Ending Global Extreme Poverty


It’s 2015 and we are starting to see powerful people, organizations and countries come together to try and end extreme poverty on this planet. The rapid growth of technology coupled with the increased visibility of extreme poverty has pushed many to take action.

The simple definition of extreme poverty is those that earn less than $1.25 a day but many are skeptical of using an income-level as a definition. Living in extreme poverty is very difficult. These people often live without access to medicine, food and water, housing or education. Everyday these people have to make life and death decisions between these things that the rest of us take for granted. In 1995 the United Nations defined extreme poverty as:

“a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services.”

It is estimated that 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and some regions are more susceptible than others. India and China have quickly improved extreme poverty in their countries but countries in sub-Saharan Africa have had a much harder time overcoming their systemic issues that lead to extreme poverty.

Almost all countries are growing but poorer countries are growing very slowly. Poverty has many different levels. One hurdle for ending extreme poverty is corruption. There is a direct correlation between poverty and levels of corruption. Money and revenue from corrupt countries goes into the offshore bank accounts of those countries’ wealthy. No investments are made to improve the country’s infrastructure and institutions.

Geographic location is also highly predictive of a country’s propensity to increase per capita wealth. Countries without access to navigable waters are much less likely to become wealthy. Life is much more difficult in tropical regions like sub-Saharan Africa. From poor soil to adverse conditions for photosynthesis, farming is much less productive. In addition, many countries in tropical regions couldn’t take advantage of the modern use of livestock to farm land because of the Tsetse fly.

A good explanation of why some countries are poor and others rich can be seen in this video, by School of Life:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-4V3HR696k]


In 2000, as part of the Millennium Development Goal, the UN aimed to cut global extreme poverty in half by this year. This goal was achieved five years early in 2010. Since then, the major players in the international community including the United Nations, World Bank, NGO’s and wealthy philanthropists have set a goal of ending global extreme poverty by 2030.

Despite all the hurdles that countries with extreme poverty face, We have it in our capabilities to end extreme poverty. With a good understanding of what causes poverty and empirical studies that have proven that poverty can be eliminated, it is just a matter of time before the global poverty reaches zero.

Bill and Melinda Gates are the richest couple in the world and have been hard at work in ending poverty since 2000. In their foundation’s annual letter this year they laid out the three reasons they believe the 2030 goal is possible and what they are doing to help expedite the process.

  • First, they aim to cut child deaths by half through better immunization programs. Vaccines for diarrhea and pneumonia will be widespread.
  • Second, they will help bring farming technologies to poorer regions that will help increase yields.
  • Third, electronic technology and mobile banking will continue its rapid growth in adoption helping poor people save money. This technology will also give them access to online education resources.

Other strategies put forth by the international community include connecting countries to the global economy, spreading water filtration technology, investments in renewable technology and educating people on sex and hygiene.

Ending global poverty is in our sights. As we’ve seen with India, Pakistan, China and Indonesia ending poverty is possible. As technology continues to improve and more people and organizations join the fight, we will be at zero poverty by 2030.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

At the end of 1948, shortly after World War II had ended, the United Nations convened in Paris to declare that every person across the world is entitled to certain inalienable rights. One of the Allies’ main goals during the war was to implement a number of fundamental freedoms for individuals. Many of these were later implemented into the more comprehensive Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The UDHR has changed slightly since the formal declaration was originally drafted in 1948. It was officially signed into international law by a satisfactory majority of United Nations member countries in 1976 as part of the International Bill of Human Rights (IBHR).

The IBHR also included the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The latter two international covenants were separated because member countries of the United Nations believed there was a stark difference between political rights and cultural rights. In addition to stating the rights of individuals regardless of state affiliation, it attempts to implement the rights in the countries that have ratified them.

The three parts of the IBHR contain a lot of similar verbiage including definitions of various freedoms, health standards and education. Leaders understood that changes would not happen overnight so provisions were written in to allow for “progressive realization” wherein countries would be recognized if they were taking steps to implementing standards.

While most UN countries adopted the UDHR at the time, there were some notable countries that did not. Saudi Arabia, a long-time ally of the United States, did not sign the agreement because it included provisions on freedom of religion.

Though the UDHR is not an official treaty, variations of its language have been used to create a number of international treaties. International Human Rights Day is held every year on the 10th of December in observance of the day the UDHR was signed into law.

A video animation of the UDHR can be seen below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTlrSYbCbHE]

Eritrea and the Mediterranean Migrant Crisis


On the eastern end of the the African continent in the Horn of Africa lies the State of Eritrea. The population consists of a variety of different ethnicities and most inhabitants are either Christian or Muslim.

The country is no stranger to violence, having been at war with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries at the end of last century and the beginning of this century. More recently, however, the country has seen extreme violence at the hands of President Isaias Afwerki.

A large proportion of Eritreans have fled the country because of the methodical injustice inflicted on thousands of Eritrean citizens. These human rights abuses include systematic torture, kidnapping, slavery and rape all at the hands of Afwerki and his government, which he has been in control of for nearly 20 years.

A human rights panel of United Nations officials has found that the situation in Eritrea slowly deteriorated after the country implemented mildly oppressive practices in an effort to curb violence in the 90s.

It has gotten so bad that hundreds of Eritreans are fleeing the country every day. This is not an easy decision to make either. The journey to Europe is perilous. It is estimated 2,000 people have died this year traveling the Mediterranean to Europe to escape Eritrea and other violent countries in region. Exact numbers are not available because often bodies of the perished are lost at sea.

This exodus from Eritrea was briefly met with more violence when security forces of the country were ordered to kill escaping citizens.

This year has seen record numbers of refugees coming from the region seeking refuge in Europe and it has become a huge problem for Greece and Italy. The number of Eritreans reaching these countries is only surpassed by Syrians who are also dealing with a grave human rights situation in their country.

Human rights organizations have not been allowed into the country and these abuses persist. European nations have to decide between granting Eritreans asylum or sending them back to Eritrea where they will likely be tortured or put to death.

Human Rights in North Korea


When Kim Jong Un came into power after his father’s death in 2011, very little was known about the young man. The unknown led to speculation that maybe he would be a reformer, after all he as a basketball fan and was educated in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the human rights situation has not improved and in many cases deteriorated.

North Korea is a highly secretive country and little is known about even its highest ranking member. In theory, the country has agreed to a number of human rights treaties and even gives rights to its citizens through a constitution. But there is little to no freedom in the country.

International human rights and other civil society organizations are not allowed in the country to keep the regime accountable. From within the country there is only one political party, one source for news and opposition to the status quo can be deadly.

All publications, television and radio are controlled by the state and even possession of outside broadcasts is illegal. Citizens aren’t even allowed to have cell phones to speak with friends and family outside of the country.

One of the only ways we are able to get information about North Korea is from defectors. Their stories are abhorrent not only for their brutality but also for their regularity. Prisoners are tortured through beatings, rape, sleep deprivation, and forcing prisoners to remain standing. Another common practice is to send prisoners to prison camps where they are forced to work for inhumane hours without pay.

These camps, that government officials deny exist, are replete with prisoners of conscience and their families. North Korea practices collective punishment. The immediate family of these prisoners are sent to prison camps, and in some cases even the grandchildren. Children working in horribly unsafe conditions is a regular sight in these camps according to defectors. Prisoners have very little clothing, are regularly executed and die from starvation.

The government’s repressive actions are meant to deter opposition. Threats of forced labor and the sight of public executions are commonplace. Defectors often leave their family behind to certain imprisonment. Travel outside of the country is illegal and border guards have the right to shoot escapees on sight. China does not recognize defectors as refugees and sends them back to North Korea. Any defector that is returned by China faces torture and forced labor.

The death penalty has become simply a formality in the country and can effectively be enforced for any crime because the laws around it are so vague. Kim Jong Un himself has employed the death penalty for a number of political foes and even an ex-girlfriend.

Even ordinary workers in North Korea are treated poorly and barely earn enough money to provide for their family. Workers are not allowed to organize and must accept horrendous working conditions.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) strategy to keep its stranglehold on the people’s mind is ineffective. Despite the threat of forced labor camps, and execution there is a vibrant black market and South Korean television is popular. The military at the border happily accept bribes to smuggle people out of the country and entertainment from flash drives and DVD’s. Defectors are constantly looking at ways to undermine the oppressive government with information.

In April of 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council opened an investigation into DPRK for “crimes against humanity”. North Korea has not cooperated with the UN and has denied all requests for visits from UN representatives. Though it will be difficult to hold the country accountable because they are constantly on the defensive with their military and are unresponsive to sanctions.


The Water Situation In California

Almond blossom tree

The water situation in California will be difficult to solve. There are a lot of things to take into account. The Golden State is in a severe drought and many say the current proposals to solve the problem are insufficient and don’t attempt to solve the root problems.

You can’t look in the national news without seeing a depressing photo of a lake, river or reservoir with a side by side photo from five years ago. So who or what is the culprit? There is plenty of blame to go around but it’s important to see through the bickering.

Some news outlets looking at the drought have looked to bottled water as the reason for water loss. Bottled water is not as heavily regulated as tap water, it’s expensive and poses a threat to the environment but its consumption is relatively low.

There has also been a lot of conversation around the agriculture in the state that is responsible for 80% of the states water use. The two conversations center on two popular California exports – beef and almonds. Almonds and other fruits and nuts are an important cash crop for the state. The common statistic you’ll hear when you discuss the drought in California is that it takes one gallon of water for one almond. This is, however, a little misleading because it takes into account the time for an almond tree to come to maturity. Beef, however, uses a lot of water per pound.

When Governor Jerry Brown asked people to voluntarily limit their water consumption there was a drop but another dry season meant that these restrictions would now be mandatory. This will help and is one area where changes can realistically be made with better technology and drought resistant plants. For farms increased efficiency will be vital to the long-term water situation.




A Very Brief Intro To Civil Society

Megaphone Graffiti

In the world today the most prominent agencies of society are government and business. These public and private organizaions are vital to a democratic society. But there is a third sector of a democratic society and this is known as civil society. The study of civil society is of increasing importance in our globalized world. The civil society is made up of NGOs and other institutions that attempt to carry out the collective will of the people. The elements that make up a civil society are the freedom of speech and an independent justice system.

Civil Society is not limited to NGO’s. Volunteerism is an integral part of a civil society, and any organization that attempts to influence the law and society through volunteerism is partaking in a civil society. Civil society organizations engage in all levels of the political sphere with a wide variety of approaches to influencing change but generally across three objectives:

  • Conformist
  • Reformist
  • Transformist

In recent years there has been an expansion of civil society organizations, this goes alongside the increase of globalization as many governmental and private organizations are unable to help without bias. Civil society organizations also have the advantage of not being governed by party politics. Globalization has brought with it the visibility of our differences, but civil society organizations attempt to further social cohesion.

The public remains largely unaware of the civil society organizations. This is due in large part due to the difficulty of gathering empirical evidence of their influence in governing but they have a lot of it. Civil society groups can make politics more workable for example, but even that can be contested. Another problem is that some civil society organizations are incompetent, impeding those that are trying to make a measurable difference.

This is but a mere introduction to the importance of the academic study of civil society. Thank You.