You are on page 1of 15

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

NGO Briefing on Foreign Policy Debate
Operator: Good day and welcome to the NGO briefing on foreign policy debates. Currently, all lines are on listen-only mode. Later there will be an opportunity to ask questions during the question and answer session. You may register at any time during the program to ask a question by pressing the * then 1 on your touchtone phone. Please be advised today’s program is being recorded. It is now my pleasure to turn the program over to Mr. Sam Worthington. Mr. Worthington, you may begin.

Sam Worthington: Thank you, Aaron. Good morning and thank you all for joining this call. I am Sam Worthington the president of InterAction. We’re the largest alliance of the US international NGOs and our some 200 member organizations are working around the world, literally saving millions of lives and giving people a chance to thrive. I think our focus on this call today is on President Obama and Governor Romney as they move into their final debate this Monday in Florida and presenting their own view of the world and that the role of America should play in it and in making it a better place. Let me start with President Obama. He’s made it clear that he sees the concept of promoting development as a strategic economic and moral imperative. At the same time, Governor Romney has spoken about the importance of American values and highlighted the link between aid and trade and indicated his support for the President’s Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other programs as well. Now we hope that both candidates recognize the importance and how critical it is to engage in both robust funding for poverty focus and humanitarian accounts, and their support of these accounts. They are a tiny sliver of the overall US budget, literally less than 1%, and we know that this assistance not only saves lives, it stabilizes countries, it opens markets, it basically shows the compassion that we have as Americans to those in need. And I think – we

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

think very strongly that continued US investment and development in humanitarian programs that are ultimately linked to global prosperity and in many ways as we’ve heard from many of our leading officers who have served in the armed services around the world that this has the potential to significantly reduce costly military interventions, and allows us as a country to take action in humanitarian situations. So, we have a frame here that is ultimately that this – our programs that are about our national security, they’re about our economic interest, they’re about engaging in global markets. But as non-profits, who as Americans who engage around the world, we recognize ultimately that this is about our goodwill as American people and showing our values and our ability to help people and save lives. So, this is critical for our security, our global leadership. And when it comes to the budget, we recognize the difficult times that we’re in, but that deficits should not – the reduction of deficit should not be done in a way that sacrifices basically the gains we’ve seen in reducing global hunger and poverty or in a way that would result in a loss of life. We are in a time of a heightened crisis in many countries, we see a focus on Syria and other places, and it is not the time for America to pull back. When we as a country help those who are in extreme poverty, both here and abroad, we’re in essence reinforcing our values and our compassion as American people and this is something that we hope both candidates keep in mind with whomever wins this November. So with that brief introduction, I would like to take the opportunity to turn over to our esteemed lineup of humanitarian leaders and would like to start with you, Sharon, and Sharon Waxman is the vice president of the International Rescue Committee.

Sharon Waxman:

Okay, thanks Sam. I just want to underscore looking forward to these debates, that you know America’s always a leader in foreign policy and foreign assistance is really more critical than ever, that we face an

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

unprecedented number of humanitarian crises and complex emergencies across the globe. How we respond and commit resources to these emergencies are really going to shape global events and our standing in the world for decades to come. The numbers speak for themselves and represent the dramatic need. 44 million people right now are displaced by conflict around the world and that’s the highest number in 15 years. Droughts and food shortages and hunger are taking an increasing toll and there are 18 million people now food insecure in the Africa Sahel region alone. This year, these large-scale emergencies that Sam referred to worsened or unfolded [Pause]

Operator:

Hello, Sharon Waxman?

Sharon Waxman:

Yes, hi. Sorry about that.

Operator:

We lost you for a second.

Sharon Waxman:

Are we ready?

Operator:

Yes, go ahead.

Sharon Waxman:

Okay. So yes, I just want to underscore that looking forward to the debates, America’s role as a leader in foreign policy and foreign assistance is more critical than ever. How the US responds and commits resources to these evolving emergencies will shape global events and our standing in the world for decades to come. Millions of lives literally hang in the balance; the numbers speak for themselves and represent dramatic need. Some 44 million people are displaced by conflict around the world, that’s the highest number in 15 years. Droughts and food shortages and hunger are taking an increasing toll with some 18 million people now food

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

insecure in the African Sahel region alone. This year, Sam mentioned these large-scale emergencies that have worsened or unfolded around the world in Syria, Mali, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria and that really just scratches the surface. Like many InterAction members, my organization, the International Rescue Committee is on the ground in these and many other conflicts in disaster zones responding to significantly increased and dire of humanitarian needs. We really see firsthand from the ground up how foreign assistance decisions can impact the lives of millions and can literally save lives. The intensifying fighting in Syria has led to the staggering humanitarian crisis in the region, and an estimated 1 million people are already displaced within Syria. Seven hundred thousand registered Syrian refugees will have fled the country by the year’s end. So with no end in sight to this and these other conflicts, our community believes that the U.S. government must have the humanitarian resources necessary just to save and safeguard lives and prevent conflict from spreading into neighboring countries. Over the next few months and going forward into the next administration, the International Affairs budget is going to be under significant pressure and we really appreciate the taunting budget decisions ahead, but the International Affairs budget has already been cut by 15% over the last 2 years, and further automatic spending cuts would amount to a further 8.2 (percent) reduction in spending on humanitarian and poverty-focused

programs that save millions of lives, combat poverty and provide opportunity. It’s really just short-sighted and not the answer to resolving the deficit. Simply put, America can’t be a global leader on a shoestring budget. Our government needs to be able to conduct effective diplomacy development and humanitarian assistance because it saves lives, promotes stability and enhances our security. Just to put a little bit of a human face on this, the public often hears what these cuts mean in terms of defense spending, but here’s a snapshot of what they’ll mean for vulnerable people

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

the world over: a cut of 8.2% would likely mean that about 1.3 million vaccines won’t be delivered to children around the world, resulting in 14,000 more deaths from preventable and treatable diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and hepatitis b; even more vital gender-based violence aid and prevention services education and economic recovery programs will be cut. These are exactly the kinds of programs that can’t be cut and my colleagues will describe others in greater detail. They’ll look forward to taking your questions later. Sam Worthington: Okay. Thank you, Sharon Waxman. Now we’re going to turn it over to Carolyn Miles, who is the President and CEO of Save the Children USA. Over to you, Carolyn. Thank you Sam, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak a little bit about these issues. Save the Children is an organization that probably some of you know, works in about 120 countries and right here in the United States. I think what’s been striking to me as we look to the top priorities for Americans which really are the economy and our security obviously – the absence, really, of any mention of children has really struck me. I mean, elections are about the future and yet we are not talking about children and we’re not talking about children around the world and what they need to take that future forward. So I think that’s a really interesting thing to notice and it’s also interesting to note that Americans actually really do care about this issue; there was a poll this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and they found that 60% of Americans want the U.S. to play a major role in world affairs and nearly 60% consider reducing hunger and malnutrition and addressing children’s health as top priorities. So it’s not that Americans don’t care about this, but the candidates are really not talking about it so one of the things I want to point out is I hope they start listening to Americans about this issue

Carolyn Miles:

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

because they do care about it. I think as both Sam and Sharon had said, now is not a time to sacrifice the values that we cherish and as Americans, I think Americans want to continue to lead on lifting the world’s most vulnerable out of poverty. It’s the right thing to do but it’s also the smart thing to do. We have lots of examples of these programs really working that I think is important to get out there. U.S. investments and foreign assistance are very effective; America has played a leading role, for example, in reducing global child deaths by nearly 41% over the last two decades and reducing HIV/AIDS infections by 25%. Those reductions would not have happened without US leadership and so I think it’s not only a very, very small part of our budget, but it’s one that is a very smart use of that budget and it does really get us results. And so I think it’s important for people to understand that these are funds that actually make a big difference. There are things that Americans care about and they are absolutely making a difference. I think the other point I wanted to make – a couple other points – one is that from an economic standpoint, so much of our economy is now dependent on the global economy. Nearly half of all US exports now go into the developing world and these markets currently support 10 million American jobs. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers don’t live in the United States. They live in the developing world, actually. So these are huge, both current and future markets, and our economic future really depends on this global economic growth, not just protecting jobs in the United States. That growth actually has been linked to improvements in the kinds of things we’re talking about -- improvements in infant and child mortality, for example, between 30% and 50% of Asia’s economic growth has been linked to improvements, drastic improvements in infant and child mortality. So, this is an economic argument that I’m making as well. It is aid that works and it’s really going to make a difference for our future.

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

The job is not done. Sadly, there’s about 7 million kids that are still dying every year of things that we can prevent and we can continue to drive down that curve on child mortality with continued leadership and investment of the US. Forty percent of the kids that die under the age of five are newborns, so they’re dying in their first month. We know that Americans care about this and we know that with aid, we can make a difference. So I really hope that our next president commits to keeping America strong by helping particularly in the areas of children and improving children’s lives. I think the last point I wanted to make is that protection of children is something that we’re seeing increasingly important. And what’s happened with children in Syria, for example, is really outrageous – children being attacked and targeted. Obviously, there’s the reasoned example of a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan – and these are children, and I think Americans do care about this issue as you can imagine and they do see among the front pages of the newspaper and they want America to be strong in this area. I’ll end there and pass it on to my other colleagues.

Sam Worthington: Okay. Thank you, Carolyn, for that. Our final speaker is Lisa Meadowcroft, who’s the executive director of AMREF, the African Medical Research Foundation. I’ll turn over to you, Lisa.

Lisa Meadowcroft: Thank you so much, Sam. Yes, AMREF is an African-based health services and training organization and 97% of our staff is African. We’ve heard how robust US foreign assistance is linked to our vital economic interest, our national security and our values as Americans. Let me put a human face on it. Echoing Carolyn’s remark, again, Americans are genuinely moved by human suffering and want to help. A recent poll by the Better World Campaign states that three out of four Americans say international issues influence their vote. They actually prefer candidates

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

who emphasize international cooperation and they want to say America doing its fair share around the world. That’s why when we talk about humanitarian crises and development programs, an essential starting point is for families to have good health. We won’t have trading partners if we don’t have healthy people. AMREF along with Save are founding members of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition. We know that the most cost effective way to save lives and to accelerate the progress we’ve already made in global health is to invest in human resources for what we call the frontline health workers. A frontline health worker can be a nurse, a community health worker, a midwife, any first and often only point of contact with the healthcare system for tens of millions of people. If you ask for a foreign aid cut, it won’t help reduce our national deficit but there will be devastating consequences and lives lost around the world. In 2010 alone 177,000 African women died from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. What’s so tragic is that many of these deaths could have been prevented if there were a frontline health worker there who recognized that the mom was in trouble: A health worker like Esther Madudu. She’s a 32 year-old AMREF trained midwife who works for a government health facility in rural Uganda. Esther sometimes delivers babies with absolutely no light except the glow of her mobile phone. She’s on call all the time and sometimes doesn’t even have time to eat she says. She delivers about 45 babies a month. What’s extraordinary is that even in these incredibly challenging conditions, not a single woman or newborn has died since Esther has been working at the health facility. That’s precisely because she’s been properly trained. At AMREF, we know that investing in frontline health workers is absolutely a best buy for American foreign assistance in global health. We’ve seen the results. Just look at how far we’ve come with HIV AIDS. With US foreign assistance for the president’s emergency plan for AIDS relief, more than 2 million Africans are in life-saving treatments and 10 million people are receiving care.

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

None of these success stories would have been possible without health workers backed by US foreign assistance. The progress so far shows it’s working. We can’t stop now. That’s why we urge candidates to continue the current levels of foreign aid because it’s the right thing to do and because Americans want to see America doing its fair share in the world. Thank you.

Sam Worthington: Thank you Lisa, I will turn it to you Aaron if you could start the process of opening the line for questions, Thank you. Certainly. At this time if you’d like to ask a question, you may do so by pressing the star then one on your touch tone phone. You may withdraw your question at any time by pressing the pound key. Once again, it is star then one to ask a question. We’ll first go to the site of [Kylie Pienaar] with [AllAfrica].com. Your line is open.

Operator:

[Kylie Panar]:

Hi, this is a question I suppose particularly for Carolyn Myles but really for everyone. There’s been renewed emphasis on nutrition the Lancet has published a series on nutrition and the way nutrition can really save mothers and babies. Do you see that as an important emphasis for the next president for limited funding to go onto nutrition more than just on more food or reducing food scarcity? Thank you.

Carolyn Miles:

Yes. Great question. We and many others have really been pushing this issue of nutrition not just food through food security programs but nutrition. We know that it’s making a big big difference. We also know that around 170 million kids around the world are stunted right now and will never really gain the physical and mental capabilities that they would’ve had if they had the right food when they were younger. So this is a big big push and many of us are working on this issue. I think through

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

the US current program, Feed the Future, we are getting more awareness of this issue of nutrition and we certainly want to keep and continue that good progress that’s starting, starting to be made. Sam Worthington: Thank you Carol. I don’t know if anyone else wanted to comment on that question.

Sharon Waxman:

Yes, this is Sharon. I would like to chime in on that. I mean, just to underscore that excellent point and to point out from our perspective at the IRC. We’re seeing this in many places and most recently in Mali where the conflict and the political instability has really added suffering to some of the three and a half million folks in Mali who are already caught in the grip of draught and hunger crisis. So we’re responding to the crisis in that country through some of these international systems funds that we’ve been talking about. So it’s another example of how this assistance really helps save lives and responds directly to the nutrition challenge.

Sam Worthington: Lisa, any comments from you. Lisa Meadowcroft: I just want to echo that absolutely, child nutrition really has to be taken seriously by our foreign assistance. Sam Worthington: Well thank you for that question. We’d like to proceed if someone else has a question. Operator: Elise Labott: We’ll next go to the side of Elise Labott with CNN, your line is open. Thanks for doing this and I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer or a naysayer. I do think that not only are these issues very important for the candidates in terms of what they would do if they were president. But, A, I don’t see that these issues are an issue in the campaign at all, I mean the kind of general subject of foreign aid perhaps. I’m just wondering about

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

your polling data like I think that, obviously, Americans want to be generous and want to help people in need. Do you really think that they vote on these issues? I’m just saying that I think that maybe they say what’s appropriate when someone polls them because it’s politically correct to say, “Oh, of course, I support dying children.” Everybody does. I’m just wondering if when we go to the polls if that’s what they think and do you think that that’s why candidates are not talking about these issues because they really don’t think that voters want to – because they feel that with the economy going on and this country like it is, that these issues are really not important to voters. So, I just was hoping we can inject a little bit of realism into the discussion, respectfully. Sam Worthington: No problem with that. I’ll open up to anyone to answer and I’ll make some comments as well myself. Carolyn Miles: Yes. It’s Carolyn Miles from Save the Children and I do think it’s a very, very good comment but I do think that the American public also wants to hear about things that work and these programs do work and they also have a very – that they don’t understand how little is spent on these programs. I’m sure you’ve seen the polls at CNN, how much of our funding goes to foreign assistance or how much would you like to. They say things like, “10% sounds about right to me. That sounds like a good number.” We all know it’s under 1%. So the reality of what we spend and how it’s spent and how effective it is versus what people think, I think is way off base. I think the candidates would get some interest if they talked about these issues. Sharon Waxman: This is Sharon Waxman. I would just chime in on that and say that these accounts, particularly the humanitarian accounts have always been bipartisan indicating that there is a lot of support among the American people to provide funding for these accounts. Not because it’s a budget, but because the budget represents a policy and that policy is that when

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

people are in need; we are going to respond. When people sit in their homes and watch CNN, watch the coverage of what’s going on. Not only in Syria, but they see the impact on neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; they expect us to respond. That’s why the American people support this funding, and that’s why we hope that the government’s commitment to these accounts in the future will be robust. Elise Labott: No, I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m just wondering if, A, that there’s much of a big difference between ultimately whatever the candidates say when they’re elected because of their base. I think that that is a bipartisan issue that, generally, any president that’s selected is going to be paying attention to. Sam Worthington: This is Sam. I’m going to be jumping in – excuse me – for a second. One of the realities in this is, if the broader InterAction community gives a sense, a certain level of interest is the American public, literally millions of people, give over $8.4 billion to our members. They want to engage in the world. I’ve seen, oftentimes, that the best way that you could get someone to give is say, “Well, the government is matching, we’re leveraging US government resources, we’re partnering with the US government to save lives and make a difference.” That gets a tremendous lift from the public at large. We do know out there that there is a broad constituency of Americans who care deeply about this issue across both political parties, whether it’s through their church or through their favorite charity. Part of that ask is also that we partner and leverage the US government and the private sector. So, while this may not be top of mind it is something about how we see ourselves as Americans, as a generous people, and wanting to see our government as a government that is making a difference for those in need. There’s a clear group of Americans that believe this; who, very respective of their political orientation, strongly support these programs.

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

Lisa Meadowcroft: Hi, and this is Lisa Meadowcroft with AMREF. I also think that – I want to echo everything that’s been said about this because we’ve seen in some of the crises like Katrina and the tsunami and Haiti, the incredible outpouring of compassion and support from Americans. I think it’s also really important to recognize that Americans not only want to see their government doing good in the world, they also recognize that that’s how other people see us as well in the outside world and that is a reflection of who we are as Americans. They also recognize how important I think it is to – recognizing that with everything that’s happening in the world, the way that we’re perceived has a direct impact on kind of our security so I think that it goes beyond the humanitarian. I think it is a direct reflection of how Americans see themselves. Sam Worthington: Thank you for that. Why don’t we move on to the next question? We’ll now go to the site of Shaun Tandon with AFP, your line is open.

Operator:

Shaun Tandon:

Yes, thanks for doing this call. Actually my question follows up on that a little bit. I just wondered what you have seen or heard from the candidates on the issues that are important to – obviously, Obama being the incumbent, he has a record on that but particularly to Romney, what if anything have you seen in terms of his commitment if he were to be elected?

Sam Worthington: I could open that to anyone to answer, if not, I could help with the answer as well. [Pause] So maybe, if I want, I could just step in on this.

Operator:

Sure.

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

Sam Worthington: I think candidate governor Romney gave a very good speech at the Clinton Global Initiative talking about American values and the promotion of American values around the world; also, a real recognition of the importance of public/private partnerships in foreign assistance and the linking of foreign assistance to our economic interests around the world and us as a trading partner. He made it very clear that this is something that he would continue within if he had an administration, that there needed to be effective and reformed assistance out there but that this was a crucial part of how the US engages with the rest of the world and promotes and advances both its values and economic interest. For President Obama, we think that’s very much a legacy issue, just as President Bush launched an enormous program focused on HIV AIDS, President Obama has launched a major program focusing on global food security on the issue of hunger and the ability of individuals over the coming couple of decades to feed the 2 billion people who will be added to the world’s population. This is very much sort of a legacy issue and a recognition that US foreign policy from both a Democrat and Republican stance is a combination of our defense, our diplomacy but also our development as a key element of that strategy.

Shaun Tandon:

Thanks.

Operator:

Once again, it is * then 1 to register to ask a question. [Pause] At this time, there seems to be no more audio questions.

Sam Worthington: Okay. Well I just want to see if there are any last minute questions. If so, just dial in; but otherwise, I want to thank our line-up: Sharon Waxman from IRC, Carolyn Miles from Save the Children, Lisa Meadowcroft from AMREF and thank all the reporters who’ve participated and that there will be a transcript of this available to you and we look forward to doing what

InterAction 10/19/2012 11:00 am ET

we can to interject this topic into the upcoming debate and to the next administration. I would like to thank you for your participation. This does conclude today’s program. You may disconnect at any time.

Operator: