International

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French Study Group Interviews Common Cause on Obama Fund Raising
December 16, 2008

Representatives from the French based Terra Nova, an independent progressive think tank dedicated to promoting sound public policies in France, Europe and beyond visited Common Cause on December 16th.  Their interest was in exploring new campaigining techniques used by both President elect Obama and Senator John McCain and identifying transposable elements and lessons to be learned in France. 

 

Common Causers John Sparks and Lauren Coletta met with the group to share our perspective on the recent elections and how we anticipate it will impact our campaign finance reform initiatives.  Of particular interest to the group was the number of small donors who were attracted to participate in this recent election cycle.  After years of reforms in the late 1980s, France now has a public finance system...something we strive for at the state and federal levels.  Their mission in the US is to see if there are elements of the small donor work that the Obama campaign undertook that might be helpful in making the French system more participatory and democratized. 

 

Visting Common Cause were:  Benoit Thieulin, founder of La Netscouade, Dr. Pauline Peretz, a consultant on transatlantic relations for Policy Planning at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Justin Vaisse of the Brooking Institution, and Raffaello Matarazzo, a researcher at the Instituto Affari Internazionali.



Benin Anti-Corruption Group Visits Common Cause
November 25, 2008

At the request of the Embassy of Benin, Common Cause met with Cleophas H. Gbedji Oke and Marcellin Hounkpevi of the group FONAC (Front des Organisations Nationales Contre la Corruption.)  FONAC and Common Cause have very similar missions and we resolved to share information and identify opportunities to work together moving forward.



CCI Visit to Mexico City
November 9-18, 2008

In partnership with the Mexican based civil society group Alternativas Y Capacidades (http://www.alternativasociales.org) Common Cause International Director Lauren Coletta visited Mexico City to conduct an exploratory mission during 10 days in November. The purpose of the trip was to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by civil society leaders in Mexico and determine whether Common Cause might partners in some way. 

 

One of the challenges faced by many we spoke to was the lack of a dedicated membership base to wage campaigns and raise necessary funding. Civil society in Mexico began to grow in influence in the mid-90s and flourished after the 2000 elections which marked the end of nearly 70 years of domination by the PRI party (Institutional Revolutionary Party). As democracy in Mexico meets the challenges of further consolidation- cultivating members, diversifying funding, and utilizing the Internet to further organizational goals are major goals. 

 

CC and Alternativas Y Capacidades are working on plans to work closely with a number of very important Mexican based organizations. Below is a brief list of some of the groups we talked with. Many thanks to Monica Tapia and Karina Weinstein for helping to pull the trip together.

 

 

CENCOS http://cencos.org/en
RED ICE and RED ICAE two education advocacy networks
Fundar http://www.fundar.org.mx/
Incide Social                                        http://www.incidesocial.org/
Colective for Transparency
Alianza Civica http://www.alianzacivica.org.mx/
Propuesta Civica http://www.propuestacivica.org.mx/  
REDDERE http://www.reddere.org/



Common Cause Continues OSCE Assistance
November 3, 2008
 

Common Cause continued its assistance of the OSCE election monitoring efforts and briefed a Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who were conducting the observation mission in Washington DC and Virginia.  Approximately one hundred Members of Parliament from Europe and Central Asia spanned across the US, members on mid Atlantic team are listed below. After being briefed on the Common Cause Election Protection efforts one Parliamentarian commented he was amazed at all the technology he see in the stores, streets, and restaurants in the DC area (he especially liked his GPS system in the rental car). His take away was that if the United States wanted to run solid elections without all the problems we see in registration, tabulation, and equipment that we could easily do it if we decided to invest in it. He made the point that we should because so much around the world depends on American leadership and we owe the world and ourselves to get it right. Good point.

 

The expected team in VA/DC area will consist of:

PORTUGAL Mr. João Soares

GREECE Mr. Panayotis Skandalakis

KAZAKHSTAN Mr. Adil Akhmetov

KAZAKHSTAN Ms. Svetlana Bychkova
POLAND Ms. Anetta Kosieradzka

POLAND Mr. Paweł Poncyljusz

PORTUGAL Mr. Antonio Almeida Henriques

PORTUGAL Mr. Nuno Paixao

REPUBLIC OF MONTENEGRO Mr. Srdjan Brajović

ROMANIA Mr. Vladimir Mircea Farsirotu

ROMANIA Mr. Paul Magheru

ROMANIA Mr. Mario Ruse

ROMANIA Mr. Bela Soki

RUSSIAN FEDERATION Mr. Vasily Tarasyuk

TURKEY Mr. Alaatin Büyükkaya

TURKEY Mr. Cenk Ileri

TURKEY Ms. Canan Kalsin

TURKEY Mr. Kenan Tanrikulu



October Round Up 2008
October 31, 2008

This October the Common Cause International program participated in a number of activities and hosted visitors from Pakistan, the United Kingdom, various other countries involved with the OSCE monitoring of the US general elections including:

 

October 6: Common Cause President Bob Edgar participated in a panel hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy. The name of the panel was “RELIGION AND STATE: A MIDDLE EAST, U.S. AND EU ‘TRIALOGUE’.

 

October 14: Common Cause hosted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) core election monitoring team. Common Cause has been working with the OSCE over the past several months with their monitoring efforts.  Their mission consisted of 13 experts, including legal, political, and election as well as a media specialist and electronic voting experts.  In addition, they had 48 long-term observers who were deployed in teams of two around the country. 

 

October 24: Common Cause International Director Lauren Coletta hosted a group of high school students from York in the UK. Common Cause worked with Paul Taylor, a teacher who leads the student delegations to the United States. Taylor had taught as a Fulbright exchange scholar at Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda, back in the fall of 2006. The students were a lot of fun.  Their primary interests were advocacy groups, lobbying firms and their impact on Congress. You can learn more about the school at

 http://www.st-peters.york.sch.uk/st-peters/

 

October 25: At the request of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Lauren Coletta addressed a group of visiting Pakistani Parliamentarians at NDI offices. The Pakistani leaders were here to monitor US election efforts. We had a lively discussion about the differences between US and Pakistani systems.

 

October 30: Common Cause met with British politician and Parliamentarian Bruce George (Labour Member for Walsall South). Mr. George had previously served as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He also regularly acts as an election monitor, most recently in the disputed Presidential elections in Ukraine and Georgia.



Religion and State: A Middle East, US and EU "Trialogue"
October 6, 2008

Common Cause President Bob Edgar served as a panelist at an October 6 event cosponsored by the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (of Germany).  The event was titled Religion and State: A Middle East, US, and EU "Trialogue." Bob Edgar, who is also a minister and former member of Congress discussed his views about the role of religion in public life and the responsibilities of religous leaders in a democratic society. Common Cause's participation in this event is part of our international program's goals to find opportunities for dialogue and increase understanding among different audiences about important issues. Other panelists included:

Geneive Abdo, Fellow, The Century Foundation; author, No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam

Ibrahim Houdaiby, Board member, Ikhwanweb.com, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt

Dietmar Nietan, Coordinator for EU Policy, Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) Parliamentary Group, Brussels



Why Wouldn't We Talk With President Ahmadinejad?
September 25, 2008

On September 25th Common Cause President Bob Edgar, Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr., CC advisor Joseph Montville and CC International Director Lauren Coletta attended a dinner hosted by the United Nations Office of the World Council of Churches and other religions groups that featured Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Manhattan.  Our involvement was a part of our upcoming public diplomacy visit to Iran to take place later this fall. 

 

The theme of the event was, "Has not one God created us?," and the guest list included representatives from more than 20 world religions as well as other prominent figures such as UN General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto Brockman and former Norwegian Prime Minister, Rev. Kjell Bondevik. 

 

For a full description of the event see our blog post: http://www.commonblog.com/story/2008/9/30/144035/657.

 



Thai Activists Visit Common Cause
September 22, 2008

A group of Thai activists interested in NGO management issues, civic activism, and issues related to oranizing around HIV/AIDS, drug rehabilitation, and transgender/sexual minority issues visited Common Cause offices.  The focus of the Common Cause session was to discuss general NGO managements issues and campaign techniques.  The Thai delegation included Transgender Activist and Researcher Sitthiphan Boonyapisomporn (Hua), Piyabutr Nakapiew of the PSI Foundation, and Asarin Nonthihathai of the Living Library Department.

 



Latest on Common Cause NDI Haiti Partnership
September 18, 2008

This past week the Common Cause International project hosted a delegation of Haitian advocates in Chicago.  The purpose of the trip was to assist the group in the development of campaign skills and plans to work on important issues in Haiti.  The partnership with NDI Haiti was launched in March when CCI director Lauren Coletta visited Haiti to explore ways in which Common Cause might work with the group to help in campaign planning and implementation.  Our Haitian colleagues include Jude Jeudy, Program Coordinator for the National Democratic Institute’s Civil Society Advocacy Program, Gabin Jean Pierre, Advocacy Officer, and Regional Coordinators Pascal Theodore, and Martial Marcellus.

 

Former Common Causer Jon Goldin-Dubois is working as a consultant to the project and visited Haiti in June to help develop a plan over the next two years for collaboration. 

 

The training in Chicago was the first step in gearing up for two large campaigns in Haiti.  One of the campaign issues relates to a tourism redevelopment plan in Cap Hatien, one of the few areas in Haiti with enormous tourism potential.  The other issue is focused on a regional infestation problem from an unusually aggressive species of ants and the government’s failure to address the growing concern.

 

The group met with several Chicago based advocacy groups to learn more about organizing tactics and strategies and gain a deeper understanding of organizing theory and history.  We owe a special thanks to all the great Chicago people who freed up their schedules to spend some time helping our group. 


Denise Dixon, Action Now
Jim Field and Ed Churna of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Elce Redmond, South Austin Council
David “Dino” Martino, SEIU
Judy Hertz, Midwest Academy
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Operation Push
Kim Bobo and Cathy Junia of Interfaith Worker Justice

 



CEO Coalition Members Visit Common Cause
September 5, 2008

Common Cause hosted CEO (Corporate Europe Observatory) in our offices on September 5.  CEO is a European based research and campaign group that targets threats to democracy, equity, social justice and the environment posed by the economic and political power of corporations and their lobby groups.  CC International and CEO plan to conduct an ongoing dialogue on campaign strategies on the two continents and better connect the European good government community with their counterparts in the US.  Coalition partners included in the delegation were Ulrich Muller of the Initiative fur Transparenz und Demokratie, David Miller and William Dinan of the University of Strathclyde, Susannah Ling of Greepeace European Unit, and Olivier Hoedeman an Erik Wesselius, staff with the Corporate Europe Observatory based in Amsterdam.



Update on HRes 362 from Our Friends at NIAC
September 2, 2008

For months, supporters of H.Con.Res. 362 have defended themselves against critics who argue that the bill poses a serious risk of escalating the conflict between the U.S. and Iran.  Views among members of Congress and the foreign policy community, however, remain varied about the actual ramifications of the bill's passage.  Some in Congress have defended the recommendations the resolution puts forth, and have pressed for Congress to adopt it. 

 

However, several of the bill's cosponsors (four of whom have since withdrawn their cosponsorship) have openly stated that the resolution's blockade language must be removed in order for them to support it.  Other cosponsors have even lobbied Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership not to allow the measure to come up for a vote on the House floor, confirming the validity of the criticisms levied against the resolution. 

 

Nevertheless, supporters of the resolution have jumped to its defense in the hope of gaining further momentum among members of Congress.  It is important to note, however, that these supporters have frequently defended the measure in ways that do not accurately reflect the actual text of the resolution.  What follows is an analysis of the statements made to defend and support H.Con.Res. 362, compared to the actual text of the resolution.

 

Does H.Con.Res. 362 call for a blockade of Iran?

Despite the resolution's clause that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran," its recommendations will create a situation in which military action will be more likely.  The bill calls on the President to begin an international effort "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products."  In order to enforce such a ban, the United States would have to verify that no illicit petroleum products were reaching Iranian ports.  This would require interdicting shipments destined for Iran, which would necessitate imposing some form of a blockade.  Such a move would be universally recognized under international law as an act of war. 

Many prominent members of Congress and international lawyers agree with this interpretation.  Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts has said:

"Language in the resolution regarding Iran calls for a blockade of its naval activity I agree that this should not be our policy, and I regret the fact that I did not read this resolution more carefully."

Also, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida stated:

"Many Americans across the country continue to express real concerns that sections of this resolution will be interpreted by President Bush as ‘a green light' to use force against Iran...I believe it is essential that Congress remove the language in H. Con. Res. 362 that could lead to President Bush's unilateral imposition of a blockade on Iran."

Even a voluntary export ban (as supporters of the resolution argue was its original intent, though the language is unclear in this regard) is tantamount to a hostile action.  In 1973, when OPEC imposed a ban on shipments of petroleum to the US, Washington labeled it "an economic declaration of war." The plan offered by H.Con.Res. 362, if it were to be implemented, would be identical. 

Is H.Con.Res. 362 a prelude to war?

The recommendations put forth in this resolution are offered as an alternative to war, but they effectively pave the way for a military conflict.  Supporters of the resolution argue:

"The best way to avoid the need for military action is by imposing tough sanctions now" and "sanctions measures are an attempt to avoid war, not to start it"

But sanctions make military action more likely, not less.  History has proven that the Iranian government reacts to harsher sanctions by both increasing its repression at home and toughening its hardline foreign policies.  By offering only sticks and no carrots, this resolution will cause Tehran to dig in its heels to the point where a negotiated solution may eventually become impossible to obtain.

Despite decades of sanctions, Iran continues to gain ascendancy in the region at America's expense.  The current strategy focusing solely on economic sanctions has not elicited a change in the Iranian government's behavior.  Rather, sanctions have made Iran more steadfast in its pursuit of a nuclear program and less willing to heed the calls of the international community. 

Its supporters argue:

"It's the sense of Congress. Assertions that the resolution constitutes a declaration of war are just absurd."

Though the resolution is non-binding, the practical effect of its passage would be to declare the sense of Congress that a radically aggressive approach to Iran is preferred US policy.  A formal declaration of war notwithstanding, passage of this bill would signal to the administration and the international community that Congress would condone or even support extremely aggressive actions against Iran--up to and including military force.   

 

Is H.Con.Res. 362 consistent with the current international consensus?

Despite arguments to the contrary, the recommendations put forth in this bill go well beyond any current or proposed international sanctions, and will likely worsen Iran's intransigence in dealing with the international community.  As a result, the practical effect of this resolution will be to make a diplomatic resolution to this dispute less likely, not more.

The resolution demands that the President begin:

"imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran"

Since the "stringent inspection requirements" make no mention of specific goods to be targeted by these searches, this provision will likely punish common Iranians, rather than to serve a compelling non-proliferation interest.  Current sanctions on Iran, both those imposed by the UN Security Council and unilateral American sanctions, target Iran's nuclear and military programs, and inspections requirements for shipments entering or leaving Iran are intended to uncover illicit nuclear or dual-use technology.  The sanctions called for in this resolution are strictly punitive in nature, serve no practical security purpose, and are contrary to the established US precedent of targeting the government rather than the people.  

Supporters have argued that the resolution takes a pragmatic approach to Iran.  According to its supporters, the bill:

"Contemplates an international ban on the sale of refined petroleum products to Iran, potentially through such institutions as the UN and EU"

Actually, the bill contains no mention of the United Nations or the European Union; nor does it mention any recognized international organization as the mechanism to enforce its provisions.  The actual language of the resolution:

"Demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products"

The bill's supporters also assert that its recommendations are provided:

"In furtherance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1803" and its methods are "already in use by the international community, including the United States to enforce the four existing UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran."

The measures proposed by this bill, however, are inconsistent with the current international consensus on Iran sanctions.  Current UN Security Council Resolutions call for inspections of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by Iranian state agencies "provided there are reasonable grounds" to do so.  H.Con.Res 362 goes far beyond any current or proposed sanctions by restricting civilian imports, and requiring all persons, vehicles, trains and cargo be inspected, even without any suspicion of illicit nuclear materials or dual-use technology.  Besides being egregiously impractical, such indiscriminate sanctions would drastically heighten tensions and offer no real solution to the Iranian nuclear challenge.

Furthermore, regarding the stringent inspections requirement, the bill's supporters maintain that:

"This step, like the petroleum export ban, neither mandates nor requires a naval blockade to be put into effect. The inspections called for would be done at ports of embarkation and disembarkation, not by blockade."

For shipments to Iran, the point of disembarkation is an Iranian port of entry.  Therefore, the claim that these inspections will be carried out by the international community do not hold up to scrutiny.  The Iranian customs authority performs its own inspections.  How the resolution's supporters expect to impose on Iran a program for international customs inspections at Iran's own ports of entry is unclear, and no explanation is given in the text of the resolution or in any statements made in its defense.

 

Statements made in defense of the resolution have not been consistent with the actual text, nor have supporters' assertions matched what foreign policy experts agree are the dire consequences of implementing these recommendations.  The timing of this move is especially problematic given that the Bush Administration is exploring new diplomatic avenues with Iran.  Both the decision to send an American envoy to the latest round of negotiations and the plan to open a diplomatic interests section in Iran indicate an increased chance of a diplomatic breakthrough.  H.Con.Res. 362 could easily reverse any progress these moves may have achieved toward that end.   

 

Can H.Con.Res. 362 find a solution to Iran's nuclear challenge?

Across the ideological and political spectrum, nearly every expert agrees that the best hope for a solution to the problem of Iran's nuclear program must utilize both carrots and sticks--offering Iran positive incentives for cooperation and painful sanctions for intransigence.  This resolution, despite appearing to be a comprehensive solution, provides only sticks and ignores the critical need to engage with Iran directly.

Supporters of the bill have said:

"The resolution is explicit in stating that meeting the challenge from Iran must be done using all appropriate political, diplomatic and economic levers."

But the resolution makes no mention of engaging in diplomacy with Iran--the one country whose behavior the US hopes to change. This leaves the impression that "using all appropriate" diplomatic levers does not include discussing Iran's nuclear program with those who have the direct ability to alter it.  Instead, the resolution:

"Urges the President to lead a sustained, serious, and forceful effort at regional diplomacy to support the legitimate governments in the region against Iranian efforts to destabilize them, to reassure our friends and allies that the United States supports them in their resistance to Iranian efforts at hegemony"

The United States has tried talking around Iran.  History has shown that talking with our allies alone does nothing to alter Iran's behavior.  The situation today calls for solutions, not threats; ideas not bluster.  And H.Con.Res. 362 presents a backward-looking approach to an amazingly complex foreign policy challenge.  This resolution offers more of the same failed policy that has contributed to the erosion of US leverage over Iran, and risks squandering a real opportunity for a negotiated solution.



Armenian Business Leaders Visit CC
August 5, 2008

 

Seven Armenian business leaders spent the afternoon at Common Cause offices to discuss various approaches to influencing publicy policy and ways in which they might incorporate these practices into their efforts to influence economic development and the regulatory process in Armenia.



Congress-Bundestag Staff Exchange
July 18, 2008

 

Common Causers Sarah Dufendach and Lauren Coletta hosted a group of German Parlimentarians who were visiting under the Congress-Bundestag program which encourages exchanges between members of Congress and German Parlimentarians.  Dufendach went to Germany on the same program when she worked as chief of staff for Majority Whip David Bonior.  The program also has a youth component where students from the two countries spend 10 months studying the government structure and politics in their host country.  Our German guests included Frank Bergmann/Christian Social Democrats, Iris Ariane Keller/The Greens, Marcus Kreft/Free Democratic Party, Gabriele Rasch/The Left, Ulrike Birgitta Maria Rasmussen Bonne/Bundesrat, Michael Schaefer/Social Democrats, Anne Schwenk/Social Democrats, Natascha Marlene Seger/Christian Social Democrats, Alexander Willibald Troche/Bundestag and Annette Verheyen/Bundestag.



Common Cause meets with Latin American Leaders
July 15, 2008

Common Cause International Director, Lauren Coletta,  hosted young leaders from throughout Latin America to discuss advocacy and corruption issues in our respective countries and how civil society organizations can best address these issues.  Visitors came from the following countries; Belize, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Uruguay.



Multi-Regional Delegation of business and civil society leaders visit Common Cause
July 15, 2008

Ed Davis hosted a lively discussion on government tranparency and accountability issues with business and civil society leaders from Bangladesh, Burma, Cameroon, Egypt, Hungary, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Montenegro, Peoples Republic of China, Phillipines, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Sudan, West Bank, and Zimbabwe.



Common hosts West Bank Mayor Delegation
June 26, 2008

Common Cause hosted a delegation of Mayors from the West Bank.  The purpose of the trip was to explore ways local governments can work with private industry and civic groups to reinvigorate their economies, expand social services, and generally improve the quality of life for their citizens.  Visiting Mayors included  Mr. Khader A. A. Hamdan, Mayor of Al-Khas and Al-Nueman Village Council, Mr. Ghassan N. F. Qabaha, Mayor of East Barta’a Village Council, Mr. Victor K.M. Sayyed, Mayor of Al-Zababdeh Village Council, Jenin,  Mr. Khalil Shaheen, Mayor of Ein Arik Village , and Mr. Ziad Zamara, Mayor of Halhoul Local Council, the group sat down with CCI Director Lauren Coletta.



Common Cause hosts OSCE delegation
June 20, 2009

Common Cause hosted a delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss whether or not they will conduct an international monitoring project during the upcoming elections.  To learn more visit http://www.commonblog.com/story/2008/6/20/141154/702#commenttop



A Bipartisan Foreign Policy for 2009
June 23, 2008

Common Cause partner Partnership for a Secure America held an excellent event on Monday which explored a bipartisan way to approach foreign policy in the near future.  To learn more visit http://blog.psaonline.org/2008/06/24/video-of-a-bipartisan-foreign-policy-for-january-2009/



Roundtable with visitors from Thailand
June 17, 2008

Common Cause International Director Lauren Coletta hosted a round table with with visitors from Thailand including Thanapol Eawsakul, Editor and Owner of "Fa Diew Kan" Magazine,", Arnat Matate, a political reporter with Pujatkarn Newspaper, and Nikom Putta, an environmental activist with the Upper Ping River Watershed Conservation Program. The goal of the delegation was to explore the concept of citizen diplomacy, grassroots advocacy and citizen participation in the democratic process as well as the methods by which ordinary citizens can interact with elected officials to effect political, social and economic change.



10th anniversary of the United Nations Foundation
June 11, 2008

Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar and CCI Director Lauren Coletta joined in the 10th anniversary celebration of the United Nations Foundation held at the Newseum in downtown Washington. The UN Foundation was created by a generous gift from Ted Turner for the purpose of strengthening America's commitment to the goals of the United Nations. Former Secretary General Kofi Anan and Ted Turner headlined the event and current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon taped a special video congratulations. Here is a link link to learn more about the campaign. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_GMhNI7S-8&feature=user.