By: Liz Schrayer, USGLC
IMPACT 2020 PROFILE
Senator Kamala Harris
Background on the senator’s statements, positions, and record on diplomacy, global development, and America’s role the world
Growing up in California as the daughter of immigrants, Kamala Harris has long given voice to the importance of strengthening America’s role in the world, calling for a “robust diplomatic corps” and “principled engagement throughout the world.”
As a young girl, Harris traveled to India and has described how those trips “made me who I am today” and how she was inspired by her grandfather’s fight for freedom, democracy, and civil rights in the country. As District Attorney for San Francisco and later California Attorney General, she worked to combat human trafficking, including traveling to Mexico with other state attorneys general to sign a bilateral accord improving coordination to combat this transnational threat.
In her 2016 campaign for the U.S. Senate, her foreign policy platform called for preventing the need for military action through “the power of smart diplomacy” and embracing multilateral engagement and alliances saying “our country is strongest when we stand together with our allies and when we rally the world to act instead of simply acting alone.”
As a senator, she has pushed to elevate civilian-led tools of diplomacy to achieve a “strong, progressive foreign policy that keeps Americans safe at home and promotes our values abroad.” On a wide range of global challenges, she has called for reinvigorating American engagement in the world – from addressing terrorism to nuclear threats to climate change to infectious disease – stating “we must do everything we can to protect our nation and our allies from the threats we face around the world.” She has consistently supported resources for and opposed cuts to the International Affairs Budget.
As a keynote speaker at NDI’s 2017 Madeleine K. Albright Luncheon, Harris highlighted the need to “speak up for full funding” for America’s development and diplomacy programs that “while less than 1% of the overall federal budget… these investments make us safer and more secure, because they strengthen vulnerable societies and help us avoid military interventions.”
A passionate advocate for women and girls, Harris traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jordan early in her career in the Senate, visiting with women in the Za’atari refugee camp. Reflecting on her experience, she wrote an open letter to women around the world, stating, “There are countries where women who engage in the political process face not only slurs or whisper campaigns or comments about their appearance — they face rape and violence and death… You better believe we’ve got to change that.”
In her 2020 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Harris wrote that America’s greatest foreign policy accomplishment was the “post-war community of international institutions, laws, and democratic nations we helped to build.” In her 2020 policy platform on climate change, she highlighted the global dimension of the challenge and called on “executive agencies, such as USAID, to cooperate with other countries and international partners to support climate resiliency, improve disaster preparedness, and restore the health of environmental systems in order to address climate migration.”
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, she introduced new legislation in the Senate – the Improving Pandemic Preparedness and Response Through Diplomacy Act – to designate a presidential envoy to focus on global pandemic preparedness. In announcing the bill, she stated that “No country can beat this pandemic by itself. We must use every tool we have, including diplomacy, to protect the life and livelihoods of all our people.”
On the Issues:
As a member of the Senate Budget, Homeland Security, and Select Intelligence Committees, Senator Harris has helped advance policy on a range of issues, including global health, human trafficking, rights for women and girls, and global climate change.
Diplomacy and Development: Senator Harris has been a steadfast voice for strengthening foreign assistance and diplomacy as key pillars of U.S. national security and foreign policy, stating that: “Foreign aid isn’t charity – it’s in our interest.”
Resources: She has spoken out and voted against proposed cuts to the International Affairs Budget. For the past three years, she has cosigned a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee calling for robust funding for international affairs programs. She has also signed onto letters in support of robust funding for refugees and vulnerable migrant populations and in opposition cuts to U.S. foreign assistance to Central America.
International COVID-19 Response: Harris has advocated for a robust U.S. global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, signing a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership calling for a “significant investment” in emergency funding to combat the pandemic around the world.
World Health Organization: Speaking out on U.S. global health leadership, Harris has called the move to withdraw from the WHO “reckless” and “short-sighted.”
HIV/AIDS: Harris has called for bipartisan leadership on global health programs, noting that “combating AIDS and HIV has been something that presidents – Democrats and Republicans – have prided themselves and us on as something that is part of our values as a nation.”
The Global Fund: Harris has committed to fully fund The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria saying “we have an ability as a country to have a great role of leadership in ending the crisis.”
Africa: Harris has spoken out about the importance of strengthening U.S.-Africa relations – calling for the U.S. to “reinvigorate American diplomacy throughout the continent, support economic growth, and deepen security engagements with African partners” to help address Africa’s growing population and use our influence to combat China’s increasing footprint.
Women and Girls: Harris has supported efforts to improve the rights of women and girls around the world, observing that “when women and girls are empowered and educated, communities are stronger and more stable and economies prosper and flourish.”
Alliances: Harris has declared on a wide range of foreign policy challenges that “our country is strongest when we stand together with our allies and when we rally the world to act instead of simply acting alone.” She has warned that “withdrawing from international agreements and institutions, shunning our allies” makes the world less safe.
Climate Change: When running for president, Harris announced she would recommit to the Paris Climate Agreement and work to “ensure that climate refugees are given appropriate protections under international law.”
Aid to Central America: Harris has rejected past proposed cuts to foreign assistance to Central America, tweeting that “Refugees are fleeing violence in Central America & these investments are crucial to addressing the root of these problems. Gutting resources isn’t the answer.”
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