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85 posts categorized "Immigration"
In my last blog I mentioned that we now know what malnutrition is and what to do to overcome it. Much has been written about the “1,000-day window of opportunity,” the period from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that malnutrition during this critical time can carry lifelong consequences for a person’s health, education and earnings. When chronic malnutrition affects a large number of people, it can even affect a country’s economy.
The better news is that interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition during the 1,000-day window are not only highly effective, but also great investments in development, with very high returns for every dollar invested. Since nutrition is an integral part of all development sectors, it is often referred to as being “cross-sectoral” in nature. It means that improving a person’s health, or education, or economic situation can have a positive, sustainable influence on malnutrition. Improving nutrition isn’t just about growing more food or having better access to food anymore.
So, if we know what malnutrition is and what actions are required to defeat it, and if we have shown that investing in nutrition is a smart thing to do, what is holding back “scaling up” nutrition on a global scale? The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement now includes 35 countries, all with high levels of malnutrition. Even though some SUN members are among the poorest countries in the world, every SUN country has committed political and financial resources to take action against malnutrition. Could it be that a country’s commitment to fighting hunger and malnutrition is what is important?
What if an index of a country’s commitment was available to help measure and motivate concerted action? The Institute of Development Studies in the United Kingdom, along with the British and Irish aid agencies, has produced just such an index, called the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI). Last year, the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) noted in its Global Hunger Index that in recent years, progress in reducing hunger has been “worryingly slow.” The report found that in many developing countries, significant economic growth has not necessarily led to lower levels of malnutrition and hunger. Rather, a driving factor in making (or not making) progress on malnutrition seems to be a government’s political will (or lack thereof).
The Global Hunger Index treats efforts to reduce hunger and to reduce malnutrition as separate issues. Hunger is a key driver of migration, conflict, and gender discrimination. Malnutrition, the report found, can have different causes and consequences. It does not always come directly from hunger. One example of another cause is an impaired ability to absorb vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) due to disease.
So which countries are doing well according to the HANCI? The results indicate that Guatemala ranks at the top and Guinea Bissau (a small West African nation) at the bottom. The index provides an interesting set of information graphics that can be studied. Guatemala has made a substantial political commitment to improving access to clean drinking water, ensuring improved sanitation, promoting complementary feeding practices, and investing in health interventions. I’ve blogged previously about its “Zero Hunger Plan.” Guinea Bissau, on the other hand, has a low ranking because it has failed to invest in agriculture, leaving women in particular vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition; in addition, the country has not yet developed effective safety nets that can provide its citizens with a measure of food security.
In recent years, we’ve seen a truly incredible level of global momentum on nutrition. But how are the major donors doing when it comes to following through on their political commitments to ending hunger and malnutrition? Where would the United States, Canada, Australia, and the EU rank on the HANCI? Do these governments endorse policies and provide funding for programs that augment the efforts of the developing countries most affected by hunger, chronic food insecurity, and malnutrition?
A series of events in June 2013 will help answer these questions, indicating whether donor governments are “walking the walk” -- or just talking -- about their commitment to nutrition.
First, in London on June 8, the U.K. government will host the “Nutrition for Growth” event, during which governments will pledge specific monetary amounts to help scale up nutrition. Following this, during Bread’s National Gathering, we are hosting an event in Washington, DC, called “Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition”, to build on our very successful 2011 event. The Call to Action will bring 40 civil society representatives from SUN countries to discuss SUN’s next steps -- and what’s needed to carry them out -- with U.S. government officials, non-governmental organization nutrition stakeholders, and others, including Bread’s grassroots activists who will be in Washington, DC, for the National Gathering. Participants will be able to judge for themselves whether the U.S. government is “walking the walk” on its commitment to ending malnutrition, particularly among women and children.
Stay tuned to this space and the Bread for the World blog for more information.
Posted by Scott Bleggi on May 14, 2013 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Climate Change, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Foreign Aid Reform, Global Hunger, Good Governance, Hunger Hotspots, Immigration, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Religion and Hunger, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
As the U.S. legislative and national debate on immigration gets fully under way, President Obama paid a state visit to the largest source of modern immigration to the United States – Mexico.
In recent years Mexico has been the source of about 60 percent of all unauthorized immigration to the United States. As such, immigration is consistently one of the highest-priority bilateral topics, along with narcotics trafficking and trade.
During the president’s visit, he acknowledged the changing Mexican economy. Mexico’s economy is the second largest in Latin America, but the country has also long suffered from significant income inequality and widespread poverty.
But poverty is slowly being reduced, even as Mexico continues a bloody battle with narcotic trafficking organizations that claimed an estimated 60,000 lives between 2006 and 2012.
In 2010 for the first time in years, less than half of Mexico’s population was living in poverty. That year, 46 percent of Mexicans lived below the national poverty line. About 10 percent of the population lived in extreme poverty – on less than about $2 a day.
Although this represents progress, about half the population is still living in poverty—thus, many Mexicans continue to look north for economic opportunity and an escape from dire living conditions.
As Congress begins to debate immigration reform in a serious way, President Obama highlighted during his visit to Mexico the importance of maintaining an international perspective on immigration. He pointed out that what happens in Mexico is crucial to a durable immigration policy fix in the United States.
“I … believe that the long-term solution to the challenge of illegal immigration—so we’re not dealing with this, decade after decade—is a growing, prosperous Mexico that creates more jobs and opportunity right here,” the president said last week in Mexico City.
In the midst of an immigration debate that is decidedly focused on domestic concerns and driven by domestic political constituencies, President Obama’s assertion was a refreshing acknowledgement of the international dimensions of immigration, the “push” factors behind it —something Bread for the World Institute has been researching and writing about for several years now.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee finalizes its version of the bill, it would be wise to heed the president’s message on immigration. This way, reform can be truly comprehensive and lasting.
Last week the Senate introduced an 844-page immigration reform bill that could prompt the most sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policy since 1965.
The bill includes major changes to almost all sectors of immigration policy. It establishes a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, increases border enforcement efforts, mandates job-based enforcement within the United States, and revamps our legal immigration system in ways that begin to shift the emphasis from family-based immigration to a system that takes U.S. labor force needs into account.
The bipartisan bill was met with widespread accolades by the full spectrum of immigration advocates, albeit with caveats on a variety of issues. While the Senate bill has garnered broad consensus across the political spectrum, the House bill – expected to be introduced within weeks – is likely to be more restrictive. Reconciling both of these bills in a way that will be acceptable to the varied interests promoting immigration reform will be a major challenge in coming months.
One component missing from the bill is an acknowledgement of the international “root causes” of immigration, which include poverty, inequality, and lack of economic opportunity in Mexico and Central America.
While the reasons behind immigration are often seen as a secondary issue – less important than the bill’s major provisions on legalization, border enforcement, legal immigration reform, and guest worker components – any comprehensive immigration policy reform should include an analysis of the “push factors” of unauthorized immigration. As the bill enters the amendment process, this will be one of the key issues for Bread for the World; we will continue to monitor and advocate on “root causes.”
Photos from the immigration reform rally last Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photos by Derek Schwabe/Bread for the World)
A path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States may be closer to reality than it has been in more than 25 years. This week, a bipartisan group of senators — the so-called “Gang of Eight” — is expected to make public its proposal for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal is believed to represent an agreement between Congress and the president. It could reach the Senate floor for debate before the Memorial Day recess.
Thousands of advocates descended upon the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday in an effort to jump-start the reform process. They carried flags of Latin American countries together with U.S. flags, as well as signs and banners in English and Spanish with phrases like “The time is now” and “We are all immigrants.” Rally leaders described the event as vital to building public momentum for reform in what they see as a window of political opportunity.
As U.S. policymakers and advocates alike weigh in on the necessary discussion of how to fairly draw the nation’s current undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows,” we cannot neglect the other half of the problem. As we’ve mentioned before, there is no question that undocumented immigrants will continue to come. The more important (though less often addressed) question is why.
The 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, opens a discussion of “why” with information about the economic situation in many Latin American communities:
Immigration from Latin America is at the center of the debate on immigration policy in the United States—yet very little attention has been paid to the conditions that drive people in Latin America to enter the United States illegally. Migration as a coping strategy is not unique to Latin American immigrants in the United States. Around the world, people have escaped poverty by migrating to places where there is a better chance of earning a living. This includes the rural youth in Uganda mentioned earlier in this chapter, migrating to cities in search of opportunity, and it includes young people from village after village in Guatemala who head to the United States or sometimes to jobs on sugar and coffee plantations in Guatemala or Mexico. The United States is a more popular destination—despite the risk of crossing the desert—because the plantations pay little more than they would be able to earn at home.
While thousands speak out for a better life for immigrants here in the United States, we should remember that the voices we aren’t hearing are those of more than 40 million people in Latin America who struggle to feed their families. Global initiatives such as the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have driven economic progress in many countries, but efforts to end hunger and extreme poverty must come from both sides of the border for an effective response to the “supply” side of undocumented immigration.
Visit the 2013 Hunger Report website to read more about the relationship between hunger and poverty and immigration.
It’s easy to forget that hunger and malnutrition are still big problems here in the Western Hemisphere. The focus tends to be on countries in Africa and South Asia, where malnourished women and children are more visible and international organizations more active. In previous posts on Institute Notes, I’ve written about traveling to Guatemala and described efforts now under way to reduce the country’s stubbornly high rates of maternal/child malnutrition.
Today 1,000 children will be born in Guatemala. If the past predicts the future, half of these babies will grow up stunted (far too short for their age). Stunting causes children to be more susceptible to illness and less likely to do well in school. People who are stunted have lower lifetime earnings than their peers, and they are more likely to raise stunted children themselves. Does this make you a little angry? When a national survey in Guatemala revealed that less than 1 percent of the respondents thought malnutrition was a problem in the country, it angered President Perez Molina more than a little. He ordered every member of his cabinet to spend time living with a family facing chronic food shortages and malnutrition. Many such families are indigenous Guatemalans in difficult to reach mountainous regions.
It didn’t stop with the cabinet. In the end, 6,212 middle- and high-income Guatemalans -- officials, families, members of church and civil society groups -- connected with some of the poorest people in their country. The result was a nationwide commitment to break the cycle of malnutrition and stunting. It’s an ambitious goal in the sense that malnutrition is an entrenched problem that has persisted for decades despite earlier attempts to solve it. In a country whose president is limited to one term (four years), it has proven difficult to muster the political will to initiate actions that might not be sustained. But the Perez Molina administration reconvened after the rural visits to launch a concerted nationwide effort to scale up nutrition in Guatemala. The Zero Hunger Pact was born.
“Zero Hunger” has two main goals: to reduce chronic malnutrition among children by 10 percent and to prevent deaths caused by acute malnutrition by focusing on seasonal hunger (the spike in hunger that generally comes just prior to harvest time). A series of specific actions to combat malnutrition and to encourage people to participate have been developed. The pact’s other areas of focus are to include promoting development and fighting poverty, especially among indigenous rural women. Activities have now begun in various parts of the country, and plans call for expansion in 2014 and 2015.
Last week, I attended a meeting about the Zero Hunger Pact at the State Department, along with Guatemalan government leaders; the State Department’s Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, Jonathan Shrier; and USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau of Food Security, Paul Weisenfeld. With the strong backing of Guatemala’s president, leaders from government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society are working together on a plan to make sustainable improvements in nutrition.
Guatemala has been active in the global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which now brings together 34 countries committed to improving maternal and child nutrition. The world now knows what to do and how to do it. What Guatemala has added is political will at its highest level, a national budget allocation, and public commitment.
The Zero Hunger Pact says it best:
“Today we dare dream about a different Guatemala, in which children with smiles are free from hunger and reach their full potential. We have launched the process of change and as a society we are ready to pay the cost for reaching our collective success. What used to divide us, brings us together now in the fight for one single cause: to eradicate malnutrition.”
So with this blog we can salute Guatemala for its efforts, along with other SUN Movement countries who are making political decisions and changing government policies to reduce malnutrition.
Posted by Scott Bleggi on April 15, 2013 in Agriculture, Assets for the Poor, Climate Change, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Aid, Foreign Aid Reform, Global Hunger, Good Governance, Hunger Hotspots, Hunger Report, Immigration, Inequality, Latin America, Malnutrition, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
It could be only a matter of days before the Senate introduces a historic immigration reform bill.
We’ve already heard about some of the major proposed reforms: a link between border security and a path to citizenship, new visa programs for high- and low-skilled workers, and increased workplace enforcement.
Once the bill is introduced, there will likely be another front opened in the immigration reform debate – cost.
But almost absent from all these discussions is the potential impact of immigration reform on poverty. For centuries, immigration to the United States has provided a way for hungry and poor people to feed their families and, in time, thrive economically. Immigration could still play this role today -- but without a fair path to legalized status, unauthorized immigrants are blocked from most economic opportunities.
One result of Bread for the World’s efforts to raise awareness about how immigration reform can contribute to reducing poverty was the publication this week of an op-ed on the topic to the Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.
As details of the Senate immigration reform bill emerge, Bread for the World will continue to highlight the historical and contemporary role of immigration as a poverty reduction tool.
Immigration is perhaps the only policy issue in the nation that currently has both bipartisan support and political momentum. Immigration reform is a popular issue in Congress these days, with the real possibility of bipartisan action. This week the New York Times published an op-ed entitled “Immigration Spring” on the series of breakthroughs occurring that have added momentum toward a historic overhaul of the nation’s immigration system this year.
Immigration has stymied policymakers for decades but the coalition of communities and organizations supporting reform this year is unprecedented. A comprehensive Senate bill is expected within weeks, followed by a framework and legislation from the House. This week Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy said that taking up the immigration bill is “urgent.”
There will also be a series of grassroots actions around immigration in April. On April 10 a group of labor and faith-based groups will hold a Rally for Citizenship on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building beginning at 3:30 p.m.
On April 17, hundreds of evangelicals will gather in Washington for the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action on Immigration Reform to raise an evangelical voice proclaiming a biblical vision for immigration reform.
Bread for the World is also increasing its work on immigration issues this year with a focus on inclusion of policies in immigration reform that reduce hunger and poverty at home and overseas. This includes raising-up the importance of generating good jobs abroad that can reduce the need for people to leave their homes in search of a better life and immigrating to the United States without authorization.
In the United States, immigrant legalization will allow more unauthorized immigrants to pursue their educational and career aspirations, thereby contributing more to the U.S. economy and allowing them and their families to move out of poverty. Resources on Bread’s unique immigration perspective can now be found online in English and in Spanish.
"There can be no sustainable development in the world while millions of people go hungry."
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, January 2013, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States-EU Summit
This summit, which included representatives of about 60 nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the European Union, focused on food security as a key component of sustainable development. In the past decade, Latin America has been a leader in both rhetoric and action to make reducing hunger and poverty a top priority.
Graziano pointed out that Latin America was one of the first regions to take on the challenge of eradicating hunger, launching the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative in 2005. Latin America has been a “policy laboratory” whose anti-poverty and -hunger campaigns include Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) in Brazil as well as the Crusade Against Hunger in Mexico, launched in January 2013.
The political commitment of the past decade has been accompanied by significant progress against hunger and poverty in many countries in the region. Governments have harnessed strong economic growth to support anti-poverty and hunger reduction programs that combine market-based economic growth with an emphasis on addressing social problems and inequality. Brazil has been the most visible example of using strong economic growth to address social problems; its combination of growth and social spending has helped lift tens of millions of people out of poverty over the past decade.
Hunger has also been reduced in the region as a whole over the past two decades. In 1990-1992, 14.6 percent of the population, or 65 million people, were hungry, while by 2010-2012, 8.3 percent, or 49 million people, were hungry.
Graziano said that in Latin America, as a middle-income region, hunger is fundamentally a lack of access to food, not the availability of food. "Latin America and the Caribbean, with a population of 600 million people, produce enough food to feed 750 million people. However, 49 million of the current population still suffers hunger," he said.
As in other regions, women and children in Latin America suffer from poverty and hunger more than men. For example, in Colombia, there are 110 women ages 20 to 59 in poor rural households for every 100 men. In Chile 114 women live in such households for every 100 men.
Despite the progress in Latin America, hunger, poverty, and lack of economic opportunity still push people to look for work in the United States. Historically, a large majority of immigrants to the United States have been men seeking economic opportunity to support their families at home. But today more Latin American immigrants than ever are female – 51 percent – since women, too, often need to support children who remain in their home countries.
In a gridlocked Congress, immigration reform is one of the few policy issues where momentum continues to build and where a fragile bipartisan consensus is holding together.
Last week, after months of discussion between business and labor groups about the contours of a future guest worker program, the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced a joint statement of shared immigration reform principles.
The two groups proposed “the creation of a professional bureau in a federal executive agency to [evaluate labor market needs]…with a system that provides for lesser-skilled visas that respond to employers’ needs while protecting the wages and working conditions of lesser-skilled workers – foreign or domestic.”
The compromise satisfies the labor movement’s primary goal of protecting U.S.-born workers and business’ main goal of having access to foreign labor when its needs are not met by U.S. workers.
While negotiations between the two groups are continuing, they have already agreed to three main immigration reform principles:
- “American workers should have first crack at available jobs.” Both groups agreed to improve the dissemination of information on low-skilled jobs to U.S. workers, including those in disadvantaged communities.
- “It is important that our laws permit businesses to hire foreign workers without having to go through a cumbersome and inefficient process.” The statement of principles hinted at a new immigrant worker visa, which would eventually give guest workers a path to citizenship and would allow guest workers some flexibility in changing employers rather than tying them to a specific employer. The statement also mentions that the number of visas issued to guest workers could change depending on the economy and the labor market.
- The final point digs into the details of a system that would track the U.S. economy’s need for guest workers. As the joint statement says, “The power of today’s technology enables us to…craft a workable demand-driven process fed by data that will inform how America addresses future labor shortages. We recognize that there is no simple solution to this issue.” They call for a new agency similar to the Bureau of Labor Statistics that would make periodic recommendations to Congress on the economy’s labor needs.
Immigrant workers can make contributions throughout the labor market, helping to strengthen the economy in sectors from high-tech to agriculture. The U.S. agricultural system -- particularly dairy, fruits, and vegetables -- is dependent on immigrant labor.
With a Senate immigration bill expected as early as the end of March, this new statement of agreement between major business and labor groups bodes well for reform.
At this point, genuine immigration reform is far from a foregone conclusion. But as Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said, “All of the pieces of the immigration reform puzzle are falling into place — on and off Capitol Hill.”
Here at Bread for the World Institute, we often talk about hunger and poverty as root causes of other social ills. When people don’t have enough money or food, they will take desperate actions they wouldn’t otherwise consider – such as crossing borders illegally, resorting to theft or violence, or no longer providing one or more of their children with an education or even adequate food. Dire necessity brings out the worst in people.
Among U.S. social justice advocates in the 21st century, one particular result of the desperation caused by hunger and poverty has been in the limelight. As evidenced by U.N. initiatives, recent mention by President Obama, and a proliferation of new NGOs, human trafficking — often called modern slavery — has shocked and fascinated people of faith and conscience. The reality that 27 million people are enslaved in 2013 is — and should be — hard to ignore.
In his book Disposable People, the co-founder of Free the Slaves, Kevin Bales, examines the convergence of factors that produced modern slavery and sustains it today. Three major causes are:
- the population explosion of the past three decades, which has flooded the world's labor markets with millions of impoverished, desperate people;
- a revolution in economic globalization and modernized agriculture that has dispossessed many poor farmers and forced them into debt, making them and their families particularly vulnerable to enslavement; and
- rapid economic change that has bred corruption and violence and destroyed social norms that might once have protected the most vulnerable individuals.
Each of Bales’ three factors points a finger at policy failures, macroeconomic shifts, and the widespread poverty that the two combined now allow to continue. The plain fact is that millions of people live in extreme poverty – conditions that leave them with very few options. Sometimes there are only two: enslavement or starvation.
The work of trafficking-focused initiatives and organizations is much needed. Advocates have exposed the blatant violation of human rights that is present-day slavery – a problem that has remained in the shadows far too long. Their faithful efforts are making legal history in countries around the world (just read the stories). But even as these necessary battles continue, so too must the greater war on the root causes that poverty, hunger, and modern slavery have in common.
In the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, we celebrate the exciting successes credited to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), arguably the most unified global development initiative in human history. None of the eight MDGs talk specifically about modern slavery. While this may suggest a historical blind spot for the nearly expired goals, the omission makes sense because the MDGs were made to target prerequisites. Ending hunger and extreme poverty, as well as promoting inclusive economic growth and accountability, are essential to creating opportunities for poor families that enable them to avoid debt and servitude. The MDGs also support the necessary stable legal systems that can effectively prosecute traffickers. Working to eradicate extreme poverty will not free those in slavery today (and for this reason, we support the work of anti-trafficking advocates), but it is necessary if millions of people will have alternatives to enslavement tomorrow.
Explore the 2013 Hunger Report to learn more about the importance of poverty-focused development and MDGs such as universal primary education, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and foreign aid. They are the foundations of the solutions to shocking and dramatic problems such as slavery.
Posted by Bread on February 26, 2013 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Assets for the Poor, Development Assistance, Economic Development, Food Prices, Global Hunger, Good Governance, Hunger Report, Immigration, Inequality, Malnutrition, Millennium Development Goals, Trade, Weblogs | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)