Congressman Ed Royce is the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In his capacity as Chair, Royce has advocated strongly for programs that improve human rights and conditions in the developing world. Below is BORGEN Magazines interview with Chairman Ed Royce.
Tell us about the Electrify Africa Act that you introduced.
The landmark African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) marked the beginning of the U.S. government’s recognition of Africa’s considerable commercial potential. I led the effort to pass AGOA in 2000, championed AGOA’s extensions in 2004, 2006, and 2012, and am now working on AGOA’s reauthorization before it expires in 2015. Through AGOA we provided increased access for African exports to the U.S. market for countries that respect the rule of law and democratic principles. I have visited African apparel factories, and seen AGOA’s contribution to fighting poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Africans, particularly women, have been employed because of AGOA.
I have come to learn from discussions with African entrepreneurs that one of the main impediments to utilizing AGOA preferences and exporting to the U.S. is the lack of reasonably priced and reliable electricity. Any wise business person would balk at the idea of running manufacturing facility with a diesel generator – the costs are just too high.
With this challenge in mind, I have authored the Electrify Africa Act of 2013, which will establish a U.S. strategy to support affordable, reliable electricity in Africa. Developing a comprehensive strategy –which is how AGOA started– will get the ball rolling to improve generating capacity and grids across the continent; this will support health and education goals and economic growth, all while helping create U.S. jobs through greater exports. This Act includes an accountability and transparency framework, and will assist African business in lessening a major constraint to utilizing AGOA.
In sub-Saharan Africa today, nearly 600 million people – almost seven out of every ten people – do not have access to electricity or other modern energy services. Thirty African countries face endemic power shortages.
The Administration’s current approach relies on ad-hoc projects. A comprehensive strategy will, without doubt, leverage our limited aid dollars in a much more efficient way.
By passing the bipartisan Electrify Africa Act, we can promote economic growth across the continent. Prosperous African economies, with greater opportunities for small entrepreneurs, will strengthen U.S.-African ties and create trade and job opportunities.
How did you become personally interested in the plight of the world’s poor?
I have been interested in economics since school. I long ago learned that economic freedom is critical if economies are to grow and bring people out of poverty, as has been the case in much of the world. So much of the economic suffering throughout the world has come about by government elites looking to profit at the expense of the many. Besides working to promote political freedom, I have worked to promote economic freedom. Unless we have success there, poverty will afflict too many people unnecessarily.
What’s the best way for individuals to engage their members of Congress in an issue that they’re passionate about?
I regularly hear from a variety of student-run groups and civic organizations throughout my district. In today’s information age there are so many ways to get involved. The best advice I could give is to take a little time to know your issue. And when you advocate your concerns be constructive, be realistic, and be willing to compromise if need be.
What is the top issue that drove you to run for Congress?
I was the author of the first state anti-stalking law in the country. The California Legislature passed my bill after four women were killed in the space of six weeks in Orange County, California. All four women, fearing for their life, had sought police protection only to find that law enforcement could not intervene until they were physically attacked. One police officer told me at the time that the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life was to tell a victim, “There is nothing I can do.” And then subsequently he found the victim was killed.
My bill was designed to allow law enforcement to intervene on the basis of a credible threat in order to protect victims. The law was copied in all 50 states.
When I came to Congress, I felt a change in federal law was also needed because victims were losing the protection of state laws when they crossed state lines. At the time, many states did not respect other states’ restraining orders. We needed this new federal law because people who moved to another state were losing their protection. This new law provided a uniform federal law protecting stalking victims when they cross state lines to travel or work, and on federal property, such as post offices and military bases. My federal bill was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996.
What’s something that you’ve found interesting about working on Capitol Hill?
The U.S. has the capability to help around the globe. In particular, I’ve seen the effectiveness of bipartisan efforts; they can move legislation and prompt initiatives that tackle serious issues. For example, AGOA’s bipartisan supporters convinced the Clinton Administration to support the landmark legislation. Subsequently, the Bush administration supported efforts to reauthorize this important initiative.
I’ve also seen how those bipartisan efforts can help to bring those to justice that engage in crimes against humanity. I’ve worked with Rep. McGovern to apprehend Joseph Kony, the leader of the sadistic Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA is responsible for mutilating, abducting and forcing individuals into sexual servitude. Throughout its history, it is estimated to have forcibly conscripted 66,000 youths. My legislation, with McGovern, made it the policy of the United States to “apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield.”
– Shravan Challapalli