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By Michaela Maynard, Global Health Issue Analyst

Nicholas Kristof coined the phrase in his article, published in the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday: “Do-It-Yourself” Foreign Aid; it’s a shift from the usual ‘wealthy country’ gives to ‘poor country’ to improve health and development. Mr. Kristof introduces readers to several of these D.I.Y. individuals: a woman working to manufacture sanitary pads in Rwanda, so that females will not have to miss work or school because they are menstruating; a 23-year old who developed a children’s shelter in Nepal, a mission that started with the $5,000 she had saved from babysitting jobs during high school.

The dedication and commitment that these and other D.I.Y. individuals demonstrate is inspiring. This kind of altruism reminds me that despite all the hardships in the world, there is hope. Today, the delivery of foreign aid does not depend on presidents, United Nations officials or even multi-millionaires. It is the workings of passionate but ordinary individuals with great ideas who are chipping away at huge global challenges. And, that’s the problem I guess, we are only chipping away at the issues.

The article made me question the long-term effects of foreign aid and the sustainability of these projects. If the goal is to make long-lasting changes, shouldn’t we be working towards more systematic development? Shouldn’t we be trying to help countries, economies, and governments help themselves? Read the rest of this entry »

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By Rachel Stanley
Rachel is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Rachel below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Young people need a presence in the realm of U.S. foreign assistance. They need to be seen, and their concerns should be heard. As a university student, my view of young “movers and shakers” comes from a university setting. U.S. foreign aid covers a wide variety of topics, too many for any size student movement to cover passionately. Recently, in my own experience, there has been a considerable outpouring of student energy for certain causes, particularly Haiti. It is fascinating which disasters that energy gets extended to or not. For example, at my own university, news of Haiti’s earthquake created a huge fundraising effort, one that closely mirrored the amount of money that the U.S. government itself sent to Haiti. But what about student efforts for the victims of the Pakistani and Chinese floods? Not so much. U.S. foreign aid is a device all its own, but I think that, in many ways, student movements and student responses to world events are a reflection of the way that our older American counterparts are feeling. It is too early to tell how much of USAID’s money will go towards Pakistani or Chinese flood relief, but based on the U.S.AID figures for the 2010 fiscal year, more American money was donated to Haiti than to Sudan, Iraq, Uganda, and Colombia (http://www.usaid.gov/policy/budget/money/) . Haiti has taken the crown. I think that student initiatives can act as a mirror of official U.S. foreign assistance policy, but students also have the tremendous power of being able to get the ball rolling in terms of how Americans prioritize aid. As Generation Y comes of age and begins to enter the work force and adulthood, we have such power and responsibility. We can affect U.S. aid. We can get money directed where we want. It’s possible.

Rachel Stanley is an undergrad at Elon University in North Carolina. Working towards a B.A. in international studies, she is interested in all things Africa, but also North-South issues and human rights in general.

About two weeks ago Julia and I attended the US Global Leadership Council’s annual conference. The day was filled with brilliant speakers, but in the end we both agreed that one of our favorites was Gary Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Working shop. He discussed “Muppet Diplomacy”, the idea that through educational television we can develop nations and encourage a more positive relationship between the U.S. and other nations. As Julia mentioned in an earlier post, this was a refreshing viewpoint on a panel that mostly focused on the direct impact of development on business’ pockets (not so surprising since it was a panel on development’s economic impacts).

Sesame Workshop was founded thirty-eight years ago to help low income children in the U.S. prepare for school. The concept was simple: use television to address the developmental needs of children. Since then, the Sesame Street model has gone global. Sesame Workshop works with 18 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt ,France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kosovo, Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, South Africa ) on locally produced media following the Sesame model. Each production team involves the top educators, researchers, psychologists, child development experts, artists, writers and musicians in their respective countries. Today Sesame Street if the most researched show in history.

What is most interesting about this process is how local productions are using the Sesame model to talk about regionally relevant issues. Rechov Sumsum, the production in Israel features Arab-Israeli and Jewish- Israeli muppets living together in harmony. Alam Simsim, Egypt’s production features a bright young female muppet, Khokha, to promote the empowerment and education of young girls.

South Africa’s Takalani Sesame embodies the spirit of the “rainbow nation” and features muppets that speak with accents that reflect the diversity of the nation. Most notable is Kami, a young female muppet who is HIV positive. As South Africa continues to be devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the show is attempting to dispel the culture of silence and stigma surrounding the issue.

The name “Kami” comes from the Setswana word “Kamodelo” which means “acceptance.” Kami is a Read the rest of this entry »

By Elizabeth Con
Elizabeth is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Elizabeth below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Doesn’t everyone support human rights?  Sure they do.  But does the average person actually do anything to promote and protect our rights?  Not really.  And you especially wouldn’t think that a young person, a person possibly still in their teens, would actually care about improving human rights around the world.  We’re just too busy pulling all-nighters in the library or spending our life savings on Bonnaroo tickets and the road trip it will take to get there.  But I beg to differ.  Young people actually play a pivotal role in the human rights movement today for many reasons.  The key word here is young, which means they’re energetic, passionate, excited, and creative.  They’re not afraid to make mistakes and to explore the world in which we live.  Historically, young people have been in the forefront of revolution and change.  Consider the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.  Young people came together to protest and make their voices heard.  They worked together to ask for change in our world and to make it a little better for the people who came after them.  I know a woman who sent her first allowance (at 10 years old, I might add) to Amnesty International.  That’s pretty impressive.  And it just proves that young people actually do care about things other than what celebrities are wearing these days.  Although it may sound so cliché, young people really are the leaders of tomorrow.  They are the ones who will be educating your children, working for the UN, and running for election.  They have the power to call for a change to the way we look at human rights today.  So don’t underestimate the power of young people and their influence on human rights just yet.

Elizabeth Con is a junior at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.  She is double majoring in Political Science and International Studies (concentration in Latin America and the Caribbean) and double minoring in Spanish and Film Studies.  Elizabeth has been the treasurer of CofC´s campus chapter of AID for the past two years and has enjoyed working with other AID members in spreading awareness of global issues on campus.  In the future, Elizabeth hopes to join the Peace Corps before going to graduate school to study International Relations.

By Sara Hooker
Sara is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Sara below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Dambisa Moyo, author of the book Dead Aid, made headlines for three reasons.  The first two were quite simply that she was a young black woman talking about foreign aid, an area whose academia and discussion is dominated by middle-aged white men.  The third reason she made headlines was that she advocated for no aid at all. She argued that the way aid was given to countries worsened their condition rather than improved it.

This is a point of view the US will never endorse, simply because inherent in the American psyche is a commitment to improve the human condition elsewhere. And it does this in vast quantities, committing $21 billion in 2005. However, even the US is starting to adjust to the changing face of aid. Barack Obama has acknowledged the need to be much more careful about how aid money is spent.

His first visit to the African continent was carefully chosen to be Ghana, a success story on the continent with relatively little corruption and a stable democracy. His white house convention of young African leaders on the 13th of August was praised as emphasizing new approaches to the continent as he warned that ‘sometimes the older leaders get into old habits.’ This all sends a strong message that the era of signing blank checks to corrupt regimes is over. Or is it?

US foreign aid is still crippled by its politics. In the Middle East, most obviously Iraq and Afghanistan it endorses corrupt regimes and fuels ethnic tensions by misappropriating aid. In Africa and Latin America it lacks the efficiency of Chinese infrastructure projects which have been praised for quickly building schools, roads and hospitals (although China’s generosity is ethically questionable).    

So what is the role of young people in this changing landscape? If the youth want a stronger voice they need to force the discussion from the boardrooms of huge inefficient multinational and government organizations to small NGO’s with innovative ideas and room for incorporating young people. The solution is not no aid as Moyo claims, but rather more intelligent aid, with more access for us the youth.

My name is Sara Hooker and I go to school at Carleton College, Minnesota. I am an international student here, originally Irish, but I spent most of my childhood in Southern Africa; in Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. I plan to major in International relations but also enjoy economics. I am really loving my time in the U.S and hope to visit at least 15 states by the time I graduate. I am currently on 5!  🙂

By Catherine Bugayong
Catherine is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Catherine below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

The ongoing economic recession marks a critical time for international financial architecture. The effects of our international financial architecture’s weaknesses have been all too palpable, and promise to fundamentally alter the lives of young people. Jobs after graduation have been scarce, leaving many of us unemployed and underutilized, frustrated and disillusioned. According to the New York Times, the global youth unemployment rate rose an unprecedented 1.1 percent to 13 percent from 2007 to 2009. It is expected to increase in the current year, and for our job recovery to trail that of our parents’.
 
We also stand to inherit more than $13 trillion in debt, as well as the tricky job of determining how to pay it. The future looks grim and full of “belt-tightening.”
 
This serves to make the present markedly vital. Policymakers today are assessing and remaking how money moves within and across borders in ways that we might not see again for a long time. If there ever was a time to rewrite how financial institutions conduct their business or how governments spend money, that time is now. Once the economy recovers, the underpinnings of the international financial architecture will not meet with this level of scrutiny again, at least until the next crisis hits.
 
At work here is a complex group of public institutions, including but not limited to G8 national governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. They are all meant to be accountable to you, the citizen. We will be living with the consequences of their decisions for years to come. It is therefore vital to read the news, to vote, and to speak with our representatives. We must remain engaged with our policymakers so that the changes they implement really can create a brighter, more sustainable future.

Catherine Bugayong studied International Studies and Economics at the University of Washington. Her academic interests include (but are not limited to) economic development in Southeast Asia and the Greek debt crisis. As an Issue Analyst on the topic of “international financial architecture,” Catherine looks forward to sharing her enthusiasm for current international events and economics.

By Kyle Barron
Kyle is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Kyle below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

The recent debt crisis in Greece kindled protests against spending cuts and tax increases imposed by the government. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union prescribed these austerity measures as conditions to the aid packages aimed at solving the financial tumult.  To the Greek people in the streets the international financial architecture is not just an ambiguous collection of acronyms, but institutions that dictate financial well-being and political stability. 

The IMF, World Bank and many other entities that make up the international financial architecture were formed in the 1940’s.  World War II demonstrated that nations’ fates were inextricably woven together and the World Bank and the IMF were formed to provide reasonable loans to nations in economic crisis and ultimately reduce poverty throughout the world.

Though poverty eradication remains a stated objective to this day, many critics claim that their policies overwhelmingly conform to the fundamentalist liberal economic doctrine of the United States.  This criticism is reflected in numerous protests- most notably the riots during the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle and even this past summer in Ontario where over 600 protestors were arrested at the G-20 summit.  Protesting is often the only manner in which young people feel that they can influence international economics.  But the positions now occupied by Cold War economists will soon be filled by young people sitting in college classrooms around the world.

The international financial architecture was born from a century of conflict.  Young people have the power to change the course of history, and instead of dictating economic policy through austerity programs from above, developed and struggling economies can work together for mutually beneficial relationships. Protestors in the streets can transform the international economic structures already in place and usher in a new era of cooperation. 

Colorado native Kyle Barron graduated from Arizona  State University with a degree in Political Science and a  certificate in Latin American studies.  Studying in Mexico sparked her interest in Political Economy and international financial architecture.  She resides in Tempe,  AZ and enjoys playing music, sews like the wind, and is currently interning with the Arizona-Mexico Commission while looking forward to her future studies at NYU.

By Eamon Penland

As a follow-up to my first post, and in a response to a recent AIDemocracy tweet, I decided to address the issue of development with regards to our security.

Just the other night I had a conversation with a friend who tried to argue against our foreign aid budget. He argued that development should neither be an objective of U.S. foreign policy, nor an issue we should be concerned with.

I think the role that the United States plays in the development of other countries is still seen by many in the light of “liberal tree huggers that just want to save the world”. It should be seen in a light of the ultimate form of American protectionism.

We need to realize that terrorism is more than just an ideology. It is an economic system as well. In David Kilcullen’s book, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, Kilcullen argues that a majority of terrorists have no interest in what he calls “Takfiri Islam”. This is the radical form of Islam that we associate with terrorism. Takfiri believers infiltrate tribes by marrying into families, thus they are able to conceal themselves amongst the local more moderate believers. These radicals are small in numbers, and they become extremely difficult to pick out of local populations.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Krystle Corpuz
Krystle is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Krystle below or take a look at the  
Student Issue Analysts.

On the World Bank website, there is a portal called East Asian and the Pacific Youth (EAPYouth). One particular link caught my attention; it said “Participants in the Pacific Youth Festival held in Tahiti formulated 58 resolutions calling stakeholders to recognize youth as key to development.”This statement is indicative of the mindset of many decision makers. In the media, young people could write a1000 resolutions to share with the world, but to what ends would they even be recognized and taken seriously. Young people, practicing their agency to be a part of the dialogue for social change, should not be “calling stakeholders” to recognize their ideas. Instead they should be seen as a stakeholder themselves. They have investments in their community just like anyone else. Why are they being stifled by pretences that they are unable to fulfil such responsibilities? 

Youth involvement within international financial institutions will be a difficult road to take. Unlike government agencies, international financial institutions do not necessarily see young people as constituents because donor officials are not elected. Hence, young people must be cognizant of the very little representation they have in international financial institutions and be strategic in their approach. Instead of the usual advocating for specific issues or pressuring donor agencies to increase funding, young people should establish a business relationship with their donor agencies and approach them as stakeholders in their communities. 

In the end, I envision young people to have a strong business and stakeholder mindset when working with donor agencies and project officers. Young people will soon prove they can be taken seriously amongst international decision makers. The chance to prove that they can provide ideas that are worthy and equal to consultants, policymakers, economists, and specialists will be a huge stepping stone for youth involvement around the world. 

 My name is Krystle Corpuz. I graduated from Georgetown in 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in Foreign Service. I am currently working in the Philippines with a consulting firm that pursues International Development Assistance (IDA) projects with the multi-lateral and bi-lateral international funding agencies (e.g. World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and etc.). My professional job has given me an opportunity to explore how many of these funding agencies operate and I want to share that knowledge with young people so they can be empowered to influence decision makers and understand how projects are funded in developing countries.

As most people I think know, Afghanistan does not have many exports, except for one, and as financially lucrative a crop it is, it is also illegal in many countries, including this one. I’m talking of course about opium. It has been and continues to be one of the only major industries in Afghanistan. It has also been used to wield significant power and authority within the Afghan government in Kabul and among the various provinces. The crop seemingly carries with it the stench of corruption, that infests the souls of those who operate within its trade.

However, according to the Pentagon, there may be hope for a new kind of industry in Afghanistan, and one that may even help to turn the tides of the war, which has been trending downwards as of late. The industry is minerals, and according to geological  studies of the landscape, it is a veritable “gold mine!”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/world/asia/14minerals.html?no_interstitial

As the article describes, the United States has desperately been looking for a way to develop the economy of Afghanistan away from opium, and into something more legal and therefore, more marketable to an international audience. The hope of course is for the Taliban and the people of Afghanistan to get distracted by the immense opportunities that the minerals industry will bring to the countryside, and so they will forget about the war and how their lives have been impacted by it.

I am all for economic development, when it is responsible and responsive to the desires of the native population and their physical environment. However, don’t count on me jumping for joy at the prospect of multi-national mineral extraction companies invading Afghanistan and investing millions or billions of dollars creating an industry from scratch in a country that already has a history of opposing foreign entities.

Read the rest of this entry »

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