The Global Citizen: July 2011
A guest blog post by Jessica Ziegler:
I've been thinking a lot about connectedness lately, mostly because I recently finished a master's degree at Vanderbilt University and am eagerly embarking on the next phase of my life while also sadly saying the necessary goodbyes to the colleagues and friends who have come to mean so much to me over the past few years. It's a bittersweet experience.
While I could come up with a fairly long list of individuals who have helped to define my graduate school experience, of late I have particularly been reflecting on my relationship with Tanya, a woman who I have come to think of as the embodiment of success in all arenas. Tanya came to Vanderbilt on a full-scholarship through the prestigious Fulbright program, and it is to my benefit that she earned this opportunity and was able to teach me, work with me, challenge me, and laugh with me over the two years that it took us to earn our degrees. Most of you reading this will not have had the pleasure of knowing her, but when I think of Tanya, I remember someone who is brilliant but humble, beautiful but modest, funny but caring, and confident but open-minded. When I think of Tanya, I think with excitement about the foreign culture she shared with me: of foods and family traditions, of descriptions of exotic locations, of music and dance, and of many more things that comprise her home country of Iraq.
Great nations should pay their bills. But in the last two weeks, House Republicans on two important panels voted on party lines to sharply decrease funding for international organizations, peacekeeping missions, and human rights, putting the United States back on the world community's "dead beat" list. In a climate of an increased national debt and a laundry list of transnational problems facing our nation, it is irresponsible to play politics and gamble with our foreign policy.
It's important to put costs into perspective. These members who voted to hold U.N. funding hostage say that we need to reduce spending across the board. Don't let their rhetoric fool you - we aren't dramatically cutting spending by reducing our U.N. contributions and funds for peacekeeping missions. The foreign aid budget consists of 1% of overall federal budget, and the U.N. budget is a small sliver of this amount. These cuts make as much sense as cutting my daughters allowance to pay down my mortgage.
When I accepted the position as a Government Relations Research Associate at CGS, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I had a deep interest in domestic politics and had previously interned on Capitol Hill, but I wasn’t acquainted with a lot of the issues that CGS works on.
Before I started at CGS, I was more concerned with what was happening in Washington D.C. than what was happening outside of it. After interning at CGS, I realize there is a lot more that goes on than the largely partisan politics that are debated daily on Capitol Hill.
Working here during the summer of 2011 has been especially interesting, considering all that has happened in the realm of international relations. From the Arab Spring to the independence of South Sudan, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about these transformative events.
During my internship, I attended events sponsored by the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Institute for Peace, and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. I have heard a fascinating variety of speakers including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, Senator John Kerry, and Secretary Clinton. Washington D.C. is a fascinating place to work because there is so much to do and learn in this city.
As Melissa Kaplan wrote in her most recent blog post, “the madness continues…,” as UN funding was slashed in the House Appropriations subcommittee yesterday during the mark up of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2583) and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill detract from U.S. diplomacy and development efforts by cutting UN funding and State Department funds for foreign assistance programs, as well as by strengthening the slew of restrictions that are attached to foreign aid and UN-designated dollars.
Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi will not escape the consequences of justice...or will he? An article posted yesterday in The Guardian cites Great Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, as being much more lenient with Gaddafi than many would hope. Although Secretary Hague is still demanding that Gaddafi relinquish power, he has stated that the Libyan people should have the ultimate decision on Gaddafi's fate because they have been most strongly affected by his actions. This however, undermines the purpose of the ICC, which is to hold criminals who commit crimes against humanity to justice. Olara Otunnu, a Lawyer and the President of the Uganda Peoples' Congress, has publically disagreed with the statements made by Mr. Hague. Mr. Otunnu described the ICC's arrest warrants as 'legal facts' which 'cannot go away.'
The Guardian article goes on to address why giving Gaddafi certain immunities would cause political uproar in Libya. So much damage has been done to Libyan society by Gaddafi that allowing him certain privileges would be a slap in the face to many who have had to deal with his brutality for far too long. One Libyan citizen was quoted in the Guardian expressing his feelings towards Gaddafi's future:
The madness continues….
Last week, I wrote a blog post decrying the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s (HFAC) shabby treatment of the United Nations as it passed, along party lines, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. This week brings another, even deeper congressional blow to the U.S. relationship with the UN, with the passage of the House appropriations bill to fund the State Department, which was approved by subcommittee this morning.
Some key things the bill does (or fails to do):
Today in The Hill, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote about the importance of fully funding our dues to the United Nations and peacekeeping missions and paying them on time. He astutely writes that our yearly contributions to the U.N. totaling around $2.7 billion, pays for immunizing children from diseases, 15 peacekeeping missions around the world, and protecting the world from pandemics, a great value especially when icompared to the $100 billion spent this year in Afghanstian.
Connolly points out,
"Our contributions to the U.N. enhance our national security and our foreign policy priorities, save dollars while growing jobs and our economy and strengthen our leadership in the international community."
Not only do we get a great value for our dollars, but we get great returns for our investment. In our slowly recovering economy, our good standing with the U.N. has gotten all but two contracts awarded to the United States to renovate U.N. headquarters and the second-most contracts for goods and services for peacekeeping operations.
Citizens for Global Solutions applauds Rep. Connolly's courage to take a stand for U.N. funding in a difficult poltiical climate that is promoting deep cuts to vital programs for the sake of fiscal austerity and is oftentimes unfriendly to the U.N.
A guest blog post by Jessica Ziegler:
This past weekend I attended a training session for lobbyists, the first action of many that I have taken lately to become more politically active and socially conscious.
Having never participated in anything of this nature before, I arrived at the small meetinghouse early and fought down some feelings of moderate trepidation as I walked through the front door. I'd never been to that particular location and was worried that the subject matter might be over my head. Even worse, it was a Sunday afternoon, and I simply couldn't imagine that too many people would be interested in giving up a weekend to learn about the political process; I was convinced that I would be the only participant and that my extreme ignorance about lobbying would be evident to the presenters from the get-go.
When I walked into the training room, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was full of thoughtful people. In fact, the room was so full of people that we had to find more chairs-and then figure out how to rearrange the furniture so that everyone could fit!
Earlier today, Serbian authorities arrested Goran Hadzic, who is the last of the 161 indicted leaders in the Yugoslavian conflict to be captured. The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Hadzic in 2004 on fourteen charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted upon Croats and non-Serb ethnic groups during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia that occurred from 1991-1995.
In the early 1990s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a diverse Balkan country consisting of six republics (Bosnia and Hertzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and two autonomous provinces within Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). Influenced by the fall of communism and the rise of nationalism during this time in Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia experienced a time of extreme political divide as one side supported the independence of the republics and the other advocated for the growth of the central government or an increase in power of certain republics within Yugoslavia.
As I write this, the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) is debating the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. This legislation would, among other things, authorize funding levels for U.S. contributions to the United Nations. While this is a separate process from voting on appropriations bills-where funding is formally provided for U.N. accounts-the Foreign Relations Authorization Act gave HFAC members a chance to go on record with their support, or lack thereof, for the U.N. and its work. The results were highly disappointing for those of us who believe in the importance of U.N. funding, as the committee repeatedly voted in favor of shortchanging U.S. contributions to this important world body.
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