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Efforts to Combat AIDSAcquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has plagued the world since 1981. The global AIDS pandemic has infected more than 65 million people around the world since its arrival, with more than 30 million deaths from AIDs-related causes. The impact of AIDS has resulted in a worldwide effort to discover methods to treat and cure the disease. To date, significant progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. However, more needs to be done and the United States has shown continued commitment to support efforts to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS and the Global Poor

While AIDS is a global problem, it has disproportionately affected poorer regions since its arrival. Africa in particular has a significant number of people living with AIDS. Out of the 1.7 million newly infected people around the world in 2019, 990,000 people resided in Africa alone. The disproportionate numbers in poorer regions as compared to wealthier nations could be attributed to lack of quality healthcare and preventative education. However, continued efforts are being made to address the global AIDS pandemic.

Congressional Efforts to Combat AIDS

The United States has been a leader in progress against the AIDS pandemic. It has made significant efforts to contribute its resources to fight the AIDS pandemic, and tangible results have emerged. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR) has contributed over $85 billion since its inception in 2003 to AIDS research and prevention, thus preventing millions of infections.

The United States Government has indicated that it has no interest in slowing down support for the cause through efforts to combat AIDS. For example, the Global Health Programs section of Title III in House bill H.R.7608, the State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2021 specifically outlines Congress’ plans for AIDS-related contributions in the coming years.

Introduced by Rep. Nita M. Lowey [D-NY] on July 13, 2020, the bill appropriates more than $3.2 billion for USAID through 2022. A portion of these funds will be devoted to programs for the prevention, treatment and research of HIV/AIDS, providing assistance to communities severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The bill also appropriates more than $5.9 billion through 2025 for HIV/AIDS research, prevention and treatment efforts, including a $1.56 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. This all coincides with the billions of dollars already spent in the last decade to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS Progress

As with most issues, funding and resources are necessary to make progress in the AIDS pandemic. The vast majority of new infections occur in countries and regions with weaker finances, poorer healthcare and less quality education, such as Africa and Southeast Asia. It is easy to see that these efforts by the United States and other wealthy nations are invaluable to progress. A particular stride made thus far is that the cost of AIDS treatment drugs has decreased from $10,000 a person to $100 a person in the past 20 years. This has allowed more than 8 million people in impoverished regions access to AIDS treatments. This particular result could be attributed to years of research that the United States and other nations have contributed billions of dollars to maintain. Continued funding will improve the good work that has already been done, such as furthering cost reduction measures on AIDS-related drug treatments as well as further quality education on prevention strategies in regions where AIDS education is sparse.

With continued support and efforts to combat AIDS from wealthier nations such as the United States, even greater strides can be made in combatting AIDS globally.

Domenic Scalora
Photo:  Flickr

Women’s Rights in Djibouti and What the US is Doing to HelpGenerally speaking, many inequalities exist between men and women in Djibouti. Men make up the vast majority of the national workforce. Women have a very low proportion of representation in government compared to men. Historically, the state permitted many forms of unjust treatment for women. In recent years, the Djiboutian government has made many strides in improving the lives of women through legislation, the ratification of international treaties and the cooperation with foreign governmental agencies. In spite of these improvements, quite a bit of work remains in order to assure women’s rights in Djibouti.

Women in the Workforce

Djibouti’s constitution, ratified in 1992, states that all people are equal under the law regardless of sex, language, origin, race or religion. Nevertheless, large gaps exist between men and women which is particularly evident within the workforce. Only 19% of women are employed, compared to 81% of men. According to the Labor Code and Penal Code, all people are protected from discrimination when seeking employment. It is illegal for employers to take into account one’s gender when hiring and is punishable by imprisonment and fines. Furthermore, employers are required to pay men and women equally for equal work.  In spite of these legal protections, labor restrictions still exist for women. For example, women are restricted from working a job that is considered above their strength. This frequently excludes women from jobs that include any manual labor. Thereby, it contributes to 19% employment rate.

Domestic Issues

When it comes to domestic issues, obstacles stand in the way of women having equality within the family. For example, men can request a divorce without the burden of evidence. However, for a woman, she must surrender any financial rights and sometimes even pay her spouse damages. Furthermore, the high illiteracy rate of women in Djibouti (61%) causes women to have minimal access to justice, information regarding their rights and legal assistance. In terms of domestic violence, the penal code only criminalizes violence generally. However, it does not provide specific legal protections from domestic violence. Rape is a violent act and punishable under the law. In spite of this, marital rape remains taboo and is rarely prosecuted.

Gender-based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is another women’s rights issue in Djibouti. The Djibouti federal government has taken many administrative and legal actions to outlaw gender-based violence and reduce its occurrence. The Ministry of Women and Family collaborates with the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD) to combat gender-based violence. This collaboration advocates for better legal protections for women and also provides counseling services to victims of GBV.

One of the greatest obstacles for women in terms of GBV is female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). Many legal instruments are in place that aims at eliminating FGM/C such as Article 333 of the Penal Code and the establishment of the National Committee for the Abandonment of FGM/C. However, FGM/C is still a common practice. As of 2015, an estimated 71% of women and girls were victims of FGM/C. In order to respond to the continued practice of FGM/C, the Ministry of Women and Family released the National Strategy for the Total Abandonment of FGM/C 2018-2022. This plan aims to use radio, television, door-to-door campaigns, school curriculum and high-profile publicity strategies to effectively and quickly eliminate the practice.

How the U.S. Is Helping Djiboutian Women

USAID, through a grant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), began a two and a half year program entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Community Strengthening.” This plan aims at empowering impoverished women in suburban and rural areas through skills-strengthening strategies.

This program has three primary goals: to improve the capacities of the Ministry of Women and Family, to bolster women’s income-generating skills and to promote new women’s cooperatives. A relatively small-scale operation, the program plans to provide about 850 women with the skills to engage in small-scale economic activities. Some of the program’s successes include the donation of raw materials and equipment to women creating handicrafts. It also includes providing literacy courses to women in national languages and supporting artisan fairs where women can showcase their crafts.

This program through USAID is certainly a step in the right direction in improving women’s rights in Djibouti and the ability to earn income. However, a larger-scale program would do even more to help. In light of the efforts of the Ministry of Women and Family and the more recent structural and legal protections, the future looks hopeful for Djiboutian women.

Alanna Jaffee

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Franklin Roosevelt
Born in February 1882, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commonly referred to as FDR, served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. Roosevelt claimed the presidency at the height of the Great Depression and worked to alleviate the horrid lifestyles of millions across the nation. The following are the top 10 interesting facts about Franklin Roosevelt.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About Franklin Roosevelt

  1. Franklin Roosevelt was the only president in American history to have served more than two terms. In November 1944, the American people elected Roosevelt to his fourth term as president. In 1951, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, constraining the presidential term to a limit of two terms.
  2. In 1921, Franklin Roosevelt atypically contracted polio, a disease that leaves the victim paralyzed. FDR subsequently removed himself from the political landscape and instead focused on his rehabilitation. Roosevelt exercised constantly, even when surrounded by loved ones and incorporated his family into his daily regimens. Roosevelt did not convey shame due to his inability to walk and the people elected him to the governorship of New York in 1928, before becoming president in 1932.
  3. In 1934, as part of his New Deal, Roosevelt enacted the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act (RTAA), which was to decrease global poverty and reduce international tensions. The RTAA significantly changed the U.S. trade policy. It gave the president the power to increase or decrease tariffs by up to 50 percent of the amount previously set in 1930. Because of the RTAA, Roosevelt was able to conduct trade agreements with 19 nations (many of which developing countries). Even after Roosevelt left office, the RTAA served as a precedent to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that has paved the way for trade liberalization across the world.
  4. FDR proposed the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937 which targeted elderly Supreme Court Justices. For every justice over the age of 70 who had served 10 or more years, Roosevelt wanted to appoint up to six new justices. The goal of this proposition was to ensure that others did not strike down elements of his New Deal. His bill ultimately failed and the Supreme Court went on to deem a significant amount of his plans as unconstitutional.
  5. FDR was a proponent to the notion that the U.S. had a role to fulfill in international relations due to its status as a global power. He adhered to a concept named big stick diplomacy, which refers to the idea that a nation should use diplomacy but have a contingency plan (often involving the military) if things go wrong. Roosevelt also followed a good neighbor policy towards Latin American countries and removed the Platt Amendment which took away Cuban sovereignty.
  6. People widely regard FDR as a humanitarian because of his efforts to help Americans during the Great Depression. However, many people fail to note that FDR signed an executive order mandating the internment of Japanese-Americans shortly after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese-Americans faced atrocious working conditions and unfair treatment from the guards at the camps. People deemed this unconstitutional in 1944. In 1988, the Reagan Administration issued $20,000 and a formal apology to the surviving Japanese-Americans who had to enter internment camps.
  7. While Roosevelt’s predecessor Hebert Hoover took the approach of non-governmental intervention when concerning the Great Depression, FDR vocalized his determined plan for the nation. From 1933 to 1944, Roosevelt gave a series of speeches conveyed through the radio (because it was the most popular medium of communication) called fireside chats. During these chats, he gave the American people information on the New Deal, the economy and unemployment during the Great Depression, as well as information about military progress during World War II. FDR’s fireside chats helped to heighten public support for his programs during the Great Depression.
  8. In February 1933, shortly after FDR became president, he suffered an assassination attempt. Giuseppe Zangara, a disgruntled worker, had a hatred for the wealthy and blamed FDR for making it difficult to make a living. Zangara did not succeed in killing Roosevelt but did hit five people. Mayor Anton Cermak sustained the most serious injury which ultimately led to his death three weeks later. Roosevelt maintained composure and conveyed to the world that he was a fit president amidst the chaos. FDR went on to implement policies that would directly attack the roots of the escalating economic and social problems across both the U.S. and the world.
  9. FDR was fundamental in the creation of the United Nations even though he died before its official implementation. Roosevelt coined the term to represent the 26 nations that fought to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II. From August to October 1944, Roosevelt and prominent leaders from the U.K., France, China and Russia worked to create a plan that would ensure peace in the world. This comprised of peacekeeping missions and efforts to foster effective international relations. The United Nations officially established on October 24, 1945, six months after Roosevelt’s death.
  10. FDR dedicated himself to free trade, believing that it would significantly enhance global economics and politics. In 1941, Roosevelt and Winston Churchill drafted the Atlantic Charter that outlined these beliefs. Roosevelt stated that global superpowers must work to adopt policies that would aid the growth of all nations, not just westernized ones. In 1944, at the Bretton Woods Conference, these ideas were integral to the formation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The United States did not adopt the Bretton Woods Agreements Act and enter the IMF until after Roosevelt’s death.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a pioneer for a more egalitarian society that did not solely serve capitalist interests. Through the institution of various programs and legislation of the New Deal, Roosevelt championed the rights of the poor and working class. While Roosevelt did conduct some questionable acts and faced concrete political barriers, his legacy revolves around his tireless efforts to make America better for all. As evidenced in the top 10 interesting facts about Franklin Roosevelt, his idea that “we cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people — whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth — is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure” still holds true today.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Decade of Family FarmingFamily farms are the largest employers of human capital in the world. Unlike factory farms, family farms are extremely sustainable and drastically mitigate hunger and poverty at the local level. However, governments tend to sanction legislation that prioritizes the interests of factory farms and fisheries, effectively excluding local producers from sustaining their communities. For this reason, the U.N. has outlined a decade-long plan lasting from 2019 to 2028 that expands the role and influence of family farmers around the world.

Family Farming Statistics

Despite being overshadowed by transnational food cooperations, family farms control more agricultural output and human capital than all factory farms combined. In fact, family farmers occupy 70-80 percent of global farmland and produce more than 80 percent of total global agricultural output. Furthermore, the U.N. estimates that there are approximately 570 million family farms operating around the world, mostly employing people who live in absolute poverty.

The Sustainability of Family Farming

A typical representation of family farming would be similar to that portrayed in Little House on the Prairie. However, this all-encompassing term defined by the U.N. includes mountain farmers, family foresters, pastoralists, indigenous people, local fisheries, hunters and gatherers. Local producers know how to navigate their land and waterways effectively and do so with great reverence since many trace ancestral and historical significance to the land they farm and the waters they fish. In doing so, they preserve the biodiversity of their communities and amend farming techniques to sustain the productive capacity of their local environments.

Furthermore, rural farming expands local economies by providing jobs in various services that accompany the line of agricultural production; family farming encompasses the help of all members of the community. In this communal effort, family farmers also tend to reject artificial growth products made specifically for mass food production, such as dangerous pesticides that result in fatal consequences for the environment.

The Decade of Family Farming: Elevating the Status of Family Farmers

The Decade of Family Farming sets forth an agenda for countries to develop policy and investment strategies aimed at generating sustainable development and prioritizing the interests of family farmers. Meanwhile, the U.N. hopes that the Decade of Family Farming will also mitigate the projected consequences of environmental deterioration by revitalizing local ecosystems. The action plan consists of seven central pillars that incorporate several dimensions of social, political and economic life to achieve such goals:

  • Pillar 1: Renewing policy and establishing links between the private and public sectors to develop investment strategies.
  • Pillar 2: Educating rural youth about the importance of family farming and encouraging them to maintain their traditional farming practices.
  • Pillar 3: Elevating the status of women in farming communities and providing them with access to the management of land, information and financial resources.
  • Pillar 4: Championing the voices of family farmers and expanding their influence in the political arena via family farming organizations.
  • Pillar 5: Enhancing the welfare of family farmers and establishing social protection systems.
  • Pillar 6: Promoting farming practices that will protect food supply from the uncertainties of an impending climate catastrophe.
  • Pillar 7: Protecting regional ecosystems and expanding the diversity of job opportunities in the farming-based service sector.

The Decade of Family Farming is a multi-faceted program that encompasses the betterment and sustainability of the biosphere through protecting the environment, culture, local economies, social life, politics and food resources. It is up to the cooperation of the government and the private sector to ensure the realization of these proposals.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act
Representatives Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) along with eight other bipartisan representatives proposed the Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act. Mongolia has become a prominent ally due to its location; it lies between Russia and China, and while it is independent, it still relies on both countries for resources and support. The Third-Neighbor Trade Act is an important bill for maintaining stable trade relations with not only Mongolia but other allied nations as well.

How Trade Relations Can Strengthen Mongolia

The main purpose of this bill is to create a stronger economy within Mongolia. According to a press release from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) on April 11, 2019, “The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act is not just about the imports of cashmere; it is a smart policy that supports a strong, independent Mongolia that continues to be a beacon of freedom in the region and a strategic partner of the United States.”

This shows how important U.S. trade relations with Mongolia are in protecting independent freedom. The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act comprises of four main components that will improve trade relations.

The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act’s purpose is to improve trade relations and it should make Mongolia more economically stable. The bill plans to utilize the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Through the help of corporations and enterprises, the economy in Mongolia can securely expand. The increase in technology and science can create other forms of trade for Mongolia to offer to the other partnered nations.

Mongolia is constantly competing with China to become the largest producer of cashmere and textiles. With duty-free trade in place for Mongolia’s exports, there will be no other competition for these goods within the U.S. In return, the U.S. will expand on what goods and resources it will export to Mongolia.

Protecting Mongolia’s Resources

The second part of the bill seeks to improve U.S. exports to Mongolia which will help Mongolians survive harsh winters. Winters in Mongolia can be particularly deadly to the livestock that live there. It is particularly reliant on its livestock in terms of the industry employing one-third of its population.

Without any way of protecting their main source of income, these rural communities start spiraling towards poverty. During the time of dzud, which is the Mongolian word for winters so severe they kill plenty of livestock, many things can happen. Mainly, the livestock cannot create a significant enough reserve of fat to protect them from the harsh conditions. If Mongolia becomes a priority to receive imports from the U.S., farmers will be able to better prepare for this type of disaster.

Third, the bill will create more jobs in Mongolia, particularly for women. Women will be able to create cashmere goods within the country instead of exporting the cashmere to China for production. The bill will create 40,000 jobs for women to create cashmere products. Women are primarily dominating the garment industry in the country. These jobs will boost Mongolia’s economy by not only empowering the nation but by keeping it out of poverty.

Duty-Free Trade

Lastly, the bill will impose a duty-free trade on products containing 23 percent or more cashmere. This part of the bill has the support of two major trade businesses, The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and Mongolia’s Gobi Corporation. Through the Mongolia Third Neighbor Trade Act, “Congress would forge a stronger partnership with our friends in Mongolia and provide American consumers with better access to these high-end products,” said the CEO of AAFA. The Gobi Corporation has shops within the U.S. The Corporation believes that the U.S. will become an even stronger competitor against China as a consumer of cashmere goods.

The Mongolia Third-Neighbor Trade Act seeks to improve relations with Mongolia. These relations have been changing since 2007, putting the U.S. in danger of losing the trade advantage of China and Russia. Mongolia has provided military aid to many countries in both Afghanistan and Iran. While representatives have proposed and changed this bill over the last few years, the support of 10 Congressmen may have perfected it. The five Democrats and five Republicans working on this bill show that a united front can lower the effects of poverty.

Christina Atler
Photo: Flickr

Women in Peace and Security

In mid-June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing to discuss the importance of women in peace and security, a follow-up to the Women, Peace, and Security Act (WPS) passed in 2017. This particular hearing responds to the recently published White House Strategy that sets various objectives and goals to diversify the roles women play in the peace process and increase women’s leadership by providing them with the resources, skills, and support needed to secure successful peace agreements.

The members of the committee, as well as the testimonies, emphasized the opportunity to put these plans into immediate action in Afghanistan. The U.S. has committed to peace negotiations with the Taliban but each agreement has failed due to miscommunication, stalemates, or other political reasons. Palwasha Kakar, Senior Program Officer for the U.S. Institute of Peace, stated that including Afghan women in peace and security negotiations is essential to the success and sustainability of peace and recovery in Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan

The Taliban government of Afghanistan held power from 1996 to 2001, during which Afghan women were stripped of natural rights–they were prevented from obtaining an education and job, showing skin in public and leaving the house without a male chaperone. Rape and violence against women were widespread until U.S. military action overthrew the regime. A driving factor of U.S. intervention 18 years ago was to protect Afghan women from threats and actions against their human rights. Despite the tremendous gains women have achieved in political, economic and social life since 2001, women still struggle to have a seat at the peace talk table.

However, Afghan women have found ways to participate at a local level. Women have brokered local deals by negotiating directly with Taliban leaders; for example, Afghan women’s communication with the wives of the Taliban helped facilitate the release of hostages several times. Second, Afghan women use their access to information to act as informants for the U.S. and its partners. Third, Afghan women mobilize the public by increasing public awareness and support for the peace process. Fourth, Afghan women have mobilized support across various ethnic lines to push for a unified commitment to equal rights for all Afghan citizens.

Impact of Women on the Peace Process

On a local level, Afghan women in peace and security positions have made significant achievements for Afghanistan and its cities. However, on a global level, women were only included in two out of 23 rounds of negotiations with the Taliban between 2005 and 2014. Yet research shows that women are a necessary asset at the negotiation table. When women are involved in peace agreements, they are 64 percent less likely to fail and 35 percent more likely to last more than 15 years. In her testimonial, Jamille Bigio argues that women in peace and security negotiations are more likely to deescalate tensions and stabilize their communities. Therefore, closing the gender gap will improve a country’s conditions.

Four Focus Areas Outlined in the WPS Strategy

The outcome of this hearing suggests that women’s participation in Afghanistan is essential to create a stable and sustainable agreement. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee plans to simultaneously use and revise the following four goals from the WPS Strategy to encourage multi-agency resources and support for women’s participation in Afghanistan peace talks.

  1.  “Seek and support the preparation and meaningful participation of women around the world in decision-making processes related to conflict and crises.”
  2. Three activities to support this goal includes: Incentivizing women to participate in security-sector programs that train foreign nationals in male-dominated courses, integrating local women’s interests into conflict prevention and resolution, and leading by example by increasing American women participation and making local women partners.
  3. “Promote the protection of women and girls’ human rights; access to humanitarian assistance; and safety from violence, abuse, and exploitation around the world.”
  4. Women are often the targets of violence, and therefore experience unique consequences of conflict. To increase the role of women in peace and security, the U.S. must identify and eliminate obstacles that generate sex-based discrimination and gender-based violence and include medical care and psycho-social support for women as part of humanitarian aid.
  5. “Adjust U.S. international programs to improve outcomes in equality for, and the empowerment of, women.”
  6. Train U.S. diplomats, military and development personnel on the needs and perspectives of women to increase their ability to prevent and mediate violence and support the involvement of women in peace and security negotiations.
  7. “Encourage partner governments to adopt policies, plans, and capacity to improve the meaningful participation of women in processes connected to peace and security and decision-making institutions.”

Women peacekeepers receive more trust from their communities and therefore have more power to increase participation among other women. Further, research shows that women are more likely to address social issues during negotiations, which helps communities recover. Women’s participation increases the likelihood of reaching a sustainable agreement.

Women are essential for achieving peace and security in Afghanistan, and vice versa. The U.S. is more likely to bring peace to a hostile environment with women’s participation. As Sen. Tim Kaine said at the hearing, “We [U.S] have incredible power to give people hope and inspiration, and I hope we will continue to do it. And I think there’s a lot of women in the world who really have grown to count on us during the years, and I hope we don’t let them down.”

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

Violence against indigenous women
Recently, activist groups in the U.S. have brought attention to a staggering problem: the increasing number of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls. Violence against indigenous women and girls does not only occur in the U.S. Native women all around the world also find themselves trapped in the margins of justice, vulnerable to various forms of violence. This article will consider three common threads that perpetuate these patterns and the initiatives taken to stop them.

Economic Exploitation

Due to centuries of displacement and disenfranchisement that nation-state expansion caused, many indigenous communities around the world have limited access to economic opportunity. As a result, indigenous women must often work in highly exploitative labor, which can take the form of slavery and/or human trafficking.

In Nepal, girls of Tharu origin or Kamlaris frequently find themselves in a coordinated system of bondage. While the Nepal government prohibited this system in 2000, the economic scarcity that some Tharu families face allows for this exploitation to survive, according to the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.

Violence against indigenous women takes the form of debt bondage in several other Asian countries. Cases have popped up in China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and other countries in the region. In Latin America, economic exploitation is a detriment to the well-being of indigenous women and girls, with life-threatening child labor forced upon many native communities.

Encroachment onto Indigenous Land

Land-grabbing for economic or political reasons threatens many indigenous communities around the world. In many cases, this weakens the solidarity instrumental in ensuring the well-being of community members, leaving women and girls more vulnerable. Seventy-six percent of people living on tribal land and 96 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence against indigenous women in the U.S., for example, are of non-native identity.

In Asia-Pacific countries, the appropriation of land for private or public use met with resistance and has led to the increased terrorization of indigenous communities, according to the U.N. The military forces of the Philippines, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have all used rape and murder of women and girls as a war tactic.

Governmental Negligence

Combating the multifaceted forms of violence against indigenous women and girls is a tall task; political negligence of the problem makes it even harder.

Consider one particularly harmful U.S. policy which states that tribes do not have legal jurisdiction over criminal acts that nonmembers commit. In 2013, this law changed to allow prosecution in cases of domestic violence, but sexual assault and trafficking crimes still lie outside tribes’ legal power. Of course, the federal level could try these crimes, but law enforcement often fails to respond in an adequate or timely manner. Even in urban settings, nearly a third of perpetrators of violence against indigenous women do not receive justice in the U.S., according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.

There is a similar dynamic playing out in New Zealand, where Maori women often face discrimination. If they bring a complaint to the government, it may not be fruitful, as “[t]he government has a poor record of recognizing and protecting Maori rights and interests generally,” says indigenous legal scholar Kerensa Johnston.

Confronting the Challenge

To address violence against indigenous women and girls, two different types of solutions are necessary. First, governments must implement immediate-relief policies: the U.N. notes that many countries have invested in support services for women and girls affected by violence and in awareness campaigns to prevent violence from even occurring. Policies can also work to improve data collection to ensure that fewer cases go unaddressed; Washington state just passed a bill with this aim.

As the U.N. warns, however, solving this problem will require more than tinkering around the edges. Histories of inequities make justice elusive, putting native women and girls at a higher risk for gender-based violence. The U.N. report suggests that communities and countries will find a path forward only once they recognize this history.

– James Delegal
Photo: Flickr