Calum Kinsella is a campaigner with the London RESULTS Group and writes this blog post from the RESULTS International Conference (14-17 July) in Washington DC, which he has attended for the first time.
On 17 July, over 500 activists descended on Capitol Hill intent on just that. Feeling well prepared and briefed, we listened intently as RESULTS Director Joanne Carter and Senator Collins, spoke to the activists who had gathered. The energy in the room was palpable as the speakers rallied the troops. After several standing ovations and a photo op and it was time to disperse off to meet with Congresspeople and Senators. I was lucky enough to be linked with the Indiana RESULTS group and joined them in their meetings.
Each group had assigned different roles to each member of the group so meetings flowed well. The topics we covered were both domestic and global with all meetings having space for members of the grassroots group to tell their story of why they care about the issue being discussed. The key domestic issue we covered was the withdrawal of funding for SNAP which is the US's key programme to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. In a typical month, SNAP supports 40 million Americans, but is now under threat from the current administration. The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that 11-12 million Americans could lose nutrition benefits over the next 10 years if proposed cuts go ahead. Decision makers heard from the group about what SNAP has meant to their lives and they were asked to champion the issue within the House and the Senate. All those that we spoke to obliged and agreed it has many benefits.
One of the main global issues we discussed was the eradication of TB and an ask to the Congresspeople and Senator’s that they sign a letter to the Administration to request their presence and leadership at the UN High-Level Meeting on TB in September which will be a chance to find funding solutions for the current shortfall of around $2 billion to prevent and treat TB. It will also be a chance to ask for commitments to reach the unreached, make sure treatment and prevention is equitable, rights based and people centred. In the week since Advocacy Day I have learnt that one of the Indiana Senators is one of four who have taken the lead on the letter and one of the representatives we spoke to is one of 25 to have signed it. This is great news and shows that face-to-face meetings with representatives are a really powerful way to bring about immediate action.
The other issue we raised was the REACH Act, which aims to end preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030. In 2014, the previous administration declared this bill a national priority, but it is yet to pass through the house. The REACH act would make sure that the progress that has been made to reduce maternal mortality and treat illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhoea is built on and expanded even further and would enact key reforms that will increase the effectiveness and impact of the U.S. government’s programmes. Whilst it has garnered more congressional support than any previous global health bill, it still needs to go through house. Our mission was to keep it on government representatives’ radar.
It was a day I’ll never forget. Having the opportunity to meet face-to-face and look decision makers in the eye and ask for their commitment on important issues was an incredible experience. I now feel energised and l am looking forward to bringing some of what I learnt during the day into my campaigning with the RESULTS London group.
Calum has been campaigning with RESULTS London group since March 2017. Since then, he has organized craftivism events, attended several advocacy days, and attended and helped to arrange RESULTS London's appearances at local events. Calum did International Citizen Service (ICS) in 2015 and is now Community & Events Coordinator at Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).