Letter to Congress Requesting Increase in FY 2023 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations, June 28, 2022
June 28, 2022
On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), we write to urge Congress to increase international poverty-reducing humanitarian and development assistance under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs in Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations to at least the levels indicated in the attached chart.
On the World Day of Peace this past January, Pope Francis reminded us that “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth constantly make themselves heard, pleading for justice and peace.” Communities and families impacted by COVID-19; conflict and crises from Afghanistan to Ukraine; and devasting extreme weather events cry out for help and hope to lift themselves out of poverty. Each year, USCCB and CRS assess federal spending on how it responds to the “cry of the poor,” supports the human dignity of each person, and fosters the common good.
As we enter the 3rd year of the pandemic, the true cost of COVID-19 and its toll on poor and marginalized communities remains unknown. According to the World Bank and World Economic Forum, 1.6 billion children have had their learning disrupted, reducing their lifetime earning expectancy by $17 trillion. More than 10 million children have lost a primary or secondary caregiver. The number of people living in poverty has increased for the first time in 20 years. Acute food insecurity has more than doubled since 2019, while surging food, fertilizer, and energy costs are constraining household purchasing power and agricultural productivity. Increased investments in life-saving Global Health Programs, Development Assistance, and poverty-focused Economic Support Funds are critical to bolster essential health services; support children, youth, and their families; address root causes of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition; and reverse learning loss. Additional resources will allow the U.S. to help lead a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, fight against development backsliding, build resilience to future shocks, and enable life-changing results to families and communities.
Even while the impacts of COVID-19 and development backsliding harm many communities, conflict, political and economic crises, and extreme weather events have plunged tens of millions into humanitarian despair, further endangering development goals. U.S. sponsored humanitarian aid is critical to save lives and provide hope to communities in need. Increased investments in International Disaster Assistance and Migration and Refugee Assistance will be necessary to respond to crises from Ukraine and Afghanistan to Gaza, the Horn of Africa region and Haiti.
In addition to humanitarian assistance, we must focus on long-term solutions to crises. Increased investments in the Complex Crisis Fund and strong funding for peacebuilding, atrocities prevention, and social cohesion are vital. In his World Day of Peace remarks, Pope Francis said, “Today the path of peace…remains sadly distant from the real lives of many men and women…. [T]he deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying.” In 2021, a CRS study investigated the underlying determinants of social cohesion and conflict in the Philippines, Ghana, and Guatemala. The study found that vertical and horizontal social cohesion have been frayed by COVID-19 restrictions imposed by governments, the decimation of livelihoods with limited social protections, the unique COVID-19 impacts on women and girls, and the widespread presence of misinformation and its consequences. In these countries and many other complex crisis regions, the local Catholic Church, often in partnership with CRS, represents the biggest, most stable civil society organization able to address conflict and promote peace. Funding and a stronger focus on social cohesion, conflict prevention, and peacebuilding not only saves lives, but also betters them.
Like conflict and political and economic crises, climate change is a threat multiplier that destroys agriculture and natural resources, disrupts livelihoods, contributes to mass displacement, and increases the risk of conflict. As the world experiences increases in storms, record temperatures, and rising sea levels, Congress must provide appropriations to the Green Climate Fund and other multilateral accounts and bilateral development funds that support adaptation, clean energy, nature-based solutions, and sustainable landscapes alongside climate-smart agriculture and water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Pope Francis has said that “In every age, peace is both a gift from on high and the fruit of a shared commitment.” We commit to working with Congress to uphold human dignity, to stand in solidarity with the poor, to be good stewards of the earth, and to prioritize the common good. We have grave concerns about providing taxpayer funding for activities inconsistent with the Catholic faith and basic human rights. Therefore, we strongly urge Congress to maintain the Helms Amendment in the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill. The USCCB will oppose any bill that expands taxpayer funding of abortion, including any appropriations bill. We thank Congress for the ongoing support for international poverty-reducing humanitarian and development assistance and look forward to conversations with you and your staff on how we can work together to advance peace, justice, and the common good.
Most Reverend David J. Malloy
Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Mr. Sean Callahan
Catholic Relief Services
20220419_CRS-USCCB Approps Chart.pdf