The omission of violent conflict and fragility is one of the biggest shortcomings of the otherwise heralded Millennium Development Goals. The gap in MDG performance between fragile and conflict-affected states and other developing countries remains wide, and the OECD estimates that by 2020 extreme poverty will be concentrated mainly in fragile states.
A Solemn Declaration at the 50th anniversary of the African Union (AU) in 2013 outlined the vision to ‘end all wars in Africa by 2020’. However, prospects for ‘silencing the guns’ are fast eroding. With only five years remaining, no significant progress has been made.
The success of Vision 2020 is also crucial for achieving Agenda 2063 – the AU’s ambitious development plan that seeks to transform Africa into a prosperous, integrated, well-governed and peaceful continent by 2063.
Achieving Vision 2020 depends on Africa’s ability to successfully tackle the root causes of conflicts, putting an end to impunity and eradicating piracy, and also whether it manages to combat extremism, armed rebellions, terrorism, transnational organised crime and cybercrime. The AU is yet to roll out a comprehensive plan with targeted deadlines on how to eliminate these issues at various levels. This raises concerns about how serious the organisation is about accomplishing what many would see as an impossible task.
Public opinion on United States foreign aid varies widely depending on who is being asked. However, one domestic opinion on the matter is clear: we spend too much on foreign aid. In a 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans wanted to either maintain or increase spending for almost all US government initiatives. Foreign aid was the only exception. Facing a national debt of more than sixteen trillions while news of humanitarian initiatives in foreign nations proliferate, it is not surprising that so many Americans believe the US should be cutting back on foreign aid. However, much of this sentiment is based on an ongoing misconception — the majority of Americans believes the US government spends 28 percent of its federal budget on foreign aid. In reality, foreign aid accounts for only 0.7 percent. Military aid, which is accounted for separately, makes up another 0.5 percent.
In 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a five-year, $7.5 billion aid package for a country it had all but abandoned just 10 years earlier. Indeed, if one word can summarize the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, “volatile” might be it. Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has appropriated nearly $61 billion in aid to Pakistan – more than twice what it received since independence in 1947.
Though some remaining funds may still be disbursed, the latest round of aid came to a close last September amid growing dissatisfaction on both sides. The Department of State billed the 2009 Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act (or Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, also known as KLB) as an “innovative approach” to aid because of its attention to Pakistani priorities, its support of visible infrastructure projects, its focus on areas most susceptible to violent extremism, and its whole-of-government coordination.
At first glance, last week’s wrestling exhibition in Pyongyang seems to have been a one-off event similar to others with which North Korea has used in the past to try to shift attention away from its nuclear program. As such, it could be dismissed as little more than a dose of regime propaganda. However, this interpretation seems inaccurate. Instead, Kim Jong Un appears intent on actually developing the tourism sector to attract much needed capital inflows. Seen in this light, a group of international wrestlers fighting inside a North Korean ring and holding arm-wrestling competitions with local children can be interpreted as in line with recent efforts to attract more visitors.