Author: Kellee Usher

A New Era of Aid

Complain about how someone is doing something long enough and you’re likely to get a version of this classic response: “If you’re so unhappy with it, then do it yourself!” The rising importance of emerging donors proves that developing countries have decided to do just that in an effort to correct the ills of development work and foreign aid. Traditional donors have proven to be either unwilling or unable to shift practices in response to critiques – so nations who still receive assistance also now give assistance to others to show us how it’s done. One of the most common critiques developing countries offer of traditional aid is the limited role recipients play in decision-making and implementation. Right away, emerging donors made it clear that their development assistance would be different from traditional donors by referring to it as “international cooperation” rather than “foreign aid.” Cooperation puts both parties on an equal level; foreign aid is a hierarchical arrangement in which the donor controls the process while the recipient may have little say in the final form of funding. This idea of equality in decision-making dominates most of the practices of emerging donors. The Organization for Economic Cooperation’s Task Team on South-South Cooperation points out that developing nations emphasize communication between parties and full participation of both donor and partner throughout the entire process. International cooperation arrangements are also...

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Reducing Poverty One Plot at a Time

Urban agriculture is somewhat of a fad in Austin. Drive around in Hyde Park or on the Eastside, and you’ll see small plots behind houses, in empty lots, or near a restaurant, often with a sign advertising an organization that can help a neighborhood or household get their own garden started. This isn’t unique to Austin either – other major cities in the United States are seeing a growth of urban agriculture. This is likely a result of the younger generation’s emphasis on locally-sourced, organic produce: Gardening your own food is the ultimate stand you can take against “big food” and the chemical and scientific advances used in farming today. Urban farming has even popped up in South Africa: a January 27 article from South Africa’s newspaper Mail and Guardian covered the growth of urban agriculture in Capetown, listing numerous organizations that developed to support balcony and backyard farmers. It’s more than a trend though. In Latin America, urban agriculture serves as a safety net for the impoverished, especially those living in informal settlements. Migrants to the city often find it difficult to transition to a lifestyle in which one is dependent on stores for food. Many of those moving to the cities today struggle to find employment or are underemployed and can’t afford to purchase food from stores or markets every day. Their response is to set up...

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2011: A Year in Reflection

As the semester comes to a close, we take a worthwhile look back at some of the major events that have shaped the last 12 months. This year has been an eventful one for the world – major shifts in power and influence took place on every continent. Almost a year ago, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside of the provincial offices in Tunisia. He did not live to see the results of the fire he set across the Arab world.  The Arab Spring altered the face of the new Middle East and forced the Obama administration to think critically about its policies in the region. After Bouazizi’s spark, the entire region found its collective voice and began clamoring for real democracy. The protests and fighting have forced three leaders from office. The Palestinian Authority asserted its power in its bid for United Nations recognition this year, creating many stirs in Israel. However, the Spring isn’t over yet. Egypt went to the polls yesterday amidst recent clashes with the police and military. The Saudi Arabian women continue to fight for rights through driving protests. Violence in Syria threatens to drag the country into civil war and the continued protests in Yemen and Kuawit remind us that the Arab Spring is far from over. By the end of December 2011, the second longest war in  U.S. history will end...

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Who Can Top This Crackdown?

Move over, Arizona – Alabama now holds the dubious honor of having the toughest immigration law on the books in the United States today. Alabama isn’t the only state passing legislation similar to Arizona’s notorious Senate Bill 1070. Georgia, Indiana and Utah have all passed similar laws, but none of their laws stand up to the intensity of the Alabama law. The legislation mirrors Arizona’s SB 1070 in that it allows law enforcement officials to request documents proving legal residence based on “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is illegal. In Alabama, however, you need documents for just about everything beyond that as well. Attending school, renting an apartment, carrying out a “business transaction”, having public utilities hooked up, working in any capacity, even simply walking around – not having documents on your person, even as a legal resident or U.S. citizen, can result in trouble. Laws such as these are ostensibly created to keep taxpayer-funded services in the hands of legal residents, and to increase enforcement of immigration laws that bar undocumented immigrants from working in the United States. However, their ramifications are much more far-reaching than that, both for states’ economies and for the Latino population. Alabaman farmers are already concerned about the law’s impact on farms. This is a justifiable concern considering that Georgia’s crackdown on illegal labor resulted in a projected $391 million loss due to...

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The Intersection of Climate Change and Recovery

  On Friday, April 8, the U.S. Congress dodged a government shutdown by striking a budget compromise, undoubtedly crushing the dreams of the news outlets gleefully throwing countdown clocks and “what if?!” statements around. What the media have largely failed to cover, however, are the follow-up discussions that continue to adjust the budget. One of these discussions centers on an interesting piece of climate-related legislation – penned by Republicans and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005. As expected for something coming out of a party well-known for its skepticism on climate change, the program is not technically a climate change mitigation program, but rather a piece of energy legislation to create jobs and promote the alternative energy market. The program provides a way for renewable energy projects to apply for loans from the Department of Energy. The New York Times’ Green blog  quotes the Department of Energy on the program’s impact, stating that since its creation, the program “has provided loan guarantees or made preliminary commitments of more than $18 billion for 20 projects,” with another 25 projects on the verge of completing the application process. Proposed cuts to the program could eliminate funding for those 25 loans not yet finalized. Interestingly, Democrat senators have come to the defense of this Republican bill, arguing for its role in the economy recovery. The Wall Street Journal quotes alternative...

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