“Tell the American people what they did for me, and what they did for my family, and that without programs like this I don’t know where I would be.”

–Lizamene, Haiti

Each day the impact of your advocacy reaches people in need, including fragile contexts like in the country of Haiti. On October 17 World Vision supporters joined our advocacy conference call: How policy change helps us reach the most vulnerable in fragile contexts.

By 2030, it is estimated that two-thirds of all people living in extreme poverty will live in fragile states. Fragility is a trending word. This call unpacks what it means, World Vision’s response, and why a partnership with the U.S. government for organizations like World Vision is critical to roll back poverty and help us to reach the hardest to reach in the most difficult places.

You can listen to the call recording and read highlights below. To receive alerts for our next conference call, be sure to join our network!

Jonathan Papoulidis, World Vision Executive Adviser on Fragile States; What are some features of a fragile state?; timestamp 5:30
“To put it simply, fragility is a state of brokenness, a state of brokenness between the state and the governments of these countries and their populations. It is a brokenness of institutions to be able to provide the basic necessities of life for God’s people, especially the world’s most vulnerable children.”

Characteristics of fragile states include–

  • A lack of clean water health necessities, and access to education.
  • Division and conflict between communities.
  • A state that is the result is extreme poverty and vulnerability to disasters.
  • A state that will not be solved in years, but in generations.

Globally, 15 countries are classified as extremely fragile, including South Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan. These countries often involve conflict. Fifty countries in the world are classified as fragile. Problems may stem from different roots such as marginalization, exclusion, and exploitation. Populations cannot be empowered as communities. Examples include Ethiopia, Kenya, and Niger. If you try to solve all the world’s conflicts, you still wouldn’t solve fragility because of the problems seen in these fifty countries. Collectively there is a need to find the approaches that rebuild to reverse the trend.

How are people in fragile states impacted? Fragile states are where you find–

  • 77 percent of children out of school.
  • 70 percent of infants dying from preventable causes.
  • 75 percent of people lacking access to safe water.

The majority of the 65 million displaced people in the world live in these places. This is where World Vision must go to make the difference. The key is to find ways to manage shocks, such as the earthquake in Haiti, Ebola in West Africa, and conflict in South Sudan. Every disaster can’t put us back to square one.

There is a surge within the aid community, including donors like the United States Government, acknowledging that this is where the community should focus, collaborate, and advocate. This is where new innovation, creativity, and lion’s share of resources are needed to make a dent.

Cassie Paulsen, Advocacy Mobilization Associate for World Vision, comments on the organization’s policy strategy; timestamp 19:40
U.S. laws have to recognize the reality of fragility, authorize funding to be used strategically, and direct various agencies to better coordinate their responses. A lot of the legislation World Vision has advocated for in recent years has been about this in some way – not asking for new money, but asking the U.S. government to spend existing budgets better. Passing legislation of this type will allow the development community to move beyond the “low hanging fruit” and tackle this more deeply entrenched poverty that arises from fragility.

Craig Swandby, World Vision Policy Adviser for Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs, on how policies address root issues for refugees; timestamp 20:10
The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ Act) is a bill that was recently passed and was more than ten years in the making. This bill will provide an integrated U.S. strategy to provide education to children globally, with an emphasis on children in fragile states and increased transparency and accountability.

The next step is the Protecting Girls Access to Education Act, which is currently in Congress. This bill focuses on reaching children with education who are specifically impacted by the war in Syria, including refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as those who are still in Syria.

Beth Ann Saracco, World Vision Senior Policy Adviser for Food Security and Livelihoods; timestamp 23:00
Globally, 800 million people, one in nine, suffer from hunger. It is important to not just be grateful for what we have but to put that gratefulness into action.

Last summer over 1800 advocates took action for the Global Food Security Act, resulting in thousands of emails and phone calls to members of Congress and the bill passing. Among many things, this legislation connects farmers to markets and made permanent the ‘Emergency Food Security Program.’ This is a cash-based food assistance program for fragile states.

On a trip to Haiti last May, Beth Ann saw the Emergency Food Security program in action through a three month grant implemented by World Vision. She spoke personally with a woman named Lizamene. After Hurricane Matthew came through bringing destruction, including tearing the roof off of their home, all she and her husband had left were prayer.

The couple was overjoyed when they were told that they would qualify for the Emergency Food Security program under the grant. Across the three months, the couple received a $50 disbursement each month. The first month Lizamene bought 10 shingles to repair her roof. The second month she paid her children’s school fees, and the third month she bought food. She asked Beth Ann to share the following, “Tell the American people what they did for me, and what they did for my family, and that without programs like this I don’t know where I would be.” Take your advocacy last summer, then fast forward to Lizamene. Advocacy works and then leads to programs that work.

Amanda Mootz, World Vision Advocacy’s Manager for Grassroots Organizing and Capacity Building, shares the connection to maternal and child health; timestamp 28:08
16,000 children die a day, many in hardest to reach places. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act (Reach Act) is a policy World Vision advocates have been working on to help reach the mothers and children who need it most.

The Reach Act seeks to improve how the U.S. gives aid. The bill improves coordination between agencies and directs the U.S. to focus priorities on more fragile contexts globally to help accelerate progress in these areas.

In the last session of Congress, this bill failed to pass, but it has now been reintroduced in the House and the Senate.

Child Labor, timestamp 32:40
Child labor is often a symptom of insufficient safety nets or livelihoods and is often present in refugee situations. Globally, child labor impacts 152 million children.

The prevalence of child labor in the world can be influenced by U.S. policies. The International Labor Affairs Bureau (affectionately referred to as ILAB) provides grants to organizations to help tackle drivers of economic instability, thereby reducing drivers of child labor.

ILAB programs to fight child labor are barely measurable as a fraction of a percentage point, yet have been eliminated in initial drafts of the budget last three years, including in current budget proposals. The next few months are critical in speaking to Congress. Champions are needed to preserve this program that has helped reduce child labor among girls by 40 percent and boys by 25 percent, even as displacement and fragility have increased in the world.

World Vision implements seven ILAB grants in six countries. In the Philippines, considered a fragile state, this partnership allowed World Vision to Work with 130 villages to incorporate child rights issues into community development plans. Work under the grant helped institute programs in 70+ sugar industry institutions and associations to reduce child labor, thereby reducing the number of children involved in bringing sugar to our tables.

Many of the programs that benefit those living in fragile contexts fall under the Foreign Assistance budget; timestamp 42:10
This year the President proposed approximately one-third cuts to foreign assistance. Currently, in the House bill proposed cuts are ten percent and two percent in the Senate bill. A victory would be if Congress holds the line from making any cuts at all. We are prayerful and hopeful – any cuts to this small one percent of the Federal budget could be devastating. We have given you easy tools to take action.

Congress hears about a number of issues, and more often than not these are not development and foreign assistance. If they don’t hear about it, it is a lot easier to get rid of and cut.

Cassie Paulsen presents a challenge to advocates; timestamp 44:14
On the call, you heard about four different issues that World Vision works on to protect the most vulnerable around the world, all tied to fragility. If there is one in particular that spoke to you, we want to challenge you, and we think you’re up for the challenge, to put the new knowledge you gained from this call into action. Ask your members of Congress to support policy changes that will help where it is most needed.

You can do this with a simple phone call. Even though calling a congressional office can seem daunting, it’s actually SUPER simple. Staffers have told us it is one of the more impactful forms of advocacy – as few as 10 calls in a day about a certain issue can cause a member of Congress to take action. You can even call after working hours and leave a voicemail.

Here you can find call scripts for each issue and even a video demonstrating how easy it is.

Let us pray; timestamp 49:13
Father, we come before You with grateful hearts. Love that comes first from Christ – we pray that it would flow through us, in generosity, the words that we speak, and the way that we use our influence, with so many ways to change the world. Continue to show us how to advocate and how to minister to our members of Congress. Make it so those you have made on the other side of the word, who are the most vulnerable, will continue to see hope of a future and come to know You, God. We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world, that you would give them everything they need and continue to involve us in this process. We give You all the glory, and we ask these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.


Photo: Sydra, 10, left, and Lojayen, 14, are Syrian refugees living in a refugee settlement in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Behind them is a clean water tank provided by World Vision. © 2015 World Vision/ Chris Huber

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