WASHINGTON (July 11, 2000) -- In a strongly worded statement, Cardinal Bernard Law today criticized pending foreign aid legislation, saying the measures abandon the United States' leadership position in areas like debt relief, refugee protection, peacekeeping, and assistance to HIV/AIDS orphans.
"The amounts appropriated under these bills, if enacted into law, would continue a disturbing trend by Congress in recent years to underfund many of our nation's foreign assistance programs for humanitarian aid and sustainable development," said Cardinal Law, Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee. "Surely the world's wealthiest nation, which is enjoying an unprecedented period of prosperity, can do more to aid the poor and vulnerable beyond our borders."
He highlighted serious inadequacies in four specific spending areas :
The Administration requested $435 million to meet the U. S. commitment made last year at the G7 economic summit in Cologne, yet the Senate has approved only $75 million, and the House Committee a meager $69 million.
Cardinal Law warned against a U.S. retreat from its leadership role, saying "Our failure to meet our Cologne commitment may lead other creditor countries to back out of theirs."
The Administration requested $658 million for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account, which Cardinal Law described as "already inadequate." The Senate has now voted to provide only $615 million. The House Committee recommends more - $645 million - "but that amount is still insufficient to meet the need," Cardinal Law said. He urged an appropriation of $700 million. It is estimated that 35 million people worldwide are uprooted.
Mexico City Policy/UNFPA
Cardinal Law applauded the House Committee's retention of the modified Mexico City policy adopted by Congress last year, which ensures that nongovernmental organizations which actively lobby to overturn other nations' abortion laws or which violate those laws will not receive U.S. funding. The Senate version of the bill, however, omits the modified Mexico City Policy. At the same time, Cardinal Law expressed disappointment at the decision to earmark funding for UNFPA which maintains support for the Chinese government's coercive abortion and sterilization policy.
Both the Senate and House Committee bills fail to allocate adequate funds for HIV/AIDS orphans, according to Cardinal Law. Likewise, they do not contain assurances that Catholic Relief Services and other private voluntary organizations--which are key sources of help in this area--will have access to the funds that are provided.
The Administration requested $134 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee allocated $85 million, the House Appropriations Committee, $118 million. Cardinal Law called the Congress's funding levels "another major disappointment" if the United States is to play "a pivotal role in the support of regional and international efforts to help resolve conflicts and promote post-conflict reconstruction in war-torn regions."
NOTE: Full text of Cardinal Law's statement.