Advocacy

Where should American Christians stand on foreign aid?

As an American Christian, I like to think I do a fair job caring for the world's poor -- those in my own neighborhood and those around the world who have greater financial need than I do. After all, Americans pride themselves on generosity. And Christians desire to be known for their service to others.

However, recent news (polls, studies, and political campaigns) suggest otherwise. How do we reconcile this?

Dear G20: Remember the real 99%

Cannes, France, is world-renowned for its glamor, beauty, and opulence. This week, the playground destination for the rich and famous is filled with politicians, media, and NGO representatives, as the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies gather for the annual G20 Summit. And as the Eurozone crisis deepens and the U.S. economy remains unsteady, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

These issues must be discussed, and the G20 is a crucial forum to have these discussions. But there’s much more to this story. Right now, in cities around the world, there is a growing protest movement putting the issue of inequality squarely on the public agenda. Regardless how you feel about the movement, I believe there is another 99 percent whom we need the G20 -- and other global leaders -- to remember and prioritize.

Don't leave child health up to chance -- Highlights from the G20 Summit in France

This week in Paris, world leaders are meeting at the annual G20 Summit. I'm here with my media, government relations, and child health colleagues from around the globe who work tirelessly, not just this week but every week of the year, to bring attention to child health issues around the world.

As part of our awareness campaign at this year's G20, World Vision urged Parisians to participate in a game of chance, spinning a colorful wheel to see what kind of life they might live based simply on where they were born.  Chance dictates where each of us is born – and whether or not we will have enough to eat, be able to attend school, or live to see past our fifth birthday.

G20 outlook: Will food security agenda remain priority at Cannes summit?

The following is an excerpt from Adam Taylor's post on The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Food for Thought Blog.

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This weekend, American families will be preparing their Halloween costumes and loading up on last minute candy purchases. On Monday night, most American children will be walking the dark streets in ghoulish costumes and returning home happy with bags full of sweets. For the next few weeks they will consume way more than the minimum calories (1,500 Kcal per day for a child) needed for their development while an estimated one billion people will go to bed hungry.

Should U.S. give a free pass to countries that use child soldiers?

As a humanitarian worker, a child protection expert, and as a U.S. citizen, I have certain expectations -- some call them naive ideals -- that the U.S. government will work to reduce the vulnerability of children around the world and here in the United States.

Laws like the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the PROTECT Act, and the Child Soldier Prevention Act have all set in place strict policies that made America the global leader in working to prevent and respond to vulnerability among children.

That’s why, on October 4, I was angry, and, to be honest, feeling slightly betrayed. On October 4, the Obama administration announced the latest round of guidelines outlining how, for the second year in a row, the federal government will provide military aid to countries whose armed forces recruit and use child soldiers.

French first baby already a winner in the geographic lottery

Maybe you're like me: You have a sudden feeling of joy every time you hear of a baby being born, or a newly announced pregnant mother-to-be. Two months ago, I sat in the hospital, awaiting the birth of my new nephew, ready to hear the sweet melody of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that's played each time a baby is born.

It's the same feeling of joy I had earlier this week, hearing the announcement of the birth of the daughter of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. I recall when we heard the wonderful news in May that the Sarkozys were expecting -- around the same time G8 leaders gathered in France to discuss issues of economic and global development.

At the time, my colleague, Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz, was in France, representing World Vision at the G8 Summit. While there, she hand-delivered a baby gift basket intended for the French first lady. The basket included everyday items readily available to women in Western European or North American pharmacies and grocery stores -- such as hygiene supplies, safe birthing kits, and nutritious foods -- that are often inaccessible to pregnant women living in poverty in developing countries.

In a press release yesterday from my colleagues, World Vision congratulates the Sarkozys on the newest addition to their family.

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves?

Should we pray for our public leaders as much as we pray for ourselves? When praying for our elected officials, what should we be praying for?

These are the questions I ask myself every year around this time in October as the first of the month marked the start of a new fiscal year for our federal government. That means some reflection on the past fiscal year, including major accomplishments and major deficits regarding federal policies. In my position at World Vision, these are especially important.

October 1 is also the first day of a new fiscal year for World Vision offices. To appropriately honor the day, our staff members, volunteers, and World Vision supporters from all around the world commit the day to prayer for direction, encouragement, and renewal in the fiscal year ahead. It's an important tradition that World Vision looks forward to each year.

Although our federal government isn't tied to the same Christian mission as our organization, my role working in government relations calls me to reflect on the previous federal fiscal year, too. This includes the bills enacted with the support of World Vision's advocates and campaigns -- like the Child Soldier Prevention Act, the Sudan Peace Act, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, to name a few.

Your chance to fight human trafficking [Livestream]

It’s easy to get disillusioned with political debate. Frequently, it degenerates into petty point-scoring and partisan bickering. Constructive dialogue, it seems, often disappears out the window.

So it’s nice when an issue comes along on which nearly everybody can agree. One such issue is the problem of human trafficking -- the use of fraud, force, or coercion to exploit a child or adult for profit. It’s estimated that there are more than 12 million trafficked people in the world today -- a $32 billion industry. Every day, children are forced to perform sexual acts or work long hours in filthy, dangerous conditions for the financial benefit of someone else.

Sometimes, I imagine my own children forced into this position, and my mind almost blanks out at the horror of it.

In 2000, Congress unanimously passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act -- widely regarded as the most comprehensive piece of human-rights legislation in U.S. history. The act has done much to protect the vulnerable and support trafficking survivors. At the same time, it has given law-enforcement agencies the tools to prosecute traffickers -- both for crimes committed in the United States and abroad.

The moral imperative of humanitarian aid

The following commentary is based on remarks Mr. Hill presented on September 5 at a forum entitled “Reforming Aid, Transforming the World,” hosted by Global Washington at the University of Washington. For more information on Global Washington, visit: www.globalwa.org.


“I think back to what Camus wrote about the fact that perhaps this world is a world in which children suffer, but we can lessen the number of suffering children, and if you do not do this, then who will do this? I'd like to feel that I'd done something to lessen that suffering.” —Robert F. Kennedy, in response to a question, a few weeks before his assassination, about how his obituary should read

From books to blogs, it has become fashionable to focus on the failures of foreign assistance. To be sure, there have been failures, and there is plenty of room for improvement.

That said, it would be a travesty to ignore what has been accomplished. In the early 1960s, preventable child deaths exceeded 20 million per year. In 2011, that number is around 8.1 million. While humanitarian aid may not have been the sole cause, I contend that it was a major factor in reducing these preventable deaths.

Trafficking victims protection: Keeping a law that works

Debating the effectiveness of laws is a tradition as old as our nation itself. But I want to share a story that illustrates how one law is accomplishing exactly what it was passed to do.

From 2003 to 2007, the owners of the U.S. company Global Horizons trafficked more than 600 Thai workers to U.S. soil. The company lured the men with promises of high-paying agricultural jobs.

When the men arrived after having paid exorbitant recruitment fees, their passports and immigration papers were taken from them. Instead of receiving high-paying jobs, the men were forced to work on farms in Washington state and Hawaii to pay off the “debt” they were told they incurred.

In 2007, the owners of the company were arrested. The victims were referred to service providers, who handled everything from medical care and legal services to making arrangements for those who wanted to return home. In June 2011, the eight defendants in the Global Horizons case were convicted of their crimes.

International Youth Day: 6 youth changing our world

Change our world -- that's this year's International Youth Day theme. It seems more than appropriate in a year of ongoing economic struggle, debt ceilings, radiation leaks and famines. And there are issues of injustice that fail to make headlines but distress so many people -- child abuse, abduction and trafficking, school drop-outs because of forced labor or need for income, neglect of children and youth, and an apparent lack of youth voice.

But there are youth out there advocating against such injustices, making real differences in their communities, and changing our world for good. This post is a reminder, on International Youth Day, that youth are to believed in because through them, great things are possible.

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. -1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)

Debt ceiling debate: Why foreign aid is an issue of 'right-wrong,' not 'right-left'

Consider what you've heard in the news over the past several weeks regarding the ongoing impasse over the nation's debt ceiling.

You've probably heard a great deal about spending cuts, versus tax increases, versus any combination thereof. You've likely heard about the August 2 deadline for raising the limit, lest the United States default on its debts and risk an economic meltdown. In the midst of this, you've almost certainly observed a soap opera of political posturing and bickering among members of both parties.

But what you probably haven't heard much about in the context of this debate is the group that stands to lose the most: the world's poorest, who literally depend on U.S. foreign aid for their survival. Their direct involvement in this issue may not be recognized as part of the dialogue, but that does not mean that they should be forgotten.

The sound that changes everything [video]

“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” The words from this 80s pop song by Whitney Houston have been looping through my mind for the past five days. I’ve spent the past week looking through the viewfinder of my camera and seeing the faces of teenagers staring back at me -- their eyes shining with hope and their mouths speaking words that will ignite change in their communities.

World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) concluded their fifth annual summit last Friday in Washington, D.C. As the summit's videographer, I witnessed teens from all over the country speak of their diverse struggles, unique cultural challenges, and the problems they face in bringing transformation to their neighborhoods. Over and over, as I shot their stories and experiences, I saw youth voices come together with a message so great that everyone is compelled to listen.

What makes an advocate?

What does it mean to be an advocate?

Dictionary.com defines advocate as "a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc." For me, that definition feels impersonal. The 120 young people in Washington, D.C., this week for World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) summit bring personalization and breathe life into advocacy.

Friday was Capitol Hill day for the fifth annual YEP Summit. Teenagers came from urban centers or rural hamlets across the United States. Many live in poverty or in areas plagued by violence and drug or alcohol abuse. Despite their troubles, they refuse to give up. They refuse to be beaten down. They stand up for their communities. They advocate.

Why care about the G8 Summit?

Every year since 1976, the heads of state of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia (which joined the group in 1997) have been meeting to discuss the global economy, security, and, increasingly, development issues. These leaders, known as the G8 (or Group of Eight), will hold their annual summit in Deauville, France, today and tomorrow.

It can be difficult to understand why citizens of these countries should care about high-level policy meetings like this one. But these meetings set the course for critical priority decisions that affect what programs and issues are addressed, and which ones are set aside. These meetings result in financial commitments made by individual countries.

South Sudan: Can independence bring a brighter future?

Editor's note: South Sudan, a region left devastated by decades of civil war, held a referendum last January in which voters decided to split from the northern part of the country and become an independent state.

Preparations are in full swing for festivities to mark the upcoming independence of South Sudan. The mood is upbeat. On July 9, some 30 heads of state will travel to Juba, the acting capital city, to witness the birth of this new country.

The history behind this event

The region's path to independence was preceded by 21 years of conflict between rebels in the South and the government based out of Khartoum, Sudan's capital city in the North. This created a massive humanitarian crisis, with large populations displaced and left without access to essentials.

Federal budget: broad, long-term thinking is needed

I had a fascinating discussion this week in New York. I was with my CEO counterparts from leading humanitarian aid organizations such as Save the Children, Mercy Corps, and Oxfam. We meet twice a year to discuss various issues related to aid. The topic of greatest concern to us this week is the cuts to the State Department and USAID budgets.

This is an important issue because it directly affects the amount of funding available to help children and families in the poorest and, often, most unstable regions of the world. But, as I’ll argue in a moment, this is about more than saving innocent lives—it’s also about preventing political unrest and violence.

First, a summary of what is being cut:

  • For 2011, the overall International Affairs Budget was cut from $56.7 billion in FY2010 to $48.2 billion (a reduction of $8.5 billion or 15%).
  • The total 2011 Humanitarian and Poverty Focused Accounts were cut from $17 billion in FY2010 to $15 billion (a 6% reduction).

But the truly devastating news is that for 2012, the House is considering 40% cuts to the International Affairs Budget. This would be tragic. I know that times are tough right here in our own country, but these funds build schools, tackle hunger with agricultural programs, prevent AIDS and malaria, provide health services to pregnant women and children, and bring water to the thirsty. These programs demonstrate the compassionate values of the American people to the world.

The average American is confused about what the International Affairs Budget does. A January survey of Americans by the Program for Public Consultation indicates that most Americans believe that foreign aid accounts for 21% of the total U.S. budget. It's actually less than 1% and the humanitarian, poverty-focused money is less than one half of one percent! And it includes all of the State Department, all of our ambassadors and embassies and the lion's share of our programs to assist the poorest of the poor around the world.

I was greatly concerned several weeks ago by the results of a February survey of Americans regarding their budget priorities. Conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, the survey showed that Evangelical Christians listed help for the poor around the world as their number one priority for cutting from the federal budget. I was shocked because I know that these programs save the lives of literally millions of people each year.

Good development assistance has been proven to diminish violence and instability that lead to military action later. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was blunt about this in recent remarks to the United States Global Leadership Coalition, “Economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.” Good development assistance also builds friendships and allies with foreign countries.

How would the disciples vote?

I mentioned last week in our chapel service at World Vision's U.S. headquarters about a recent Christianity Today article I read that I can't seem to get off my mind.

In the article, a recent survey (pdf) by the Pew Research Center showed that American evangelicals were more in favor of cutting federal spending to "aid the world's poor" than any other area. Second and third to cutting foreign aid were "government assistance for the unemployed" and "environmental protection."

As World Vision urges Congress right now to reconsider its possible budget cut that will greatly affect foreign disaster assistance by more than two-thirds, I wonder how Christians in Jesus' day would poll in a survey of this same sort.

From Polling Evangelicals: Cut Aid to World's Poor, Unemployed on Christianity Today:

The top choices among evangelicals for the chopping block are economic assistance to needy people around the world (56 percent), government assistance for the unemployed (40 percent), and environmental protection (38 percent).

In each of these categories, evangelicals were more supportive of decreasing spending than are other Americans. In fact, evangelicals were more supportive of funding cuts in every area except military defense, terrorism defense, aid to veterans, and energy.

Presidents Day: A reminder for citizen action

Today is Presidents Day. I hope you will join me in viewing this holiday as much more than simply an extra day off. Today should be used to reflect upon what has made American presidents great. Often, it’s courage under fire, steadfast leadership in times of controversy or crisis, or uniting the country across many of our deepest divisions...

Ending modern-day slavery through innovation

You’re at party—laughing with friends, having a good time. When someone comes up and tells you about the excitement going on in the other room, you follow, intrigued. You find yourself joining a group crammed into a small, crowded space. Suddenly the door slams behind you and the lights...