ADVOCATE FOR GLOBAL POVERTY LEGISLATIONThe mission of The Borgen Project differs from many other foreign aid organizations in that it focuses on combatting through ongoing legislation rather than one-time donations to countries in need. In order to make the most significant impact on the world’s poor, it is necessary to call, email and lobby members of Congress to support beneficial foreign policy. With this more complex mission comes the task of becoming an informed advocate for global poverty legislation. Not unlike many vital humanitarian causes, self-education is not only increasingly crucial but increasingly accessible. There are simple ways to become more well-versed in global poverty and foreign policy.

1. Read About Fighting Global Poverty

There is no better time than now to invest in reading informative books about worthwhile topics. Popular books surrounding the topic of global poverty legislation and advocacy include “How Change Happens” by Duncan Green and “Freedom From Want: The Remarkable Success Story of BRAC, the Global Grassroots Organization That’s Winning the Fight Against Poverty” by Ian Smillie. These books offer analyses on the history of grassroots organizations fighting poverty, as well as actionable steps to contribute to these efforts.

It is also vital to read about the intersection of global poverty and social identities, such as gender and race. One such book is Pulizer-Prize winner “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Reading memoirs is also particularly useful for this. Two notable titles in this category include “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi and “They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan” by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak and Judy A. Bernstein.

2. Subscribe to Online Newsletters

For a brief daily dose of education, anyone can subscribe to a foreign policy newsletter from a reputable source. On Foreign Policy’s website, one can subscribe to a variety of free newsletters containing global updates. Some newsletters arrive daily while others arrive weekly. Such newsletters are Editors’ Picks, Flash Points, and Morning Brief. There are also frequent newsletters available from the Center for International Policy, the World Bank, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

3. Follow Global Poverty and Advocacy Instagram Accounts

A picture says a thousand words and many Instagram accounts use vivid photos to convey global poverty and advocacy updates. Many of these photos feature eye-catching graphics containing statistics about global poverty and brief but comprehensive captions always offer context for the images. While social media often contains vapid or fleeting content, these accounts demonstrate how social media can educate anyone willing to follow along. Examples of such accounts are UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee, the United Nations, U.N. Human Rights, and the U.N. World Food Programme.

4. Keep Up with Senators and Representatives

The most direct way to advocate for global poverty legislation is to contact members of Congress on an ongoing basis. Each person has one representative and two senators, which can be easily located using the “Find Your Elected Officials” tool on The Borgen Project website. In addition to subscribing to representatives’ and senators’ newsletters and social media accounts, it is enlightening to do more research on their previous actions for poverty-reducing legislation.

More often than not, there will be a tool on a congressperson’s website to view the bills they have recently sponsored or co-sponsored as well as pages that specify which committees the congressperson resides on. On the U.S. Congress website, there are pages detailing several Foreign Policy Committees, including who the committees consist of. By conducting research, it is easier to determine what any given congressperson’s stance is on global poverty legislation and foreign aid. With this information, one can go beyond the typical call or email and additionally bird-dog or lobby congress with an informed perspective of the congressperson’s past efforts and priorities.

Becoming an informed advocate for global poverty legislation may seem like a massive undertaking but the amount of dedication to the challenge distinguishes true solidarity from fleeting, temperamental advocacy. Using these accessible resources, anyone can learn about the importance of poverty-reducing legislation and aid and play a part in reducing global poverty.

Stella Grimaldi
Photo: Flickr

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

immigration proposal
On July 16, 2019, the White House advisor, Jared Kushner, submitted a new 600-page immigration proposal from President Donald Trump. The administration urged Congress to review and consider the proposal prior to the August Congressional recess.

The proposal’s key aspect establishes a merit-based system for individuals seeking legal entry into the United States, effectively ending legal loopholes in the American immigration system. Kushner acknowledged that though “a 100 percent fix is difficult,” the administration believes its new plan has the ability to fix 90 percent of legal loopholes in immigration legislation.

The American Immigration Crisis

The United States of America has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Forty million people living in the United States came from another country and this number makes up one-fifth of the world’s migrants as of 2017.

Though there is disagreement over the cause of the crisis at the border, there is bipartisan agreement that the situation at the border between America and Mexico is a crisis. In January 2019, a CNN survey found that 45 percent of Americans felt this way, and in July 2019, the survey found that 74 percent of Americans see a crisis at the border. Additionally, the survey concluded that despite partisan divides, there is a majority agreement across party lines supporting a plan to allow some illegal immigrants living in the United States to become legal residents; 80 percent overall agree, including 96 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Republicans.

As of May 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was detaining an all-time record of 52,000 immigrants in jails around the United States. Two weeks prior, that number was 49,000, indicating a huge spike in jailed immigrants. The Trump administration made a decision to expand arrest priorities to nearly every undocumented individual in America, and as a result, the number of immigrants in ICE custody in the Trump administration has increased tremendously from the Obama administration’s average of 35,000 immigrants imprisoned by ICE.

Passing the Legislation

Previous legislation has focused on supporting humanitarian assistance and immigration enforcement, but with a goal of ending all legal loopholes, the immigration proposal from President Trump asks Congress to address problems that do not have funding. For example, there is no funding for changing asylum laws, indicating that President Trump’s new immigration proposal could face several hurdles to passage.

The immigration proposal from President Trump comes at a particularly partisan moment in Senate proceedings, following an eruption on the House of Representatives floor over Democrats’ decision to denounce a series of tweets from President Trump. Many believe that White House senior advisor Kushner will face difficulty in gaining bipartisan support for the bill due to the persistently rocky waters between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Corruption Around the World
Corruption, which Transparency International defines as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” is one of the most significant roadblocks facing developing countries today. The World Bank points out that corruption disproportionately hurts the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world, increasing the cost and reducing access to basic services like health care, justice and education. According to a 2017 survey by Transparency International, 25 percent of respondents worldwide said they had to pay a bribe to access a public service within the last 12 months. According to the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, bribery and stolen money drain the global economy of $3.6 billion every year.

This past June 2019, congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN9), along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, introduced legislation to the House of Representatives designed to crack down on corruption around the world. The bill, titled the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, seeks to expose actors on the international stage who have attempted to undermine democracy or have promoted corruption around the world and to punish those actors with various sanctions. This article will explore the history of U.S. and international efforts to combat corruption around the world, before examining the details of congressman Cohen’s legislation.

The History of Global Anti-Corruption Efforts

In the late 1990s, regional groups of states began to sign anti-corruption treaties. In 1996, a group of Latin American states entered into the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. Since its adoption in 1999, dozens of African countries have signed the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. However, the most comprehensive and far-reaching international anti-corruption treaty is the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which went into force in 2005. One hundred and eighty-six countries around the world have ratified the Convention, which has pressured 86 percent of its signatories to adopt tougher anti-corruption measures.

U.S. efforts to fight corruption around the world started with the Foreign Corrupt Services Act, which it enacted in 1977. The Act prohibits U.S. individuals and firms, as well as certain foreign individuals and firms operating on U.S. soil, from making bribes to foreign officials in order to advance a business deal. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has worked on the ground with foreign governments to strengthen their ability to resist corruption. For instance, the INL worked with the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior to replace the country’s notoriously corrupt police force with 16,000 new patrol police.

The Kleptocrat Exposure Act

Steve Cohen introduced the Kleptocrat Exposure Act to the House of Representatives on June 24, 2019. The Act, which has four Republican and two Democratic co-sponsors, has entered the House Judiciary Committee for debate and has yet to enter to the House as a whole. The Act primarily aims to amend another piece of legislation called the Immigration and Nationality Act. In its current form, the Immigration and Nationality Act generally keeps information about visa refusals confidential, but with certain exceptions, such as when information about an immigrant’s visa status is necessary in cases going before a court.

However, this amendment would allow the Secretary of State to release information to the public regarding visa refusals to foreign individuals who have committed human rights violations or corruption. Under the Kleptocrat Exposure Act, the Secretary of State’s release of information about an individual’s visa refusal would have to be based on credible evidence that:

  • The individual carried out “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” against people trying to promote democracy or expose corruption within their country.
  • The individual acted as an agent for a person described above.
  • The individual himself was a government official in his/her country who participated in some act of corruption, such as “the expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery, or the facilitation or transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions.”
  • The individual provided technological, financial or material support for one of the acts of corruption described above.

According to Skopos Labs estimates, the bill only has a three percent chance of becoming reality. However, the fact that this legislation has at least some bipartisan support could be a sign that U.S. lawmakers might be starting to recognize the U.S.’s role in exposing and punishing human rights abusers and kleptocrats. Even if the legislation fails in Congress on its first try, the Kleptocrat Exposure Act could just be the first step towards more sustained policy efforts to get the U.S. more involved in cracking down on corruption around the world.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Combating Global Corruption
Cosponsored by six congressmen, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) re-introduced the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 on May 2, 2019. The bill requires the Department of State to rank countries into three tiers by how the country complies with the anti-corruption standards established in section four of the bill. This bill previously died in the 115th Congress. However, the 2019 re-introduction has already proven to be more successful. In mid-July 2019, the Senate placed the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 on its legislative calendar.

Cosponsor Sen. Young says, “I am proud of this bipartisan effort to combat corruption around the world by standing with the world’s most vulnerable and holding those in power responsible for their actions.” Global corruption is a direct threat to democracy, economic growth, national and international security. It increases global poverty, violates human rights and threatens peace and security.

Corruption and Global Poverty

Bribery negatively impacts literacy rates and access to adequate health and sanitation services. Eight times more women die during childbirth in places where over 60 percent of the population report paying bribes compared to countries with rates below 30 percent. Bribery significantly increases the costs of services like education and health care while decreasing a family’s disposable income. For example, in Mexico, the average poor family spends one-third of its income on bribes. Some families must use the income meant for school or dinner to pay a bribe to local law enforcement.

Corruption and Human Rights

Article six of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”

However, UNICEF reports that every five seconds, a child under the age of 15 dies of generally preventable causes. Over five million of these deaths occur before the age of five due to lack of water, sanitation, proper nutrition and basic health services. Impoverished families living in corrupt communities often do not have access to these services. Therefore, they suffer from higher rates of child mortality. Children are 84 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday in Angola, the sixth most corrupt country in the world, than Luxembourg, the 10th least corrupt country. Corruption denies children their right to life.

Peace and Security

Transparency International’s report “Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace” found that corruption fuels conflict and instability. Consequently, more than half of the 20 most corrupt countries have experienced violent conflict. Iraq and Venezuela have violent death rates above 40 per 100,000 individuals.

Further, one of the most profitable forms of corruption is human trafficking. UNICEF estimates that human traffickers generate $32 billion by smuggling approximately 21 million victims each year. Human trafficking occurs in unstable environments where corrupt officials allow criminal activity to persist. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that addressing human trafficking and combating global corruption together will generate better results.

Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019

The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 will establish a three-tiered system of countries by their level of corruption and efforts to combat injustices.

  1. Tier one includes countries complying with the minimum standards stated in section four of the bill.
  2. Tier two includes countries attempting to comply with the minimum standards in section four but are not succeeding at the level of a tier-one country.
  3. Tier three includes countries to which the government is making little, to no effort to comply with the minimum standards in section four.

The minimum standards set expectations about national legislation and punishments to deter and eventually eliminate, the corruption inside a country’s borders. The second part of the Combating Global Corruption Act sets forth a procedure to conduct risk assessments, create mitigation strategies and investigate allegations of misappropriated foreign assistance funds to increase the transparency and accountability for how the U.S. provides foreign assistance to tier-three countries.

Sen. Cardin has four points of focus:

  1. Fighting corruption must become a national security priority.
  2. The U.S. government must coordinate efforts across agencies.
  3. The U.S. must improve oversight of its own foreign assistance and promote transparency.
  4. The U.S. can increase financial support for anti-corruption work by using seized resources and assets.

According to Sen. Cardin, the Combating Global Corruption Act of 2019 “recognizes the importance of combating corruption as a hurdle to achieving peace, prosperity and human rights around the world.”

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

Democracy in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia that has struggled to maintain a robust democracy for nearly its entire history. For decades, military coups and civil war have made democracy difficult to implement in Cambodia. Generally, the international community has struggled to find a way to successfully institutionalize democracy within the country. Back in January 2019, U.S. congressman Ted Yoho introduced the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019 in order to deal with this problem. However, before delving into the details of the legislation, it is important to understand that democracy in Cambodia has a troubled history.  Furthermore, it is essential to understand how those troubles have prompted a response from U.S. lawmakers.

History of Democracy in Cambodia

Prime minister Hun Sen is a key piece in understanding why democracy has struggled to firmly take hold in Cambodia. He became prime minister of Cambodia in 1985. At the time, various armed factions had plunged the country into civil war.

In the early 1990s, a massive United Nations peacekeeping force attempted to disarm and bring ceasefire between the various factions, run national elections and promote democracy in Cambodia. Nearly 20,000 military, police and other personnel made up the force.

In 1991, the Paris Peace Accords officially brought the conflict to an end, which outlined basic protections for human rights. The agreement also promoted free and fair elections within the country.

The 1991 agreements led to the creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). The UNTAC facilitated national elections in 1993. During these elections, guerillas carried out violent attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. The Hun Sen-led Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) engaged in a massive campaign of violent intimidation against people who might vote against them.

The royalist Funcinpec party won the majority of seats in the National Assembly. Norodom Ranariddh, the son of the former Cambodian King Sihanouk, led the party. Hun Sen and the CPP did not accept the results of the election. As such, they were able to force their way into a power-sharing agreement. This ultimately allowed Sen to serve as deputy prime minister alongside Ranariddh.

However, this agreement broke down in 1997 when Hun Sen seized power from Ranariddh in a coup. Cambodia then elected him prime minister in the following elections. The CPP would go on to win elections in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018. In order to preserve his grip on the country, Hun Sen has wielded increasingly autocratic power to crush the opposition. In 2017, authorities arrested the leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), the leading opposition party to the CPP, on trumped-up charges of treason. Two months later, the Supreme Court suspended the CNRP entirely. In the 2018 elections, which international observers considered illegitimate, the CPP won more than 100 of the 125 contested seats in the National Assembly.

The Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019

Following Hun Sen’s crackdown on dissent prior to the 2018 elections, U.S. lawmakers became increasingly vocal about promoting democracy in Cambodia. Ted Yoho has been chief among these lawmakers. He is a Republican congressman representing Florida’s 3rd congressional district.

Yoho introduced the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2018 during the 115th Congress. The bill managed to pass in the House, but the Senate did not pass it. Yoho re-introduced the bill during the 116th Congress as the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. Five Democrats and four Republicans co-sponsored the bill.

According to its description on GovTrack, the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019 aims to “promote free and fair elections, political freedoms, and human rights in Cambodia.” Specifically, the bill would authorize the president to impose various sanctions on Cambodia’s security, military and government senior officials. It would also authorize sanctions on those who might be undermining democracy in Cambodia and controlled by said individuals. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act outlined these sanctions. It includes economic sanctions such as asset freezes and visa restrictions. Penalties for undermining democracy would be the same as those under the IEEPA, which can reach fines of up to $1 million.

There is a 4 percent chance that Cambodia will enact the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019. This is an estimate according to Skopos Labs. However, Congressman Yoho is still confident about the bill’s prospects. In a phone interview with VOA Khmer, Yoho said, “We had a lot of bipartisan support last year and I think you’ll see the same amount this year…”

U.S. Support of Democracy in Cambodia

Overall, the fact that the legislation is drawing support from across party lines is an encouraging sign that the U.S. is willing to promote democracy in Cambodia. Additionally, there is a possibility that the U.S. could pressure the Hun Sen regime to put an end to its autocratic abuses of power.

– Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America
Recent news has increasingly mentioned the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and its migration crisis. Each of these countries have economic systems that have similar financial agreements with outside countries. These 10 facts about poverty in Central America will identify issues, solutions and trends that lead back to Central America’s poverty crisis.

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America

  1. The Economy: The political economy of Central America has parallelled that of the world for the past five decades. A combination of factors such as a vulnerable bureaucratic system, a shifting population and aggressive globalization are causing Central America to experience gentrification on a national level, creating more significant gaps between economic classes.
  2. Climate Change: Changes in nature such as unusually warm temperatures, nutrient-poor water and the comeback of the southern pine beetle are occurring throughout the region of Central America. This insect is a result of a change in climate where the ocean temperature rises significantly, placing additional demand on presently strained water reserves.
  3. Population: In the past five decades, Central America’s population has continued to increase with the most considerable change occurring up to the mid-1970s, after which the difference in community numbers became highly sporadic. As the population continues to increase, resources like infrastructure and the economy struggle to match demand. As a result, the levels of poverty and extreme poverty have increased by approximately one percent between 2014 and 2017 and extreme poverty increased two percent between 2014 and 2016. Congresswoman Alicia Barcena mentioned the need for public services such as social security and labor inclusion, and how pairing these resources with increased wages could lessen the amount of poverty.
  4. Legislation: Central American countries are making efforts through previous legislation to alleviate their economic hardships. Since 2004, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement has promoted stronger trade and stability throughout these regions. FTA reduces the barriers that countries previously had to access U.S. exports. As a result, traded goods all originate between Mexico and Canada with the exceptions of agricultural commodities. These areas give considerable attention to the conditions and the rights of workers in their countries. Countries are currently updating NAFTA to address additional concerns such as how to verify labor standards and eliminate the time restraint on labor violations.
  5. Clean Water Accessibility: Nicaragua is the only country in the region that has substantial access to waterways but the surrounding countries, like Honduras, Guatemala and Peru, do not due to the steep terrain that can make up significant portions of their countries. These collections of water are rarely safe for consumption even if they are accessible. For many households, accessing water is a timely chore that can take hours traveling back and forth between sources of water and homes, and limit people’s ability to attend work or school. For example, around 63 percent of Honduras’ population is living below poverty and those who live in rural areas work as farmers; as a result, their earnings rarely go to education, but rather daily tasks like water collection. To help with water accessibility, Doc Hendley started Wine to Water. Wine to Water is a nonprofit organization that works to bring clean water to underserved communities. It has served over half a million people in over 300 communities, across five continents. To date, it has worked in Honduras within eight communities and aided over 11,000 people.
  6. Literacy: Many regions have limited water supplies that are safe or close in the distance, meaning that in a single day, a trip for a container of water takes several hours. As a region, Central America has lower literacy rates with an average of 79.4, compared to the global average of 83.7. The countries in Central America with the highest literacy rates are Costa Rica and Panama, while the country with the lowest is Guatemala.
  7. The Northern Triangle: The Northern Triangle is a subregion in Central America between El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These countries have a secure connection with each other economically due to legislation that passed during the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of those changes, however, have had macroeconomic effects on the region leaving large portions of the population enduring unequal access to resources and encouraging many to migrate elsewhere, working against stimulating its economy. The House Committee of Foreign Affairs introduced legislation to address the causes of migration and authorized $577 million in foreign assistance for the years 2020.
  8. Women in Central America: Central American women are facing challenges to raise their economic status while being met with social obstacles. For example, some women in El Salvador meet with sexism, fragile protection and few rights. These challenges, along with limited assets, the possibility of extortion and insufficient education about business management and finances make some businesswomen wary of growing or succeeding with their activities.
  9. Migration: Many people have made efforts to migrate to other countries due to the rising concern of survival. Droughts, economic instability, increased violence between gang members and civilians, corrupt legal systems and a weak government have made daily life challenging.
  10. Violence: The violence in Central America has been on the rise for decades, causing hundreds of thousands of migrants out of the region. Of those who remain in the area, the violence, extortion and corruption are frequent. Legislation such as the Global Fragility Act of 2019 prevents and addresses the primary causes of violence in various countries.

These 10 facts about poverty in Central America emphasize the point that poverty is a broad issue with a number of solutions. While situations in Central America may seem dire, the efforts by nonprofits like Wine to Water and legislation like the Global Fragility Act of 2019 should aid in improving the area’s conditions.

– Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

reach every other and child act

Every day, 830 mothers die during childbirth or during their pregnancy while 15,000 children die of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. Yearly, 2.7 million newborns die and 1 million babies die the minute they are born. With these frightening statistics in mind, families need the Reach Every Mother and Child Act because it is a solution to these issues that gives mothers and children a chance to live safe and healthy lives.

Background

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act (S.1766) is a bipartisan bill led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). At the time of writing, the bill has 49 other co-sponsors in addition to the aforementioned original sponsors.

A previous version of the bill (H.R.4022 / S.1730) gained strong bipartisan support in the 115th Congress, with 212 co-sponsors of the House of Representatives version and 49 co-sponsors of the Senate version.

The bill was reintroduced in the 116th Congress and outlines a five-year plan to eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths in countries across the world. S.1766 would also work to establish a plan that would allow children to live healthy and happy lifestyles by 2030. This Act is especially necessary for places in Central Africa where maternal and child death rates remain at an all-time high.

Benefits

One of these countries is Sierra Leone which has the highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world with 1,360 deaths per every 100,000 births. Sierra Leone remains one of the world’s poorest nations, which means that many expectant mothers do not get the care they need to deliver a child safely. Limited access to basic health care needs also leaves young children at risk during the first 1,000 days of their lives.

The country with the second-highest death rate in the world is the Central African Republic where out of every 100,000 births, 882 result in death. Access to proper health care for women as well as for their children is severely lacking, considering that it is the third poorest nation in Africa. Of note, 45 percent of children are born at home due to a lack of women’s clinics or difficulty access same. There are also only eight OBGYNs in the entire country. Other countries that have incredibly high maternal and child death rates are Chad, Burundi, Liberia, Somalia and South Sudan.

On the brighter side, the majority of these statistics have decreased significantly; child mortality rates have been cut in half since 1990. Families need the Reach Every Mother and Child Act because it would allow for mothers and children in these impoverished nations to receive the care they so desperately need while also providing a foundation for them grow and continue to live healthy lifestyles. Because the U.S. already has the expertise in ending preventable maternal and child deaths, we must play a larger role in this global fight to help mothers and their children.

 

Send an email to your Senators today asking them to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

 

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

Rape Cases has Decreased in Jordan

In 1960, the country of Jordan adopted Article 308, a law allowing rapists to escape punishment if they married their victim. After years of persistent campaigning, women’s rights groups across Northern Africa and Western Asia influenced countries throughout the Middle East, including Jordan, to abolish such laws. After an annual increase in rape cases since 2015, the number of rape cases in Jordan has decreased. Here is a guide to why the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, a description of the positive impact of Article 308’s abolishment and what obstacles women’s rights groups still need to overcome.

Article 308

Elspeth Dehnert, a journalist from Huffpost, recounts the story of a Jordanian woman named Aya whose family arranged her to marry her rapist. They did this to protect the rapist from jail time and avoid a “scandal” they believed would ensue if Aya and her attacker were not married. Yet after months of suffering more abuse from her husband, Aya decided to file for divorce and publicize her situation. In a letter she wrote to the Jordanian Parliament and local media, she declared how she knew her husband only married her to escape imprisonment.

Ever since Jordan adopted Article 308, Jordanian men have used this law to escape punishment for rape. Those who supported the law claimed it protected the victim and her family from the shame of rape. Yet women’s rights organizations, like the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI), and many Jordanians disagreed. The SIGI asked Jordanians what they thought motivates rapists to offer marriage to their victims. An estimated 62.5 percent of respondents said the offender wants to escape prosecution, trial or execution of the penalty. Similarly, about 15 percent of respondents said the rapist wants to avoid social stigma against him. According to Jordan’s Ministry of Justice, 159 rapists had used Article 308 between 2010 and 2013 to evade punishment.

The Abolition of Article 308

In October 2016, Jordan’s King Abdullah II ordered the creation of a royal committee to reform the judiciary and review Jordan’s entire penal code. Three years before this review, the women’s rights movement worked to gain broad support. Activists from organizations like the SIGI created a base of evidence to defeat arguments made by Article 308’s proponents. These proponents argued Article 308 keeps families together and protects women from the stigma of extramarital sex.

In doing so, activists based their stance in the horrific stories of local women and girls forced to marry their rapists. This strategy helped combat accusations from opponents claiming their campaign was being led by feminists with a Western agenda who had no right to be interfering in family law. Fortunately, the campaign of the women’s rights movement was so successful in Jordan that the Jordanian Parliament removed all the legal loopholes letting rapists evade punishment for their crimes and abolished Article 308 altogether, rather than repeal or amend it.

The Impact of Article 308’s Abolishment

Because of this abolishment, the Annual Statistical Report 2018 issued by Jordan’s Department of Statistics says the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan. Complaints of rape in 2018 declined from 145 complaints in 2017 to 140 complaints in 2018. The SIGI issued a press release stating this is the first year Jordan has seen a decrease in annual rape cases since 2015. The SIGI also said these figures represent cases filed at police stations, some of which resulted in suspects being tried and convicted. Other cases were classified as something other than rape.

The Culture of Shame

Even though the number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, experts say that even in countries where legal loopholes were abolished or never existed at all, the custom of allowing rapists to avoid imprisonment by marrying their victims is still widespread. Many families throughout the Arab world believe that when they expose their daughter’s rape to the public, they risk social shame. This has lead, in some cases, to a family killing their own daughter to preserve the family’s honor. From their perspective, marriage is an easier, more private solution.

The number of rape cases has decreased in Jordan, yet the culture of shame that protects rapists from punishment is still alive and well. In response to statements made by Equality Now’s legal equality program manager Antonia Kirkland, Dehnert says more effort needs to be made by judges, law enforcement and medical workers. She also states these same people need to make sure women and girls know their legal rights. If these efforts are made, women in Jordan and throughout the Middle East will experience a safer and liberated future.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid to SyriaSyria faces a great deal of poverty, in part because of the violent conflict taking place there. The U.S. is deeply involved in Syria, both militarily and through foreign aid. The U.S. uses aid to address Syrian poverty in a variety of ways. Although this aid has helped the U.S. successfully achieve some of its goals, the aid has recently been reduced. These 10 facts explore the impact of U.S. aid to Syria, methods used to provide that aid and the potential consequences of cuts in aid.

10 Facts about U.S. Aid to Syria

  1. Currently, 13.1 million Syrians require assistance. 6.6 million Syrians require housing, and 2.98 million Syrians live in areas affected by violence or that cannot be easily accessed by relief agencies. Millions of Syrians are forced to live in exile. They escape the violence of their home country only to find more poverty in Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps.
  2. Since 2011, U.S. aid has reached the amount of $7.7 billion. This aid funds the provision of food, water, healthcare and other necessities. It also funds “stabilization assistance,” allowing Syrian communities themselves to rebuild infrastructure and continue agricultural practices.
  3. In 2014, more than 40% of food-related emergency relief in Syria came from the U.S. This aid was sent throughout the 14 regional districts of Syria. At the time, 300 medical facilities in Syria were backed by the U.S., with more than 280,000 surgeries taking place at these locations.
  4. In 2016, U.S. aid to Syria amounted to $601 million. The aid was used to send food to impoverished areas. It also funded polio vaccinations for Syrian children.
  5. In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill requiring the U.S. to prevent violence against the Syrian people perpetrated by the Assad regime. Known as the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017, the bill sanctioned supporters of the Assad regime. The bill also sanctioned groups and individuals known to prevent Syrian access to humanitarian aid.
  6. In the spring of 2019, the U.S. restored power to 500,000 citizens of Raqqa. The Syrian Recovery Trust Fund, funded by USAID, provided food security to 256,051 Syrians. The same program also funded waste removal for 53,645 families.
  7. USAID is currently implementing a program to improve damaged infrastructure in Raqqa. The program gives authority to the community leaders of Raqqa. USAID plans to cooperate with local leaders and NGOs to restore power lines and increase regional access to electricity.
  8. In 2018, U.S. aid to Syria was cut by $230 million. The U.S. called for $300 million in aid from other Arab nations. The new reduced amount of U.S. aid was redirected primarily toward the reconstruction of the city of Raqqa, the former center of ISIS operations in Syria.
  9. After making significant cuts to the amount of proposed aid to Syria, the U.S. planned to allow that money to be used for other purposes. The administration emphasized the $300 million being sent to Syria by other nations. $100 million was sent by Saudi Arabia alone.
  10. The expanded role of other nations in Syria is used as a justification for the U.S. taking a less prominent role. As U.S. aid to Syria decreases, U.S. military involvement in the country is decreasing as well. Many Syrians are still in need of U.S. aid, even if U.S. policy
    seems to be moving away from providing that aid.

Thanks to U.S. aid, thousands of Syrians have access to better infrastructure, electricity, food and healthcare. U.S. aid facilitates stability in Syria. Further cuts to U.S. aid would be detrimental to Syrian stability. To help protect U.S. aid to Syria, U.S. voters can contact Congress in favor of protecting the International Affairs budget using this link.

— Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr