Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Many were thrilled to see that the Kellogg Foundation had made a $75-million commitment to attacking racial disparities in communities across the country. It brought to mind the superb work of Anne Kubisch and her colleagues at the Aspen Roundtable for Community Change— whose work on structural racism remains among the most thoughtful approaches to analyzing and acting on this insidious problem. And so I turned to Anne’s colleague Keith Lawrence— and this is what he had to say:

“Hats off to the Kellogg Foundation for publicly adopting racial equity as a central grant-making principle!

“This is a bold step by a major philanthropic sponsor of initiatives designed to eliminate racial disparities in communities across America. It’s bold because a racial equity perspective explicitly challenges a number of faulty ‘wisdoms’ about race and its connections to familiar socioeconomic outcome patterns, and about the appropriate posture for philanthropy in this arena.

“Kellogg’s recent decision to transform itself into an anti-racism organization sends an important message to those who would believe that President Obama’s election signaled the end of race in America. While that historic development is a great leap forward for our democracy, and a welcome reminder that large numbers of voters hunger for a politics of hope and connectedness, it should not cloud our recognition that we still have a long way to go in truly extending opportunity to all Americans. Thankfully, old-fashioned, in-your-face racism has receded and most of us now consciously embrace colorblind values. But we’re not yet a colorblind society, because our opportunity systems and institutions maintain racially patterned inequalities without, for the most part, intentionally setting out to do so. Kellogg understands that racial privilege and disadvantage have been deeply inscribed into the physical, cultural, economic, institutional, and psychological spaces we navigate daily. Racially inequitable norms and practices in the employment, housing, criminal justice, health and other key sectors still combine to keep far more individuals of color on the margins than can reasonably be explained by their individual shortcomings. Personal responsibility isn’t irrelevant, but its contribution to chronic racial group inequalities is dwarfed by the effects of public policies, institutional practices and unconscious biases that continue to perpetuate racial disparities.

“By stepping up and reframing its race work in this way, Kellogg also sends an important message about the niche philanthropy occupies in our democracy.  Americans have always relied on secondary institutions to extend democratic equality: public schools, trade unions, political parties, religious organizations and, among others, philanthropy. These “equalizing institutions” help create a common social fabric as well as additional opportunity pathways for those without social advantages. The extent to which philanthropic foundations have given a broader cross section of the public access to areas and opportunities once the exclusive preserve of elites—such as higher education, the arts, or specialized training—has been part of this equalizing stratum. This wholehearted embrace of a racial equity grant-making standard speaks loudly to others in this sector about what they can do to help our democracy achieve its full potential and substance”.

Keith could not have put it better. I am eager to hear the thoughts of others on Kellogg’s big bet, the work of the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change and the combination of research and action that is required.

—Jane Wales

Read Full Post »

While his new book, Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War discusses three different conflicts, Mark Danner focused his remarks on the “War on Terror” at the Council last Thursday. Danner described the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, specifically that of Abu Zubaydah, the first of the “high-value detainees” to face interrogation and torture under the post-9/11 directives. The information was recorded by the International Committee of the Red Cross in a classified report that was leaked to Danner in 2008, and later published by him on the New York Review of Books’ website.  Danner urged all in attendance to read it to be better informed about these post-9/11 tactics sanctioned by the Bush administration. Danner does applaud the Obama administration’s reversal of numerous interrogation and detention procedures, especially the decision to close Guantanamo. Looking to the future, Danner is concerned about the current situation in Afghanistan, but is optimistic that Obama’s patience and unwillingness to be bullied will lead the president to make the right decision about Afghanistan when he’s ready.

To hear the entire program with Mark Danner, please visit our online audio archive. Read more about President Obama’s Afghanistan decision in an article from today’s New York Times.

Read Full Post »

Tuesday evening, journalist and author of the new book To Live or to Perish Forever, Nicholas Schmidle joined the Council and Marines’ Memorial Association to discuss his experience in Pakistan. During a period when President Pervez Musharraf’s power was waning, and the Taliban’s was growing, Schmidle lived and reported in the country for nearly two years, covering this very turbulent period of Pakistan’s recent history. The son of a high-ranking US military officer, the experience provided him the opportunity to speak with countless government officials and regular Pakistanis, including very uncomfortable meetings with high-ranking members of militant groups and the Taliban. Find the full program recordings at our online archive.

Read Full Post »

As violence and tension rises among Islamic militant groups and the Taliban, award-winning author, scholar of religions, and columnist for The Daily Beast, Reza Aslan, joined the World Affairs Council for a discussion on his new book How to Win a Cosmic War.  Examining the worldview of Muslim militant groups and the previous administration’s approach to the War on Terror, Aslan offered evidence that we are currently in the midst of an ideologically-charged religious war.  You can watch or listen to the full program with his insights and recommendations for the Obama administration here.

Read Full Post »

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.  This bill is expect to pass the House next week and should be signed by President Obama shortly thereafter.

The NonProfit Times detailed some of the highlights of the bill:

The Serve America Act updates and strengthens national service programs administrated by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency created in 1993. Among the highlights touted in the new legislation are:

  • Tripling the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 a year to 250,000 volunteers a year.Creating four new “corps” to address America’s most pressing challenges, such as energy conservation, healthcare, education and veterans’ issues.
  • Boosting the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, currently $4,725, to increase incentives for service and postsecondary education. Linking it to the maximum Pell grant in the future could make it reach $8,000 by 2014.
  • Creating a “Summer of Service” program to encourage middle and high school students to engage in a summer of community service and put them on a path to a lifetime of service.
  • Establishing “Encore Fellowships,” a one-year fellowship for Americans 50 and older. John Gomperts, president of Civic Ventures, a national think tank on Boomers, work and social purpose, described Encore Fellowships as “perhaps the biggest innovation in this bill.”

There may have been some confusion over the part of the legislation described below.  While it was included in the original Senate version of the Serve America Act, it appears as if it may have been left out of the version that actually passed the Senate on March 26, 2009.  We will keep you posted if and when we learn more.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the bill from our perspective is that it provides for the formation of a Commission on Cross-Sector Solutions.  According to the text of the legislation, the purpose of this Commission is –

  1. to examine and recommend ways in which the Federal Government can interact more efficiently and effectively with nonprofit organizations, philanthropic organizations, and business to achieve better outcomes with regard to addressing national and local challenges, accountability, and utilization of resources;
  2. to provide advice to the President and Congress regarding new, more effective ways for the Federal Government to address national and local challenges in partnership with the nonprofit sector; and
  3. to support research that will advance the impact and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector and the way that the Federal Government interacts with such sector.

The need for cross-sector solutions to global and domestic crises has long been a focus of the work of the Global Philanthropy Forum.  More significantly, this very subject is the theme of GPF annual conference coming up in less than four weeks in Washington, DC.  The eventual passage of this bill should add extra energy to the conference!

Read Full Post »

Today marks the official launch of the It’s Your World blog, co-hosted by the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Global Philanthropy Forum. We look forward to taking you behind the scenes of these organizations as we explore international issues and encourage the involvement of philanthropists in opportunities that transcend borders.

Sound like too much fun? It is, and there’s more. As you can see in some of our recent posts, we plan to spice up the blog with videos from our past events and other videos related to our work. One day you might see a moving presentation and musical performance by an artist like Annie Lennox; the next you may find an interview with Bill Gates about his philanthropic efforts. You might find a speech by Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the future course of global capitalism and its impact on democratic decision making or a discussion with foreign policy expert Robert Kagan about the future of U.S. foreign policy under President Obama.

To keep things from getting too wonky, we’ll also throw in some cool performances — like this one – from around the world.

Another one of our goals is to write about some of the amazing work being conducted by “social entrepreneurs,” non-profit organizations, and philanthropic foundations to address crises and matters of concern around the globe. Too many of these efforts go unnoticed and we plan to do our part to reverse this trend. If you come across any news articles or other forms of media highlighting this kind of work, please feel free to forward them along to policyandphilanthropy@gmail.com. We would be happy to receive links to cool musical performances, too.

Overall, we want this blog to be a place where people come to satisfy and stimulate their interest in global affairs. Because more than anything else, we want to emphasize and nurture the idea that we live in an interconnected age and we must be engaged beyond our borders. It is, quite literally, your world.

So bookmark this blog and come back often. Comment freely. Visit some of the other great blogs listed on our blogroll. And if you have a blog or site of your own, we would be honored and appreciative if you expressed some interconnected love with a link back us. The more people we can reach, the better.

Thanks for stopping by. We look forward to seeing you again.

– The Blog Team

P.S. With a nod to pop culture, we would be remiss if we didn’t do something to honor the fiftieth anniversary of “The Day the Music Died,” as it was on this date in 1959 that a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson crashed in a field in Iowa. So with that in mind, we include for you here a live version of “American Pie” by Don McLean:

Read Full Post »

Celia Dugger of the NY Times filed a story just moments ago reporting that one of Mugabe’s inner circle, Air Marshall Shiri, was shot in the hand on Saturday night during a night-time ambush.  Mugabe is calling it a failed assassination attempt, while the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) believes it is the result of an increasingly tense (and violent) battle among Mugabe’s core supporters over who will succeed the President. If the MDC is correct, this points to further cracks in Mugabe’s core support, with significant implications for the stability of the country. (See our December 1st post) Zimbabwe may wake up soon to a military coup, or a state of emergency – both with dramatic consequences.

Crisis Group released a new report today calling on leaders in Zimbabwe to accept that the power sharing deal is “hopelessly deadlocked,” and urging them to implement a non-partisan transitional government that will govern for 18 months leading up to new presidential elections. The report calls for Mbeki to step aside, and allow for a new SADC negotiator to take his place – someone that is perceived as more neutral. “With the meltdown of vital social services, a cholera epidemic that has claimed 1,000 lives, the flight of a third of the population and a third of its remaining citizens facing starvation, Zimbabwe urgently needs a credible and competent government able to inspire confidence at home and abroad”, says Francois Grignon, Director of Crisis Group’s African Program. “A non-partisan transitional administration directed by a neutral Chief Administrator could achieve this”. Watch Crisis Group President, Gareth Evans, speak about the role of philanthropy in Zimbabwe and the responsibility to protect at our GPF conference last April, with colleague Samantha Power.

Meanwhile, The Elders continue to put pressure on regional and international governments to help find a solution to the stalemate, and even more so, to help alleviate the drastic humanitarian situation described above by Grignon. There has been a lot of focus on the political situation. In the process the needs of the people were forgotten. We came to focus on the people and make a judgment on what we can do,” said Elder Kofi Anan of their visit to the region. Read more about the Elders mission here. Jane Wales, our CEO & President, served as Interim CEO for the Elders during its first year, from July 2007-2008.

Read Full Post »