The Global Citizen: Capitol Hill
On Wednesday, January 30th, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum expressing the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls internationally. The Obama Administration has recently made it very clear that improving the rights of women and girls is essential to the foreign policy of the United States.
"Ensuring that women and girls, including those most marginalized, are able to participate fully in public life, are free from violence, and have equal access to education, economic opportunity, and health care increases broader economic prosperity, as well as political stability and security," President Obama states in the memorandum.
With the recent gender based violence events overwhelming the news and social media forums, I am very happy to hear that the Obama Administration has noticed the severity and significance of these issues. But what will our government do to help eliminate gender based violence and discrimination?
The memorandum states three goals for the upcoming years:
When will climate change become a priority? Probably, when war, rape, and child suffering no longer exist. Unfortunately, however, these horrible tragedies are perpetuated by the effects of climate change. As the earth's climate warms, insecurity in First and Third World countries rises. As a result, now is the time to focus on climate change so that we can prevent future starvation and suffering.
Unfortunately, it is easy for Congress to push the formation of legislation that eases the effects of climate change aside. Climate change feels distant; guns and budget cuts are pressing issues today. Congress won't get re-elected on issues that we aren't yet feeling the full effects of. However, in his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama stepped up to the plate and renewed the United States' commitment to respond to climate change.
You also agree that climate change must be a priority in President Obama's second term. A survey conducted by Global Solutions.org members and supporters shows that Americans sill care about the issues surrounding climate change. Members and supporters rated climate change and the environment the highest priority issue for GlobalSolutions.org to focus on in 2013.
As crises continue in Mali and Syria, Better World Campaign (BWC) released the latest bipartisan poll of American perceptions of the United Nations.
According to BWC's findings, "Eight in 10 voters say it is important for the U.S. to maintain an active role in the United Nations, and further that it is in America's best interest to continue to actively support the UN."
In addition, 93 percent of Americans believe it is important that the U.S. be a member of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is the global health authority for the United Nations providing leadership on setting health standards, research, monitoring health situations and preventing disease outbreak. The United States' funding for the WHO is in danger. The U.S. is legally required to cut funds to any UN agency that recognizes a Palestinian state and Palestine is expected to bid for membership in May at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. "While the Obama Administration has no flexibility to waive the law, Congress has the power to grant the President waiver authority," says BWC.
On December 10th, Human Rights Day, we lost a wonderful friend and leader. Floyd Ramp was a great supporter of human rights and world peace. During World War II he served as an ensign in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific where he witnessed the testing of the atomic bomb and the devastation wrought in Japan. He became committed to world peace and developing the laws and institutions to make it possible.
The Senate hasn't approved any major multilateral treaties since 1997.
America is suffering from a failure to commit. Just ask Bob Dole.
While the former GOP presidential candidate and decorated veteran watched from his wheelchair on the Senate floor, all but eight of the Republicans in that chamber shamefully voted down the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It's hardly a radical pact. To date, 126 other countries have ratified this treaty. Dole, who served as Senate Majority and Minority Leader for more than a decade, had championed it. So did veterans groups, disability rights organizations, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The treaty simply took our own Americans with Disabilities Act, and "expanded that kind of rights to people all over the world who don't have them today," explained Senator John McCain of Arizona, another former Republican presidential nominee and veteran with a disability.
But 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.
We've all heard about sequestration, a mandatory cutting of federal expenditures on apocalyptic levels if a budget deal is not struck in Congress before the New Year. However, does anyone really know what it will mean for international affairs budgeting if sequestration takes effect?
The short answer is: it doesn't look good.
To begin, let's run through what would happen on the macro level if sequestration kicks in. If sequestration is not avoided, the Office of Management and Budget will cancel $110 billion in spending for fiscal year 2013, with a grand total of $1.2 trillion in savings through fiscal year 2021. The amount of money saved by sequestration will be split 50/50 between Defense programs and non-Defense programs, with Social Security, Medicaid, and the majority of Medicare escaping unscathed.
Using fiscal year 2013 as a model and assuming percentage cuts between seven and ten percent, that would mean that Defense spending would drop by $55 billion and non-Defense discretionary spending would be cut, again, by $55 billion, which includes the International Affairs Budget.
The Senate is on the verge of ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This could be amazing! The Senate has not been able to push through a multilateral treaty since the Chemical Weapons convention in 1997.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that current U.S. laws protecting the disabled are the “gold standard” for such initiatives worldwide. He said that the treaty would “take that gold standard and extend it to countries that have never heard of disability rights.”
126 nations have already ratified the CRPD, improving the lives of over 1 billion people living with disabilities. Over 80% of the world’s disabled population lives in developing countries where the treaty would have the greatest impact. U.S. ratification of the treaty will not only maintain our essential leadership on disability issues internationally but allow us to play a key role in forming the legislation and policies that will ensure the equality and inclusion of all people with disabilities worldwide.
The evidence supporting America’s mandate for responsible leadership in Washington grows. With the support of the Global Solutions PAC, Angus King and Joe Donnelly won their elections and now join the ranks of responsible leaders in Washington.
In the state of Maine, Independent Angus King handedly took the open Senate seat, defeating Republican Charlie Summers by over 150,000 votes and Democrat Cynthia Dill by over 275,000 votes. On the topic of foreign policy, Angus King knows what is at stake and possesses the right mindset to tackle the issues.
Concerning multilateral engagement, King said that, “The United States has a strong heritage of multilateral action on important global issues, and should continue as a collaborative leader in world affairs.” This commitment to cooperation shows that we have a representative that will work on the important international issues in the most effective way. King has also voiced his support for the ICC in situations where a fair and codified court may not be available, as well as his approval of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. These convictions show that King is a leader that will do what is right, regardless of what is popular or easy.
Keeping with the theme of voters selecting leaders that champion smart American foreign policy, we have two more races that highlight the frighteningly stark differences between two different worldviews. As with the previous post, these are officials that were supported by the Global Solutions PAC that won their elections.
We will begin with the Montana Senatorial race, where incumbent Jon Tester bested Dennis Rehberg in that race. Tester has a proven track record as a champion of American involvement globally, including votes in favor of addressing climate change, the New START Treaty, and the preservation of foreign aid funding. During his time as Senator, Tester has earned two "A-" grades on our report card in 2010 and 2012. On the other end of the spectrum, Rehberg's lack of support for international nuclear regulation, initiatives to address climate change, and proper funding to the UN earned him a "D-" in 2010 and a "D" in 2012.
With the final ballots cast and the winners and losers decided, it is clear that the people of this nation demand leaders that will address global issues in a realistic way. Because of the overwhelming results of this election, we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at some of the more prominent winners that realize the importance of an engaged foreign policy strategy. These are leaders that Global Solutions PAC supported throughout the election.
Virginia's Senatorial race was a victory for those that champion American involvement in the international community. Winning 52.4% of the vote, Democratic candidate Tim Kaine edged out Republican candidate George Allen who garnered 47.6%. Allen's history in the US Senate gives us a clear view of his stances on foreign policy. Without fail, he voted against legislation that would have helped to address climate change, increasing funding for the global AIDS prevention services, and US involvement in the ICC. Consequentially, Allen earned a "0" (equivalent of an 'F') in 2004, a "D" in 2005, and a "D" in 2006.
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