Information and news about foreign policy

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

The Trump Administration’s Foreign Aid PolicySince the 1940s, the U.S. has been a global leader in foreign aid. The first U.S. foreign assistance program began when Secretary of State George Marshall enacted the Marshall Plan. The program provided $12 billion to help a war-torn Europe recover after World War II. In 1961, President Kennedy started the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after signing the Foreign Assistance Act into law. Today, the U.S. operates foreign aid programs with the aid of more than 20 U.S. government agencies, helping more than 100 countries. Since taking office, the Trump administration’s foreign aid policy has consisted of numerous attempts to pare down U.S funding for foreign aid.

The Trump Administration’s Foreign Aid Policy: 2017-2019

  1. The White House proposed a budget requesting a 31 percent cut in funding for several different agencies and programs.
  2. The Trump administration canceled $300 million in aid to Pakistan, claiming the nation had failed to properly combat terrorism in the region.
  3. The Trump administration cut the budget to fund Palestinian refugees through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency to $65 million from the initial promise of $125 million.
  4. The Trump administration ended aid to the Northern Triangle of Central America for not doing more to prevent illegal immigration to the U.S.
  5. The White House froze billions of dollars worth of foreign aid funding. The decision was in an effort to identify “unobligated resources of foreign aid” and “ensure accountability.”

The freeze in August created a logjam that left many officials at the State Department scrambling in the days before the end of the fiscal year. As a result, the State Department was unable to deliver more than $70 million to non-profit and humanitarian organizations in time. To help understand this complex process and the role of the executive and legislative branches in the funding of foreign aid, The Borgen Project reached out to an expert in the field.

An Expert’s Opinion

Dr. Steven Shirley, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He earned his doctorate in International Studies from Old Dominion University, has lived and worked abroad in Southeast and East Asia. He has authored several “Op-Eds, articles and books.” According to Shirley, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive branch. Although Congress provides the budget, it cannot dictate its allocation. That power lies with the executive branch.

Critics see the Trump administration’s move as a “bureaucratic maneuver” intended to surreptitiously cut funding for foreign aid. One official who is familiar with the matter said this method of cutting funds will have “major ripple effects.” Dr. Shirley believes that some good may yet come from these ripples. He thinks it may increase accountability for the agencies in regard to spending. Dr. Shirley says that requiring an account of money spent is “fiscally responsible” although it runs the danger of delaying the disbursement of funds.

Countries That Are Impacted

Because of the Trump administration’s foreign aid policy, various programs are in jeopardy. Due to a lack of funding, four non-profit humanitarian organizations working in China are at risk of shutting down. These NGOs remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of their work in China. The cuts also affected roughly $1 million to support programming in Ethiopia through the non-profit group Freedom House. Freedom House receives its primary funding in the form of grants from USAID and the State Department.

In Ethiopia, Freedom House is working to improve human rights, aid the country in its transition to democracy and establish a free press. According to Freedom House, Ethiopia is an authoritarian state ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. Despite progress toward eliminating extreme poverty, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Around 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and millions suffer from food insecurity. Transitioning to democracy is often the first step in improving these living conditions.

These examples show that U.S. foreign aid does a lot of good around the world. The Trump administration’s foreign aid policy would cut funding to a lot of these programs. What long-term effects this may have globally are yet to be seen.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Quotes On Poverty

There are many quotes on poverty from world leaders that make it clear what their stance is. American leaders are no different; they too have things to say about poverty. These former presidents understood the roots and the long-term effects of poverty on human beings. Below is a list of seven quotes on poverty with some background information on the former American presidents.

Seven Quotes On Poverty From Former U.S. Presidents

  1. John F. Kennedy: Kennedy served in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives until he became the 35th U.S. president in 1961. Some of his top achievements include the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. It was also Kennedy’s administration that established the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961, thanks to the increasing activism that was spreading among the West. The idea behind the Peace Corps was to find volunteers who would be willing to work on improving the social and economic conditions across the globe in order to promote modernization and development. Kennedy was quoted saying, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. [Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961]”
  2. Bill Clinton: William Jefferson Clinton enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. His two terms as President were correlated with economic prosperity from 1992 to 1998. Clinton’s vision in terms of foreign policy was intertwined with globalization as he believed that domestic events can be sharply affected by foreign events. He was quoted saying, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”
  3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to be president four times even though he was known at Harvard to be an ‘unimpressive C student.’ He led the United States both during the Great War and World War II. He established reforms in the powers of the federal government through the New Deal, including the CCC, the WPA, the TVA etc. In the earlier period of his presidency, he led the “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. Roosevelt was quoted saying, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
  4. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Dwight D. Eisenhower was first appointed as U.S. Army chief of staff in 1945. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Allied Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The following year, he was elected President. Eisenhower served two terms before retiring in 1961. The policy of containment became popular under the Eisenhower administration through the introduction of bilateral and multilateral treaties, including the CENTO and the SEATO. Eisenhower was quoted saying, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
  5. Lyndon B. Johnson: Lyndon B. Johnson initially served as vice president under John F. Kennedy in 1960. After Kennedy’s death in 1962, he became the 36th president himself. Johnson was widely acknowledged for his ‘Great Society’ social service programs, the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. Johnson was quoted saying, “The hungry world cannot be fed until and unless the growth of its resources and the growth of its population come into balance. Each man and woman – and each nation – must make decisions of conscience and policy in the face of this great problem.”
  6. George W. Bush: George W. Bush served as the 43rd President in the United States. He is remembered as the leader of the country during the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He was involved in the policy of the fight against HIV/AIDS where he proposed a $15 billion initiative known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This initiative led to an increase from 50,000 to 3 million Africans receiving AIDS medication. Bush was quoted saying, “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.”
  7. Barack Obama: Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president and the first African-American president of the United States. Before being elected president, Obama served in the U.S. Senate in the state of Illinois. Obama’s main stance on foreign policy was restraint. He tried his best to limit large-scale military operations and maximize diplomatic cooperation. He shared the burdens and responsibilities of international leadership with leaders from other countries. Obama was quoted saying, “As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.”

It is important to highlight these seven quotes on poverty from our leaders to remind us how national and global poverty can affect everyone’s daily lives. This effect can come through in the forms of policies or everyday interactions.

Nergis Sefer
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