WASHINGTON (July 14, 2005)—As the Senate prepares to consider the State Department and Foreign Operations bill, the Chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee and the President of Catholic Relief Services have urged provision of funding levels required to fight global poverty.
Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Mr. Ken Hackett, President of CRS, sent (July 13) a joint letter to the Senate concerning FY2006 Department of State and Foreign Operations Bill, H.R. 3057.
"We believe that U.S. foreign aid should serve the needs and promote the human dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable around the world," they said. "CRS, the bishops' overseas humanitarian aid and development agency, knows these needs firsthand from its work in over 80 developing countries."
The two representatives said USCCB and CRS are pleased that the bill, as reported to the Senate, restores cuts made by the House of Representatives to the President's request for important foreign assistance accounts, and in some cases proposes amounts higher that the President's request. "Increasing appropriations for Foreign Operations is particularly important to meet the President's commitments made at the G-8 to expand U.S. foreign assistance," they said.
The letter urged the Senate to provide the following funding levels required to fight global poverty:
--Appropriate $950 million for the U.S. contribution to the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA). "To fail to provide this necessary leadership to the global community may jeopardize the recent G-7 agreement on new IDA debt cancellation for poor countries," the letter said.
--Support the $2.9 billion proposed for combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and increase it as necessary to launch the President's recently announced malaria initiative for Africa.
--Support the $1.7 billion proposed for development assistance, and similarly increase it as necessary to fund the first year of the President's initiative for strengthening basic education in Africa.
--Provide at least the amount proposed by the Appropriations Committee for Core Development and humanitarian accounts that will support recent global commitments to fund peace-building, democracy, development and emergency relief in Africa.
--Support $900 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance and $50 million for Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA).
--Fund the Millennium Challenge Account at $1.8 billion, and restrict MCA funding at least through FY 2006 to low-income countries. "Although the MCA legislation had originally proposed allowing lower middle-income countries to qualify for funds in 2006, many of the eligible poor countries have yet to receive MCA funding. Our first responsibility is to serve 'the least of these' in the poorest parts of the world."
--Fully fund the President's request for $150 million for the Palestinians, but remove unnecessary onerous conditions attached to the aid that will eliminate its effectiveness and delay its delivery. "There are better ways to improve transparency and accountability."
"It is important that the increases we are proposing not come at the expense of existing foreign aid programs for poor countries," the two representatives said. "We recognize that Congress is making budgetary decisions in a difficult fiscal environment, but responding to the needs of the poor and the vulnerable is a moral obligation as well as a critical investment in fostering international security and peace."