The Global Citizen: Capitol Hill
Last week The Washington Post reported that an unusually large number of ambassador appointments are being held up by the U.S. Senate, threatening both American interests abroad and a variety of humanitarian interests around the world. This backlog is unacceptable, and the Senate needs to act immediately to ensure the United States embassies are fully staffed.
Are we witnessing the last Winter Olympics held in Sochi? The Russian games are already relying primarily on manmade snow. SMI Snowmakers, a Michigan-based company, has spent the last 4 years designing and installing a system that has blown the equivalent of 920 football fields of snow onto Sochi’s slopes.
Will other winter games sites including Squaw Valley, Vancouver and Grenoble also fall victim to climate change induced weather patterns that are literally melting down the list of available host venues? The answer, according to a recent study, is a resounding yes. In all but the lowest greenhouse gas emissions estimates, the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2° C will not be met. And as a result warmer winters will mean less snow.
We welcome the following contribution to The Global Citizen by Aric Caplan, President of Caplan Communications. His fuller analysis on the intersection of climate denialism and Congressional campaign contributions can be found here.
Voters are coming to grips with our many elected officials beholden to the fossil fuel industry that finances their reelections. The Center for American Progress recently reported that 160 members of the 113th Congress have taken over $55.5 million from the industry that drives carbon pollution, which also causes climate change.
Last Tuesday, Congress finally passed the 2014 Farm Bill that was three years in the making. And after a long wait, the bill is a win for food aid and security around the world. The nearly $1 trillion bill allots $2.5 billion for the Food for Peace Act that sends food aid overseas in the form of not only food but also community development programs. The bill also increases funding to nonprofits and international organizations that are providing aid abroad to $10 million and adds new provisions to improve the nutrition and quality of food the US gives as aid.
The biggest win for food security advocates however comes from the program that provides $80 million annually for global emergency food aid programs. This program allows managers to buy food supplies closer to the recipient rather than exclusively from the US, allowing food to be delivered faster and in a more cost efficient way. The program builds on a 2008 pilot effort carried out in part by the UN’s World Food Program that showed that we could provide aid at half the cost and delivery time in both emergency and non-emergency settings.
With the passing of the old year, we lost a beloved friend, benefactor and leader, Edward Rawson. He passed away quietly at his home in McLean, Virginia surrounded by his family. He would have been 100 this February. We knew him as Ed, Mr. Rawson and Grandpa. For so many of us he was “my friend” and “my teacher.”
Ed has been part of Global Solutions movement from the beginning. He attended the 1947 founding of the United World Federalists in Asheville, North Carolina. Ed was the World Federalist Association’s (WFA) Treasurer for 20 years, retiring in 1996. He served for several years as Executive Vice President of the Campaign for UN Reform, and served until his passing as a Trustee of the World Federalist Endowment Fund, which he helped to establish. He was a past president of the WFA DC Metro Chapter, past chair of the WFA Executive Committee, and a recipient of the WFA "Presidential Award". Received a B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from Yale Law School, he served abroad with the State Department and Agency for International Development, and eventually as AID coordinator for relations with other federal agencies.
On Thursday, November 21st, Global Solutions staff will be live-tweeting from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's second hearing on U.S. ratification of the Disability Treaty. Secretary of State John Kerry will be testifying on the importance of U.S. leadership, as will a number of other panelists - for and against the treaty. Follow the testimony, submit questions or re-tweet our posts by following our Twitter profile @GlobalSolutions.
GlobalSolutions members have been calling their Senators this month to voice their support for U.S. ratification of the Disability Treaty -- and your calls are working! For the first time, our friends on the Committee are telling us that calls from supporters are outnumbering those from opponents. But we can be certain that this will continue. Your calls are more important than ever, as opponents will once again push the Big Lie that derailed ratification in 2012. If you have not yet shared your support, call your Senators' office today and let them know that, as a constituent, this is important to you.
Our CEO, Don Kraus, shared with the Committee's chairman, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member, Bob Corker (R-TN) how important U.S. leadership on the Treaty really is:
The international community is scrambling to deliver emergency aid to cyclone-devastated areas of the Philippines. The United States’ response to the crisis is strong and welcomed. However, antiquated policies are hampering efforts to get food to starving storm victims.
Congress is currently debating reforming food aid as part of the Farm bill. An NRP story explains how limited funds are being used to purchase food locally in the Philippines. But this fund, which also is helping to deliver food to war-torn Syria, is shrinking fast and U.S. law requires that the vast majority of food aid must be in the form of crops grown and shipped from the U.S. A 2008 pilot program for the local purchase of food items showed that we could provide aid at half the cost and delivery time in both emergency and non-emergency settings.
This article originally appeared on GlobalMemo.org and is cross-posted with permission of the author.
UNESCO's General Conference is taking place now, and is to continue through November 16th. It is scheduled to elect the UNESCO Director General for the next four years on Tuesday, November 12th. Since Director General Irina Bokova was endorsed for the position by the Executive Board, there is little doubt as to the outcome.
The General Conference meets only every other year, and this year will be dealing with the problems caused by the United States withholding its contributions from the Organization. During the 2011 General Conference, Palestine was elected to membership in UNESCO. Due to a two-decade old provision of U.S. law, the United States then began to withhold all its contributions to UNESCO. Since those contributions represented 22 percent of the regular budget, a financial crisis ensued in the Organization.
According to the UNESCO Constitution, a member state that is two years in arrears on its assessed contributions loses its vote. Even were the law to be changed today, the President would have to sign a waiver, the funds would have to be transferred to the State Department, and then transferred again to UNESCO in Paris. It is too late.
This week I had the unfortunate experience of studying for an International Development Exam at the same time as watching CNN's shutdown coverage. With less than 24 hours until the US reached the debt ceiling, congress was still discussing possibilities with no clear outcome. For the first time in my young lifetime, I watched our politicians play a game with the global economy, and I was horrified.
The US Government has the ability to make an impact in international development more than any NGO, international institution, or campaign. These 536 men and women can make a tremendous amount of change if they set their minds to it, but instead they bicker over small details. They could fix education, cure a disease or just build a road in a country with no real infrastructure. They've benefited from wonderful educations, yet they don't care about the problems current students face. They all claim to be religious people, yet they spend millions of dollars on negative campaigns instead of helping dying children in the global south. They're willing to risk a global economy meltdown over a law that's been upheld by our systems of checks and balances, yet they don't seem to be wiling to actually put foreign investment behind that global economy to help it grow.
A "Big Lie" is a "deliberate, gross distortion of the truth used especially as a propaganda tactic." My colleague Jake LaRaus just published a great paper: Birth of a Big Lie - How Misinformation Fuels Treaty Opposition: A Disability Treaty Case Study.
Last December, Bob Dole, former GOP presidential candidate and decorated veteran watched from his wheelchair on the Senate floor as all but eight of the Republicans in that chamber shamefully voted down the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, and even with all 53 senators in the Democratic caucus supporting it, too few Republicans got on board for it to pass.
The treaty's opponents seem stuck in a partisan twilight zone of UN black helicopters and conspiracy theories that undercuts U.S. influence in global affairs. They've perfected a method of defeating virtually every treaty that comes along. Since controversial treaties never pass in the Senate, opponents make any unobjectionable agreement divisive by inventing a Big Lie.
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