Letter to Congress on FY 2020 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations for International Assistance, May 21, 2019

Year Published
  • 2019
  • English

May 21, 2019

Dear Senator/Representative:

We thank you for your continued, bipartisan commitment to appropriate funds that save lives, alleviate suffering, promote self-reliance, and cultivate just and peaceful societies. Generous and effective international assistance is a moral imperative to assist “the least of these,” promote human life and dignity, and enhance human security in our world. Such aid gives life to our values as a nation and is an essential component of United States leadership. As you contemplate fiscal year 2020 appropriations for programs under the subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs jurisdiction, we urge you to oppose the Administration’s proposed cuts to foreign assistance and to fund the poverty-reducing humanitarian and development accounts to levels indicated in the attached chart.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) assess each budget decision by its ability to protect and uphold the dignity of the human person, with a preferential option for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. We have principled concerns with global health interventions inconsistent with Catholic teaching and neither implement nor advocate for these activities. Yet, we urge Congress to increase the international affairs budget to $60 billion to guarantee robust diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict and to ensure protection of poverty-focused, life-saving international assistance.

We urge you to strongly oppose any proposals to repeal the Mexico City Policy (MCP). The MCP prevents foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. health assistance funds if they perform or promote abortion. Foreign aid should be used to improve people’s lives and health, not fund organizations that promote abortion in developing countries. We urge you to reject any attempt to undermine this policy before the legislation moves forward.

Pope Francis, in his message for the celebration of the 52nd World Day of Peace on January 1, wrote, “good politics is at the service of peace.” The United States has already experienced the suffering, death, and destruction provoked by the longest armed conflicts in our history. To stop our endless wars and prevent conflict and desperation in the poor and fragile countries of the world, the United States must first reorient its vision and international affairs strategy towards a more robust diplomatic and development-centered engagement. Former President of Côte d’Ivoire Felix Houphouet-Boigny once pointed out that negotiation always follows war and asked: would it not be better to sit down and talk first? Then there might not be a need to have recourse to arms. A greater focus on conflict prevention and increased funding to the poorest and most fragile states, as well as an elevated attention to care for creation and climate change, are necessary to meet the needs of communities and keep all people safe. In addition, to reach this goal, the United States should design a systematic and strategic partnership with civil society and faith-based communities in the developing world.

We commend Congress’ steadfast leadership to address humanitarian crises and assist the more than 132 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. We urge Congress to increase FY20 funding for International Disaster Assistance and Migration and Refugee Assistance, and to continue supporting Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, given unprecedented levels of forced displacement. From Venezuela to Burma to the West Bank and Gaza, U.S. humanitarian leadership requires more than the allocation of funds and distribution of goods and services. At CRS, we are committed to working with local partners, especially domestic Caritas agencies and faith-based organizations, to empower them to be effective and impactful leaders. U.S. led humanitarian efforts must focus on building local capacity and strengthening resilience of host communities.

U.S. diplomatic engagement and political solutions are also necessary to alleviate suffering, resolve conflict, and recognize human rights and dignity. In South Sudan and the Central African Republic, for example, CRS has been working with faith leaders to bring healing and reconciliation to communities suffering from years of trauma. Therefore, we urge the committee to continue to support Church leaders seeking to bring resolution to ongoing violence and suffering and to maintain its investments in peacekeeping, the  Atrocities Prevention Board, the Complex Crisis Fund, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

We also applaud Congress’s efforts to meet global development challenges. USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance requires increased investments to catalyze development outcomes at scale. We have many lessons to share from our own experience transitioning assistance, including as a Track I implementer of PEPFAR and as a partner of the Global Fund. USAID has set a worthy goal, but must provide sufficient time, resources, and support for local partners to grow. Helping countries along their Journey to Self-Reliance is a long-term process, which will require increased, enduring development investments, if it is to yield sustained results. We therefore urge you to increase critical investments funded by the Development Assistance account, support Economic Support funds that achieve the goal of poverty reduction, and increase funds to morally-appropriate, life-saving Global Health accounts.

With U.S. leadership, in partnership with Church agencies the world over, we have made incredible progress in reducing poverty and alleviating suffering. Millions of Catholics steadfastly support U.S. led efforts to serve the poor and the vulnerable overseas. Nevertheless, there remain major barriers to human development, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized people among us. These barriers threaten our shared goals to promote the common good and uphold human dignity. The U.S., partnering with faith-based organizations and other countries and agencies of good will, must confront these barriers head on.

We thank you for your leadership to maintain these critical accounts. We urge you to protect this funding in fiscal year 2020, most notably conflict prevention, emergency assistance, development assistance, poverty reduction, to reject any language repealing the Mexico City Policy, and continue our nation’s steadfast commitment to the poor and the vulnerable to create a better world for us all.

Sincerely yours,

Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services, USA
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Joe S. Vasquez
Bishop of Austin, Texas
Chair Committee on Migration
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mr. Sean Callahan
President and CEO
Catholic Relief Services

Attachment: [SFOPs chart]