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Fordham Students supported the UNDP Equator Prize 2017

The Equator Prize winners and UNDP team celebrate before the pre-ceremony reception at Bryant Park Grill. Photo credit UNDP-Arnaldo Vargas

This September, the UNDP Equator Initiative hosted the 2017 Equator Prize in New York City, New York to honor 31 local and indigenous people working on notable climate justice projects in their communities around the globe. The winners spent a week in New York City participating in community dialogues, capacity building workshops, and interacting with media representatives as the 2017 UN General Assembly began. Several Fordham IPED students were involved in building case studies with the winners and connecting their work with the Sustainable Development Goals.

IPED student and UNDP intern, Vikktoria Brezheniuk, speaks with one of our winners at a workshop. Photo credit Mike Arrison for UNDP-Equator Initiative

Equator Prize winner, Ghulam, from Pakistan works with IPED student and UNDP intern, Owen Fitzgerald, to build a case study on the Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization. Photo credit Mike Arrison for UNDP-Equator Initiative

Winners’ projects ranged across oceans, forests, and drylands. In Kenya, the Mikoko Pamoja group created a carbon credit-based payment for ecosystem services in order to improve mangrove restoration. In Ecuador, Alianza Internacional de Reforestación (AIRES) is an organization led by indigenous Maya women that works toward food security and disaster risk reduction through reforestation and agroforestry. Each community project supports several of the Sustainable Development Goals from poverty reduction to climate action to gender equality. Check out all the winners and their projects featured on the Equator Initiative website.

The female winners and UNDP team members, including Fordham UNDP interns Tess Hart and Victoria Brezheniuk, celebrate their work and the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo credit Larissa Nowak-Equator Initiative

On Sunday, September 17th, preceeding the Prize Ceremony, there was a reception held at Bryant Park Grill. Winners, government officials, donors, and other special guests gathered to network and celebrate together.

Winners from the Community Baboon Sanctuary Women’s Conservation Group in Belize, Dorla and Conway, with IPED student and UNDP intern, Sarah Garwood, at the Bryant Park Grill reception.

Sunday, September 17th marked the Equator Prize Ceremony held at Town Hall Theatre in New York City. Many people came to speak and celebrate with the winners including Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Gary Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society. Fordham IPED students were invited to volunteer at the ceremony. Fordham IPED interns worked on stage management, social media coverage, and interpretation resources.

 

IPED student, Stephanie Swinehart, volunteered at the Equator Prize ceremony. Photo credit Wahanga for UNDP-Equator Initiative

IPED student and UNDP Intern, Greg Fischer (left), translated for Brazilian Prize winner and speaker, Benki, at the Equator Prize Ceremony. Photo Credit UNDP-Arnaldo Vargas

To see more photos and coverage of the Equator Prize and other events from the week, check out the Equator Initiative on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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Recap & Response: Poverty and Violence

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the last in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

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The last panel of the conference was devoted to the problem of poverty and violence. This sphere is vastly understudied and sometimes misunderstood, mainly because the exact causal relationship and means of measurements of poverty and violence are still unknown.

In order to understand the problem, it is important to have a clear definition of violence. Statistics show that nearly two billion people now live in countries where development outcomes are highly influenced by fragility of the state (World Bank), and by 2030 almost 50% of the world’s poorest will be living in a region affected by violence. However, when we talk about violence and development we shouldn’t forget that wars are not the only form of violence. The violence of everyday life is one of the biggest obstacles today, resulting in nearly 45 million people, including children, subject to some form of modern slavery. Finally, violence can include economic abuse of power, any form of domestic violence, land-grabbing, among other things.

Nicholas Michael, a member of UN negotiation team on Syria, introduced essential steps required to overcome the violence. He pointed to ten steps on how to solve the conflict and associate people:

  1. construct an open dialogue with civil society organizations;
  2. include women in sufficient number in the process (in addition to official delegations’ women representatives);
  3. consistently remind the parties of the conflict their obligations under the international humanitarian laws, international human rights, and criminal laws;
  4. encourage and assist people in starting business processes;
  5. develop responsible a media environment;
  6. relate to religious communities;
  7. design adequate accountability, truth telling, and reconciliation mechanisms in order to deal with the past and create a sustainable situation;
  8. reshape sanctions regime by lifting the sanctions that have no impact to solving the conflict and adversely affect civilians;
  9. assist the parties to agree on principals of a new constitution that will effectively protect human rights;
  10. and create conditions for the safe return of refugees to the country.

Armando Borja, Jesuit Refugee Service North America Regional Director, talked about how poverty can contribute to violence as the poor often have no other way to protect themselves except to fight. The main focus of his speech was on refugees and their impoverishments. Refugees often find themselves in the bottom economic level, being pushed to the limit, without access to health services, education, adequate nutrition. They also suffer from other consequences of poverty and, tragically, repeated displacement. One of the ways to effectively help them is through the provision of education as it is a vital lifesaving intervention that can provide means for better future. Simple hospitality informs how we can integrate refugees into the new communities.

The problem of violence and poverty is one of the hardest for mankind to solve. What level of poverty in the particular region triggers the violence? If there was an accurate answer to that question, perhaps, it would be easier to predict possible conflict and try to solve it before it evolved. On the other hand, violence, being an abuse of any power, can be hidden from society and thus contribute to the development of poverty. While the Fordham Francis Index does a great job determining different factors contributing to poverty, it barely touched the problem of violence. It would be interesting to try to conduct research including different types of violence and analyze how it might trigger poverty and vice versa. However, this type of data is hard to aggregate and comparisons are difficult, which leaves this important question open.

Liya Khalikova is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response: Inclusive Finance and Entrepreneurial Responses

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the latest in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

Philanthrocapitalism; what is it? The session on “Inclusive Finance and Entrepreneurial Responses” carefully unpacked this idea via three disparate and diverse perspectives. The panel consisted of Robert A. Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Citi Inclusive Finance, Eduardo J.M. Maia de Alemeida of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Josef Bonnici, former Governor of the Bank of Malta.

Annibale began the session by discussing the role of corporate initiatives that engender financial inclusion. Citi’s programs run the gamut from micro-finance abroad intended to protect those on the fringe from predatory lending practices, to themed bonds with a social conscious. Bonnici followed with a moral imperative towards philanthrocapitalism, citing that “1% of the population holds 25% of the income.” His solution is a Voluntary Solidarity Fund made up of high-net worth individuals. Capital would go towards micro-finance initiatives as well as a dignified approach to lifting those marginalized out of poverty through education and mentoring. Lastly, the call for “goodwill brokers” was heard as Almeida’s discussion on development finance advocated that financing just isn’t enough. Political will and coordination, effective and unbiased interventions as well as execution capacity and innovation are key components necessary for brokering goodwill. Almeida ended his presentation with a bold challenge. He urged the Vatican towards goodwill, asking them to use their $63 million in profit to start a Vatican Bank Development Finance Fund.

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Following the panel a lively discussion ensued. While philanthrocapitalism is a universally accepted precept, how to go about it, is not widely agreed upon. Building upon a culture of philanthropy was a common theme that ran throughout the discussion. Annibale suggested that corporations engage in corporate social responsibility by taking their cues from the ethical leaders of the moment. Almeida touted embracing new technological trends and the rising popularity of crowd funding; a financial tool that is easily accessible by smart phone in many developing countries.

The pervasive question for me was; how can you change philanthropy from a sidebar to a priority when your main obligation is to your shareholders? A common counterpoint was, who would and should accept the financial risk of inclusive development, and how should it be allocated? At which point, there was no discussion of comparative risk tolerance. Most likely because corporations and individuals alike, have a higher risk tolerance for the stock market than for inclusive development. However, it wasn’t the unanswered questions that cultivated the most poignancy in this complex discussion of how to achieve inclusive finance through entrepreneurial responses. It was His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick simple request at the beginning of the discussion, “Don’t forget the poor.” A request not meant to answer the hard questions posed during the panel, but to create a meditative point of reference when tackling them.

Erika Cox is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response: Pope Francis’ Charge to End Poverty

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the latest in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

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His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick.

At the recent CAPP-USA / Fordham conference, His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick took the time to elaborate on comments made by Pope Francis in his 2015 address to the United Nations about social justice, armed conflict, escaping poverty, and environmental abuse. In his speech, Pope Francis said the following:

“Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold.”

Cardinal McCarrick opened his discussion of Pope Francis’ quote by telling a story:

At the last papal conclave, when it became apparent that then Cardinal Bergoglio was going to receive the votes necessary to become the next Pope, Cardinal Hummes from Brazil leaned over to Bergoglio and said, “Don’t forget the poor.” This is a charge that Pope Francis has not forgotten nor taken lightly.

With this as a compass, Pope Francis has worked to bring an end to extreme poverty and to do so with the dignity of those involved kept intact. Cardinal McCarrick expanded on Pope Francis’ words, asserting that the poor are “not our lower brothers,” but, instead, are our equals and that we must all recognize the freedom of choice, especially in the realm of religion, an issue that effects the poor more than anyone else. He went on to reiterate the Pope’s call to allow the poor to make their own way in the world and to “offer them the pride that comes with being agents of their own future.” We should look for opportunities to facilitate the poor coming into their own, becoming part of their society, and to simultaneously acknowledge the dignity and rights that are inherent in human beings.

These words are meant to inspire and spur those of us who live in the developed world to look upon our less fortunate brothers as equals in the human family. They urge us to look upon those living in conditions of poverty as whole, complete people and recognize in them their rights to make choices in life. It is demanded that we show respect for those who find themselves in situations that many of us cannot fathom, much less relate to. The Pope and the Cardinal ask us to treat the poor, even when giving them a hand up, with the basic dictates of decency.

These points are striking, and the Pope has created a meaningful discourse in shedding light on them. There is sometimes a belief that a person who needs or takes assistance is of a lesser caliber, and, once perceived as such, is treated accordingly. How many of us know what it takes to humble ourselves in such a way? How often have we had to put aside our pride in order to pursue our vision of a better life? These individuals do not require pity or condescension; their needs cannot be solved with handouts and pittance. We should look on those who are brave enough to ask for help as fellows in a common struggle attacked from different vantage points. We are charged with the task of offering the respect that all individuals deserve so that the less fortunate may cultivate within themselves their rightful dignity.

Robyn Emory is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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Recap & Response: Measuring Poverty

On September 23, 2016, CAPP-USA and Fordham University co-sponsored a conference called “Pope Francis’ Call for Escaping Poverty: Practical Examples and New Proposals.” The conference examined the definition and measurement of poverty and proposed specific, practical efforts which operationalize Pope Francis’ insistence that people “be dignified agents of their own destiny.” What follows is the latest in a series of posts authored by graduate students in Fordham University’s International Political Economy & Development Program that offer a summary and response to a topic discussed at the conference.

When Pope Francis spoke at the United Nations in September of 2015, he delivered a powerful message on poverty calling all to action “to enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty [by allowing] them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”

Professor Henry Schwalbenberg and his students at Fordham University answered this call.

Using Pope Francis’s speech as a guidepost, they developed a new tool to measure areas of human need, titled “Fordham’s Pope Francis Global Poverty Index.”

Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg.

Dr. Henry Schwalbenberg.

From the speech, they identified seven indicators across two categories: material well-being (water, food, housing, and employment), and spiritual well-being (education, gender, and religious freedom).

Unlike previous indices, such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), Fordham’s includes measures for both gender equality and religious freedom.

The index was created with easily obtained public data, focusing on impact indicators. This led to some interesting results—for example, the study found that literacy is correlated to graduation rates, but not to primary school enrollment, nor spending on education. This may suggest the importance of focusing policy to help students stay in school and get their diplomas.

The study also found that access to water was strongly related to several other indicators, especially housing and gender. This is an area where the index can be improved, with future work looking at different measures for gender and housing.

Fr. Elias D. Mallon expounded on the inclusion of religious freedom in the index, raising several philosophical questions with which the development field is currently grappling:

  • Does the right to religious freedom reside within the individual or within the corporate body?
  • When does the right to religion impinge upon the rights of other religions (intentionally or otherwise)?
  • At what point does one group’s right to religious freedom end?

According to Fr. Mallon, these issues become political when one group calls on the state to promote their own beliefs.

Fr. Elias Mallon

Fr. Elias Mallon.

The potential for these issues to unravel into myriad loose ends is great, but Fr. Mallon pulled everything back to the centrality of our humanity.

“When Pope Francis talks about, ‘goods,’” said Fr. Mallon, “he means more than just physical things. He means ‘the common good’ as well.”

“Thus religious freedom is a shared space, built with everyone’s participation. We are to regard all as brothers and sisters, with our work done in the service of the common good.”

Because Fordham’s Pope Francis Index strongly correlates with the standard Human Development Index (HDI), it provides a powerful new way to begin to not only address the material needs of people, but to identify ways to attend to spiritual well-being as well.

IPED Conference (Sept. 23, 2016) Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Luther Flagstad is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

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