On the train to Brussels’ right now! Bout to eat unhealthy amounts of waffles and chocolate. We have done a ton of touristy schtuff, eaten some delicious food, and had some cool (and some mehh) academic visits. Two have stuck out in my mind as worth blogging about.
Yesterday we went to the World Bank and learned about their MASSIVE efforts to eliminate poverty through different types of loans to projects all over the world. This was super exciting to me thanks to having worked in the non-profit sector since age 13.
About Me For Context Purposes:
My brother and I started a small non-profit called FUNDaFIELD when I was 13, and I have ran the org for almost five years. FUNDaFIELD.org builds soccer fields at schools in third world countries and has two fields in South Africa, two in Kenya, six in Uganda, and upcoming projects in Haiti and Swaziland. We build at schools to increase enrollment and attendance at said schools, and we focus on fragile states (post conflict/post trauma) in order to maximize the therapeutic aspects of sport. Kids raise all the money, and we take those same kids over to our projects to hold HUGE tournaments with thousands of people. New uniforms, music and dancing, and a goat or bull for the winning teams, make the tournaments a great way to open up the community’s new field. Thanks to the hard work of all of the team members involved, FUNDaFIELD has garnered a ton of exposure and built up an awesome network of volunteers, donors, partners, sponsors, celebrity supporters, and in-country contacts. I could talk about this for hours, but check out FUNDaFIELD.org or just Google us to read more.
I say all this to stress the fact that I have thought, and read, a LOT about eliminating poverty and changing the developing world. Needless to say, fourteen trips to Africa/Haiti, thousands of hours of fundraisers, and constant interactions with non-profits of all sizes, has given me a lot to think about. I will say that I believe the best hope we have for eliminating poverty is through industrialization and foreign direct investment.
That said, after the business world, multinational organizations with huge amounts of, capital, and political pull have the only real capacity for making changes to the developing world. Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed by the (in my opinion) backwards and unrealistic methods the WB still uses. Many of their loans end up going to corrupt or inept third world leaders who end up squandering the funds, or implementing half-decent projects, which make them, look good so they get re-elected every few years. While they do have high accountability standards, I did not put much stock in those standards being enforced, given the fact that many of the countries they loan to are completely reliant on kick-backs and entrenched corruption to get anything done. It was no surprise that despite billions of World Bank dollars going to Sub-Saharan Africa every year, this region has basically flat-lined in making real progress towards the elimination of extreme poverty. I could go on and on about how the WB encourages cycles of dependency and fiscal irresponsibility, but they are a very hard working group of people who are trying to make a difference. I respect the squad, I just disagree with the methods being used.
On the other side, our visit to the OECD, or Organization for the Economic Co-Operation and Development was one of the coolest visits I have ever done. They talked about a variety of their projects including one of their recent anti-corruption projects. They talked about how they used economic motivators to show how ratifying their new would end up saving billions of dollars for the government, and help eliminate corruption. OECD demands complete transparency and will not allow countries to ratify without this openness. Countries are under tremendous pressure to ratify, so they are almost forced to clean up their systems. Very Cool. I could completely see myself working here.
OECD also has created an online index for figuring out which countries are the best given your specific set of preferences called the Better Life Index IE if you are super into health and political freedom, they will rank countries based on those criteria. As Americans this is fun because we have a strange conception of happiness and success, and it is cool to see how other countries differ in their perceptions of these things.
Play with it here:
It has been a few days sans interwebs so I extended this baby…
Other trip highlights:
1. One of my fav documentaries ever:
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists Saw this at a film festival here. Basically there are the badass hacker kids who have waged war online against the church of scientology (corrupt, immoral, fake “religion” that has a culture of physical and mental abuse, child labor, scamming members, and censorship of critics, journalists, and people who try and leave, but I digress), religious bigots, dictators worldwide, and a bunch of other people. The film talks about the issue of the lawlessness of hacking, demonstrated when the collective took down Sony, Paypal, Visa, and MasterCard after these groups refused to give money to Wikileaks, despite giving to Nazi groups and others. This ending up harming innocents, and landed many members in jail. Really cool film whether you agree with um or not!
2. The shop of one of the best chocolate makers on earth. Free samples rocked my world. A whole different way of eating chocolates that involves letting it melt on your tongue and filter through your mouth. Game Changer….
3. EU High Commission: Bosses Running The World. Future One World Gov… Which I happen to support completely. Sorry USA. United States of Earth is the future.
4. Delirium. The bar with the most beers on earth. Over 2500. Pretty Cool.
5. Went to see a Lobbyist today. Fun to put on my philosophy major hat for this guy. Definitely some moral gray areas, but looked like fun.
6. Bike tour. Weird, and fun City. Will put up some photos later for yall. We had a conspiracy theorist tour guide who ranted about how much he hated the the government. Awesome tour though. This is essentially the center of the EU and becomes more and more powerful every year. It is a combo of awesome old European city, and futuristic space age society.
7. Karl Marx’s favorite bar. Ironically is now a Michelin recommended place full of super wealthy politicians and fancy French Wine. Ole Karl would be devastated.
8. Waffles… So many waffles.
Shoutout to one Mr. Reed. Your granddaughter speaks highly of you!