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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
May 14, 2004
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the relief and development agency of the bishops, we thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to testify on 2005 foreign assistance. As pastors and leaders of a religious community, we bring deep convictions and broad experience in addressing issues of human life and dignity in a world of too much injustice and not enough peace.
Severe poverty assaults the human dignity of millions of people in many regions and nations. Our religious faith and our nation’s values tell us that the moral measure of our efforts is how we respond to the “least among us” and whether we seek “justice for all.” Investments in human development are not only matters of moral responsibility, but contribute to a safer, and more just and peaceful world. Shaped by these values, our priorities for 2005 foreign assistance include:
Nearly half the world’s population lives in abject poverty, their lives challenged daily by the threat of hunger and unsafe water, AIDS and other infectious diseases, and few opportunities for education and employment. War, civil strife and refugee crises continue to destabilize societies and undermine many peoples’ hope for the future. Despite these significant challenges, however, core development assistance has played a critical role in helping people in some of the poorest countries attain marked improvements in their lives with increases in primary school enrollment rates, greater access to clean water, lowered incidence of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. However, much more needs to be done. Before us is an opportunity to build on these achievements and to use our nation’s wealth and resources to uplift human life and dignity around the globe, to work towards the common good.
In Catholic social teaching, the common good is the sum total of those conditions in society that make it possible for all persons to achieve their full potential.1 Progress towards this end—authentic human development—requires the protection and promotion of human life and dignity, and includes ensuring that the basic human needs of all are met; that social, cultural, economic and political rights are protected; and that all peoples and nations participate in shaping their own futures.2 We are called to pursue the common good in a spirit of solidarity, which is not just a feeling of compassion towards the needs of others, but a sense of deep responsibility, especially for the poorest among us.3 It is the duty of all of us, as peoples and nations, to collaborate in development, and it is the responsibility of those who are stronger and richer to seek out, assist and empower those who are less so.4
It is this teaching that informs the work of the U.S. bishops’ office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), as well as that of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). MRS works to voice the needs of those who flee terror in their homeland and seek international protection, and helps settle one-quarter of the refugees that enter the United States each year. CRS works in over 90 countries throughout the world, more than 30 of which are in Africa, and provides programs in HIV/AIDS and health, education and civil society building, food security and agriculture, and emergency relief and peacebuilding. With 60 years of development experience, CRS knows first hand the tremendous need, but also the great potential for improvements in the lives and dignity of millions, and the very real hope and possibility for prosperity and peace.
We recognize that Congress is making budgetary decisions this year in a difficult fiscal environment. However, we urge that development assistance be a top priority, as improving the urgent plight of the poor and vulnerable in the world is not an option, but our moral responsibility. Indeed, public opinion polls have shown that Americans believe it is the right thing to do,5 and as National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has said, it is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.6 An investment in human development is an investment in security and peace.
A. Development & Humanitarian Assistance: Core development and humanitarian accounts form the bedrock of U.S. foreign assistance, providing for health, education, agriculture, and emergency relief programs in some of the world’s poorest countries. The administration’s FY 2005 budget proposal includes reductions in funding for the Development Assistance and Child Survival accounts which would result in total funding for education, agriculture, and health care (other than for infectious diseases) of less than $900 million worldwide. The large number of poor countries that are unlikely to qualify for MCA funds, but who can nevertheless use development aid effectively, rely on this assistance to help address the food, health and education needs of their people. Therefore, we urge that you not only maintain funding for core development and humanitarian programs, but increase it by $1 billion above current levels, with particular attention to the needs of Africa.
B. Global Health: Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis continue to ravage populations of the poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. New threats to large populations of India, China, and the former Soviet Republics pose additional threats to security and global economic stability.7 We urge that as soon as the necessary amount of experience is gained in the PEPFAR countries, the program be expanded to meet the growing worldwide threat of this devastating disease. We support $3.6 billion in FY05 for morally appropriate programs combating HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.8 This increase recognizes the need for the development of a well-coordinated, sustainable, and effective HIV/AIDS strategy. At the same time, it reflects the scale of the pandemic, the urgency of action required at this time, and the need to strengthen weak national health infrastructure while providing increased support to effective programs under the auspices of faith-based and other private voluntary organizations. In addition, greater efforts will be required to facilitate procurement, delivery, and monitoring of quality affordable medications, including generic anti-retroviral agents.
C. Millennium Challenge Account (MCA): The MCA has the important objective of improving the effectiveness of foreign aid. If it achieves positive results, it could not only make an important contribution to human development and poverty reduction in the qualifying countries, but could also strengthen public support for U.S. Government-sponsored foreign aid. We support the Administration’s proposal for $2.5 billion in FY05, however, we urge that this funding is in addition to, and not at the expense of, funding for the core development and humanitarian accounts.
We are concerned that, based on the methodology selected by the administration, countries representing only a small portion of the African population are likely to qualify for the MCA.9 This could render the MCA irrelevant to millions of needy people in the continent, which has the largest number of poor countries in the world. We welcome the inclusion of language in the MCA authorizing legislation which would give access to a portion of MCA funds to countries which fall short of meeting fully the eligibility requirements, and urge that, at a minimum, $100 million be appropriated for these “second-tier” countries in FY05.
At the same time we urge that the proposed eligibility requirements for full participation in the MCA be reexamined. Experts have suggested a number of changes in the methodology which we commend to your attention, particularly the proposals designed to eliminate the bias against the poorest countries and to reduce reliance on “medians,” which change from year to year. Requiring countries to score above the median in various performance categories when ranked against other low-income countries means that countries “can gain or lose eligibility over time based not on their own progress but that of others.”10 Administration officials have indicated that their desire is that the medians rise over time. However, requiring countries to aim at moving targets will result in frustrated efforts to achieve eligibility because the “goalpost” will have moved farther away. Whatever the particular methodology chosen for country selection, we urge that it be based on a number of underlying principles which we have presented to Congress in previous testimony.11
D. Reconstruction & Peacebuilding: Recent events in Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Sudan, Liberia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and in other parts of the world demonstrate the need for effective, appropriate and flexible strategies for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. In addition, experience demonstrates that it is precisely at fragile moments of transition from conflict to democracy and economic reconstruction that greater attention is required to strengthen failing or failed states, ensure the necessary conditions for security, and provide assistance for the development and implementation of transition initiatives which will contribute to peacebuilding and national reconciliation. In these situations, foreign aid can serve not only to help lift people out of poverty, but can play a strategic and integral role as a ‘catalyst’ for the promotion of peace and security.
E. U.S. Refugee Programs: Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the bishops have grown increasingly concerned with the state of the U.S. refugee program. In FY2001, the United States resettled close to 69,000 refugees. In FY2002 and 2003, our nation accepted only 27,110 and 28,422 refugees, respectively. For each of these years, the president had authorized the resettlement of as many as 70,000 refugees, and because the U.S. did not meet this ceiling in each of the past two years, more than 82,000 refugees who could have received resettlement protection remain in danger. At the current rate of resettlement in this fiscal year, we estimate that only 35,000 refugees, or half the number authorized by the president, will receive resettlement.
The crisis in the U.S. refugee program can be attributed to many causes, but primarily to the lack of an overseas infrastructure to identify and refer vulnerable refugees to the U.S. program. After September 11, our government understandably reconstituted security procedures for arriving refugees. With those procedures in place, attention should be directed to the ability of our government to identify and protect refugees in an expeditious manner. With more than 13 million refugees in the world, assertions that there is a dearth of refugees eligible for resettlement protection are unfounded.
This subcommittee has played an instrumental role in enhancing the ability of the United States to identify refugees by including provisions in the FY 2004 foreign operations appropriations measure which would require the U.S. government to develop new tools to identify and process refugees. We urge the subcommittee to follow up with the State Department to ensure that the provisions are implemented expeditiously.
FY2005 Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA): We ask for an appropriation of $927 million for the MRA, a $198 million increase above the president’s request. The MRA account, administered by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), provides funding for overseas refugee assistance, including the provision of food, shelter, health services, and other forms of assistance; the processing of refugees for admission to the United States and the initial period of resettlement; aid to refugees settling in Israel; and administrative expenses.
Of the $927 million that we recommend, $590 million should be allocated for overseas assistance to address both new and longstanding refugee situations, to help fund repatriation efforts, particularly in Africa, and to address severe funding shortfalls which have developed because of years of less funding. These funds are vital to ensure that refugees in countries of “first asylum” are cared for and protected until such time as they can return home. At least $270 million should be appropriated to fund refugee admissions of at least 90,000 in FY2005. This number more realistically reflects the need for resettlement protection in the world and represents the target established during the first year of the Bush administration. With the development of the tools suggested by the subcommittee in last year’s appropriations bill, the administration should be able to meet the goal of 90,000 in FY 2005.
FY2005 Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance (ERMA): We ask that $50 million be appropriated for the Department of State’s ERMA, $30 million above the president’s request. The ERMA is a no-year account that is drawn upon to address emerging refugee crises in the world. Recently, the United States has used the account to help repatriate refugees in Sierra Leone and Angola; the crises in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia; and the recent crisis in the Darfur region in Sudan, in which Sudanese refugees fled to Chad.
Haitian Refugee Crisis: The recent events in Haiti have demonstrated tragically the need for a review of U.S. refugee policy. The stated policy of the administration is to return all Haitian refugees interdicted by the U.S. Coast Guard to Haiti without exception. Since the advent of the Haitian crisis, more than 1,000 Haitians have been returned to Haiti. Only three were held for a credible fear interview and have since been returned. We believe this policy is discriminatory and violates accepted international norms of refugee protection. The United States has a longstanding tradition of protecting those who seek refuge from tyranny and terror, both refugees and asylum-seekers. The United States should adopt a just and humane policy toward Haitian refugees, including adjudication in a safe environment, and should designate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status until the country is stabilized and a viable government and police force are established.
F. International Debt Relief: We support the President’s request for $200 million for poor country debt relief in FY 2005. This amount is needed to finance the U.S. share of the costs of debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative in FY05. Despite the progress that has been achieved through HIPC, the immediate benefits of debt relief are likely to be too small to have a significant impact on poverty in a number of countries.
We therefore applaud Congress for the inclusion of the new debt-relief provisions, which we strongly supported, in the Global AIDS Act (P.L. 108-25). The new legislation calls for the U.S. to immediately begin efforts to work with the other major bilateral and multilateral creditors to provide reduction of debt stocks sufficient to bring the external debt service obligation of qualifying countries on those stocks to no more than 10% of government revenues and, in the case of countries ravaged by severe health crises, to no more than 5% of government revenues (or to apply alternative formulas granting equivalent relief). The cost associated with this adjustment to multilateral and bilateral creditors should be relatively modest, and it could have a large human impact. Unfortunately, the US Administration has not moved to start the negotiation of a new agreement with other major creditors which is necessary for the additional debt relief to go into effect. We request the Congress to urge the Administration to begin immediately the international negotiation which the law calls for.
G. IDA: We support the President’s request for $1.060 million for the International Development Association (IDA) in FY05. In approving these contributions Congress should take the opportunity to promote greater transparency and accountability at the World Bank, especially with respect to the proceedings of the Board of Executive Directors. We also urge you to use this moment to encourage the World Bank to conduct mandatory social and environmental impact assessments as a standard step in policy-based lending. Finally, we also support IDA financing in the form of grants for a substantial portion of its assistance to low income countries. However, it is important that IDA's financing capacity not be undercut by the loss of loan repayments resulting from the grants proposal. At least beginning with the upcoming IDA-14 replenishment, incremental funding should be provided to begin off-setting the loss of repayments.
H. Decreased Emphasis on Population Planning: Appropriations for the current year show that the United States continues to give excessive weight to population planning programs as a part of development assistance and global health programs. 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, funding is denied to any organization determined by the President to be supporting or participating in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization. To ensure that the President is free to make this determination the subcommittee should not earmark funds to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), whose support for the coercive program in the People’s Republic of China has rendered it ineligible for U.S. funds in recent years.
A. A More Coordinated and Coherent Approach: Over the last several years the Bush Administration has introduced a number of commendable development initiatives, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The PEPFAR, with its emphasis on morally appropriate approaches and its inclusion of a conscience clause, is most welcome and encouraging. The MCA promises a substantial increase in resources for poverty reduction and an effort to improve the way in which aid funds are delivered. Congress supported these initiatives and provided significant funding for them in 2004, demonstrating an important commitment to the poor and vulnerable. That commitment must be sustained in the coming years.
In looking at the overall U.S. foreign assistance program, however, the PEPFAR, MCA, and other recent programs have been injected as stand-alone initiatives into a program already plagued by a proliferation of objectives, approaches and structures. A recent study found that there are over 50 stated objectives for U.S. foreign assistance, and some estimate there are 17 U.S. agencies already involved in the U.S. bilateral aid program.12 Such layering and multiplying of directives, agencies and programs creates the potential for overlap, duplication, gaps and contradictory purposes. Our concern is that without remedy, these factors could undermine efforts to achieve sustainable poverty reduction, overburden developing country governments, limit the effectiveness of private voluntary and non-governmental relief and development groups such as CRS, and overlook the needs of large populations of the poorest people.
There is also a need for greater coherence between our foreign aid programs and other aspects of U.S. foreign policy which can have a major impact on poor countries, such as trade, migration, debt relief, and peacekeeping. A trade policy, for example, which does not address the imbalances which unfairly restrict access to U.S. markets works at cross purposes with efforts to create opportunities for improved living standards in developing countries. We also urge that the growing amount of foreign assistance devoted to trade capacity building not come at the expense of traditional development assistance. Finally, there is a need to strengthen coordination with other bilateral and multilateral donors in order not only to increase the effectiveness of our aid but also to avoid adding to the multiplicity of bureaucratic requirements that can be extremely burdensome to poor countries with limited human resources.
B. Considerations for an Overall Foreign Assistance Strategy: We urge Congress to work with the Bush Administration to develop a strategy that recognizes our moral obligation, as the most powerful member of the international community, to promote sustainable human development and the common good. Such a strategy should ensure that priority consideration is given to those countries and peoples with the greatest needs; that development assistance is not diverted from long-term human development objectives to short-term strategic goals; and finally, that an overall strategy incorporates lessons learned from previous development experience in order to make development assistance more effective.
Priority for Countries with the Greatest Needs: An overall foreign assistance strategy should ensure that priority consideration is given to those countries and peoples with the greatest needs. We are pleased that a needs assessment has played a major role in the selection of the 14 countries to benefit from the PEPFAR. Unfortunately, not all poor countries seriously affected by HIV/AIDS, or at risk of a major outbreak of the disease, have been included. As soon as the necessary experience is gained in the selected countries, the program should be expanded to meet the growing worldwide threat of this devastating disease.
Congress rightly decided to limit the MCA exclusively to the poorest countries in the first years and largely to the poorest countries thereafter. However, the eligibility standards that are being established are likely to enable only about 15 countries to qualify for MCA funds, and it is therefore important to consider the needs of the much larger group of about 65 low income countries who are unlikely to qualify for access to MCA funds. A variety of approaches are needed for these countries, including selective assistance for priority sectors where adequate capacity exists, as well as channeling funds through non-governmental organizations in countries with poor governance to emphasizing peace-keeping and peace-building in countries in or emerging from conflict.
A large disparity in access to resources could increase the income gap among nations and further destabilize populations struggling to overcome poverty. A U.S. foreign assistance strategy should carefully consider these concerns, and should include both an appropriate structure and increased funding to address the needs of those poor countries that fall outside the scope of the PEPFAR, MCA and other such initiatives.
Long-term Human Development Objectives: It is important that a foreign aid strategy differentiate strategic from human development objectives. This is essential to the design of foreign aid programs and has major organizational implications. Lessons from the Cold War demonstrate that strategic investments can achieve their national interest objectives, but may come at the expense of longer-term development objectives. Where strategic and development goals are blurred, longer-term approaches aimed at sustainable poverty reduction, equitable growth and stability can suffer. Moreover, it is precisely the achievement of these latter goals that will promote greater global stability and national security for the United States, as the National Security Strategy recognizes that “America is now threatened less by conquering states than…by failing ones.”13 Given this reality, foreign assistance funds most effectively contribute to national security when invested in long-term democratic approaches focused on reducing poverty. A foreign aid program of this nature clearly requires a strong high-level coordinating mechanism, and we urge that careful consideration be given to its location within the governmental structure in order to give it the authority and the degree of independence necessary to carry out its mandate without undue pressure from departments or agencies with different agendas.
Improve Program Effectiveness: Drawing on lessons learned from past development experience, we offer the following more specific recommendations:
Civil society participation and strengthening: The most effective programs are those which are locally designed, enlist participatory methods, empower people and build bridges between civil society and governments. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) or other such participatory national strategies should form the basis for MCA funding decisions and play an increasing role in USAID and other programming as well. Technical and financial support should be made available to identify and redress weaknesses in PRSPs and other national development strategies.
Transparency and Oversight: One important approach to improving accountability is to ensure transparent access to information and facilitate citizen involvement in expenditure monitoring for all US assistance programs. To do so, the adminstration and Congress should carefully analyze perceived and actual transparency problems, take steps to redress these where they exist, and apply lessons learned to programs such as the MCA. Also, aid programs should not only involve citizens in the design and implementation of development activities, but should facilitate the establishment of watchdog groups, complaint mechanisms and democratic processes to build bridges between citizens and government decision-makers.
Realistic Timeframes, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction: Studies have shown that economic growth must be sustained over many years in order to have a major impact on average per capita incomes in poor countries. It is thus important to set realistic timetables for achieving results and to avoid cutting funding levels prematurely. To combat poverty effectively, one must not only promote economic growth but also ensure that the opportunity to participate in that growth and share in the benefits are spread widely among the population.
Reduce the requirements for tied aid: The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommended that donor countries procure specified goods and services used in foreign assistance from worldwide sources, rather than limiting or “tying” procurement to domestic sources. USAID is implementing this recommendation and eliminating tied aid for procurement of capital goods. However, technical assistance continues to be tied to domestic sources, and it has been estimated that professionals from the U.S. and other donor countries are 10 to 20 times more costly as those that could be hired from developing countries.14
Fewer earmarks: Current U.S. development programs are too often burdened with overly prescriptive earmarks. This approach can run counter to the objective of ensuring country ownership. Unless programs are developed less by congressional earmarking and more by recipient countries, they will be unable to respond to the felt needs for overcoming poverty and building on the capacities of local communities.
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