New York to D.C. and Back

September 21, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

This morning, President Obama speaks to the UN General Assembly in New York amid tensions of a vote on Palestinian statehood. This afternoon, the Senate Appropriations Committee will markup its FY12 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which comprises the bulk of the International Affairs Budget.  The Senate has proposed $44.6 billion for non-war related funding, which is $5 billion more than what was allocated by the House.  Also later this afternoon, USGLC’s own Mark Green will be on Fox News Live, discussing the importance of U.S. global leadership. Watch live at 2:15 pm by clicking here.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

WD the Facts about Famine, War, and Drought in the Horn of Africa (Dr. Rajiv Shah, The White House blog)

That’s why today, I’m announcing the launch of the FWD Campaign—in partnership with the Ad Council—to highlight the uniquely devastating nature of this crisis and to ask people to help spread awareness. FWD—stands for Famine, War, Drought: the three major crises that have led to this perfect storm of devastation in the Horn of Africa. But it also stands for our call to action—that people get informed, get engaged and forward this information on to their friends and families. The FWD campaign is our attempt to make our world smaller—to connect people with the clear knowledge and understanding of exactly what is happening in the Horn—and giving them a powerful way to respond.


Don’t cut foreign aid- Millions of lives at stake (Rep. Barbara Lee, The Hill)

Unfortunately, some of my colleagues in Congress are fighting to cut even the most modest funding of vital programs that focus on global food security, health, climate adaptation, and disaster relief, that both assist people in pulling themselves out of poverty as well as helping people in times of crisis. Cuts to these types of international programs, which make up less than 1% of the US federal budget, will not get us far in terms of plugging the budget gap but they could literally make the difference between life and death for many of the world’s poor.

Smart Power

Advocates Optimistic on Development Assistance Prospects in Foreign Operations Spending Bill (Emily Cadei, CQ)

“Development assistance complements our broader diplomatic and defense goals, and we are concerned that disproportionate cuts” to the development account and operating expenses account for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “could have far reaching implications for U.S. interests pertaining to security, economics, and health,” Coons and Isakson wrote in their letter to State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The two senators may be preaching to the choir. In the 112th Congress, both Leahy and Graham have been vocal defenders of foreign aid spending, denouncing the deep cuts proposed by Republican appropriators in the House.

Self-interest Argues for Enlightenment (Andrew Mitchell, The Hill)

We believe that tackling the threats that we face from fragile states is squarely in our national interest. If we allow extreme poverty to fester in countries such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Yemen, we risk their problems growing and spreading. The price of combating terrorism, crime, piracy, disease and unchecked migration is much more than the cost of dealing with those challenges upstream. That’s why we have committed to spend one-third of our aid budget in fragile states and have increased aid to Afghanistan by 40 percent in the last two years.  Aid is vital, but we must take a smart-power approach to our national and economic security. Helping the poorest people on our planet also reflects our values as a nation. We are proud to share this core value with the U.S., and to work alongside our American partners to meet huge challenges around the world. At the same time, we are planning for the future to ensure that today’s trouble spots don’t turn into tomorrow’s wars. Effective aid can truly be a smart investment.

Building a Better Bug (Stephen Faris, The Atlantic)

On the day I visited, most of the mosquitoes being bred in Crisanti’s lab were unmodified, but a few had been engineered to carry a jellyfish gene that rendered their sperm fluorescent so that scientists could study their reproduction. A graduate student was busy transferring eggs from a shallow dish into Tupperware tubs. I watched as a single mosquito slipped its netted cage, took to the air, evaded the student’s halfhearted swipes, and vanished into the shelves that lined the walls. A few minutes later, as I leaned forward for a better look at the swarming in the cages, I rubbed at an itch on my arm and looked down. A mix of blood and insect was smeared across my skin. Oh great, I thought. I’ve been bitten by a genetically modified mosquito.


Haiti: UN calls on world to stand by aid pledges at critical juncture for stability (US News Centre)

“The situation in Haiti continues to be fragile and reversals could generate a new crisis,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Mariano Fernández told the Security Council as he presented the latest report on the country, where the UN has maintained a peacekeeping force (MINUSTAH) since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. “The future stability of Haiti and its eventual prosperity continue to depend on the political will of its leaders and citizens, as well as on the support of the Security Council and the international community as a whole,” he said, noting that only 37.8 per cent of the funds promised for 2010-2011 had so far been provided. In March 2010, dozens of nations and organizations pledged almost $10 billion in immediate and long-term aid, $5 billion of it for the following 18 months, to help Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake, which killed over 200,000 people, displaced 2.3 million others, and caused enormous material damage.

The Future of U.S. Aid Reform: Rhetoric, Reality, and Recommendations (Connie Vieillette, The Center for Global Development)

In this report, Connie Veillette examines how well those principles are reflected in the president’s FY2012 budget request—whether the rhetoric of reform will be funded for action—and gauges the administration’s progress on seven elements of reform articulated in the PPD and QDDR. The progress has been mixed. Elevating development as indicated by development funding levels and the authority of USAID, for example, has been lackluster, while support for innovation has been good. Taking into account likely congressional reaction to the budget request, Veillette offers recommendations for improving progress on each element. The bottom line is that shrinking budgets need not mean the end of reform. On the contrary, the current budget debate, with its likelihood of additional cuts, could offer more opportunities for serious reforms than do periods of increasing budgets.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Obama says U.S. Embassy in Libya will reopen (Scott Wilson, Washington Post)

“This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and costs of meeting global challenges,” Obama said. White House officials have held up Libya as a model for a kind of American leadership that relies on partnership and persistence rather than unilateral action, and Gaddafi’s ouster provides a partial vindication of the president’s politically difficult decision to open a third military front in a Muslim country. Obama also linked Libya’s post-revolution economy to the building of a democratic government. Many nations reliant on oil are plagued by official corruption, and Obama, in what is a theme of his visit here this week, urged Libya to build responsive institutions as oil revenues and other state assets become available again with the end of sanctions.“The Libyan people deserve a government that is transparent and accountable,” Obama said. “And bound by the Libyan students and entrepreneurs who have forged friendships in America, the United States will build new partnerships to help unleash Libya’s extraordinary potential.”

Report: Iran Frees 2 U.S. Hikers (Tim Mak, Politico)

Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency had earlier said that the two hikers would be handed over to the Swiss embassy.“I have got necessary signatures from judiciary officials for their release on bail … hopefully the two will be freed today,” Masoud Shafie, their lawyer, told Reuters earlier on Wednesday. The hikers were forced to pay $500,000 each in “bail” before they were freed. The release comes over a week after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told American media that the hikers would be set free shortly.

Palestinian statehood resolution presents Obama with vexing diplomatic challenge (Scott Wilson, Washington Post)
Until now, administration officials have explained Obama’s opposition in practical terms, arguing that a statehood resolution approved over the objection of Israel will only make it harder to return to direct peace talks over final borders, the status of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and the future of Jerusalem. “The point that the president will make is, at the end of the day, peace is going to have to be made between the parties,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “There’s no shortcut.”