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

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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”

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News in the Humanosphere: The World Bank Gains a Competitor | 

Leaders from Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa during their meeting in Russia last September.
Leaders from Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa during their meeting in Russia last September.
Blog do Planalto

The BRICS Build a New international development bank…”The leaders of the five BRICS countries have signed a deal to create a new $100bn development bank and emergency reserve fund. The Brics group is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.The capital for the bank will be split equally among the five participating countries. The bank will have a headquarters in Shanghai, China and the first president for the bank will come from India.” (BBC)

Horrific bombing in Afghanistan…At least 89 people were killed in a car bomb attack in a remote town in eastern Afghanistan. This was the worst since attack since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.It comes as the USA helped broker a deal to end Afghanistan’s election stand-off. “There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and the Taliban issued a statement denying involvement, saying they “strongly condemn attacks on local people.” Several other insurgent groups operate in Afghanistan. The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said initial reports “suggest that the attacker prematurely detonated after police detected the explosives in his vehicle.” (AP)

Africa

At least 26 people were killed when suspected Islamist Boko Haram militants stormed a village in northeast Nigeria and a government warplane opened fire to repel the attackers, local residents and a security source said. (Reuters)

The death toll from an Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 603 since February, with at least 68 deaths reported from three countries in the region in the last week alone, the World Health Organisation said. (Reuters)

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Africa sees $58 billion leave the continent each year | 

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The amount of money calculated to go into sub-Saharan Africa each year is less than the money that is sent outward. A new report published by Health Poverty Action and a dozen other partners, shows that $192 billion in total is lost due to tax havens, multinational profits and illegal logging. Which much of the conversation about the region focuses on the aid money sent in, the report seeks to re-frame what is discussed to include all of the money that goes not only in, but out of Africa.

“We are not trying to suggest that all of the inflows are good and that the outflows are bad,” said Natalie Sharples, Senior Policy Advisor for Health Poverty Action, to Humanosphere. ” The purpose of this is mostly to highlight the discrepancy between the figures.”

One of the most significant contributors are illicit financial flows. That is mostly money that is not taxed because it is held in off-shore accounts in friendly countries. These tax havens deprive an estimated $35.3 billion in money from remaining in the region. That is more than the $29.4 billion in aid given each year.  Ending tax avoidance would essentially double the amount of aid money in Africa by simply preventing it from leaving in the first place.

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News in the Humanosphere: Security Council Finally Unites on Syria Humanitarian Relief | 

Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
UNHCR

If implemented, a further 1.3 million people could be reached with aid. “The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Monday authorizing cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid to Syrians in rebel-held areas in desperate need of food and medicine, without government approval…The Security Council authorized U.N. agencies and aid organizations that assist them to deliver humanitarian assistance across conflict lines between government and rebel forces and through four border crossings — two in Turkey, one in Iraq and one in Jordan without government approval. It authorized the United Nations to monitor the loading of all aid shipments in the three countries before they cross the Syrian border. (AP)…And why this was a risky move by the Security Council. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/W3Z5AS)

New Data on Global Humanitarian Funding…”Humanitarian funding reached a record $22 billion in 2013, yet almost a third of needs remained unmet, according to data recently released by the UK-based think tank Global Humanitarian Assistance Programme’s Development Initiatives…Government donors, who accounted for around three-quarters of total aid in 2013, gave an estimated $16.4 billion, up by one quarter in 2012. Private donors, including individuals, trusts, foundations and corporations, increased their contributions by 35 percent, to around $5.6 billion. (IRIN)

Africa

Doctors Without Borders says children in parts of South Sudan are suffering from shocking rates of malnutrition. (AP)

Among the 100,000 civilians holed up in UN bases in South Sudan since fighting broke out in mid-December 2013 between supporters and opponents of President Salva Kiir are several hundred citizens from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia. (IRIN)

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At 5 billion, PATH’s life-saving labels make vaccines more effective | 

Health worker and vaccine vials with the heat-sensitive VVM.
Health worker and vaccine vials with the heat-sensitive VVM.
WHO

Sometimes, a simple technical fix – or techno-fix, as the critics like to say – is exactly what’s needed. It’s getting people, organizations and industry to accept the change that can be the biggest complication.

Seattle-based PATH recently celebrated a techno-fix milestone – reaching the 5 billion mark for the number of vaccine vials distributed worldwide bearing a life-saving, heat-sensitive label.

First developed by the food industry to make sure edibles remained properly refrigerated during transport, when used for immunizations this label is known as the vaccine vial monitor, aka VVM.

Most vaccines need to be kept at a precise temperature under refrigeration; VVMs tell health workers operating in harsh conditions and traveling to remote locations if the vaccines remain protected and viable by the time they are administered.

All polio vaccines today have VVMs, as do all vaccines used by UNICEF or pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, but even after 25 years they are still not uniformly in use in the private sector, in the developed world or by PAHO (Pan American Health Organization).

A chart showing the different visual readings given by VVMs to track heat exposure and damage to vaccines.
A chart showing the different visual readings given by VVMs to track heat exposure and damage to vaccines.

“We faced great reluctance by the vaccine manufacturers at first,” recalled Debra Kristensen, group leader for vaccine and pharmaceutical technologies at PATH.

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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.

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News in the Humanosphere: France to Significantly Extend Counter-Terror Operations Across the Sahel | 

A French Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé (VAB) armoured vehicle being unloaded from a UK C17, which landed at Bamako airport, Mali in support of Operation NEWCOMBE, January 2013.
A French Véhicule de l’Avant Blindé (VAB) armoured vehicle being unloaded from a UK C17, which landed at Bamako airport, Mali in support of Operation NEWCOMBE, January 2013.
SAC Dek Traylor

With its operations winding down in Mali, France is planning to shift resources and deploy troops throughout the Sahel region. “The new operation, codenamed Barkhan, will kick off in the coming days and is being implemented in partnership with five countries in the Sahel-Sahara region, Le Drian said, without detailing which nations these were…the operation would consist of around 3,000 soldiers supported by drones, helicopters and fighter jets. (France 24)

A Way Out of the Afghan Election Crisis? John Kerry to the rescue. “Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the “largest and most comprehensive audit” of the election runoff ballots possible. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. He announced that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul.” (Guardian)

Africa

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility for two blasts on June 25 at a fuel depot in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos, AFP reported on Sunday, which, if true, would be the first recorded attack on the city by the militants. (Reuters)

Obtaining healthy food is difficult in the Central African Republic capital city of Bangui, where conflict has caused prices to soar, while across the country many peasant farms lie barren. (AFP)

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A chat with Oxfam America chief rabble rouser Ray Offenheiser | 

Ray Offenheiser
Ray Offenheiser

Today’s Humanosphere podcast guest is Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, a Boston-based anti-poverty organization and American offshoot of Oxfam International headquartered in Britain. Most people have likely heard of Oxfam but may not know much about it – or what often distinguishes it from the many other humanitarian organizations out there working to reduce poverty, injustice and other forms of global inequity.

Put simply, Oxfam is not the least bit shy about naming names, chasing down bad acting governments and corporations or taking on the rich and powerful if it can advance the cause of helping the poor and reducing suffering.

Take, for example, the atomic message bomb Oxfam dropped on the gathering of the super-rich and elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.

Oxfam3It was just a factoid contained in an Oxfam report – the finding that today some 85 billionaires own as much of the world’s wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest people – but it arguably stole the show at Davos. The world’s media went nuts, forcing the attendees to address this grotesque statistic. (Even the super-rich cheerleader “world’s richest” list-loving Forbes magazine later jumped on board and corrected the figure, noting that the global concentration of wealth was actually worse than Oxfam reported).

This simple act of advocacy by Oxfam, this metric of global inequality, is now a meme that won’t go away.

In the podcast, Ray and I talk about some other examples of Oxfam’s ‘edgy’ approach to advocacy – including a campaign called Behind the Brands that holds food manufacturers accountable for their claims to be engaging in socially responsible practices; or the time Oxfam stood up for poor Ugandan farmers against corporate and government interests aimed at displacing them.

“It’s important at times to speak truth to power,” says Offenheiser. “Some might call that edgy … We think that’s part of what gives the organization integrity and our struggle is to do that well.”

Offenheiser was in Seattle for a meeting with ‘advocacy partners’ of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The meeting, which was closed to the media and the public, included representatives from Save the Children, the One Campaign and other anti-poverty and humanitarian organizations. All are focused on helping to advance and improve the fight against poverty and inequity. According to Offenheiser, Oxfam intends to remain focused on raising public awareness of how inequality – in wealth and power – is at the root of most of these problems and must be central to the development agenda.

So listen in and learn a lot more about Oxfam, how it got started in World War II, how it retains its ‘edge’ and how you can help them make the world a better place.

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