Information and news about foreign policy

4 Incoming Members of the 117th Congress Who Could Shape America’s Approach to Foreign Aid
At least 65 representative-elects and senator-elects joined the 117th Congress in January 2021 to serve with a president who wants to “bring aid back to the center of our foreign policy.” The next two years could represent a sea of change in the U.S.’s approach to foreign policy and foreign aid under an administration committed to global development. Several new representatives want to increase foreign aid and improve the U.S.’s approach to peacekeeping and diplomacy. Here are four new members of the 117th Congress who could shape the U.S.’s approach to foreign aid.

4 New Members of the 117th Congress

  1. Sara Jacobs (CA-53) served as a policy advisor to the Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign. Jacobs has worked to end child poverty through her nonprofit San Diego For Every Child. Jacobs was elected to represent California’s 53rd district in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Foreign Policy for America Action Network, a non-partisan advocacy organization that promotes safe foreign policy and endorses a slate of candidates each cycle who are believed to serve on key committees or lead on key legislation, endorsed Jacobs. The organization stated that she is ready to tackle issues such as immigration reform and global health on day one. According to Jacobs’ website, she supports protecting and maintaining current funding levels for USAID. However, she also supports properly funding the State Department and USAID to maximize efficiency.
  2. Mondaire Jones (NY-17) has worked in the Department of Justice and provided legal counsel with the Legal Aid Society. When inaugurated, he and fellow New York Representative-elect Ritchie Torres will be the first openly gay Black men in Congress. Jones promotes a “Diplomacy-First” foreign policy, sharing the belief that if the U.S. can dedicate more funding to foreign aid. He has criticized budget cuts to USAID (the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget provided $41 billion for USAID, as opposed to $50 billion in the FY 2016 budget) and plans to push for reinvestment in the State Department to allow the U.S. to take initiatives in humanitarian efforts. According to his website, Jones supports redirecting funds designated for conflict and weapons sales toward aid and promoting peace and development in foreign countries.
  3. Jake Auchincloss (MA-4), a former city councilor, was recently elected to the district formerly held by Joseph Kennedy III. With an extensive background in foreign policy and service in Panama and Afghanistan, Auchincloss supports a nuanced apportionment of foreign aid. Auchincloss advocates for a recommitment to “the types of foreign aid programs that strengthened America’s alliances and improved our security in the 20th century.” He supports continued aid to countries like Iraq in combatting COVID-19 and terrorism, and he wants the U.S. to commit to increasing foreign aid. Like The Borgen Project, he believes that foreign aid is a national security asset to the U.S.
  4. In June, Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), a Bronx middle school principal, defeated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel. Bowman has emphasized the necessity for a foreign policy that gives voice to developing nations, particularly in Africa, as those countries emerge as world leaders on the global market. Bowman also supports a new Marshall Plan, which lent assistance to Europe after World War II. This new Marshall Plan put forward by Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20) is meant to address the economic and social disparities in Central America that have led to mass migration, poverty and violence. By addressing the root causes of these issues, Bowman believes the U.S. can help millions of vulnerable people.

A Look to the Future

Jacobs, Jones, Auchincloss and Bowman have come out in favor of innovative solutions to addressing global poverty. However, any of the new members of the 117th Congress could advance the U.S.’s approach to foreign aid. The bold approaches put forth by some of these representatives have the potential to set a standard for the future of U.S. foreign aid as Congress takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and faces a changing foreign and economic landscape.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign PolicySweden, one of the Nordic countries known for its economic stability, high education rates and social mobility, has also been serving as a prime example of humanitarian-focused foreign policy. The Scandinavian nation has not participated in a single war since 1814 and is currently running one of the world’s most revolutionary foreign policies. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is the first of its kind.

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

With regard to foreign policy, minority groups and underrepresented populations are often unintentionally overlooked. Sweden’s foreign policy, on the other hand, takes a modern approach, becoming the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014. Sweden has a feminist government and the approach was inspired by years of efforts to promote gender equality and focuses and take heed of the voices rarely heard in the distant wars and conflicts.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the justification that lasting peace, security and development cannot be achieved if half the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that endless women and girls face daily, all over the world. By taking this approach, the Swedish government hopes to change the way the world perceives the structure of international relations in today’s globalized world.

Sweden’s International Aid

Sweden is one of the only nations that has surpassed the goal of giving 0.7% of its GNI to foreign aid and has been providing around 1% consistently since 2008. Prior to COVID-19, the developmental aid from Sweden had been mainly directed to Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

What is Sida?

Sweden’s foreign policy is dedicated to helping nations worldwide accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aid provided and how it is utilized depends on the needs of each nation and the nation’s SDG standing. Sida is a Swedish government agency that works globally to fight for the improvement of SDGs in every nation and creates long-term projects that aim to do so. Strategies and policies for each country that Sweden aids are selected in accordance with each country’s needs, ensuring that foreign aid is personalized and effective.

A leader in Foreign Policy

For more than a decade, Sweden has been acting as a leader of humanitarian international relations and is now one of three nations running a feminist foreign policy. The country ensures in its every step that its actions on foreign grounds and the aid provided have positive long-term influences, rather than acting as a momentary band-aid. This type of foreign policy is an inspiring example of what is needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and fight global poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide.

– Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Action in Lebanon
When people think of poverty in the Middle East, they may not always picture Lebanon. The country Lebanon is a small yet very ethnically diverse nation in the Middle East. Sunni and Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians and other groups populate it. Ethnic divisions and sectarian power struggles led to a civil war that lasted 15 years. While the war was ultimately ended and a new republic formed, divisions remain. Now, positive action in Lebanon is essential for the nation, region and the global community’s well-being.

Lebanon in the 21st Century

Political divisions deepened when on Feb. 14, 2005, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, died in a car bombing assassination. Two movements formed in the wake of this tragedy. One was the March 8th Alliance, led by current President Michel Aoun and supported by Hezbollah. The other was the March 14th Alliance led by Rafic’s son Saad Hariri. Each side receives backing from different, foreign nations. Moreover, the current political struggle reflects a greater proxy conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A new government formed in 2016 and power has since been shared between the factions of Hariri and Aoun. While this has led to a more peaceful nation, it has also caused political paralysis — choking the economy. The government has also been plagued with corruption. In this same vein, protests in 2019 led to the resignation of Saad Hariri as prime minister and the formation of an anti-corruption panel.

Despite this, the country continues to suffer from a government stagnated by political divisions and corruption. Despite Lebanon’s status as one of the Middle East’s wealthier countries, its people do not benefit from that wealth. Almost 50% of the country’s population now lives below the poverty line. Furthermore, with the spread of COVID-19, the country’s economic crisis will only worsen.

Why People Should Act

A recent explosion in Beirut (Lebanon’s capital) is just the latest crisis in a country beset with political and economic strife. Many countries in Europe have already pledged aid to the people of Lebanon. It is imperative that the U.S. also take action in Lebanon. Not only does the U.S. have an obligation to help people in need, but also keeping Lebanon from further destabilizing will be essential in ensuring a more peaceful Middle East. If Lebanon’s government collapses, then the country could have a repeat of the civil war with different militant groups emerging and vying for control. Poverty would increase, many Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the country would become displaced. Tragically, more deaths would result from sectarian violence.

However, if the U.S. takes action in Lebanon, the U.S. itself benefits as well. By helping Syrian refugees in the country, Americans would be able to prevent the influx of refugees in the U.S. Lebanon is also a strong importer of U.S. goods. Rescuing its economy from collapse would advance U.S. trade policy and generate more prosperity for both nations.

Who is Helping?

There are currently many groups helping by taking action in Lebanon, right now. One such group is the nongovernmental organization, Humanity and Inclusion. It has been working to better the lives of people all over the world with disabilities as well as economic vulnerabilities. When it began in 1982, its goal was victim assistance, but it has also become responsible for preventing injuries through weapon and landmine clearance, risk education activities and much more. Since 1992, it has been working in Lebanon, engaging in helpful practices such as post-surgical physical therapy and psychological first aid. Its work is very impactful, lasting throughout the decades. In 1997, it received the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ban landmines. In 2019, it reached more than 2 million people in 63 different countries.

Other great ways to get involved include staying informed and educating others about Lebanon. It is never too late to make a difference.

Isaac Boorstin
Photo: USAID

U.S. and ChinaCOVID-19 has brought nearly all facets of normal life and governance to a screeching halt. On all fronts, from the economy to the military, the coronavirus has changed the way this planet runs. One area that has been heavily affected by the pandemic but does not get as much attention is international relations.

Diplomatic relations between countries is one of the toughest areas of government. It has become even more difficult to fully engage in with the onset of COVID-19. With more states turning to domestic engagement, the status quo of international relations has been shaken. In no foreign relationship is this more clear than that between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China.

U.S.-China Diplomatic Relations

Current diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China were established under President Richard Nixon in 1972. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has experienced highs and lows. In 2020, it is nearly at an all-time low. The hostile status of this relationship now mainly stems from the ascension of President Xi Jinping of China to power in 2013, and the election of the U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.

Under these two leaders, U.S.-Chinese relations have greatly diminished over the last four years. A rise in nationalism and “America First” policies under President Trump’s administration has alienated the Chinese amidst constant public attacks on the ‘authoritarianism’ of Jinping’s government. For example, China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy over the last two years has been the subject of extensive international condemnation, particularly from President Trump and the United States. In addition, the two countries have been engaged in a high-profile trade war since the beginning of 2018.

More recently, a dramatic escalation in the deteriorating relationship between the two countries was taken in July 2020, when the U.S. ordered the closing of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, on the basis of technological-espionage on China’s part. In retaliation, China ordered the American consulate in the city of Chengdu to close as well. Another significant strain on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China is COVID-19.

The Outbreak of the Coronavirus

Since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, more than 4,600 people have died in China, over a period of nearly nine months. In the same amount of time, almost 180,000 people have died in the U.S. The U.S. government has consistently blamed the Chinese for failing to contain the virus. China has firmly denied these accusations. COVID-19 has seriously damaged the economic and healthcare systems of both the U.S. and China. Both systems have lost nearly all economic gains they’ve made since the 2008-2010 recession. While state economies around the globe also suffer, the decline of the economies of these two specific countries has far-reaching implications. Not only is the global economy in danger, but military alliances and foreign aid are as well.

Global Economy

Nearly every nation on earth has some kind of economic partnership with either the U.S., China or both. For example, the United Arab Emirates has been an ally of the U.S. since 1974, but in recent years has engaged in a pivotal economic partnership with China. Continued threats of tariffs and pulling out of trade agreements threaten the balance of these partnerships. These threats could force smaller nations to choose sides between the U.S. and China, should this confrontation escalate.

Military Alliances

While the U.S. enjoys a military advantage over China, China has allied itself with many of America’s adversaries, such as Russia, Iran and North Korea. These alliances have been solidified in recent years, for example, just before the coronavirus broke out in China in December 2019, China, Russia and Iran conducted nearly a week-long military exercise in the Gulf of Oman, a strategic waterway for oil tankers. An American confrontation with any one of these countries could draw China into the conflict, which could spell disaster for the world order.

International Aid

As part of China’s “charm offensive” in the early 2000s, the country began to heavily invest in the reconstruction of the economies and infrastructure in impoverished African states. In exchange, China received rights to natural resources such as oil in these countries. The U.S. also maintains a high level of foreign assistance in Africa. COVID-19 forces the U.S. and China to put more of their respective resources toward rebuilding their own economies. However, the aid they both provide to developing states worldwide diminishes at a time when those states need it most.

It is clear that even before the coronavirus spread to all corners of the globe, the turbulent relationship between the U.S. and China was advancing toward a breaking point. The pandemic has, to some extent, halted the diminishing state of relations between the two countries. However, any further provocations similar to the closing of the consulates in Houston and Chengdu could result in a catastrophe. The impacts of this relationship extend beyond the U.S. and China; they affect nations that heavily depend on the aid they receive from both powers.

Alexander Poran
Photo: Pixabay

Kamala Harris' Foreign PolicyJoe Biden’s Vice President pick, Kamala Harris, is a new player when it comes to foreign aid and international relief. A strong arm with U.S./Mexico relations and domestic advocacy, Harris has some experience with addressing poverty. However, the question remains: what could this potential vice-presidential elect bring to the global table? This article will focus on Kamala Harris’ foreign policy. Specifically, her previous commitments to international humanitarian issues and what she outlines as her future focus.

Global Problems, Smart Diplomacy

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy, first and foremost, centers around a single axiom: “Smart diplomacy”. Harris is committed to preventing global conflict and believes that the U.S. is most successful when it stands in support of its global allies. She is an advocate for the ending the conflict in the Middle East, the deconstruction of nuclear arsenals and humanitarian relief efforts in Syria. Furthermore, Harris holds a staunch position on international threats. Abstractly, Harris’ policy could perhaps be described as proactive, rather than strictly reactionary. Regarding the human and financial toll that war often brings, Harris has been vocal and understands the direct correlation between conflict and economic instability. She hopes to reduce both.

Women of the World

As a freshman senator, one of the keystones of Harris’ policy focused on enriching the lives of women across the globe. In this vein, a (paraphrased) statement, “when women do better, we all do better” reflects this aspect of her policy. Harris recently co-sponsored the bill “Keeping Women and Girls Safe from the Start Act of 2020” (s.4003). This legislation’s aim is at reducing gender-based violence and providing sustained, humanitarian support for at-risk women. It is no secret that when destitute women have access to resources, agency and support — their communities flourish.

COVID-19, the Future and Cooperation

Kamala Harris is vocal when it comes to domestic COVID-19 relief. However, that is not to say that she has neglected the global perspective. Harris’ collaboration of the resolution s.res.579 illuminates her stance on what the U.S. needs to accomplish on the global stage. I.e., continued international support, cooperation with scientists across the globe to combat the new coronavirus and relief packages aimed at poorer communities and countries. Kamala Harris also introduced the “Improving Pandemic Preparedness and Response Through Diplomacy Act” (s.4118). This is a comprehensive bill that looks to the future of pandemic response and what will be done to combat and recover from future global pandemics. Notably, Harris’ foreign policy could potentially incorporate such radical legislation.

Africa and Beyond

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy regarding Africa is one that recognizes the continent’s diversity, potential and struggles. Harris has made statements advocating for strengthening diplomatic relationships with all of Africa to “foster shared prosperity” and “ensure global security in the near future”. Harris has also opposed reduced, foreign assistance to Central and South America. Instead, she advocates for greater investments in tackling the root issues of destabilization in Southern America.

Kamala’s Co-Sponsorships

Here is a collated list that takes a deeper look into what Kamala Harris has co-sponsored in recent years:

  1. No War Against Iran Act (s.3159): A bill proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-VT] that would prohibit further expenditures and military activity in Iran.
  2. Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy (s.2565): A bill proposed by Sen. Edward J. Markey [D-MA] created in hopes to address a future affected by climate change and the displacement of climate-refugees.
  3. International Climate Accountability Act (s.1743): A bill, sponsored by Jeanne Shaheen [D-NH] to prevent the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.
  4. Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2019 (s.1186): Legislation proposed by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin [D-MD] to both address and aid the humanitarian crisis in Burma (Myanmar).

The Outlook, TBD

Kamala Harris’ foreign policy, in principle, is burgeoning but spells positivity and action for tackling some of the world’s greatest issues. Carefully cultivated, diplomatic relationships, pandemic relief and response legislation and a fresh outlook on familiar problems may be a positive step forward.

Henry Comes-Prichett
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

US Foreign PolicyCOVID-19 took the world by storm as it crippled and shut down areas all over the globe, including China, Italy and Spain. Although these nations had robust economies, they were not prepared to handle the economic or medical ramifications of the pandemic. Amid this disaster, the U.S. is pushing to diversify its medical supply chain in the hopes of creating a more secure network for the nation and the world at large. Here are the top 3 things you should know about U.S. foreign policy regarding supply chain diversification.

Current US Foreign Policy

Currently, officials in Washington D.C. are working to extend a foreign policy that promotes economic growth in manufacturing areas around the world. Doing so will allow multiple areas around the globe to manufacture the same products. This will help secure medical supply chains globally and drive costs down as it introduces competition to markets. Senior Fellow Prashant Yadav voiced his support of supply chain diversification before Congress. Specifically, Yadav noted that these actions will also open new markets and strengthen relations between countries.

Why Supply Chain Diversification Is So Important

As COVID-19 swept across the world, it shut down many areas and halted the production of several products. The biggest issue was that many areas that faced shutdowns were the sole manufacturing areas of life-saving supplies. Northern Italy produced the cotton swabs that are used for the COVID-19 nasal tests. Countries like Cambodia and China were the world’s largest producers of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks and shields. The pandemic effectively shut down these areas as outbreaks began — which meant that the accessibility of these products plummeted and prices rose. Not only does this leave the general population at risk but also, those who live below the poverty line. These people face incredible barriers that only increase due to the situation.

Specific Policies Currently Implemented

Just after the pandemic reached the U.S., the government proposed and implemented the SAFER plan. Part of this plan includes addressing certain healthcare needs. In this way, the U.S. is making an effort to ensure that all medical facilities have access to the supplies that they need. However, the U.S. does not have unlimited stockpiles of all medical supplies. As a result, the U.S. government is obligated to ensure the stability and accessibility of its medical supply chains.

Under the SAFER plan, the U.S. agreed to send 200 ventilators to India with the understanding that India would supply the U.S. with different medications. This will not only provide mutual medical benefits to both countries but it will also strengthen ties between the U.S. and India. In this same vein, the SAFER plan helps to promote economic growth within India and to lessen the world’s reliance on China as the major producer of medical supplies.

While the U.S. is working to ensure domestic security, it is important to note that this will invariably help people across the globe as well. As the nation with one of the largest economies, the U.S. has a lot of clout in the global market. This means that as the U.S. fights for more security in the manufacturing of PPE, cotton swabs and COVID-19 treatments — accessibility for all nations will increase. This positive outcome — a result of more areas beginning to produce products to fulfill trade agreements with the U.S.

Allison Moss
Photo: Pixbay

the House Committee on Foreign AffairsThe House Committee on Foreign Affairs oversees all legislation relating to foreign policy in the United States House of Representatives, including foreign policy and issues of national security. There are 47 representatives currently serving on the Committee. They consist of 21 Republicans and 26 Democrats. The corresponding committee in the Senate is the Committee on Foreign Relations. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is one of the most influential parts of Congress. It has played a significant role in shaping the United States foreign policy. Here are five facts about this important Congressional Committee.

5 Facts About the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

  1. In 1775, the Continental Congress created a committee to oversee relations with foreign powers. Its original name was the Committee of Secret Correspondence. In 1777, the committee changed the name to the Committee for Foreign Affairs. The powers of the committee evolved over the next few decades with the creation of the other branches of the federal government. However, it maintained its role of supervising foreign policy issues for the legislature. In 1822, Congress formally established the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as a standing committee.
  2. It has had many noteworthy members in its recent history. Many influential representatives have served on this committee in the past decade, including Republicans Ron Paul, Mike Pence and Ron Desantis and Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Howard Berman. The current roster includes Democrats Ilhan Omar and Joaquin Castro. These prominent representatives have all influenced the ideology of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. For example, Ilhan Omar has advocated for developing countries to receive economic support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has helped to make foreign aid a larger aspect of the Committee.
  3. It has a subcommittee that oversees global humanitarian issues. One of its six standing subcommittees is the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. This subcommittee has regional jurisdiction over legislation that relates to Africa. In addition, it has functional jurisdiction over topics such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Peace Corps and legislation relating to maternal and child health. These topics have an especially large impact on the global poor. However, one of its most important functions is the influence it has over the promotion of human rights and the protection of vulnerable and impoverished people around the world.
  4. It unanimously passed the Global Child Thrive Act. The Global Child Thrive Act is a bill that would give the U.S. Agency for International Development greater authority to include early childhood development aid in the foreign assistance it provides. Children living in extreme poverty often do not have access to the education and support they need as their brain develops. Studies have shown this can have negative cognitive and emotional effects. In December 2019, the Committee unanimously passed the bill. Giving the bill bipartisan support in the Committee makes it more likely that Congress will pass it. This legislation would make a huge difference for children in developing countries around the world.
  5. It passed the Global Health Security Act. Virginia Representative Gerald Connoly introduced this legislation in early 2019. It includes several measures to ensure that the United States is better prepared to deal with the spread of diseases around the world. For example, it requires a Global Health Security Coordinator to manage the response of the government. This would make a huge difference in combating the spread of COVID-19, especially for poor and developing countries. The bill was passed by the Committee on Armed Services and the House Intelligence Committee before going to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Foreign Affairs Committee passed the bill in early 2020, and it is currently awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.

All Congressional committees have a large amount of influence over their respective policy areas. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is one of the most important governmental bodies for shaping the foreign policy of the United States. It oversees many bills that relate to global poverty and has influenced the House of Representatives to pass many critical pieces of legislation. The actions of the Committee have a large impact on the way the U.S. interacts with the rest of the world.

Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Wikimedia

John Lewis
John Lewis was an American civil rights leader and activist, a respected representative for Georgia’s fifth congressional district for over 30 years and a champion for reducing global inequalities. John Lewis introduced or sponsored at least 23 bills and resolutions that influenced U.S. foreign relations, humanitarian aid and advocacy. While some of his bills did not pass at the time, John Lewis’s globally-minded legislative style set a precedent for advocating for the world’s poor through legislative action.

Timeline of John Lewis’s Foreign Affairs Legislation

1999-2000

Under the Clinton Administration, John Lewis sponsored H.Con.Res.348. This resolution officially declared that Congress condemns the use of children as soldiers in any context. It provided guidelines on addressing the use of child soldiers, reintegration approaches for former child soldiers and incentives for foreign armies or organizations to dismantle exploitative child soldier systems.

2007-2008

Under the Bush Administration, Lewis sponsored H.R.2522, which defined modern-day slavery and enabled the government to better restrict it. Lewis’s bill called for a congressional commission to address the ways global modern-day slavery creeps into economic systems. The bill addressed how modern-day slavery targets vulnerable populations and requires intervention. This legislation would have also affected U.S. trade relations at the time, pressuring the government to halt trade with nations known to endorse modern-day slavery.

In 2008, Lewis introduced H.RES.1169. This resolution pushed the U.S. to advance its stance on eliminating discrimination and all forms of human or civil rights abuses. The resolution had both a domestic and international focus. It proposed to recommit several NGOs and governmental bodies that promoted equity.

2009-2010

Under the Obama Administration, Lewis reintroduced H.RES.1169 with slight wording changes. This resolution continued to advocate for the U.S. to step up as a global human rights leader. That same year, John Lewis also introduced H.R.3328 and H.Res.948. The first resolution called on the Secretary of State to collaborate with India in funding the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative, an educational and professional exchange program. While that bill did not pass, the other resolution officially endorsed the organizers and participants of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

After the U.N. General Assembly declared July 18 International Nelson Mandela Day, Lewis also introduced H.Res.1518. This resolution expressed the U.S.’s support for the U.N.’s action, which recognized Mandela’s progression of the nonviolent fight for equality under the law. This legislation also called on U.S. citizens to appreciate democracy, discourse and peace domestically.

2011-2016

Throughout the 112th, 113th and into the 114th congressional sessions, Lewis continued to introduce versions of his previous legislation. Lewis reintroduced H.Res.1518, regarding International Nelson Mandela Day, in 2011, 2013 and 2015. In those same years, John Lewis also restructured and then reintroduced what was originally H.RES.1169, regarding the U.S.’s commitment to protecting human rights globally. The new versions of the resolution maintained all components but did not specify to which conventions the U.S. must recommit, leaving room for expansion.

In 2011, 2013 and 2016, Lewis also reintroduced revised conditions for the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative bill. In 2016, Lewis introduced a new resolution, H.Con.Res.158, which focuses on the importance of U.S. citizens and government recognizing the 35th annual International Day of Peace.

2017-2018

This time, under the Trump Administration, John Lewis persisted through the 115th congressional session. Despite blockage from other congressional leaders on several bills, he reintroduced legislation centered on humanitarianism. In 2017, Lewis first reinstated recognition of International Nelson Mandela Day, then of the International Day of Peace. He lastly revised the bill intended to strengthen the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative.

2019-2020

In his last year serving, at the age of nearly 80, John Lewis continued to advocate and reintroduce globally-conscious legislation. Lewis again dedicated floor time to the Nelson Mandela International Day resolution, and then again to the International Day of Peace resolution. At the end of 2019, Lewis introduced a new resolution, H.R.5517. This bill had the same goals as the previous Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative legislation Lewis introduced. However, Lewis amended the bill to include rhetoric affirming the altruistic intentions of the U.S. in collaboration with India. The 116th congressional session is still unfolding. This is an opportunity for other congressional leaders to pass the initiative Lewis pushed for over a decade.

Aside from his decades of success in public service and activism, John Lewis’s persistence in the congressional fight for global equity has paved the way for future lawmakers. John Lewis thought and acted as a global citizen. Despite setbacks and congressional stalemate, Lewis consistently and creatively committed the U.S. to the advancement of conditions for the world’s poor. Lewis leaves behind a legacy of care and compassion, ready for the next generation of American citizens and politicians to adopt.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

poverty in afghanistanForeign aid in any form can be considered positive at face value, but Afghanistan could benefit from greater investment in private organizations due to its specific needs. Aid from countries such as the U.S. is accompanied by political strings that, according to a U.S. agency report on Afghanistan, results in the Afghani government’s focusing on the goals of its foreign investors rather than the needs of its citizens. Poverty in Afghanistan requires attention unhindered by political expectations.

US Foreign Aid Policy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in March of 2020 that the U.S. would be cutting $1 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan, which became a foreign policy initiative following major U.S. military presence in the country. The U.S. foreign aid is allocated to a variety of purposes, some of which attempt to address the widespread poverty that still impacts 54.5% of Afghans. Despite these efforts, poverty remains a large concern. For example, the number of Afghans without basic food and housing increased from 6.5 to 9.4 million between 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at American University with expertise in foreign aid and Central and Southeast Asia, asserts that different types of foreign aid are better suited to target specific goals. Darden noted that U.S. foreign aid in Afghanistan is largely concerned with developing infrastructure tied to the needs of the foreign parties in this country, such as Kabul International Airport. Additionally, while the U.S. aid package may set aside some portion of the money with the intention of addressing poverty in Afghanistan, the larger goals are often political in nature.

Non-Governmental Organizations’ Contribution

Private organizations could focus their resources on areas ignored by foreign government aid. “I think that, in terms of overall strategies for Afghanistan, getting more resources to outlying regions, and having more NGO and local NGO presence in outlying regions is something that should be a goal of a sustainable development strategy for Afghanistan, rather than continuing to over-concentrate resources and efforts in the Kabul area,” said Darden. The U.S. aid focusing on the Kabul area for accessibility and the ability to address political goals arguably takes away attention from less centralized regions. A larger NGO presence in the country could mean an established, long-term effort to target the humanitarian needs of Afghans and reduce poverty in Afghanistan.

Afghan Women’s Network

One of the most prominent independent groups acting in Afghanistan is the Afghan Women’s Network. It was created following inspiration from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This organization serves as an umbrella for a variety of humanitarian efforts in the country. It has direct points of contact in several major regions throughout the country and provides support to other organizations in the remaining regions. With 3,500 members and 125 women’s groups under its leadership, the Afghan Women’s Network has the ability and resources to provide immediate and specialized support to Afghans.

The political struggles of Afghanistan exist in tandem with the struggles of Afghani citizens. Multiple NGOs with unique goals ranging from gender equality to infant mortality to education could target the diverse needs of the Afghani population more directly. By supplying aid without political expectations and restrictions, NGOs could work to downsize poverty in Afghanistan.

Riya Kohli
Photo: Pixabay

 Global Poverty ActThe U.S. is heading towards a historically unique presidential election later this year. In the lead up to this November, it’s important to know how Joe Biden has helped fight global poverty. Specifically, Biden’s actions with the Global Poverty Act of 2007 demonstrate his commitment to increasing national security by combating poverty.

Biden’s Political Background

Before he became Vice President in 2009, Biden served in the U.S. Senate for over three decades. During this time, Biden was a ranking member and two-year chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Throughout his political career, Biden has supported foreign aid and implemented U.S. programs to help those in need. 

In the spring of 2007, Representative Adam Smith introduced the Global Poverty Act of 2007 to the U.S. House. The bill passed in September 2007 with bipartisan support and moved onto the Senate. Senator Barack Obama and two other senators introduced the bill in December 2007; Biden co-sponsored the bill and added minor amendments. The official bill saw no further action following its proposal on April 24, 2008.

What was the Global Poverty Act?

The Global Poverty Act aimed to make fighting global poverty the main goal of U.S. foreign policy. The bill itself did not detail a specific plan to combat global poverty. Rather, the bill ordered the President and Secretary of State to draft and implement a plan. The bill stated that the President’s strategy must have detailed goals, reasonable timelines, and include consistent progress reports to Congress.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Global Poverty Act of 2007 would cost less than $1 million per year and would not order new spending, meaning that the plan could be implemented with minor changes to the fiscal budget. As foreign assistance is less than one percent of the federal budget, implementing this plan would have a major impact on the world with minimal monetary changes. 

The bill argued that it is America’s duty to help those in need. Moreover, solving global poverty would help combat terrorism and strengthen national security. This legislation stated that Congress had already taken steps to fight global poverty, but the executive branch could do more. In particular, Congress established goals that cut the number of people who live on less than $1 a day, lack reliable food, drinking water, and sanitation in half.

Wider Impact

The initiatives mentioned above were part of the Millennium Development Goals formed in 2000. These goals were not yet achieved by 2007. Consequently, The House introduced the Global Poverty Act to emphasizing the need to combat global poverty and make progress on these goals. The bill also emphasized the need to invest in U.S. programs that help reduce global poverty. In particular, these programs increase debt relief for poverty-stricken countries, promote sustainable development, and emphasize the need for future action. By putting fighting global poverty at the front of the presidential agenda, it would show other countries that they should do the same.

The 2008 Recession likely contributed to the bill stalling. At that time, Congress was focused on drafting domestic legislation. Although the House never implemented that Global Poverty Act of 2007, Biden’s involvement shows he understands fighting global poverty is an important aspect of U.S. national security. In essence, Biden’s involvement with the Global Poverty Act suggests he will use the executive branch to help combat poverty if elected this coming fall.

Jacquelyn Burrer

Photo: Obama White House Archives