July 31, 2001
Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-3802
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I am writing to highlight a number of issues that your committee will address in the FY2002 and 2003 State Department (Foreign Relations) authorization legislation. These issues call upon our nation to fulfill its moral obligation to help shape a more just and peaceful world. I ask that you keep this vital obligation in the forefront in considering this year's foreign relations authorization legislation.
United Nations Funding
We are concerned about the provision adopted in H.R. 1646, the House of Representatives' version of the Foreign Relations authorization legislation, that would link United Nations funding to the U.S. regaining its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. While the loss of the U.S. seat is a serious matter, it does not justify a delay in payment of our agreed outstanding debts. Given the global importance of the UN and U.S. leadership there and in the world, we urge you to support payment of our dues and to fund fully the agreed current dues assessment, including peacekeeping operations, as specified in the Helms-Biden agreement of last December. This agreement requires authorizing $244 million to fund the FY 2002 arrears installment and releasing $582 million previously authorized to pay the FY 2001 arrears installment.
Aid to Lebanon
We also wish to express concern about the amendment passed by the House of Representatives to deny economic assistance to Lebanon, if within six months Lebanon does not take action to secure its border with Israel. The House provision regarding aid to Lebanon could penalize poor people who are recipients of U.S. aid and are powerless to change their government's policies. We urge the Senate not to follow the House's lead and to refrain from adopting similar provisions in its version of the State Department authorization legislation.
We strongly support the authorization level of $817 million for the Department of State's Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account which is included in H.R. 1646. The MRA account provides overseas refugee assistance, as well as funding for the initial period of resettlement for refugees admitted to the United States. We also support the provisions related to reporting on overseas processing, including the requirement in H.R. 1646 that the Department of State report on the identification of priority groups of refugees for admission to the United States.
Mexico City Policy
As a final point, we wish to underscore our longstanding position that Congress should retain the "Mexico City" policy. This policy requires that international family planning organizations which elect to receive federal funds agree not to perform or promote abortion as a family planning method. Our foreign aid programs should not subsidize organizations that perform and promote abortions in developing nations under the guise of "family planning." We continue to oppose funding for UN programs that are connected to coercive programs of sterilization and abortion.
With best wishes and asking God to bless you, I am
Archbishop of Boston
Committee on International Policy