Entries tagged with “State Department”.


Two days ago, World Vision USA announced its willingness to hire LGBT employees who were married. To insiders in the aid and development world, this was a stunning reversal, as World Vision USA’s (legal but problematic) resistance to hiring LGBT employees is well-known in the aid world. Therefore, the decision to openly hire married LGBT staff seemed to signal an important new direction for World Vision…and then today, they reversed themselves.

Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision Board, wrote a letter on the reversal.

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.

I have no doubt this change of course is technically legal. World Vision has lawyers, and I’m sure those lawyers were consulted on this reversal. But this public reversal lays bare World Vision USA’s view of the LGBT community, and its hiring practices with regard to that community. Sure, Beré offered the usual, pro-forma support for the LGBT community in his letter:

While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.

However, it is difficult to overlook the fact that this dignity and respect should be extended to everyone except those qualified LGBT individuals who might seek employment at World Vision.

This country was founded on the idea that people are entitled to their religious beliefs. However, it is not OK (morally or legally) to use federal dollars to push one’s religious beliefs on others, or to discriminate against anyone on the basis of that faith. World Vision is one of USAID’s largest cooperators – in simple terms, they implement a hell of a lot of federal money in the context of humanitarian assistance and development programs. Shadrock Roberts, using data from foreignassistance.gov, managed to identify nearly $145 million in money obligated to World Vision in fiscal year 2013. This should be read as an absolute minimum measure of federal money going through World Vision – there are other flows of US dollars that reach World Vision projects indirectly, and I seriously doubt that foreignassistance.gov captures all of the money directly obligated to them.

Let me be clear: in fiscal year 2013, there were at least $145 million taxpayer dollars going to an organization that just openly told the world it will not hire LGBT staff.

While I personally believe that World Vision USA is on the wrong side of history with regard to the issue of LGBT hiring and staff, my (or indeed anyone’s) personal politics are not the big issue here. The Government of the United States implements development projects and delivers humanitarian assistance through “implementers” like World Vision. USAID, USDA, the State Department, etc., do not have enough staff to actually build bridges, dig boreholes, or deliver food aid themselves. Instead, they pay others to do the work. In most places where American development aid and humanitarian assistance is delivered, these actors are effectively the face of the United States.

In the face of this decision on LGBT staff, World Vision USA may no longer be able to credibly act in this capacity. In 2011, the White House issued a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on the subject of “International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons.” In that memorandum, President Obama directed “all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.”

How, exactly, is World Vision to credibly support this memorandum after this particular statement about its own hiring?

The short answer: It cannot. The actions of the World Vision USA board speak much, much louder than the very weak claim that the organization feels that the LGBT community should be treated with dignity and respect.

This has real-world implications right now. For example, World Vision has a project, “SPEAR-Incremental funding using FY2012 PEPFAR $2,383,490” (just check Shadrock Roberts’ “USAID Spending on World Vision & World Vision Inc: Fiscal Year 2013” fusion table here). Let’s all remember that Uganda is a country that just last month criminalized homosexuality (those convicted face life in prison), an act that the Obama Administration has punished through shifts in foreign aid away from the Ugandan government and organizations that pushed for this law. Yet we have World Vision, with its clear stance on LGBT hiring, spending $4.8 million federal dollars (some from FY 12, some from FY 13) on an HIV/AIDS project in this country? It seems to me that this muddies the message that the Obama Administration was trying to send.

Legal or not, World Vision’s actions with regard to the hiring of those in the LGBT community have damaged their credibility as an implementer for the government of the United States in any context where the rights of the LGBT community are in question (basically most of the world where development aid and humanitarian assistance is delivered). Further, for USAID and the State Department to continue working with World Vision under these circumstances sends the message that implementers can tap dance around White House directives they might not like or agree with. While World Vision has the right to choose to ignore such directives on the basis of the organization’s religious beliefs, it should not have the right to do so and continue to work with federal dollars.

If the Obama administration is serious about maintaining order among those who work for it, and are serious about furthering the rights of the LGBT community globally, the recent actions of World Vision cannot pass without comment or action. And they do not have to. It’s simple, really:  make World Vision choose between the $145 million dollars of taxpayer money that fund its work each year and the individual and organizational donations of those who cannot tolerate or accept the LGBT community.

Turns out the leaks that shall not be named by federal employees have produced a document demonstrating that the State Department is, in fact, paying attention to China’s role in Africa.  The BBC is carrying the story.  Of course, the story also highlights the amusing lack of self-awareness in our own diplomacy.  Take the following from Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs:

“China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons,” he says. “China is in Africa primarily for China.”

He adds: “A secondary reason for China’s presence is to secure votes in the United Nations from African countries.”

Well, yes.  Of course, why exactly is the US involved?  Why has anyone been involved with Africa over the years?  To paraphrase The Who, “here comes the new expropriator, same as the old expropriator.”

On the upside, most Africans with whom I interact suffer no illusions about the sudden interest of the Chinese in their continent.  Seems a learning curve has set in . . .

Also interesting here is what appears to be a clear rationale for the apparent silence of the US Government on Chinese expansion in Africa – a set of “tripwires” that would trigger a reaction:

Have they signed military base agreements? Are they training armies? Have they developed intelligence operations? Once these areas start developing then the US will start worrying,” he says.

I would think that we would have an interest in the Chinese locking down rights to arable land, minerals, etc., instead of such narrow concerns for military and intelligence operations, as these resources have strategic value.  But who am I to question State?*

*this, more or less, summarizes State’s attitude toward AID.

Well, this is interesting, to say the least.  Someone decided to get cute and leak the draft of the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review – yeah, the one marked NODIS (No Distribution).  State runs a tight ship, so my guess is that someone on the Hill leaked this.  Hard to say why, exactly.  But it is very interesting reading, both from the perspective of someone in one of the agencies in question, but also from the perspective of development studies in general.

Well, now it is out there, so go here to have a look.

I will refrain from offering my comments – I think that probably steps over a line given my current official position – but have a look and see what you think.  I do think that Josh Rogin’s story on this has a very interesting set of comments from Todd Shelton at InterAction.  I will note, though, that we heard informal messages from the upper reaches of the Agency that this document is a draft, and by no means finalized . . . though one wonders what impact this leak will have on the editing process.

Best State Department tweet ever?

“Americans should heed our #travelwarning and avoid North Korea. We only have a handful of former Presidents. http://go.usa.gov/cAO#DPRK

Kudos to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley for having the guts to add some wry humor in there . . .