vaccines abroadThe Biden administration has initiated plans to distribute an initial 25 million surplus vaccines abroad, marking the first steps in the administration’s commitment to share up to 80 million doses by the end of June 2021. The doses will first prioritize areas of extreme vaccine inequity in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia. The wealthiest nations of the world must take decisive and united actions to combat COVID-19 in areas of the world lacking basic medical infrastructures and the means to independently produce vaccines. Currently, low-income countries have received less than 1% of COVID-19 vaccine doses. Global health organizations forewarn that the pandemic will persist through variant strains unless vaccination efforts are significantly increased. Sending 25 million COVID-19 vaccines abroad will work toward stabilizing infection rates in the world’s most marginalized communities.

The Fight Toward Ending Vaccine Inequity

A large majority (about 75%) of the initial 25 million vaccines distributed abroad will be administered through the international vaccine initiative referred to as COVAX. The initiative’s priority is addressing vaccine equity by helping lower-income countries secure vaccines despite limited monetary capacity. Remarkably, as of early June 2021, only 31 million Africans “have received at least one dose” on a continent that measures a population of about 1.3 billion people. Resources have proven extremely scarce, with countries like Ghana and Rwanda already running through their first shipments of vaccines delivered through COVAX.

A mere 1,386 Kenyans out of a 50 million person population have received two doses of a vaccine —  a glaring testament to the vaccine inequity found throughout the global south. Apart from a lack of material resources, many countries have seen vaccine hesitancy negatively impact their vaccination rates. Concerns over blood clots and doubts surrounding inoculation capacity have greatly diminished the efficiency of vaccine distribution in countries like Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Distributing 25 million vaccines abroad will partially cushion already weak healthcare systems with limited beds, ventilators and oxygen.

The Road Ahead

Though U.S. efforts to donate vaccines abroad are significantly helpful, to properly address vaccine inequity, larger-scale efforts are necessary. Researchers from Duke University estimate 11 billion doses will be required to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population. However, this is just the beginning of the long and calculated global response to COVID-19. Jeffrey Zients, the COVID-19 response coordinator for the Biden administration, has said to “expect a regular cadence of shipments around the world across the next several weeks.”

The U.S. will hopefully continue to embrace its responsibility as a world leader and facilitate even greater donations of vaccines abroad. In the end, quelling the pandemic will require “working with allies and partners to expand the production of vaccines and raw materials, including here at home,” said Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser. As the world takes on the next chapter in the fight against COVID-19, the leaders of the world must stand together to form a strong, collaborative response.

– Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

involvement in the war in YemenPresident Biden announced his plan to end all U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen in February 2021. The President stated the U.S. will take on a mediator role with a focus on ending the war instead. This reversal is one of many steps Biden feels will serve as a course correction for U.S. foreign policy. The Trump administration and many others prior have often taken the side of foreign authoritarian leaders all for the sake of stability. This has only aggravated the humanitarian crises in conflict-riddled countries like Yemen. The U.S. is working to remedy its contribution to the dire state of war-torn Yemen.

Effects of the War in Yemen

The military conflict created mass instability throughout the country of Yemen. As a result, Yemen experienced extreme poverty, starvation, violence and the displacement of millions of people. Thus, the situation in Yemen has been labeled as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. More than 24 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This includes more than 12 million vulnerable children.

About 4.3 million people have lost their homes due to displacements. Additionally, more than 230,000 people have died as a result of the consequences of war and conflict in Yemen. This includes more than 3,000 children. Furthermore, more than 20,100 airstrikes have been conducted on Yemen. The Obama administration conducted an estimated 185 airstrikes over eight years while the Trump administration conducted nearly 200 in four years. These attacks contributed to more than 17,500 deaths and injuries. Moreover, the airstrikes have destroyed schools, hospitals, water wells, civilian homes and other essential infrastructure.

USAID in Yemen

While the U.S. has played a significant role in creating the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, the nation is also the leading contributor of foreign aid to Yemen. According to the United States Agency of International Development (USAID), the U.S. has provided more than $1.1 billion of foreign aid to Yemen since 2019. This aid has provided funding for food, shelter, medical care and other essential resources. In addition, USAID states that the U.S. allocates funding for development initiatives that focus on helping put the country on a stable path to recovery and prevent continued dependence on humanitarian aid.

The U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen is shifting from tactical to mediation. This is putting the nation on the path to recovery. Furthermore, the end of the war benefits Yemeni civilians and the U.S. economy. As the U.S. is pulling out of the offensive efforts, the foreign aid provided to Yemen can be fully utilized.

President Biden emphasizes the importance of this decision in his foreign policy address, stating, “this war has to end.” He decided to take a step in the opposite direction of the last two administrations, including the Obama administration in which he served as vice president. Additionally, President Biden claims this decision to be one of many in a plan to restore U.S. emphasis on diplomacy, democracy and human rights.

Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

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

4 New Members of the 117th Congress

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

A Look to the Future

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

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

2020 election and global povertyThe U.S. remains one of the largest political powers in the world. Countries around the globe pay close attention to the presidential election and are anxious to know who will lead the country for the next four years. From COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts to foreign policies, the future of the nation’s decisions rests heavily on the outcome of the 2020 election. Read on to learn about the connections between the 2020 election and global poverty.

The 2020 Election and Global Poverty: Two Candidates

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are running as Republican candidates on a platform similar to their 2016 campaign. Running as Democratic candidates are former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Both candidates have already proposed new policies as part of their campaign platforms. President Trump has proposed reducing foreign aid by 21%, while increasing border security and tax cuts if he remains in office. On the other hand, former Vice President Biden, if elected, would make foreign aid the focus of U.S. foreign policy.

As much as the candidates may vary in their views on foreign aid, however, these differences are not likely to influence the election much. Overall, voters do not consider global poverty to be a core issue. In the 2016 presidential election, global poverty played little to no role in voters’ decisions. Currently, the voters’ top five issues are the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court appointments, the COVID-19 response and violent crime, none of which are directly related to global poverty. While foreign policy remains in the top 12 issues, it is not a major concern for current voters.

The Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

The response to COVID-19 has significantly impacted the 2020 election and global poverty reduction efforts. As of October 2020, the U.S. faces five million confirmed cases, 176,000 deaths, a declining economy and restrictions that could affect voter turnout. COVID-19 has accordingly become a major concern for many voters. Indeed, 62% of voters believe the outbreak will play an important role in the candidate they choose.

Many voters are also concerned about the condition of the economy as a result of the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) decreased by an annual rate of 32.9%. Congress has also spent trillions of dollars on unemployment benefits and support for small businesses. Many of the voters who believe that the U.S. government should focus on the national debt worry that this stimulus spending could hurt the economy in the long run.

The Influence on Global Poverty

In 2019, the International Affairs Budget received $52.2 billion for foreign aid. This amounted to almost 1% of the entire budget of the U.S. government. With proposed budget cuts and increased concerns over the economy and COVID-19, global poverty is in danger of remaining an issue considered unimportant to many voters and secondary to policy-makers. Despite this relative neglect, it is important that the government address global poverty. Congress must be reminded to protect the International Affairs Budget as a measure just as important as any other policy. Overall, the 2020 U.S. election will likely have a minimal effect on global poverty, given other global crises. As such, the citizens of the U.S. must communicate the importance of the 2020 election and global poverty support to their national leaders, whoever they end up being.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

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

5 Facts About the House Committee on Foreign Affairs

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

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

Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Wikimedia

Sen. Bob CaseySen. Bob Casey has been a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania for 13 years since his election in 2006. Casey is a member of the Democratic Party. He is assigned to four Senate committees: Finance; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Agriculture; Nutrition, and Forestry; and the Special Committee on Aging. Consequently, this article shows the efforts made by Sen. Bob Casey to fight against global poverty and help poor people. He has been working to pass two significant bipartisan legislation regarding global poverty, as well as supporting people around the world to improve U.S. national security.

Debt Cancellation for Poor Countries to Combat Global Poverty

In 2007, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) introduced the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation Act of 2007. Senator Casey sponsored bipartisan legislation to help poor countries that had spent money on repaying debt rather than taking care of their citizens in poverty. He said, “This legislation will help these nations get out of debt and help them free up resources to reduce poverty.” This comment and his support for the bill shows his commitment to reducing global poverty from the early period of his term as a senator.

Global Food Security

With Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Bob Casey introduced the Global Food Security Act in 2016. This legislation required the administration to assist targeted communities and nations to improve agricultural productivity and enhance food and nutrition security. It also emphasizes the importance of enhancing maternal and child nutrition. This act additionally recognizes the importance of tackling global food insecurity for developing countries and the U.S. economy and national security.

Sen. Bob Casey said, “The need to address global hunger is an urgent foreign policy and national security priority. It is in the United States’ best interest to promote initiatives that work to eliminate the causes of food and nutrition insecurity.” Likewise, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was passed in 2018, introduced by Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. Johnny Isakson. This bipartisan legislation ensures the extension of the Feed the Future initiative until 2023. For example, by 2018, the Feed the Future program helped more than 1.7 million households in 12 targeted countries.

His Support for Women in Afghanistan and People in Syria

To ensure the safety of women and girls in Afghanistan, Sen. Bob Casey introduced the Afghan Women and Girls Security Promotion Act. He also has been working to provide help for women who survived domestic violence or other crimes. Moreover, he has supported food and medical support for Syrian people in need because of the war.

As a representative of Pennsylvania, he has made several efforts to combat global poverty and hunger. In the interview by Penn Political Review, he said, “It is critical that U.S. foreign aid dollars be used efficiently and that they provide relief and promote opportunities for poor and underserved individuals and communities around the world.” It is therefore clear that Senator Casey’s efforts are critical in the fight against global poverty. Calling and emailing him to support these bills would be significant. As a result of helping these people, the U.S. can improve national security and economy.

Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Pixabay


The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations oversees all foreign policy legislation and foreign aid programs in the United States Senate. It is one of the essential parts of the government in terms of shaping foreign policy. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations played an instrumental role in such historical legislation as the Marshall Plan in 1948, which provided economic aid to Western Europe in the aftermath of World War II. Its corresponding committee in the House of Representatives is the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committee on Foreign Relations currently has 22 members, including chairman Jim Risch, a Republican Senator for Idaho. Here are six facts about this key U.S. Senate committee.

6 Facts About the Influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

  1. It has a subcommittee that oversees the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). One of the seven subcommittees of this Senate Committee is the Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, International Operations and Bilateral International Development. USAID is the leading government agency that administers foreign aid for socioeconomic development and disaster relief to nations worldwide, making it one of the most critical organizations in reducing global poverty. This subcommittee reviews the budget and oversees the general operations of USAID and the State Department. It can guide the ways that USAID uses its funding. Therefore, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ influence has a significant impact on the U.S.’s distribution of foreign aid.
  2. It is one of the oldest Senate committees. Congress created committees in 1816, establishing 10 standing committees in the Senate. Out of these original 10, only three still exist—the Committee on Finance, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Relations. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has helped shape foreign policy for nearly the U.S.’s entire history.
  3. It approved the Global Poverty Act of 2007. The Global Poverty Act required the president to create and implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty around the world. The plan would also have to address extreme poverty, including reducing the proportion of people who live on less than $1 a day. The committee approved this bill, but it never received a vote in the Senate, and therefore the bill never passed. This demonstrates the limits of the committee’s influence.
  4. It has many influential senators as members. A wide range of famous Republican and Democrat senators have served on the committee. Currently, its membership includes Republic Mitt Romney of Utah, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey. Joe Biden served as chair of the committee for several years during the 2000s, including when the committee approved the Global Poverty Act. High-profile senators such as these, who are famous on a national level, bring publicity to the committee, which can increase the Senate committee’s influence.
  5. Some members have introduced legislation to increase funding for the international response to COVID-19. In early May 2020, eight Democrat senators from the Committee on Foreign Relations introduced the COVID-19 International Response and Recovery Act. This legislation would provide $9 billion in funding to help the U.S. lead international efforts to contain the pandemic. These senators, led by ranking committee member Bob Menendez, believe that the U.S. needs to do more to work with other governments and international organizations to stop the spread of COVID-19.
  6. The chairman and other members have introduced legislation to investigate international institutions. In early May 2020, chairman Risch and four other Republican senators from the committee proposed the Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020. This bill would create a task force to investigate and create a report on 38 multilateral institutions that receive aid from the U.S. The institutions include the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The task force would report how well each of these organizations performs their missions and serves the U.S. and global interests.

Many factors and institutions shape the foreign policy of the United States. Throughout the U.S.’s history, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has affected how the country has interacted with the rest of the world. The ideology of its members can significantly impact the issues the Senate Committee and subcommittees focus on, where specific funding goes and what legislation is introduced into Congress. The influence of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations affects the U.S. and many international agencies, proving its significant importance in the fight to reduce global poverty.

– Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Pixabay

Congressional LeadersA Gallup poll taken before the government shutdown of 2018-19 found American’s approval rating of congressional leaders’ job performance at 18%. More recent polls show ratings have improved but remain low, with an average of 24.2% of people approving of Congress, according to Real Clear Politics. Government shutdowns and highly publicized filibusters highlight the challenge of passing bills and contribute to these low approval ratings. In fact, in 2016, after a House of Representatives sit-in over gun control measures, political analyst Larry Jacobs told a Minnesota local CBS affiliate that more than 90% of bills die in Senate or House committees.

However, as USHistory.org notes, passing bills is meant to be difficult with the checks and balances system in place. What’s more, bills do get introduced constantly. For instance, each of the 200 senators and 435 representatives in Congress is involved with at least a few of the hundreds of bills introduced throughout any given leaders’ tenure. Here are five leaders who have been especially active in supporting bills directly impacting the fight against global poverty.

5 Congressional Leaders Tackling Global Poverty Issues

  1. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Susan Collins has been a senator since 1997.  She directly sponsored 18 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 374. Bills she introduced include the Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act, which she introduced in various forms in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015. These bills encourage the U.S. to better help advance an international initiative to make clean cooking accessible to millions of people worldwide. Collins also introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Acts of 2015, 2017, and 2019—which urge the president to create a five-year strategy to, as the bill states, help end “preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030.”
  2. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A Senator since 1993, Robert Menendez has sponsored 178 and co-sponsored 650 international affairs bills. Menendez’s sponsored bills include the Ebola Eradication Act of 2019, which passed in the Senate in September 2019, the End Tuberculosis Now Act of 2019, which is still under Senate consideration, and the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018.
  3. Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fl). Lois Frankel has been in Congress since 2013. She’s sponsored 12 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 200 with a focus on women’s rights issues abroad. For example, one bill she introduced herself is the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2019, which authorizes aid to women’s groups abroad that address terrorism-related issues. Frankel also introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act, a bill improving access to education for young girls worldwide. Frankel introduced the initial version in 2018 and passed the new 2019 version in the House in January 2020.
  4. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Christopher Smith has been in Congress since 1981. In that time, he’s sponsored 287 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 1,208. One bill he introduced is the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which directs the U.S. to help treat and eliminate under-the-radar tropical diseases to improve lives in at-risk regions. The bill passed in the House in December and is under review by a Senate committee. Another bill he introduced is the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extends the programs of the Global Food Security Act of 2016. Smith’s bill was a sibling to a Senate bill that passed through both legislatures first, becoming law in October 2018.
  5. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). A Congressman since 1989, Eliot Engel has personally introduced 150 bills addressing international affairs issues and co-sponsored an additional 1,312. One bill he introduced is the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017, which calls for the U.S. to assist Venezuela amid its growing humanitarian crisis. The bill passed in the House in December 2017 and is under Senate review. Engel also introduced the Global Fragility Act to “establish the interagency Global Fragility Initiative to stabilize conflict-affected areas and prevent violence globally.” This act passed in the House in May 2019 and is under review by the Senate.

These five congressional leaders have worked directly on hundreds of bills addressing issues of global poverty. The examples above are only a snapshot of their individual contributions. These five leaders have had a total of 30 sponsored bills in the international affairs category become law; the process of introducing and passing bills never ends. The upcoming election will determine whether these leaders will continue to build on their legacies or cede their place to new leaders eager to make a mark on the legislative process.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

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

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

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

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

An Expert’s Opinion

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

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

Countries That Are Impacted

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

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

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

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

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