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This Message Builder is a resource for advocates of a bold new U.S. leadership role in creating an open global economy that works for everyone -- including American workers. It is designed to facilitate the preparation of communications aimed at the mainstream American public. Drawing on existing opinion research and on other messaging resources developed by or in partnership with U.S. in the World, this document suggests big themes and ideas to convey and identifies messaging pitfalls to avoid. These broadly applicable recommendations are meant to be tailored to advocates' own voice and needs. At the same time, the common framework provided here should help diverse advocates communicate in mutually reinforcing ways, even if they disagree on policy details.
On March 25, 1999, neatly concealed in an obscure and seemingly minor "Procedure Revision," the U.S. Postal Service announced its intent to execute Postal Bulletin 21994. In an alleged attempt to combat mail fraud, the Postal Service required that by June 24, 1999, all commercial mail-receiving agencies (CMRAs) that offer rental of private mailboxes should have collected from their customers confidential information that the Postal Service itself is not allowed to collect. Furthermore, starting as early as October 24, 1999, the USPS will deliver mail only to the private boxes addressed in a particular format that will be unfamiliar to many senders.
Those new requirements violate the privacy regulations that cover the Postal Service. The USPS plans to make available to the public confidential information about any private box holder who uses the box for business with the public. However, access to such information could actually facilitate criminal activity. Moreover, the Postal Service also plans to apply these new regulations to executive suites.
In addition, because it is impossible for box holders to know everyone who might have their private box address on file, many otherwise deliverable pieces of mail will be returned to the sender, marked "address unknown." Finally, the new regulations will foist enormous costs on some 1.5 million to 2.5 million private mailbox holders, which include many of the country's smallest businesses. CMRAs will also incur expenses, not only of compliance with and notification to box holders of the new regulations but also of lost business. A conservative estimate of the direct costs alone of the new regulations could approach $1 billion.
National Coalition for the Homeless;
The housing and homelessness crisis in the United States has worsened over the past two years, particularly due to the current economic and foreclosure crises. On March 27, 2008, CBS News reported that 38 percent of foreclosures involved rental properties, affecting at least 168,000 households.1 The Sarasota, Florida, Herald Tribune noted that, by some estimates, more than 311,000 tenants nationwide have been evicted from homes this year after lenders took over the properties.2 People being evicted from foreclosed properties and the economic crisis in general have contributed to the growing homelesspopulation.
As more people fall into homelessness, local service providers are seeing an increase in the demand for services. In Denver, nearly 30% of the homeless population is newly homeless. The Denver Rescue Mission has reported a 10% increase in its services. The State of Massachusetts reports that the number of families living in shelters has risen by 33% in the past year. In Atlanta, Georgia, the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless reports that 30% of all people coming into the Day Services Center daily are newly homeless. In Concord, New Hampshire, the food pantry at First Congregational Church serves about 4,000 meals to over 800 people each month, around double the rate from 2007.
Of the 25 cities surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors for its annual Hunger and Homelessness Report, 19 reported an increase in homelessness in 2008.8 On average, cities reported a 12 percent increase. The lack of available shelter space leaves many homeless persons with no choice but to struggle to survive on the streets of our cities.
Even though most cities do not provide enough affordable housing, shelter space, and food to meet the need, many cities use the criminal justice system to punish people living on the street for doing things that they need to do to survive. Such measures often prohibit activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or begging in public spaces and include criminal penalties for violation of these laws. Some cities have even enacted food sharing restrictions that punish groups and individuals for serving homeless people. Many of these measures appear to have the purpose of moving homeless people out of sight, or even out of a given city.
As criminalization measures can be counterproductive in many ways, the U.S. Congress recently passed and the President signed legislation, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, which requires the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness to devise constructive alternatives to criminalization measures that can be used by cities around the country.
Homes Not Handcuffs is the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty's (NLCHP) ninth report on the criminalization of homelessness and the National Coalition for the Homeless' (NCH) fifth report on the topic. The report documents cities with the worst record related to criminalizing homelessness, as well as initiatives in some cities that constitute more constructive approaches to street homelessness. The report includes the results of research regarding laws and practices in 273 cities around the country; as well as descriptions of lawsuits from various jurisdictions in which those measures have been challenged.
Open Society Institute;
Based on interviews with former detainees, documents abuses, including sensory/sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and exposure to excessive cold, at a Special Operations facility in 2007-10. Lists minimum steps needed to meet U.S. and international standar
Presents a case study of South Africa's first public interest law clearing house established to increase access to pro bono services of law firms and advocates. Outlines ProBono.Org's organization, strategies, and outcomes as well as emerging practices.
Analyzes the political and economic conditions in Burma, economic sanctions, and links between the people's economic welfare and human rights. Makes recommendations for a calibrated approach to U.S. engagement and tying the removal of sanctions to reform.
Human Rights Center at University of California at Berkeley;
Based on interviews with former detainees held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, attorneys, officials, and military personnel, details interrogation practices, conditions of incarceration, and their long-term effects. Urges a nonpartisan investigation.
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD);
Presents survey findings on attitudes toward and beliefs about gays and lesbians, as well as policies including legal recognition of gay couples, adoption qualification, and anti-discrimination laws, by gender, age, race/ethnicity, and religion.
Human Rights Center at University of California at Berkeley;
Calls for a resettlement and reintegration policy, short-term financial assistance and support, and mental and physical health services for former detainees in partnership with local communities, and explains the policy rationale for U.S. support.
Center for Human Rights and Global Justice;
Analyzes the impact of U.S. counterterrorism efforts - including development activities, financing measures, and immigration enforcement - on women and sexual minorities. Offers a framework for integrating gender and human rights perspectives.
National Council on Crime and Delinquency;
Examines concerns with the role and performance of private prisons, including reports of abuse and neglect, low pay and limited training for staff, poor government oversight, and lack of cost savings and community economic benefit. Makes recommendations.
The U.S. Congress should fully fund the administration's $47.8 billion request for base international affairs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. This request represents a 6% reduction from FY 12 funding levels and a 14% reduction from the FY 13 request, reflecting the difficult budget environment that lawmakers currently face. The foreign affairs budget, which represents less than 1% of the annual U.S. budget, provides an invaluable set of tools for advancing U.S. foreign policy interests. The relatively modest investments that fall under the international affairs budget bear great returns, as the American government helps develop stable, democratic partners that cooperate on trade, security, immigration, and economic issues. Amid weariness among the American people with military engagement overseas, diplomacy is an inherently less costly means of advancing interests.
In repressive countries, the smallest amount of U.S. assistance can bring hope and provide a lifeline to those who face imprisonment, torture, or even death for speaking out in support of freedom, while helping to engender the next generation of potential leaders. Recent developments in the Middle East, Russia, Burma and elsewhere show the importance of robust, strategic, and flexible funding for the United States to respond effectively to quickly changing situations on the ground and continue to play a leadership role in the international community.
The budget plans produced by the House and Senate for FY 14 differ greatly from one another and from the President's request. The House Republican budget resolution would fund international affairs at $38.7 billion for FY 14, 20% less than the President's request, and a staggering 29% less than the FY 12 actual numbers. Cuts of that magnitude would have a devastating effect on the ability of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their diplomatic work and assistance programs. While it is important at present for every federal agency to eliminate redundancies, streamline operations, and reevaluate priorities, such sweeping cuts to an already miniscule budget would do great and needless harm. The Senate budget resolution proposes $45.6 billion in base international affairs funding.
Funding for Democracy and Human Rights represents 9% of the total request for foreign assistance for FY 14, less than 1/10th of 1% of the total U.S. budget. The administration's proposal will support important initiatives that protect and promote democracy, rule of law, and human rights, including:
Flexible funding to support democratic change in the Middle East through a Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund.
Increased funding for priority regions, including Asia and Africa.
Robust funding for priority countries and territories including Afghanistan, Mexico, South Sudan, the West Bank and Gaza, and Burma.
Increases in some areas are balanced by decreases in others, including:
The elimination of the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia Account (AEECA) and decreases in the Europe and Eurasia region overall.
Large decreases in democracy funding for Iraq and Pakistan.
Regional and country-level decreases in the Western Hemisphere and in South and Central Asia.
While the administration understandably has had to make difficult tradeoffs to reach budget goals, there are some areas where decreased funding would be harmful to achieving U.S. strategic policy goals and Congress can provide additional support:
Congress should fund the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and USAID's Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at the FY 12 levels. These two bureaus provide leadership within their agencies on democracy and human rights policy and require adequate resources to continue doing so.
Congress should allow the administration to meet the United States' assessed obligations to the United Nations for FY14. Moreover, Congress should reinstate funding for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which supports many cultural, social, and educational programs in line with the U.S.'s own values.
The administration must work with Congress to identify innovative ways to support civil society in countries with difficult operating environments, including Russia, Bolivia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
Robust funding for international affairs in FY 14 will give America's diplomats the tools they need to advance U.S. interests abroad and maintain the United States' role as a global leader. Such funding alone is not enough, however. The administration must match a strong budget with clear policy decisions and a consistently forceful message, communicated both publicly and privately, that democracy and human rights are of the utmost importance to the United States.
This report summarizes the most notable requests, changes, and new developments within the administration's democracy and human rights budget for FY14. It also offers policy recommendations and suggestions for budget adjustments to better align funding allocations with U.S. interests.