Global Health Crises and Poverty
December 10, 2003
Thank you for your great work and advocacy on this issue over the past year. As a result, the final 2004 foreign aid bill, as agreed to by Senate and House conferees in November, marks a significant victory for our development assistance priorities and contains the largest increase in developmental and civilian foreign aid programs in four decades. The bill includes a major increase in money to fight AIDS and infectious diseases, and significant new funding for poor countries in the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), the Presidents new development assistance program. The final bill also contains authorizing language for the MCA, and protects important provisions in the Global AIDS Act. The foreign aid bill has been incorporated into the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill H.R. 2673. While the House passed the Omnibus on December 8, the Senate will not vote on final passage until late January. Stay tuned for further information as the Senate must still pass the Omnibus bill.
Over the past year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in partnership with grassroots networks, have advocated for a minimum of $18.8BN for the 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, including $3BN to fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases and $1.3BN for the MCA.
We also urged Congress to protect those provisions in the Global AIDS Act (P.L. 108-25) which seek a more effective and morally appropriate global health program, including the emphasis on abstinence and fidelity within marriage as part of prevention education, and the conscience clause.* With regard to the MCA, we urged that MCA funds be reserved for the poorest countries which have the fewest options for accessing financial assistance. We urged that the criteria for MCA eligibility be flexible enough to allow a substantial number of African countries to participate. In addition, we strongly encouraged that MCA language emphasize poverty reduction and support national development strategies designed with input from civil society. (See the November 10 letter from Bishop John Ricard, Chairman of the Committee on International Policy, and Ken Hackett, Director of Catholic Relief Services, to Senate and House Conferees).
For More Information:
Gerry Flood, Policy Adviser, USCCB (202-541-3167; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jennifer Holst, USCCB (202-541-3199; email@example.com)
Tina Rodousakis, Legislative Network Specialist, 1-800-235-2772 x 7462, Trodousa@catholicrelief.org
Kathy Brown, Community Engagement Director, 1-800-235-2772 x 7232, Kbrown@catholicrelief.org
* The conscience clause provision ensures that religious organizations, such as Catholic Relief Serviceswho are the principal providers of care and treatment for those who have or are affected by HIV/AIDSwill not be discriminated against in the allocation of aid funds on the basis of religious or moral convictions.