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60 Years Young and 20 Years of Service

(Photo: GlobalSolutions.org)

Counting his birthdays by the number of friends, not years, friends and colleagues of Global Solutions' "head cook and chief bottle washer" Don Kraus celebrated his 60th birthday and 20 years of service to the organization this past week.

The backyard patio at the national headquarters was filled with friends and supporters whom Don has worked with over the years. The event includes food, wine, music and great company.

Formerly a paper distribution business owner, Don came to Washington in the early 1990s after deciding he much preferred "selling peace to selling paper." Over the last twenty years, his role with the organization changed and he has been quick to evolve right along with the opportunities presented.

He was the Partners Program director for Global Solutions' predecessor organization the World Federalist Association, before moving sideways and up to take on the CEO mantle at its sister organization, the Campaign for UN Reform. He returned "home" in 2004 when the two organizations merged to form Citizens for Global Solutions, becoming the new organization's first Executive Vice President. In the summer of 2008, he stepped up to his current role as President & CEO of Global Solutions.

Don shared his thoughts at being with Global Solutions for so long.

It's Time to Act: Visit our Indiegogo Campaign

People underestimate the negative effects that not ratifying treaties can have on our lives. It can limit the rights of women or people with disabilities. Non-ratification also limits the influence that the US has in international decision-making. By not being part of the Law of the Sea treaty, the US loses opportunities to have a voice in decisions that govern the world’s oceans; this is a major issue for the US as the country with one of the largest coast lines.

Shouldn’t we embrace women’s rights and rights of the disabled? How can we end conflicts like the Syrian war without an arms trade agreement? The opposition wholeheartedly contests all treaties, while most proponents will advocate only for one. That needs to end. We CAN fight back, but we need to do it together, through broad support for treaty ratification.

The War on International Law is gaining traction, and we need to work harder to stop it. GlobalSolutions.org recently launched a project on Indiegogo, a crowd funding site, to raise money for our campaign. We need to bring attention to the Arms Trade Treaty, the Women’s Equality Treaty (CEDAW), the Disability Treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and many others. The US has not ratified any of these crucial agreements, which has significant negative consequences for the US role in the world and for US citizens.

Our goals are simple: expose the opposition, identify the costs of this negative policy, and build a robust network of support that crosses traditional issue silos inside and outside the Beltway to reengage the US in adopting international law. We need your support in order to make this campaign a success.

Stop the War on International Law

The Senate’s failure to adopt a single global agreement dealing with human rights, arms control, or the environment since 1997 has damaged the United States’ security, economy, and global leadership.

“The children were all asleep in bed and I was just going off to sleep…when I heard people outside saying chemical bombs were being dropped around us,” said Samer, a Syrian refugee. His children survived the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus in 2013.

Thankfully, by mid-April of this year, 93% of the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles have been removed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the watchdog arm of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The United States and other parties to this treaty had worked through the UN Security Council and pressured Syria to accede to the Convention.  They are now pushing for the remaining chemicals to be destroyed. 

But despite the successful use of international law to take these horrendous weapons out of play in the Syrian civil war, another kind of war is being fought within the United States.  The frontlines of the War on International Law stretch from the Senate floor to the living rooms of home-schoolers. 

A coordinated and well-funded opposition is doing everything it can to stop the US from ratifying any multilateral treaties. And, to the detriment of our nation and the world, they’re winning.  The Senate’s failure to adopt a single global agreement dealing with human rights, arms control, or the environment since 1997--when it agreed to the Chemical Weapons Convention--has damaged the United States’ security, economy, and global leadership. 

The Big Gamble: Inaction on Climate Change

We can no longer simply move forward with an "emit and adapt" strategy.

For years now the United States and countries around the world have mostly been watching and waiting, betting that we have time to head off the worst impacts of climate change. But according to a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate-related disruptions we have witnessed so far are just a precursor of devastation on a much larger scale.

Crop failures top the list of concerns described in the report. Storms, droughts, and other climate-related weather events are expected to cause major food shortages and widespread starvation in all parts of the world. As rich, fertile farmland dries up and alternative food sources dwindle, societies will struggle to sustain food supplies. In a New York Times article, Mark Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who helped write the report, boiled it down to simple economics: "when supply falls below demand, somebody doesn't have enough food."

However, famines are just one of many threats that will emerge in the coming decades. Countries will face a cascade of destabilizing events, such as severe water shortages, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, rising sea levels, and other catastrophes on an unprecedented scale. Civil wars and conflicts between nations are also expected to increase as people compete for scarce natural resources.

The Importance of Extra Credit

Jim McGovern (top), Ed Royce (bottom left), Ben Cardin (bottom right)

Members of Congress are responsible for casting votes on issues of national importance, including foreign policy priorities. Many Representatives and Senators have a perfect voting record from our members’ perspective, earning an A on the Global Solutions Congressional Report Card. Yet some in Congress do more than cast a vote; they actively champion policies that prevent war, build peace, cooperate with international norms, and defend human rights. That’s why Global Solutions Action Network rewards extra credit to those in Congress that go beyond the ballot on our core issues.

Representatives and Senators demonstrate their commitment to the values we share by sponsoring relevant legislation, speaking out on the floor of the House or Senate, writing op-eds and Dear Colleagues letters, and chairing relevant caucuses that promote our concerns. Any of these efforts can raise a member of Congress’ grade by one mark, from a B+ to A- for example. Legislators that show exceptional leadership on global issues, by promoting our core issues through multiple avenues, can even have their grade raised a full letter, from a B- to A-.

For this Beloved Global Activist, the System Worked

He was always there at every activist meeting. A quiet, rather quirky, guy who rarely spoke, but was eager to assist with hooking up the projector or making sure the microphones didn't squeal. He cared about using institutions to oversee the path to a peaceful, clean and just world. He believed in good government, and in the end, justice was delivered to him.

Our Milwaukee friend Peter Holzberger was murdered recently and our worlds turned around.

Two young men had found Peter working in his back yard, broke his neck, hog-tied him with bungee cords and carried his body to his basement where they hid him with boxes and clothes. Then they robbed his house, coming back several times over the next week to load up their blue van. They even bought items with his debit card on his computer, which ultimately led in their discovery.

Last week I was fascinated as I watched the court system unfold. Every step tried to guarantee an honest and true quest for fairness and truth. The two who were accused saw that they were getting a fair shake and did not rebel. And in the end, a jury of strangers gave Peter justice and the rest of our community safety (two life sentences). My eyes welled up with gratitude and pride as the anonymous twelve walked out, having done their duty to society.

A nation ruled by law and justice worked in Milwaukee this time, just as it is working in its first stages with the International Criminal Court. Having society see that its institutions are viable is something we need to keep highlighting if we want to promote the dream of using them to create a better world.

Peter fought for that dream. His spirit and example will love on with us in the Global Solutions community.

Open Letter #4 To My Grandson Jake

Crimea, Ukraine and Russia

Dear Jake,

It was great fun seeing you and the twins on Skype this weekend. Every time I see you I can tell that you are bigger, stronger and smarter than the time before. You might be a little young for a history lesson, but I know you are not too young to appreciate a map, especially a map that looks like a puzzle.

In this letter I want to address the current crisis of Ukraine, Crimea and Russia and explain that I see a better way to solve crises like this one. As is often the case in understanding the problems of the world, it is good to start with a map and a history lesson.

In this map Crimea is the little peninsula hanging below Ukraine and to the left of Russia. It has had a tumultuous history, with many different governments over the past 100 years. Two events in the past are interesting to me. (1) In 1954 the Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, transferred Crimea from the Soviet Union to Ukraine. From the research I have done, It does not appear that the people of Crimea had any choice in this transfer; (2) In 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, 54% of the Crimean voters supported independence from Russia with a 60% turnout. Although Crimea initially claimed independence, later that year they agreed to be part of Ukraine.

2014 Congressional Report Card Released

The 2014 Congressional Report Card on U.S. Foreign Policy

For Global Solutions Action Network members, how Congress deals with international concerns is of critical importance. Where do you want your elected leaders to stand on climate security and energy policy? Nuclear weapons proliferation and funding peacekeeping efforts?

The 2014 Congressional Report Card is where Members of Congress are graded on these and other global issues as votes in the immediate past session.

Creating a report card that covers climate security, treaty ratification and human rights is a long and detailed process but was well worth the effort for how it empowers citizens. After scouring the Library of Congress for roll call votes on issues of global importance and surveying our members on which reflected their concerns most, we narrowed our list to 10 votes for each chamber of Congress on which to grade lawmakers.

So what grade did your Senator and Representative receive this term?

Some members of Congress did outright awfully, while others were shining examples of the international leadership which the U.S. Congress should represent. The pictured charts display how many Senators and Representatives got which letter grades.

Chart of 2014 House GradesChart of 2014 Senate Grades

 

On Cooperation Near and Far, Big and Small: One Final Note From Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger was a vocal proponent for UN reform his entire life.

The day he died, my organization got a hand-written letter from Pete Seeger, the 94-year-old iconic folksinger who departed last month after decades of inspiring us onward with his peace and justice ballads.

Now with his loss, we realize it is quite a gap to fill. Indeed, one political cartoon showed a hapless banjo player reading his paper’s page: “JOB OPPORTUNITY: New Pete Seeger needed. Must start immediately.”

What were his final messages to us? In an article last week entitled, “I’m Through With Big Things,” Seeger was quoted as saying, "Be wary of great leaders. Hope that there are many, many small leaders.” We know of his work to clean up the Hudson River, as well as his call for all of us to get involved at the local level. If he was disappointed in greater things, it was perhaps no wonder—for decades he suffered severe disappointments on the larger scene—a country which blacklisted him, record companies and television stations that marginalized him, and a youth culture and civil rights movement that passed him over when they became enamored by cooler music and more strident activism.

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