Tag Archives: international affairs

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.

Bringing death in Africa to life in America [LINK UP]

“Can I have a snack?”

“I’m so hungry mom. Is it dinnertime yet?”

“I’m starving – what can I eat? No, I don’t want that. Do you have ____?”

So much of my day revolves around my children ruled by their bellies. They eat three meals and a snack. The youngest, with his medical condition that requires additional calories, eats two snacks and, if given the chance, would graze all day long.

They fill the air with misery if I dare suggest not eating right that instant. And the days I’m caught empty-handed when they decide they’re hungry? The wailing and gnashing of teeth makes me want to rip my hair out, don sackcloth and ashes, and carry a banner touting “Meanest mom alive.”

When I returned from visiting Bolivia, I could no longer smile indulgently at our obsession with food. After seeing true poverty, and meeting people so poor they could only eat two meals a day (no snacks!), I realized that none of us have any idea what being hungry really means.

Being a humanitarian -- from the desk or the field

Editor's note: In an effort to raise public awareness of humanitarian assistance worldwide and the people who risk their lives to provide it, the UN General Assembly has designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. This year's theme is "People helping people," celebrating everyday humanitarians helping people around the world. From wherever you are today -- at home, at a desk, or in the field -- be inspired by the spirit of aid work in those around you and in yourself.

In my new job at World Vision, I was recently sent to assist our response to the drought, food crisis, and famine across the Horn of Africa. I had spent several weeks learning the systems of World Vision from my desk in Washington, D.C., and was anxious to get back out to the field, where a real disaster was unfolding.

Before World Vision, I had spent more than four years overseas, working in relief settings. I love this line of work for its fast-moving nature and its tie to the headlines of what we see in the news. This is a chance to do something that matters.

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.

Four days old: Many hopes, many challenges in new South Sudan

Chants of “Republic of South Sudan Oyee” will forever be etched in the minds of many South Sudanese as they reminisce over their independence -- today, only four days old.

An overflowing crowd of people, both young and old, showed up at the John Garang Memorial to mark the historic event on July 9. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese endured the blistering sun, all along energized, as they erupted into song and dance when the country became the world’s 193rd country and Africa’s 54th.

I saw men and women faint as the declaration was made. Others openly broke into tears as the new flag was hoisted.

Rich Stearns on Independence, God, and South Sudan

God wasn't the first thing on my mind on Monday, the Fourth of July. Truthfully, the only credit I can give myself is that I was thanking God for the three-day weekend.

It's not far-fetched to say that most Americans likely think of Independence Day as more of an outdoor show than an obvious reason to thank and honor God.

That's why articles like Rich Stearns' in the Huffington Post are kind of a divine challenge for me -- a reminder that peace and freedom are reasons to thank God, and that with Independence there is struggle, but also hope.

May South Sudan's first Independence Day be that of the latter. And may Rich's article challenge you as it has me.


The following is an excerpt from Rich Stearns' "Celebrating Independence and Honoring God -- Half a World Away" in the Huffington Post:

Last Monday, July 4, I was holding David, my 5-month-old grandson, and savoring his facial expressions as we watched his father grilling hamburgers, celebrating his first Independence Day.

In a few years, he will begin learning about courageous individuals who fought an oppressive government whose armies incited unspeakable violence for more than a decade. But the death and destruction that resulted could not suppress the freedom fighters' undying faith in democracy over tyranny, freedom over injustice. Their perseverance and faith demonstrated why ballots are stronger than bullets.

South Sudan: Countdown to independence [video]

You can almost feel the excitement in Juba from half a world way here in our office in the United States.  As I talk to our staff from South Sudan's capital city nearly every day, I hear it in their voice and the stories they tell me.  The city is on edge, eager for tomorrow's independence ceremony, colorful banners hang in the streets and people wear t-shirts emblazoned with the new country's flag. As the world watches and waits, I'll be watching and waiting too, praying for a safe transition and peace for the children of South Sudan.


South Sudan will become the world's newest country tomorrow, July 9. As the South Sudanese prepare for their grand celebration, children are voicing their hopes for the future -- that problems of the past can be put behind them.

“I would like to see a good education system in South Sudan after the independence to enable me and other children on the streets to continue with education,” said James, a young boy who lives on the streets in Warrap.

World Refugee Day: Highlighting a global crisis

Earlier this month, Collins Kaumba, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, shared his experience visiting a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan. His words were jarring: "Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan...I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps..."

A reader in Israel commented on the post and made note of the thousands of Sudanese refugees there who are watching the situation in their homeland as the South prepares for its independence in just a few weeks.

Years of conflict in this African country have caused millions to flee for their safety -- not just to other places within Sudan, but internationally as well. This is one global hotspot recognized as an origin of refugees. But the problem is much larger.

News that matters: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and maternal health

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated our periodic series, “News that matters,” but I’m heading out on maternity leave here in a few weeks and wanted to post about news coverage on some of today's most relevant humanitarian issues.

In this post: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and child and maternal health. I hope the coverage below can offer some insight into these issues and provide some good food for thought.

Back in October!
Amy

HIV and AIDS

On June 5, 1981, doctors reported the first cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS have changed the way that many people -- both in the United States and around the world -- live their lives and speak out for the lives of others. Because this month marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of AIDS into our national health discussion, I wanted to include some of this month’s coverage about the disease -- and efforts to stop its spread.

Factbox: HIV/AIDS numbers from around the world
Reuters, 2 June 2011
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.

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.

'We refuse to be enemies'

It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!

The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”

The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.

News that matters

This is the first post in an ongoing, monthly series called “News that matters.” The purpose is to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

You'll find that I've selected three issues I think are worth paying attention to, and some recent news coverage that addresses those issues. While these selections are based on my personal judgment calls, I’m hopeful that these stories inspire you to learn more, challenge you to think about your own views of the world, and encourage you to join the conversations going on this blog and among your own circle of friends.

I'm curious to know what you think about this post and these issues. Please share your comments, questions and ideas in the comments section. I’m eager to hear what you all think!

Foreign aid and the U.S. federal budget

There is much heated debate about how the U.S. government should prioritize its spending, given the increasing federal deficit.  World Vision has taken the position that the Federal government does have a role to play in funding poverty-reduction programs and that Congress should improve U.S. fiscal responsibility by cutting programs that don’t heavily affect the poor here or internationally. Agree? Disagree? What do YOU think and why?

Tai Anderson responds to comments on ONE’s budget petition
ONE.org (blog), Tai Anderson, 31 March 2011
“It’s not the government’s job to help the poor. It’s the Church’s.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it also comes as a terrible indictment to the Christian church. If we were doing our job as people of faith, there would be little need for our government to have to do anything. I agree. But, we’re not doing our job.... how many of our churches even take one sermon a year to focus on these issues? Again, just as my pastor challenged me about my family budget being a moral document, I would challenge American Evangelical churches the same way.

Why We’re Fasting
New York Times, Opinionator (blog), Mark Bittman, 29 March 2011
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry. By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor.

Doing aid right

As World Vision’s staff – and staff at other aid agencies will tell you – relief and development work is incredibly complex. World Vision is constantly working to improve the quality of the work we do. We’ve learned over decades of activity that there are ways to do aid and development well and there are ways to do it poorly. We’ve learned that when aid is done poorly, it can be very damaging for those who are most in need. The coverage below addresses some of the issues being discussed within the aid community about how to do humanitarian aid work better.

A Tragedy of the Commons in Selling Tragedy
Center for Global Development, Views from the Center (blog), Charles Kenny, 23 March 2011
If it is much easier to communicate tragedy than success, it clearly makes sense for each individual agency or NGO to get their message out by trumpeting catastrophe.  But there are real negatives to that approach. Rothmyer mentions that it skews policymaking towards disaster management, deters investment and is dispiriting to people in Africa working for change.

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.