The United States Senate may soon revive a controversial United Nations Treaty, which focuses on governmental policy regarding disabled people. The treaty was rejected last year due to Republican opposition. Though assured the treaty would not affect current laws, many feared that it would threaten U.S. sovereignty and parental rights.

“I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society,” Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said, claiming the treaty carried extra regulations in addition to its anti-discrimination policies.

Article 7(2) of the treaty, which is also known as The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states this: “In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” Article 18(2) requires that “Children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth.”

Members of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) lobbied against the treaty. “They realized this wasn’t about disabilities issue, this was about who was going to make decisions for children with disabilities,” HSLDA director Will Estrada said.

Others, such as Senator John Kerry (D-MA), disagreed. “What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can’t discriminate against the disabled,” Kerry said.

According to the UN, 133 countries have ratified the CRPD treaty. President Obama says it is now time for the US to follow suit.

“I know how disappointing it was last year when the Senate failed to approve the disabilities treaty,” Obama explained at a Disabled American Veterans convention. “But we’re going to keep fighting to ratify that treaty. It’s the right thing to do.”

With more than 300 disability organizations backing the treaty, its supporters insist on its necessity. They claim that it is not about changing American law or behavior, but instead getting the rest of the world to raise their standards to meet ours.

“It’s about getting the rest of the world to raise their disability standards for the treatment of people with disabilities—and raise them to our level,” Kerry said in a video message. “In four simple words, the treaty says to other countries that don’t protect the rights of disabled people: Be more like us.”

The date for reconsideration is set for Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: United Nations, Washington Times, BBC World News, HSLDA, Human Events
Photo: Colorful Times

 Check pages like The Borgen Project’s Legislation & Programs page to keep up to date with pieces of legislation already identified as relevant to the interests of eradicating global poverty.

2. Do your own research. Look up specific pieces of legislation and actually try to read them. Become familiar with keywords. This might be a little intimidating but take a look at GovTrack to see what legislation is introduced, voted on, and has been passed or sent to committees. You can even subscribe to track specific keywords. I suggest Foreign Aid and Global Development. You’ll get a few emails per week, but unless you’re tracking a lot of keywords you won’t be inundated.

3. Make use of the vast amount of research other people do. Watch the news and stay up to date with bigger pieces of legislation in all other subjects. Subscribe to other nonprofits’ emailing lists to be informed when a relevant bill or amendment is going to be voted on. is one such example.

4. Know who your Congress members are and what committees they sit on. Every citizen of the United States has one representative (for district) and two senators (per state). Take a look at Who Is My Enter your zip code or search by state, and put your representative and senators in your phone. Look up your Congress members’ web sites and take note of what committees they sit on.

5. Call as often as — and more often than — you email or write. Calling is immediate. Emails get buried, and letters take a while to get to an office, much less opened. When you write or email, you are likely to get a delayed stock reply. While it can help you learn about your Congress member’s priorities, it also comes only as fast as snail mail!

Once you’re armed with knowledge, get in a routine of contacting your representatives. When you do call, specific is always better, but if you don’t have a specific piece of legislation to call about, don’t lose your voice. Ask for increased funding to the Millennium Challenge Account. Ask for the representative to stand for balanced funding cuts instead of unevenly taking funding from foreign aid. Ask for the representative to support poverty-focused aid. Your representatives don’t just vote on legislation, they have a large responsibility to co-sponsor or introduce it. Get your voice out there!

– Naomi Doraisamy
Source: GovTrack,, Who Is My Representative
Source: Snow Code

On May 21, 2013, USAID issued a new global water strategy, the government’s first comprehensive integration of water security into all US development funding and programs.

“For many years in development work, water, sanitation and hygiene have been a bit forgotten. Instead, significant focus has been placed on education, maternal health and nutrition, overlooking the fact that water and sanitation are foundational building blocks for all of those other elements,” said Alanna Imbach, media officer with WaterAid America.

Aid organizations have long been insisting that access to clean water is a basic and essential consideration underlying all development issues. In developing countries, some 5,000 children are estimated to die every day from water-borne diseases, overwhelmingly due to diarrhea from bad drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene.

The plan for the next five years is to provide at least 10 million people with “sustainable access” to an improved water supply, and six million people with access to improved sanitation during that period. New USAID guidance will emphasize local ownership and sustainability of US-funded aid projects, while offering greater flexibility on how that funding can be used. This new openness will allow for more innovation from partnering humanitarian groups, a positive change from the past.

“We know that every dollar we invest in clean water and basic sanitation yields eight dollars in benefits,” said Dick Durbin, a US senator pushing this legislation. “People are healthier, kids stay in school, food is safer, AIDS drugs and other critical health treatments are able to work.”

Read USAID’s Water Strategy Announcement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah, joined members of Congress – Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congressman Ted Poe – to release the U.S. Government’s first Water and Development Strategy. This strategy recognizes the vital role water plays in ensuring the health and economic well-being of people around the world.  In addition, it sets out to represent a fundamental shift at our Agency toward a new model of development – defined by public and private partnerships, use of new technology, and emphasis long-term results.

Globally, over 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under severe water stress conditions.

“We will achieve greater impact by partnering with outside organizations and businesses that leverage innovative approaches and new technologies. This approach will also emphasize sustainability by building local capacities for operations, maintenance, and monitoring,” said Administrator Shah.

USAID’s Water and Development Strategy elevates the importance and visibility of water as a development priority within the Agency and highlights its importance in meeting the development imperatives to improve health and increase food security. The Strategy will address global water-related development needs by providing a clear understanding of USAID’s approach to water programming, emphasizing how sustainable use of water is critical to saving lives. To achieve this goal, the Strategy sets two strategic objectives:

  • Water for Health – Improve health outcomes through the provision of sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
  • Water for Food – Manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security.

“This new U.S. Water and Development Strategy will help lift poor people around the world out of conflict and poverty.  It is smart, strategic and builds on our past successes using new breakthroughs in science and technology,” Senator Durbin said. “It will save water and it will save lives.  USAID’s new plan will bring water and sanitation – the most basic of human needs – to millions of people around the globe, dousing the flames of global poverty, disease and conflict.”

Improving human health and welfare, having adequate nutrition to thrive, and maintaining the sustainability of natural systems requires a coordinated global response to the challenges of water and sanitation access for present and future generations. This Strategy reflects the commitment of the U.S. government to work in partnership with the global community to meet these challenges.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Jakarta Blobe




The average teenager worries about hanging out with friends, getting good grades, and fitting in with a group of people—not marrying a stranger and creating a home.

However, child marriage is a reality in the world’s 51 least-developed countries.  Half of all girls living in these countries are married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations. Parents arrange the marriage, and the groom can be more than twice the bride’s age.  Girls are ripped from their communities and forced into social isolation. These abrupt marriages sever a girl from her support network—a group of people necessary for helping the girl face the physical and emotional challenges of marriage.

Many cultures view girls as economic burdens, subservient individuals, or family mistakes. Marrying girls off as soon as possible alleviates the household expenses and restores the family’s reputation.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) established that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old. This is considered the upper limit of childhood, and the individual is fit to decide whether to be married.  Many countries continue to practice child marriage despite proven physical and psychological effects.

World Vision reported that child marriages are increasing due to the increase in global poverty crises. 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year.  Child marriages are most prevalent in rural, poor areas and are associated with areas of low education and healthcare.  Polygamy is common, and these marriages are bargaining chips between two parties.

South Asia (46%) and Central Africa (41%) are the top areas for child marriages.  These regions do not monitor the age of spouses carefully.  Girls who live in countries with humanitarian crises are most likely to be subjected to child marriages. Fear of rape, unwanted pre-marital pregnancies, family shame, and hunger are the main motivators for child marriage. Poverty, weak legislation, gender discrimination, and lack of alternative opportunities reinforce these motivations.

Anti-poverty organizations, such as CARE, are working in various countries to combat child marriage.  According to CARE, “As levels of education and economic opportunities increase, so does the average age of marriage.”  CARE mobilizes community organizers, parents, and tribal and religious leaders to lobby against the child marriage law in Ethiopia. Leaders are constructing savings and loans groups to empower families financially. Though child marriage still exists, this will eliminate one major cause of child marriage. Community forums now focus on the elimination of bride price, bride abduction, and child marriage.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: NBC News


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