How Are the World’s Children Doing?

Children have the right to learn, photo: D Sharon Pruitt/flickr

A UNICEF report titled “The Children Left Behind”, to be released today, examines the level of inequality in the education, well-being and health of children in the world’s richest countries. The countries with the least inequality were the usual lot: Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.

While Finland, for example, tops the list in terms of having the most equal education system, it fares less well on the health front. Despite free and healthy school meals, Finnish media decried, Finnish children are still not eating enough vegetables and fruit. Switzerland, somewhat unsurprisingly, tops the list as the country with the highest level of material well-being for kids. While Canadian authorities and media reacted with shock at how badly off Canadian children are in terms of material well-being and health, the US ranks even far below its northern neighbor (near the bottom of 24 OECD countries under scrutiny). This should ruffle some feathers in the US and show how vulnerable children in particular are to societal inequality. Sadly, given the intensely polarized political environment, this important report is likely to get buried under a myriad of apparently much more urgent policy concerns.

Yet, the US, like any other wealthy nation not only owes its children a good standard of living from a moral standpoint, but also has to provide it in order to compete in tomorrow’s increasingly crowded knowledge economy in which a pool of healthy, smart and motivated young people is a prerequisite for success. Inequality, ill-health and resentment will hamper growth and make countries less dynamic and less competitive, regardless of their relative ranking in the world today.

Gender Equality Bearing Fruit

Image of village in Bihar, courtesy of Hyougushi/flickr

The BBC has an inspiring article on an alternative method to combatting gendercide in India: fruit trees.

Reporter Amaranth Tewary travels to Dharhara village in the state of Bihar, a place that sets a new precedent for areas that practice female infanticides.  For every daughter born, families plant a minimum of 10 mango and lychee trees.

This commercially viable initiative sustains the family on a day-to-day basis, whilst covering the cost of their daughters’ dowry. Thus, this practice achieves two goals: It meets the challenges associated with female foeticide as well as global warming.

The Economist also has an in-depth report on the issue of infanticide (subscription needed).

One can only hope that such a custom is recognized for its significance and is emulated in every other region affected by female infanticide norms.

On the Relevance of BRIC…

BRIC Leaders in 2008, courtesy of Kremlin Press and Information Office

On 16 April, the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will meet in Brasilia. The group has managed to develop  a presence on the geopolitical stage in the past years and is increasingly able and willing to counter the influence of western power on various fronts. They share many characteristics and interest- primarily in the economic realm- and account for more than 40 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its land area.

The four are also pushing for a more multilateral world and use BRIC as a vehicle to pursue this end. The international community and media have enthusiastically embraced this concept and often view or treat the group as a coherent political actor, granting it clout and weight on the international stage.

But has the BRIC concept graduated from mere theory (and labeling) to real, actionable practice? Beyond the push for a more “multilateral world”, do the BRIC countries have much in common? Do they share anything beyond their inclusion in the 22  “emerging markets” index and perhaps most importantly, does the bloc have political relevance?

Melting Expectations

Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr
Iceberg, Alaska, photo: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton/flickr

With the Copenhagen conference on climate change only two weeks away, it remains doubtful whether a legally binding agreement on climate change will emerge.  Here a run-down of the (mostly vague) pledges made by key greenhouse gas emitters in the wake of the conference:

Categories
Uncategorized

ISN Weekly Theme: Indian Democracy

Two women with voting cards
Two Indian women waiting to vote / photo: Goutam Roy/ Al Jazeera English, flickr

In the wake of a surprisingly clear victory for the Congress party in India, the ISN focuses on the democratic process in India, the election results and the future of the incumbent government.

  • In the ISN Special Report India’s Status Quo Surprise Jayne Brady, a research fellow for UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education and Harsh V. Pant, a lecturer at the Defense Studies Department at King’s College London assess the challenges and opportunities the Congress Party faces in its second consecutive term in government. In A Silent Opportunity Jayne Brady examines the tasks ahead for Congress as it tries to match action with heightened expectations, while Harsh V. Pant questions whether Congress will be able to seize this unique opportunity or once again squander its political capital in Indian Electorate Seeks Stability.
  • The Indesec Expo 2009 is taking place in New Delhi in October 2009, concentrating on India’s homeland security and defense systems. Find out more in our Events section.
  • And for a bit of historical perspective, read Jawaharlal Nehru’s Inaugural Address from 1947 and Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Quit India Speech from 1942 in our Primary Resources section.