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Showing posts for "Middle East and North Africa"

The Status of Women and Girls in Iraq and Afghanistan

by Catherine Powell and Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Veiled women walk past a billboard that carries a verse from Koran urging women to wear a hijab in the Islamic State-controlled northern province of Raqqa, Iraq, March 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer). Veiled women walk past a billboard that carries a verse from Koran urging women to wear a hijab in the Islamic State-controlled northern province of Raqqa, Iraq, March 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer).

This post is by Catherine Powell, fellow for CFR’s Women and Foreign Policy Program; and Amelia Wolf, research associate for CFR’s Center for Preventive Action and International Institutions and Global Governance Program.

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Segovia: A New Player in Cash Transfers

by Isobel Coleman
Customers are seen at mobile money transfers kiosks, known as M-Pesa agents, near Ngong township in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya). Customers are seen at mobile money transfers kiosks, known as M-Pesa agents, near Ngong township in the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 15, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya).

For several years now I’ve been following the progress of an innovative new philanthropy: GiveDirectly. Its cofounders, Michael Faye and Paul Niehaus, started the organization in 2008 while doing their PhD’s in economics at Harvard. Their idea was simple. Given mounting evidence that cash transfers are among the most efficient and effective ways to address poverty (and that the poor know very well what to do with money), why not start a charity that skips the rigmarole of providing services to poor people in poor countries and just gives them cash?

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World Bank Report on Women’s Empowerment Breaks New Ground

by Isobel Coleman
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman participate in an event on empowering woman and girls at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst). Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Isobel Coleman participate in an event on empowering woman and girls at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., May 14, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Over the past several decades, the World Bank has been an important thought leader on the value of investing in women and girls. In 2001, the Bank released a seminal report, “Engendering Development – Through Gender Equality in Rights, Resources, and Voice,” which made the incontrovertible case that investing in girls’ education and other aspects of female empowerment is critical for poverty alleviation. More recently, in 2012, the Bank devoted its annual World Development Report to women and girls, highlighting that, despite gains, gender gaps persist and greater gender equality is critical to growth.

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Women Starting Up the Middle East

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
A woman films with her iPad in Bahrain, January 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed). A woman films with her iPad in Bahrain, January 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed).

Every year, the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Gender Gap Report, tracking the world’s progress toward eliminating gender inequality. This year’s report, published in October, included some good news: in the nearly 140 countries counted, more than 90 percent of the divide in health and education has been closed. Still, there remains a huge gender gap in economic participation, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where men are 60 percent more economically empowered than women.

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Is a Start-Up Spring Coming to the Middle East?

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Young entrepreneurs at Oasis 500, a seed investment firm based in Amman, Jordan that finances start-ups in the Middle East, November 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Muhammad Hamed). Young entrepreneurs at Oasis 500, a seed investment firm based in Amman, Jordan that finances start-ups in the Middle East, November 2011. (Courtesy Reuters/Muhammad Hamed).

The Middle East is seldom associated with the start-up world. When thinking of the region, few imagine entrepreneurs working away, hustling to secure funding and find customers for their fledgling businesses. But that image is increasingly a reality. Read more »

New Insights on the Relationship Between Democracy and Wealth

by Terra Lawson-Remer
Protesters in Cairo rally against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, February 22, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters in Cairo rally against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, February 22, 2013 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Do the chances of democracy’s success in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, or Myanmar depend on each country’s wealth? And does China’s growing prosperity portend a democratic transition there anytime soon?

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Sports, Gender Equality, and Development

by Terra Lawson-Remer
Saudi Arabia's Jeddah United (in white) shake hands with Jordan's Al Reyadeh before their friendly basketball game in Amman on April 21, 2009 (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's Jeddah United (in white) shake hands with Jordan's Al Reyadeh before their friendly basketball game in Amman on April 21, 2009 (Ali Jarekji/Courtesy Reuters).

As my colleague Isobel Coleman wrote last week, Saudi Arabia has just leaped a small hurdle towards gender equality: announcing last week that it will allow female athletics in private schools. Until now girls have been prohibited from playing sports as a part of formal education. The move comes on the heels of last year’s decision to allow two Saudi women to compete in the Olympics for the first time in the country’s history.

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New From CFR: Isobel Coleman on Aid to Egypt

by Isobel Coleman
A farmer holds out grains of wheat in his hands during a harvest on a field in the El-Menoufia governorate, about 9.94 km (58 miles) north of Cairo, Egypt, April 23, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). A farmer holds out grains of wheat in his hands during a harvest on a field in the El-Menoufia governorate, about 9.94 km (58 miles) north of Cairo, Egypt, April 23, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

On the new Ask CFR Experts feature today, I consider the question of whether the United States should continue economic aid to Egypt. “The answer,” I write, “is a resounding yes.” Read more »

Governance and Growth in the Arab Transitions

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
A man waits for tourists to visit his souvenir shop in Carthage, near Tunis, Tunisia February 10, 2013 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). A man waits for tourists to visit his souvenir shop in Carthage, near Tunis, Tunisia on February 10, 2013 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

Examining the economic fallout of the Arab uprisings is critical as societies struggle to move past the upheaval and fight for a measure of stability and security. Read more »

Is the IMF Fighting for Social Justice in Egypt?

by Terra Lawson-Remer
An Egyptian protester holds a loaf of state subsidized bread during a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation visit, in front of the General-Prosecutor's office in Cairo, April 3, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian protester holds a loaf of state subsidized bread during a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation visit, in front of the General-Prosecutor's office in Cairo, April 3, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

This week a team from the International Monetary Fund is in Cairo yet again, attempting to reach agreement with the Egyptian government on a $4.8 billion loan to plug Egypt’s increasingly serious external financing gap and budget deficit. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves—in precipitous decline as the Central Bank continues to prop up the exchange rate in efforts to avoid skyrocketing costs for wheat and other staple imports—have dropped from more than $36 billion in early 2011 to less than $14 billion at the end of MarchRead more »