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Rep. Clarke Votes to Repair US. Foreign Relations, Bolster Global Development and Foster Gender Equality Around the World

Today, Rep. Clarke voted in favor of a bill to help repair damaged U.S. relations with other nations, by reinvigorating diplomacy, third border security, and development efforts abroad.  The Foreign Relations Authorization Act, passed by the House last night, will supply President Obama with the tools and resources he needs to strengthen U.S. relations with the rest of the world.  The bill authorizes FY 2010 and 2011 funding of the State Department, Peace Corps, Broadcast Board of Governors, and other foreign affairs programs.  

The bill authorizes several programs and initiatives that support Rep. Clarke’s legislative priorities for the 111th Congress, including:

  • Strengthens the Merida Initiative and adds the Caribbean to the Initiative: This bill strengthens the Merida Initiative, a U.S.-Mexico-Central America security partnership that currently does not include the Caribbean. It also requires the President to designate a “Merida Coordinator” at the State Department, with the rank of ambassador, to track all Merida Initiative-related efforts throughout the U.S. government.  The also calls for increased co-operation between U.S. and Caribbean officials to combat drug-trafficking and promote counter terrorism.

    Rep. Clarke noted during the Rules debate, “In the 110th Congress, I sponsored H. Res. 1504, which calls for increased co-operation between U.S. and Caribbean officials to combat drug-trafficking and promote counter terrorism.”  The authorization bill acknowledges this well documented problem and authorizes the President to incorporate CARICOM into the Merida Initiative.  “This bill will provide CARICOM with the technical and logistical support needed to combat drug-trafficking and promote counter-terrorism,” said Clarke.

  • United States-Caribbean Educational Exchange Program, also known as the Shirley A. Chisholm Educational Exchange Program.  The program will offer merit and need bases scholarships for Caribbean students to study at American institutions.

    Rep. Clarke stated, “I was an original co-sponsor of this provision when it was introduced as a standalone bill, H.R. 416.  This program, named after my esteemed predecessor, will help cultivate US- Caribbean cultural understanding and foster economic development in the Caribbean Basin.”

  • Office for Global Women’s Issues: This office will elevate global women’s issues and signals their importance as part of the United States’ overall foreign policy goals, and be headed a fully-empowered Ambassador-at-Large.  According to the Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA), gender equality is essential for development, democracy and global progress.

    Congresswoman Clarke added, “I have been an advocate for women and Caribbean issues my entire public life, and I will continue to be a voice for my diverse constituency for my diverse constituency as long as I am in Congress.”

The legislation requires the State Department to conduct a quadrennial review of its policies and programs that defines objectives, budget requirements and how these programs fit into the President’s national security strategy.

Among other significant measures in the bill are provisions that:

  • strengthen the arms control and nonproliferation capabilities of the State Department;
  • reform the system of export controls for military technology and improve oversight of U.S. security assistance;
  • promote cultural exchange between Liberia and the United States for Women legislators;
  • ensure that the United States will meet its financial commitments to the United Nations (U.N.) and other international organizations;
  • allow financing the refurbishment of helicopters for U.N. peacekeeping missions in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad and other peacekeeping missions authorized by the U.N. Security Council;
  • establish the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation as a new executive branch corporation to expand dramatically the number and economic diversity of U.S. students studying overseas;
  • substantially increase the budget of the Peace Corps to support President Obama’s goal of doubling the number of Peace Corps volunteers, and authorize a plan to use short-term volunteers to respond to humanitarian and development needs;
  • increase resources and training for enforcement of intellectual property rights, especially in countries identified by the U.S. government as lax in enforcing those rights; and
  • Track discrimination related to sexual orientation.

This bill will help the United States prevent conflicts before they start, restore America’s image in the international community, and rebuild relations with our friends and allies around the world.