With the super committee in place with a mandate to come up with more than a trillion dollars in deficit reduction, and the House slashing funding for diplomacy and development, this is an important time for us to band together to fight for alternatives to war. We were so grateful to have Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-9) and Shannon Scribner of Oxfam help us kick off a major campaign push on a conference call with Peace Action West supporters last night.
Rep. Barbara Lee is known as a progressive and principled voice for peaceful solutions to global problems. She is an inspiration to me (and many others) due to her courageous leadership, exemplified in her lone vote against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She has been at the forefront of promoting diplomacy and development, including authoring or coauthoring every piece of legislation on global HIV/AIDS since she came into office in 1998.
Rep. Lee told Peace Action West supporters how important our voices are in this fight given the misinformation about how much we spend on foreign aid and diplomacy. She called on us to help educate others about why these programs are important and what a small portion of the federal budget they actually represent. She emphasized how out of whack our priorities are with a bloated military budget, and gave us a rousing call to action to push for priorities that better represent what the American people really want.
Shannon Scribner, Humanitarian Policy Manager for Oxfam America, followed by painting a picture of the real impact that these programs can have on people’s lives. As one example of the progress that has been made in Afghanistan, Shannon noted that there are now 6.7 million children enrolled in school, up from 900,000 around the time the Taliban government fell. However, that success is at risk due to waning donor interest in education. Oxfam America has also been critical of development projects led by the military, a problem they covered in their report “Quick Impact, Quick Collapse.” She emphasized that with all the discussion about troop levels in Afghanistan, we need to have a conversation about the legacy we want to leave behind in Afghanistan, and come up with a sustainable development strategy that addresses concerns like women’s rights, respect for Afghan communities, and education.
To wrap up the call, I highlighted several upcoming opportunities when we will need to mobilize and raise our voices in support of diplomacy and development so these programs don’t get the short end of the budget stick. Our most urgent action focuses on the Senate’s work on the 2012 budget. We need them to step up and support a strong international affairs budget and push back against the House’s version, which eviscerates civilian tools for engaging with the global community.
You can help us break down myths that Americans don’t care about diplomacy and development with our newest campaign action. Click here to show the Senate how it’s done. Donate $1 to Oxfam’s relief efforts in East Africa, and you’ll automatically sign a petition telling your senators they should support the 1% of the federal budget that goes to these programs.