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Letter to House Conferees on 2004 Foreign Aid

 

November 10, 2003


The Honorable C.W. Bill Young
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Conferee:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, we wish to offer a number of considerations on matters of vital interest to the world’s poor as the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill proceeds to conference.

We are very pleased with the direction of the Senate bill which provides $18.4 billion for foreign aid, including $2.4 billion to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and $1 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account. The House bill contains significantly less funding for the critical HIV/AIDS and MCA programs and falls well short of the Senate bill in many other areas.

Consequently, we urge you to do all you can to assure that the conference report includes the Senate-approved amounts for HIV/AIDS and at least $1 billion for the MCA. We hope that it is still possible to increase the MCA to the $1.3 billion that the President has requested. We also urge that the conference report include the Senate-approved amounts for the World Bank’s International Development Association ($976 million), Development Assistance ($1.4 billion) and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance ($40 million).

Funding for each of the above initiatives should be in addition to, not a substitute for, current funding levels for other health, development and humanitarian assistance programs. Meeting these national commitments to the poor in our world is not just a matter of dollars, but one of moral responsibility.

With respect to HIV/AIDS, we urge you to seek a more effective and morally responsible global health program by:

  • Retaining Senate language that protects important provisions in the Global AIDS Act (P.L. 108-25), such as the conscience clause; and
  • Eliminating language in Sec. 522 of the House version that exempts HIV/AIDS funds from the application of “any other provision of law” (with certain exceptions). The latter language would override not only the conscience clause but also other key safeguards against misuse of U.S. funds, including important aspects of the Helms amendment preventing funding of abortion-related activities. Similar language should also be removed from the MCA title (sec. 305(a)).

With respect to the MCA, we ask your leadership in assuring that the authorizing language in the conference report emphasizes poverty reduction, particularly for Africa, and supports national development strategies designed and implemented with the participation of organizations that give voice to the needs of the poor. We thus recommend:

  • Retaining Senate provisions for “near-miss” or “second-tier” countries and the Senate language on the conditions for eligibility of lower-middle income countries;
  • Retaining the House cap of 15% for “near-miss” countries and the Senate cap of 20% for lower middle-income countries; and
  • Retaining House language that focuses on local input and the consideration of national development strategies, as well as the provision of assistance to countries for the development of a country agreement (Section 204 of H.R. 1950).

We also recommend including civil society on the Board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and establishing an advisory council as provided in the House bill (Sections 303 and 308 of HR 1950).

We thank you for your leadership in addressing these matters of great urgency to the world’s poor, especially in Africa.

Sincerely,

Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, Committee on International Policy

Ken Hackett
President
Catholic Relief Services

 



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