Last November, over 20 PYM Friends joined hundreds of others in Washington DC to train and take action with Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) at the semi-annual Quaker Lobbying Weekend. While for some Friends this weekend is a time of learning new strategies and practicing new approaches, for others it is a familiar continuation of ongoing efforts in which they have been involved for years.
This year the lobbying focus was centered on encouraging the Senate to provide bipartisan support for introducing the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2016 (S.2551). Both newbies to Lobbying Weekend, including the PYM General Secretary, and old hands helped create a grassroots advocacy force for good that has resulted in success!
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), joined by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and several others, has introduced legislation that would authorize a permanent, inter-agency Atrocities Prevention Board that will focus the U.S. government at the highest levels on early prevention of violent conflict as an essential part of our national security strategy. The legislation would permanently authorize the Atrocities Prevention Board, establish the Complex Crises Fund, mandate training for U.S. Foreign Service Officers and require reports to Congress from the State Department and the Director of National Intelligence.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today if not for the incredible lobbying that happened in November,” reports Theo Sitther of FCNL. “In fact, [when we met with] Sen. Tillis’ office — the only Republican on the bill so far — they directly attribute his co-sponsorship to the meeting they had with the North Carolina delegation in November.”
FCNL says that introducing the bill is just beginning, and they encourage Friends to help build greater bipartisan support to move the bill through the Senate. A talking points list of 6 reasons the Act is a good idea, as well as an action toolkit, can be found as part of Theo Sitther’s FCNL staff blog.
Whether or not you were part of Lobbying Weekend, you may feel called to contact your senator or take other action in solidarity with this effort. “The reason we are at this point now is because of work that was strategically planned and acted on,” says Christie Duncan-Tessmer. “All of our meetings played a role in that.”