Their News [Archives:2008/1174/Local News]

July 21 2008

– Congress Takes First Step to Restore UNFPA Funding

Renewed U.S. funding for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, passed its first hurdle yesterday, winning approval from the influential House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations after a closed-door battle.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who sponsored the measure, hailed the $60 million funding for UNFPA as “critical” for the agency's family planning and reproductive health care programs in 140 countries worldwide. The bill, part of an overall $600 million spending measure for family planning and reproductive health care assistance programs worldwide, does not alter the existing Bush administration ban on use of the funds in China, restricting it use to specific programs with broad general support. These include providing contraceptives and safe motherhood medicine, equipment and supplies; treating obstetric fistula; and combating female genital cutting and child marriage.

– Lawmakers Unite to Fight Global Internet Censorship

Repressive regimes that buy U.S. and European technology to control their citizens in cyberspace may one day find that market closed. At a Freedom House event in Washington July 15, European and U.S. lawmakers announced a rare joint initiative to pass legislation aimed at preventing sensitive surveillance and Internet-blocking technology from being sold to authoritarian governments such as China and Saudi Arabia. European Parliament Member Jules Maaten told a crowd of 70 people assembled in the U.S. Capitol that he would introduce the European Global Online Freedom Act in Brussels this week. The draft legislation would regulate the export of European technology and earmark 20 million Euros to support anti-censorship tools and services. U.S. Representative Christopher Smith, who introduced parallel legislation in the U.S. Congress last year, decried the “very close relationship” that U.S. technology companies have with China's dictatorial leadership and urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow his bill to come to a vote. In recent years, Freedom House has recorded a sharp increase in countries that are cracking down on cyber-dissidents. In response, Freedom House launched its Global Internet Freedom Initiative last year to help activists in countries where the Internet is suppressed to fight against Internet censorship.