining sustainable development for less developed countries is through international aid. Even though Vanuatu has graduated from the least developed country list, the country still is able to receive aid and continue its trading relationships with countries it was given priority to when classified as a less developed nation. For instance, Vanuatu had still received $10 million in emergency aid from the World Bank organization. The funding was for the impact that both COVID-19 and a tropical cyclone had on Vanuatu earlier in 2020.

Significant Success for Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s graduation from the least developed country list is a significant achievement that demonstrates the country’s ability to maintain consistency in its economic growth, while also overcoming challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters. Although the graduation signifies major growth, there is still more economic stability that is needed before the country can significantly reduce its economic vulnerability.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu's Graduation From the LDCsSince the United Nations created the least developed countries (LDCs) list in the 1970s, only six nations have moved off of the list to a higher ranking of development. Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, became the sixth country to do so on December 4, 2020, after being designated an LDC in 1985. Vanuatu’s graduation from the LDCs list can serve as a beacon of hope for more LDCs to achieve higher rates of development.

Economic Growth

The U.N. Committee for Development Policy (CDP) identifies LDCs based on their level of human assets, environmental and economic vulnerability and per capita income. Since 1991, Vanuatu has met the CDP’s income per capita threshold and was recommended for graduation in 2012, having more than twice the income per capita threshold and also meeting the threshold for human assets. In an effort to pursue graduation, Vanuatu began shifting its economic policies to decrease reliance on imports, increase exports and create employment and income-generating opportunities. Vanuatu’s rural economy grew after improvements in the livestock sector in addition to the country’s diversification of agricultural activities to include timber, kava, coconut oil and copra. The tourism industry and real estate investments were also an aid to Vanuatu’s economic growth as income per person increased by more than 2.5 times between 2002 and 2017.

Vanuatu’s Setbacks

Throughout Vanuatu’s progress in economically developing the country, the nation has also been stymied by recurring natural disasters. The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development estimates that Vanuatu is affected by an average of two to three natural disasters per year and noted that Vanuatu is uniquely affected by natural disasters as its size causes the entirety of the country to be affected as opposed to just specific regions. In 2015, Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 cyclone that destroyed 50-90% of the country’s shelters and 95% of crops. Cyclone Pam delayed Vanuatu’s previous progress toward graduation and warranted an extension of the country’s grace period to 2020. Additionally, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a decrease in the country’s tourism industry. While Vanuatu’s first case of COVID-19 was reported only in November 2020, the pandemic has impacted the nation and its economic sectors.

A Pathway for LDCs

While Vanuatu is the third country in the Asia-Pacific region to graduate from LDC status, following Samoa in 2014 and the Maldives in 2011, it is only the sixth country to graduate overall. On track to move up from LDC status are Angola in 2021, Bhutan in 2023 and São Tomé and Príncipe and the Solomon Islands both in 2024. Vanuatu’s graduation can bring hope to the other 46 countries on the LDC list, especially given the global circumstances in which Vanuatu achieved this feat. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively stalled worldwide markets and further excluded many LDCs from international supply chains. With the encouragement of Vanuatu’s graduation from the LDCs list during a global pandemic, hope for the four countries scheduled for graduation in the near future increases alongside support from the international community to ensure an eventual zero countries on the LDCs list.

Caroline Mendoza
Photo: Flickr

Updates on SDG Goal 10 in ArgentinaIn Argentina, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic unrest has stalled efforts to close the inequality gap. Before the pandemic hit, Argentina was making progress on a series of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a framework of global objectives created by the United Nations, designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030. The country was “well-positioned” compared to its Latin American counterparts, according to the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (RACI). The onset of COVID-19 has impacted updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina.

Achieving SDG 10: Reducing Inequality

Argentina had been struggling to achieve SDG 10, which focuses on reducing inequalities within a county’s population and among different countries around the world. To measure inequality, the SDGs use a scale of 0 to 100. The lower the score, the closer the country is to achieving economic equality. The goal is to achieve a ranking of 30 or lower by 2030. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina had a ranking of 51. The pandemic has siphoned resources out of the government and stalled updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina and other progressive reforms. On top of that, millions of Argentinians have lost their jobs and inequality is expanding as a result.

President Alberto Fernández

In December 2019, President Alberto Fernández won the presidential election over conservative incumbent, Mauricio Macri. President Fernández’s political style is that of his mentor, former president, Néstor Kirchner. However, “the COVID-19 pandemic might very well shatter the center-left president’s dreams of following in his mentor’s footsteps and bringing social progress and economic growth to Argentina,” writes Hugo Goeury.

Despite Fernandez’s progressive goals for his administration, reforms have all been put on the back burner since the arrival of COVID-19 in Argentina.

Poverty, Unemployment and the Wealth Gap

In the first half of 2020 alone, the poverty rate among Argentinians increased to almost 41%, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas reported, nearly a 5% increase from the previous year. The Central Bank is also predicting the GDP to contract by nearly 11%.

With almost a third of Argentine workers facing unemployment, President Fernandez is scrambling to financially support his unemployed constituents, while also negotiating the country’s debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to the World Inequality Database, as of 2019, the top 10% wealthiest Argentinians controlled nearly 40% of the country’s income, while the bottom 50% only possessed 17.9% of the nation’s income.

Better Days Ahead for Argentina

Even though updates on SDG Goal 10 in Argentina seem especially challenging right now, Argentinians are still
pushing forward to make their country more equitable for everyone. The U.N. says, “In the post-pandemic world, Argentina must strengthen its productive apparatus and continue to eliminate inherited social inequities and those aggravated by COVID-19.”

– Laney Pope
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone

Maternal mortality may not be a constant fear of yours if you think about pregnancy. However, this threat has not been eliminated in many parts of the world. Simply because developed countries have significantly decreased this issue with medical advances, many women in various regions must contend with this terrible plight. Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, specifically, is still considered to be of high risk and something women should consider prior to pregnancy.

The Most Dangerous Place to Become a Mother

The most dangerous place in the world to become a mother, in fact, is Sierra Leone. This country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates globally. Around every one in 17 pregnancies end in the death of the mother- an overly alarming statistic. An endeavor that is supposed to be filled with joy and excitement is now clouded with fear as mothers worry about their health instead of being able to focus on their babies. This worry is not one experienced globally: Sierra Leone women are 300 to 400 times more likely to die with each pregnancy in comparison to women in Sweden, Finland, and other high-income countries.

Factors That Contribute to Higher Rates of Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone

Postpartum hemorrhaging has accounted for 32% of deaths along with bleeding, hypertension, abortions, obstructed labor, and infections. Hemorrhaging is problematic because a blood transfusion is required immediately to resolve the issue. However, when a woman gives birth at a local clinic, it can take hours to transport her to a hospital for the procedure. Unfortunately, many women bleed to death while waiting. However, most of these conditions can be treated with the correct healthcare, but due to extreme poverty, an overwhelming percentage of families do not have access to the necessary care.  This has resulted in unnecessary deaths.

Another significant factor that contributes to higher maternal mortality rates is that women in low-income countries tend to have more children. As a result, this increases their risk of complications. On average, women in Sierra Leone have five children, which, is considerably high when looking at countries like the United States whose average is 1.73 children. More children typically mean earlier pregnancies. In a 2016 report, researchers found 20% of deaths were girls ages 15 to 19 years old; a grim statistic especially when considering a 15-year-old is three times more likely to die during childbirth than a 22-year-old.

The Good News

Although the facts appear troubling, all hope is not lost. The United Nations has recognized maternal mortality as a serious issue. Thus, it has begun to combat the risk of death during pregnancy and the six weeks that follow.

The UN agency called the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) has started supporting midwifery through three government-run schools that graduate 150 students each year to tackle the high mortality rates. This alone will not improve the situation, as the majority of women in Sierra Leone already have midwives. It should result in better outcomes as these midwives will be better trained and even more common.

The UNFPA also focuses on family planning which reduces mortality by 25 to 30%. This UN organization provides 90% of the country’s forms of contraception through an annual $3 million budget. They estimated that from 2015 to 2017 this service prevented 4,500 maternal deaths and 570,000 unplanned pregnancies.

Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone may be among the highest rates in the world, but the country is taking imperative steps to diminish the risks, steps that have been working thus far. By 2023, UNFPA hopes that they can reduce adolescent births to 75 per 1,000. This, in turn, will massively decrease maternal mortality.

Victoria Mangelli
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Monsoons in South Asian Countries
Monsoons are seasonal changes in the direction of the wind in a region that causes wet and dry seasons. This phenomenon is most associated with the Indian Ocean where its effects greatly impact South Asian countries. The summer monsoon, which occurs between April and September, brings the wet season. Warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean moves inland and brings heavy rainfall and a humid climate. In contrast, the winter monsoon occurs between October and April and brings the dry season, but it is often weaker than the summer monsoons as the Himalaya Mountains prevent most of the dry air from reaching coastal countries. Monsoons in South Asian countries contribute to many industries, such as farming and electricity, however, there are adverse effects.

Negative Impacts of Monsoons in South Asian Countries

Here is a closer look at how monsoons have impacted some countries.

  1. India. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, India is one of Asia’s largest countries. Agriculture makes up 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and over half of the population works in this industry. Consequently, when there is too little or too much rainfall it can be severely damaging to the economy and the livelihoods of millions. The 2009 summer monsoon, for example, brought low rainfall that prevented farmers from planting their crops. Farmers were left to sell their starved farm animals for only a fraction of the normal price. Years with little rainfall also affect India’s electricity as hydropower makes up 25% of its energy source. Likewise, higher levels of rainfall can lead to floods, coastal damage, and other disasters. In 2019, flooding due to heavy rain led to 1,200 deaths and millions of displaced individuals.

  2. Bangladesh. The low elevation and dense population of Bangladesh make it extra vulnerable to the impact of monsoons. Now, with the rise of COVID-19 and hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees in the country, the summer 2020 monsoon has affected 5.4 million lives. This monsoon season brought heavy rainfall that led to the worst floods Bangladesh has faced within the last decade. Nearly a million homes were submerged underwater and 600 square miles of farmland were damaged by the floods. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made relief efforts difficult to reach the country.

  3. Pakistan. Similar to Bangladesh, Pakistan also faced heavy rainfall and floods from the 2020 monsoon season. Over 400 people have died with another 400 injured and more than 200,000 homes severely damaged from floods and landslides across the country. The government reported that the excessive rainfall destroyed nearly one million acres of farmland leaving farmers and consumers in a difficult position. In the Sindh Province, the impact of the monsoon displaced 68,000 people who are now in relief camps. The summer monsoons also affect the short-term and long-term health of victims as disease and infection spread faster within relief camps and the water.  In 2010, communities affected by flooding reported 113,981 cases of respiratory tract infections.

Relief Efforts

The countries above are only a few of the several areas affected by monsoons in the region. Fortunately, several agencies provide emergency relief for monsoons in South Asian countries. During the 2020 floods, the UN helped with the evacuation of 500,000 people and prepared to provide humanitarian aid to the most affected and vulnerable communities. In Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies worked closely with the government to provide victims with basic necessities, such as food, water, shelter, and other supplies. Additionally, the UN launched a $40 million response plan to help over one million people. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations gave over $1 million dollars in emergency funding to provide relief to the Sindh Province in Pakistan and funded other operations that provided basic needs to 96,250 people. Other agencies such as UNICEF standby and are ready to provide relief to any country impacted by natural disasters. The work of these organizations is critical to saving lives.

Giselle Ramirez-Garcia
Photo: Flickr

improve girls' educationAll around the globe, young girls are forced to end their educational careers early as gender inequality is still quite common. Lack of schooling for young girls limits female participation in the workplace and reinforces patriarchal societies. As of 2018, worldwide totals of illiterate girls from the ages of 5 to 25 outnumbered illiterate boys in the same age group by 12 million. Yet,  global female participation in schooling has grown by 16% since 1995. The momentum gained in the past 25 years looks to continue as three important organizations have released plans to improve girls’ education in 2020 and beyond.

The World Bank

As a global economic institution, the World Bank joined the fight to preserve girls’ education years ago. In fact, the bank launched a seven-year plan in 2016 that focuses on improving all women’s rights, going beyond just education. However, the World Bank identified educational opportunities as a key way to break the cycle of injustice and has subsequently created separate funding solely based on female schooling.

In May 2020, a total of $1.49 billion had already been allocated to improving education for women of all ages, both primary and secondary. This will not only help girls learn to read and write but will also lead to women entering the workplace in countries where men are the ones to hold jobs.

The United Nations (UN)

Many know the U.N. as the global agency where countries discuss peace deals and trade contracts. While this is true, the U.N. also has sectors dedicated to human rights advocacy. An entire branch, known as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), works with developing countries to devise plans that enhance educational opportunities for girls. Being under the umbrella of the United Nations adds a level of legitimacy that some nonprofits who want to improve girls’ education are unable to achieve. The UNGEI has a wide range of contributors and currently consists of 24 global and regional partners, four regional partnerships and nearly 50 associated country partnerships. Recently, the United Nations released the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and worked with the UNGEI to add equal educational opportunity for girls as a part of this vision. Girls around the world, especially those living in developing countries, are at the center of this vision, which can lead to powerful change.

Girls Education Challenge (GEC)

Back in 2012, the government of the United Kingdom made global equal education a primary focus. The government joined forces with U.K. Aid to tackle this issue. Together, the two created a groundbreaking 12-year commitment called the Girls Education Challenge (GEC). The first phase of the GEC, which was a huge success, ended in 2017. For the second phase, which will continue until 2024, the U.K. is looking to expand its impact to encompass over 40 projects in nearly 20 nations. With hundreds of millions of dollars now raised for the GEC, its own research suggests that over 800,000 young girls are learning in schools and on the path to finish their education. With four years remaining in the GEC, the United Kingdom’s impact on girls’ education will continue to bring equal opportunities well into the 2020s.

Education, Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction

The World Bank, the U.N. and the U.K. are trying to create fair schooling policies but are also breaking down social barriers in the developing world. Global society is trending in the right direction for gender equality and much more work is left to be done. The work being done to improve girls’ education can and will be a catalyst for change.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Women's Economic EmpowermentA whole two billion impoverished people worldwide, particularly women, are financially and economically excluded. Females are the poorest in the world and women earn on average only 60 to 75% of what men earn. Investing in women’s economic empowerment plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and establishing equality between men and women.

Gender Equality for Global Economic Advancement

The 2017 National Security Strategy states that societies that empower women in their civic and economic lives are more prosperous and peaceful. Studies show that gender equality contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development as well as overall poverty reduction.

CARE defines women’s economic empowerment as the process by which women increase their right to economic resources and power to make decisions that benefit themselves, their families and their communities. It is the transformative process that helps females move from limited economic power to possessing skills, resources and opportunities to compete equitably in markets and control economic gains. Women’s economic empowerment involves transforming the historically-limiting laws, policies, practices and norms through change and advocacy.

Women remain disproportionately affected by discrimination and exploitation. Women often end up in low-wage jobs and fill very few senior positions. Without secure employment, women lose access to economic assets such as land and loans, which limits opportunities to participate in economic and social policies.  Furthermore, many women are responsible for the majority of housework, which leaves little time to pursue employment or other economic opportunities. On average, women devote between one and three hours more a day to housework than men and two to 10 times the amount of time a day to child, elderly and sick care.

Additionally, laws in many countries determine what jobs women can do or give men the right to prevent their wives from accepting jobs.

Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment

In October 2020, U.S. officials and 31 U.N. Member States virtually signed the Call to Action on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which encourages countries to address legal restrictions regarding women’s economic participation. Predictions are that if an equal number of men and women participate in the global economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) could increase by $12 trillion by 2025.

Improved financial security means women can afford healthcare, purchase essentials for their children and play a leadership role in their communities. Typically, women who decide where, when and how to spend their money see improvements in their social and economic status. Financially independent women also increase the level of resources devoted to their children.

Girl Power and the Future

There is strong evidence showing positive links between women’s economic empowerment and health outcomes for women and their families. This includes benefits in nutrition, better family planning and decreased maternal and child mortality. Other studies have found that increasing the share of income for women may provide greater investment in children’s education and result in reductions in gender-based violence. Overall, women’s economic empowerment benefits not just women but the entire world.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Improving Conditions for Refugees in the Central African RepublicRefugees are beginning to return home to the Central African Republic after years of religious internal conflict. Around 600,000 people have been displaced internally and another 600,000 displaced internationally since the start of the conflict. Now, about 2.6 million people that once resided peacefully in the CAR are reliant on humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has been heavily involved in peacekeeping missions and is beginning the process of transferring the Central African Republic refugees back to home soil.

Political Progress in the CAR

The Central African Republic’s politics are one way that citizens will regain their freedom within the country. The U.N. Security Council is interacting with the CAR government to get humanitarian war crimes accounted for and penalized. The war has led to numerous human rights violations and international forums have condemned the actions. Other political progress is being made to elect leaders based on a democratic method. The proposed elections are seen as a method of peacefully negotiating between political differences without force. This holistic method of finding peace incurs that the problem be examined from all angles and solutions will be diverse.

Refugees’ Experience and Local Aid

Since the CAR is land-locked, refugees have scattered in camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Chad, Cameroon and Sudan. The journey for many leaving the territory of the CAR was extreme. Many refugees walked for weeks, hid in forests and were plagued with malnutrition. The resilience of the refugees is coming to fruition in the current transition to peace. Much progress is being made on the ground in the CAR that would create more stability in the government and society.

The problems faced by the displaced are numerous but also change from one area to the next. Much is being done to ease their basic needs, as the area is veiled in violence. The United Nations has adapted to local aid initiatives that provide effective assistance. Additionally, the U.N. has contributed $14.3 million to “help support local aid agencies deliver clean water, education, healthcare, livelihoods support, nutrition, protection and shelter.” Each of these assists makes the return of refugees more possible and more likely.

Humanitarian Aid

One institution committed to helping the Central African Republic refugees is UNICEF. The major ways the organization has contributed to the cause has to do with basic needs being met. For children, the organization is delivering Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food that fights malnutrition and providing immunizations against diseases. Additionally, UNICEF is providing clean water, setting up temporary shelters, training teachers and encouraging education in camps and opening accessible sanitization stations. These major provisions are invaluable and majorly supporting the needs of refugees.

Another high priority for UNICEF is the resettlement of refugees within the country. The Central African Republic refugees, either internally or externally displaced, have begun rebuilding their lives. In 2019, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) propelled a $430 million campaign to assist displaced refugees of the Central African Republic. Although funding and donations have not fulfilled this expensive plan, the campaign has certainly made headway. The coordination of funds is extremely beneficial in restructuring the country and enforcing the progress made in the developing peace agreements.

Major strides in assistance, both political and humanitarian, are making peace possible in the Central African Republic. The basic relief provided by both UNICEF and UNHCR is stabilizing the situation for refugees worldwide. As displaced groups transition back to their homes, currently and in the future, the assistance will be instrumental in securing a steady return.

– Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr 

Women’s Empowerment in ThailandIn Thailand, chief executives of 110 companies have signed an important pledge that agrees to the implementation of U.N. principles regarding women’s empowerment in its economy and businesses. Some of these principles include equal pay for equal work, improved workplace conditions in terms of safety and inclusivity as well as gender equality with a heavy emphasis on executive positions.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs)

This pledge is known as the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which was founded by the U.N. Global Compact and U.N. Women in 2010 and is funded by the European Union. The aim is to push businesses to be responsible for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The pledge is part of a wider movement established by U.N. Women, known as the Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work in Asia (WeEmpower Asia) Initiative.

The WEPs are made up of a total of seven principles. These principles encompass several key areas which include gender equality in corporate leadership, equality, respect of human rights, nondiscrimination, health and safety of all workers including women, training and professional development of women, equality through advocacy efforts and the public reporting on the progress of these principles.

WeEmpowerAsia

Currently, the movement is working towards helping private businesses and organizations increase women’s participation in leadership positions with an overall aim of gender equality. Currently, the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative is working in a number of Asian countries including India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Another country that is participating in the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative is Malaysia. The Initiative is being led by a company known as LeadWomen. LeadWomen’s partnership with U.N. Women has cemented its work toward increasing women’s representation in leadership in Malaysia. As per the pledge, LeadWomen will be running webinars for the 300 Malaysian companies that signed. LeadWomen will also be providing support to these companies in order to make sure that the WEPs are being implemented in all aspects. In Malaysia, over 30% of women in public sector companies are in executive positions.

In Thailand, approximately 24% of CEOs are women, which makes them the third-highest in the world in terms of the percentage of female CEOs. This is comparatively better than both the Asia-Pacific average and global average which stands at 13% and 20% respectively. Thailand also has the world’s highest percentage of female CFOs, which equates to 43%.

Female Inequality Issues in Thailand

Even though Thailand is doing well in terms of female representation in executive roles, that is not the case in government administration, including parliament and judiciary. Only about 24% of executive civil roles are filled by women. In rural areas, female equality is even worse. Many rural women, especially those that belong to ethnic minorities, deal with poverty, exploitation and discrimination, according to the Commission on the Status of Women. Employment of women in these areas is mostly in the informal sector where they hold vulnerable jobs with only a handful in senior positions. Moreover, violence against women is also prevalent in Thailand which hinders opportunities for women’s empowerment.

The Future of Women’s Empowerment in Asia

To combat these challenges and put an end to gender-based discrimination, U.N. Women introduced the Women Empowerment Principles under the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative. The Initiative hopes that by promoting women’s engagement in economic activities in Thailand, it will empower women and put an end to the discriminatory practices that remain in the country.

– Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr