Our world is entering the new millennium burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity. How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their heads?
Poverty, hunger and disease devastate the lives and dignity of most of our brothers and sisters in the world. Of the world’s 6 billion people, a vast majority—5 billion, live in developing countries with access to only 20% of the world’s resources. Nearly 3 billion continue to struggle on less than $2 per day. Health crises such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria threaten the existence of whole generations, and poor countries continue to face enormous development and humanitarian challenges.
Fighting poverty, hunger and disease by adequately funding foreign assistance is not simply an optional commitment. This action invests in solidarity with poor nations, creates the prosperity that improves our own national security, and promotes the human dignity of the poorest in the world.
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Child mortality projections show an especially pessimistic picture of health care in the developing world, with an additional projected 4.4-million preventable child deaths in 2015, according to current trends, of which 3 million will occur in Africa. 800 million people in the world still lack basic literacy skills, with women accounting disproportionately for two-thirds of the total.
As the President’s budget proposal for foreign operations funding make its way through Congress, USCCB asked Members to give priority to the following items:
(The following paragraphs are preliminary pending release of the President’s FY07 budget proposal in early February. They will be updated for the meeting.) Global Health: Support appropriation of at least $4.0 billion for morally appropriate, comprehensive programs to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Such funding is urgently needed as infectious diseases ravage the world’s poorest countries and pose threats to economic stability and global security.
Development and Humanitarian Assistance: Support increased funding for core development and humanitarian assistance accounts. These programs help enhance skills and provide basic services in the areas of education, health care, agriculture, rural development and microenterprise/microfinance, as well as urgent assistance to victims of natural disasters and other emergencies. Many poor countries that fail to qualify for the Millennium Challenge Account depend on core programs.
Debt Relief/International Financial Institutions: Appropriation of at least $950 million for the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) is crucial not only to provide badly needed development assistance to the world’s poorest countries, but also to fulfill the U.S. commitment to the new international debt cancellation program for poor countries that USCCB worked for and welcomed.
Millennium Challenge Account (MCA): Support an increase in funding for the MCA over last year’s appropriation of $1.8 billion. Without significant funding for the MCA, any hope for the success of this innovative approach to foreign assistance will remain far off. Also urge focusing of MCA funding on the poorest countries.
In addition to the above priorities and in addition to the funding levels for other health, development and humanitarian assistance programs, USCCB urges action to help countries with these critical needs:
Sudan: Support $100 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission and increased funding for critical humanitarian efforts in the Darfur region and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Southern Sudan.
Colombia: Include basic standards for the protection of human rights in all U.S. aid to Colombia.Support multilateral efforts for a negotiated peace process. Increase development and humanitarian aid. Phase out aerial fumigation and increase alternative development. (See Colombia Backgrounder.)
Haiti: Support the appropriation of at least $100 million for Haiti. As the poorest country in the hemisphere, Haiti deserves special consideration to help the country deal with ongoing political and social unrest.
Indonesia: As was done last year, adopt language conditioning military assistance to Indonesia upon certification by the Secretary of State that certain well-defined human rights improvements have been made by the Indonesian Armed Forces.
USCCB supports continuing U.S. policies on United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Mexico City Policy:
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): Support the Kemp-Kasten amendment that prohibits funding to organizations involved in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Mexico City Policy: Support the Mexico City policy, which prevents U.S. funding of NGOs that perform and promote abortion as a family planning method in developing nations.
For Further Information: Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, USCCB, 202-541-3153, firstname.lastname@example.org; Gerry Flood, USCCB, 202-541-3167, email@example.com; LaVita Strickland, Office of Government Liaison, USCCB, 202-541-3235, firstname.lastname@example.org; Kathy Brown, 410 951-7232, email@example.com; Tina Rodousakis, 410 951-7462, firstname.lastname@example.org