Congressman Ted Lieu, representative of the 33rd district of California, is a global citizen and a champion in the fight to end extreme poverty. Congressman Lieu recently agreed to sit down and discuss his views on poverty, the importance of US foreign aid, and why he believes global citizens have to be engaged to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
Global Citizen: How does voting in elections impact issues of extreme poverty?
Congressman Lieu: Elections are expressions of values – how urgently a nation wants to tackle poverty, address climate change or support international development. In the United states, Congress has the final say over funding levels and regulations for our country’s global aid programs. Therefore, American elections are vital to our nation’s ability to combat extreme poverty around the world, which strengthens America’s national security and economy. Austerity hawks on Capitol Hill don’t fundamentally understand that building a safer, healthier, more just and more prosperous world means investing in people both at home and abroad. Combating global poverty is an investment that strengthens America’s economy and national security.
Presidential elections can have a huge impact. President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative has made global food security one of the top three foreign aid priorities of his presidency. The President’s insistence on robust funding for Feed the Future and his focus on food insecurity have directly benefitted poor and hungry communities around the world. There is still a great deal of work to be done when it comes to combating global poverty but the election and reelection of Barack Obama as President of the United States has ushered in a new era of global aid.
GC: As a Congressman who represents a variety of interests, how important is public engagement in influencing your actions on a particular cause?
CL: Members of Congress have to make a thousand decisions about a thousand issues every year. I look to my constituents for guidance on how best to represent them. Most people don’t realize the power they wield to inform their representative simply by engaging with them. Whether a constituent attends a community event, writes an email to my staff, or organizes a group of concerned citizens to meet at my Los Angeles County district offices, public engagement often puts issues on my radar and can make all the difference in an issue getting tackled head-on.
GC: To what extent do you see America’s climate policy as impacting the global fight against extreme poverty?
CL: As the United States and nations around the globe continue to struggle to fully and urgently address climate change, the world’s poorest are hardest hit in their struggle to find clean water and to cope with food shortages related to severe droughts and other extreme weather events.
I served on active duty in the Air Force and am currently in the Reserves. I know firsthand that our nonpartisan, non-ideological military recognizes the immediate global security threat posed by climate change as the world faces more natural disasters and increasing conflict over food and water. The United States must address climate change in the strongest way possible and severely cut carbon emissions. The 2030 campaign is about each individual doing their part to end extreme global poverty. Each of us has an obligation to reduce our personal carbon footprint and hold our elected officials accountable to act on climate. We hold in our hands the solution to climate change. Together, we can stop climate change and protect the most vulnerable in our world.
GC: What advice do you have for global citizens who want to see change for the world’s poor?
CL: To truly help the world’s poor, we need to embrace an all-in approach where everyone is motivated to act as an agent of change. We must take the time to learn about the root causes of poverty and how it impacts different communities across the globe. For example, tackling economic inequality in Los Angeles requires a different approach than addressing poverty in Uganda.
We must also evaluate our individual strengths to understand how we can best help promote progress. Some of us may volunteer overseas, others may lend management skills to a not-for-profit organization, and others may contribute financially. Personally, I see my position in Congress as a platform for addressing poverty at a macro-level. Ultimately, we must all stay engaged and raise awareness so others are inspired to join the fierce, urgent movement to tackle global poverty.
Following Congressman Lieu’s advice, we global citizens need to stay engaged and work to raise awareness and ultimately end extreme poverty by 2030. We can only do this together.