- Prayer and Worship
- Beliefs and Teachings
- Issues and Action
- Catholic Giving
- About USCCB
on behalf of
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Catholic Relief Services
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs
House Appropriations Committee
April 2, 2003
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, thank the Subcommittee for the opportunity to present testimony on the FY 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations process. A commitment to and support for increasing our nation's funding to meet critical development and humanitarian needs are particularly important at this time. We are grateful for the opportunity to share the values of Catholic social teaching, and the practical experience of our relief and development work in over 80 countries throughout the world, and to discuss their implications for the foreign aid priorities and development policies of the United States.
Our specific priorities for foreign operations appropriations in fiscal year 2004 will advance human dignity, promote development of poor nations, strengthen our overall foreign policy and improve our national security. They include:
The bishops believe that meeting these objectives are not only wise investments in our national priorities, but are matters of moral responsibility that will contribute to a safer, more just and peaceful world. Our nation needs to be more creative, effective and generous in our aid programs.
Severe poverty assaults the human dignity of men, women, and children in many regions and nations. The moral obligation to overcome poverty is grounded in the fundamental dignity of every human life and in the concept of solidarity. The human dignity inherent in each person is the basis for a complex fabric of human rights that creates rights and responsibilities for individuals, and relationships across national borders. The bond of solidarity is both an attitude toward others and a sense of duty – which makes it impossible to consider part of the human community beyond our care and compassion. A principal objective of U.S. foreign policy should be sustainable human development, grounded in respect for human dignity, structured by a commitment to human rights, and carried out by our nation as a sign of leadership in the international community—with specific priority given to the basic needs of the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of the human community.
Sustainable human development is also an essential requirement for a more just and peaceful world. Among the multiple sources of conflict is an international order where the benefits of science, technology and trade are well known, but available only to a small fraction of the globe. Existing inequities, especially the growing gap between rich and poor, are threats not only to our human decency, but to our hopes for peace and security. After September 11, we have learned that hate and hopelessness can threaten us, no matter how powerful our military, economic or political influence. Investing in building a world of greater justice, opportunity, hope and dignity is not only the right thing to do; it is the wise thing to do. Pope Paul VI's declaration —"Development is the new name for peace"— is still wise counsel.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the relief and development agency of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, serves the needs of the poor and vulnerable in over 80 countries, 37 of which are in Africa. Through programs that include agriculture, education, peace-building and community health, and in providing emergency relief in humanitarian crises, CRS works to enhance human dignity and strengthen the bonds of solidarity with the poorest in our world. For example, through CRS' "Food-for-Work" program in Rwanda, people of the Nyangazi rural sector have been able to earn food and seeds for planting in return for work on agricultural soil and water conservation activities. This program is improving food security for small farmers and enabling them to produce extra crops. Through a concerted commitment to empower the poorest in our world, we can achieve sustainable human development, and build a better world—a more just and peaceful world.
Substantial increases in the amounts of U.S. foreign assistance dedicated to poverty reduction are needed to achieve these goals. U.S. levels of foreign assistance are very low as a percentage of the country's wealth, even when adding foreign operations funding for strategic interests to poverty-focused funding. Our country's development assistance as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) has been approximately one-tenth of one percent in each of the last several years. In terms of the absolute level of assistance, the European Union, with a slightly lower combined GNP than the United States, gives 2-1/2 times as much aid by volume.
It is often asserted that Americans do not support development aid or increases in foreign aid spending. A survey1 by CareUSA, however, like others before and after it, provides strong evidence to the contrary. When asked what are effective ways to assist people in poor countries, 91% of Americans surveyed responded with basic education and 88% with health care, both out of long-term self-interest and on moral grounds. Moreover, a strong majority, 72% of respondents, agreed that it is the responsibility of the United States government with other governments, as well as charities, to help poor people around the world.
In March 2002, President Bush pledged new resources to fight poverty through a Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). This program represents a new and much needed commitment to the poor and has the potential to refocus U.S. foreign assistance on poverty reduction and sustainable human development, reversing a decade of decline in U.S. development aid and of shifts in funding towards strategic interests and military spending. This is a significant step forward and a positive sign of U.S leadership. It deserves to be fully funded.
A. The MCA
The Bush Administration rightly has focused on improving the effectiveness of foreign assistance, avoiding waste, and demonstrating positive returns from MCA investments to ensure strong support from the American public. In order to secure these results, the Administration has developed three eligibility criteria—that a government rule justly, invest in its people, and encourage economic freedom. While these broad criteria have merit, the Catholic Church has several concerns with respect to these. For example, the "economic freedom" criterion should be applied in a way which recognizes the right and responsibility of governments to adopt measures to promote and protect the well-being of their people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We have a number of particular concerns with respect to the Administration's 16 indicators for judging whether a country meets the criteria for eligibility. While broadly objective, they contain many subjective elements, suffer from some gaps in data and do not adequately reflect improving trends. Thus, they cannot be a precise guide to the relative ability of individual countries, with widely varying circumstances, to use aid effectively.
Moreover, a tension exists between the objective of limiting eligibility to the best performing countries and the poverty reduction objective, as severe poverty is commonly associated with weak political, economic and social structures. A recent analysis by the Center for Global Development (CGD) concluded that application of the indicators developed by the Administration for judging whether a country met the three criteria would probably result in qualifying only 13 countries in the first year of the MCA program. (The Under Secretary of State, in recent testimony before Congress, estimated that 10 to 12 countries would qualify in the first year). The CGD analysis indicated that this total included five African countries, representing less than five percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa.
It would be most unfortunate if these five, mostly small countries were the only African countries to qualify, as this would make the MCA almost totally marginal to millions of needy people in a continent which has the largest number of poor countries in the world. We are not persuaded that the development performance of the governments of these five countries is so clearly superior to that of all other sub-Saharan African countries that we should conclude that these countries are likely to use MCA funds effectively while the rest are not.
Although the Administration has pointed out that countries ineligible for the MCA have recourse to funding from existing programs, USAID should be adequately funded for this to be a satisfactory solution. We note that the Administration's funding request of $1.3 billion for the MCA in FY04 is roughly equal to the entire USAID budget for poor country development (excluding health). Thus half of U.S. development aid funds available to poor countries in FY04 would go to a dozen, mostly small countries while the other half would have to be shared by approximately 75 or more low-income countries (below $1,435 per capita income), including some with very large populations. Unless USAID funds are sharply increased in the years ahead, this concentration of development aid on too few countries is likely be greatly intensified as the Administration plans to increase MCA funding to $5 billion by FY06.
As funding levels rise in the coming years, the Administration plans to extend MCA eligibility to lower middle-income countries. The Catholic Church believes, however, that the MCA should be reserved for countries with the greatest need and the fewest options. Lower middle-income countries have more options for addressing the needs of their people, through local savings and access to a variety of external finance sources. We urge limiting MCA eligibility to countries qualifying for assistance from the International Development Association (IDA), the concessionary financing facility of the World Bank.
We propose extending access to the MCA in a different manner. We would eliminate the sharp distinction drawn by the Administration—between poor countries which fully satisfy the Administration's criteria and poor countries which will be entirely excluded. We support the idea of a system that would allow access to MCA funds for countries which fall short of the Administration's eligibility criteria but are nonetheless able to use foreign aid effectively. These are countries with governments which have demonstrated:
B. Non-MCA countries and other development assistance
Even with the adoption of the system we suggest for extending access to MCA funds, there would be poor countries in Africa and elsewhere that still would not qualify for the MCA. Many of these countries' governance problems are so serious that aid to the government would be ineffective or lead to unjust results. In these cases, creative use of development assistance funds (i.e. working through non-governmental organizations) is necessary to assist people who have an equal claim to full human development despite the quality of their government. The MCA should be only a partial approach to U.S. assistance to poor countries, and it would prove particularly deficient if it is limited to the easiest cases – the dozen or so "best" performers.
A more holistic approach would include addressing the critical development needs in non-MCA poor countries, particularly in Africa. Therefore, the Catholic Church urges that funding for established development aid programs not only be maintained, but be increased above current levels by at least $1 billion in FY04.
C. A comprehensive development approach
Providing increased funding to both MCA and non-MCA poor countries is a step toward a more complete foreign assistance strategy, but by itself it does not deal with issues of quality which must be addressed if U.S. foreign assistance overall is to become more effective. The U.S. approach to developing nations must be coherent, ensuring that political, commercial and trade policies do not conflict with agreed-upon development goals. Foreign assistance resources could indeed be wasted if other U.S. policies and programs work at cross-purposes with poverty reduction goals. The purposes of all programs should be well-defined, with an established operational context and a mutually reinforcing approach.
Many domestic and internationally focused federal agencies conduct various foreign assistance programs in developing countries, and the United States also has major influence on the policies and programs of the most important international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The president has now announced his intention to create another development agency – the Millennium Challenge Corporation – in addition to three new initiatives on HIV/AIDS, complex emergencies and famines. The Catholic Church applauds the increased resources proposed by the president for these new initiatives, but is concerned by the lack of clarity among the approaches. Parallel agencies and a dispersal of programs across numerous agencies can weaken policy coherence, render communication more difficult, duplicate efforts, increase bureaucracy and foster competing goals. Such incoherence and lack of coordination can also leave foreign assistance resources prone to politicization. Moreover, despite promises to the contrary, the establishment of separate programs and agencies could facilitate a siphoning off of resources from worthy existing programs in favor of more visible new initiatives. Thus, while we have no specific organizational proposal to make, we ask that a strong high-level coordinating mechanism be established to ensure a comprehensive approach to development assistance.
D. Program effectiveness
As a comprehensive approach is developed, it will be important to incorporate the lessons of past development experience. This experience shows that the most effective programs are those which are locally designed by the very people they are intended to help. Enlisting participatory methods, empowering people and building bridges between civil society and governments have the most far-reaching effects. These impacts are best sustained where the donor's own political and economic policies support development goals, and where donors make a concerted effort to coordinate activities around locally defined priorities. These principles–local ownership, participation, policy coherence and donor coordination–should guide the implementation of all development assistance programs–even those targeted to the highest performers. MCA funding without the application of these principles may fail to enhance impact.
Our development experience also shapes the following more specific recommendations aimed at increased aid effectiveness:
A. Global Health
Communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are devastating the populations of the poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The means and medicines are available to treat HIV/AIDS and to prevent malaria and tuberculosis, but funds and health infrastructure are lacking. We welcome and applaud the President for his commitment contribute $15 billion over the next five years to stem the scourge of HIV/AIDS, $10 billion of which would be new money.
The Administration has proposed $2 billion in funding for HIV/AIDS programs for FY04, which includes $400 million for research and $200 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This proposed increase is commendable, but given the extensive and urgent need, we support an increase that would bring total funding to at least $3 billion in FY04 for morally and culturally responsible programs combating HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. In addition, funding for health initiatives should be made through grants in preference to bilateral or multilateral loans, to prevent the international response to the global health crisis from adding to Africa's already heavy debt burden. In summary, we urge that Congress and the Administration support:
B. Reconstruction and Peace-Building
In war-torn regions and countries, peace-building assistance is essential. Until there is peace, there can be no stability, and without stability, development assistance has little chance to succeed.
Reconstruction and peace-building should be complemented by appropriate and meaningful responses to the needs those forced to leave their families, communities and countries as a result of conflict and other humanitarian crises.
C. U.S. Refugee Programs
Through the Church's Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), Catholic diocesan agencies resettle close to one-quarter of the refugees who are admitted to the United States each year. MRS works with more than 100 Catholic dioceses in 43 states to resettle refugees from all over the globe.
Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, MRS, working with our government and diocesan resettlement programs throughout the country, has resettled more than three-quarters of a million refugees. Since September 11, 2001, however, the number of refugees who have been permitted to find protection in the United States has plummeted while conflicts and threats of future conflicts persist. In FY02, MRS helped to resettle to the United States the lowest number of refugees ever—just 5,911 refugees, as compared to 16,789 refugees in FY01. This low number of arrivals is troublesome when compared to previous years when arrivals could easily average over 100,000 refugees and MRS would help to resettle between 25% and 30% of the refugees. Although there remains a total worldwide population of over 14 million refugees, the current management of the U.S. refugee program will mean that FY03 refugee arrivals will not be any better than the total FY02 arrival of 27,075 refugees.
The Catholic Church would like to thank this Subcommittee for its work on refugee issues during the 107th Congress. As a result of this Subcommittee's leadership, the House and Senate agreed to a figure of $781 million for the Migration and Refugee Assistance Account (MRA) and $25 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA) account, significant increases above the Administration"s original request.
However, because of the increasing number of refugees in the world and increased need, we recommend that the Subcommittee appropriate no less than $927 million for the MRA, and $50 million for ERMA. An appropriation of $927 million for MRA would allow for the admission of up to 90,000 refugees next year and provide approximately $591 million in direct assistance to close to 14 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. The 90,000 refugee admission number is consistent with the Administration's goal for FY 2004, as reported in its 2001 report to Congress on the refugee admissions program.
We also recommend an appropriation of $50 million for ERMA as a precaution against emergency migration or refugee situations which may occur in such areas as the Far East, Near East, South Asia, and Africa. More than $50 million was drawn from ERMA during FY02 and we fear that the $25 million appropriated in FY03 will be insufficient to cover emerging crisis situations.
Potential Iraqi refugee crisis
The United States has special responsibility to respond to the potential refugee crisis resulting from the war with Iraq. The U.S. should provide sufficient resources for the international community to meet the needs of Iraqi refugees. The Catholic Church recommends the following to meet the needs of refugees:
Increasing the U.S Capacity to Accept Refugees
With respect to the United States' refugee overseas assistance and refugee admissions programs, which this Subcommittee's appropriations bill funds, we recommend that:
Unless the U.S. government makes operational the peace-building goals of refugee protection, by extending protection to more refugees and working with other governments as they also meet their own obligations to refugees, regional conflicts will worsen with destabilizing consequences that are felt worldwide.
D. International debt relief
The Catholic Church worked closely with and commended legislators in providing major funding for the U.S. commitment to international debt relief under the Cologne debt accord. However, even with the progress that has been made through the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, a number of countries will continue to pay debt service that consumes a substantial portion of government revenues. For these countries, the immediate benefits of debt relief are likely to be too small to have a significant impact on poverty.
We therefore strongly support the introduction of bills and/or amendments that include debt-relief provisions. These would adjust the enhanced HIPC program to reduce the external debt service obligation of a qualifying HIPC country to a maximum of 10% of government revenues. In the case of countries ravaged by severe health crises, including HIV/AIDS, we urge limiting debt service payments to 5% of government revenues to maximize resources available to address this worldwide crisis. The cost associated with this adjustment to multilateral and bilateral creditors should be relatively modest, and it could have an enormous human impact.
We support increasing U.S. funding for the International Development Association (IDA) to $950 million for FY04 and $1,050 million for FY05. In authorizing these contributions Congress should take the opportunity to promote greater transparency at the World Bank, especially with respect to the proceedings of the Board of Executive Directors. We also support the proposal for IDA to provide financing in the form of grants for up to half its assistance to low income countries. This initiative would further the goal of preventing future debt crises in poor countries. Nevertheless, it is important that the grants not be subject to new conditions and that IDA's financing capacity not be undercut by the loss of loan repayments resulting from the grants proposal. The IDA 13 funding proposed by the Administration, therefore, should be increased in order to begin off-setting the loss of repayments. According to a recent GAO report, the amount of the necessary increase would be modest.
F. Decreased emphasis on population planning
Appropriations for the current year show that the United States continues to give significant weight to population planning programs as a part of development assistance and global health programs. The United States dedicates more than 15 percent of the combined funds identified for development assistance and child survival programs to population planning (nearly three percent of the total international assistance budget). Most other donor countries, by contrast, give less than one percent of their foreign aid budgets to population planning. While appropriate population planning can be a positive part of a broader policy calculated to support and strengthen family life, significant elements of U.S. population programs are inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching. We support morally acceptable and appropriate education for women so they can make responsible decisions about family size, free of government coercion.
We also emphasize the longstanding international consensus that rejects the use of abortion as a method of family planning, and the use of coercion in population programs. The "Mexico City" policy reinstated by President Bush must be retained, so our foreign aid program is not misused to subsidize organizations that perform and promote abortion in developing nations under the guise of family planning. The Kemp-Kasten appropriations rider preventing support of organizations involved in coercive population programs should also be retained. Under this provision, the President has the obligation to determine whether the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is ineligible for U.S. funding due to its support of the coercive program in the People's Republic of China. To enable the President to fulfill this obligation, Congress should not earmark funds to this agency.
The Catholic Church seeks not just a safer world, but a better world—a more just and peaceful world. The United States, in its capacity as a leader in the international community, can indeed be more creative, effective and generous in promoting sustainable human development. Investing in the lives and dignity of the poorest people and strengthening our solidarity with the most vulnerable among us are steps towards a better world.
1. Americans Back Funding to Reduce Global Poverty, CareUSA, March 27, 2002.
2. See "Social Accountability Mechanisms: Citizen Engagement for Pro-Poor Policies and Reduced Corruption," Catholic Relief Services, January 9, 2003.
By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided
solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for,
nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or