Letter to Congress on Foreign Assistance, June 26, 2001

Year Published
  • 2014
  • English

June 26, 2001

Dear Senator/Representative,

As the fiscal year 2002 appropriations process begins in earnest, I am writing to ask you to adopt a new direction for our country's foreign assistance program. In recent joint testimony before your subcommittee, the Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, our development and relief agency, urged a foreign assistance program that offers more aid, more focused on overcoming poverty, and more effective in delivering help to the poorest people in the poorest countries. To accomplish these goals, we urge you to appropriate substantially higher funding levels for poverty reduction, education, and health programs, especially for sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty and disease dominate this region. The attachments to this letter outline the staggering human toll, which has been exacerbated by significant declines in foreign aid over the last decade. The U.S. aid budget to the region has been cut by almost two-thirds since 1985. Today, our nation allocates far less to sub-Saharan Africa as a percentage of development aid than nearly all other donor countries. This response, starkly disproportionate to our country's prosperity and wealth, is scandalous.

We urge an increase of $1 billion for development programs in sub-Saharan Africa, and another $1 billion in new funding to combat the devastating health crises, including malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, that contribute to the region's deadly circle of poverty. These figures represent less than the U.S. share (based on GNP) of the investments needed to address poverty and disease in the region. We underscore that both health and development must be addressed at the same time. Investment in disease prevention and treatment will not succeed in the long term without a stable and strong social and economic infrastructure to support progress in the region. Increased development assistance is an essential ingredient to attaining this goal.

We recognize the need to make foreign aid more effective in reaching the poor, particularly as funding levels increase. Catholic Relief Services has extensive experience in international assistance over a long history and would welcome the opportunity to share its experience and participate in wider discussions on the effective delivery of foreign aid. CRS has recently launched a major campaign to draw attention to the urgent needs in Africa.

We strongly support the continued funding of the U.S. Cologne commitment on debt relief through an appropriation of $224 million (plus carryover funds of $16 million) for fiscal year 2002. To ensure that the enhanced HIPC initiative funded by these contributions is most effective, we urge you to support a technical correction to the initiative that would limit a country's debt payments to no more than 10 percent of government revenues. A lower limit of 5% of revenues would be appropriate for countries facing severe health crises from HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.

With regard to U.S. refugee assistance and admissions programs, an appropriation of at least $800 million is needed for fiscal year 2002 for the Department of State's MRA Account, and $50 million is needed for the Emergency Refugee and Migrant Assistance Account. These levels of funding will ensure that the U.S. contributes an appropriate amount to protect refugees during the fiscal year.

Finally, I would like to reiterate our strong support for retaining the "Mexico City" policy that prevents our foreign aid program from being misused to subsidize organizations that perform and promote abortions 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.

With sincere thanks for your attention to these concerns, I am

Sincerely yours,

Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy