The Violence and Poverty Honduran Migrants are Fleeing

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz.

Asylum Seekers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. Daniel Arauz.

In November of 2018, a caravan was tear gassed by the US Border Patrol, and US immigration policies are increasingly strict along the southern border. Still, many Hondurans endure the 1000-mile journey from Central America to the United States in hopes of obtaining a more peaceful and prosperous life.

Honduras is described by the Human Rights Watch as a place in which “impunity for crime and human rights abuses is the norm”. Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. One of it’s largest cities, San Pedro Sula, was known as the murder capital of the world until 2016. The high murder rate can be attributed to an increase in gang activity in recent years. Because of a crack down on the drug trade in Colombia, Honduras has taken a larger role in the cocaine trade. Honduras is now a major transit zone for cocaine. Now, Gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (or MS-13) and Barro 18, terrorize locals in major cities. Some migrants understandably cite threats from gang members as their reason for leaving.

Certain viewpoints are ostracized by Honduran society, and activists and journalists are too often targeted by assassins. According to Global Witness, 111 Honduran environmental activists were murdered between 2002 and 2011. This shocking statistic led Global Witness to call Honduras “the most dangerous country to be an environmental activist. The vast majority of these cases go unsolved, including one high-profile case involving the murder of Berta Cáceres. Four government (or ex-government) officials have been tried for her murder, but the case was thrown away in 2018. Journalists face similar danger; between 2014 and 2016, 21 journalists were murdered, and only 9% of these murders were solved. Because of the high murder rate, officials find it difficult to keep up with cases, and many cases end up unsolved.

Women are especially susceptible to violence. According to the United Nations, one in five Honduran women experience physical or sexual violence. Femicide, the killing of women for their gender, is one of the highest in the world, accounting for 9.6% of the homicides in Honduras. Fewer than 3% of Femicide cases are resolved by the courts. Gender based hate crimes could explain the fact that women and children are migrating at higher rates than ever before.

According to the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, the Honduran people endure a government in which “[corruption] is the operating system of sophisticated networks that cross sectoral and national boundaries in their drive to maximize returns for their members”. No one better exemplifies corruption in Honduras than President Juan Orlando Hernández, a conservative, pro-business leader. Hernández almost lost the reelection in 2017, yet just as his opponent, Salvador Nasralla, was ahead in polls by 5 points, the Honduras Broadcast Commission (which was mostly staffed by Hernández appointees) ended the broadcast of the election. It was later announced that Hernández won the election. Hondurans suspected the election was corrupt, thus tens of thousands of Hondurans protested Hernández’s election only to be met with bullets, tear gas, and arrests. Organizations like the Organization for American States and the European Union found reasons to question the validity of the elections.  The Organization for American States found “Deliberate human intrusions in the computer system” and “intentional elimination of digital traces”. On the 1 year anniversary of Hernández’s election, January 27, 2019, protests broke out again.

According to the World Bank Group, 66% of Hondurans are living in poverty; 1 in 5 Hondurans have an income under $1.50 a day. Honduras is also burdened with the highest level of income inequality in Latin America. The per capita income of the average Honduran is $4,563.80, meager compared to the $60,200 per capita income in the United States. Given the circumstances, it is not difficult to understand why migrants are headed for the United States. The immigration process is lengthy and many Hondurans don’t have the time to wait for the United States to grant them visas legally. The immense poverty and crime has left many Hondurans with little choice other than to attempt immigration into the United States.

GINNY KEENAN is an NYU student currently studying abroad in London. She intends to major in journalism, and reads in her free time. She is always looking for new travel opportunities.

In Haiti, Climate Aid Comes with Strings Attached

Haiti had not yet recovered from its devastating 2010 earthquake when it was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations to climate change.  AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Haiti had not yet recovered from its devastating 2010 earthquake when it was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations to climate change. AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Perhaps no people know better than Haitians just how dangerous, destructive and destabilizing climate change can be.

Haiti – which had not yet recovered from a massive 2010 earthquake when Hurricane Matthew killed perhaps a thousand people and caused a cholera outbreak in 2016 – is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms. Island nations are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.

For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.

To help Haiti address this pending crisis, international donors have stepped in with funding for climate action. The problem with that system, as I found in a recent analysis of international climate aid in Haiti, is that the money may not be going where it’s most needed.

Extreme vulnerability

Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 percent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 5 percent by 2030.

To meet that goal, Haitian officials say, the Caribbean country must switch 1 million traditional light bulbs for more efficient LED bulbs, grow 137,500 hectares of new forest and shift 47 percent of its electricity generation to renewable sources. Those are just a few objectives in Haiti’s 2015-2030 climate plan.

Almost a fifth of Haiti’s population works in agriculture. To achieve climate resilience, farmers must still be able to feed people even after a disaster.  Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

Almost a fifth of Haiti’s population works in agriculture. To achieve climate resilience, farmers must still be able to feed people even after a disaster. Reuters/Eduardo Munoz

It needs help to meet them.

Haiti is among the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 60 percent of the population lives on less than US$2.41 per day, according to the country’s 2012 household survey, the most recent poverty data available.

More than 20 percent of its national budget is funded by loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – a setup that gives international lenders an unusual level of control over Haiti’s government expenditures.

The same is true of Haiti’s climate mitigation efforts. The majority of the money behind its 15-year plan to finance climate mitigation and adaptation activities – from disaster preparation and renewable energy development to increasing food security – also comes from international donors.

The crowdsourced nature of Haiti’s climate budget can make it hard to determine just how much money Haiti has to spend – and what, exactly, the government can spend it on.

So, last year, I worked with the Climate Policy Lab at the Fletcher School at Tufts University to analyze Haiti’s climate budget.

A hodgepodge of climate funding

In an unpublished 2018 study, we found that the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank are the two biggest donors to Haiti’s $1.1 billion climate fund. Switzerland is also a major financier, having given the Caribbean nation $64.4 million since 2009, as is Japan, which has given $14.8 million to help fund Haiti’s climate efforts.

Most of this $1.1 billion comes in the form of grants, not loans – it’s free money. And, in a country with a gross domestic product of $8 billion, $1.1 billion for climate mitigation is a substantial sum of money.

However, as my recent analysis of the Tufts climate study shows, the bulk of the money appears to be misallocated.

Numerous international donors, each of which has set its own climate objectives, fund climate action in the country. The result, I found in my analysis, is that Haiti’s climate budget is a mashup of donor priorities that puts too much money behind certain initiatives while underfunding other environmental needs.

Fully 70 percent of Haiti’s $1.1 billion climate budget – $773 million – is earmarked for making energy production more sustainable in Haiti. This involves improving hydroelectric power and increasing solar usage, among other energy upgrades.

Renewable energy may have seemed like a sensible priority for the World Bank and other individual donors. But, put together, this is a disproportionately high investment for a country with such low carbon emissions, my analysis shows. My research suggests the money could be better used to connect more Haitians to the energy grid. Currently, just 20 percent of Haitians – most of them in Port-au-Prince – have semi-reliable electricity. Power is a necessity after any disaster.

Reforestation projects are also notably absent in Haiti’s climate budget.

Haiti is the Caribbean’s most deforested nationSeventy percent of forests on the island have disappeared since the late 1980s. It desperately needs reforestation projects to reduce flooding, coastal erosion and water pollution and prevent mudslides.

Yet in my analysis of the total $116 million in donor funds earmarked for watershed management and soil conservation, I found barely a mention of reforestation.

Hillside neighborhoods like this area outside Port-au-Prince are prone to mudslides during heavy rain.  Reuters/Swoan Parker

Hillside neighborhoods like this area outside Port-au-Prince are prone to mudslides during heavy rain. Reuters/Swoan Parker

Mismatch between perception and reality

Other areas of Haiti’s climate change plan are somewhat better funded but, to my mind, misguided.

Take disaster risk reduction, for example. Of the $269 million earmarked for reducing disaster risk in Haiti, most funds are set aside for rebuilding after disasters.

That may seem sensible in a country prone to earthquakes, flooding and hurricanes, but research shows that sustainable construction – not merely rebuilding – better prepares a country for disasters and other long-term effects of climate change. Planning saves time, energy, money and human life.

Haiti’s international donors have set aside little money for ensuring that new highways, buildings and other critical infrastructure in Haiti are constructed in a resilient, climate-ready manner – before the next big disaster happens.

Addressing the power imbalance

This kind of mismatch between local needs and donor priorities is a common hazard of internationally funded budgets.

Donors call the shots about how their money is spent from afar. Often they don’t have enough on-the-ground information to be making such important executive decisions.

In interviews, local Haitian officials told me that the municipal agencies that actually engage with people and communities have little say over how they may spend climate funds or which environmental projects are implemented.

In Haiti, this problem is not limited to climate funding – it’s a hazard of running a national government on the largess of other countries.

Last year, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a United Nations donor agency, announced a community-based strategy to building climate resilience in Haitian agriculture by partnering with local organizations and agencies.

“This community-based approach will support Haitians working together to enhance their economic potential, resilience and coping strategies when faced with climatic and economic shocks,” a 2018 report said.

My climate research in Haiti supports this assessment.

If international donors allow Haitian authorities more control over funding, working more closely with local community organizations, they would not only help address its most important needs, the strategy would be cost-effective. Money channeled to where Haiti most needs it is money well spent.

KESTON K. PERRY is a Postdoctoral researcher, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University.


Nigeria Replaces India as Home to Most in Extreme Poverty

Extreme poverty is increasingly common in Africa according to a Brookings Institution report.

A snapshot of what poverty means in Nigeria (Source: Daily Trust).

A snapshot of what poverty means in Nigeria (Source: Daily Trust).

Imagine living on $1.90 or less a day, struggling even to access basic necessities. 767 million people in the world fit that description, according to a 2013 survey (the last comprehensive survey on global poverty): 1 in 10 people. The World Bank describes such people as “predominantly rural, young, [and] poorly educated.” For a long time India has been home to the most people living in extreme poverty. But Nigeria is now number one for most people in extreme poverty, according to Brookings Institution, a DC public policy nonprofit.

This change reflects a geographical shift in extreme poverty. Once extremely common in Asia, economic progress has helped to eliminate a significant proportion of extreme poor. The trend in Asia reflects worldwide trends since the 1990s that have seen rates of extreme poverty decrease by more than 60% according to the World Bank. Progress in India also reflects progress with the international Sustainable Development Goals, set in 2016, that seeks to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. Since the goals were set in 2016, 83 million have escaped extreme poverty.

However, the progress in India has not been praised by everyone. Some wonder if the reported progress illustrates continued rural distress and worries about job creation in India. Another potential criticism is about what poverty means. For India, a middle-income country based on its per capita income, its poverty line is $3.20 or less per day according to the World Bank. This means poverty is less defined by living on the edge of hunger and more on having an income that can access opportunities of a growing economy, according to a financial editorial in Mint.

Meanwhile, extreme poverty has become the unwelcome status quo in Africa. This is most notable in statistics, calculated through the IMF’s World Economic Outlook and household surveys, provided by the World Poverty Clock. It states as six people enter extreme poverty per minute in Nigeria, 44 leave it in India. More generally, 87 million Nigerians (44% of the population) live in extreme poverty while 70.6 million (around 5% of the population) live in extreme poverty in India.

Further, Nigeria is only a part of the extreme poverty in Africa. Two-thirds of Africans live in a state of extreme poverty and 14 of the 18 countries that have rising numbers of extreme poor are located in Africa. Indeed, on track to be number two for extreme poor is the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The theme of poverty in Africa also depicts difficulties in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. When it was implemented in 2016, the pace required to eliminate poverty by 2030 was 1.5 people every second. However as countries have slowed down in eliminating poverty, the actual pace is remarkably less—by 2020 it could be 0.9 people per second. The difference in pace will make it difficult to eliminate poverty by 2030 if not impossible, especially as the required pace to get back on track for the goal is 1.6 people per second.

In spite of the difficulties, eliminating global poverty is a priority for many charitable organizations. One is The Borgen Project, a Seattle nonprofit who hopes to be “an influential ally” for the world’s poor by building “awareness of global issues and innovations in poverty reduction.”  The Borgen Project builds awareness by advocating for poverty-reducing legislation by meeting directly with members of Congress or staff. They also hold members of Congress accountable for blocking poverty-reducing legislation.

The Borgen Project’s success is especially evident in the passing of the 2017 Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act. The Act holds the US accountable for ensuring access to basic education in war-torn and developing countries. Basic education encourages economic growth by equipping people with skills needed to participate in the global marketplace— an important step to reducing poverty.

Another successful organization is international organization Oxfam, which hopes to create “lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social justice.” Oxfam strives to create such systemic change through social justice advocacy of legislation that reduces poverty; disaster response improvements; and public education about the causes of poverty. Oxfam also focuses on programs that educate individuals about their rights or address inequalities in resource accessibility— such as clean water initiatives.

These programs cultivate local partnerships and networks with a focus on “locally informed and locally driven solutions.” For example, after over ten years of working with local communities and government authorities to minimize the impact of disasters on poor people, El Salvador was able to swiftly respond to the October 2011 flood. More importantly, when a village (La Pelota) received unclean drinking water, they asserted their right to clean water by sending it back to the authorities.

Both organizations show work that has been directly done to eliminate poverty. Like other organizations that focus on global poverty, they strive to enforce systemic change by targeting root issues. These include a lack of education— of individuals about their rights as well as the general public, a lack of adequate resources, and a lack of legislation that addresses the poor. Whether it is by 2030 or later, it is possible to imagine a future where extreme poverty does not exist. Many individuals already do.



TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

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Who is JR?

Not much is known about the semi-anonymous artist who calls himself "JR." We know that he is young—flirting with age 30—French, and presumably has a name involving the letters "JR." But not much else is known about the enigmatic past of the artist who has emerged on the world stage as the most lauded street artist since Banksy.

When people hear the words "street art," they immediately picture graffiti: spray-painted images, slogans, or "tags," illegally marked onto the side of derelict urban buildings. This idea of street art must be abandoned when examining the oeuvre of JR. While it is true that JR began as a traditional street artist, using aerosol spray cans to paint on buildings around his native Paris, his artwork and his vision drastically changed when he discovered a camera that had been lost on the Paris metro. He began to document his artistic escapades, and those of his friends, and eventually abandoned traditional graffiti for something more easily duplicable: photocopies of the pictures themselves. Thus began the principle act of JR's craft, the pasting of large copies of his photographs on the sides of buildings. As with most street art, this started out as an illegal act, and one that mainly took place on the sides of run-down urban structures.

jr 2.jpeg

But then something happened: JR's art started to capture things that were extremely relevant to the general public, and capture them in extraordinary ways. His exhibitPortraits of a Generation spanned the 2006 youth protests and riots, a turbulent period in recent French history. It would've been easy for JR to capture scenes of burning cars, looted stores, or angry teenagers holding weapons; the essential stock photographs of a small-scale revolution, material that would surely gain him some acclaim and media attention. But JR did the opposite: in a time where there was rhetoric about the pervasive lines drawn by race and class in modern French society, JR chose to challenge the paradigms and media representations of the rioting youth. He visited friends in housing projects and captured them in a way the media had not, and perhaps had chosen to not: black French youth making funny faces, teenagers of Middle Eastern origin crossing their eyes at the camera— images that were unexpected, light-hearted, honest and, above all else, human.

JR blew up the photos to huge formats, and pasted them on the walls of the most bourgeois areas of Paris. It was all very illegal… at first. But there was something unmistakably powerful about JR's art: these were giant images of individuals previously viewed to be dangerous thugs, but here they were: kids, fooling around, unthreatening. JR's images worked to diminish the tension inherent in interactions between Parisians in the mainstream and in the margins. And then something happened: his images were wrapped around the buildings of the Paris City Hall. And then JR's street art became "official." Although he would have continued even if it hadn't.

From Paris, JR began to work on the largest canvas on earth: the world itself. His work has taken him all around the globe, from his famous Face 2 Face exhibition where he posted pictures of Palestinians and Israelis face to face in a number of Palestinian and Israeli cities and on the Wall itself; to the most dangerous favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or the space above the High Line in New York City. His work captures the faces of the world's marginalized groups and populations: women, the extremely poor, the indigenous. He takes those who are often off the radar and makes them a large and profound part of the everyday experience of cities. His art does more than turns heads, it changes perceptions.

JR’s work has won wide international acclaim, even winning him the 2011 TED Prize. At first put off at the notion that he was supposed to save the world, JR sighed when the mandate was clarified: change the world, not save the world. “Oh, alright,” he said. “That’s cool.” In a TED Talk later in 2011, he continued by saying, “Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world.” And his art really has.

Calah Singleton recently graduated from Yale, where she majored in Political Science. Her interests include urban studies, international development, and learning new languages. 

Images courtsey of

Solar Mamas — Why Poverty?

Are women better at getting out of poverty than men? The Barefoot College in India is a six-month program that brings together uneducated middle-aged women from poor communities all over the world, and trains them to become solar engineers. In this documentary from WHY POVERTY? meet Rafea, the second wife of a Bedouin husband from Jordan and watch her learn about electrical components and soldering without being able to read, write or understand English. Full documentary airs this Sunday 9 pm GMT in UK on BBC.


"Poverty Porn" Parody

This parody video calls on Africans to save frostbitten Norwegians... by donating radiators. Made by The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, it highlights how exploitative "poverty porn" can be. As the Africa for Norway website asks, "What if every person in Africa saw this video, and it was the only information they ever got about Norway, what would they think?" 


How Do You Define "Global Citizen?"

Being a global citizen means starting to think of ourselves as a global community, when it comes to things like poverty, clean water, education, etc.  Imagine every child on the planet being born with the same rights to life. The nonprofit organization GLOBAL CITIZEN makes progress on these topics easier… check out their website where you can connect, and win points and badges for taking actions. GLOBAL CITIZEN is powered by the Global Poverty Project.


CAMBODIA: Say No to Orphanage Tourism

We all start with the best intentions, and want to make a positive difference in the world when we travel. But when orphanages become volunteer tourism destinations, they create incentives to direct children with living parents away from their homes, 3 out of 4 Cambodian "orphans" have a living parent. Studies show family-based care is a far better solution for these kids. 


The Fourth World

The award winning film Fourth World takes you inside slums on three continents to meet individuals caught up in the largest people migration in the history of the world. Understanding 'a billion people' is almost impossible, but meeting a handful of slum dwellers strips away the statistic and begins the process of building understanding. Journey with the filmmakers to Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines to meet slum dwellers. Listen to published experts--leaders in their fields from three more continents--as they bring understanding to the 'why' of slums, and foreshadow what's going to happen if the world ignores this social powder keg much longer.


Living on One Dollar

We have all heard about the more than 1 billion people that live on less than $1/day. But could you do it? Four friends set out to do so for 56 days in Guatemala and this film, Living on One Dollar, is the result. "Living on One Dollar is a must-watch film that provides a unique look into the hardship and hope of life in extreme poverty." — Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate.