International Politics

Good governance affects health and well-being. The politics of global health & development.


John Oliver explains how the US contributed to Uganda’s anti-gay law | 

As we’ve covered before, the development of the harsh anti-gay law in Uganda can be attributed to people from the United States. Most notable is Massachusetts-based pastor Scott Lively. His actions in Uganda have led to a court case against him for his contributions to an environment of hate in Uganda.

Unfortunately, we are not nearly as funny as John Oliver. Fortunately for everyone, The comedian of the HBO show Last Week Tonight took on the issue in his own comedic-explainer style.

“Africa isn’t just where we send our losing team’s Super Bowl Shirts, it’s also now where we send our losing political philosophies,” he says in a nod to World Vision’s much maligned program that distributes the clothing of the losing Super Bowl team, each year.

Watch below:

and see his continued conversation with Ugandan Transgender activist Pepe Julian Onziema:

Meet the world’s ‘goodest’ country: Ireland | 


There are countless indices that compare every country against each other. We used some of them to compare the countries competing in the World Cup, last month. All have one thing in common, they look internally. Countries are compared on transparency, corruption, well being, economy and more.

How do the same countries perform beyond their borders? Who is making the world a better place?

That is the very question the Good Country Index seeks to answer. It determines the ‘goodest country’ by determining how each performs on international peace, trade, climate, equality and more. Like other indices, European countries come out on top, but the number one overall is a bit surprising. It is not a Scandinavian nation, rather it is the small island country of Ireland. Its contributions in areas of Science & Technology and Prosperity & Equality carry it to just beat out Finland.

On the bottom of the list are Iraq, Vietnam and Libya. Though the news is not all bad for the three countries. There are areas where they are contributing a lot of good to the world. Vietnam does well in the category of Culture.

“It’s time to stop telling our governments we want to live in a successful country. We need to demand to live in a good country,” says Simon Anholt, creator of the index. “A good country manages to reconcile good governance at home with a real and constant contribution to the greater good of humanity and the planet”

Continue reading

What does China’s white paper tell us about its foreign aid spending? | 

China aid to Africa
Ding Haitao/XinHua/Xinhua Press/Corbis

The Chinese government released its second-ever white paper, outlining its foreign assistance from 2010-2012. As the country continues to make itself an international development player, the new details about how it spent is money gives a better understanding into the country’s goals.

A total of $14.41 billion in aid was given to 121 countries with more than half of the money spent in 51 countries in Africa. China’s first white paper was released in 2011, reviewing the history of its foreign aid work dating back 60 years. The new white paper, while still light on details, has been considered a big deal in foreign aid circles because it gives a peak into what the tight-lipped nation is doing. Interestingly, one can see a shift in China’s investments away from building roads and towards issues like education and health.

“China’s aid program has diversified away from a focus on economic infrastructure and industry to include more emphasis on social and public infrastructure, donations, and training,” blogged Philippa Brant, a researcher with the Australia-based think tank the Lowy Institute who is an expert in Chinese aid.

Continue reading

Global crises cause humanitarian spending to spike | 


Syrian refugees in Lebanon say they must pay bribes to middlemen ranging from $3 to $100 to receive aid, adding another layer of suffering for those fleeing the war.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon say they must pay bribes to middlemen ranging from $3 to $100 to receive aid, adding another layer of suffering for those fleeing the war.
AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

The amount of money spent on humanitarian aid reached a record high last year. Disasters like the typhoon in the Philippines, the crisis in the Central African Republic and the ongoing civil war in Syria all contributed.

Government humanitarian aid increased by 24% from 2012 to 2013, totaling  $22 billion billion. Roughly one out of every three dollars went to responding to the crisis caused by fighting in Syria. The data comes from a report published by the  Global Humanitarian Assistance program of the UK-based think tank Development Initiatives.

The money that the UN tried to raise targeted to support some 78 million people. However, only 65% of the UN’s $13.2 billion in appeals were funded. The total sum and the need for more money illustrates the true scale of the problems facing the world and the challenge in mounting an adequate response.

“There is no place for complacency, with over a third of needs still not being met and demands set to rise in 2014 and beyond,” said Dan Coppard, director of research and analysis at Development Initiatives, to the Guardian Data Blog. ”As more actors provide assistance, we will need to improve the transparency of both humanitarian and other potential financial resources to target populations more effectively.”

Continue reading

How the new global development goals will apply to the US | 


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draw to an end in 2015. Eight targets, from halving extreme poverty to reducing biodiversity loss, set out the development agenda for the world’s low and middle income countries. Talks about what will come next are still underway.

What is known is that the set of global targets that will replace the MDGs will be truly global. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they are being called for the moment, will set benchmarks for improvements for Bangladesh, China, Malawi and the United States.

“It is striking how beneficial it would be for the United States to achieve the majority of the goals and targets. And in fact, from trying to reduce infant mortality rates to increasing agricultural output, the United States is already engaged in trying to make gains on most of these fronts,” wrote John Norris, Molly Elgin-Cossart and Casey Dunning in a report for the Center for American Progress.

Continue reading

A neglected ‘cold war’ and humanitarian tragedy at our doorstep | 

Guest op-ed by Mauricio Vivero, executive director at the Seattle International Foundatrion (a backer of Humanosphere, full disclosure). This post first appeared in the Huffington Post.

Drug War casualty. The body of a young man shot in 2013 in Acapulco, Mexico
Drug War casualty. The body of a young man shot in 2013 in Acapulco, Mexico
Flickr, missing you …

Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea has some U.S. policymakers dusting off the Cold War playbook. Looking at Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine and the slew of speeches flung back-and-forth between the White House and the Kremlin, they recall a not-so-distant history when the problems of countries and regions were understood not on their own terms, but rather through the narrow lens of superpower rivalry. Some of the rhetoric we hear today has echoes of that perspective.

For some observers, our neighbors in Central America in particular, this comes as no surprise. Seeing Central America through a narrow lens has been a longstanding problem that continues to this day. At one time, the U.S. government saw every issue in the region as part of a proxy battle with the Soviets. U.S. involvement in Central America’s internal affairs — including covert operations, CIA-engineered coups, and cozy relations with repressive governments — was justified by the need to prevent the spread of communism in our hemisphere.

But the end of the Cold War didn’t stop U.S. policymakers from seeing Central America through a narrow lens; the focus merely shifted away from communism and toward the drug war.

Today’s U.S. policy in the region has one focus: to stop drug-trafficking organizations that State Department and Pentagon officials alike consider a matter of national security because they stimulate drug abuse and violence in the United States, undermine democracies in the region, and can potentially finance terrorists.

Continue reading

CIA promises not to do any more fake vaccination programs | 

Is it foreign aid or covert aid?
Is it foreign aid or covert aid?
Flickr, johanoomen

The Obama Administration has promised that the Central Intelligence Agency will never again have its spies pretend to be doing vaccinations overseas.

Some will laugh out loud at the idea of an agency that is fundamentally based on deception and misdirection keeping any such public promise.

More importantly, the aid and development community should be asking the CIA and the Administration: Why just ‘vaccinators’ and not all aid workers?

Long-time readers of Humanosphere may recall, back in 2011, that we were one of the first news sites to express outrage and warn of the dire consequences to come from the CIA using a fake vaccination scheme in Pakistan in an attempt to locate Osama bin Laden.

Predictably, the CIA ruse turned health workers into targets for anti-Western militants and dozens have been killed trying to do critically needed vaccinations in Pakistan – where polio has, also predictably, exploded and spread to other countries.

The World Health Organization recently said the polio resurgence today constitutes a global health emergency.

The CIA, by running a fake vaccine program aimed at collecting DNA to identify bin Laden family members, ended up confirming a Taliban conspiracy theory – that aid workers are often spies. Anyone with half a brain, especially an agency with ‘intelligence’ its middle name, could have seen how this would end in murder.

Continue reading