Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Foreign Aid Reform: It's No Longer a Unicameral Effort!

We just learned today that the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has introduced its own version of foreign-aid reform. It's a companion piece to HR2139

The bill, called The Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009, S.1524,
has some powerful bipartisan support from the get-go. The bill was introduced by committee chair Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and ranking member Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), along with Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-TN). Two other committee members, Sens. James Risch (R-ID) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), joined as original cosponsors.

The committee decided to introduce the bill after hearing from Bread for the World President David Beckmann last week. He was invited to testify on behalf of a broad coalition that supports foreign aid reform, including Bread for the World.

So what to do next?

Please call or write Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall asking them to add their names to the lists of co-sponsors of S.1524.
In the press release announcing the introduction of the bill, committee members called it "an important first step" toward comprehensive foreign aid reform. They said the bill would ensure that the United States is appropriately equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century. One of the top priorities of the bill is to increase the capacity of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to deliver effective and accountable programs and the broader capacity of all our foreign aid programs.

Here's what Sen. Kerry said:

“I believe this legislation will go a long way toward improving our immediate ability to deliver foreign aid in a more accountable, thoughtful and strategic manner,” said Chairman Kerry. “We need cutting edge programs that will push the envelope on ending chronic poverty, combating global climate change, reducing hunger, supporting democracies, and offering alternatives to extremism.”
And here's what Sen. Lugar said:

“The issues that we face today – from chronic poverty and hunger to violent acts of terrorism – require that we work seamlessly toward identifiable goals. The U.S. has increased development funding and elevated its priority. Yet USAID has been allowed to atrophy. Many new programs are located outside USAID in roughly two dozen departments and agencies. We don’t really know whether these programs are complementary or working at cross-purposes,” Lugar said. “Our bill seeks to better evaluate programs, improve coordination among agencies and enhance staff development and training.”
Read full text of press release from Senate Foreign Affairs Committee

Please stay tuned for more updates

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Encounter with Rep. Heinrich at the Grocery Store

Timing is everything.

Just as Bread for the World members were being asked to call our member of Congress to make a final push to convince him or her to cosponsor HR2139 by July 28, we found out that Rep. Martin Heinrich was having another one of his
Congress on Your Corner consultations with constituents on Saturday, July 25.

If you recall, Bread member Marjorie Williams of Trinity United Methodist Church and I had
separate meetings at Talin Asian market with Rep. Heinrich back in May to ask him to cosponsor HR2139.

I later talked about the legislation with an aide to Rep. Heinrich during
Lobby Day in June. As of July 24, there were 91 cosponsors, and none of three New Mexico congressional representatives were on that list.

Ellen Buelow lobbies Rep. Henrich
This latest supermarket meeting was not at an ethnic grocery store, but at one of the
Smith's chain of supermarkets in our city's west side. And the person who met with our member of Congress was Ellen Buelow, a Bread member from Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community. The grocery store where the meeting took place is close to Holy Rosary parish. This parish, which produced about 600 letters about this issue to Rep. Heinrich this year, is one of the more active local congregations in the anti-hunger movement.

Here's Ellen's account

I was number #3 in line to talk to Representative Heinrich this afternoon. When I asked about the status of HR 2139, he replied that he wasn't on that committee. His own committees keep him more than busy. I asked why he hadn't signed as a supporter of this legislation, and he asked his staffer to check in on this.
But Ellen did not stop there. She set up a mechanism for follow up.

I talked to his district director, Heather Brewer, who said she would get back to us on this. I reminded her the Most Holy Rosary Church had sent about 600 letters for Bread for the World to Representative Heinrich and that merited some response.
Thank you Ellen! Maybe this last push will convince Rep. Heinrich to cosponsor this bill and help us reach the magic number of 100 cosponsors before the summer recess.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Something's Brewing in the Senate (Foreign Affairs Committee)

While our advocacy efforts this week and early next week are focusing on convincing our members of the House to cosponsor HR2139, (see details of billl), there is something brewing in the Senate.

Just this past week the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee invited Bread for the World President David Beckmann to testify. He took the opportunity to urge members to push for the introduction of foreign-aid reform legislation in the Senate.

Here are some excerpts:
The draft legislation you (Sen. John Kerry) have now developed with Senators Lugar, Menendez, and Corker is a major step forward. I love the statement of policy. It calls for a reform of USAID and related agencies in order to better serve the U.S. commitment to global development and the reduction of poverty and hunger. Much of your bill is focused on building the capacity of USAID, which is urgently required.

Your bill’s section on transparency is especially important. President Obama has called for an “elevated, streamlined, and empowered 21st century U.S. development agency” that will be “accountable, flexible, and transparent.” The reform of U.S. foreign assistance gives us a chance to create a development agency that will be transparent to all Americans – to encourage public support and involvement in global poverty reduction and to facilitate public-private partnerships.

My main request is that you introduce this bill as soon as possible. Quite a few organizations have helped their networks across the country understand that foreign assistance reform is important to future gains against hunger, poverty, and disease.

These organizations include Bread for the World and many religious groups, InterAction, Oxfam, the ONE Campaign, Save the Children, Women Thrive Worldwide, Mercy Corps, CARE, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, World Wildlife Fund, the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), the International Center for Research on Women, the International Women’s Health Coalition, theGlobal AIDS Alliance, and RESULTS.

Our coalition also includes opinion leaders at the Center for Global Development, the Center for American Progress, and Brookings. Thus, tens of thousands of people around the country are now informed and eager for a chance to have their say. Once your bill is introduced, they can ask their senators to cosponsor, thus building broad support for this Committee’swork on foreign assistance reform.
Click here to read the full text

A Recipe for Hope

This is a great video from Bread for the World!

Visit the Recipe for Hope page on the Bread for the World Website

World Food Day: Another View

Every Oct. 16, the global community observes World Food Day. Albuquerque is no exception

I recently came across this video that offers a different perspective. Something to think about.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There's that telephone again!

Seems like yesterday when we were calling about the same thing. (Actually, it was back in May). We were being asked to contact our member of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge him or her to cosponsor HR2139. You know, this is the bill that will get the process of reforming foreign started.

So why do we have to call again?

Because we can still make a difference!

As you know, the legislative process can sometimes be gruelingly slow and the results are often not immediately apparent.

Since those first calls, Bread members around the country have sent thousands more letters, visited with aides and some House members on Lobby Day, and also spoke to legislators during home visits.

As of July 22, we had managed to get 83 cosponsors. The original sponsors of the bill think any efforts to reform foreign aid will go further if we can get 100 cosponsors before Congress goes on summer recess.

If you look closely at that list, you'll notice that the names of Rep. Martin Heinrich, Harry Teague, and Ben Ray Lujan are missing! And it's not for lack of trying. New Mexicans have written dozens of letters and made several phone calls.

But the fact that our three representatives haven't cosponsored HR2139 doesn't mean that it won't happen.

So here's what you need to do:
Call 1-800-826-3688 (The Capitol Switchboard) by Tuesday, July 28, and ask to be connected to the office of Rep. Heinrich, Rep. Lujan. or Rep. Teague (whichever of the three is your representative).

Then simply ask him to cosponsor HR2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009.

Along with that request, you can add one of these points:
• The Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act is a good first step in making our nation’s foreign assistance more effective and streamlined. We need you to co-sponsor the bill.

• By making our foreign assistance more efficient and effective, U.S. assistance will have a greater impact on poor and hungry people around the world—critical in these tough economic times.
• The act would require the Obama Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for global development. It also includes other initial reforms to make U.S. foreign assistance more accountable..
And Bread members are not alone in making this a priority. Oxfam America has set up a great web page around the issue of foreign-aid reform Check it out

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Albuquerque Presbyterian Churches Coordinate Anti-Hunger Strategies

Feeding the hungry and providing other sorts of assistance to those in need in our communities is a very important ministry for many Presbyterian churches in Albuquerque, These churches have served the community through their own pantries or by linking people in need with organizations in the community that serve the poor. Two churches in particular, La Mesa Presbyterian Church and Rio Grande Presbyterian Church (which supports the Rio Grande Food Project), have been known in the community for their generosity and their wide outreach efforts.

The generosity of these churches and nearly a dozen others in the Albuquerque metropolitan area has been greatly appreciated by members of the community. But over the past couple of years, these churches have been noticing a surge in the number of people coming to them. "We were beginning to see huge numbers of people requiring our services," said Rev. Trey Hammond (pictured above), pastor of La Mesa Presbyterian Church.

So the churches, led by Rev. Hammond and supported by the Presbytery of Santa Fe, decided they could serve the community and growing needs by working together rather than going solo. They decided to hold a couple of consultations to discuss strategies, including making better use of available resources and becoming more involved in legislative advocacy, especially at the state level.

Among the resources that are available are food stamps. During its second consultation, the group heard from two local advocates who are involved in facilitating participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which covers food stamps. The advocates talked about how churches can assist in helping clients overcome some of the barriers that prevent them from participating in SNAP. But they also discussed barriers presented at the state level for participation. This is where the Presbyterian churches decided to become involved in state advocacy, deciding to put together strategies to work both with state legislators and the administration (including the Human Services Department and Lieutenant Gov. Diane Denish).

Four of these churches are already committed to Bread for the World, and hopefully more will participate in 2010, when our Offering of Letters will address issues that will help address similar issues that will keep bring people out of poverty. These issues are directly compatible with the goals of the advocacy goals of the 13 Presbyterian chuches in Albuquerque. I promised them more information once it became available.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Marty Haugen's Gift to Bread for the World

This piece was posted in the Bread Blog on July 11

Marty haugen

A special guest graced us with his presence and with a gift at Bread for the World's 35th birthday celebration in Washington just a few weeks ago.

That guest was liturgical composer and singer Marty Haugen, who wrote a special song entitled (appropriately) "Bread for the World."
The song was based on the theme of our 35th birthday celebration: Rejoice, Hope and Act.
Rejoice, give thanks for abundant grace, food on our tables and peace within this place. How rich, how wide is our God's embrace! And thru' this great sustaining love
We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.
Hope burns anew, thru' the world's despair, when eyes are opened and hearts are moved to care, when we can listen and learn to share, then we might fin'lly turn and see
We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.
Act strong in faith, for God's Reign is near; stand up with courage, speak out and do not fear! Now is the time that the world must hear the tasks that God has called us to;
We are bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world. May we be bread for the world, bread for the world, bread for a hungry world.
Thank you Marty Haugen for such a special gift!
Marty Haugen Song sheet

Thursday, July 09, 2009

David Beckmann: Hunger No More Keynote Address

New Mexico Conference of Churches to Honor Marian Wright Edelman

The New Mexico Conference of Churches will bestow its Turquoise Chalice Award this year on Marian Wright Edelman at its annual benefit dinner on September 25 at Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town, 6:00 p.m.

Dr. Edelman is a tireless advocate for children and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.
She also is the recipient of the Presidential Freedom Award.

The NMCC created theTurquoise Chalice award, to be presented to those persons who best represent the mission, work, progress, and support of the New Mexico Conference of Churches.
See list of past honorees.

Tickets to the event are $75 Buy tickets

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Former Rep. Wilson to travel to Africa

I found this interesting item on Heath Haussamen's New Mexico Politics blog
Former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson is traveling to Africa today to “engage with government ministers and teach candidates and parliamentary staff about communications, constituent service and running elections,” according to a note posted on her Facebook page (Note: You have to be her friend on FB to see the details)
The former congresswoman explained the purpose of her trip in an interview for the Inside the Beltway column by Michael Coleman of the Albuquerque Journal
“While in Sudan, I will be meeting with the Speaker of the Southern Sudan Parliament, conducting training and consultations with their legislators who are involved national security and international affairs matters, training the staffs of legislators on constituent service and communications, and speaking at a women’s leadership conference sponsored by the UN Mission in Sudan and the US Agency for International Development.
“I will also be meeting with the leaders of all of the political parties in Southern Sudan about preparations for elections in 2010 and making sure that election is legitimate.
“In Kenya, I will be meeting with the Minister of State for Defense and members of the Kenyan Parliament involved in national security matters.”
Mr. Haussamen noted that Wilson was invited to make the trip by the International Republican Institute, which is paying for the trip.