Letter to U.S. Senate on FY 2019 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations for International Assistance, April 10, 2018

Year Published
  • 2018
  • English

April 10, 2018

Dear Senator:

Thank you for your ongoing, bipartisan support to mitigate global conflict, address acute humanitarian needs, and reduce global poverty, most recently demonstrated in fiscal year 2018 appropriations. U.S. goodwill reflects common values of inherent human dignity and recognition that all people deserve opportunities to reach their fullest potential to promote the common good. As you contemplate fiscal year 2019 appropriations for programs under the subcommittee's jurisdiction, we urge you to oppose the cuts proposed in the Administration's request and to fund the poverty-reducing humanitarian, development, and migration accounts to at least fiscal year 2018 enacted levels. (Please see the attached chart.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) believe that all budget decisions should consider two critical, moral questions. First, does the budget protect or threaten human life and dignity? And second, how does the budget affect 'the least of these' (Matthew 25) - the poor and marginalized among us?  Since the U.S. bishops established Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) and CRS in 1920 and 1943 respectively, we have partnered with the U.S. government to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. We have witnessed the U.S. government's leadership role in supporting communities, promoting inclusive economies, and fostering a more peaceful world. U.S. assistance is invaluable to the progress the global community has made to combat extreme poverty and global health outbreaks, and to make the world safer.

We urge Congress to sustain the international affairs budget at no less than $59.1 billion to ensure protection of poverty-focused international assistance. This is flat funding from FY17 enacted (with supplementals), including at least $57.4 billion for the SFOPs 302(b). We ask that funding for poverty-focused programs not come at the expense of other development, life-giving global health, and humanitarian programs that engender a safer and more prosperous world.

Today, more than 65 million people are forcibly displaced from their homes and 136 million people need humanitarian assistance. Large parts of South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia remain on the brink of famine. We commend the subcommittee's actions to increase funding for humanitarian assistance in recent years and urge you to maintain appropriations to at least fiscal year 2018 enacted levels for International Disaster Assistance (IDA) and Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA).  

A collective effort to resolve conflicts from Syria to Yemen to Burma; support peacebuilding in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan; and to prepare for the next crisis, disaster, or atrocity are paramount to U.S. engagement with the world. The government's support for peacekeeping, the Atrocities Prevention Board, the Complex Crisis Fund, and the U.S. Institute of Peace are significant initiatives to manage conflict and to address the root causes of violence and migration.

While humanitarian aid and diplomacy are critical tools in America's foreign policy toolbox, development assistance is the bedrock of U.S.-sponsored foreign aid. When the U.S invests in clean water and sanitation, basic education, microfinance, democracy promotion and good governance, and food security programs implemented through the Development Assistance account, we address the underlying causes of poverty, migration, and violence.

When we acknowledge the impact of climate shocks on those reached with development programs, and support bilateral programming and multilateral mechanisms such as the Green Climate Fund, we protect gains made in areas such as food security. And when there is investment in Anti-Trafficking in Persons programs and a common understanding of the scourge of human trafficking, we are better able to protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and prevent "modern day slavery."

Recent disease outbreaks remind us of the critical importance of global health programming. For example, a child under five dies every 2 minutes from malaria for lack of cost-effective tools such as an insecticide-treated bed net or a course of treatment. Endemic in 91 countries, malaria has a staggering economic impact, costing $12 billion per year. Funding for Nutrition is another effective way to support the future of women and children worldwide. Every dollar spent on improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child's life yields a return of $48 in better health and economic productivity. Backing for Vulnerable Children helps reunite children in institutional care with their families, and assists those affected by war, homelessness, or disability.

Effective and efficient development and humanitarian aid requires the partnership of the U.S. government and local partners. CRS is proud to leverage private money and to partner with long-standing local partners, especially the extensive network of Catholic institutions that enjoy the trust of local communities and understand the needs of people. Nonetheless, we appreciate the need to improve continually how we deliver and program U.S. assistance, and for reform of U.S. assistance so that investments build local capacity and allow for greater flexibility. MRS continues to work with the U.S. government, state governments, and local Catholic Charities and communities to resettle and protect refugees coming to the United States.

Thank you for your leadership to maintain these critical accounts. We urge you to protect this funding in fiscal year 2019 to at least fiscal year 2018 enacted levels, to defend human life and dignity, to uphold our values, and to benefit the common good. We leave you with words from Julek Plowy, a refugee from World War II whom CRS helped to relocate from war-torn Poland to Santa Rosa, Mexico in 1943. "[You] provided aid to us in many forms, such as clothing, food, education, toys, medical aid and also finances," said Julek. "The most important contribution to our family during our time in Santa Rosa," he continued, "was the full restoration of our faith in the goodness and love of God and humanity."

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 Vasquez
Bishop of Austin, Texas
Chair, Committee on Migration
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mr. Sean Callahan
President and CEO
Catholic Relief Services