Live Blogging the Netroots Nation UN Dispatch Panel

From Chris Scott

Hi there. Mark is up on stage moderating. I’m Chris Scott, from ONE, in the audience at the Netroots Nation panel.   I’ll be live blogging the session, which is set to begin momentarily.

Ray Offenheiser kicks off the panel with the premise that “poverty is not news.”  All of us who work on these issues day in and day out have to confront the fact that poverty is rarely news until terrorism strikes.  Unfortunately, inequality is the status quo.

He goes on to explain that poverty is not about a lack of things– we live in a world of plenty.  It’s about access and exclusion.  For instance, in the US obesity is epidemic while millions of others go hungry around the world.  “Poverty is about powerlessness.”

Ray goes on to discuss the successes in fighting global poverty, arguing against thinking of confronting this challenge as “charity.”  He uses Ghana as an example of a country at a crossroads.  Will Ghana use funds from oil production for health, education?

Says the greatest challenge facing our generation is climate change.  The poorest people in the world are being hit first and hit hardest.  Every year millions are one bad crop away from famine.  He explains that whatever is decided at Copenhagen in December, the world’s poorest need to be taken into account.

We have the tools to fight global poverty– it’s up to us to use them.  Organizations like Oxfam seek to provide that.  Ray ends by asking the audience to join all of the panel’s campaigns.


Anita Sharma speaks next and begins by really reiterating Ray’s point that ending extreme poverty is an attainable goal.  She goes on to describe the Millennium Development Goals as a framework, underscoring the eighth goal: the promise of developed countries to increase development assistance and deliver more effective aid.  In return, poor countries promise to implement aid effectively, increase transparency and accountability.  All of this serves to create a real partnership.

Anita moves on to what is happening in the US politically and policy-wise.  Cites Obama’s assurance that the Millennium Development Goals should become America’s goals.  Anita describes Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice as “torch bearers” for the MDG’s.  However, trade and investment are drying up.

Tells audience there are concrete ways to get in touch with our elected officials around important legislation that supports the MDG’s.  Lists current and upcoming fights: climate change, food security initiative, economic crisis.  All of which will be addressed at upcoming G20 Summit in Pittsburgh.

Ends with a push for Stand Up Against Poverty now entering it’s 4th year.  This year’s Stand Up event will take place on October 16-18.  It’s extremely important that we create a movement.


Ginny Simmons from ONE is up next.  She runs through specifically ONE’s online efforts around fighting extreme poverty and global disease.

Among ONE’s online accomplishments, she names the On the Record campaign during the 2008 US presidential race in which ONE actively sought “on the record” commitments from nearly all presidentail candidates about what they would do to combat global poverty as president.  She also discusses ONE’s organizing around the August congressional recess as a very successful example of online/offline mobilizing.

For ONE, the internet is a key organizing and mobilizing tool.


Matt Yglesias takes the podium and begins by speaking about the genesis and evolution of progressive netroots.  Primarily, what are progressives’ idea of the United States’ role in the world?  In the future, looking back at America’s legacy, wouldn’t it be great to say one of our key accomplishments was eliminating global poverty?

Climate change is obviously a hot button topic in America, but lost in the mix is the immense impact climate change takes on the world’s poor.  But the netroots can play a big role in shifting this kind of conversation.  Echoes Ray’s earlier point that global poverty doesn’t get a ton of attention in the US, but again, netroots is important in shifting the focus from viewing the topic in a purely military lens.


Question & Answer session begins.

Ray fields a question about nonprofit microfinance’s role in uplifting people in poverty.  Ray cites Grameen Bank as an innovative example of some of the work being done right now around microfinance.  He also makes a case for the role that microfinancing can play in combatting some of the threats of climate change.

Anita discusses some bills supporting MDG’s including the Global Poverty Act introduced by Representative Adam Smith.  Suggests audience go to Oxfam’s and ONE’s site to learn about and track this legislation, but also stresses the importance around contacting and meeting with our elected officials.

Ray ends the discussion by stressing the need for building up civilian personnel to deliver development assistance in poor countries.  He says that the State Department needs funding that, if not equal to, should at least be proportionate to that of the Defense Department, and passionately calls on the netroots to push for legislation that can legitimately end global poverty.

And that’s a wrap.  Many thanks to Mark for allowing me to hijack his blog and write about this excellent panel.