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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

International Violence Against Women: U.S. Response and Policy Issues

Luisa Blanchfield, Coordinator
Specialist in International Relations

Rhoda Margesson
Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Tiaji Salaam-Blyther
Specialist in Global Health

Nina M. Serafino
Specialist in International Security Affairs

Liana Sun Wyler
Analyst in International Crime and Narcotics


In recent years, the international community has increasingly recognized international violence against women (VAW) as a significant human rights and global health issue. VAW, which can include both random acts of violence as well as sustained abuse over time, can be physical, psychological, or sexual in nature. Studies have found that VAW occurs in all geographic regions, countries, cultures, and economic classes, with some research showing that women in developing countries experience higher rates of violence than those in developed countries. Many experts view VAW as a symptom of the historically unequal power relationship between men and women, and argue that over time this imbalance has led to pervasive cultural stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate a cycle of violence.

U.S. policymakers have generally focused on specific types or circumstances of VAW rather than view it as a stand-alone issue. Congress has authorized and appropriated funds for international programs that address VAW, including human trafficking and female genital cutting. In addition, past and current Administrations have supported efforts to reduce international levels of VAW— though many of these activities are implemented as components of broader foreign aid initiatives.

There is no U.S. government-wide coordination of anti-VAW efforts. Most agencies and departments do not track the cost or number of programs with VAW components. Therefore, it is unclear how much money the U.S. government, or individual agencies, spend annually on VAWrelated programs. Some experts have suggested that the U.S. government should re-examine, and perhaps enhance, current U.S. anti-VAW activities. They argue that VAW should not only be treated as a stand-alone human rights issue, but also be integrated into U.S. assistance and foreign policy mechanisms. Other observers are concerned with a perceived lack of coordination among U.S. government agencies and departments that address international violence against women.

This report addresses causes, prevalence, and consequences of violence against women. It provides examples of completed and ongoing U.S. activities that address VAW directly or include anti-VAW components. It outlines possible policy issues for the 112
th Congress, including 
  • the scope and effectiveness of U.S. programs in addressing international VAW; 
  • further integrating anti-VAW programs into U.S. assistance and foreign policy mechanisms; 
  • U.S. funding for anti-VAW activities worldwide, particularly in light of the global financial crisis, economic recession, and subsequent calls to reduce the U.S. budget deficit; and 
  • strengthening U.S. government coordination of anti-VAW activities. 
Material relating to United Nations anti-VAW activities that previously appeared in this report is now published in CRS Report RL34518, United Nations System Efforts to Address Violence Against Women, by Luisa Blanchfield.


Date of Report: April 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL34438
Price: $29.95

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Disaster Relief Funding and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations


Bruce R. Lindsay
Analyst in Emergency Management Policy

Justin Murray
Information Research Specialist


When a state is overwhelmed by an emergency or disaster, the governor may request assistance from the federal government. Federal assistance is contingent on whether the President issues an emergency or major disaster declaration. Once the declaration has been issued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides disaster relief through the use of the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which is the source of funding for the Robert T. Stafford Emergency Relief and Disaster Assistance Act response and recovery programs. Congress appropriates money to the DRF to ensure that funding for disaster relief is available to help individuals and communities stricken by emergencies and major disasters (in addition, Congress appropriates disaster funds to other accounts administered by other federal agencies pursuant to federal statutes that authorize specific types of disaster relief).

The DRF is generally funded at a level that is sufficient for what are known as “normal” disasters. These are incidents for which DRF outlays are less than $500 million. When a large disaster occurs, funding for the DRF may be augmented through emergency supplemental appropriations. A supplemental appropriation generally provides additional budget authority during the current fiscal year to (1) finance activities not provided for in the regular appropriation; or (2) provide funds when the regular appropriation is deemed insufficient.

Whether or not the current practice is the best system for budgeting disaster relief is subject to debate. Some argue that more money should be appropriated in FEMA’s DRF account in annual appropriations, while others maintain that augmenting the DRF through emergency supplemental appropriations is preferable because it allows Congress to react directly to a particular situation. Others may argue that emergency supplemental appropriations are preferable for fiscal management reasons because an appropriation is not requested unless there is a real need for supplemental funding. Another argument is to revamp the budgetary process to fund disaster relief.

This report describes the various components of the DRF, including (1) what authorities have shaped it over the years; (2) how FEMA determines the amount of the appropriation requested to Congress (pertaining to the DRF); and (3) how emergency supplemental appropriations are requested. In addition to the DRF, information is provided on funds appropriated in supplemental appropriations legislation to agencies other than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Aspects of debate concerning how disaster relief is budgeted are also highlighted and examined, and alternative budgetary options are summarized.



Date of Report: April 12, 2011
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R40708
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.