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Testimony Before House Appropriations Committee on 2003 Foreign Assistance

 

on behalf of
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
and
Catholic Relief Services

Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing,
and Related Programs
House Appropriations Committee

May 9, 2002

I. Introduction

This testimony, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services, shares the values of Catholic social teaching and discusses the implications of those values for the development policies and programs of the United States. We thank the Committee for its interest and its support for increasing our nation's funding in response to the global health crisis and for meeting other critical needs.

Severe poverty assaults the human dignity of men, women, and children in many regions and nations. Our world has a duty to launch a vigorous battle against poverty, in order to work towards justice for everyone. This moral call is grounded in the values of solidarity, the fundamental dignity of every human life, and the common good. These values are at the heart of Catholic social teaching. These values tell us that a principal objective of U.S. foreign policy should be sustainable human development, grounded in respect for human dignity, structured by a commitment to human rights, and accepted by our nation as a sign of its leadership in the international community.

Sustainable human development is also an essential requirement for a more just and peaceful world. Among the multiple sources of conflict is an international order where the benefits of science, technology and free markets are well known, but available only to a small fraction of the globe. Existing inequities, especially the growing gap between rich and poor, are threats not only to our human decency, but to our hopes for peace and security. After September 11, we have learned that hate and hopelessness can threaten us, no matter how powerful our military, economic or political influence. Investing in building a world of greater justice, opportunity, hope and dignity is not only the right thing to do; it is the wise thing to do. Nothing can justify attacks on innocent civilians whatever the grievance. Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI's admonition -- "If you want peace, work for justice"-- is still wise counsel.

Shaped by these values and convictions, our specific priorities for foreign operations appropriations in fiscal year 2003 include:

  • a significant increase -- i.e., an additional $2 billion in FY 2003, at least $1 billion of which should be directed to Africa -- for responsibly designed global health programs combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis;

  • a significant and immediate increase -- i.e., $1 billion in FY 2003 -- for development assistance to Africa, including substantial investments in primary and secondary education;

  • a continued investment in debt relief for the poorest countries, with special consideration for countries suffering a severe health crisis, as proposed in H.R. 4524 and S. 2210;

  • increased funding for the International Development Association (IDA), including appropriate implementation and funding of the proposal to finance up to half of IDA's assistance in the form of grants;

  • increased funding for the Migration and Refugee Assistance and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance accounts to $841 million and $50 million, respectively;

  • a decreased emphasis on programs of population planning;

  • funding of outstanding arrears for multilateral development banks and for the Global Environment Facility, over the next three years;

  • strong human rights conditions on all U.S. funds in the Andean Regional Initiative, and an increased proportion of U.S. aid dedicated to the root causes of the conflict and to assisting the victims; and

  • increased assistance ($40 million) for East Timor.

Investments in development assistance, global health, debt relief, and migration and refugee assistance are wise national priorities, matters of moral responsibility and a contribution to a safer, and more just and peaceful world. Our nation can be more creative and more effective in our aid programs but we can and should be more generous. Our religious faith and our national values tell us that the moral measure of our efforts is how we respond to "the least among us" and whether we seek "liberty and justice for all." Legislators' choices on foreign aid will determine how we measure up to these standards.

II. Foreign Aid and Human Development

The concept of development found in Catholic teaching, most recently in the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, emphasizes development's ethical dimensions. This perspective roots the idea of development in its subject, the human person, possessed of rights and duties and in need of a social system that protects rights and facilitates the fulfillment of duties in society. Placing development policy within this moral framework helps situate the economic dimensions of development policy as a means to a broader end, that of integral human development.

In this light, the fundamental criteria for evaluating development policy should be whether it reflects a commitment to respect the fundamental dignity, basic rights and responsibilities of the human person. Within a strategy directed toward the dignity, rights, and duties of all, there should be a specific priority given to the basic needs of the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of the human community. Consequently, the Catholic Church continues to seek a greater focus in foreign assistance on initiatives that combat poverty and promote integral human development.

Substantial increases in the amounts of U.S. foreign assistance dedicated to poverty reduction are needed to achieve these goals. U.S. levels of foreign assistance are very low as a percentage of the country's wealth, even taking into account not only poverty-focused assistance but also foreign operations funding for national strategic interests. Our country's development assistance as a percentage of gross national product (GNP) has been approximately one-tenth of one percent of the GNP in each of the last several years. In terms of the absolute level of assistance, the chart at left illustrates that the European Union, with a slightly lower combined GNP than the United States, gives 2-1/2 times as much aid by volume, and Germany, France, and Italy (G/F/I in the chart), with only half of U.S. GNP, together give about the same volume of aid as the United States.

It is often asserted that Americans do not support development aid or increases in foreign aid spending. A survey (1) published some seven months before September 11, however, like others before it, 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. Moreover, more than 70% of respondents agreed that the United States should pay special attention to the problem of hunger in Africa, and that a lack of U.S. vital interests does not warrant giving Africa lower priority than other regions in the allocation of aid. These findings suggest that the trend of U.S. foreign assistance spending has been running counter to the values of the American public.

III. The Millennium Challenge Initiative

We commend and welcome the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) recently proposed by President Bush as an excellent step towards a refocusing of foreign assistance on poverty reduction and sustainable human development. The proposal represents a new and much needed commitment to the poor of the world. It would reverse a decade of decline in U.S. foreign aid and of shifts in funding towards strategic interests and military spending, and away from the poorest countries and economic development programs. We especially welcome the commitment to direct the new funds entirely to the fight against global poverty. This is a significant step forward and a sign of needed U.S. leadership.

Although this Subcommittee may not take up the MCA specifically until the fiscal year 2004 funding deliberations, a number of elements of that proposal may be relevant as the Subcommittee considers development assistance for fiscal year 2003 and as the design of the MCA is discussed. For the present, we emphasize the following points:

  • While the MCA is being further refined, a substantial increase ($1 billion) in poverty-focused development assistance is needed for Africa immediately (FY 2003) given the extreme urgency of addressing more adequately and more effectively the needs of poor people in developing countries.

  • Country eligibility and performance criteria should be developed through transparent processes, with local participation, including civil society organizations that give voice to the poor.

  • The MCA should be combined with creative approaches to channel resources to the poor who live in countries that do not meet MCA eligibility criteria. The many poor people living under those regimes have the same claim to human dignity and the same right to improved living conditions as people living under strong governments.

  • The MCA should be in addition to, and not a substitute for, the significant increases needed for global health and other important aid programs. The MCA should be coordinated with other development aid, to avoid an inordinate concentration of aid resources in countries already favored by existing programs.

The country eligibility criteria are an important concern at this stage, since they will be relevant to the debate on how to make foreign assistance more effective. Under the MCA proposal, a country would be eligible for funds only if it demonstrates good governance, invests in its people, and has sound economic policies. We share these values and support a foreign assistance program that advances them, while emphasizing at the same time that the identification of eligible countries should begin with need. There is no question that governments receiving U.S. foreign assistance should uphold internationally recognized human rights norms and the rule of law. However, if aid is conditioned on standards set too high or too early, they could have unintended consequences for the poorest people in the world. For instance, a government may be capable of enforcing basic human rights policies, but the country may be years away from the more difficult task of creating viable democratic institutions. At least in the near term, we urge caution in disqualifying countries on governance grounds, provided that basic human rights and the rule of law are upheld. Rather than conditioning eligibility on higher standards of governance, a better approach would be to assist countries to develop democratic institutions and improve other aspects of governance.

With regard to the criteria of "investment in people" and sound economic policies, the World Bank and IMF's Poverty Reduction Strategy approach, with improvement in a number of respects, can be a useful vehicle in many cases to assess a country's qualification to receive funds. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Approach is designed to support strategies prepared by local governments and civil society, as well as to improve donor coordination. It could be unduly burdensome for potential aid recipients if the MCA were to impose another set of criteria to assess eligibility for aid.

We also emphasize that creative ways must be found to assist poor people in countries that do not meet the MCA criteria. Some suggestions are provided in Section V. Poor people should not be deprived of all help or hope as a result of weaknesses in governments that they cannot control.

The USCCB and Catholic Relief Services, which has long experience with civil society in developing nations, look forward to working with the Congress and the Administration on realizing the promise of this Millennium Challenge.

IV. Specific Foreign Assistance Needs

Eight areas are identified below for specific attention in this year's foreign operations appropriations. In addition to these areas, we note our continued support in particular for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, transition initiatives, micro- and small-enterprise development and credit programs, and funding of independent agencies such as the Inter-American Foundation, the African Development Foundation, and the Peace Corps. Also, we emphasize the critical U.S. role in peacemaking, strengthening democracy, and good governance.

(a) Global Health

Communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS are devastating the populations of the poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The means and medicines are available to treat HIV/AIDS and to prevent malaria and tuberculosis, but funds and health infrastructure are lacking.

There are varying estimates of the annual international investment needed to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other deadly communicable diseases. The HIV/AIDS component alone has been estimated to cost between $7 billion and $15 billion per year. (2) Estimates for the cost of a comprehensive program addressing other deadly diseases as well as HIV/AIDS are between $10 and $20 billion per year. (3) The U.S. share, based on GNP, would be approximately 25% of this amount, or between $2.5 billion and $5 billion per year.

The Administration has proposed an increase of $200 million in funding for HIV/AIDS programs for fiscal year 2003, about $100 million of which would come from the foreign operations budget. This proposed increased is far short of the magnitude needed to address the devastating consequences of these diseases for the poorest countries. Perhaps more importantly, this increase is not new money, but is offset by reductions in other health programs, in particular funding for fighting malaria and tuberculosis, as well as child health programs. The global focus on HIV/AIDS must not lead to a neglect of other global health risks affecting millions of people which can be prevented. In summary, we urge:

  • a substantial increase in funding, on the order of at least $2 billion ($1 billion for Africa), to address global health crises, including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis;

  • a limit on debt service payments to five percent of government revenues for countries with severe health crises; and

  • inclusion of key elements in the global health programs funded by this increased investment, to provide for a comprehensive and morally appropriate approach to the health crises in poor countries. This approach should include a well-defined strategy of appropriate prevention and treatment that addresses the deeper causes of HIV/AIDS. The following summarizes what we believe are the key elements of a responsibly designed global health program:
  • Funding for basic healthcare delivery systems, medicines, treatment, and research.
  • Care for those living with communicable diseases and for children orphaned as a result of those diseases.
  • Programs to address not only HIV/AIDS but other life-threatening communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
  • Morally responsible HIV/AIDS prevention programs providing accurate information about HIV/AIDS transmission, promoting responsible and mutually respectful relationships, and respect for cultural norms, religious values and other key factors.
  • Activities that strengthen the economic and social viability of affected communities.
  • Priority consideration for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Funding for health initiatives should be made through grants in preference to bilateral or multilateral loans, to prevent the international response to the global health crisis from adding to Africa's already heavy debt burden.

(b) Other critical development assistance


The Catholic Church in the United States supports a significant increase in U.S. foreign aid for sustainable development in FY 2003, on the order of at least $1 billion more per year for Africa, in addition to the increases proposed for global health programs. Investments to address health crises will not succeed if they are not part of a comprehensive development strategy that addresses some of the root causes of disease.

Investment in primary and secondary education is an important part of the development agenda. There are signs that inadequate education programs can contribute to hostility towards Americans and increase the risk of terrorist attacks. The United States government has recognized a linkage in some parts of the world, for example providing $100 million in education reform to Pakistan as part of the supplemental aid package approved in late 2001. In the USAID budget proposed this year, however, there is only a $15 million increase for education programs in other parts of the world not included in the anti-terrorism effort. It is short-sighted to focus only on the immediate crisis without looking ahead to areas where potential seeds of future violence and misunderstanding are being sown, in part by lack of adequate education.

(c) International debt relief


We have long supported and commended legislators for their action to provide major funding for the U.S. commitment to international debt relief under the Cologne debt accord. However, even with the progress that has been made through the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, a number of countries will continue to pay debt service that will consume a substantial portion of government revenues. For these countries, the immediate benefits are likely to be too small to have a significant impact on poverty.

We therefore strongly support the debt-relief provisions of H.R. 4524 and S. 2210, which would adjust the enhanced HIPC program so as to reduce the external debt service obligation of a qualifying HIPC country to a maximum of 10% of government revenues. In the case of countries ravaged by severe health crises, including HIV/AIDS, these bills would limit debt service to 5% of government revenues in order to maximize resources available to address this crisis whose devastating effects are akin to a natural disaster. The cost associated with this adjustment to multilateral and bilateral creditors should be relatively modest, and it could have an enormous human impact.

(d) Funding for IDA

We support the Administration's proposal for increasing U.S. funding for the International Development Association (IDA) to $2.85 billion for the next replenishment period (IDA 13). We also support the proposal for IDA to provide financing in the form of grants for up to half its assistance to low income countries. This initiative would go far toward preventing debt crises in poor countries in the future. Nevertheless, it is important that the grants not be subject to new conditions and that IDA's financing capacity not be undercut by the loss of loan repayments resulting from the grants proposal. The IDA 13 funding proposed by the Administration, therefore, should be increased in order to begin off-setting the loss of repayments. According to a recent GAO report, the amount of the necessary increase would be modest.

(e) U.S. Refugee and Admissions Programs


Through our Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), Catholic diocesan agencies resettle close to one-quarter of the refugees who are admitted to the United States each year. MRS works with more than 100 Catholic dioceses in 44 states to resettle refugees from all over the globe.

Since the enactment of the Refugee Act of 1980, MRS, working with our government and diocesan resettlement programs throughout the country, has resettled more than three-quarters of a million refugees. In fiscal year 2001, MRS helped to resettle 16,789 refugees in the United States, representing 102 different ethnic groups and 55 different nationalities. We are gravely concerned about the U.S. commitment to protecting adequate numbers of refugees in fiscal years 2002, 2003 and beyond given the low number of 8,000 refugees who have been admitted this fiscal year because of the State Department's chronic inability to identify and admit the numbers of refugees authorized for admission by the President.

We would like to thank this Subcommittee for its work on refugee issues during the first session of the 107th Congress. The House and Senate agreed to an appropriation of $705 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) in fiscal year 2002, a $5 million increase from the

appropriation of $700 million for fiscal year 2001. In addition, $100 million in supplemental funding for MRA has already been provided to address refugee issues in Central Asia in the aftermath of September 11th. For fiscal year 2002, a total of some $805 million was available for the MRA account as of December 2001. As for ERMA, the House and Senate agreed to an appropriation of $15 million. We hope that the total fiscal year 2002 appropriation for MRA of $805 million continues a trend of funding increases in the years ahead so that we might be better able to meet the global need for refugee protection.

With respect to the United States refugee overseas assistance and refugee admissions programs, which this Subcommittee's appropriations bill funds, we recommend that:

  • Congress appropriate no less than $841 million for fiscal year 2003 for the Department of State's MRA Account and no less than $50 million for the State Department's ERMA account;

  • The Department of State 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 non-governmental organizations, including 70,000 for fiscal year 2002;

  • The Department of State engage in long-term planning with regard to refugee protection, including planning to admit 90,000 refugees in fiscal year 2003 and increasing this number in the years immediately following in order to protect refugees who, for reasons related to the aftermath of September 11, could not be admitted in fiscal year 2002;

  • The Department of State undertake a number of steps to ensure that the United States is offering admission to especially vulnerable populations of refugees, including unaccompanied refugee children, unaccompanied elderly refugees, refugees with serious medical conditions, at-risk women, refugees who have languished in camps in first countries of asylum for years, certain urban refugees who do not have access to assistance and cannot integrate into the country of asylum and certain categories of refugees in Africa;

  • Department of State collaborate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with direct ties to domestic constituencies for overseas refugee processing; and

  • 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 so that it keeps up with increased costs and program requirements.

A detailed discussion of these recommendations is included in Section VI.

(f) Decreased emphasis on population planning

Appropriations for the current year show that the United States continues to give excessive weight to population planning programs as a part of development assistance and global health programs. The United States dedicates approximately 15 percent of the combined funds identified for development assistance and child survival programs to population planning (nearly three percent of the total international assistance budget). Most other donor countries, by contrast, give less than one percent of their foreign aid budgets to population planning. 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 they may make responsible decisions about family size, free of government coercion.

We also emphasize the longstanding international consensus that rejects the use of abortion as a method of family planning and 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.

(g) Clearing arrears

We strongly support the Administration's proposal to provide funding to clear outstanding arrears for multilateral development banks and for the Global Environment Facility over the course of the next three years. Our nation has a responsibility in justice to pay our legitimate debts, and this responsibility is particularly serious given the world leadership that the United States exercises. There is also an urgent need to assist developing countries in protecting their citizens from the consequences of environmental degradation, without sacrificing opportunities for their economic growth.

(h) Andean Regional Initiative

The nearly four-decade long Colombian conflict is highly complex and is causing widespread, growing suffering. In the midst of this crisis, support for a negotiated settlement to the internal conflict is vital. All the armed actors have been cited for extensive human rights abuses, and there are well-documented links between paramilitary organizations and Colombian security forces, as acknowledged by both the U.S. and Colombian governments. In this context, serious attention must be given to ensuring that all U.S. funds are conditioned on strong human rights criteria that are applied and closely monitored. We again call for an increased proportion of U.S. aid to be dedicated to addressing the root causes of the conflict and assisting the victims. Much of the aid already earmarked for alternative development, judicial reform and other areas has yet to reach its destination; it is essential that the provision of humanitarian and development aid be expedited.

We are concerned that U.S. funding aimed at protecting the major oil pipeline may signal a policy shift toward more direct U.S. involvement in the Colombian government's counter-insurgency efforts. With the Bishops of Colombia, we deplore the toxic effects of aerial spraying of coca crops and urge a serious revision of both the policy and its method of application. Important conditions on the U.S. funded fumigation program were included in last year's legislation which would assess the health and environmental consequences of fumigation, establish an effective mechanism for compensating farmers whose food crops are destroyed by fumigation, and provide adequate alternative development assistance. These provisions are a step forward; they need to be maintained as long as fumigation continues, and measures to implement them taken.

(i) East Timor

As East Timor becomes the first new nation of this century, its hard-won political independence is overshadowed by the prospect of beginning its nationhood with a debilitating debt that can only impede its recovery and development. We have long supported the rights of the East Timorese people to live in peace and freedom, but after the terror and destruction of 1999 that uprooted thousands and destroyed much of the country"s infrastructure, East Timor can recover only with significant international aid. The Administration"s budgetary request of $19 million for fiscal year 2003 (down from $25 million for fiscal year 2002) is clearly inadequate and should be increased to $40 million, which would add to last year"s level of support the appropriate U.S. share of the amount estimated as needed to prevent East Timor from falling into debt.

V. Aid Effectivenesso

The Administration has rightly called for increasing the effectiveness of its foreign aid program. As the Committee considers funding the fiscal year 2003 foreign aid program, our everyday experience around the world shapes the following recommendations, which call for a primary role for recipient countries in the design of aid programs and for greater donor country flexibility.

  • Primary role of recipient countries in designing aid programs. Recipient countries are best positioned to identify their needs and to explain the complexities affecting economic growth and development in their context, particularly if they employ a participatory process involving civil society. Aid will be more effective if recipient countries that undertake a participatory process are given a primary role in the design of aid programs.

  • Improve coordination among donors. Recipient countries can be overburdened by the variety of procedural and reporting requirements as well as policies and program conditions that individual donor countries require. Also, uncoordinated assistance from donors can lead to a scattering of already limited resources in the negotiation and implementation of myriad development projects. Aid effectiveness would be greatly enhanced if major donor countries would coordinate their efforts to overcome poverty.

  • Flexibility to fund budgetary expenses that support development. Presently, donors tend to fund projects that are capital in nature and are usually reluctant to fund the recurring costs of sustaining the investments. For example, development assistance to fund the construction of hospitals, and the purchase of medical equipment, will not help the local government pay salaries for doctors, nurses, and technicians to operate the equipment. In such cases, aid could be more effective if donors were more open to funding not just capital costs but also recurrent costs of development, to the extent necessary and appropriate to supplement government efforts to build the long-term capacity to sustain development projects.

  • Provide longer time frames and fewer earmarks. Current U.S. development programs are too often burdened with unrealistic short-term funding cycles and overly prescriptive earmarks. Complex development problems require flexible, multi-year and multi-country programs, designed and implemented with substantial participation from the community being assisted. This approach requires that programs be developed less by congressional earmarking and more by recipient communities and civil society responding to the felt needs for overcoming poverty and building on the capacities of local communities.

  • Decrease in requirement of tied aid. Last year the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommended that donor countries procure specified goods and services used in foreign assistance from worldwide sources, rather than limiting or "tying" procurement to domestic sources. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is implementing this recommendation and eliminating tied aid for procurement of capital goods. However, technical assistance continues to be tied to domestic sources. This practice has the potential to increase costs substantially and create an artificial market for U.S. services in particular. This policy should be reviewed to assess its impact on the effectiveness of aid delivery.

For countries where conflict or other governance problems are so serious that aid to the government would be ineffective or lead to unjust results, creative use of development assistance funds is necessary to assist civilians who have an equal claim to full human dignity irrespective of the quality of their government. To make effective use of development assistance in such countries, the following approaches could be used:

  • Channel funding through established non-governmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be effective vehicles for bringing essential aid, humanitarian aid and sustainable development assistance to unstable regions. U.S. development assistance funding should allow aid that otherwise would be destined for governments to be channeled instead through established NGOs.

  • Provide assistance to strengthen civil society in the affected nation or region. Non-governmental institutions can be an effective voice for change in a country or region that is suffering from poor governance. Technical assistance and other aid programs directed towards building capacity in civil organizations and institutions can, in the long term, lead to improvements in governance.

  • Continue and strengthen investments in peace-building. In war-torn regions and countries, peace-building assistance is essential. Until there is peace, there can be no stability, and without stability, development assistance has no real chance to succeed. The United States can continue to exercise leadership in supporting peace efforts in areas of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent progress in Sierra Leone, Mano River, and Angola provide testimony to the effectiveness of a concerted, well-coordinated, and sustained commitment to peace-building. Progress towards peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region has not yet produced the desired outcome and will require additional support. In Sudan, humanitarian assistance must be linked to broader political strategies providing for conflict resolution to deal with the root causes of the conflict. In Burundi and Congo-Brazzaville, successful peace-building efforts also will require support for programs of national reconciliation and greater attention to sustainable development.

VI. Detailed Recommendations for Improvements in U.S. Refugee and Admissions Programs

(a) Level of Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2003

We recommend that the Subcommittee appropriate no less than $841 million for fiscal year 2003 for the Department of State's MRA Account and no less than $50 million for the State Department's ERMA account. While the fiscal year 2002 appropriation of $705 million and the supplemental of $100 million for MRA were welcomed, the total appropriation still falls short of meeting the needs of refugees around the globe.

While resettlement in the United States has historically proven to be a highly successful option for many thousands of refugees and a boon to our country, the number of refugees resettled in the United States has declined from over 130,000 per year during the early 1990's to under 70,000 last year. An appropriation of at least $841 million for the MRA would reverse that harmful trend, enabling the United States to resettle 90,000 refugees during fiscal year 2003. An appropriation of no less than $841 million would protect and provide life-sustaining food, medicine and other assistance to a greater number of the over fourteen million refugees in the world today. (4)

In addition to the MRA account, the ERMA account, which is replenished yearly, supplies funds for urgent and unforeseen migration needs. Since $107 million in 13 draw downs was allocated from ERMA during fiscal year 2001, at least $50 million is needed to assist the United States in responding to unexpected refugee crises.

(b) Fiscal Year 2002 Refugee Admissions

We are disappointed in the number of refugees resettled in the United States in recent years. In 1980, the United States admitted more than 200,000 refugees and for a five-year period ending in 1994, the U.S. consistently admitted over 100,000 refugees each of those years. Since 1993, refugee admissions have continued to fall, with the latest example being the most recent low of 70,000 in the Administration's proposal for fiscal year 2002. The Administration should implement a four-year plan to raise admissions numbers to meet levels of need.

Millions of Africans have become new refugees or newly displaced persons within their own countries after years of war, repression, and civil unrest. Many peace negotiations have faltered, producing more military offensives and atrocities, forcing African refugees to seek protection in countries that are already suffering from armed conflict.

A compelling example is the fragile asylum being granted to the hundreds of thousands of Liberians and Sierra Leoneans in the small West African country of Guinea. We urge that one area of U.S. government focus be West Africa, which a group of NGOs visited in August 2001. The clear need for resettlement from such countries as Guinea, UNHCR's strong support for such resettlement, and the strengthened U.S. government and Overseas Processing Entity presence in nearby Ghana all argue that this area must be made a high priority.

West Africa is of course not the only region where refugees have difficulties accessing protection. We must deal with the populations of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran who cannot return to Afghanistan, and also address continually deteriorating situations in other areas of the world. Thousands of Burmese political dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities are particularly vulnerable in India and languish without effective solutions in Thailand. Large numbers of uprooted people from the Sudan and the Balkans still lack a durable solution. These are a few examples of the grim future faced by refugees worldwide.

(c) Capacity-Building for Fiscal Year 2003 and Beyond

In each of the last ten years, the number of refugees admitted to the United States was below the authorized and budgeted admissions levels. Actual admissions of refugees during this period ranged between seven and sixteen percent below the levels authorized by the President in consultation with Congress. Had the U.S. government fully utilized its admissions authority, more than 100,000 additional refugees could have been resettled over the past decade. Considering that the population of refugees in need of resettlement far exceeds the number of resettlement offers from the international community, this under-utilization of U.S. capacity is unacceptable.

There is a multitude of reasons for this under-utilization. First, the political will and commitment to take full advantage of the U.S. government's admissions authority has not been evident. If there had been political commitment to taking full advantage of its admissions authority, the governmental agents responsible for administering the admissions program would have been held more accountable for the chronic under-usage in admissions each year.

Second, inadequacies in the management of refugee admissions have also contributed to annual admissions shortfalls.

Third, a significant impediment to the U.S. government's taking full advantage of its admissions authority has been the inadequacy of the worldwide infrastructures designed to identify and process refugees in need of resettlement. The appropriations levels for MRA and ERMA of $841 million and $50 million respectively would begin to address these capacity-building issues.

(d) Vulnerable Populations of Refugees

Efforts should be made to identify and resettle particularly vulnerable refugee groups, including unaccompanied refugee minors, unaccompanied elderly refugees, refugees with serious medical problems, at-risk women, including female heads of households, refugees who have languished in camps for a long period of time, certain urban refugees who do not have access to assistance and cannot integrate in the country of asylum, and certain categories of refugees in Africa. This effort complements the program's capacity to rescue those in imminent danger of return.

(e) U.S. Government Collaboration with Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

In the past, private sector Joint Voluntary Agencies (JVAs) have been successfully used by the Department of State to help identify and process refugees in the field. This collaboration with NGOs could be expanded so that NGO expertise can be utilized in making resettlement determinations.

Although the State Department has been creating more outreach capacity through the creation of additional Overseas Processing Entities (OPES), more can and should be done. The government should develop partnerships with NGOs to assist in the identification and referral of prospective U.S.-eligible refugees in need of resettlement and create formal mechanisms through which NGO-referred refugees receive consideration from U.S. authorities. This concept is different from the "Joint Voluntary Agency" arrangements currently in place in at least one significant way. Under these arrangements the NGO partners would identify and refer prospective refugees, but would not be involved in the processing typically done by JVAs and OPES.

Another dimension of this needed expansion could be the strengthening of the so-called "deployment" program, through which NGO personnel are seconded on temporary assignments to augment United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) personnel in various resettlement processing regions of the world. With more resources and program management enhancements applied to this effort, a greater number of NGO personnel can be added to expand the international capacity to identify and process refugees for resettlement.

(f) 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 appreciate the State Department's decision to significantly increase the funds available in the R&P program, which was possible because of adequate appropriations. The Department should take steps in succeeding fiscal years, beginning in fiscal year 2003, to ensure that the amount of the R&P Grant is adjusted annually to keep up with increased costs and program requirements.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan provided an estimate of $7 billion to $10 billion to fight HIV/AIDS during a speech to African leaders on April 26, 2001 (see www.unaids.org/SGabuja.doc). Eric Friedman of Yale Law School and Paul Zeitz of the Global AIDS Alliance estimated the cost of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS program (including funding for food security and education infrastructure) at $15 billion per year (Discussion Memorandum, May 6, 2001, at http://www.globalaidsalliance.org/estimating_costs.doc).
  3. See Jeffrey Sachs, "The Best Possible Investment in Africa", New York Times (Feb. 10, 2001).
  4. See U.S. Committee for Refugees, World Refugee Survey 2001 at 3; See also Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Global Appeal 2002 at 13





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