Testimony before House Appropriations by Fr. William Headley on Foreign Assistance, March 28, 2001
Before House Appropriations Committee
March 28, 2001
Mr. Chairman, I am Fr William Headley, Deputy Executive Director of Catholic Relief Services. As you probably know from our long association with this Subcommittee, CRS is the international development agency for the U.S. Catholic Bishops dedicated to serving the poor, providing food and other assistance in over 80 countries for the past 57 years. I am here today, representing CRS, but also the offices of the US Catholic Bishops Conference for International Justice and Peace, Migration and Refugee Services, and Pro-Life.
Due to the shortness of time, my oral testimony today will simply highlight two topics from our detailed written testimony that has already been submitted.
First, on foreign aid generally: Mr. Chairman, the start of a new Congress and a new administration presents us with a fresh opportunity to begin a serious dialogue about reshaping our country's foreign assistance programs and policies. The Catholic bishops come here today seeking substantially more aid; more focused on global poverty reduction; and more effective in reaching the poor.
During an unprecedented period of economic growth, U.S. foreign aid as a percentage of GNP fell to the lowest of all donor countries. Our country has also failed to give adequate attention to the region suffering from the most severe poverty in the world -- sub-Saharan Africa. The United States is now nearly last among donor countries in the allocation of its development assistance to this region. The human costs and moral consequences are staggering. 300 million Africans live on barely 65 cents a day. 15 percent of African children die before the age of 5. Mr. Chairman, let us not leave only crumbs from our table. We believe that our nation has a moral obligation to be in solidarity with our poorest brothers and sisters around the world.
To bring U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa just above the bottom third of donors, an additional one billion dollars should be dedicated to poverty reduction and education in that region. We also urge an additional $1 billion for global health. Disease threatens to kill more than one-quarter of the populations in the hardest hit African countries in the next twenty years. One billion dollars is the U.S. share of the estimated minimum increase per year needed just to stem HIV/AIDS.
On debt relief, Mr. Chairman, we thank this subcommittee for its leadership in approving full funding last year. We ask that full funding be continued for fiscal year 2002 by an appropriation of $240 million to fulfil the Cologne accord.
My last point on poverty reduction programs, Mr. Chairman, is to address the need for improved delivery of aid with the particiaption of faith-based groups. Based on our field experience, we believe that aid delivery is impeded by the earmarking of funds, programmatic inflexibility, the tied aid policy and micro-management. Our written testimony describes ways to overcome these problems, including multi-year and multi-country grants, and flexible programs focused through specific policy commitments but without undue reliance on earmarking.
[Mr. Chairman, we welcome initiatives to recognize and enhance the role of faith-based organizations in delivering aid to poor countries. While we heartily agree that there should be no discrimination based on religion in the selection of those who carry out assistance programs, we are just as adamant that faith-based aid providers should serve men and women because of need, not creed. We look forward to a fuller dialogue on specifics.]
The second topic is Refugee Protection. Mr. Chairman, through our Department of Migration and Refugee Services, the Catholic Bishops resettle close to a third of the refugees who come into the United States each year. Last year, we helped to resettle 18,000 refugees, representing 94 ethnicities and 50 nationalities.
We thank the Subcommittee for its work last year on refugee protection issues, specifically the increase of $42 million above the Administration's budget request. The $700 million approved for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account reversed a disturbing trend of funding reductions. However, given increasing refugee flows, the MRA budget remains inadequate. So the need for increased funding continues this year.
Mr. Chairman, we recommend at least $800 million for MRA and $50 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Account (ERMA). This funding is needed to respond adequately to the refugee crisis in Guinea, the scores of Afghan women and children fleeing to Pakistan from the Taliban government, and refugee situations in Thailand, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and elsewhere. The $50 million for ERMA would help replenish funds drawn from that account during the last year to address crises in the Congo, Middle East, and Guinea.
Mr. Chairman, other refugee protection issues are detailed in our written testimony. These include:
- support for the use of JVA assistance with refugee processing;
- opposition to language that prevents the State Department from disbursing funds to UNHCR without congressional notification; and
- support for an increase in the Reception and Placement grant, used to resettle refugees in the United States each year.