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A Decade of Foreign Policy Partisanship

Day in and day out, I hear too many partisan attacks on the news. I thought it may be getting worse than ever before. Partisanship ends at the water’s edge? Laughable. Recent news on Syria, Iran, and Ukraine had me once again shaking my head at Congress – we can’t even put together a unified face for America’s most pressing international concerns.

Despite the splitting headache I get from listening to Republicans and Democrats argue with each other on a daily basis, the decade’s worth of data collected by Global Solutions Action Network reveals that the partisan divide on global issues is a phenomenon of consistency but isn’t necessarily getting worse. Over the course of 10 years, there’s been an average partisan divide of 62 points in the House and 70 points in the Senate.

Average Congressional Scores 2004-2014

The graph pictured above shows the average scores of Democrats and Republicans per year, separated by chamber of Congress. Clearly, the partisanship has been a part of U.S. foreign policy for at least a decade. Over and over again, many Democrats will vote to fund international organizations, human right law, peacekeeping missions, and more. Meanwhile, most Republicans vote for resolutions that call for action for human rights protection and other basic health prerogatives, but will not put their money where their mouth is; they typically vote to not fund the initiatives those resolutions envision to protect human rights and basic health. 

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

 

U.S. Senate Must Confirm Backlog of Ambassador Nominees

Chief diplomat and US Secretary of State John Kerry at the UN/Getty Images

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.

First, a quick recap: as of last week, 33 nominations to ambassadorships around the world have not been voted on by the U.S. Senate, along with several other key foreign service posts. These include ambassadors to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Argentina, Cameroon, Switzerland, Bosnia, and New Zealand, among many others. They range from the U.S.’s most important allies to key players in crises in the Middle East and Africa to strategic partners in Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific. Half the ambassadorial nominations have been waiting for over six months, apparently held up by the use of the “nuclear option” to end the use of the filibuster on most presidential appointments. It seems a new, less formal filibuster has developed.

Sochi’s Last Winter Olympics

Sochi Olympics with no snow

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.

However, unless global climate solutions are rapidly agreed to and implemented, the damage done to winter sports will only be (pardon the pun) the tip of the iceberg.  We’ll skip the doomsday scenarios for now, but in the words of President Obama at his State of the Union address, “the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” 

Latest Climate Denial Diversions Reveal Ulterior Motives

Climate denialism is big business

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.

The latest climate-denying diversions peddled by lobbyists and the anti-science crowd in Congress would leave news junkies and even casual political observers skeptical or uninterested altogether in finding cleaner energy alternatives. I would argue that this response is the result of learned behavior. After all, 97% of scientists worldwide subscribe to the fact that “climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.” Nevertheless, most scientists are impartial considering science is independent of ideology. The only disagreement in their ranks is among scientists with financial obligations to the fossil fuel industry. 

Two years ago, one of the most outspoken, polarizing and climate-denying extremists, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, published “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”

Farm Bill 2014: A Win for Food Aid

Farm Bill 2014: A Win for Food Aid

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-efficiently. 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.

For GlobalSolutions.org this outcome is particularly important because of the campaign we put out last year, Buy Local, Feed Global, championing this issue. Our members lobbied for this change, sending messages to over 168 Members of Congress, asking that they support lifting food aid restrictions that have limited our capacity to feed millions and support sustainable local food markets.

Edward Rawson: 1914 - 2013

Ed is honored for the 1st "Edward Rawson Global Citizen Award"

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 Rawson - Vintage PhotoEd 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.

Live-tweeting from Capitol Hill

(Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

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: 

"By ratifying the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), the United States will continue to be a leader in setting the standards for ensuring the human rights of individuals with disabilities, as we have under the ADA and other laws. The Convention reflects core American values such as the dignity of the individual, access to justice, the importance of family decision-making and access to appropriate healthcare. 

Philippines Crisis Highlights Need for Food Aid Reform

Food Aid Provided by the U.S. in Leyte, Philippines

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.

My friend Eric Schwartz was the assistant secretary of state for refugees.  Brian Atwood served as the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.  Their op-ed in the Minneapolis StarTribune  (written before Typhoon Haiyan struck) explains why Congress must act to save the lives of millions more, at no additional cost to taxpayers. It’s worth reading and taking action to urge your House and Senate representatives to support a bipartisan, common-sense proposal for the U.S. to play a more cooperative and responsible role in the world:

United States sidelined at UNESCO Election

David Killion, center, permanent delegate of the United States to UNESCO, reacts as delegates vote on Palestinian membership to the U.N. cultural agency in Paris Oct. 31, 2011. / AP PHOTO

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.