Poverty in MadagascarEven with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr

How Politics Affect PovertyIn the last decade, there have been many studies regarding how politics and various government institutions shape poverty.

For the poorest and most vulnerable, the way in which their governments operate makes a profound difference in their lives. The incapacity of government institutions to prevent conflict, provide basic security or basic services can have detrimental consequences for their citizens, especially for the poor.

How Politics Affect Poverty

The instability of economic growth can make countries depend indefinitely on foreign aid. In countries where cultural or ethnic groups feel that there is economic, political and social inequality, wars are more likely to occur, causing a vicious cycle that leads to poverty.

In many instances the poor are marginalized and their voices are not heard. The poor, more than any other group, rely on basic public services.

These services work better for the poor when poor citizens participate in reforms of service delivery. In conflict-affected states, the supply of these services is very scarce.

Political instability, poor governance and corruption are a major phenomenon affecting poverty in the world today.

The Case of Haiti and Madagascar

For example, rudimentary to the prevalent problem of poverty in Haiti is the extensive history of political turmoil and the lack of governance.

Corruption and the misuse of public funds resulted in a reduction in the quality of all public services for the country. This includes the fundamental areas of traditional governmental responsibility, such as the police, the justice system and the provision of elemental infrastructure.

This makes Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world.

Madagascar is another example of how politics affects poverty. Madagascar was a country with a lot of economic potential before the big crisis of 2008.

Before the crisis, Madagascar had economic growth of 5 percent per year but economic growth became stagnant from 2008 up until 2013.

Since 2009, Madagascar has been in an intense political turmoil created by an unconstitutional change of government.

The political crisis and instability created uncertainty for private investment. Throughout these years of political upheaval, Madagascar’s social and economic growth became severely damaged.

Discriminatory Laws

Racial, gender and ethnic discrimination are directly related to how politics affects poverty in some countries of the world and it needs to be addressed if it is to successfully decrease inequality and poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, discriminatory family laws on marriage, separation and divorce push some women further into poverty.

In 20 years, Bangladesh has made great progress in its life expectancy and raised it by 10 years and has reduced infant mortality by more than half.

According to recent studies, both the rich and the poor are benefiting from these improvements.

However, according to the Human Rights Watch, women in the country do not benefit from these gains due to discriminatory family laws that push them deeper into poverty.

Migration is another aspect related to how politics affects poverty.

Migrant workers usually do not engage in political action about wages and conditions and they also lack the rights associated with citizenship and residency.

The laws governing immigration also often deprive these workers of labor or welfare protection, compel their ability to seek adequate working conditions.

Nongovernmental organizations’ Role

Nongovernmental organizations are an important part in helping alleviate poverty in many underdeveloped and third world countries.

For example, these organizations complement government in mobilizing additional resources in benefiting the greater number of people in need and enhancing program results through their participation in project management, monitoring and evaluation.

Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty that require different approaches.

The first category is made of people who are temporarily incapable of work, the second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency.

The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor and the fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled.

Nongovernmental organizations can provide huge help for the first and the second category.

Unlike some development players, nongovernmental organizations are more willing to help and provide innovative solutions to the people’s problems allowing them to gain support sooner.

Policymakers must use conscientious new approaches to generate productive jobs, increase the minimum wage, ensure investment in low-income communities, improve education and training and create more opportunities for everyone to apply their talents.

In conclusion, it is important that all governmental institutions become aware of the problem that poverty brings to societies and the impact that it has in the economic growth and development of a nation.

By becoming fully aware and not ignoring it anymore, policymakers have the responsibility to create laws that will help alleviate poverty in their communities.

It is important to tackle it and not to continue blaming the individual citizen for his misfortune but to provide guidance and opportunities for poor people to step out of the hole they’re in.
Photo: Unsplash

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict2017 brought significant changes to Ukraine as 6.4 million Ukrainians rose above the country’s poverty line thanks to increases in minimum wage and a boost in social welfare programs. However, after five years of conflict with Russia and 39 percent of the country still living below the poverty line, the future of Ukraine’s poor remains uncertain. As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, aid from the U.S. and other countries is the only sure-fire way for those in Ukraine to find relief from the violence at hand. Here are 10 facts about the conflict in Ukraine and its effect on this eastern European nation.  

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

  1. The Ukraine-Russia conflict began in 2013 when the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych declined a resolution that would allow for Ukraine to engage in more economic activity with the European Union. After Yanukovych declined the deal, protests began in the capital city, Kiev. When police intervened, the number of protesters increased to contest the brutal treatment from the officers. Yanukovych fled the country in 2014 amid the turmoil, leaving Russia to occupy Ukraine soon after.
  2. Currently, the Ukrainian military is fighting rebels in eastern Ukraine who are being supported by Russia and who wish to annex and become part of Russia.
  3. The Ukraine-Russia conflict has killed more than 10,000 and wounded at least 23,000.
  4. Since 2014, fighting between the two countries has damaged more than 700 schools as well as 130 medical centers. Breaches in ceasefires have endangered more than 200,000 children who are often put in harm’s way and lack access to safe learning spaces.
  5. The front line of the war stretches 280 miles across Ukraine, blocking much of the country’s access to trade and supplies from neighboring countries and the U.N.
  6. In 2017, UNICEF, along with nongovernmental organizations and utility companies, worked to provide more than 962,000 people clean drinking water in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas. They also provided vouchers for cash and hygiene education to 160,000 people living closest to the front lines, 30,000 of them children.
  7. UNICEF offered psychosocial support to 82,000 children and caregivers within 15 km of the front line through community support centers. The organization also provided 700,000 children and their families with mine-risk education. Futhermore, the rehabilitation of 87 schools and kindergartens within 5 km of the front lines, provided by UNICEF aid, allowed 138,000 children to return to school, with teachers and aides receiving emergency training.
  8. In order to provide proper healthcare, education and shelter for its citizens, Ukraine requires consistent aid from the United States. Americans can alleviate the effects of the violence in Ukraine by contacting their congresspeople and representatives and asking that they support the International Affairs Budget. Ongoing support from the U.S. will help to improve the conditions of those in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
  9. USAID supported elections in 600 communities throughout Ukraine, with many of these townships experiencing their first true election process.
  10. For 2018, Ukraine requires $23.6 million in aid in order to properly improve the country’s predicament. The top three main areas of need are:
    • Access to clean water, sanitation services and hygiene products ($13,619,000)
    • Child protection from violence ($3,200,000)
    • Education ($3,050,000)

Although there is still a long way to go in ending the Ukraine-Russia conflict some important steps have been made. The Ukraine government passed a healthcare reform law in October, which was signed by President Poroshenko, to improve the quality of care provided to its citizens and reduce corruption in the system. The work being done by UNICEF and USAID in Ukraine is helping to alleviate the damaging impact of the conflict. The next step will be working to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict once and for all.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Why Is It Important to VoteWhy is it important to vote? Because voting sends a message to politicians that the changes they are making and the laws they are passing have the approval of the people.

Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” This truism is important for anti-poverty activists to remember as they enter their polling places.

The Power of One

It is important to vote because many candidates for political offices are voted in by only one or two votes. The same goes for important issues that are passed into law. The people who are most likely to be affected by changes in legislation or political power, such as the poor, minorities and the disenfranchised, are the least likely to vote.

The supreme court has taken steps to ensure that voter ID laws do not institutionally discriminate against groups of people. The right to vote is not dependent on whether the voter is more or less likely to be impacted by the results. Theodore Roosevelt said, “A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends on the character of the user,” because each vote that is cast is important and has an impact on the political climate of America.

John Quincy Adams sums up the reason why anti-poverty activists and other people wishing to make lasting changes for the better need to go out and vote when he said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

A Tool for Change

So why is it important to vote? Voting is a powerful tool that can be used to make positive changes to social policy.

While marches and rallies are an important way to help inform people about various social issues, voting is a more powerful and useful tool for change. Morgan Carroll in “Take Back Your Government: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Your Government Work For You” eloquently expresses the power of a vote when she says: “When there’s a vacuum of public input, lobbyists usually fill it. But when there’s public input, the people usually win.”

Voting is one of the most effective ways to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy. While marches and rallies tend to raise awareness about social issues that need to be addressed by the government, voting tells the government that awareness about the issue is no longer sufficient and that direct action to correct the issue is being demanded.

Why Is It Important to Vote?

It is crucial for anti-poverty activists and others who want to make lasting and beneficial changes to social policy to get out and vote. Franklin D. Roosevelt expresses the power of voting and the answer to the question “why is it important to vote?” when he said: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

PeyoteEver since Carlos Castaneda published “The Teachings of Don Juan,” tourists have been coming to Mexico and illegally harvesting the Lophophora Williamsii cactus, more commonly known as Peyote. The Wixárika, also known as Huichol Indians, ceremonially use Lophophora Williamsii in their religious rituals and depend on the Mexican government to protect the Peyote that grows along the trail that the Wixárika follow during their ritual trek.

Tourists in Mexico Are Putting Peyote At Risk

Since it is illegal in Mexico for anybody who is not part of the Wixárika tribe to harvest and use Peyote, many tour guides take people to places where the cactus grows to let them reap the crop without giving them any instructions on how to sustainably harvest the crop. Harvesting Lophophora Williamsii using unsustainable methods is the main reason why the plant is at risk of being over-harvested.

It takes Peyote over 30 years to grow. Removing it in a way that is not environmentally sustainable poses the risk of destroying the ability of the Wixárika to use the plant for decades.

Methods such as GPS tracking units, security guards and fences have been used to stop poachers from illegally harvesting Peyote. Illegally collecting Lophophora Williamsii carries a jail term of up to 25 years in prison but most police officers in Mexico tend to took the other way when tourists steal the plant.

Lophophora Williamsii in Wixárika Rituals

The use of Lophophora Williamsii is an integral part of the religious experience for the Wixárika or Huichol Indians. Tourists who are harvesting Peyote on the sacred sites used by the Wixárika for generations are putting the rights of the Wixárika to use Peyote during their religious rituals at risk.

Pedro Medellin, who is running a study on the risks that tourists who harvest Peyote are putting on the Wixárika or Huichol Indians, stressed the importance of the cactus in Wixárika rituals to NPR. Medellin stated, “If Peyote disappears, then their whole culture disappears.”

Furthermore, NIERKIA, the Multidisciplinary Association for the Preservation of the Indigenous Traditions of Sacred Plants, published a pamphlet detailing some of the steps that the Mexican government could take in the future to protect Peyote so that the Wixárika always have access to Peyote during their rituals.

Inconsistent Laws Create More Risk

A loophole in Mexican law allows people to come to San Luis Potosi to consume Lophophora Williamsii in the desert without risking jail time. It is only illegal to harvest and remove the plant from San Luis Potosi to use it in other places. The Mexican government must have more consistent laws about the harvesting and use of Peyote in order to better protect it on the lands that are sacred to the Wixárika.

Even though it is a balancing act to protect the rights of native peoples while also promoting tourism to the area, it is important to ensure that native groups that live in a specific region are not forced to give up their traditional identity in the pursuit of economic prosperity. The Mexican government is beginning to help protect the ancient rituals of the Wixárika.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

be a senator
The United States Congress is made up of two chambers: an upper chamber known as the Senate and a lower chamber known as the House of Representatives. This is modeled after the British Parliament bicameral (two chamber) system. In England, this system is composed of a House of Lords and a House of Commons.

Today, the United States Congress is made up of 100 senators and 435 representatives. That is two senators from each state and one representative from each of the 435 recognized congressional districts in the United States. Members of Congress are voted in by the public and serve a six-year term if elected to Senate and a two-year term if elected to the House of Representatives.

When one considers the history, size and power of the United States Congress, there are many questions that may come to mind. One common question asked is: how old do you have to be to be a senator? To answer this question, one can look to the United States Constitution for the answer.

The Constitution reads, “No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.” From this, one can see that the answer to the question of how old one must be to be a senator in the United States is a minimum of  30 years old.

Answering this question often leads to another question: why did the writers of the United States Constitution choose this age as opposed to other ages? In addition to the structure of the two chamber congress system, the framers of the Constitution also looked to England when trying to determine the details for what the requirements to be a member of Congress would be.

At the time of the writing of the United States Constitution, England’s law required members of Parliament to be a minimum of  21 years old. Though the United States did not adopt the same age requirement, the adoption of an age requirement at all was significant.

Ultimately, it was determined that one must be 25 years of age to be a representative in the House of Representatives, a number similar to England’s, and 30 years of age to be a senator. The answer to the question of why 30 is the age that was determined by the writers of the Constitution is addressed by James Madison in The Federalist, No.  62. Madison explained that because of Senate’s deliberative nature, the “senatorial trust,” called for a “greater extent of information and stability of character,” than would be needed in the more democratic House of Representatives.

The United States Congress is a complex and integral part of the United States government. When determining the requirements to be a member of Congress, the framers of the Constitution had many factors to consider. Ultimately, they determined that as far as the requirement of age went, 30 was the appropriate age for a member of the Senate.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

What are the requirements for serving in the House?The House of Representatives is one of two chambers of Congress, which is the legislative branch of the federal government that is tasked with creating and passing national laws. Like the Senate, the House of Representatives was established by the U.S. Constitution. The House first convened in 1789. Today, the nation is witnessing the 115th United States Congress.

This current meeting of Congress will end in 2019, just after the new year. In anticipation of this upcoming changeover, congressional elections are taking place throughout the country later this year. In light of these elections, many people may be asking: what are the requirements for serving in the House?

Outlined by the Constitution, there are three simple requirements to serve in the House of Representatives. In order to become a representative, candidates must be:

  1. At least 25 years of age
  2. A citizen of the United States for at least seven years
  3. A resident of the state they wish to represent at the time of election

With the exception of the age minimum – which was initially set at 21, the voting age at the time – these requirements have remained largely unchanged. Of course, these criteria only partially answer the question, “what are the requirements for serving in the House?” Any additional requirements are established by the individual states. For instance, some states also require that House candidates live in the district that they intend to represent, while others do not.

Congress is the only branch of the federal government that is directly elected by the people. The House of Representatives is the largest Congressional body, and the Constitution dictates that seats in the House be allocated based on the population of each individual state. To ensure that representatives adhere to their namesake by representing the will of their electorate, the Constitution requires representatives to stand for election every two years, hence the 2018 midterm elections currently taking place.

Though the requirements for serving in the House are straightforward, the requirements for appearing on a ballot come with additional considerations. Specific ballot filing requirements are determined by the individual states. Generally, anyone who meets the Constitutional requirements and wishes to run for a seat in the House of Representatives must accumulate a certain number of signatures on a petition and/or pay registration fees to the state.

The road to election may be rigorous, but the barriers to entry into the race for a seat in the House are few. Anyone who meets the three Constitutional requirements and the criteria of their state of residence is free to campaign to serve within the House of Representatives.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr

Top Political BlogsThe innovation of blogs has had a major role in the modern political and media climate. With greater ability to voice one’s opinions comes the possibility of becoming inundated with sensationalist and unreliable news. Still, there are many thought-provoking and well-informed blogs available. To make the search easier, below you will find the five top political blogs. 

FiveThirtyEight

What started as a passion project for creator Nate Silver, then mostly known as a baseball analyst, has morphed into a statistical analysis behemoth. FiveThirtyEight gained widespread attention in 2008 when it turned away from traditional polls in favor of a statistical model that favored demographics and past voting data – an idea that most experts rejected. However, people began to believe in Silver after he accurately predicted every Senate race in that year’s general election. ESPN bought the blog in 2014, so now FiveThirtyEight covers more than just politics and has grown into the territory of general data journalism. Still, the blog’s in-depth statistical analysis is what makes it one of the top political blogs in the world.

ThinkProgress

ThinkProgress began as a news recap and analysis blog in 2005. It is now a fully funded and staffed newsroom with the resources to be one of the top political blogs. A self-professed progressive blog, it is supported by the Center for American Progress Action Fund but maintains editorial independence. The blog is best known for its Climate Progress section, which focuses on climate change and its impact. Reporting from this section can be found in peer-reviewed journals such as The American Economic Review.  

Daily Kos

Another blog that isn’t shy about its political leanings is Daily Kos. It’s listed among the top political blogs because it is the 865th most visited site in the U.S. Markos Moulitsas, a veteran, started the blog as an outlet to express his opinion. He thinks of Daily Kos as more than just a news site. It’s also a hub for activists and its own unique community with more than 3 million people signed up for the Daily Kos newsletter.

Politico Europe Press Review

When following politics, it’s important to get out of the comfort zone and follow what’s going on around the world. While Politico Europe may feel like cheating because it is funded by Politico magazine, it is difficult to find a site that covers international politics and current events more closely than Politico Europe. Curious about what is going on in Slovakia? Politico Europe Press Review is up to date and also providing analysis about what other news sites are saying.

Foreign Policy Blogs

Foreign Policy Blogs is the top political blog for foreign policy and is more of a network of blogs than an individual one. The blog receives it funding from the Foreign Policy Association (FPA), a non-profit started in 1918 with the sole purpose of teaching Americans about the importance and substance of foreign policy issues. The blog’s staff doesn’t work directly for the FPA but instead hail from the fields of journalism, academia, non-profits, NGOs and business. The variety of backgrounds assures the opinions and analysis have a varied perspective.

Other Top Political Blogs

There are countless sites that all assert themselves as the top political blog available and discredit their competitors. While five is nowhere close to the total number of reputable political blogs, the sites mentioned above are great jumping off points for those looking for quality analysis and varied topics.

– David Jaques

Photo: Google

Senator Cory BookerWith people looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is in the spotlight for many Americans. Advocacy for foreign aid and establishing good relations with other countries have been prioritized in his campaign and throughout his congressional leadership. This advocacy is reflected in his speech, campaigning and most importantly, his sponsorship and co-sponsorship of several bills.

AGOA & MCA Modernization Act

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge Act (MCA) have already gone into effect and have been successful in sub-Saharan African countries. Senator Booker supports updating these acts, which will enhance the successes the U.S. is seeing from the original laws. Modernizing these programs will benefit the U.S. by increasing transportation, communication and energy networks, and will open the U.S. market to these sub-Saharan African countries.

READ Act

As a Rhodes Scholar recipient, it is not surprising that Senator Booker cares deeply about education. Booker co-sponsored the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act (READ Act) to support the right to basic education in developing nations. The READ Act partners with impoverished nations to develop a quality curriculum, stabilize the education system and help children become successful in literacy and numeracy. Achieving these goals will increase the number of skilled workers in the future, which will benefit the nation’s development.

Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018

Another example of Senator Booker’s interest in humanitarian and foreign aid is his co-signing of the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2018. This bill calls for U.S. action and aid regarding the thousands of displaced Rohingya people of Burma. Booker agrees that the U.S. should invest $104 million of foreign aid in Burma to help the victims of the Burmese civil war, restore the nation’s economy and establish democracy in the nation. It will also call for those responsible for crimes against humanity to be held accountable.

Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017

Senator Booker and several other senators, both Republican and Democrat, co-signed the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act of 2017. This bill would hold Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad accountable for his war crimes and brutalities against Syrian people over the last seven years. As stated on his official website, Booker sees the issue of violent extremism, whether foreign or domestic, as a priority issue for Congress.

Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017

The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017 aims to decrease corruption in designated countries. Many countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, struggle with government corruption and very little is being done about it. Senator Booker has already expressed his concern for the ongoing political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so it comes as no surprise that he co-signed this bill to alleviate global corruption.

As a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator Booker supports several foreign policy and aid bills that The Borgen Project advocates for. His hard work, advocacy and relentless fight for humanitarian aid and foreign relations for the U.S. make Senator Cory Booker one of the most popular junior senators America has seen.

– Courtney Hambrecht

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

how to influence Congress
Lobbying the government for one’s self-interest is often seen as the dirty business of big corporations. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, $3.36 billion was spent on lobbying in 2017 by more than 11,500 lobbyists. While these figures may seem daunting to the novice voter, the power to bring change is still strongly held by constituents. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise…to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”

With big corporations having many financial tools at their disposal, it may seem that they have the ear of those in Congress. However, most of the lobbying industry is funded by a variety of other organizations. Some of these include local banks, schools, hospitals and religious institutions, all of them lobbying for great causes such as ending breast cancer and diabetes and preventing AIDS. When learning how to influence Congress, persistence, organization and dedication are required, but anybody can make a change.

How to Influence Congress Effectively

  1. Learn the Best Way to Communicate
    Reach out to staffers or to a member of Congress to find out the best way to communicate with them. Different congressional offices weigh messages differently. (202) 224-3121 is the Capital switchboard and they can direct the call straight to your representative’s office.
  2. Send Effective Messages
    When reaching out to a member of Congress, make sure to identify yourself, state the issue you are advocating and explain how it relates to the community. The Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University polled 3,000 congressional staffers about which activities have the biggest influence on members of Congress. They considered “providing consistently reliable information” and “presenting a concise argument” to be the two most effective actions when lobbying or advocating for an issue.
  3. Use Social Media
    The Congressional Management Foundation, an organization dedicated to figuring out the inner workings of Congress, says “social media is often the most effective way to reach members of Congress online.” Twitter was found to be the most used social media platform of congressional offices, but the usage of and the impact varies from member to member.
  4. Respect Congressional Staffers
    It is important to treat congressional staffers with respect. They hold a great amount of leverage and often act as gatekeepers to certain members of Congress. Staffers can be the greatest ally a constituent can have in Washington and can help mold certain inquiries.
  5. Show Up in Person
    Calling, messaging and tweeting are certainly impactful and convenient ways on how to influence Congress, but showing up in person at town halls and public events is the most powerful way to reach members of Congress. Make sure to bring talking points and questions. Bring friends if possible; large numbers have large voices. Get there early and connect with staffers, as most town halls are staffed by senior-level state staffers. Many constituents assume that only D.C. staffers can influence the policy-making decisions, but getting to know the state players is a key part of advocacy.

Influencing a member of Congress is not achievable only by those in the upper echelons of society. Anybody can reach out and tell their story. Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents. They want to make policy decisions that best adhere to the voices in their community, but they can only do those if those voices speak out.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Google