Social media has changed the landscape of fighting poverty, creating policy, and changing the world. While there are some negatives to the spread of social media, the United Nations has turned the power of social media into a tool to create the next global development agenda.  In a bold step, the United Nations is reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people around the world to use their voice to shape the next decade of anti-poverty goals.

The United Nations started the process by holding simultaneous conferences in around 100 countries and then added digital media and mobile phone technology to include as many more people as they could in the development of the global development goals. These goals will build on the millennium development goals and set up a new generation of goals ready to fight global poverty.

The web platform, World We Want 2015, allows people to log on and collaboratively create policy ideas and vote on development priorities. Check out the website and cast a vote here.  The website is working to create user-driven communities able to provide solutions to critical global challenges. With more mobile phones than toilets in the world, short message service (SMS) and interactive voice response (IVR) are being used to engage with the public.  It’s working too. In Uganda, the United Nations was able to capture the views of more than 17,000 young people in a survey about their development priorities.

To increase participation, the United Nations is holding workshops in areas like the Amazon where access to the Internet and mobile phone technology is very limited.  Almost half a million people have participated in the global conversation and three key issues have risen to the top of the priority list. Those are:

1. Accelerate the progress to achieve the MDGs by the end of 2015

2. Address sustainability, governance, and security from violence and jobs in future goals

3. Include more opportunities for people to participate in agenda-setting and progress monitoring

All the information gathered from the global conversation is being used to shape the future development agenda to be put in place in 2015.  This is an exciting development in global policy-making. People have the ability to voice their concerns and ideas to negotiators and decision makers directly. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: The Guardian

africa economic development commodity industrialization un
A new report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union says the key to long-term development in Africa is commodity-based industrialization. The study collected data mostly from nine African countries and the continent’s five sub-regions. Those countries are Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

The report urges African nations to take advantage of their abundance of natural resources by using a commodity-based industrialization strategy. Each nation should frame its own specific policy for commodity-based industrialization so that it can direct its own development.  This is necessary to address poverty and gender disparities, youth unemployment, and other challenges African nations faces. The report states that “massive industrialization based on commodities in Africa is imperative, possible, and beneficial.”

Instead of African nations shipping raw materials to foreign nations to make commodities which are of higher value, the report recommends adding value to raw materials locally. Not only does this increase the profit to African nations but also fosters diversification of technological capabilities, an expansion of an advantageous skills base, and deepened industrial infrastructures in individual countries.

Case studies were prepared for Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.

Essee Oruma

Source: UN News Centre

“The fashion industry in the past several years has redefined how to market, how to brand, how to raise awareness, and how to inspire others,” said Ray Chambers, with United Nations special envoy for malaria. “I think the fashion industry will lead the emergence of so many of the developing economies.”

There are consistently more and more global campaigns supporting social and economic growth, assisting in development and lifting people out of poverty through ethical fashion. Even the United Nations has two initiatives specifically focused on employment through apparel production and trade. One is Fashion 4 Development  (F4D),  supported by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  (UNESCO), providing economic opportunities for women and men around the world to help lift them out of poverty.

F4D partners with organizations such as Advanced Development of AfricaFashion Designers Without BordersWomensphere, and with first ladies around the world to raise awareness and money to build more sustainable futures—the core principles of F4D. First founded in 1996, and then later re-launched in 2011 by former supermodel Bibi Russell, who works “to preserve the heritage of my country, foster creativity, provide employment, empower women, and contribute towards the eradication of poverty.” F4D has helped more than 100,000 people in Russell’s home country of Bangladesh through a local textile business, and has ongoing initiatives in Ghana, Nigeria and Botswana with a specific focus on promoting African designers and producers in the global market.

Another UN project, jointly run with the World Trade Organization (WTO) through the International Trade Center (ITC), is the Ethical Fashion Initiative.  First conceived of by an Italian shoemaker, Simone Cipriani, who saw no reason why Italy’s model of fashion production could not be recreated in Kenya.

Mr Cipriani sought out unemployed and underemployed women with experience in basic beadwork and tailoring, and with training he has turned his small idea into a profitable company. Ethical Fashion had sales of $900,000 in 2012, and employs 1,200 women full time. Their wages have gone from about $2 a day to nearly $8 and this income then circulates back into the community and further expands economic growth. Many other fashion houses have since started projects with the Ethical Fashion Initiative as well.

Regionally, many designers have started programs in the same vain. Tete (Maria Teresa) Leal, an Ashoka Fellow, started her mission in the ’80s to help women use high fashion to tackle poverty in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Her cooperative, COOPA-ROCA, was started in Rio’s most populated slum, first training women in manufacturing and business skills. She then started receiving high-quality fabric donations and was then able to create a full collection, eventually selling it all over the world. In America designer Tory Burch, the second youngest self-made, female billionaire, has started a program with Accion providing microloans to small, fashion business hopefuls. She provides capital as well as mentoring and training. “It’s about investing in people who might otherwise not have the chance to pursue their goals. It’s also incredibly important to the economic recovery of our country,” Burch said. To date, the program has distributed almost 100 loans, each worth an average of $7,000.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Forbes, The Economist
Video: You Tube


Independent United Nations experts are advising the World Bank to include human rights standards in their criteria for giving loans and all other interactions with developing countries. The World Bank will hold a review in the upcoming months to discuss its social policies and is expected to adopt international human rights standards.

When the World Bank does not consider the human rights of a specific country before investing, the organization risks unintentionally hurting the extremely poor in that country. This happens because some development ends up benefiting the wealthy people while the poor suffer. For example, poor farmers may lose their land, and therefore livelihood, in order to build new housing structures that have been sanctioned by the World Bank.

The group advocating for human rights standards in the World Bank includes representatives for the Special Rapporteur (and its sub-groups on extreme poverty and human rights, rights of indigenous peoples, and rights to food) and the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.

As such, the World Bank can expect to hear arguments from this group urging them to consider issues like “disability, gender, labor, land tenure, and the rights of indigenous people” in the meeting. These suggestions will also be open for public comment. The goal of adding human rights criteria to World Bank standards is to ensure that the poor benefit development as well as wealthy people.

The World Bank will update its “safeguard policies,” its social and environmental policies, to make sure that the voices of the poor are not overpowered by the wealthy. This review, which will analyze the activities of the World Bank for the past two years, is a huge opportunity for the organization to begin to reach out to the world’s poorest.

– Mary Penn

Source: India Blooms
Photo: The Foundry


As the world deals with the movement of millions of people as refugees, illegal immigrants, or simple shifts of communities, it is important for countries experiencing these changes in large numbers to recognize that whether they choose to identify it as an issue, for better or worse, it is not going to disappear. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led the first day of the 46th Commission on Population and Development in New York whose 5 day conference will address how countries should deal with migration, both internal and external.

It is at a point when halting the movements of people takes more energy and wastes more time than finding solutions that will harness their skills and help them assimilate into their new home. Ban Ki-moon brought up the reality of the situation that “It is not a question of whether to halt the movement of people across borders. The question is how we plan for such movements and make the most of them.” The same 5 goals should be taken into consideration in a variety of situations: whether it is for Syrian refugees fleeing across borders to Jordan or Iraq or Sudanese fleeing Darfur for another region in their country.

  • Ensuring the safety of migrants and a legal passage

  • Creating a direct connection between the policies on migration and the job market

  • Recognizing the presence of illegals and addressing their concerns

  • Facilitating societal integration for the migrants into their new communities

  • Allowing for a timely return to home countries if necessary

While these goals are clearly easier said than done, following this path would ensure that migration is not a win-lose situation but more of a win-win. For countries experiencing such population patterns, we must hope that they understand how important working with migrants is to not only better their lives, but perhaps better the lives of their country’s long time citizens, economy, and general fit into the global arena.

Deena Dulgerian

Source: UN News Centre

While tensions have been escalating over the last few weeks between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States, United Nations humanitarian aid and development workers are still working inside North Korea.

North Korea began to increase the frequency and severity of its statements after the passing of United Nations sanctions. Today 36 U.N. workers from around the world are still working in the country alongside 21 North Korean workers. A North Korean official claimed that foreigners should contemplate leaving the country, saying that they could not promise their safety after April 10. The fact that the humanitarian aid workers continue their work in such a tense and potentially dangerous situation is a testament to the spirit of the people who are working to help improve the lives of those living in severe poverty. United Nations representatives are concerned about the safety of their staff but say that they will be closely studying North Korea’s actions and later decide what they see as the appropriate course of action.

As the United States is more and more involved on the international scene with North Korea, South Korea has maintained US support of the aforementioned aid workers. Even while N. Korea’s leadership claims to be at the point of declaring war these people are still working to help the many people suffering from malnutrition and severe poverty there in North Korea. These workers provide a true testament to the global passion to help others and fight poverty.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Reuters

Kenya Kids
Foreign Policy writer and member of the committee to create the next set of U.N. Millennium Development style goals for post 2015 claims that the MDGs have worked.

While many saw the Millennium Development Goals as a mere showing of goodwill that would not affect much in the fight against poverty back in 2000, they could not have foreseen the successes that have been reached within the past decade. The goals that span from fighting world hunger to increasing gender equality throughout the world have made a real difference. The primary goal, to the world’s population of people living on less than $1.25 a day has already been accomplished. Other goals are at varying levels of progress. Some of the most important highlights are that severe poverty has fallen in every region, malaria deaths have dropped, all regions have greater access to HIV/AIDS treatment centers, and most countries have made real progress toward reaching the goal of one hundred percent primary school enrollment.

While other goals are not as close to being reached, such as the goal to decrease maternal mortality, the Millennium Development Goals have certainly made a positive impact on the world and have been a great example for the committee that has been charged with creating the next set of development goals. Hopefully all U.N. member countries will attack the next set of goals with the same vigor and eagerness that has helped make the Millennium Development Goals a successful venture.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Foreign Policy, United Nations MDG Report

April 5 marked 1,000 days until the end of 2015. In response, the United Nations made a public statement emphasizing the need for accelerated action from governments and organizations around the world to work towards the eight Millennium Development Goals. These goals include targets such as addressing poverty and hunger and a global partnership for development by the end of 2015.

Since the implementation of the MDGs in 2000, there have been many successes throughout the world. Access to safe drinking water has spread to two billion more people. Maternal and child mortality has decreased significantly. In the world of medicine, huge advancements have been made in fighting diseases such as malaria and AIDS. Basic education is available to more boys and girls. And global poverty has decreased by a half.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced the campaign called “MDG Momentum – 1,000 Days of Action” commenting that the Millennium Development Goals were significant in setting global and national priorities, mobilizing action, and achieving remarkable results.

Also starting Friday, UN agencies and other individuals participated in 1,000 minutes of online programming taking place on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google hangouts.

“We all have a responsibility to make the most of the next 1,000 days and fulfill the millennium promise to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said UN Secretary-General Ban.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: UN


While most reports about Syria the past week have discussed the casualties of what has been the deadliest month to record in the three year long civil war, hope through education remains in the face of strife and depravity.

Of the thousands of children who have fled to Jordan and Iraq, some have been fortunate enough to continue their education. More recently as well, these children also began receiving consistent meals and snacks at their schools.

On March 24, the World Food Programme, a branch of the United Nations, began a special program to feed children attending schools in refugee camps. Their goal was not only to increase the children’s nutritional intake but to also ensure that they continue to attend school. In a matter of two weeks, World Food Programme has already seen a 20 percent increase in attendance throughout the camps they worked in.

World Food Programme partnered with five different schools; two schools in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan (run by UNICEF) which services 6,000 children and the Domiz refugee camp school and two schools in Al-Qaim, located in Iraq, reaching 4,500 children.

The main snack that is distributed is a date biscuit, an already popular and familiar snack in the Middle East. This version however is fortified with three minerals and 11 vitamins, providing students with 450 calories to help sustain them through their day.

With plans to help an additional 24,000 children in Zaatari and 1,500 throughout Iraq, World Food Programme would need to raise $780,000 to run the program through the end of the year. Aside from the millions of dollars needed to feed all refugees, and not just children attending schools, this particular project has hopes of being able to create a stable routine and lifestyle for children who have already encountered so much.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: UN News Centre


Some say globalization has excluded or even impoverished women due to disproportionate job loss from an influx of foreign goods into domestic markets. Others say that living standards have improved for women due to the creation of new jobs and economic growth in second and third-world nations. The discussion is nuanced, and there are both improvements and impediments to women’s equality:

Pro-trade Research:

• The World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report (WDR 2012) finds an increase in international trade has tended to increase women’s employment.
• The value of trade growth goes beyond just job creation. Employment allows greater autonomy for women working outside the home, empowering them with greater decision-making authority – a key shift in development for the woman, and for the next generation.
• The arrival of garment jobs in Bangladesh increased the probability of a five-year-old girl attending school. Either due to parental awareness to prepare their daughter for skilled work later, or simply because they had additional income.
• Greater trade has increased job opportunities for women in many countries. This is especially true for manufacturing and service exports, characterized by labor-intensive production.
• In Korea, the number of women employed in manufacturing grew from 6% in 1970 to around 30% by the early 1990s.
• In Delhi and Mumbai, call centers now employ more than 1 million people, mostly women (WDR 2012).
• In Bangladesh, female garment workers have higher self-esteem than other female workers in non-export industries; some even take employment against their family’s wishes.
• In one study, female garment workers in Bangladesh marry and give birth at a later age.
Trade-inequality Research:
• There is still a wide disparity in the women-to-men wage gap for the same job.
• In Korea, even with high labor demands, the women-men wage gap narrowed only marginally between 1975 and 1990 (Seguino, 1997).
• Women are subject to more job insecurity. In Turkey, gross job reallocation is larger for women than men, showing women are subject to a more volatile employment status. In Chile the gross job reallocation rates are more than twice as high for women than men.
• A systemic issue is that greater employment segregation emerges as new industries and companies expand and increase in value. In East Asia, as countries have moved to more skill-intensive manufacturing, there has been a decline in the female manufacturing workforce. Between 1980 and 2008, women’s share of manufacturing employment has declined from 50% to 37% in Chinese Taipei, and from 39% to 32% in the Republic of Korea (Berik, 2008; ILO, 2011).
• In agriculture, women’s weaker land rights and limited access to productive inputs can limit their opportunities to benefit from greater agricultural trade.
• While gender gaps in schooling have largely closed, association in different fields of study, and thus different career opportunities, continues to be an issue. In higher education, women are more likely to choose fields related to education and health, but not science, engineering, or construction (WDR 2012).
• In severely disadvantaged populations, such as remote rural areas, girls still tend to drop out of school more often than boys.
• Companies under-invest in training female employees, reflecting a view that men are less likely to leave paid work to fulfill domestic responsibilities (Seguino and Growth 2006).
• In Afghanistan, as one example, women’s mobility is severely limited because they are not allowed to interact with men outside the family, or work outside the home without permission from a male family member, or to own their own land.
Does globalization help or hurt women? It seems the expansion of global markets and trade is quantitatively lifting more women out of poverty and providing new access to opportunities. The impediments for women are indicative of historic sexism, and potentially greater globalization will help eradicate antiquated traditions. Read the full article for discussion on how to turn the trend toward greater equality – all the time.
– Mary Purcell

Source: ITC
Photo: UFA.lookmart