Congress is currently considering the foreign operations appropriations bill that determines funding of debt relief and foreign aid programs. In written testimony filed in March, USCC asked for:
- $1 billion in increased development and education assistance for sub-Saharan Africa.
- $1 billion in increased funding for health risks, including HIV/AIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa.
- $240 million to continue funding of debt relief.
The major recommendations about funding of development assistance and global health programs will be made by the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations. This subcommittee is currently holding hearings on these matters. Further updates and action alerts will be issued as the process develops and advocacy is needed to support substantially increased assistance for sub-Saharan Africa.
Short background: The Catholic Campaign on Debt has been a strong part of the international coalition seeking debt relief for highly indebted poor countries. Last year's campaign achieved a major success when Congress approved the $435 million needed for that year's full funding of the United States commitment to international debt relief.
- Additional money is being requested this year because last year's appropriation only covered the FY 2001 portion of the U.S. commitment to debt relief (the Cologne Debt Relief Accord). Congress is asked to satisfy this year's portion of the U.S. commitment by appropriating $240 million.
Q: Why is there a need for priority attention to sub-Saharan Africa?
- Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering intensely from the consequences of severe poverty, and current efforts are barely able to maintain the status quo. There are more Africans living in abject poverty -- on barely 65 cents a day -- than the entire population of our country. Trend lines show that the international community will not meet its target of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, primarily because of the overwhelming distress in Africa.
- Since 1985, Congress decreased aid to sub-Saharan Africa by almost two-thirds. Over the same period, America experienced robust prosperity and steadily increasing GNP per capita.
- The United States gives less to sub-Saharan Africa, as a percentage of the total U.S. aid budget, than nearly all other donor countries.
- A $1 billion increase in development and education assistance to sub-Saharan Africa would bring U.S. assistance for the region to just above the bottom third of donors.
- The USCC request for $1 billion for health programs is an estimate of the U.S. share, based on GNP, of the minimum investment needed to address urgent health needs in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations AIDS program has estimated that at least an additional $3 billion to $5 billion is needed to stem the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Surveys confirm that an increase in foreign aid spending would reflect the values of the American public. The University of Maryland published figures in February of this year indicating that 83% of respondents want the US to commit to a joint plan to meet international poverty reduction goals, and 81% want to maintain or increase priority aid to Africa. Perhaps most significantly, strong majorities indicated that aid should go beyond relief efforts and should embrace economic development efforts.
Q: Are there other NGO campaigns for global poverty reduction and aid to sub-Saharan Africa?
There is broad support for these issues in the NGO community this year. Bread for the World's 2001 offering of letters, "Africa: Hunger to Harvest" seeks at least $1 billion in additional poverty-focused assistance for sub-Saharan Africa. Catholic Relief Services is also launching a campaign for Africa entitled "Africa Rising". InterAction has made a February 2001 call to strengthen U.S. foreign assistance with poverty alleviation as a major element.
Materials on foreign aid, including written and oral testimony before Congress: www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/foreignind.shtml
For further information:
Frances Horner, 202-541-3153 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org,
Gerry Flood, 202-541-3167 (ph); 202-541-3339 (fax); email@example.com