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Political Access for the Poor

The Borgen Project was created to give the world’s poor an influential ally and that objective has been achieved beyond anything we could have imagined. Along with meeting with three of the four most powerful congressional offices in 2014, The Borgen Project also met with the majority of congressional members on key committees that shape U.S. foreign policy.

In 2014, The Borgen Project met with:

  • 96% of U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Members
  • 77% of U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Members
  • 54% of U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Members
  • 51% of U.S. House Appropriations Committee Members

Food Aid Reform

Generally, when wealthy nations provide emergency food aid in situations of war, famine and disaster, they purchase the food as close to the crisis as possible. This allows nations to quickly and cost-effectively assist as many people as possible. In the U.S., however, our laws require that the food come from the U.S. and 50% of it must be shipped on U.S. flagged cargo ships. This approach does not factor in the critical component of time; in fact it can take up to three months to reach people who are in dire need. The high cost of shipping food from the U.S. also means that a large percentage of food aid funding goes toward shipping costs. With 40% of U.S. food aid funding going to the shipping industry, our taxpayer dollars are wasted at the expense of millions of starving men, women and children. The Borgen Project is part of a coalition of nonprofit organizations advocating for critical reforms that will allow the U.S. to assist millions more without requiring additional funding.

  • Cargo Preference: In the spring, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a provision in the Coast Guard authorization bill, for which the maritime industry lobbied, that would increase the cargo preference from 50% to 75%. This costly provision would have resulted in two million fewer people, per year, receiving life-saving assistance from the U.S. The Borgen Project went to Capitol Hill to raise awareness on this harmful provision that was slipped into the approved House bill. During the Capitol Hill meetings, The Borgen Project brought attention to the issue and met with 26 Senate offices and 17 House offices. Among these offices, were the offices of the Chair and Ranking Member of the Coast Guard Subcommittee, which oversees this issue. The potentially devastating measure was defeated in the Senate.
  • 2014 Johanns-Leahy Amendment Food for Peace 202(e) – On May 8th, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to include an additional $35 million cash flexibility in the Food for Peace Title II program. The Borgen Project was on Capitol Hill meeting with congressional offices the week of the vote. The amendment narrowly passed by two votes. Of those who voted yes, 9 out of 16 had met with The Borgen Project in the 48 hours leading up to the vote. The amendment was projected to help an additional 200,000 hungry and malnourished people. After the vote, Senator Patrick Leahy gave a nod of appreciation to The Borgen Project via Twitter. Unfortunately, the amendment wasn’t included in the final budget.

    Power for Africa

    On May 8th, 2014 the Electrify Africa Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 297-117. In sub-Saharan Africa, 589 million people – 68% of the population – do not have access to electricity. The purpose of the legislation is to provide first-time electricity to 50 million people by 2020.

    Of the Congressional Leaders who Cosponsored the Legislation…

    • 25 Cosponsored after meeting with The Borgen Project.
    • 13 Congressional leaders cosponsored after receiving emails from Borgen Project constituents in their district.

    Of the Congressional leaders Voting Yes for the Legislation…

    • 75 had met with The Borgen Project.
    • 78 had received emails from Borgen Project constituents in their district.

    Success Tracker

    Building a New Base

    The Borgen Project has created a new poverty-reduction base. Thousands of people have volunteered with The Borgen Project and the majority have never been involved with a poverty-reduction organization before. The Borgen Project has sparked mainstream interest in the issue and brought people to the cause who otherwise would not be advocating for the world’s poor.

    Access to Clean Water and Sanitation

  • After six years of advocating for the Water for the World Act, in December of 2014 the legislation passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. From 2009-2014, The Borgen Project built support for the Water for the World Act and held 410 meetings with congressional offices. The legislation builds on the success of the Water for the Poor Act of 2005, which has already provided millions of people with first-time access to clean drinking water and clean sanitation resources.In 2009, The Borgen Project began advocating for the United States to develop a coordinated strategy to improve conditions for those living without access to clean water and sanitation. In the 111th and 112th Congress, The Borgen Project met directly with hundreds of Congressional offices and mobilized thousands of Americans to contact their leaders in support of a clean water strategy. The focus of the advocacy campaign was the Water for the World Act, a bill that called for a White House water strategy and sought to provide 100 million impoverished people first time access to clean water. In June of 2012, the Water for the World Act (S. 624) passed in the Senate, before being held up in the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. The setback proved temporary, and in May of 2013, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shav and Water for the World Act sponsors Sen. Richard Durbin and Congressman Earl Blumenauer announced the first ever White House strategy for addressing the lack of access to clean water and sanitation. In August of 2013, a new version of the Water for the World Act was introduced and The Borgen Project is continuing to build support for it.

    Political Accountability

    For years, individual members of Congress have escaped public scrutiny while blocking legislation that if not for their actions, would have improved millions of lives. The Borgen Project is shining a spotlight on leaders who obstruct progress in downsizing poverty. For example, in 2010 The Borgen Project contributed to the passing of the Water for the World Act in the U.S. Senate. The bi-partisan legislation would have provided 100 million people with access to clean, drinkable water. However, in the House of Representatives, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee utilized her position to prevent the Water for the World Act from moving forward in the House. Her actions received zero media coverage and few voters in her district were aware of it until The Borgen Project published an Op Ed in The Huffington Post spotlighting her actions.

    “The Borgen Project’s reputation for smart advocacy was confirmed to me when a senior Congressional staffer told me what an impression the organization had made on him. Clearly, The Borgen Project is an important emerging voice and a welcomed ally in the fight against global poverty.”

    - Adam Olson, Oxfam America

    U.N. Millennium Development Goals

    The Borgen Project has elevated the profile of global poverty and the U.N. Millennium Development Goals on Capitol Hill. In 2006, when The Borgen Project began meeting congressional leaders and staffers, few were aware that the U.S. and 190 other countries had committed to the Millennium Development Goals a time frame for cutting global poverty in half. Through high-level meetings and targeted online buzz campaigns, The Borgen Project has drastically increased awareness of the Millennium Development Goals.

    The Borgen Project first began global poverty and Millennium Development Goals meetings with Barack Obama’s staff when he served in the U.S. Senate. Prior to announcing his run for President, The Borgen Project urged Obama to make addressing global poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals part of his campaign platform and foreign policy agenda. As both a candidate and as a President, Obama has incorporated the Millennium Developments Goals and cutting global poverty in half into his foreign policy strategy.

    2009 White House Foreign Policy Statement:

    Fight Global Poverty: Obama and Biden will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and they will double our foreign policy assistance to achieve that goal. This will help the world’s weakest states build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth.”

    “The Borgen Project has quickly become an influential ally for the world’s poor and given a voice to those born into extreme poverty. As a member of The Borgen Project’s Board of Directors, I’m honored to be part of this innovative organization. I congratulate the thousands of volunteers who’ve joined forces in building The Borgen Project into what it is today.”

    - Congressman Adam Smith

    Global Health

    In January of 2007, The Borgen Project joined several U.S. leaders and organizations to help save $1 billion that Congress planned to cut from global health funding. The amount might seem minuscule compared to the $120 billion that was allocated to the Iraq War that year, but $1 billion in global health funding accomplished the following:

      • Provided treatment for 1.5 million people with malaria.
      • Provided 6.3 million people with bed nets to prevent malaria.
      • Provided 3.7 million people HIV tests.
      • Provided 110,000 people with AIDS treatment.
      • Provided 800,000 people with treatment for TB.

    Legislation that The Borgen Project Secured Co-sponsors for (2006 – 2014)

    • Water for the World Act
    • Electrify Africa Act/Energize Africa Act
    • Newborn, Child and Mother Survival Act
    • Global Food Security Act
    • Stop TB Now Act
    • Global Poverty Act
    • Commission on the Abolition of Modern-Day Slavery Act

    * Note: Not all legislation has passed in Congress. Legislation not passing in Congress is often re-introduced and/or components of it are adopted by the White House.

    Global Food Security

    The Problem:

    • Between 2007 and 2008, global food prices increased 43%, pushing 100 million people into severe poverty. This came after years of world hunger reduction.
    • Approximately 1 billion people live on less than $1.00 per day. Over 162 million survive on less than $0.50 per day. Increasing food prices has the greatest effect on poor countries, where people spend 60 percent or more of their income on food.
    • In recent years, only 4% of foreign assistance from the world’s rich nations has been given to poor nations for agricultural development. Most of the food aid goes towards food donations, but this does not develop the host country’s capacity to produce its own food to feed its citizens. In the late 1970’s, it was nearly 18% when the West helped create the Green Revolution that assisted Asian farmers in improving the food supply. The resulting increase in food production raised the incomes for millions of poor farmers and decreased food prices. In China alone, hunger was cut in half between 1970 and 1990.

    Impact: In 2009, The Borgen Project met with over 100 congressional offices while building support for Global Food Security initiatives on Capitol Hill. The Borgen Project also reached over 100,000 people through public awareness campaigns and helped mobilize thousands of people to contact their congressional leaders in support of legislation addressing global food security.

    Outcome: In 2010, with momentum for Global Food Security on Capitol Hill, the Obama Administration established the Feed the Future program and allocated $3.5 billion in the budget proposal to help poor nations feed themselves. This program would provide the resources for 60 priority countries to develop the strategies to become self-sufficient and prevent future food crises. The Obama Administration also utilized the United States role as the world’s agenda-setter to mobilize G20 nations to pledge a total of $22 billion.

    Projected impact of the $22 billion in Food Security funding:

    • Increased income for at least 40 million people on less than $2.00 per day.
    • Research on agricultural strategies to increase food production and famine prevention
    • 25 million children will receive nutrition interventions that prevent child mortality. These investments are projected to reduce the number of stunted children by 10 million and the number of underweight children by 4 million.
    • Millions of poor families will benefit from lowered food prices.

    “Having made tremendous strides on behalf of impoverished families throughout the world, I applaud The Borgen Project for its tireless commitment to ending global poverty. Through strategic advocacy and public education, you are helping to shape U.S. policy for the betterment of mankind. We are proud to be home to visionary groups like The Borgen Project. You represent the best of who we are as a state and as a people – insightful thinkers, proactive leaders and inspiring problem-solvers, who are committed to redefining what is possible and, ultimately, to changing the world.”

    - Gov. Jay Inslee (WA)

    Growth of National Network of Volunteers

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    The Borgen Project operates in over 220 cities.
    View a detailed map.

    Recent Recognition

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    Top 5 on the West Coast: In 2012, the Classy Award named The Borgen Project Top 5 on the West Coast for “Greatest Achievement by a Poverty and Hunger Relief Organization.”
    Read more.

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    Seattle Declares Borgen Project Day: In recognition of The Borgen Project’s impact in advocating for the world’s poor, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn declared July 20th, 2013 “Borgen Project Day” in Seattle.

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    GuideStar Exchange Seal for Commitment to Transparency: The Borgen Project has received the highest honor awarded by the nations leading agency for rating charities.

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    KOMO News Brotherton Award: May 2012 recipient of the Brotherton Community Champion Award.

    Supporting Documentation