Legislative and policy-related news from D.C., Olympia, and our members
Welcome to the Global Washington Policy Update. Each month we post updates about our policy work, national global development policy news, our blog and legislative index.
- Featured Policy News
- New Legislation & Major Action
- News and Announcements
Featured Policy News
Rio+20 Yields Mixed Results for Sustainable Development
As critics continue to dissect the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, which wrapped up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 23, it is clear that NGOs, the private sector, and individuals will be the ones to drive progress on sustainable development and environmental protection.
Was Rio+20 the “greatest failure of collective leadership since the first world war”, as the Guardian has now-infamously called it? In some ways, yes. Despite evidence that our planet is quickly barreling towards irreparable damage, some of the world’s most powerful leaders—including United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and United States President Barack Obama—failed to make appearances in Rio. Negotiators couldn’t agree on the goals of the conference until the night before leaders arrived, and Brazil’s (admittedly savvy) removal of contentious language from the outcome document ensured a watered-down agreement high on platitudes but low on progress. Rio+20 was the largest United Nations conference in history, but sustainable development still does not place high on the global political agenda.
Yet there is reason for hope. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stressed the number of financial commitments made to sustainable development and energy. Nearly 700 commitments from the private sector, governments and NGOs totaled around $500 billion. The UN’s Energy for All Initiative received $80 billion in commitments, and the Asian Development Bank (along with seven other development banks) will provide $175 billion for sustainable transportation in developing countries. Many corporations also pledged action. Microsoft committed to becoming carbon neutral by FY2013, establishing an internal carbon tax and reducing environmental impact in its supply chain and business operations.
With the creation of hundreds of international partnerships and agreements (and the promise of so much action), the National Resource Defense Council has established Cloud of Commitments, a new web platform designed to track financial contributions.
The true optimism from Rio+20 emerges from the massive outpouring of activism, engagement and initiatives from outside actors. There were more than 3,000 events held in Rio outside the UN-sanctioned conference. Two bottom-up initiatives have garnered much press attention, including the Twitter campaign to ban fossil fuel subsidies and Greenpeace’s efforts with Sir Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke and others to call for a global Arctic sanctuary. Thousands of activists gathered for an alternative “People’s Summit” on the beaches of Rio, while tens of thousands more participated on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, makes a resounding conclusion in a recent piece in the New York Times:
“We will not get the future we want, or the future we need, if we only wait for 193 governments to agree on the path ahead. Success will not come from lowest common denominator solutions.
Ultimately, we will need to find ways for world governments to act together…But in the meantime, leadership can and must come from many other quarters – indeed, from every other quarter. That is beginning to happen.“
Rio+20 wasn’t a failure, but a reminder that our world has become more fractured (and the global conversation more diverse) since the original Rio summit in 1992. NGOs and the private sector must continue to drive change from the bottom up in order to achieve an equitable future for all.
By Jordan Faires
Congressman McDermott Commends Rotary International for Polio Efforts
Congressman Jim McDermott [WA-7] introduced legislation recognizing the work of local Rotary International members and others, including the Gates Foundation, in their decades-long campaign against polio, drawing attention to the disease at a critical time for global eradication efforts.
Rotary International has worked for over 25 years to eradicate polio through fundraising and advocacy, and is a leading member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In a speech to the House of Representatives on June 26, Congressman McDermott said, “I am proud to represent the Rotarians of the 7th congressional district of Washington, who have generously given their time and financial support to the global fight against polio.”
The campaign against polio has seen many victories in recent years. The virus, which causes rapid paralysis and death in 5-10% of those paralyzed, was endemic to over 125 countries in 1988 with over 385,000 cases each year worldwide. Campaigns by the World Health Organization, partnered with numerous organizations such as Rotary International and the Gates Foundation, have reduced polio cases by 99% since 1988. The disease is now endemic to only three countries (the smallest geographic region in history): Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In January, India announced that it had not seen a case of polio in 2011—an important milestone for a nation that recently faced a staggering 100,000 cases each year.
Yet despite these successes, campaigns to completely eradicate the disease are in jeopardy. Budget gaps threaten vaccination programs and the virus shows signs of resurgence in some areas. “Polio eradication is at a tipping point,” says a recent report from the World Health Organization. “If immunity is not raised in the three remaining countries to levels necessary to stop poliovirus transmission, polio eradication will fail.”
Facing a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall for 2012-2013, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was forced to implement an emergency action plan in late May. Vaccination campaigns could be cancelled in up to 33 countries—leaving 94 million children exposed to the disease. The disease has also seen signs of resurgence in some areas, including China and West Africa.
Congressman McDermott spoke directly about the Pakistani Taliban’s recent obstruction of a vaccination campaign in North Waziristan, calling for U.S. officials to end the use of medical workers for intelligence-gathering. Taliban officials are wary that the United States is using the polio campaign as a cover for espionage as it did with Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided the CIA’s efforts to track Osama bin Laden. “When humanitarian workers are used for intelligence collecting purposes… it erodes trust and undermines legitimate humanitarian work,” says Congressman McDermott. Political use of aid workers results in feeding ideas that “medical programs could have sinister motives.” Rumors that vaccinations are a plot against communities have also hampered efforts in Nigeria and India, albeit for different reasons.
The complete eradication of polio is within reach, and Rotary International and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative need the support of donors, the U.S. government and nonprofits to finish what they started.
By Jordan Faires
New Legislation & Major Action
S. 3356 and H.R. 6038 improve U.S. leadership on global environmental issues (specifically resource consumption) to foster economic development and to ensure security and U.S. interests abroad. These bills require an assessment of the effectiveness of current conservation policy and the development of an integrated International Conservation Strategy. This plan will establish goals and time tables to address a variety of environmental issues- including ecosystem protection, regulating fisheries, safeguarding fresh water, stabilizing resource scarcity in areas prone to conflict or mass migration, and reducing desertification. The President is urged to work with world leaders to find multilateral mechanisms to coordinate aid and resources to achieve the goals of the International Conservation Strategy.
S. 3356 was introduced on June 28, 2012 by Sen. Robert Portman [R-OH] (3 cosponsors) and has not been referred to committee. H.R. 6038 was introduced on June 27, 2012 by Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry [R-NE1] (32 cosponsors including Rep. Norman “Norm” Dicks [D-WA6] and Rep. Dave Reichert [R-WA8]) and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
S. 3310 (linked to H.R. 3159, introduced 10/2011) establishes additional guidelines to improve transparency and accountability in all foreign assistance programs funded by the Federal government. The bill directs the President to draft these guidelines, which would include monitoring of resources, evaluation of projects, evaluating the impact of these projects and analysis that determines findings. Guidelines on monitoring and evaluation would be disseminated to all program staff worldwide, and evaluations would be released online no later than 90 days after completion. It also establishes a website where all information relating to foreign assistance programs, including “country assistance strategies, annual budget documents, congressional budget justifications, actual expenditures, and reports and evaluations for such programs and projects under such programs” would be publicly accessible and easily searchable.
S. 3310 was introduced by Sen. Richard Luger [R-IN] with no cosponsors on June 19 and has not been referred to committee.
S. 641 calls for increased action to bring water and sanitation to the world’s poor and provides 100,000,000 people with first-time access to drinking water and sanitation within six years by improving the capacity of the United States Government to fully implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005. The act (1) amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 by creating a senior advisor to the Administrator of USAID to fully implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005, coordinate the implementation of country-specific water policies in high-priority countries, and enable the goal of providing 100,000,000 additional people with clean water and sanitation services within six years of the enactment of the bill. 25% of funding shall come from non-federal sources, including foreign governments, foundations and civil society organizations. (2) the Secretary of State shall establish a Special Coordinator for International Water to oversee diplomatic water policy. (3) Secretary of State and Administrator of USAID develop capacity of water and sanitation institutions in high-risk countries- including providing access to clean water and sanitation, educating populations about the danger of unclean water and poor sanitation, and encouraging behavioral change to reduce risk of disease.
Introduced March 17, 2011, reported by Committee back to Senate June 19, 2012 (26 cosponsors, including Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA))
S. 3269 and H.R. 5924 place limitations on foreign aid to Pakistan, with aid only resumed if the President certifies that: 1. Dr. Shakil Afridi has been freed from prison; 2. All charges have been dropped against Dr. Shakil Afridi; and 3. Dr. Shakil Afridi is allowed to leave Pakistan if necessary to ensure freedom.
S. 3269 was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul [R-KY] (6 cosponsors) and was referred to committee on June 7. H.R. 5924 was introduced by Rep. Connie Mack [R-FL14] (2 cosponsors) and referred to House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 7.
H.R. 5748 provides assistance to Sub-Sarahan Africa to combat obstetric fistula. The bill establishes a 10 year comprehensive plan to combat obstetric fistula, including the creation of an “International Obstetric Fistula Institute for Sub-Saharan Africa” to develop programs and protocols for prevention, education, and emergency medical access, and no less than eight “Centers of Clinical Excellence” in Sub-Saharan Africa to provide medical care and training for the treatment of obstetric fistula.
Referred to House Committee on Foreign Affairs 5/15/2012 (7 cosponsors)
News and Announcements
Support legislation to oppose violence against women
The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives on June 7th. This legislation, according to Thrive Women Worldwide, “would put the weight of U.S. foreign policy and international assistance behind ending the global epidemic of gender-based violence, which affects one in three women and girls worldwide.” Urge your representative to support this legislation by clicking here.
Support an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act
The ONE Campaign is urging constituents to call Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, urging them to sign on as cosponsors of S.3326, a bipartisan bill that would extend a provision in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that allows African manufacturers to export their garments into the U.S. duty-free. ONE estimates that at least 300,000 African jobs will be lost without this rule. For more information and talking points, visit http://act.one.org/go/623?t=2&akid=3255.1833017.w4iZuR
Learn more or pledge your support for the IPR initiative
Oxfam America and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) are encouraging organizations and individuals to support foreign aid reform. New reforms at USAID would reduce wasteful spending, combat corruption and allow developing countries to lead their own development efforts. The Implementation and Procurement Reform (IPR) initiative aims to raise the amount of assistance provided by national governments and local organizations in program countries to 30% by 2015. This level of ownership helps build capacity and institutions within countries, strengthening long-term sustainable development potential. Learn more at Oxfam’s website and at MFAN.
Oxfam wrote an open letter to congress pledging their support for these reforms, and has also published a blog post about anti-corruption efforts and the reforms. Pledge your support here for USAID’s IPR initiative.
Learn more about the IPR initiative:
- From Bill Easterly, NYU: http://nyudri.org/2012/05/07/save-the-poor-beltway-bandits/
- From Tom Paulson, KPLU’s Humanosphere: http://humanosphere.kplu.org/2012/05/on-the-american-tendency-to-give-itself-foreign-aid/
Edited by: Megan Boucher