Categories
Business and Finance Foreign policy

Haiti and the Meaning of Generosity

Haiti Earthquake: Who's Given What?
Haiti Earthquake: Who's Given What?

The Haiti earthquake has become the new measure of generosity.

The country’s big northern neighbours have earned much praise for their effort: The US has pledged $168 million to date, and Canada $131 million. The bronze medal goes to Spain, with ‘only’ $45 million, although the latest data from ReliefWeb indicates that Saudi Arabia has caught up.

But data journalist David McCandless puts things into perspective: Measured as a percentage of GDP, the most generous countries in the Haiti crisis have been… Guyana and Ghana! Canada and all Nordic countries make it to the top ten in this wealth-corrected ranking as well, but not Uncle Sam.

Beyond its primary purpose of disaster relief, the donation campaign has lifted Haiti out of the realm of forgotten poverty-stricken nations. This is a chance for the country, but I am worried about two potential pitfalls.

Categories
Government Technology Internet

Kenya’s ‘Digital Villages’

Farmers in Kenya / Photo: Marc Steinlin, flickr
Farmers in Kenya / Photo: Marc Steinlin, flickr

If it comes to fruition, Kenya will be at the forefront of easing the governmental paperwork logjam. According the Daily Nation, the East African country is in the process of planning “digital villages” where citizens can visit to download applications and documents such as birth certificates and file their tax returns online.

The website quotes Information and Communication Minister Samuel Poghisio as stating that by 2012, “every district will have a digital village, and all that people will have to do is to download such forms from the internet.”

According to Capital Business, some of the villages will be set up in post offices, with a focus on rural areas.

But there’s more to the plan than just providing access: According to CB, the Kenyan postal service has suffered an 80 percent drop in revenue due to customers turning to the internet.

“[Postmaster General Retired Major General Mohammed Hussein] Ali said such initiatives would enable them to compensate for the loss that the corporation has suffered due to a drop in revenues collected from sending postal mail,” the report states. Ali is also quoted as saying that the post does not receive financial support from the government.

I’d be interested in knowing how much the post plans to charge.

Categories
International Relations Government Business and Finance Finance

Swiss International Studies, Migration and Finance

Swiss Network for International Studies / snis.ch
Swiss Network for International Studies / snis.ch

I’m writing from Bern, where I’m attending the Swiss Network for International Studies‘ (SNIS) first yearly conference. The Network was established two years ago to promote interdisciplinary research in issues of international relevance among Swiss academics.

The international relations field is still pretty new at Swiss universities. It might well be a corollary of the fact that, for much of the past century, the country’s neutrality in international politics boiled down to passivity. Several speakers at the first day of the conference reminded us that Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002.

In any case, the young Swiss’ interest in international affairs is exploding at the moment: A Geneva professor talked to me about the exponential rise in student numbers since his university launched an undergraduate program in international relations.

Here are two highlights from the first day of the conference – based on my own biased personal interests…

Categories
Health

A New Global Fund?

More healthy mothers and children is the goal.
More healthy mothers and children is the goal / photo: Alemush, flickr

“Why don’t we have a Global Fund for maternal health, like the one for TB, malaria and AIDS?”, implored Dr Siriel Nanzia Massawe, an obstetrician in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I was jolted by this desperate doctor’s question, buried in a recent New York Times article about the prevalence of maternal deaths during pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa.

You mean we don’t have a Global Fund fighting maternal – and for that matter, child – mortality? I wondered incredulously.

After all, two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for a significant reduction in child and maternal mortality by 2015. And former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan established the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2001 to reach this third health-related MDG.

So why has only the MDG addressing communicable diseases been deemed worthy of a Global Fund? After all, the international community is far behind on all MDG health-related targets: maternal mortality has been stagnant for two decades; more than nine million children under age five still die every year; and AIDS infection rates are still too high for antiretroviral treatments to keep pace.

Clearly, a more synergized and streamlined approach to the three health-related MDGs is desperately needed. Each one impacts the other: For example, AIDS and malaria cause specific complications for pregnant women and their fetus’s development.

In the end, perhaps every one of these MDG initiatives could be more fully realized if greater attention were paid to how they interact. Has the time for an integrated Global Fund for Health arrived?