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October 27, 2017

Why Do Nations Invest In International Aid? Ask Norway. And China (Washington Post)

From the article:

How much are acts of generosity worth in international relations? For affluent countries, foreign aid has helped spread power and influence. Donors give foreign aid in part because it will benefit them. For example, political scientist Carol Lancasterfinds that domestic politics and international pressures combine to shape how and why donor governments give aid, and that aid was initially based on “hard-headed, diplomatic realism.”

The Trump administration’s proposal to slash foreign aid by more than one-third (including drastic cuts to global health and humanitarian aid) represents a major shift away from the goal of using aid to attain “smart power,” a strategy that supplements the ability to exercise brute force with efforts to win hearts and minds in far-off places. At the other end of the spectrum is Norway, a small but wealthy country, which has consistently tried to bolster its “soft power” ever since it helped broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine in the 1990s. Between these two extremes is China, which is using foreign aid to acquire greater soft power as it gears up for a more active role in world affairs...

As it struggles to better integrate foreign aid and national interests, Norway has been falling in the Center for Global Development’s rankings of countries committed to development — one of the most cited indexes among aid advocates and civil society organizations. Such results directly undermine its carefully cultivated image of being a humanitarian superpower.

Read full article here.

October 25, 2017

Need Help In Puerto Rico? Here's $100 (NPR Goats & Soda)

From the article:

Case studies have shown that cash aid is an effective way to help people in need. In crises where people have had to flee their homes, it can buy the next meal. It can also supplement incomes for people living below the poverty line. Rigorous, independent studies have shown that people generally don't spend the money on nonnecessities like tobacco or alcohol.

"It's more or less the same as welfare, which the U.S. has had for a long time," says Amanda Glassman, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. "But what makes this really interesting is that it's an NGO giving out the cash in lieu of the government."

Read full article here.

October 20, 2017

Puerto Rico Is Becoming A Textbook Example Of How Waterborne Disease Outbreaks Spread (Quartz)

From the article:

The disaster in Puerto Rico wrought by hurricane Maria is still unraveling one month after it hit.

Most of the island remains without electricity. A third of residents still don’t have running water, while those who do can’t count on what comes out of the faucet being clean. Meanwhile, pools and puddles of standing water due to recent heavy rains (link in Spanish) following Maria are primed to spread disease...

Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert in the global spread of disease at the Washington, DC-based Center for Global Development, described the situation as “textbook vulnerability to major waterborne disease outbreak” in a tweet thread, ending it with incredulity:

This all is the sort of hypothetical humanitarian scenario I teach about...never thought I'd see it on US soil. /end

— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) October 17, 2017

Read full article here.

October 18, 2017

The Unrelenting Crisis In Puerto Rico Is Forcing People To Drink Dirty Water (Vox)

From the article:

The water and electrical situations have compounded what’s being called a “slow-motion medical disaster.” Puerto Ricans now face a much higher risk of health problems related to a lack of access to electricity and clean water — from dehydration to leptospirosis, a bacterial disease spread by drinking water contaminated with animal urine that’s already been breaking out.

Oh God. It is hard to overstate how dangerous this is. 1/ https://t.co/8Z2XJbAQYb

— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) October 17, 2017

The public health situation could quickly deteriorate even further, warned Jeremy Konyndyk, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Outbreaks of cholera, a deadly diarrheal disease caused by eating food or drinking water that’s been contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae, often emerge after people have been living without access to clean water. Puerto Rico doesn’t currently have cholera disease, but if it turns up, the island’s mixture of a collapsed public health infrastructure and patchy access to clean water could be a recipe for an outbreak.

“When you have a population that has been accustomed to being able to rely on clean potable water sources, and a new danger is introduced in the environment or their standard sources are no longer reliable, that creates a real risk,” Konyndyk told Vox.

Read full article here.

October 13, 2017

World Bank Withholds Myanmar Funding, But Some Call For Sanctions (Devex)

From the article:

The World Bank announced Wednesday that in response to the “violence, destruction and forced displacement of the Rohingya,” it will delay the release of a $200 million loan planned for Myanmar.

The money was part of a credit deal reached with the fledgling democracy in August and represented the first instance of direct financial support from the World Bank to Myanmar’s government.

The World Bank is still delivering support to Myanmar and has “strengthened” its engagement in “education, health services, electricity, rural roads and inclusion of all ethnic groups and religions, particularly in Rakhine state,” the statement reads. This loan, specifically designed to support the government on issues of financial and public administration, however, will be withheld for an unspecified period of time...

“Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis there, the culpability of the government, it meets the test, in my mind, of a case where the owners of the World Bank ought to be looking at the World Bank as a potential sanctions tool,” Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Devex prior to the bank’s announcement Thursday...

In Morris’s view, the World Bank’s assurances at that time that it would support humanitarian relief operations for people displaced by the conflict ignored the culpability of the government in committing violence against an ethnic minority, treating the situation, “as if it were a natural disaster.”

Even with its decision to withhold the $200 million loan until conditions improve, the bank’s shareholders are not doing enough to put pressure on Myanmar’s government, Morris said.

Read full article here.

October 13, 2017

FT Health: World Bank Says ‘Go Big, Go Fast’ To Stub Out Tobacco (Financial Times)

From the article:

For most experts in public health, there is little doubt that higher excise taxes on tobacco would be a win-win, raising costs as a disincentive to smokers while generating additional income from those who continue to smoke.

Yet governments and international institutions have been ambivalent. They have often listened to advice — or succumbed to pressure — from corporations including the tobacco industry which has steered them away from more aggressive measures. As William Savedoff from the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington, argues, the International Monetary Fund has stalled and played down how best to use taxes to improve public health.
 
Now the World Bank goes further, suggesting policymakers “go big, go fast”, tax cigarettes based on quantity not price, and use “soft earmarks” that channel revenues to public health.
Ultimately governments decide on taxation. But international institutions presenting the evidence more vocally — offering technical advice and cajoling national policymakers as part of regular budget scrutiny — can only be positive.
 

Read full article here.

October 12, 2017

On Myanmar, The World Bank Should Follow Its Own Policies On Keeping Hatred Out Of Projects It Funds (Quartz)

From the op-ed:

As the World Bank’s member countries convene in Washington this week, the institution’s stance on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar deserves their attention. In its first public response to the exodus that has unfolded in Myanmar, which the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has labeled ethnic cleansing, the World Bank on Sept. 14 issued a maddeningly bland statement about its work in the country, acknowledging the “deterioration in security,” but pointing fingers at no one. The statement reveals a remarkable lack of direction within the institution coming from its largest country shareholders, and particularly the United States.

The bank is in the business of development lending to country governments, and since Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest in 2010, the World Bank has provided over $2 billion in assistance to the government of Myanmar. Suu Kyi is now state counsellor, after her party won a landslide in elections in 2015, but the military retains power over key areas.

The mix of projects supported by the bank in the country run the gamut from physical infrastructure, to health services access, to a highly popular model of support in development circles called community-driven development. The community development model disburses small amounts of money to many localities, empowering them to decide how to spend it. This model favors the local over the national in a way that has demonstrated success in various settings, but it also makes oversight more difficult.

And here lies just one of the challenges facing the World Bank. How much certainty does the bank have that its projects are safeguarded against abuses in Myanmar today, that no projects are enabling discriminatory treatment toward the Rohingya population?

Read full op-ed here.

October 11, 2017

Trump Is Giving Up a Crucial Part of American Power to China, Think Tank Says (CNBC)

From the article:

President Donald Trump's "America First" stance is making the U.S. more isolated on the world stage, with the country quickly losing soft power to China, a former U.S. Treasury official told CNBC Thursday.

That shift is readily apparent at this week's annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, according to Scott Morris, who oversaw U.S. global development policy and worked with the World Bank while in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration.

"You have a China that is looking to showcase its multi-trillion dollar 'Belt-Road' initiative with very high-profile events and then you have American officials who want to say no to everything: No to ambition at the World Bank, no to trade agreements," Morris told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

"That's a message that is a hard sell to the rest of the international community," he added.

The meetings of the IMF and the World Bank — two multilateral institutions that support global financial stability and offer development assistance, respectively — come as Trump indicated again Wednesday he might exit the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Morris, who is currently a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank, said the administration's varying messages on international relationships were "troubling" and he expressed concern about how it could impact U.S. influence, particularly through the World Bank and IMF.

Read full article here.

October 10, 2017

Here's How the International Community Should Respond to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis (Devex)

From the op-ed:

Half a world away, thousands of people are uprooting their lives from the country they called home, and putting everything at stake to flee. As Myanmar’s regime continues to perpetrate horrific acts of violence against the Rohingya community — acts that a U.N. official called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” — half a million civilians have already fled. It’s the swiftest outflow of refugees since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. On September 28, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that the horrific campaign of violence has "spiraled into the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare."

Bangladesh is now home to over 809,000 Rohingya refugees, creating a situation the country’s government officials describe as “untenable.” This inflow of refugees puts a strain on a country that already ranks among the poorest 50 countries in the world. And many Rohingya are fleeing to one of Bangladesh’s poorest districts.

As world leaders meet in Washington, D.C., this week at the World Bank Annual Meetings and G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, they must come together to call on Bangladesh to offer a safe haven to Rohingya refugees. But Bangladesh can’t be expected to take on this burden alone.

Here are three ways the international community should support Bangladesh as it grapples with this crisis.

Read full op-ed here.

October 2, 2017

How Can the US and Humanitarian Groups Respond to the Rohingya Crisis? (Devex)

From the article:

Canberra — As the United Nations Security Council ramped up talks on how to respond to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the Center for Global Development brought the debate directly to Washington on September 29, discussing what the United States and humanitarian groups should do.

In the past month, half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh, joining hundreds of thousands of refugees already there. A brutal Myanmar military campaign against the Rohingya population started on August 25 in response to coordinated attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on army and police bases. “There is an increased level of violence among certain elements of the Rohingya and because of the state led persecution against this population, you might not be surprised to know that,” Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, explained. “They have nowhere else to turn.”

Read full article here.

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