U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) took steps this week to require the President of the United States to create a strategy to combat extreme poverty and to report to Congress on his progress. Smith reintroduced his Global Poverty Act, H.R. 1302, late yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives.  On Friday, Cantwell offered the bill as an amendment to the Senate version of the 9/11 bill, which the Senate is considering this week.

“Poverty grips nearly half of the world’s population, and 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty, meaning they scrape by on less than a dollar a day.  This bill will take scattered, unfocused U.S. policies for addressing global poverty and help forge them into a comprehensive approach that meets our moral obligations,” Smith said.

Smith first authored the original Global Poverty Act in 2005 and reintroduced H.R. 1302 as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) again joined Smith as the lead Republican sponsor of the legislation in the 110th Congress. 

Cantwell introduced similar legislation on Friday as an amendment to the Senate’s 9/11 bill. The 9/11 Commission report includes in its recommendations creating “a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and enhance prospects for their children.” Cantwell is working to have the amendment pass as part of the Senate’s comprehensive bill.

“Millions of men, women and children throughout the world live in severe poverty, suffering from malnutrition and starvation,” said Cantwell. “Unfortunately, this global poverty creates conditions that give rise to terrorist breeding grounds. If we’re going to implement the full recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, we must do it while addressing the national security risks extreme poverty creates and implement a real plan to combat poverty on a global scale.”

The Global Poverty Act:

  • Declares it official U.S. policy to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme global poverty in half by 2015;
  • Requires the President to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to carry out that policy;
  • Includes guidelines for what the strategy should include--from aid, trade, and debt relief, to working with the international community, businesses and NGOs, to ensuring environmental sustainability;
  • Requires that the President’s strategy include specific and measurable goals, efforts to be undertaken, benchmarks, and timetables; and
  • Requires the President to report back to Congress annually on progress made in the implementation of the global poverty strategy.

During the 109th Congress, several key nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supported Smith’s bill, including Bread for the World, CARE, the Population Institute, Mercy Corps, RESULTS, and Save the Children.  Several faith groups also endorsed the bill during the last Congress, including the Episcopalian Church USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Micah Challenge USA, Lutheran World Relief and United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society.  Smith anticipates continued support among groups concerned with global poverty in the 110th Congress.

Facts on Global Poverty:

  • 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 per day.
  • 1.1 billion people live in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day).
  • More than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.
  • Smith’s bill addresses the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reducing by half the proportion of people worldwide who live on less than $1 per day--extreme global poverty.  More on the MDGs can be found at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

Press Contacts:    
Derrick Crowe (Smith):                 (202) 225-6902 cell
Elizabeth Ferranti (Cantwell):         (202) 224-8277