WASHINGTON—Today, a bipartisan group of House members introduced legislation to promote more effective development in fragile and unstable countries, addressing the conditions that create safe havens for terrorists, criminal networks, and war lords. The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act (H.R. 5273) would require the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to ramp up coordination with the Departments of State and Defense to develop a global initiative aimed at preventing the root causes of violence and instability in countries around the world.

The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Ted Poe (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Adam Smith (D-WA), Bill Keating (D-MA), and Paul Cook (R-CA).

“The United States has been at war for 16 years and has spent decades more working to stabilize fragile countries. This bill would make us take a hard look at what’s working and what isn’t, and help relevant agencies work more closely to tackle this challenge. After all, when we help countries become stronger and more stable, we make it harder for terrorists, criminals, and other violent groups to put down roots. That makes the United States and our partners safer,” said Rep. Engel, Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. “I’m pleased to join with this group of lawmakers that spans the aisle to offer this measure and I hope the House acts on it soon.”

“With the rise of modern terrorism, fragile and failing states have become breeding grounds for radicalism and terrorist activity, directly threatening the national security of the United States. We must spend our already existing foreign assistance money more effectively, preventing states from failing in the first place. This allows us to later avoid undertaking costly military and nation-building interventions where terrorists find safe haven. Using the lessons we have learned over the last two decades, we must require our government develop long-term strategies to address conditions which lead to violent failed states, ultimately weaning them off American aid. The bipartisan Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act will ensure our taxpayer money is spent on carefully planned strategies that contribute to our national security and reduce violence abroad,” said Rep. Poe, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

“We cannot relent in our efforts to deny extremist groups territory from which they can conduct operations against the United States and the West. As ISIS and other terror groups and individuals spread violence and hatred in societies across the globe, it is clear that denying safe havens is simply not enough. Therefore, those charged with combatting terror around the world must be able to evolve with the dynamic and evolving threat landscape. This legislation requires the relevant governmental agencies to produce an integrated strategy to keep terrorists off the battlefield by drying up the unstable, fertile ground from which they recruit—a process I call ‘deny and dry.’ This bill will also proactively prioritize the resources necessary to eradicate terror hot spots and ensure we accomplish our goal of a more peaceful and stable world,” said Rep. McCaul, Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security.

“Around the world, instability in the form of conflict, famine, or disease sends millions of people fleeing from their homes annually. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global refugee crisis, with nations across the globe grappling with how to respond. The United States has a proud history of leading the international community in helping others during times of strife—however it is essential that our bodies of government that carry out these missions coordinate with one another. This legislation represents a significant first step in bringing the defense, diplomatic, and development communities of the United States to the same table, working to help answer the challenges of poverty and violence overseas,” said Rep. Smith, Ranking Member of the Committee on Armed Services.

“Instability breeds insecurity, and the more instability there is in the world, the longer we will continue to see extremism take hold in communities,” said Rep. Keating, Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade and Co-Chair of the Congressional Counterterrorism Caucus. “Based on everything we’ve learned over the decades we’ve been combatting terrorism, assisting countries struggling with instability is our greatest opportunity to eliminate the threat of violence. This bill is a critical first step in building a strategy to tackle this challenge more effectively through long-term investments to strengthen and secure communities, helping countries become more resilient to extremism.”

Violence and violent conflict have become the leading causes of displacement worldwide, resulting in an unprecedented 66 million forcibly displaced people, while preventable violence kills at least 1.4 million people annually. Containing violence costs the global economy $14.3 trillion a year (13.4 percent of world GDP).

US National Security Strategies over the past 15 years affirm that America has a national-security interest in better preventing and mitigating violence, violent conflict, and fragility. Lessons learned over the past 20 years show that doing so will require more clearly defined goals, strategies, and interagency coordination.

The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act would charge USAID and the State and Defense Departments with designating 10 pilot countries from several regions of the world and implementing 10-year plans for addressing violence and fragility in those countries. The bill requires these agencies and departments to apply lessons learned and robust standards for measuring effectiveness and to adapt their efforts based on results. It also requires a mid-term evaluation by the Government Accountability Office, to provide an outside perspective on additional areas of improvement.

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