WHY YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS ALERT: Last year's successful debt relief effort has inspired a next-stage appeal to advocate a broad program of global poverty reduction. The start of a new Congress and a new administration present us with the opportunity to begin a serious dialogue on reshaping foreign aid. Particular attention is needed for sub-Saharan Africa, a region that suffers from the most severe poverty in the world.
ACTION NEEDED NOW: Congress is now considering the foreign operations appropriations bill that determines funding of debt relief and foreign aid programs for fiscal year 2002 (from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002). Please meet with or call your Representatives and Senators while they are home for Easter Recess April 7 - 23 to urge them to support:
- $1 billion in increased development and education assistance for sub-Saharan Africa.
- $1 billion in increased funding for global health risks, including HIV/AIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa.
- $240 million to continue funding of HIPC debt relief.
ACTIVITY ON FOREIGN AID: ADMINISTRATION AND CONGRESS: The Bush Administration's FY 2002 budget would increase funding for global poverty reduction and health accounts by about 3-1/2 percent, or approximately $200 million, over the FY 2001 appropriations. The budget would fully fund the amount needed, taking into account any carryover funds from 2001, for the FY 2002 portion of debt relief ($240 million). Secretary of State Colin Powell has made statements supporting aid to Africa, but in recent testimony he highlighted only support for political and economic transitions in the region, not an overall poverty reduction strategy. Senator Helms (R-N.C.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a new foreign aid proposal in January of this year. There are no legislative details at present, but the general concept is to abolish the US Agency for International Development (US AID), and to replace it with a new International Development Foundation that would deliver block grants to community and "faith-based" relief providers.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ACTIVITIES: On March 28, 2001, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services presented oral testimony and filed detailed written testimony on foreign aid with the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the House Committee on Appropriations. The testimony called for $1 billion in increased development and education assistance for sub-Saharan Africa, 1 billion in increased funding to battle global health risks, including HIV/AIDS, in sub-Saharan Africa, and $240 million to continue funding of HIPC debt relief.
Q: How does the US rank among other international donors in terms of foreign aid?
A: Despite being the world's wealthiest economy, the United States ranks last among donors in foreign aid measured as a percentage of gross national product (GNP), at just 0.1%. This figure is scandalously low, especially given U.S. multilateral commitments to a target of 0.7 percent of GNP in development assistance.
Q: Why is there a need for priority attention to sub-Saharan Africa?
A: Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering intensely from the consequences of severe poverty, and current efforts are barely able to maintain the status quo. Over 300 million Africans live on barely 65 cents a day, and 15 percent of children die before the age of 5. Yet, the United States allocates a smaller percentage of its development aid to this region than almost all other donor countries. The absolute dollar amount of U.S. development aid to sub-Saharan Africa has also declined significantly since 1985.
Q: Is there support for increased foreign aid among the American public?
A: 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 meet international poverty reduction goals, and 81% want to maintain or increase aid to Africa. Moreover, strong majorities indicated that aid should go beyond relief efforts and should embrace economic development efforts.
Q: What is the USCCB position on directing more aid through faith-based organizations?
A: We welcome initiatives to recognize and enhance the role of faith-based organizations in delivering aid to poor countries. While we heartily agree that there should be no discrimination based on religion in the selection of those who carry out assistance programs, we also wish to emphasize that faith-based aid providers should serve men and women because of need, not creed.
Q: Are there other NGO campaigns for global poverty reduction and aid to sub-Saharan Africa?
A: 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.
Resources: Written Testimony of FY 2002 Foreign Assistance: www.USCCB.org/sdwp/international
More information: Frances Horner, fhorner@nccbUSCCB.org, tel. (202) 541-3153
Gerry Flood, gflood@USCCB.org, tel (202) 541-3167