Podcasting Fights Global Poverty
In a rapidly changing society with the constant technological revolution, humanitarian organizations have to think outside the box in their strategies for community outreach, education and goal achievement. Another outcome of this continually evolving technology accompanies the rise of the Internet as a new form of news media: podcasting. Today, podcasting fights global poverty in myriad ways.

Podcasting to Fight Global Poverty

Podcasts have become a part of communication culture importantly. They cover topics from niche series to major global issues, and they can reach a wide variety of consumers in a fast-paced world. Whether completing a train commute, taking a car ride or cooking dinner, podcasting fills the need for auditory media in a way that exposes significant issues and inspires insightful conversations.

Podcasts are an effective method of spreading information about international issues like global poverty. Take “Poverty Unpacked,” for example, a podcast led by Keetie Reolen. Reolen is a Research Fellow with the Institute for Developmental Studies in the United Kingdom. She uses this medium as a way to archive her research and educate listeners about the intricacies of global poverty. She converses with leaders in this field to offer thoughts on global poverty that are otherwise underrepresented in traditional media.

In one recent episode of “Poverty Unpacked,” Reolen interviewed the author of “The Shame Game,” Mary O’Hara, about the stigmatization of poverty and those experiencing it. In another, she talks with Andrew Fischer, an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, about reducing poverty on an international stage. Her survey of experts highlights innovative approaches and new directions for humanitarian organizations and governments to take when tackling this issue. These podcasts also normalize the practice of having intellectual conversations about a topic so many people know on the surface level, but many never engage with on a deeper level.

Support from International Organizations

On the other end of the spectrum, globally renowned groups like the World Bank host podcasts to highlight the organization’s work as well as that of experts to tackle poverty. The World Bank has short-form podcasts, allowing the group to explore a variety of subtopics under the umbrella of global poverty podcasts. A multi-episode special entitled “Afronomics,” for example analyzes the World Bank’s efforts in Africa through testimonies from multiple authorities. Another podcast, “Water World,” provides a detailed rundown of the World Bank’s Water Scarce Cities project.

Inspiring Listeners to Create Change

Podcasting fights global poverty by providing a creative opportunity to educate the public in a way that connects with listeners beyond the statistics. Innovation, technology and research in this field should have a platform for connecting with the public, not just other researchers. Educating people in this intimate way will allow them to not only better understand global poverty, but also equip them to incite positive change.

– Riya Kohli
Photo: Flickr

Famine Action Mechanism
The World Bank has discovered a new approach to helping the 124 million people currently affected by crisis-levels of food insecurity: artificial intelligence.

Three international organizations: the World Bank, the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have partnered with three of the world’s largest tech giants: Microsoft, Google and Amazon, in a joint initiative to preemptively address world hunger. The result? It’s called the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM).

What is Famine Action Mechanism?

Launched by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on September 23, 2018, in New York, the Famine Action Mechanism seeks to improve international food aid through famine prevention, preparedness and early action. FAM is being created to augment the capability of existing warning systems to effectively distribute aid prior to the emergence of famine. This is being done through the establishment of official procedures that connect early warnings with financing and implementation.

With the cooperation of humanitarian development organizations, tech companies, academia, the insurance sector and, of course, international organizations, this collaborative effort hopes to see success through the investment of a wide variety of stakeholders.

While other forms of famine prediction, like Famine Early Warning Systems Network started by USAID in 1985, already exist, it lacks the ability to give real-time data and requires the hard work of hundreds of employees.

If successful, the Famine Action Mechanism will be the first quantitative modeling process using an algorithm to calculate food security in real time.

Hope is high for executives at Google and Microsoft who have seen the humanitarian power of technology firsthand. Advanced technologies have already proven effective in helping farmers to identify the disease in cassava plants as well as keeping cows healthier and more productive. President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, has expressed that artificial intelligence holds huge promise in forecasting early signs of food shortages.

How is FAM going to be implemented?

Famine Action will be implemented through four steps:

  1. Early warning systems. Microsoft, Google and Amazon web services are coming together to develop a set of analytical models known as “Artemis” to predict cases of famine using artificial intelligence and machine learning that detect correlations between different risks. With more powerful early warnings and information in real time, this will allow aid agencies to create a faster response and preemptively halt escalating insecurity.
  2. Pre-arranged financing. Syncing the early warning system with pre-determined finances helps to prevent food insecurity because it secures funding before a situation devolves into a crisis. The financing for this program is not only set to tackle the immediate symptoms of poverty and famine but also help the community to build safety nets and coping skills to encourage local development in hopes of preventing repetition in the future.
  3. Increasing resource efficiency. The Famine Action Mechanism plans to partner its resources with existing systems to reinforce the most effective and efficient efforts that are already working on the ground. This way, it will be producing a joint response system with the organizations involved with the program.
  4. Stressing preventative and preparedness approach to global famine crises. International Organizations like the U.N. and World Bank are redefining their approach to food insecurity, poverty and famine, making a proactive system of action rather than reactive aid a top priority of their efforts.

Isn’t Famine Pretty Easy to Predict?

While seemingly slow to take place, the cause of famine, defined as a daily hunger-related death rate that exceeds 2 per 10,000 people, is extremely complex.

The usual suspects of food insecurity like drought and crop production aren’t always the forces that bring a community to famine. Other factors like political instability, inflation or a natural disaster have the potential to significantly alter a community’s food supply. Additionally, nine of the last 10 major famines were triggered by conflict and war.

The uncertainty around when and how an undernourished community shifts into a crisis of famine adds to the importance of preemptive action for food insecurity and the demonstrated need for the Famine Action Mechanism.

Hunger in the World Today

After years of progress on decreasing hunger in the world, we have backtracked on those advancements with more than 820 million undernourished people in 2017. Approximately 155 million children will see the effects of stunting for their entire lives due to chronic malnourishment as well as a reduction of up to 13 percent of their lifetime income. Additionally, last year in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan, more than 20 million people faced famine or near crisis levels of food insecurity.

One in nine people in the world today do not have enough to eat, but that does not mean we cannot get back on track. Not only can early response to famine result in saved lives and decreased suffering, but it is also cost effective. The World Bank predicts that an earlier response rate can reduce humanitarian costs up to 30 percent.

In 2017, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged to have zero tolerance toward famine, and in the declaration of this program that pledge has been renewed. In the eyes of the United Nations, the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means ending hunger everywhere for everyone.

To conclude, in the words of Mr. Guterres: “Crisis prevention saves lives. We need to put cutting-edge technology to full use, in the service of all humankind in order to feed everyone in our world and to leave no one behind.”

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

Job Security in OmanOman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world, which has existed since the mid-17th century after the expulsion of the Portuguese. It is an absolute monarchy, ruled over by the Al Said dynasty for centuries. It is a nation that is rich in natural resources (especially oil) but, unfortunately, almost one-fourth of the people of Oman are unemployed.

Oman relies heavily on its oil production for economic growth and high oil prices until the recent past were what boosted its economy. However, the problem with an oil-based economy is that it is unsustainable because of the inevitable decline in oil production and fall in its prices. Oman, like other oil-rich countries in the Middle East and Africa, has been experiencing the negative effects of this decline in prices and oil production.

It is feared that due to “the global economic slowdown, the recession in Europe and the economic slowdown in China and elsewhere, oil prices are not going to increase.” Consequently, there has been an increase in job insecurities and frustration among the people of Oman. In 2012, the unemployment rate was 25 percent. It is expected to increase if the government does not create employment opportunities in the public and private sectors.

In 2011, the people of Oman, with changes underway in the region due to the Arab Spring, protested against the government, demanding economic and political reforms. The government responded with a police crackdown on protestors as well as taking measures to placate people by creating public sector jobs and raising wages.

Analysts believe that the result of raising wages in the public sector is not encouraging, for two reasons: One is that it has brought pressure on the budget, which is already strained by the decline in oil prices and production. The second is that the increase in wages in the public sector has also proved to be a hindrance to private sector growth. In order for economic diversification to take place, which the country needs, Oman needs to create more jobs in the private sector.

The positive news, according to the 2016 Word Bank Economic Outlook report on Oman, is that the country’s overall real GDP growth is expected to slightly recover “as a gradual recovery of oil prices improves confidence and encourages private sector investment.” Further, trade and investment opportunities with Iran are also expected to increase as sanctions are lifted. There is hope that these and other measures will bring help to the people of Oman in terms of job security.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

World Bank
The bullhorn has sounded: implementing an effective foreign policy that reduces global poverty and food insecurities is part of creating the perfect future. Nonprofit organizations aren’t the only ones making this crucial argument; in fact, the World Bank made the same case in its 2017 Governance and the Law Report. These foreign policies should reflect the values of those in and out of power.

“Mechanisms that help give less powerful, diffuse interest groups, for example, a bigger say in the policy arena could help balance the influence of more powerful, narrow interest groups,” the World Bank noted in the report.

Part of the effort to strengthen the economies within developing nations through targeted foreign policy action can come from private interests. According to the World Bank, “Contemporary case studies suggest that business associations have helped government officials improve various dimensions of the business environment—such as secure property rights, fair enforcement of rules and the provision of public infrastructure—through lobbying efforts or better monitoring of public officials.”

In 2016, successful advocacy for a U.S. foreign policy that works towards reducing global poverty and food insecurities resulted in the passing of the Global Food Security Act, the Foreign Aid and Transparency Act and The Electrify Africa Act.

One important aspect of policy development and implementation is that citizens in part drive the process, not just lawmakers. Through elections, political organizations, participation and advocacy, citizens can influence the development of U.S. foreign policies that benefit marginalized communities globally.

“However, all citizens have access to multiple mechanisms of engagement that can help them overcome collective action problems—to coordinate and cooperate—by changing contestability, incentives, and preferences and beliefs,” the World Bank noted in the Governance and the Law Report.

This power underscores the importance of direct communication and advocacy between citizens and their representatives, both state and federal. The World Bank’s report outlined the ways that citizens and political organizations (such as ones built around the common goal of alleviating global poverty) are “associated with a higher likelihood of adopting and successfully implementing public sector reforms.”

There are currently at least eight foreign policy legislation in the congressional pipeline. These include the International Affairs Budget, the READ Act, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act, the Economic Growth and Development Act, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act, the Digital Gap Act and the Global Health Innovation Act.

Citizens can visit The Borgen Project Action Center and join the foreign policymaking process.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr