The appropriations process for fiscal year 2007 began on February 6, when the President submitted his budget proposal to Congress. As appropriations bills are considered from now through September, there will be many opportunities to urge Congress to consider our priorities for development assistance in the Foreign Operations Appropriations budget.
What is the Church's vision for U.S. foreign assistance programs?
The Church views foreign aid as an essential tool to promote human life and dignity, advance solidarity with poorer nations, and enhance security throughout the world. Foreign aid is not simply an optional commitment; it is a moral responsibility to assist "the least of these."
How effective is foreign assistance?
Well-targeted foreign aid has a track record in yielding results. Nearly half of the world's population lives in abject poverty, without access to health care, clean water, and adequate food. Foreign assistance has helped millions of people to meet their basic needs and to improve their lives. For example, foreign aid helped Uganda to reduce its HIV infection rate from 15% to 4% between 1991 and 2004. According to the U.N., debt relief enabled Benin to more than double its spending on health and education last year.
Is Foreign Assistance in the interests of the United States?
Foreign Aid is in the best interests of the United States. The poverty that plagues developing countries can foster despair and contribute to instability, endangering not only those countries or regions, but also the international community. Combating poverty today may lower the incidence of failed states and lead to greater security for the United States. Foreign aid is an investment in our national well-being and in the well-being of those who need it most. Simply put, foreign aid is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.
Is there not a lot of waste and corruption in Foreign Assistance?
Helping others, especially those so far away, can be complex. Waste and corruption should be addressed. But problems with some foreign aid cannot become an excuse for not addressing the crushing needs of the poor. There are accusations that U.S. foreign aid ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians and that too much goes to U.S. companies instead of to the poor countries themselves. USCCB supports efforts to make aid more efficient and effective. We supported the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Account and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which received robust funding from Congress and has been essential in the fight against this pandemic. Tragically, the pandemic of HIV infection is getting worse, with 8,500 new infections each day in Africa alone. This reality requires resources, plain and simple. If nothing is done, the pandemic will go unchecked.
How does foreign assistance contribute to our nation's leadership role in the world?
Through increased foreign aid, we can transform the way the world perceives the United States. U.S. foreign aid shows commitments to global leadership and compassion. Generous foreign aid helps the U.S. to win hearts and minds and to gain allies as we seek to lead the world to cooperate on essential issues. In addition, other developed countries can use U.S. inaction as a cover for their own inaction. While the U.S. spends a comparatively low percentage of its Gross National Income on aid compared to other industrialized countries, it still contributes almost a quarter of all foreign aid funds worldwide. When the U.S. falters in its funding, others follow suit. For example, the U.S. promised to fund one-third of the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS. If the U.S. cuts its third, then the other two-thirds from other countries would be in jeopardy.
Aren't free trade and anti-corruption efforts better than foreign aid?
There are many problems that need to be tackled, which is why we need several strategies. The Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty (see Leaflet) advocates for foreign aid, debt relief and trade policies that benefit the poor. Fair trade policies and debt relief can remove serious obstacles to economic growth. These strategies help poor countries to unlock their potential to grow and become more self-reliant, but this will not happen overnight. Aid is vital to helping people in these countries to meet immediate needs, to develop fully their human potential and to build their capacity for trade. Some problems are unforeseen and will always require our help. It is important for the U.S. to maintain and build capacity to respond to emergency needs, natural disasters and the like. These events cannot be predicted, but they can devastate people's lives overnight. It is vital that the private funds that U.S. citizens sent to respond the tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan be accompanied by U.S. foreign assistance on the part of our government.
In light of the above, we urge Congress to support the following priorities:
- Increase funding for core development and humanitarian accounts, on which many developing countries depend for survival and poverty reduction, to at least $5 billion, and
- Include at least $150 million to meet basic needs of the Palestinian people.
- Provide at least $2 billion for Title II Food for Peace and authorize up to 25% for local purchase of food;
- Provide at least $4 billion for morally appropriate programs to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria;
- Protect those provisions of law, including the conscience clause, that help provide for a more effective, morally sound global health program.
- Provide $1.1 billion to fund the Administration's commitment to cancel 100% of the debt owed by heavily indebted poor countries to the World Bank's International Development Association and to the US;
- Expand countries eligible for debt cancellation and the number of international institutions whose debt is to be canceled, particularly the Inter-American Development Bank;
- Provide $3 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account, the President's initiative that promises to unite poverty reduction with better and stronger governance in poor countries.