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

Today, The Borgen Project team paid a visit to Congressman McDermott’s district office in Seattle. They advocated for a stronger international affairs budget, passing the Food Aid Reform Act and the Electrify Africa Act, and other issues related to global poverty.

Laurie Goodman, a PR Intern, said, “This was my first time lobbying in a congressional office and it was a great experience. I definitely suggest that others to contact their local leaders.”

The Borgen Project encourages everyone to schedule a meeting with their local congressional offices and advocate for eradicating poverty.

– Abby Stewart 

Big Business: Promoting Unhealthy Lifestyles

As our world works towards the eradication of all infectious diseases we have seen a rise in non-communicable diseases such as obesity, cancer, and COPD. These unhealthy lifestyles are promoted by big businesses that sell items such as unhealthy foods and tobacco. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “Economic growth, modernization, and urbanization have opened wide the entry point for the spread of unhealthy lifestyles.” The efforts to regulate unhealthy lifestyles are not in the interest of most big businesses.

Big businesses are able to lobby for favorable policies in the government. They use tactics such as front groups, promises of self-regulation, and lawsuits to shift the focus away from the unhealthy lifestyles they are promoting. These businesses also gift and give grants to worthy causes to look admirable in the public eye. The main tactic these businesses use is the argument that an individual is responsible for their own health, and that the government has no right to interfere with a person’s free choice.

“This is formidable opposition. Market power readily translates into political power, few governments prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything,” stated Dr. Chan.

Dr. Chan is most concerned about two recent trends that have emerged. The first is governments being taken to court over measures to protect the health of their citizens. We saw this happen recently in New York City where the law regulating soda size was deemed illegal by the court. The second trend is industries having influence in shaping “public health policies and strategies that affect their products.” Dr. Chan argues, “When industry is involved in policy-making, rest assured that the most effective control measures will be downplayed or left out entirely. This, too, is well documented, and dangerous.” Dr. Chan urges governments to keep big businesses out of health policy formation because it only distorts the real issues. Dr. Chan and the WHO are working diligently on identifying and pursuing processes that limit big businesses in public health decision-making.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: UN News
Photo: Los Angeles