New Bill Aims to Reduce Global Violence, Make U.S. Strategies More Effective

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Date: 
April 5, 2018

A group of six members of the House of Representatives has launched a legislative push to make U.S. efforts to reduce global violence and terrorism more effective. The Global Fragility and  Violence Reduction Act (HR 5273), filed on March 14, 2018, proposes two major initiatives: 1) create an interagency strategy and plan to reduce violence and 2) implement a ten-country pilot program that would implement ten-year plans of action tailored to each country.  These efforts are meant to change U.S. policy and assistance programs that “remain governed by an outdated patchwork of authorities that prioritize responding to immediate needs rather than solving the problems that cause them.”  The bill has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The day after it was filed a coalition of 35 organizations, including the Charity & Security Network, announced their support.  The coalition is pushing for enactment this year.

Resources on the GVRA:

Summary

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 Pilot Country Plans

The report on the initiative describe above must include an annex with specific plans for pilot programs to reduce violence in ten countries over a ten-year period.  (See Sec. 4 c-g.) The pilot programs must have specific objectives with “clear, transparent, and measurable initial political, diplomatic, security, and developmental benchmarks, timetables, and performance metrics for each pilot country, with a focus on outcome metrics.” The ten 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 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…”