Testimony before U.S. House of Representatives Regarding 2002 Foreign Assistance, March 28, 2001
on behalf of
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Catholic Relief Services
Subcommittee on Foreign Operations,
Export Financing, and Related Programs
House Appropriations Committee
March 28, 2001
This testimony is offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops of the United States, by Catholic Relief Services, the development and relief agency chartered by the Catholic Bishops of the United States, and by USCCB's Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS).
In this testimony, we try to share our moral principles as religious teachers and our everyday experience in serving the poor in over 80 countries around the world. This is a new moment in time for a dialogue on U.S. foreign aid, encouraged by statements on Africa from Secretary of State Colin Powell and legislators such as Congressman Tony Hall, the crucial support for debt relief from this subcommittee, and new proposals on the design of foreign aid and faith-based initiatives from Senator Helms and Congressman Hall. We hope to capitalize on this moment and express our strong support for a reshaped 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.
Almost half the world's six billion people live on less than $2 a day, and 1.2 billion live in abject poverty, on less than $1 a day. Over the last decade, the international fight against poverty has lost momentum and global development assistance has declined. To turn the tide, our country should increase substantially the level of foreign aid dedicated to economic and social development for the world's most impoverished people. We can build on success and make foreign aid more effective, not only through improvements to delivery but also by addressing corruption and other obstacles to progress in developing countries through good governance, peacemaking, and conflict resolution efforts. Above all, the United States should become the leader, both in policy and practice, in an international campaign to reduce poverty in the poorest countries. That campaign should include not only a revitalized foreign aid program but also a comprehensive development agenda including fair trade, better-monitored and regulated flows of capital, and the growth of a vibrant civil society and accountable government decision-making in developing countries.
This testimony has three parts: (1) identification of some serious deficiencies of the existing U.S. foreign aid program, in light of our national interests, our moral responsibilities, and the values of the American people; (2) articulation of specific foreign assistance needs, in particular more aid to sub-Saharan Africa, continued support for debt relief, the need for a decreased emphasis on population planning, attention to Plan Colombia, improvements in delivery of aid (including the role of faith-based providers), and a call for dialogue on foreign aid; and (3) discussion of the need for improvement in the U.S. Refugee Assistance and Admission programs.
Our specific requests for appropriations in fiscal year 2002 include:
- $1 billion in increased development and education assistance for sub-Saharan Africa
- $1 billion in increased funding to battle global health risks in sub-Saharan Africa
- $240 million to continue funding of HIPC debt relief
- $800 million for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account
- $50 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migration Account (ERMA)
I. Current Deficiencies in U.S. Foreign Aid
Over the last 15 years, U.S. foreign aid has evolved into a patchwork of spending programs, without coherent design. Congress has consistently failed to pass foreign assistance authorization legislation since 1985, a situation that often undermines serious public debate and meaningful reflection about what foreign aid priorities should be and how investment should promote those priorities. In the absence of coherent policy, two negative trends, mutually reinforcing, have emerged: (a) low development aid budgets measured as a percentage of GNP, lacking specific attention to poverty reduction; and (b) increasing obstacles to effective delivery of aid, including earmarking, inflexibility, tied aid, and micro-management. Each of these trends is discussed below.
(A) Low levels of development assistance and inadequate attention to poverty reduction
The United States, once the pioneer in foreign aid, now ranks dead last among donor countries in development assistance measured as a percentage of gross national product, contributing about one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of GNP.1 This performance is scandalous in light of our country's repeated commitments to international development targets established by the OECD.2 To achieve these targets, the United States has committed multilaterally, three times in the last 10 years, to a target of 0.7% of GNP in official development assistance,3 but has failed to develop any plan to meet this commitment. Instead, the gap between income and aid per capita in the United States grows steadily wider.
Nowhere are the consequences of this disheartening pattern more keenly felt than in sub-Saharan Africa. The human costs and moral consequences are staggering. The World Bank reports that 300 million Africans live on barely 65 cents a day. On average 15% of children die before the age of 5. Africa suffers from the full range of symptoms of poverty – ill health, illiteracy, lack of access to basic services and sanitary conditions, violence. Yet, U.S. development aid to sub-Saharan Africa has declined significantly from a peak reached in 1985.
The change in direction for aid to Africa has been damaging. According to Paul Collier, author of a recent World Bank study on Africa, "OECD governments were cutting aid budgets to Africa during precisely the period when it started to work really well. Millions of Africans are in poverty today, partly because of these cuts, which occurred at a time of unprecedented OECD prosperity".4
Without dramatic and rapid change, the problems in sub-Saharan Africa spell certain failure of the goal, to which the United States and other developed countries have committed, to halve extreme poverty by 2015. At present, according to the UN's International Fund for Agriculture Development, the rate of poverty reduction is six times too slow in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the 2015 deadline.
As a Catholic community, we emphasize the moral obligation that calls us to solidarity with our poorest brothers and sisters around the world. But we also believe a fundamental change is required for the sake of the country's long-term national interests and to reflect the values of the American public.
(i) Moral obligation to solidarity
Catholic social teaching invites citizens and states to act on three fundamental moral values. First is the human dignity inherent in each person, the basis for a complex fabric of human rights and duties that create responsibilities and relationships across national borders. Second is the existence of an international common good, a set of shared interests, values and obligations that sovereign states can recognize and should pursue despite differing political systems. Third is a bond of solidarity -- both an attitude toward others and a sense of duty -- that makes it impossible to consign persons to a status beyond our care and compassion when they are faced with threats to their life and dignity.
We believe these three values -- human life and dignity, common good, and solidarity -- can be realized only when embraced by the community at large. As the Bishops have said, "[f]oreign aid ... is a fundamental obligation of solidarity on the part of those who enjoy a plentiful share of the earth's riches to promote the rightful development of those who have barely enough to survive."5 This type of statement is not the exclusive province of religious organizations; it has both source and inspiration in America's political and social history. In 1997, our country dedicated a new Federal monument that inscribes this moral belief on its walls, quoting President Franklin Roosevelt in his Second Inaugural Address (1937): "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." Values have long been an important element of U.S. foreign policy. Providing effective programs to reduce poverty around the world is not only the right thing to do; it is a means of building a safer, more secure, and more peaceful world.
(ii) National interests
In the past decade, the United States has defined its strategic interests for foreign aid spending in a rather immediate manner, looking at places of conflict and focusing on near-term military and economic consequences (e.g. oil supplies, military bases, solidifying peace agreements). This short-term focus has led the country to be more reactive than proactive in areas of the world where our strategic interests are not as readily apparent. This has been particularly true with regard to sub-Saharan Africa. The United States has too often waited to intervene until a global crisis develops and assistance is no longer optional, as with the global health risks of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Eventually, perceived non-strategic interests, left untended, become our national interests. But waiting for a crisis to crystallize can mean that intervention comes too late, at far too great a human cost. More strategic, pre-emptive investments in development and poverty reduction could reduce costs, help create a more stable international environment compatible with U.S. economic and political interests, and reflect our values and hopes as a people.
(iii) The values of the American public
A February 2001 survey of public attitudes debunks a commonly held falsehood about American attitudes toward foreign aid.6 Too often our country's foreign aid policy appears influenced by the assertion that Americans do not support non-strategic foreign aid or increases in foreign aid spending. The February 2001 survey, like others before it,7 gives strong evidence to the contrary. The survey shows overwhelming support (above 75%) for an aid program with a primary focus on hunger and poverty reduction, both out of long-term self-interest and on moral grounds. Perhaps surprisingly, aid for strategic and military interests is far less popular. More than 70% of respondents agreed that the United States should pay special attention to the problem of hunger in Africa. They rejected by a similar margin the notion that the lack of U.S. vital interests should influence giving Africa a lower priority when the United States decides where to distribute its aid. These findings suggest that the trend of U.S. foreign assistance spending is running counter to the values of the American public.
(B) Obstacles to the effective delivery of aid
The lack of a comprehensive foreign aid policy has had a negative impact on the delivery of foreign aid. CRS field staff working on the front line report that, while emergency aid such as the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) works very well, other programs are less successful. On balance, OFDA tends to succeed because the aid has a pre-defined specific focus, a short time frame, and a rapid response. OFDA is generally agile and flexible in its requirements and in its relations with relief organizations. It features streamlined funding and reporting requirements as well as decentralized decision-making. To decide about allocating funding, OFDA follows recommendations of those closest to the emergency, at the field site where rapid change is occurring, consistent with standard principles of sound emergency relief.
Development aid, on the other hand, is often longer term and requires multiple-year investments. Long-term time frames do not fit well with the short-term nature of political agendas seeking immediate results. Current U.S. development programs too often struggle with the short-term nature of funding and with the lack of consistent foreign policy direction. Policy direction is given in the current legislative climate only through earmarking of appropriations. As a result, U.S. government personnel administering foreign aid funds have two challenges: accounting properly for the use of funds that are earmarked for a highly specific endeavour, and justifying the use and impact of funds that have been appropriated without clear policy support. These pressures can lead to micro-management, excessive reporting requirements, and inflexibility in program design.
Development and poverty reduction efforts demand the flexibility to commit funds on a multi-year and multi-country basis, where programs are designed and implemented with substantial participation from the community being assisted. This approach requires that specific programs be developed not by congressional earmarking but instead by on-the-ground personnel responding to the specific needs and capacities of communities. Non-profit private voluntary organizations are well-placed to develop these responses within an overall funding umbrella or grant.
One other significant obstacle to the effective delivery of development aid is tying aid to U.S. products and services. The United States leads all other donor countries in its high proportion of tied aid. Other donor countries have gradually reduced the amount of tied aid, and the United Kingdom intends to eliminate this requirement in 2001. Tied aid is problematic because it may not take into account the policy's impact on the markets of developing countries. The tied aid policy should be reviewed to ensure that it does not greatly increase costs or create an artificial market for U.S. products and services.
II. Specific Foreign Assistance Needs
This section identifies six areas that require specific attention in this year's foreign operations appropriations to address some of the deficiencies identified above and to support critical programs. In addition to the areas discussed below, we note our continued support in particular for OFDA, transition initiatives, micro and small enterprise development and credit programs, funding of independent agencies such as the Inter-American Foundation, the African Development Foundation, and the Peace Corps, and full funding of U.S. commitments to the International Development Association. We also emphasize the critical U.S. role in peacemaking, strengthening democracy, and good governance. Corruption, poor economic management, and weak government in developing countries can impede the effectiveness of foreign aid and require urgent attention.
(A) More aid to sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering intensely from the consequences of severe poverty, and current efforts are barely able to maintain the status quo. Poverty in Africa shows itself not only in starving children and families, but also in lack of primary education opportunities, particularly for girls, lack of economic infrastructure, lack of proper health care, environmental degradation, and the spread of communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
Development Assistance. The U.S. effort in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen well short of a responsible contribution given the severe nature of the problems and America's leadership role in the world. In fact, American aid to sub-Saharan Africa is significantly smaller as a percentage of official development assistance than all other donor countries with the exception of those in the Asia-Pacific region.To bring U.S. assistance to sub-Saharan Africa above the bottom third of donors, an additional one billion dollars should be dedicated to poverty reduction (Child Survival and Development Assistance accounts) in that region.
Global Health. Disease threatens to kill more than 25% of the populations of the hardest-hit African countries in the next 20 years. This devastation of the general population leaves fewer teachers, farmers, health professionals, entrepreneurs and other workers. The result is a deadly circle of self-reinforcing poverty. A comprehensive approach touching on all aspects of development is needed to address these problems.
The threat from communicable diseases such as malaria, polio, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS calls for an intensive international effort, to provide medicines, vaccinations, and health education, as well as medical research. The World Health Organization estimates that new tuberculosis cases increased 20 percent in Africa from 1997 to 1999. Malaria causes at least 900,000 deaths a year in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Nigerian health minister, the disease "keeps societies poor, undermines development, and reduces the incomes of families who are already the poorest in the world."8
To stem the global health risk of HIV/AIDS, the United Nations has estimated that the bare minimum investment needed is between $4 billion to $5 billion per year over current funding levels. The U.S. share, based on GNP, would be approximately 25% of this amount, or between $1 billion to $1.25 billion per year. These funds should be used for a well-defined strategy of appropriate prevention and treatment that addresses the deeper causes of HIV/AIDS. We find some approaches to HIV/AIDS prevention to be inadequate to address the pandemic and inconsistent with Catholic moral principles. We urge additional U.S. funding for medicines and treatment, research, and care for those living with HIV/AIDS, basic healthcare delivery systems, and appropriate educational programs providing accurate information about the transmission of the disease and promoting responsible sexual behavior. Funding should be made through grants rather than through either bilateral or multilateral loans, to prevent the international response to the global health crisis from adding to Africa's already heavy debt burden.
It is essential that the global focus on HIV/AIDS does not lead to a neglect of other global health risks affecting millions of people, such as the lack of access to potable water and life-threatening diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. These diseases may not be as visible, but they are just as deadly. Additional funding to address HIV/AIDS must not be obtained through reallocations from other global health programs, if we are to avoid setting the stage for another crisis to emerge.
Education. Progress is being made in the goal to achieve universal primary school enrollment in Africa, but more help is needed, with particular attention to girls' education. The illiteracy rate (1998 data) in the region is 41 percent, and for women, 49 percent. International institutions report that, taking into account children not presently having access to primary education and growth in the population, an additional 80 million children in sub-Saharan Africa will need schools, trained teachers and textbooks in the next 15 years.9 Foreign assistance is vital to meeting these needs.
Peacekeeping/Conflict Resolution. The United States can continue to play a pivotal role in supporting peace in areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. In Congo, support for the revitalized Lusaka Accords and the Inter-Congolese dialogue, in conjunction with support for U.N. peacekeeping efforts, offers the best hope of peace and stability throughout the Great Lakes region. Renewed diplomatic efforts in Sierra Leone and the Mono River basin will require a sustained and vigorous commitment by the United States and the international community if a lasting peace is to be achieved. In Sudan, increased humanitarian assistance should coincide with more concerted efforts to press for a multilateral peace initiative if Africa's longest running war is to end.
(B) Debt relief
We are grateful to the Congress for appropriating full funding for last year's portion of the Cologne commitment and the U.S. portion of multilateral debt relief. This was an act of leadership and moral responsibility. We ask for continued funding of the U.S. Cologne commitment through an appropriation of $240 million for fiscal year 2002. We also support a correction to the formula for debt relief so as to limit debt service to no more than 10 percent of government revenues. Under the current formula, which relates a country's debt payments to its export earnings rather than to its budgetary resources, some HIPC countries such as Zambia are continuing to pay as much as one-quarter of their annual revenues in debt service. Even deeper debt reduction, relying as much as possible on existing financial resources, may be appropriate since the 22 countries already receiving debt reduction through HIPC are still spending more on average in debt payments than on combating diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
(C) Decreased emphasis on population planning
Appropriations for the current year show that the United States gives excessive weight to population planning programs as a part of development assistance and global health programs. The United States dedicates nearly one-third of the funds identified for development assistance to population planning, or four percent of the total foreign aid budget. Most other donor countries, in contrast, give less than one percent of their foreign aid budgets to population planning. The statement of Pope Paul VI in 1970 is very apt here: "Faced with the difficulties yet to be surmounted, people are certainly tempted to act in an authoritarian way to reduce the number of guests at the table rather than to increase the food supply on it." While appropriate population planning can be a positive part of a broader policy calculated to support and strengthen family life, significant elements of U.S. population programs are inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching. We support morally acceptable and appropriate education for women so that they may make responsible decisions about family size, free of government coercion.
We also emphasize the longstanding international consensus rejecting the use of abortion as a method of family planning as well as the use of coercion in population programs. The "Mexico City" policy reinstated by President Bush must be retained, so our foreign aid program is not misused to subsidize organizations that perform and promote abortion 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. Under this provision, the President has the obligation to determine whether the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is ineligible for U.S. funding due to its support of the coercive program in the People's Republic of China. To enable the President to fulfill this obligation, Congress should not earmark funds to this agency.
(D) Plan Colombia
We agree with Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement that "any successful counter-drug strategy in the [Colombia-South America] region must include funding to bring greater economic and political stability to the region and a peaceful resolution to Colombia's internal conflict." (Prepared Statement for House International Relations Committee, March 7, 2001). The U.S. relationship to Colombia should not be defined primarily by the drug problem. The Church in Colombia has insisted on the absolute necessity of finding a peaceful, political and negotiated settlement to internal conflict. It is essential to achieve an effective balance between assistance to the armed forces and aid that more directly addresses the root causes of the conflict and assists the victims. This approach would mean that all aid would be strictly conditioned on human rights criteria, and that support would be given for programs that advance the peace process. These programs should include alternative crop development, judicial reform, and humanitarian aid to the displaced. While we strongly oppose the vast criminal narco-traffic enterprise and favor reduction of coca and poppy cultivation, we prefer massive manual eradication to the aerial spraying methods currently employed. We also strongly urge far greater attention to reducing demand in the United States through programs of drug education, treatment and rehabilitation.
(E) The role of faith-based groups and improved delivery of aid
Based on the discussion in Part I regarding obstacles to the delivery of foreign aid, we would propose that the following six characteristics are needed for successful aid programs: (1) Long-term funding commitments allowing multi-year and multi-country grants; (2) Programs designed and implemented with significant participation of the local community and the goal of building local capacity; (3) Programs focused through specific policy commitments but without undue reliance on earmarking, giving more decision-making authority to those closest to the poor; (4) Aid not tied tightly to American products and services; (5) Effective monitoring and evaluation; (6) Streamlined administration and reporting. The Appropriations Committee can take a major step forward in accomplishing these goals by resisting excessive earmarking for special projects and instead permit broad policy goals to be achieved with appropriate funding levels.
The Catholic community and Catholic Relief Services are long-time partners with government in foreign assistance. We welcome initiatives to recognize and enhance the role of faith-based and other non-profit voluntary organizations in delivering aid to poor countries. Groups committed to serve the poor out of their deepest convictions can be caring, effective, and efficient partners in providing U.S. foreign assistance. This assistance can be improved through grants that facilitate multi-year and multi-country programs. We look forward to a fuller dialogue on specifics but in the meantime provide two general observations:
- Religious participation but not religious discrimination in the provision of assistance. There should be no discrimination based on religion in the selection of those who carry out assistance programs. Religious ties or convictions should not be an obstacle or barrier for those who seek to participate in U.S. assistance programs. Likewise, there should be no discrimination in the provision of assistance based on religious tests or participation in religious activities. Catholic Relief Services is clear in our religious identity and our commitment to serve men and women because of their need, not their creed.
- Governmental responsibility for developing a poverty reduction agenda. Without defending the status quo, we believe that the United States should have a vehicle to advance a broad poverty reduction agenda and to advocate this cause within the administration. There is an important governmental role in strategic planning on how to meet international development targets, providing a system of checks and balances for foreign aid, and marshalling the expertise of development professionals in formulating a comprehensive foreign aid policy. The United States also has an important foreign assistance role to play in government-to-government representation.
(F) Call for Dialogue on Reshaping Foreign Aid
We conclude this section with a call for continued dialogue on reshaping foreign aid policy. A discussion on policy, purposes, and priorities should precede a debate on institutional structure and methods of aid delivery, so that delivery systems will be designed to meet a set of carefully crafted and coherent policy goals. The discussion on foreign aid policy should be developed in dialogue with private voluntary organizations engaged in international development and humanitarian assistance. The Catholic community and Catholic Relief Services have extensive experience in international assistance over a long history and would welcome an opportunity to participate actively in wider discussions to reshape the goals and delivery of U.S. foreign assistance in service to the human community.
Our goals on foreign aid, as highlighted in this testimony, can be simply stated:
- Pursue a dialogue on foreign aid policy, purposes, and priorities.
- Make poverty reduction a key goal of U.S. foreign aid.
- Give priority assistance to sub-Saharan Africa.
- Increase U.S. development aid substantially so that our country bears its fair share of the international responsibility for our poorest neighbors.
- Make foreign aid more effective in delivering needed assistance to the poorest people in the poorest countries.
These goals are fully congruent with our national interests, our moral responsibilities, and the values of the American people.
III. The Need for Improvement to the U.S. Refugee Assistance and Admissions Programs
Through Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), Catholic diocesan agencies resettle close to one-third of the refugees who are admitted to the United States each year. MRS works with more than 100 Catholic dioceses in 46 states to resettle refugees from all over the globe. Last year, MRS helped to resettle 18,000 refugees in the United States, representing refugees from 94 different ethnic groups and 50 different nationalities. Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, MRS, working with our government and diocesan resettlement programs throughout the country, has resettled nearly three-quarter of a million refugees.
The Foreign Operations Subcommittee's jurisdiction includes responsibility for appropriating funds for the Department of State's Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account. The MRA account helps the United States meet its humanitarian and international obligations to assist the world's refugees and, in some cases, internally displaced persons. Through the MRA account, the United States provides life-sustaining assistance to refugees. Importantly, United States assistance through the MRA account also helps relieve explosive international tensions and sets an example for the rest of the world. This example, in turn, makes it more likely that other nations will accept refugees fleeing into their territory, provide assistance to refugees who languish in camps of first asylum, and resettle those refugees for whom permanent resettlement in a third country is the only alternative.
We would like thank this Subcommittee for its work on refugee issues in the 106th Congress. Specifically, we commend the Subcommittee for its appropriation of $700 million for MRA in fiscal year 2001. The $700 million fiscal year 2001 appropriation represented a $42 million increase over the Administration's request. It reversed what was a disturbing trend of reductions in funding for MRA over the previous two fiscal years, and it halted further deterioration in the global refugee protection regime. We hope that the fiscal year 2001 appropriation for MRA was the beginning of a new trend of funding increases in the years ahead so that we might be better able to meet the global need for refugee protection.
(A) Summary of Refugee Recommendations
This year, we offer a number of recommendations to the Subcommittee with respect to the United States refugee overseas assistance and refugee admissions programs, which this Subcommittee's appropriations bill funds.
- First, we recommend that Congress appropriate at least $800 million for fiscal year 2002 for the Department of State's MRA Account.
- Second, we urge the Department of State to take immediate steps to ensure that it can identify and admit enough refugees to meet the ceiling that is established each year by the President, in consultation with Congress and voluntary agencies.
- Third, we recommend that the Department of State undertake a number of steps to ensure that the United States is offering admission to especially vulnerable populations of refugees, such as unaccompanied refugee children; at-risk women; refugees who have been in camps for a long period of time; refugees in mixed marriages who cannot integrate with major, established nationality groups in the region; urban refugees; and refugees from Africa.
- Fourth, we believe the Department of State should utilize private voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) with direct ties to domestic constituencies for overseas refugee processing.
- Fifth, we believe it essential that the Department of State increase the Reception and Placement Grant (R&P Grant) that it makes to its private-sector partners so that the level of this grant more accurately reflects the increased costs of the program. We believe, as well, that the R&P grant should be adjusted annually, thereafter, so that it keeps up with increased costs and program requirements.
- Sixth, we urge the Committee to reject language that has been included in the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill in the last two fiscal years that prevents the Department of State from disbursing funds to UNHCR without prior congressional notification.
(B) Detailed Recommendations
We would like to take a moment to expand on these six recommendations.
Level of Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2002. We recommend that the Subcommittee appropriate a minimum of $800 million for MRA for fiscal year 2002. While the fiscal year 2001 appropriation of $700 million for MRA was a welcome increase over the Administration's request, it still falls short of meeting the needs of refugees around the globe. In particular, it is inadequate to deal with new refugee flows occurring in West Africa, the Great Lakes region of Africa, or Pakistan, among other places. It also is inadequate to address intractable refugee situations in Thailand, Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Balkans, and it does not afford enough funds to admit an appropriate number of refugees into the United states for resettlement.
In recent years, the MRA account has been the only major State Department account to undergo a substantial real-dollar cut. The MRA appropriation in fiscal year 1995 was $671 million, plus an additional $12 million in salaries and expenses. In all but one year since then, the Clinton Administration requested increases for all major State Department accounts except this refugee protection account, which either remained level or was cut outright. While Congress finally responded by providing $42 million more than the President's request in fiscal year 2001, this did not make up for the impact that inflation has wrought over the years in the MRA account. The inflation-adjusted equivalent of the Fiscal year 1995 appropriation for MRA is about $817 million. Thus, between 1995 and 2000, the MRA account suffered a real-dollar reduction of almost 20 percent In contrast, other State Department spending increased by about 20 percent before inflation, resulting in a modest real-dollar increase. Over the same period, the needs of the world's uprooted people have increased rather than decreased.
In addition, we recommend an earmark of $50 million for the Emergency Refugee and Migrant Assistance (ERMA) account, which would help replenish funds drawn down from the ERMA account during the last year to address crises in the Congo, Middle East, and Guinea.
Admitting Refugees for Resettlement. Since 1992, the United States significantly has lowered the number of refugees admitted to the United States, from a refugee ceiling of 142,000 in Fiscal Year 1992 to a ceiling of 80,000 in Fiscal Year 2001. This reflects a disturbing trend, especially considering the presence of more than 14.3 million refugees in the world today.
One of the more dismaying aspects of the manner in which our refugee programs operate is the almost annual inability of the Department of State to admit the number of refugees by the end of a fiscal year that it told Congress at the beginning of a given year it would admit. For instance, despite Congress having provided sufficient direction and budget resources for the admission and resettlement of 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2000, the United States government, in fact, identified and admitted only 72,515 refugees during the fiscal year. We encourage the Department of State and Immigration and Naturalization Service to move aggressively to revise their operations and reexamine how they deploy their budget resources so that they identify and admit enough refugees to meet the admissions ceilings set in its consultation with Congress for fiscal years 2001 and 2002. This revision and redeployment should include such steps as greater use of private voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) with direct ties to domestic constituencies for overseas refugee processing, expanded use of family Reunification refugee processing, and expanded use of embassy referrals of refugees. We believe this Subcommittee could play an essential role in encouraging the Department to take the steps necessary to accomplish this goal.
Vulnerable Populations of Refugees. The inability of the Department to admit enough refugees to meet its annual ceilings is particularly troubling in light of the number refugees in particularly vulnerable situations. We encourage the Department to pay particular attention to resettling these especially vulnerable populations of refugees. They include such populations as unaccompanied refugee children; at-risk women; refugees who have been in camps for a long period of time; refugees in mixed marriages who cannot integrate with major, established nationality groups in the region; urban refugees; and refugees from Africa.
Use of Joint Voluntary Agencies. We recommend expanded use of private voluntary agencies to perform the JVA function. For decades, private voluntary agencies contracted to the State Department have played a central role in US refugee processing overseas - promoting refugee protection, preparing cases for INS adjudicating officers, offering cultural orientation programs, and working with domestic resettlement agencies to direct refugees to the areas of the country best suited to meet their health, employment and other needs. This process has been essential in galvanizing public support for the refugee program. While private voluntary agencies are still utilized in some instances, recent practice raises concerns that this mode of processing refugees abroad is no longer the preferred approach and now frequently an international organization without U.S. experience or knowledge of resettlement issues is being employed in their stead.
The Reception and Placement Grant. The United States refugee admissions and resettlement programs represent an excellent example of collaboration between the federal government and non-governmental organizations. One of the ways in which non-governmental organizations assist in these programs is by contracting with the Department of State to provide initial reception and placement services for refugees who are admitted into the United States. This grant enables faith-based and other organizations involved in resettlement to leverage other resources in their communities, churches, and organizations to provide a broad array of services to refugees.
We believe that the amount of the Reception and Placement (R & P) Grant has not kept up with the costs of providing resettlement services over the years. The agencies that assist refugees create new, secure and productive lives in the United States are crucial partners with the United States Government in the public-private partnership of refugee resettlement. Despite ever-increasing program requirements that necessitate expanded staffing at local refugee resettlement agencies, the $740 per capita R&P Grant has remained static for over three years, and has only increased by $40 since 1995. We recommend that the Department of State assess, in consultation with the private voluntary agencies performing resettlement services, the amount of adjustment that is necessary to bring the amount of the fiscal year 2002 Grant in line with the current costs. Following that assessment, the Department should increase the R&P Grant to a level reflecting those increased costs. The Department should, as well, take steps in succeeding fiscal years to ensure that the amount of the R&P Grant is adjusted annually so that it keeps up with increased costs and program requirements.
Restrictions on UNHCR Funding. Finally, we are concerned about recent language added by the Senate that has made it more difficult for UNHCR to receive urgently needed funds to assist refugees. We recommend that the Subcommittee reject such language in its fiscal year 2002 appropriations bill. During the last two fiscal years, the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill has required prior notification to Congress before funds can be disbursed to UNHCR. In practice, this has meant that the Department of State only approaches Congress four times during the calendar year to ask for authorization to send funds to UNHCR. In the past, the Department had sent funds much more frequently, allowing for better budgeting at UNHCR in Geneva and smoother transfer of funds to UNHCR's partners. One of the implications is that UNHCR has not been able to adequately, nor in a timely fashion, identify refugees in need of resettlement as a durable solution and make the necessary referrals to the U.S. refugee program.
The year, 2001 represents the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a landmark document which governs how the international community responds to refugees around the world. The United States is one of the many signatories of the convention. As we enter a new century, now is the time for the United States to reaffirm its humanitarian mission to refugees. We ask the Subcommittee to provide generous funding for their protection in the Fiscal Year 2002 budget.
- OECD's Development Co-operation 2000 Report. See also The Reality of Aid 2000 (Earthscan Publications)
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD targets include the following core principles: to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries by 2015; to achieve universal primary education in all countries by 2015, to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015, and to reduce the infant mortality rate by two-thirds and the maternal mortality rate by three-fourths by 2015.
- The 0.7% goal was first set by the United Nations in 1970. It was affirmed in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992), at the Copenhagen World Summit for Social Development (1995), and by members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee in 1996.
- Quote taken from DevNews, the World Bank's Daily Webzine, http://www.worldbank.org/developmentnews/html/022001a.htm.
- The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, Statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (1993).
- American Attitudes on Foreign Aid and World Hunger: A Study of U.S. Public Attitudes, Program on International Policy Attitudes (University of Maryland), February 2, 2001.
- See, e.g., Steven Kull & I.M. Destler, Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism (Brookings Institution Press, 1999)
- Gavin Yamey, African Heads of State Promise Action Against Malaria, British Medical Journal (May 6, 2000).
- OECD/IMF/UN/World Bank Group, A Better World For All: Progress Towards the International Development Goals (2000).