Political advocacy has always been a vital part of Invisible Children’s DNA. We believe that an end to LRA violence requires the commitment of regional and international policymakers, and that governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of all citizens — especially those most vulnerable to injustice. Ever since our first Uganda Lobby Day in 2006, tens of thousands of dedicated activists have called, tweeted, written letters, and even hosted in-person meetings with their members of Congress, urging continued action to help end to LRA violence and support affected communities in central and East Africa. These committed activists, together with our in-house team of advocacy experts, comprise IC Citizen — Invisible Children’s political advocacy initiative focused on keeping the U.S. government committed to ending LRA violence. Throughout the year, our IC Citizen team mobilizes advocates across the United States and equips them to effectively engage their political leaders.
Today, we are celebrating IC Citizen’s biggest accomplishments of 2013. We couldn’t be more fortunate to have such a sharp, dedicated group of supporters who are willing to go above and beyond to help end LRA violence and seek justice for communities affected by this crisis.
Here is a rundown of the IC Citizen goals for 2013, and what activists accomplished…
Goal #1: Ensure a six-month extension of the U.S. advisor mission through March 2014
RESULTS: US ADVISOR MISSION EXTENDED FOR ONE FULL YEAR, THROUGH OCT 2014!
DETAILS: One of the most crucial goals of 2013 was securing an extension of the U.S. Advisor mission in central Africa. In November 2011, President Obama deployed 100 U.S. military advisors to assist the African Union in locating and arresting top LRA commanders. This was a huge step of progress for international efforts to end LRA violence and protect vulnerable communities from attack. Every six months, the Obama Administration reviews the U.S. advisor mission and evaluates whether or not to extend the mission for another six months. However, with so many urgent and competing priorities around the world, there is always a chance that the Administration could decide to end the advisor mission early, before LRA violence has been put to an end. An early withdrawal of the advisors would have a devastating impact on efforts to end LRA violence, which is why IC Citizen activists have continued to lobby their members of Congress and call for their support of the U.S. advisor mission. In fact, IC Citizen activists were able to get 98 members of Congress to sign a letter to President Obama, urging him to stay committed to ending LRA violence and sustain the advisor deployment. Several months ago, we received word that the President did extend the advisor mission, not just through March 2014, but for a full year (through October 2014).
Goal #2: Secure funding for LRA-affected communities in the 2014 Foreign Aid budget
RESULTS: Congress committed $10 million to support LRA-affected communities.
DETAILS: Every year, Congress passes a foreign aid budget bill, which outlines what the U.S. government will spend on civilian (non-military) aid efforts around the world. Throughout last year, our Citizen activists lobbied their members of Congress, asking them to commit $10 million dollars in the 2014 foreign aid budget for support to LRA-affected communities in central Africa……and they did!
*It’s important to note that this $10 million will not increase the overall national budget. It will simply be taken out of the funds that the government has already set aside for foreign assistance.
Goal #3: Secure funding in the 2014 Defense budget for efforts to arrest Joseph Kony
RESULTS: Congress committed $30 million to help locate and arrest Joseph Kony.
DETAILS: Every year Congress passes a defense budget, which allocates how much United States Department of Defense (the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and any other defense-related programs) will spend on different programs and activities in the coming year. Funding for the work of the 100 U.S. advisors in central Africa comes is accounted for in the Defense budget. Since the U.S. advisors have continued to be a very important element of international efforts to address the LRA conflict, IC Citizen wanted to make sure that funding would be included in the 2014 budget to support these efforts. Thanks to the hard work of IC Citizen activists, Congress committed $30 million towards in the 2014 defense budget for intelligence-gathering equipment and personnel that can help locate and arrest Joseph Kony and other top LRA commanders.
GOAL #4: Secure funding authorizations in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
RESULT: Congress authorized more than $80 million in the NDAA to help end LRA violence.
DETAILS: Each year, Congress passes a new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes the spending levels for programs and activities of the United States Department of Defense. Thanks in large part of IC Citizen activists, we secured a three-year-long authorization of $50 million for logistical support to regional forces pursuing the LRA. The NDAA also included an authorization of more than $30 million for intelligence-gathering equipment and personnel to help locate and arrest top LRA commanders. That means, collectively, IC Citizen activists helped secured authorizations for more than $80 million in the 2014 NDAA.
THAT’S NOT ALL:
As if those four huge achievements weren’t enough for our Citizens to brag about, the Citizen team didn’t stop there! In addition to all of these huge wins, Citizen activists played a very important role in securing the passage of the the Rewards for Justice expansion bill in January 2013, and in getting 98 members of Congress to sign a letter to President Obama, urging him to stay committed to ending LRA violence. And beyond all of these political victories, IC Citizen activists also collectively raised more than $80,000 dollars for the #zeroLRA campaign. All in a years work, right?