Legislation endorsed by the Charity & Security Network passed the U.S. House of Representatives November 27, 2018.
The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018 (HR 5273), introduced March 14, 2018, and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee September 27, would require the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Defense, and other federal agencies – in collaboration with global civil society – to develop a 10-year strategy to bring down current levels of global violence and better address the root causes of violence, violent conflict, and fragility that drive recurrent global crises. Read more
It would give the U.S. government the tools it needs for a long-term, coordinated approach to identify and mitigate the drivers of violence in order to prevent conflict. These efforts are meant to change U.S. policy and assistance programs that “remain governed by an outdated patchwork of authorities that prioritize responding to immediate needs rather than solving the problems that cause them.”
“Around the world, levels of violence are at a 25-year high, driving massive instability. This is a global security threat, as fragile, unstable states are breeding grounds for criminals and terrorists,” said Rep. Engel, Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the House floor. “Over the years, we have learned a lot about what works to stabilize conflicts and prevent violence from breaking out. We need to update our government policies to implement those lessons. This bill does just that, by establishing an initiative to reduce fragility and violence that will align American policy and programs with best practices.”
Charity & Security Network joined 34 organizations in endorsing a companion bill in the Senate – S 3368 – which was introduced August 22 by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Todd Young (R-IN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
This timely legislation comes at a moment when violent conflict has forcibly displaced a record 68.5 million people and costs the world an estimated $14.76 trillion (13% of global GDP) annually. According to the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD) data, major global donors spend roughly 1% of total overseas development assistance on peacebuilding and conflict management and 8% on politics, justice and security. In other words, we are spending just 9% of international funds addressing violence and its causes, while spending 91% on development challenges often caused or exacerbated by violence.
The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018 applies best practices from some of the U.S. government’s most effective and renowned foreign assistance programs – notably the President’s Emergency Plan fro AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Feed the Future, and Water for the World – to provide the administration the guidance, authorities, funds and flexibility it needs to better tackle violence and conflict overseas.
Resources on the GVRA:
Coalition Section by Section Summary (House bill)
The Findings at the beginning of the bill highlight the importance of passage, noting the unprecedented level of displaced people globally (over 66 million), which drives 80 percent of humanitarian need worldwide. It goes on to cite research from the World Bank showing that “violent conflict, rather than natural disasters” is the leading cause of this displacement. This creates a vicious cycle, as “violence and violent conflict underpin many of the United States Government’s key national security challenges.” It notes recent research showing that “exposure to violence increases support for violence and violent extremism.”
A statement of policy would require U.S. agencies to ensure that their efforts are coordinated around “coherent, long-term goals” to reduce violence. The achieve this, the bill requires the following:
Global Initiative to Reduce Fragility and Violence
Section 4 (a-b) requires USAID, the Departments of Defense and State and other relevant agencies to establish an interagency initiative to be submitted to Congress within 180 of passage. It must describe the initial strategy it will implement to reduce fragility and violence. The initiative must include concrete goals, monitoring and evaluation plans for implementation, steps for improving interagency collaboration and a list of areas needing further research.
Individual Priority Country Plans
The report on the initiative described above must include an annex with specific plans to reduce violence in not less than six countries over a ten-year period. (See Sec. 4 c-g.) The pilot programs must have specific objectives with “clear, transparent, and measurable political, diplomatic, security, and developmental benchmarks, timetables, and performance metrics for each priority country, with a focus on outcome metrics.” The selected countries must include a mix based on geography and active conflict or conflict prevention situations. Stakeholder consultation, including local civil society, is required.
Statements from the House sponsors
A press release issued by the bill’s sponsors indicates their intention to establish a new framework for U.S. assistance and security policy that is both more effective than what has been in place over the past 16 years and a more efficient use of taxpayer resources. For example:
Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted, “The United States has been at war for 16 years and has spent decades more working to stabilize fragile countries. This bill would make us take a hard look at what’s working and what isn’t, and help relevant agencies work more closely to tackle this challenge. After all, when we help countries become stronger and more stable, we make it harder for terrorists, criminals, and other violent groups to put down roots.
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Chair of HFAC’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, noted, “With the rise of modern terrorism, fragile and failing states have become breeding grounds for radicalism and terrorist activity, directly threatening the national security of the United States. We must spend our already existing foreign assistance money more effectively, preventing states from failing in the first place. This allows us to later avoid undertaking costly military and nation-building interventions where terrorists find safe haven…”