Congress – BORGEN http://www.borgenmagazine.com Humanity, Politics & You Fri, 21 Sep 2018 08:30:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Evaluating the Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act http://www.borgenmagazine.com/education-in-conflict-zones/ Tue, 11 Sep 2018 08:30:08 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129203 WASHINGTON – The Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act will amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Its goal is to provide U.S. foreign aid to improve and expand education for children in areas of conflict. It will support primary and secondary school for displaced children and will ensure that women and girls are included [...]

The post Evaluating the Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
WASHINGTON – The Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act will amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Its goal is to provide U.S. foreign aid to improve and expand education for children in areas of conflict. It will support primary and secondary school for displaced children and will ensure that women and girls are included in the instituted educational programs.

Education in Conflict Zones: Current Conditions and Statistics

International and intra-national conflicts force young children out of their homes at an alarming rate. UNICEF reports that more than 27 million children of primary and secondary school age are out of school in conflict zones. They have been forced to leave their homes, their nations and sometimes their families, and became refugees.

UNICEF states that in 2015, almost 50 million children were involuntarily removed from their homes, either to escape a war zone or because they were evicted by opposing military forces. A total of 24 major conflict-affected areas see children forced to become migrants and refugees as a result of their uprooting.

Adolescent refugee or migrant girls face the highest risk, as they are extremely likely to become victims of sexual or gender-based violence. This increases the rate of uneducated girls to 2.5 times that of uneducated boys.

Additionally, refugee children are at higher risk of being unable to attend school than any other demographic of children in the world, at five times the likelihood. UNICEF reports that “only 50 percent of refugee children are enrolled in primary school” and “less than 25 percent of refugee youth are enrolled in secondary school.”

Refugee children’s health issues can also prevent them from being able to attend schools once they arrive in a new permanent residence, in addition to social and cultural obstacles.

What Is the U.S. Congress Doing to Solve This Problem?

On July 28, 2017, Representative Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ-10) introduced H.R.3612: The Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act. This bill aims to “expand, improve, support and promote primary and secondary education for displaced children, including girls, from areas designated by the Department of State as areas of conflict.”

Assistance provided under this act will be used to “(1) build the capacity for private sector and civil society organizations with a stated purpose of educating children, including girls, in the areas of — (A) development and strengthening of primary and secondary curricula; (B) coordination with educational facilities of host countries; and (C) technical capacities and expertise, including strategies for cost-effective procurement of science and technology equipment.”

These intentions are vital to improving children’s education in conflict zones even after they find a new permanent residence. According to UNICEF, children who have moved to a foreign nation as refugees and migrants have difficulty excelling in their new schools. This is due to issues of language and cultural barriers, the upheaval and instability of transferring nations as a result of conflict, issues of xenophobia from other students or even staff members and sometimes transfer and legal issues.

The Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act continues to address this issue when it states that given aid will also be used to “establish, expand and promote linkages and partnerships between host countries’ educational facilities, private sector and civil organizations, and United States colleges and universities education programs.”

This is especially important, as not only does it give refugee students protection and support in their host nations’ schools, but also gives them a standing in U.S. colleges and universities, should they choose to receive a higher education in the U.S.

How Will the Act’s Goals Be Implemented?

On a governmental level, the Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act outlines what steps must be taken in order to initiate and perpetuate refugee educational assistance: “Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall designate a Director of Refugee Educational Assistance, who shall report directly to the Administrator, and who shall carry out the responsibilities described.”

These responsibilities include consultations with host countries and their governmental educational commissions, regional organizations and educational institutions in order to coordinate and administer long-term assistance. Additionally, they will also coordinate with other USAID bureaus, U.S. agencies and international private sectors in order to bring primary and secondary education to children in or from conflict zones based on relevant research to maximize impact.

As far as Congress’ actions on the Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act so far, this bill has, as of yet, only been introduced in Congress, and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

-Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

The post Evaluating the Prioritizing Education in Conflict Zones Act appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
The Future of US Foreign Aid: Moving Forward http://www.borgenmagazine.com/the-future-of-us-foreign-aid/ Sun, 02 Sep 2018 14:30:17 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129057 SEATTLE — The United States’ foreign assistance plays a major role in the international effort to alleviate global poverty. As arguably the world’s greatest power and political agenda setter, its decisions on foreign aid have major impacts throughout the globe. However, consistency and coordination among the more than 20 aid agencies have proven difficult when, [...]

The post The Future of US Foreign Aid: Moving Forward appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
SEATTLE — The United States’ foreign assistance plays a major role in the international effort to alleviate global poverty. As arguably the world’s greatest power and political agenda setter, its decisions on foreign aid have major impacts throughout the globe. However, consistency and coordination among the more than 20 aid agencies have proven difficult when, every four to eight years, a new president is voted into office, bringing with them their own unique interpretation of how to orient their executive bureaucracy. The ephemeral nature of the bureaucratic system and the stark contrasts seen in presidential leadership in the recent past have made it difficult for the United States to commit to a set of “well-defined core priorities” that underlie its foreign aid system. With the millions of lives, abroad and domestically, that are affected by U.S. aid, decisions made by the Trump administration about the future of U.S. foreign aid carry heavy weight.

Recently, The Borgen Project had the chance to speak with the authors of the policy brief “A Practical Vision for U.S. Development Reform”, published by the Center for Global Development (CDG). The brief, written by CDG experts Cindy Huang, co-director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy and a senior policy fellow and Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow, discusses the future of U.S. foreign aid and details ways to increase coordination and incentive between the 20-plus government aid agencies. Huang and Konyndyk state in the brief: “To maintain its relevance in a changing global development landscape, U.S. foreign assistance should focus on four core development priorities: state fragility, inclusive growth, global health and humanitarian assistance.”

The Four Core Development Priorities

When the authors were asked to explain their choices for the four priorities of U.S. foreign assistance, Konyndyk said, “Of the four priorities, global health and humanitarian assistance are areas in which the U.S. has historically done excellent work and has a comparative advantage. Broadly speaking, the U.S. does good work, but it could be improved upon. State fragility and inclusive growth are the two areas which could be improved to meet the economic realities of the next 20 years and prepare for the future of U.S. foreign aid. Today, the U.S. should be shaping the growth of countries on a reasonably good path to development. The U.S. can do this through policy dialogue, foreign investment and conflict mitigation efforts to start to take on the role of a convening connector, not just a donor.”

Structural Fragmentation

The authors cited structural fragmentation throughout U.S. aid agencies as a major hindrance to the country’s ability to adapt to the changing development landscape. Huang explained that “in our brief, we outline what we call 14 immediately actionable reforms that would increase U.S development effectiveness. The overall point that the 14 points are trying to get across is that there is much fragmentation across 20 agencies. We suggest ways to increase coordination and incentive.”

Mr, Konyndyk added, “Basically, there are all of these institutions that do good work on their own horizons but might not make the most of their collective toolkit. An example of this would be PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) doing the same work in places, which can cause turf battles between the two agencies. This does nothing to advance the mission of development.”

What Is the Future of U.S. Foreign Aid?

Decisions made by Donald Trump during his first year and a half as president have revealed his administration’s view that funding for foreign aid should be reduced and the size of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) consolidated. But despite steps backwards, Huang does have a few things she feels optimistic about regarding the future of foreign aid. “For one thing, Mark Green [administrator of USAID]has a strong background in foreign aid and has been seriously digging into self-reliance for developing countries beyond just using that phrase as a platitude. Green has looked inward at USAID and asked ‘what can we do?'”

“Additionally”, Huang added, “I think it’s a positive sign that OPIC (The Overseas Private Investment Corporation) and the BUILD Act (Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development) in Congress have received support from the current administration.”

Konyndyk also expressed optimism, but stated plainly that “the Trump administration’s budget proposals have recommended 33 percent budget cuts to aid, you can’t move past that fact.”

Huang concluded that “So far, Congress has been the tiebreaker and has had a steady approach to foreign aid funding.”

Historically, foreign aid has been supported by the U.S. government for its humanitarian, economic and national defense benefits, among others. Though the Trump administration has at times taken a hostile approach to foreign aid, Congress has remained consistent in its support of the effort and affirmed its value through budgetary allocations. Looking towards the future, that congressional support must continue if the U.S. is to remain an impactful force in the fight to alleviate global poverty. Additionally, in the coming years, the U.S. foreign development architecture will need restructuring and a new set of priorities in order to equip itself for the future of U.S. foreign aid.

– Clarke Hallum 
Photo: Flickr

The post The Future of US Foreign Aid: Moving Forward appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
Obstetric Fistula Act to Aid Sufferers and Survivors of Obstetric Fistula http://www.borgenmagazine.com/obstetric-fistula-act/ Sun, 02 Sep 2018 08:30:04 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=129096 SEATTLE — Approximately 830 women all over the world die every day from pregnancy and childbirth-related injuries, complications and conditions. Obstetric fistula is the most common pregnancy and childbirth-related injury. This condition is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where mothers and their unborn children do not have access to the medical care [...]

The post Obstetric Fistula Act to Aid Sufferers and Survivors of Obstetric Fistula appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
SEATTLE — Approximately 830 women all over the world die every day from pregnancy and childbirth-related injuries, complications and conditions. Obstetric fistula is the most common pregnancy and childbirth-related injury. This condition is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where mothers and their unborn children do not have access to the medical care they need.

What Is Obstetric Fistula?

Obstetric fistula occurs when a woman undergoes an especially long labor period. More than 75 percent of cases see labor that lasts at least three days, with some cases seeing six to seven-day labors. Due to this extended labor, the mother experiences prolonged obstruction, in which the unborn child’s head is pushed against the mother’s pelvic bone during contractions. In between the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvic bone are her bladder, uterine and rectal tissues. The constant pressure and eliminated blood flow causes these tissues to die, resulting in a hole in the tissue. This hole could be between the mother’s bladder and uterus, uterus and rectum, or both.

Where Does This Condition Occur?

Obstetric fistula most often occurs in developing countries, where it is common for women to give birth without access to hospitals or other forms of medical assistance. This injury has been almost completely eradicated in North America, Europe and most developed regions. This is because most birthing mothers in these regions have access to doctors and procedures that can prevent this condition from occurring, as it can usually be prevented with a Caesarean section.

What Are the Medical Effects of Obstetric Fistula?

This condition causes incontinence, or the “constant uncontrollable leaking of urine, feces or both,” according to the text of the Obstetric Fistula Prevention, Treatment, Hope and Dignity Restoration Act of 2018. Other common effects are “frequent bladder infections, painful sores, kidney failure, infertility, foul odor, orthopedic injury, nerve damage that makes normal walking impossible and internal genital scarring that destroys normal sexual function.” Additionally, in 90 percent of pregnancies with obstetric fistula, the baby is stillborn.

What Are the Societal Effects of Obstetric Fistula?

Since this condition often results in incontinence, its sufferers often notice a foul smell that ostracizes them from their families, communities and villages. Often, women with obstetric fistula are rejected by their husbands and excommunicated from their homes. This leads to “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, social isolation and discrimination, suicidal thoughts or actions and lack of adequate economic opportunities, resulting in deepening poverty, isolation and vulnerability.”

Currently, two million women and girls suffer from obstetric fistula, with 50,000 to 100,000 new cases annually, according to the World Health Organization.

Fortunately, there is hope for this condition. Obstetric fistula is extremely preventable with the proper medical care and surgery if necessary. While a Caesarian section can help prevent the injury from occurring in the first place, other surgeries can help cure women who already suffer from it. Obstetric fistula can also be prevented by “alleviating poverty, delaying early marriage and early childbearing, educating and empowering young women, remedying gender and socioeconomic inequalities and addressing malnutrition.”

In order to work toward these resolutions, the U.S. Congress introduced H.R.5068, the Obstetric Fistula Prevention, Treatment, Hope and Dignity Restoration Act of 2018 to the House of Representatives on February 16, 2018. This bill asks that the U.S. government increase aid to foreign mothers, doctors and hospitals, particularly in developing countries, in order to prevent obstetric fistula from occurring.

What Does the Obstetric Fistula Act Ask the Government to Do?

This bill asks for the president to provide assistance to: “(1) address the social, structural, health and human rights issues that lead to obstetric fistula; (2) support treatment of obstetric fistula that includes strengthening the safe surgery and safe anesthesia environment in every country where fistula persists and where obstetric services do not meet an acceptable standard of care; and (3) address and acknowledge the urgency of ensuring that all women who need a Caesarean section are able to have access to such life-saving surgery in a timely, safe, and high-quality care environment.” This assistance can be provided through international organizations, national government aid and other organizations, such as nongovernmental and nonprofits.

Where and How Will the Aid for the Obstetric Fistula Act Be Distributed?

The Obstetric Fistula Act will help prevent the condition by supplying aid to sexual and reproductive health services in a number of nations in which this birth complication is most common, such as a variety of nations in Africa and South Asia. This calls for prenatal and antenatal care, skilled medical professionals accompanying women during labor and birth, emergency mother and newborn care, and high-quality Caesarian sections if necessary.

One of the major goals of the Obstetric Fistula Act, besides preventing the injury, is to provide treatment to those who already suffer from it. This will be done by addressing the need for aid to go toward surgery, anesthesia, healthcare worker education, credentialing, facilities, equipment and healthcare financing.

The aid provided through the Obstetric Fistula Act will also go toward supporting reintegration for women who have this condition, as many have been shunned by their families. This act will also increase aid toward survivors’ education so that they can become self-supportive, especially for those whose families and communities will not welcome them back. Survivors will also receive mental health counseling, among efforts to raise public awareness in their communities to “reduce stigma, exclusion and violence against women and girls with obstetric fistula.”

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

The post Obstetric Fistula Act to Aid Sufferers and Survivors of Obstetric Fistula appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
The BURMA Act – How the US Can Help End Injustice in Myanmar http://www.borgenmagazine.com/the-burma-act/ Sat, 11 Aug 2018 23:25:18 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=128661 RAKHINE, MYANMAR – The BURMA Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 15th, 2018. This bill seeks to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the people of Rakhine, Myanmar (Burma) to work toward ending human rights violations and promoting democracy. The Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar that are oppressed and [...]

The post The BURMA Act – How the US Can Help End Injustice in Myanmar appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
RAKHINE, MYANMAR – The BURMA Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives on May 15th, 2018. This bill seeks to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the people of Rakhine, Myanmar (Burma) to work toward ending human rights violations and promoting democracy.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar that are oppressed and violently attacked by others of their nation. The violence from the Burmese military offensive against the Rohingya people has escalated to such a degree that United Nations reports have classified it as ethnic cleansing and genocide. The BURMA Act calls for U.S. aid to help end this atrocity.

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, have a population that numbered around one million in early 2017. The Rohingya are perceived as illegal immigrants by many other citizens of their nation. Although they practice different customs and speak a different language than many others in Myanmar, the Rohingya are descendants of groups that have existed within the country for many generations. 

The Conflict and Its Effects

Since Myanmar is primarily a Buddhist country, a great tension exists between the Muslim Rohingya and their Buddhist neighbors. In 2014, the Myanmar government refused to recognize the Rohingya as citizens. The tension between the Myanmar military and the Rohingya population grew to an extreme in 2016, resulting in extreme violence that has continued ever since.

The Rohingya have been subjected to multiple human rights violations including torture, rape, arson and executions. At least 55 Rohingya villages have been burned and destroyed by the Myanmar government, leaving the Rohingya people no choice but to leave. As a result, a mass exodus of thousands of Rohingya people is taking refuge in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Malaysia.

The BURMA Act Presents a Solution

In response to this tragedy, the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced the BURMA Act, sponsored by New York Democratic Representative Eliot L. Engel and 79 co-sponsors. This bill is overseen by three committees of the House: Foreign Affairs, Judiciary and Armed Services. The latest action on the bill was taken on May 17th, 2018, when the Committee on Foreign Affairs agreed to seek consideration of the bill.

The BURMA Act outlines the details of the crisis in Rakhine as well as multiple goals for achieving a solution. Several of the bill’s major goals are to ensure that the State of Rakhine will conduct “A: Repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh; B. Effective provision of humanitarian assistance; C. Resettlement of displaced populations; D. Economic development and durable peace.”

The bill also calls for “significant and sustained international support, from both public and private sources” in order to address the impacts of the crisis and to ensure that ending this genocide is one of the U.S.’s top priorities. Once this is accomplished, the U.S. would seek to “ensure that Rohingya have freedom […] and under no circumstances are subject to unsafe, involuntary, or uninformed repatriation, create conditions for return of those displaced […] to ensure the dignified, safe, and voluntary return of all those displaced […] and offer to those refugees who do not want to return a meaningful alternative, including compensation or restitution.”

Statements on the BURMA Act

For more information on the BURMA Act, The Borgen Project reached out to Representative Eliot L. Engel, New York Democratic Representative and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Representative Engel made the following statement about the bill:

“The Trump Administration simply has not done enough to hold the Burmese military accountable for egregious and horrifying human rights abuses. The government of Burma has yet to even acknowledge what has occurred, much less address the wrongs committed by its military.  Meanwhile, Bangladesh and the international humanitarian community are providing life-sustaining support to over one million refugees. There are those in Burma who would like to see these crimes swept under the rug, and they are counting on some in the U.S. Senate to protect them. However, whether or not these sanctions make it into the NDAA this year, history is on our side: these kinds of gross abuses will not go unanswered.”

The Borgen Project also reached out to Representative Albio Sires, House Representative of New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. Representative Sires made the following statement on the BURMA Act:

“The ongoing persecution of the Rohingya minority in the Rakhine State of Burma is a humanitarian crisis that can no longer be ignored. Congress must do more to hold those individuals involved in the brutality accountable by limiting U.S. cooperation with Burma. Legislation such as the BURMA Act of 2018 does just this by proposing visa bans and sanctions on individuals involved in human rights abuses and placing new restrictions on security assistance and military cooperation. It is important that the United States use all diplomatic tools at its disposal, including sanctions, to end the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.”

As Representative Engel and Sires state, the horrific acts against the Rohingya of Myanmar will no longer be ignored. The world has seen the effects of genocide before and will not allow this injustice to continue any longer.

– Theresa Marino

Photo: Flickr

The post The BURMA Act – How the US Can Help End Injustice in Myanmar appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
Expanding Free Trade with Africa Through AGOA http://www.borgenmagazine.com/free-trade-with-africa/ Mon, 06 Aug 2018 14:30:37 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=128570 SEATTLE — Originally passed in 2000 and renewed until 2025, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a U.S. Trade Act that boosts U.S. market access for qualifying sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. The program’s goal is to boost economic growth, spur development and reduce poverty in Africa. Currently, 40 SSA countries are AGOA-eligible and [...]

The post Expanding Free Trade with Africa Through AGOA appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
SEATTLE — Originally passed in 2000 and renewed until 2025, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is a U.S. Trade Act that boosts U.S. market access for qualifying sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. The program’s goal is to boost economic growth, spur development and reduce poverty in Africa. Currently, 40 SSA countries are AGOA-eligible and they remain eligible by working to improve human rights, rule of law and labor standards.

The AGOA built on the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) by expanding duty-free benefits. Now, the combined AGOA/GSP program stands at about 6,500 product tariff lines, including categories such as apparel, agricultural products, chemicals, vehicle parts and steel. In 2017 alone, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) reported that two-way trade with SSA countries rose 5.8 percent to $39 billion. SSA exports to the U.S. have also increased threefold since AGOA’s enactment in 2000.

2018 AGOA Forum Emphasizes Importance of Trade Growth

This year’s AGOA Forum was titled “Forging New Strategies for U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment” and officials are already looking ahead to 2025, when the AGOA will expire. USTR Robert Lighthizer helped open the forum by introducing a new strategy for free trade with Africa. He said, “…while AGOA has brought important benefits, there remains much more to be done to fully realize the potential of U.S.-Africa trade.”

Lighthizer went on to say, “One-way tariff preferences can only do so much to drive trade and investment.” The U.S.’s new trade strategy involves building on and going beyond the existing AGOA program with more permanent Free Trade Agreements (FTA). Lighthizer noted that the U.S. is not abandoning AGOA in the short or long term and the U.S. intends to pursue free trade with Africa and AGOA simultaneously.

The Trump administration intends to negotiate an FTA with an SSA partner upon which it will model future FTAs with other African countries. Lighthizer stated four major benefits of pursuing a more permanent trade and investment framework between the U.S. and Africa.

The Benefits of Free Trade with Africa

Africa’s growth presents numerous expansion opportunities for U.S. businesses. Many large U.S. companies, such as Kellogg’s Cereal, Marriott Hotels and Prudential Insurance, have already made major investments in Africa over the last several years.

Africa needs infrastructure and other development projects to support its continued economic growth. U.S. businesses are well-positioned to help boost Africa’s economic growth and help African countries tap into global markets.

A number of African countries have already signed FTAs with some of the U.S.’s largest competitors, such as the EU and China. Like the U.S., many of these competitors are particularly interested in SSA countries with growing economies. Continuing to focus on free trade in Africa can help ensure that the U.S. establishes a stronger foothold in a competitive market.

Free trade with Africa would help African countries lock in AGOA benefits, lending certainty to businesses seeking long-term business decisions. Overall, a more stable and permanent trade and investment framework with the U.S. would be mutually beneficial and transformative for Africa.

The Future of Free Trade with Africa

At the AGOA Forum, Lighthizer acknowledged that the U.S. had not yet decided which African country or countries to negotiate a model FTA with, but several SSA countries at the forum expressed interest. Kenya is one potential partner.

Before the AGOA Forum began, Kenya’s trade officials said they would try to expand the country’s exports and raise the country’s share of new investments. Kenya wants to increase manufacturing to 20 percent of its GDP and grow exports to 20 percent annually by 2022. Free trade with the U.S. would draw investments to Kenya and make it easier for the country to export products.

Kenyan Trade Principal Secretary Dr. Chris Kiptoo acknowledged that AGOA has not yet been fully exploited and that Kenya must engage initiatives likely to impact the trade sector. One of the initiatives Kenya may wish to engage could be the U.S.’s new free trade strategy. Regardless of which country or countries the U.S. eventually negotiates with, the U.S. intends to move quickly and announce exploratory talks soon.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

The post Expanding Free Trade with Africa Through AGOA appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
Committees on Foreign Affairs and Relations: Duties and Differences http://www.borgenmagazine.com/committees-on-foreign-affairs/ Sat, 14 Jul 2018 14:30:46 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=128283 WASHINGTON D.C. – The two major committees within Congress that focus on ending global poverty and hunger are the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Due to the fact that these committees come from different chambers of Congress, they differ in their practices, goals and methods of passing bills through. Each [...]

The post Committees on Foreign Affairs and Relations: Duties and Differences appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
WASHINGTON D.C. – The two major committees within Congress that focus on ending global poverty and hunger are the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Due to the fact that these committees come from different chambers of Congress, they differ in their practices, goals and methods of passing bills through.

Each committee also has different roles in the fight against global poverty. Congress’ committees on foreign affairs divide up the organizations and duties that each must create legislation for, and together, form the foreign relations system of the United States.

The Committees on Foreign Affairs in the House and Senate

The House Foreign Affairs Committee debates and evaluates bills that that impact the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the United Nations, the enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act. It also focuses on the promotion of democracy, peacekeeping and international development.

A few of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s major areas of jurisdiction that aid in the fight against poverty include economic, military, technical and humanitarian assistance to foreign countries, foreign loans, international activities of the American National Red Cross, international law as it relates to foreign policy and the International Monetary Fund.

Congress’ committees on foreign affairs may be different as far as their duties, jurisdictions and areas of interest, but how different are they regarding formation, passing bills and effectiveness?

To find out more about the inner workings of Congress’ committees on foreign affairs, The Borgen Project reached out to Breanna Wright, a professor of political science at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. Professor Wright’s areas of expertise are in American politics, specifically Congress, election laws, voting behavior and political psychology.

The Borgen Project: What is the process of forming Congress’ committees on foreign affairs?

Breanna Wright: There are no significant differences in how committee membership is decided for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In both the Senate and the House, committee membership is determined in very similar ways. In general, the partisan balance of committees reflects the partisan balance of each chamber. Each party creates a Committee on Committees, which is a committee that is created to determine and assign committee membership. After the Committee on Committees assigns members to each committee, the membership assignment made by the Committee on Committees is voted on by their respective party. After the membership assignments are approved by each party, the membership assignments are voted on by the full chamber.

TBP: What is the basic process for the formation of bills within each committee? How likely are they to be passed through?

BW: After a bill gets assigned to a committee, the legislation typically goes to a subcommittee before being considered by the full committee. In the subcommittee, the legislation is marked up and voted on. Once it is voted out of the subcommittee, it goes to the full committee for a vote. In general, most legislation does not make it out of committees. Thousands of bills were assigned to committees in the Senate’s last congressional session and only approximately 500 bills made it out of the committees.

TBP: After bills are passed through each committee, what is the next step?

BW: In the House, after legislation is voted out of a committee, it goes to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee sets the rules for debate (e.g., how much time is allowed for debate, whether amendments are allowed). Once the rules for legislation are set, the bill can be placed on the legislative calendar and scheduled for debate and vote.

In the Senate, after legislation is voted out of a committee, it is placed on the Senate’s Calendar of Business. There are two options for legislation to reach the Senate floor: through the majority leader via a motion that the Senate proceed to consideration of the bill or through unanimous consent. In general, the Senate prefers to bring legislation to the floor for consideration via unanimous consent due to the threat of a filibuster.

TBP: How much power do committees have over congressional decision making, generally?

BW: Committees have a significant amount of power over congressional decision making. Committees determine what legislation even reaches the House or Senate floor. Committees also have a significant amount of say in what a given piece of legislation contains, although the content of legislation can be modified significantly through the amendment process.


Congress’ committees on foreign affairs are not only in charge of a great deal of legislation that can help end global poverty, but are also instrumental in ensuring that these important bills reach each chamber’s floor for consideration. Thus, these committees are a vital piece of the United States’ role in the international effort to promote peace and prosperity around the globe.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

The post Committees on Foreign Affairs and Relations: Duties and Differences appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
How the Senate’s Foreign Operations Bill Impacts Global Development http://www.borgenmagazine.com/foreign-operations-bill/ Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:30:49 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=128203 WASHINGTON – On June 21, 2018, the Senate cleared the FY2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, which allocates funding for different initiatives nationally as well as overseas. The Foreign Operations bill has new implications for efforts to reduce global poverty and increase the quality of life overseas, especially for developing countries. These [...]

The post How the Senate’s Foreign Operations Bill Impacts Global Development appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
WASHINGTON – On June 21, 2018, the Senate cleared the FY2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, which allocates funding for different initiatives nationally as well as overseas. The Foreign Operations bill has new implications for efforts to reduce global poverty and increase the quality of life overseas, especially for developing countries. These are 10 major ways the Foreign Operations bill works to improve lives worldwide.

Impact of the Senate Foreign Operations Bill

  1. Aid to Jordan
    The Foreign Operations bill allocates $1.5 billion for economic and military assistance to Jordan. This will work to improve the quality of life of citizens affected by war in the region. Additionally, if passed, this bill would supply $50 million in relief and recovery funds to the people of Jordan to assist those that are in the midst of conflict.
  2. Aid to Tunisia
    One of the bill’s highlights is its plan to give $165.4 million to Tunisia for assistance in alleviating the nation’s poverty. Tunisia would also receive $50 million in relief and recovery funds to help those that are in desperate situations.
  3. Aid for Liberation
    The Senate has proposed $250 million in relief and recovery funds for areas that have been liberated from extremist groups such as the Islamic State. These funds aim to help the liberated regions develop and grow democratically. This is part of an effort to prevent extremist groups from being able to overtake vulnerable nations. These funds would go toward strengthening the areas that would be most susceptible to extremist groups in the future, so as to prevent extremist groups from increasing in power.
  4. Spreading Democracy
    The Foreign Operations Bill allocates $2.4 billion to democracy programs that seek to promote democracy in regions that are suffering under oppressive regimes. Additionally, it would supply $170 million to the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, nonprofit foundation that works to grow and strengthen democratic systems globally. These allocations would result in a $91.5 million increase from the FY2018 levels of support for democracy internationally.
  5. Aid for Central America
    The FY2019 bill proposes $515.5 million in assistance to Central American countries. This is part of the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America, which is a bipartisan, multi-year governmental plan. This plan seeks to promote institutional reforms in Central America that address developmental challenges, high rates of violent crime, weak judicial systems and extreme poverty. This proposition sees an increase of $80 million more than the budget request.
  6. Aid for Venezuela
    The bill will allot $20 million for aid to Venezuela to promote democracy and rule of law. This is to support the Venezuelan people, who are largely impoverished under the nation’s current regime.
  7. Assistance for Refugees
    The Senate has planned to assign $3.4 billion to migration and refugee assistance. This will work to protect those impacted by conflict and other disasters, both natural and manmade.
  8. International Disaster Assistance
    The FY2018 level of disaster assistance was $4.3 billion, but this year, the Senate has proposed an increase of $100 million, making the total number of funds allocated to international disaster assistance $4.4 billion.
  9. Global Health Programs
    The Foreign Operations bill includes a total of $8.8 billion for global health programs. This includes efforts to fight malaria ($755 million), HIV/AIDS ($6 billion), polio ($59 million), tuberculosis ($275 million) and neglected tropical diseases ($106 million). Maternal and child health would receive $829.5 million, and $135 million would go to nutrition assistance.
  10. International Security Assistance
    This bill would provide $8.8 billion for counterterrorism and nonproliferation programs ($860.7 million), peacekeeping operations ($477.4 million), international military education and training programs ($110.7 million) and foreign military financing programs ($5.9 billion). These efforts will help nations that are vulnerable to extremist regimes to be able to fight against those that would perpetuate poverty, hunger and oppression in their nations.

The FY2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act is currently not yet law. However, if passed, this bill will result in great improvements to the fight against poverty and deprivation worldwide.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

The post How the Senate’s Foreign Operations Bill Impacts Global Development appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
How the BUILD Act Will Benefit the US Economy http://www.borgenmagazine.com/the-build-act/ Sat, 30 Jun 2018 14:30:01 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=127905 WASHINGTON D.C. — In February 2018, Congressman Ted S. Yoho (R-FL-3) introduced the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-9), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) were also involved in the creation and introduction of the bill. Thus, the BUILD Act is a bipartisan effort to [...]

The post How the BUILD Act Will Benefit the US Economy appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
WASHINGTON D.C. — In February 2018, Congressman Ted S. Yoho (R-FL-3) introduced the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-9), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) were also involved in the creation and introduction of the bill. Thus, the BUILD Act is a bipartisan effort to reform the United States’ foreign aid methods.

The BUILD Act is different from most foreign aid initiatives that the U.S. has proposed in the past, largely due to its focus on investment and its positive impacts on the U.S. economy.

What Is the BUILD Act?

The BUILD Act is legislation that will merge several federal agencies and programs into the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC). The goal of this unification is to change the focus from foreign aid to foreign investment. This means that rather than simply supplying money to developing nations, the U.S. will be investing in developing markets through its private businesses.

What Are the Expected Impacts of the BUILD Act?

This legislation will increase the rate of U.S. corporations and businesses investing in developing countries. These investments will bring great improvements to the economies and standards of living for those in developing countries, as well as infrastructure development, job creation and increased quality of life for many impoverished people all over the world.

How Is the BUILD Act Different from Foreign Aid?

While this legislation will work to have similar impacts to foreign aid, one of the key differences is that the BUILD Act focuses on investments rather than donations. While foreign aid makes huge strides in assisting developing countries continuously, investment can be a long-lasting way to build developing countries’ economies rather than giving out money or resources. This allows the nation to develop its own markets and jobs, which leads to long-term prosperity. In the long term, investments see a lower dependency rate and higher rates of continual, independent progress.

How Will the BUILD Act Benefit the U.S. Economy?

The BUILD Act will help to form a symbiosis between the U.S. and the countries it invests in. American businesses will become directly involved in developing countries through loans and grants for projects that will improve communities. This will lead to the privatization of foreign aid and employ contractors, laborers and others to work in these developing countries.

How Does the BUILD Act Help Private Businesses?

Prior to the introduction of the BUILD Act, private businesses were often unable to invest in developing countries due to the necessity of receiving grants and loans in order to start these projects, which often posed huge economic risks to American businesses. However, the BUILD Act creates a way for businesses to receive this money through the DFC, which is specifically designed for granting loans and other financial investments to American businesses. This will allow them to start and continue to do good work in developing countries.

What Are the Long-Term Effects on the U.S. Economy?

The BUILD Act will function as a free market alternative to foreign aid. This means that American businesses will be encouraged to invest in foreign aid as a way to make a profit and expand their business internationally. This will create thousands of U.S. jobs as new positions open up in businesses that wish to start projects overseas. Additionally, as U.S. businesses gain a higher standing in foreign markets, American builders and developers will need to be employed to create new overseas offices and housing for the influx of employees.

The BUILD Act is a step in the right direction for the U.S. economy, while also functioning to decrease global poverty and hunger. The act functions to maintain and develop the free market into foreign aid ventures, while also finding solutions to international devastation. This bipartisan bill holds a lot of hope for Americans as well as for the fate of developing nations.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

To find out more about the past successes of our advocacy work and our current legislative priorities in Congress, head over to our Legislation page.

The post How the BUILD Act Will Benefit the US Economy appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
Spotlight: Representative Ed Royce Promotes Global Democracy http://www.borgenmagazine.com/global-democracy/ Sun, 24 Jun 2018 14:30:41 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=127945 SEATTLE — The changing dynamics of global politics are bringing forward new supporters of foreign affairs. Most notable is Representative Ed Royce (R-CA-39). He is currently serving his 11th term in Congress representing California’s 39th district. Previously, Royce was chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and was also a member of the Subcommittee on [...]

The post Spotlight: Representative Ed Royce Promotes Global Democracy appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
SEATTLE — The changing dynamics of global politics are bringing forward new supporters of foreign affairs. Most notable is Representative Ed Royce (R-CA-39). He is currently serving his 11th term in Congress representing California’s 39th district.

Previously, Royce was chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and was also a member of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. However, Royce’s current position as the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its weekly public hearings on popular global issues have landed him in the spotlight.

Rep. Royce a Passionate Advocate for Global Democracy

Recently, Royce remarked on the importance of promoting global democracy in a changing and dynamic world. Royce reminded U.S. citizens that the country’s longstanding democratic legacy should pave the way for global democracy and that the U.S. should be acting as both a leader and catalyst to help people living in countries with restrictive governments.

“‘Democracy’ is more than just elections. Democracy without the foundation of rule of law, individual liberties, a free press and a culture of tolerance is dangerous populism or mob rule. We’ve seen that in Burma, South Sudan, Gaza and too many other places,” Royce said at a committee hearing regarding the importance of U.S. aid in globalization.

When not promoting democracy, Royce has called attention to the need for the international media to report on government misdeeds and human rights violations worldwide. By exposing repressive governments, countries like China have seen some newfound liberty and tolerance.

Progress Towards Global Democracy

Though democracy statistics look grim on the surface, congressional support from advocates like Royce has helped grow global democracy. According to Freedom House’s annual survey, in 2017, 71 countries suffered declines in political rights and civil liberties, while 62 countries have seen a net increase in civil liberties since 2006.

Despite the slow progress in instituting open democracies, support for global democracy is growing, and Rep. Royce uses this support as a means to spread awareness. In a poll of 38 countries conducted by Pew Research Center, 78 percent of people said that representative democracy is a good thing.

Maintaining national balance and equality while promoting international peace is a specialty of Royce’s. One of the many goals of the Foreign Affairs Committee is to create legislation that benefits the diplomatic community. The committee cooperates with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and the United Nations to develop methods of promoting global democracy and other important changes for those living in poverty.

Royce has also played a key role in the African Growth and Opportunity Act as well as the Electrify Africa Act, which promoted and developed affordable and reliable energy for sub-Saharan African countries. He plans to continue his legislative work related to economic and political programs that help lift people out of poverty.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr

The post Spotlight: Representative Ed Royce Promotes Global Democracy appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
How to Help Children Separated from Parents at the Border http://www.borgenmagazine.com/how-to-help-children-separated-from-parents-at-the-border/ Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:20:44 +0000 http://www.borgenmagazine.com/?p=127948 WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order keeping families together after much resistance to the “Zero-Tolerance Policy.” However, the move fails to address how and when families will reunite. Immediate action must be taken regarding family reunification. Below is a breakdown of how to help children separated from [...]

The post How to Help Children Separated from Parents at the Border appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, June 20, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order keeping families together after much resistance to the “Zero-Tolerance Policy.” However, the move fails to address how and when families will reunite. Immediate action must be taken regarding family reunification. Below is a breakdown of how to help children separated from parents at the border.

“Zero-Tolerance Policy”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the “Zero-Tolerance Policy” on April 6, 2018. According to the Department of Justice, the policy “prohibits both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry into the United States by an alien.”

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions stated at a law enforcement event in Arizona. However, there is no such law requiring children to be separated from parents.

From the policy’s implementation in May up until June 9, nearly 2,300 children have been separated from their parents and are being held in detention centers. These centers  — tent cities, old warehouses, and an old Walmart — subject the children to inhumane conditions. One such facility in South Texas is keeping the children in cages made out of metal fencing, housing up to 20 children in one cage.

Limitations of Executive Order

While the executive order is a start in keeping families together, the family reunification process may be running short on time. The order’s provisions against the separation of families lasts only 20 days. CBS News explains that “after the 20-day mark, children may still be separated from their parents.”

In response to the executive order, The New York Times notes, “The order does not say where the families would be detained. And it does not say whether children will continue to be separated from their parents while the facilities to hold them are located or built.”

In 1997, in Flores vs. Reno, the federal court ruled that unaccompanied, undocumented minors could not be held by the government for more than 20 days. In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended this ruling to accompanied, undocumented minors — children who enter the U.S. with their families. Therefore, it is imperative to pursue further change at the Congressional level in order to realize a more permanent solution to keeping families together.

TIME reported that under the Flores v. Reno settlement, immigration officials must “place each detained minor in the least restrictive setting appropriate.” The settlement also requires the release of minors under the age of 18 if they are not facing prosecution. Children under the age of 18, who have relatives to live with, are to leave the detention centers “without unnecessary delay.”

Yet, migrant families have not been granted immediate release. In fact, parents are given little information of their children’s whereabouts, and in some cases, are told that deportation will lead to reunification. This misinformation has resulted in some parents being deported without their children and with little hope of reunification.

Ways to Continue Keeping Families Together

Although the U.S. has ceased the separation of families, immediate and persistent action is crucial to the reunification of families. Here is how to help children separated from parents at the border:

  1. Call Your Local Congress Member The ACLU recommends directly calling your local Congress members’ offices. Their website will assist callers in finding representatives based on their zip code. A sample message is provided by the ACLU: “Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I’m asking the Representative to vote NO on Speaker Ryan’s immigration bill. This is an inhumane, unjust bill that will put families in prison camps – we can’t let that be what this country becomes.”
  2. Email Congress In addition to phoning your Senator, email Congressional offices using an online template provided by The Borgen Project. This template will send an email urging both of your Senators, and your Congressional Representative, to fight for the children separated from their parents at the border.  Emailing Congressional leaders is effective because congressional staffers keep a tally of issues raised by constituents. The tallies are added to a weekly report viewed by the Congressional leader; one email could make a difference.
  3. Support The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) The Facebook fundraising campaign called “Reunite an immigrant parent with their child” began on Saturday, June 16 with the initial goal to raise $1,500. As of June 20, the campaign raised an estimated $12 million. A portion of the proceeds from this fundraiser will go toward RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit organization that aids immigrant children, families and refugees. Under the RAICES Family Reunification Bond Fund, contributions are directed toward funding bonds for the release of detained parents separated from their children.

These steps show how to help children separated from parents at the border and do our part in advocating for those without a voice. The executive order signed on June 20 fails to provide the vital solutions of reuniting children with their parents and outlawing family separation. It is critical to continue to mobilize Congressional leaders until family reunification is realized.

– Christine Leung

Photo: ABC

The post How to Help Children Separated from Parents at the Border appeared first on BORGEN.

]]>