Migrant Workers in Qatar When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 

Drug Law Reform
Reflecting on over 50 years of the War on Drugs campaign from today’s perspective, it can be concluded that strict drug laws around the world have proven to be costly and ineffective at reducing drug use.

Most governments engage in militarized approaches that target small-scale offenders and farmers. This approach devastates local communities and deepens poverty, particularly in the global south. However, human rights-based approaches to drug law reform around the world are paving a new way forward.

UN Conventions are International Guidelines for Regulation

The U.N. has placed three conventions to regulate illicit drugs internationally. These conventions require federal governments to prosecute anybody engaging in the production, distribution, sale or purchase of illicit drugs.

However, the problem with the drug laws around the world are not the U.N. conventions. The problem is that the governments have interpreted these conventions literally and they tend to focus on the criminalization of the persons involved in drug trade rather than educating and treating the participants in the right way. 

Drug law reform can still occur in line with the U.N. conventions since the conventions do not specify that governments need to criminalize drug use itself but they leave room for governments to create treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug users.

Existing Drug Laws Deepen Poverty

The current international drug laws hurt the poor people the most, particularly those in the global south.

In these areas, drug cartel leaders and large-scale distributors generally have the resources and intel to evade law enforcement. So when the government cracks down on drugs, the poor are hit the hardest.

Prosecuting small-scale offenders only deepens poverty. Small-scale farmers grow drug crops because they have no realistic alternative. These farmers already belong to some of the most impoverished rural communities.

When their land is not fertile enough to sustain food crops, growing drug crops becomes the only option. When farmers are imprisoned, their income prospects disappear and their families and communities are only left in deeper and more desperate poverty. A vicious cycle forms.

The Balloon Effect Hurts Local Communities

Just like squeezing the bottom of a balloon pushes air to the top, experts use the term “balloon effect” to refer to the displacement of drug production.

Government enforcement does succeed in driving away drug production––but only from regulated areas. Traffickers will often move to more remote areas where they can’t be tracked. But it’s in these remote areas that the ecosystems are most fragile.

Local communities in these remote areas rely entirely on their untouched natural resources to survive. When drug producers take over their land, these local communities are driven into poverty. It’s estimated that the illicit drug trade is responsible for 10 percent of the rainforest destruction in Peru.

Bolivia Takes an Innovative Approach to Drug Law Reform

Bolivia’s indigenous population has been farming and chewing coca leaves for hundreds of years in order to increase focus and productivity. But, as it is well known, coca happens to be the main ingredient in cocaine.

So as part of its War on Drugs strategy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) forcibly eradicated many of these indigenous farms, violently arresting farmers and deepening rural poverty.

In response to this actions, Bolivia legalized coca production in 2011. The government limits the amount of coca that farmers can grow (they are allowed to produce on approximately the size of one-third of a football field), and the legal sale of this coca allows farmers to make a sizable income. With their income, farming communities can now experiment with new food crops as well.

This cooperative, community-first approach has led to the voluntary removal of nearly 10,000 hectares of coca. Over the course of four years after the implementation of the policy, illegal coca production in Bolivia fell by 34 percent.

Western Africa’s Model for Drug Law Reform Helps Drug Users

Experts across Western Africa convened for the West Africa Commission on Drugs and crafted a “model drug law” for the region. The model was published in September 2018 and aims to guide the region’s policymakers. It focuses on removing existing barriers to health care for drug users.

Globally, the risk of contracting HIV is 23 times higher for people who inject drugs. And out of all of those who inject drugs, only 4 percent that lives with HIV have access to treatment. The criminalization of drug use prevents many from seeking treatment.

Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the West Africa Commission on Drugs, highlights the necessity for help over punishment: “Pushing them to the fringes of society or locking them up in ever increasing numbers will not solve the problem.”

The model for drug law reform focuses on decriminalizing drug use and increasing harm reduction services. Harm reduction services, such as clean needle-syringe programs are proven to decrease HIV infection rates.

The War on Drugs has turned rural farms and already impoverished areas into battlefields. Arresting and imprisoning small-scale offenders, such as users and rural farmers, only deepens global poverty.

However, as proven in various different situations, human-rights based approaches work. Governments and nonprofit organization around the world can use Bolivia and Western Africa as shining examples of how drug law reform can instead focus on the specific needs of different communities.

– Ivana Bozic

Photo: Flickr

BUILD ActThe Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD) was created to allocate private-sector dollars to assist developing countries. The BUILD Act would create The United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). The budget would be set at $60 million, which is nearly double Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) current funds. There will be a focus on low income and lower-middle income countries and assistance to turn them into market economies.

The BUILD Act

The importance of the BUILD Act is that it allows the USIDFC the opportunity to: 1) make loans, 2) obtain equity or financial interest in entities, 3) provide reassurance to private sector entities and qualifying countries, 4) provide technical assistance, 5) conduct special projects, 6) crate enterprise funds, 7) issue obligations and 8) charge service fees.

The BUILD Act was passed by the House on 17 July 2018. The vote was spearheaded by Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Ted Yoho. The importance of The BUILD Act is recognized by both parties because it recommits the United States to be supportive of developing countries.

According to Rep. Adam Smith, the United States must “take an all in approach to our foreign assistance.” Programs like The BUILD Act are essential because they promote “health, peace and stability that are vital to our national security.” Rep. Ted Yoho believes The BUILD Act is a huge step towards the United States becoming more effective with foreign aid. The end goal of the BUILD Act is to take countries that are struggling with extreme poverty from “aid to trade.”

The importance of the BUILD Act for developing countries can be seen in 5 major areas:

  1. Building infrastructure
  2. Increasing obtainability of electricity
  3. Starting businesses
  4. Job creation
  5. Reducing the need for foreign aid from The United States

Helping Economies Around the World

Developing countries have difficulty attracting the investors that are needed to begin creating economic growth. In order to assist these countries and gain the advantages of helping, The U.S should be encouraging the private sector to invest. That is where The BUILD Act comes into play. This act will allow developing countries the opportunity to get out of poverty and accomplish becoming self-sufficient.  

The act will bring billions of dollars in private-sector investments to fight extreme poverty along with making it easier for American business to work in developing countries. If an American investor would like to have a business in a developing country, but the banks think that could be too risky of an investment, The USIDFC would be available to provide assistance; subsequently, helping Americans while creating more jobs and helping those dealing with extreme poverty.

The BUILD Act is an important piece of legislation that both parties feel will be a benefit to both our economy and that of developing countries in need. Countries facing extreme poverty will now have the capability to become self-sufficient.

– Olivia Hodges
Photo: U.S. Dept. of Defense

Food for Peace Modernization Act
The Food for Peace Modernization Act (FPMA) is a bill currently awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives in Congress. This bill would change the way the United States can provide food to countries in need; here are some crucial factors of such a powerful piece of legislation.

10 Aspects of the Food for Peace Modernization Act

  1. Currently, only 30 percent of Food for Peace funding actually pays for food. The other 70 percent has to cover overhead and transportation costs for inefficiencies in the current law.
  1. It is a bipartisan bill. FPMA has support from both Republicans and Democrats. It has great support from Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon.
  1. It will help Americans aid impoverished countries even more. This change in policy will make it possible to feed at least 9 million more people across the world without spending any extra money. If more money goes towards the food aid rather than the overhead costs, the United States will be able to feed substantially more people in need at the same cost.
  1. It will change where the United States can source and ship the food from. The bill currently mandates that almost all food aid must be from the United States. This would change from almost all the food to no less than 25 percent of the food coming from the United States; this means that up to 75 percent of food aid could be sourced in locations other than the United States. Food could then be locally sourced much closer to the population that needs the food aid, which would save the U.S. money and time.
  1. The bill will eliminate monetization. Monetization is the act of giving funds to non-governmental organizations that operate development programs in other countries to buy food from the United States, ship that food to a poor country and then resell it in local markets. The act of monetization wastes about 30-50 percent of every dollar spent on shipping and administrative costs. This process can also depress local food prices, eventually negatively affecting local farmers and the food security of the country. The Food for Peace Modernization Act would eliminate this practice, thereby making it easier and more effective for the United States to aid poor countries.
  1. It will speed up the process of delivering food aid, which will save millions of lives. By the United States locally sourcing food for aid-recipient countries, the nation will dramatically reduce its aid-delivery time.
  1. American ships won’t have to carry the food aid. Shipping on American vessels costs about one-third more than using other means of transportation. If this step was not required, the money the United States could save would be able to help more people in dire need of food aid throughout the world.
  1. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has the opportunity to be more flexible with payment for their food aid. FPMA will allow USAID to be able to use vouchers or cash transfers for 75 percent of all food aid. USAID will be able to decide which is more cost effective, and which will help save the U.S. an abundance of money and help more people in need of aid.
  1. Food aid makes up only 0.2 percent of United States Agriculture Production. Although FPMA would change the requirement of almost all food aid coming from the U.S. to no less than 25 percent, it would have almost no effect on American farmers. The significance of American farmers is still recognized, but sourcing less food from the U.S. would not affect the production of these farmers since food aid is such a small part of American agriculture production.
  1. The current restrictions of food aid are estimated to waste about $400 million each year. The inefficiencies in the current bill waste a great deal of American money each year. With these changes like eliminating monetization, allowing vouchers and locally sourced food and not shipping all food aid on American vessels as introduced in the Food for Peace Modernization Act, the United States could use this money to help many more impoverished people around the world in need of food aid.

Spreading the Wealth

The United States is the largest contributor of food aid in the world. If the Food for Peace Modernization Act passes, it will allow the U.S. to help even more people in need across the world at no extra cost.  

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act
The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act is a bill that re-implements the original Global Food Security Act in 2016, which essentially promotes and funds international nutrition programs. The bill itself will help millions of people worldwide who struggle with hunger, and the updated version of this act contains new amendments vital to the bill’s success.

What is the Global Food Security Act?

The Global Food Security Act was created in order to improve agricultural development internationally. Its main objectives were to establish the United States as a partner in the fight against world hunger, and to demonstrate that the U.S. government would continuously support bipartisan initiatives to prevent further malnutrition. The act also initiated alliances among the United States government, the private sector and nonprofit organizations, so that each branch could work together to pursue the bill’s goals.

Unfortunately, the original law only lasted one year — this was a major loss for all those who advocate for hunger alleviation efforts. However, the Senate reintroduced this bill in 2018, titled as the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act. This bill reaffirms the old law into existence, and adds new provisions to ensure its proper execution.

Thankfully, the new act had greater success in the Senate than its predecessor. It passed, and now awaits approval in the House of Representatives. The bill only needs a simple majority within the House, and then can be signed into law and its provisions will come to fruition.

Why Should the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act Pass?

This act will do a lot of good for a lot of diverse people around the world. This is a substantial step in the fight against world hunger and malnutrition. This is a win for the victims of hunger, and for all organizations, like The Borgen Project, who want to help people live longer, more productive lives. Some of the key reasons for the passing of the bill are as follows:

  • Firstly, the fiscal years in the new bill have extended to three years from one year in the original law, which applies to years 2018 to 2021. Unlike the 2016 act, the new bill allows more time to rightfully enforce the law. The law will be more effective since the government has more time to enact its provisions.
  • Secondly, the bill will also introduce a deworming program, which will rid individuals — mostly children — of parasites. These initiatives will occur after diet diversification and will help a number of children in different countries. The deworming programs will also encourage proper public health programs.
  • Thirdly, the focus of the bill will be on children and mothers, so that they receive an adequate and diverse nutrition, which will promote their local communities at its core.

These new provisions should allow for the proper implementation of the act, and the United States government will hopefully utilize this piece of legislation to keep its promise to help in global hunger alleviation efforts.

If the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act were to pass, then a plethora of families would be able to live healthier and safer lives, and consequently develop their societies and local communities even more. The effects of this bill will improve public health, education systems, family life and a whole host of other issues, so do your part to support and contact your representatives today.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Reach Every Mother and Child Act
About 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. More than 17,000 children under the age of five die from treatable conditions. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2017 aims to end these preventable deaths.

7 Key Facts About The Reach Every Mother and Child Act

  1. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act is a bipartisan bill that has been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. If passed, the bill would create a five-year government strategy to end preventable newborn, child and maternal deaths globally by 2030. This act would focus on making existing programs more effective and emphasize the importance of “evidence-based interventions.” The United States’ government would work with governments of other countries, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations and other entities to develop and implement this strategy.
  2. The act would require the U.S. president to appoint a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) employee to act as a Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator. The holder of this position would implement the government’s strategy to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and oversee all programs relating to maternal and child health and nutrition.
  3. In 2015, countries around the world adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These various goals aim to end global poverty. As the United States helped develop these goals, it is crucial for the U.S. government to take measures to achieve them. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act is one method by which the U.S. can work to attain these goals, particularly Goal 3: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”
  4. More than 300,000 women die each year from preventable complications during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Such complications include high-blood pressure during pregnancy, bleeding during childbirth and infections after childbirth. Adequate healthcare can handle these difficulties. However, many poor women in rural, remote areas do not have access to adequate health care. By implementing plans to improve healthcare in such areas, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women around the world.
  5. Lack of access to quality healthcare is also detrimental to newborns and children under the age of five. More than six million children die before they reach the age of five each year, and 46 percent of these deaths occur during the neonatal period, the first month of a baby’s life. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of deaths during the neonatal period.
  6. Extreme poverty is also a major cause of child deaths. Children who live in poverty often experience malnutrition, which makes them vulnerable to diseases including pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. These diseases are the leading cause of death of children between the ages of one month and five years. These diseases are also preventable. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act would reduce the number of children who die from these diseases by alleviating poverty and improving access to medical services.
  7. Rep. Dave Reichert (D-WA-9), one of the members of Congress who introduced the bill in the House, asserts that the “Reach Act will give the world’s most in-need families the tools and resources to climb their way out of extreme poverty.” Enabling women and children to escape poverty gives these people the opportunity to contribute to and improve their communities. This in turn creates a “safer and more stable world by “strengthen[ing] security and stability.”

Support is Key

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act has strong support from more than 20 NGOs and from both Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress. The act would save millions of lives and is crucial to the reduction of maternal, infant and child mortality rates around the world.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Neglected Tropical DiseasesNeglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of diseases such as Dengue fever, rabies, hookworm and sleeping sickness that collectively affect more than one billion people around the globe. These diseases are crippling, but very often preventable and treatable. The world stands to gain a great deal from even moderate investment into fighting neglected tropical diseases.

Impact of NTDs

Neglected tropical diseases are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America. They disproportionately affect the world’s poor and make it even harder for these people to climb out of poverty.

These diseases collectively kill hundreds of thousands of people each year and they significantly harm hundreds of millions more. NTDs can lead to sickness, deformities and even blindness. Infected children are also at risk of malnutrition and stunted growth.

These symptoms cause more than personal suffering; they also threaten the long-term development of entire communities. Adults afflicted by these diseases are often unable to work or care for their families and may become socially isolated. Affected children are often unable to regularly attend school to learn the skills they need to help themselves and their communities.

Taken together, the effects of neglected tropical diseases add up to billions of dollars in lost productivity. Those losses are hard to absorb for these already-impoverished areas.

Effectiveness of Treatments

The good news is that fighting neglected tropical diseases is easier, cheaper and more efficient than dealing with many other widespread health issues. These diseases are preventable and some, like river blindness, are treatable with currently available drugs.

Since several of these diseases are often concentrated in a single area, effective treatment of one often helps with others as well. Several of the most effective drugs are also available for free as donations from their developers. It is likely that half a billion people suffering from these diseases could be treated for less than $400 million.

With this in mind, there is a very real chance that the impact of neglected tropical diseases could be severely reduced within a generation. The World Health Organization even has a goal to completely eradicate two or more by 2020. To achieve this goal, though, it is likely that the international community will have to make a greater commitment to cooperate in fighting neglected tropical diseases.

U.S. Response to Fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases

In recent years, U.S. efforts to support researching and treating neglected tropical diseases have amounted to little more than treading water. Congress has had to renew support for existing research centers on a yearly basis since long-term authorization ended in 2009. This may be changing soon, however.

In November, the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act was sent out of committee to be considered by the full House of Representatives. While it is still in a relatively early stage, the bill has already been cosponsored by representatives from both parties.  

If implemented, the bill would protect current research funding and keep Congress more directly informed about neglected tropical diseases. It would also shift U.S. policy into directly supporting the international effort against them. Specifically, U.S. representatives at the U.N. and World Bank would be instructed to promote researching, monitoring and fighting neglected tropical diseases.

While the bill does not allocate a great deal of money for the problem (the CBO estimates that the bill will cost only $14 million over five years), the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act would be the first step in years toward more directly involving the U.S. in this crucial global health issue. With continued U.S. and international efforts, these diseases may no longer be so neglected.

– Josh Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Digital Gap Act Benefits the U.S.The Digital Gap Act’s (H.R. 600) objective is primarily to foster greater internet access in developing countries in order to:

  1. Reduce poverty
  2. Improve education
  3. Empower women
  4. Advance U.S. interests

What the Digital Gap Act Will Do

Three billion people, that is 60 percent of the world’s population, lack internet access. As a result of that, those same three billion people are outside the radius of the free flow of information, innovations in health, education and commerce and are therefore lacking access to U.S. goods and services.

As the Digital Gap Act establishes internet access for these people, several features of the developing world would improve, while benefiting the U.S. simultaneously.

How the Digital Gap Act Benefits the U.S.

Bringing 500 million women online has the potential to add an additional $18 billion in GDP growth across 144 countries, which expands the global market for U.S. goods and services. The act also promotes democracy and good governance due to the transparency that follows the free flow of information on the Internet, instilling a favorable investment climate.

Furthermore, the Digital Gap Act could generate a possible $2.2 trillion in additional total GDP, which is a 72 percent increase in the GDP growth rate of developing countries. It would also spur job creation, up to 140 million jobs to be more precise, benefitting both the U.S. and developing countries, and would increase personal income gains to $600 per person in developing countries each year.

Lastly, the Digital Gap Act would lift 160 million people out of extreme poverty, all of whom would work their way into a growing market. This also means 2.5 million lives would be saved through improving healthcare.

Previous Advances Due to Greater Digital Access

Improved access to the internet has long been proven to advance the world as a whole. Eight million entrepreneurs in China now use e-commerce to sell goods, one-third of them being women. India reduced corruption and increased access to services by using digital identification. Africans with HIV were better reminded to take their medication through SMS messages.

The Digital Gap Act benefits the U.S. in a plethora of ways. Anywhere from cybersecurity to global political stability, global health to job availability and economic growth to cost-effective development practices, the developing world as well as the U.S. have much to reap from the gains in all these sectors. So today, U.S. taxpayers have a well-defined and remarkable reason to celebrate for the nation’s considerable contribution in the form of the Digital Gap Act.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

The READ ActAccording to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), nearly 263 million children and youth around the world are without an education. Of all of the regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the most detrimental number of children out of school – over a fifth of children between the ages of six to 11 and about one-third of children between the ages of 12 to 14. As the children grow older, the rates continue to worsen – almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of 15 to 17 are not receiving an education. The READ Act is a big step forward in the fight to change these numbers.

The Necessity of the READ Act

The UIS and the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report show that in Nigeria alone, 8.7 million children who are supposed to be in primary school are not. In Sudan, it is 2.7 million children and in Ethiopia, it is 2.1 million children. These children are not given the chance to thrive and challenge themselves and it is out of their hands due to the vast global poverty they are encompassed in.

Statistics such as this emphasize the importance of laws such as the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act. This act was signed into law in 2017, and it is this law that is providing these 263 million children (130 million of whom are girls) hope for a deserved and promising education.

Bringing the READ Act into Reality

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA) first introduced the READ Act into Congress. Both Rep. Lowey and Rep. Reichert are important contributors to the passing of this bill, along with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).

The main causes as to why these 263 million children do not have access to education are conflict and political instability. This law aims to provide education to the children who are in these situations, while simultaneously aiming to improve the overall quality of education. Rep. Reichert commented to World Vision, “By giving young people in impoverished regions the tools to read and write, we will put them down a positive path where they are better able to care for themselves, the needs of their families and their communities.”

The READ Act came about as an idea: what if the United States could make a significant difference by ensuring that every child has an equal and fair opportunity for a safe, quality education? After 13 years of constant due diligence and advocates contacting Congress over 1500 times, today there is widespread global success from this act.

How the READ Act Will Help

UNICEF reports that the READ Act of 2017 “will be tasked with developing a strategy to work with partner countries and organizations to promote basic education in developing countries.” The READ Act creates programs that also promote education as a foundation for economic growth. The act not only recognizes the importance of children having access to a quality education, it emphasizes that the act will create a chain reaction in communities by providing more jobs which will aid in diminishing poverty.

Rep. Lowey stated, “Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write – it will ultimately help protect vulnerable communities from hunger and disease and increase economic advancement, particularly for girls and women.” The READ Act, in providing millions of children around the globe with an education, is generously increasing the chance for these children to find jobs and build stable lives one day as they get older.

It is because of American citizens’ insistence that Congress take action that the READ Act has become an applicable law. More importantly, it is because of the citizens’ efforts that millions of children around the world now have new opportunities open for them and a brighter, more hopeful future to look forward to.

– Angelina Gillispie

To find out more about the past successes of our advocacy work and our current legislative priorities in Congress, head over to our Legislation page.

Photo: Flickr

Representative Ted Yoho
In February, U.S. Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL). proposed an overhaul to foreign aid. This April, with the support of U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD Act) has gained significant momentum.

The International Development Finance Corporation

The BUILD Act, also known as S.2463, aims to consolidate the disparate U.S. agencies currently providing foreign aid into a single, new agency, to be called the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC). More specifically, there would be a consolidation of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID’s Credit Authority, USAID’s Office of Private Capital and Microenterprise, and USAID’s Enterprise Funds. According to U.S. Representative Yoho, this consolidation would increase efficiency of foreign spending, and promote U.S. security, economic and diplomatic interests abroad.

The proposed agency will also benefit recipients of U.S. foreign aid. More streamlined and efficient spending in the U.S. government will allow for other countries to become stronger trading partners; in doing so, this change would also open new markets, and encourage self-sufficient economic development in communities worldwide. Supporters of the BUILD Act argue that it will help combat humanitarian concerns that plague many developing nations, including poverty, hunger and disease.

In recent weeks the BUILD Act has been publically supported by the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), the committee saying that older agencies such as OPIC need to be modernized, and as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, will strengthen American foreign aid and make the U.S. competitive.

What is the BUILD Act?

So what exactly does the BUILD Act propose? It gives the new agency, the IDFC, grantmaking capability, the ability to make equity investments, and an increased spending cap. These capabilities increase U.S. foreign aid spending, and encourage the participation of private sector capital to complement development assistance objectives. It is important to note however, that there is a regulation on how much of foreign aid spending can be used to make equity investments.

The text of the bill describes the purpose of the BUILD Act in Section 101 of the bill as, “to mobilize private capital in support of sustainable, broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction, and development through demand-driven partnerships with the private sector that further the foreign policy interests of the United States,” highlighting the benefits of the BUILD Act going both to the U.S. and international aid recipients.

While some are concerned about how the organization will actually take over USAID’s and OPIC’s duties, many are excited by the fact that the creation of the IDFC will create further accountability and cost no money, making it an increasingly appealing bill. While more work needs to be done concerning the transition, oversight on the IDFC will fall to Congress, and external auditors, who will preform regular audits of the organization.

Allied For a Cause

U.S. Representative Adam Smith, a co-sponsor on the initial proposal, announced a press release that reads: “Through our partnerships with friends and allies, we work to raise up local communities – strengthening institutions, combating hunger and disease, and ensuring that development projects have sustainable, long lasting impacts.” Representative Smith identifies how this increased spending on development improves the lives of individuals abroad.

The BUILD Act is gaining momentum in Washington, and purports to improve efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid deployment.

– Katherine Kirker
Photo: Flickr