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From Connectedness, Strength

8 October 2008 2 Comments

Commentary by Molly Mayfield Barbee

If there was ever any doubt that what happens to one happens to all, the international financial market’s roller coaster ride—from the western hemisphere to the east—should clinch the point. Our 21st century world is an interconnected web.

From banks to babies, individuals and institutions everywhere are feeling a pinch. Notably, the credit squeeze in the commercial sector is also affecting humanitarian and aid organizations around the world. It’s hard to imagine a worse time for such cuts, but from the United Nations General Assembly to the United States’ presidential debates, proposals to reduce spending on development aid are becoming commonplace.

Arguments about aid versus assistance aside, cutbacks in efforts to fight disease, feed hungry children, and shelter refugees are bad news for everyone—particularly women. This week the United States Agency for International Development stopped providing contraception supplies to one of the largest family planning organizations in the world, Marie Stopes International (MSI). MSI initiatives prevented millions of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in 2007 alone, but because of their work with the Chinese government, USAID issued instructions to terminate their aid. This decision affects programs in Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, leaving many African women with few options to prevent pregnancy.

Elsewhere in Africa, locals and internationals alike are debating the relationship between military and humanitarian assistance. The launch this week of AFRICOM operations brings the imbalance of attention and funding between defense and diplomacy to the fore.

There is good news from that continent this week as well. In the Mo Ibrahim index of African Governance, just released, some 31 of the 48 sub-Saharan countries surveyed show governance improvement. The index assesses national governance against 57 criteria in the categories of Safety and Security, Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. Sudan, Chad, DRC, and Somalia are listed at the bottom, with Mauritius and Seychelles in the lead. Kenya, an important model for development still recovering from its January 2008 unrest, along with Rwanda, with its impressive female to male ratio in parliament and first-ever female Speaker just elected, rank near the middle of the bunch.

While the rest of the world is watching financial markets rise and fall, fearing the worst for themselves, let us remember that our interconnectedness can be a strength. The increasing relative stability of neighbors and partners in Africa and beyond can be assets to economic growth, building blocks for peace. Lessons learned in Burundi can inform plans and policies in Brazil. Stories of courage in Cambodia can inspire actions for change in Canada. We can go beyond fear of the other to find hope.

And about hope and inspiration: The 10th of the month will bring the announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. There is much speculation over who will be the winner. What’s your take? Who would you have nominated? Make your case in the comments section of this blog and we’ll come back to that topic next week.

Til then. . .

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2 Comments to “From Connectedness, Strength”
  1. This credit crunch has really showed that the world has become one big village. African people must begin to speak with one voice and women of the world must use their talents and know-how to support African women, most especially ,women entrepreneurs at all levels. Economic empowerment for women means achieving the Millenium Development Gaols 12345 in the shortest posible time.

  2. sojoud ELgarrai says:

    hello i just wanted to thank you for what your doing for this world Africa and SUdan if your still here
    i my self is on the way out becuse i just dont know what i can do here any more but, i love seeing other who still have the well to keep on fighting.

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