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By Kyle Fluegge, Environment Issue Analyst

Imagine giving $100 to a charity that helps people in poverty better their lives regardless of their background circumstances.  A noble gesture on your part.  Then you find out that only $7.00 of your gift actually went to help who it was intended to help. That’s only 7%.  Outraged?  It would have me asking “Why…?”, but not for the reasons you think.

That’s the situation in Haiti right now – 10 months after the devastating earthquake ripped apart the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Only $686 million of $8.75 billion promised for reconstruction has reached Haiti so far.  After the natural disaster, my initial thought was “Pick on somebody your own size.”  After all, isn’t that like a 12th grader bullying a 5th or 6th grader?  The little one doesn’t stand a chance, and neither did Haiti.  And the country is continuing to suffer the consequences.

An outbreak of cholera was confirmed in Haiti on Thursday, October 21. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 5,000 cases of cholera have been documented, and 300 people have died.  Cholera, you ask?  Significant breaches in the water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure used by groups of people have allowed large-scale exposure to food or water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae organisms.  In this case, it doesn’t take a well-reasoned fellow like John Snow to capture the essence of the problem…or does it?

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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.

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

Mwawi Nyirongo is an unexpected force, a woman whose stamina overshadows her stature. The fragile, five-foot Malawian doctor may not look strong, but after watching her work in rural Africa- nursing abandoned HIV/AIDS infants, treating malaria, and attending to the old, arthritic agogos in her village  – I was convinced. She’s a superhero.

Despite her endless energy, Mwawi is quick to admit she can’t do it all. “I have always believed that no man can work like an island if we want development,” she says. “The communities in Malawi really need others’ brilliant ideas.”

Mwawi’s statement underscores the need for individuals across the globe to combine perspectives, passions, and expertise in solving international issues. While Mwawi plays an important role as a front-line fieldworker, we as youth are vital in helping stimulate those new, “brilliant’ ideas that Mwawi is looking for.

We are the ones who can ask challenging questions of our governments, NGO’s, and communities. Through political advocacy and community mobilization, we can ask what can be done for the 11.6 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Sahara, or the 100 million street children across the globe. We can push these questions to the forefront of the political agenda on behalf of our peers in the developing world.

We can also serve as communicators. Through our access to and understanding of new media outlets and social networking, we can both ask questions and communicate solutions. We can educate ourselves about global health issues, and put a personal face to those problems for our friends and communities.

Finally, we can combine our ability to ask questions, access information, and communicate issues to a broader audience with the medical expertise of people like Mwawi. Through collaboration across cultures and generations, skill sets and knowledge bases, we can serve as another unexpected force.

As a senior Political Science Major at Davidson College, Sydney Kornegay believes that issues of global health, development, and social justice are best studied outside the classroom.  She has spent four summers working with an organization for HIV/AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa, and a semester studying and interning in development and women’s health in rural India. She enjoys exploring other cultures at home and abroad- either through travel, salsa dancing, or playing the African djembes. She believes students have the potential to be powerful sources of change in international issues, by educating themselves, their communities, and advocating for change.

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

I became wrapped up in human rights (HR) issues in college; I filled my schedule with classes on global poverty, cultural rights, international law, etc.  It is incredibly daunting to learn about the world’s human rights abuses—each problem is linked to the next, and a viable solution appears to be light-years away.  However, we don’t have to solve every problem to have an impact.  As students, we have the ability to garner support for these issues.  Advocacy is our most powerful tool—by writing op-eds, blogs and letters to congress, or by inspiring a new group of passionate citizens.

A few years ago, I interned for Amnesty International, USA (AIUSA) and had the pleasure of meeting 25 college students who volunteered for the Human Rights Education Service Corps Program.  These students taught an introductory HR course in low-performing D.C. public high schools.  I taught my own course as well, and was consistently amazed by my students.  After discussing questions such as, “What do you need to survive, day to day?” and “What do you need to live a happy life?,” we penned a list that paralleled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948).  Learning occurred through this type of exchange, where the concept of rights was instinctive, and students could understand the universal and interdependent nature of rights.   

As Columbia University Professor Betty Reardon notes, “Intentional cultural change can result only from education.”  It doesn’t have to be in a classroom using the AIUSA curriculum; it could be creating a teach-in of your own, holding a town-meeting on campus, or participating in a national HR conference.  If we seek to live in a world where human rights are respected, the best place to start is by educating ourselves and our peers—encouraging action and compassion.

Ashley Binetti recently graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University with a BA in Government and International Relations.  She has advocated for human rights through internships with The United Nations Foundation and Amnesty International USA, and by participating in Care USA’s National Conferences.  Ashley is particularly interested in social, economic, and cultural rights, as well as the expansion of human rights education in the United States and abroad.  In her free time, Ashley enjoys yoga and salsa dancing.

By Binta Diallo

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

Nine months ago, Haiti was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake affecting as many as 3 million people.  Immediately, aid organizations and governments from around the world responded to this disaster by providing medical attention, food, shelter, and safe drinking water.  There was such an enormous effort in helping the country; immediate support and help coming from students and young adults from around the world.

After the earthquake hit, I started to come up with fundraiser ideas for the student body once I returned back to school.  About two days after everyone returned from winter break, my inbox was flooded by students proposing service and fundraiser ideas.  Food drives, dance-a-thons, bake sales, concerts, anything you name it was sitting in my inbox waiting to be read and executed!  I was excited to see that my fellow peers were ready to get involved. 

Okay, so many of you may be wondering what does this have to do with global health?  With every natural disaster, there are many health issues that arise.  In the case of Haiti, plenty of health issues arose such as concern for safe drinking water, malnutrition, infection and disease.  Although, it was almost impossible to physically go to Haiti to help with the efforts, students around the nation and world participated in various ways.  They worked with international organizations, their schools, their communities; all in hopes to make sure that they were doing as much as possible.  Without the efforts and help for the youth, students, young adults, there would have been a much different turn out. 

I am going to leave you with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Until next time, think about how you can change the world, you have the power!

My name is Binta Diallo and I am a St. Mary’s College of Maryland 2010 alum.  I majored in Studies of Developing Countries and International Public Policy!  I am looking to go to medical school within the next few years and then work as a physician in developing countries.  Global health is one of my biggest passions, it is absolutely fascinating and by increasing the involvement of students around the country and world huge differences will happen!

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.

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Here in the US, abortion has been a contentious issue for decades. Clinics where abortion services are provided often have protesters in front showing gruesome and inaccurate pictures of aborted fetuses.  Pro-choice activists are sometimes labeled as murderers; once, when I mentioned that I was working at Planned Parenthood, I was told by a med student that she was studying to “be able to save babies, not kill them.” And yet here in the United States women do have the right to choose when and if to have children, and whether pregnancy is right for us. Of course, preventative contraception methods are always preferable, but accidents happen. What sexually active girl hasn’t had a pregnancy scare at some point?  Birth control is not a guarantee. Abstinence only campaigns have been proven over and over again to be ineffective – sexuality is a part of our humanity. As American women, we are privileged to have access to that basic human right, the right to have control over our own bodies.

In many developing countries, that is not the case, and this is hugely affected by U.S. international policies. The Mexico City Policy, better known as the Global Gag Rule, prohibited any organization abroad that receives federal US funding from performing abortions, or even counseling or referring patients for abortion. This is even if the organization was doing so using outside funding.  Or, as laid out by USAID on its website:

“The Mexico City Policy required foreign nongovernmental organizations to certify that they will not perform or   actively promote abortion as a method of family planning using funds generated from any source as a condition for receiving USAID family planning assistance.”

This means that a US policy can determine what an individual doctor, who works for a US funded organization, can say to his or her individual patient halfway around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

It is not news that foreign aid effectiveness increases in direct proportion to the degree of ownership that the recipient country has over the allocation of aid funds.  But what about corruption?

How can the US government promote country ownership while also ensuring transparency and accountability of aid resources? In the fourth event in Oxfam America’s “Ownership” series, leading African anti-corruption champion, John Githongo, and other visionaries weigh in on how the US can work with countries to increase their ownership of aid while decreasing corruption through strengthening country systems and empowering citizens to keep their governments in check.

Discussing these issues in a panel are:

Josh Rogin, author of The Cable blog at ForeignPolicy.com, Washington Post columnist (Moderator)
Raymond C. Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America
John Githongo, Chief Executive of Inuka Kenya Trust and Head of Twaweza Kenya (Keynote)
Esther Tallah, Manager, Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria; board member of UNITAID
UPDATE: Honorable Minister Amara M. Konneh, Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, Liberia

Click here for the live video stream this Friday, May 21, 9 am – 11 am (EST)!

Hello all! My name is Charlie Harris. I am a junior at Western Kentucky University and an AIDemocracy Regional Coordinator for the Central Region (MN, WI, MI, IL, IN, OH, KY, TN, AR, LA, MS, AL). Though I’ve been working with the AIDemocracy network for over two years now, this is my first time to blog for The World InSight. WKU AID has had an awesome year this year, and I wanted to take a few minutes to share one of our successes.

This year, we decided to focus our chapter energies on the issue of modernizing US foreign assistance.  Though the US is the largest net donor of foreign assistance, current legislation is 50 years old, reflecting Cold War politics, and offers no strategy for meeting the global development and security challenges of today.

Back in August, we planned and in-district lobby meeting with Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and introduced him to HR 2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009. We discussed the legislation and asked for his co-sponsorship, which he seemed pretty sure of at the time, pending a reading the full text of the bill when he made it back to DC.

After following up for around a month with his staff, we received a letter from Rep. Guthrie thanking us for showing our support for the legislation, but letting us know that he was going to wait until it reached the House floor before taking any action. We could have easily turned away and let the issue be, but instead we took it as a call to action.

WKU AID members began calling, writing, emailing, and faxing the Congressman’s DC office as constituents of his 2nd District here in Kentucky, reiterating our request for him to sign on to HR 2139.

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