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Letter to Congressional Leaders Regarding Funding for International Poverty-Reducing Humanitarian and Development Assistance

 

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March 9, 2015
 
The Honorable Lindsey Graham
Chair
Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation, and Related Programs

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Ranking Member
Senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation, and Related Programs

The Honorable Kay Granger
Chair
House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

The Honorable Nita Lowey
Ranking Member
House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Dear Senator Graham, Senator Leahy, Representative Granger, Representative Lowey:

In the spirit and words of Pope Francis, who will visit our nation in September, we lift our voices on behalf of “the poorest peoples of the earth” with the request that you robustly fund international poverty-reducing humanitarian and development assistance in Fiscal Year 2016.  Please see the attached chart for a detailed list. 

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote, “[T]he mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity. We need to grow in a solidarity which ‘would allow all peoples to become the artisans of their destiny’, since ‘every person is called to self-fulfillment’.” 

Every day across the globe, religious communities, working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as a partner with the U.S. government, help more than 90 million people in nearly 100 countries: among them, Syrian refugees persecuted Yazidis and Christians in Iraq, communities recovering from the trauma of Ebola in Africa.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is in regular contact with bishops’ conferences and local churches in countries around the world.  We draw on their experience in defending human rights, promoting peace, resisting extremism and fostering human development.  USCCB is proud that CRS and the Church globally bring not only basic assistance, but also hope, to people fleeing violence or yearning to break out of the cycle of poverty.

The number of people affected by humanitarian crises today is staggering.  The UN estimates 77.9 million people need humanitarian assistance in 2015.  For this reason we urge you to support International Disaster Assistance, Migration and Refugee Assistance, and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance.  As you know, not only in Syria and Iraq, but also in surrounding countries, humanitarian organizations, the UN and local communities are struggling to provide adequate humanitarian assistance.  Overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, Jordan and Lebanon have begun to tighten their borders, pushing more refugees to flee in rickety boats across the Mediterranean, often losing their lives. 

In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, many people rely on the international community for their everyday survival. Unemployment, especially among young adults, is unacceptably high in both the West Bank and Gaza, contributing to suffering and instability.  More than 100,000 people are without housing in Gaza as a result of the latest conflict.  Poverty and desperation in the Palestinian Territories are not good for ordinary Palestinians or for Israeli security.  We urge you to continue funding to assist the poor and marginalized there.

In places like Central African Republic and South Sudan, humanitarian intervention and peacebuilding efforts would be impossible without United Nations or regional peacekeepers.  Those peacekeepers are saving lives and need help to improve their efforts.  We urge you to support the Administration’s entire request for peacekeeping, including the Peace Operations Response Mechanism.

Thanks in part to robust intervention by the United States last fall, the international community is winning the fight against Ebola.  Yet much work remains to enable the affected communities to recover and children to return to school. The crisis has taught the international community a valuable lesson: that strengthening health systems globally not only protects the dignity of millions, but also is a valuable investment in preventing and containing future outbreaks.  Support for infectious disease control is critical for the same reason.  And unless we protect and provide for the children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDs and other diseases, they too may die from the disease or find few opportunities to contribute to their communities.

We urge you to back the Administration’s complete request for Development Assistance, and to support specific aspects of economic support funds that reduce poverty and enhance the dignity of families.  Approximately $0.5 billion of the Development Assistance request includes a long-overdue scaling up of investments in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, where tens of thousands of children and vulnerable families continue to flee violence and crushing poverty.  It is essential that we address these root causes of migration.  Investments in workforce development, education, and rural agriculture will go a long way to reduce the violence that drives many to migrate.  Tragically, these countries are currently the most violent places in the world alongside Syria.  Programs like Youthbuilders, as an example, help children from gang-ridden communities to learn valuable life and vocational skills.  CRS’ USAID-funded program in El Salvador helped more than 4,000 children to find work and/or return to school, and for less than $1,000 per person.  Combined with a strategy to fight corruption and build the capacity of local governments, this effort by our nation can make a major contribution to the well-being of our southern neighbors and provide people the opportunity to thrive in their native countries.

We write knowing the many budget demands and the limitations on financial resources.  We support your work with Members across the aisle and with the President to find a long-term solution to our rising debt, but strongly urge that you place a priority on programs that help people living in poverty here at home and abroad.  Above all, we ask you to hear the cries of the persecuted and “the poorest peoples of the earth.” Please preserve the effort, already less than one percent of the federal budget, that protects them and helps families to live in dignity.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Oscar Cantú                  
Bishop of Las Cruces                   
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace     

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President
Catholic Relief Services

Enclosure
cc: Members of Committees

 



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