February 16th, 2011 17:03 EST
Unprecedented and Dangerous Cuts Will Not Help Solve U.S. Fiscal Problems
Global humanitarian agency Church World Service voiced grave concern Tuesday over proposed budget cuts under deliberation in the House of Representatives this week that "threaten to eviscerate" U.S. funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused global assistance. Those cuts would be the deepest to the international affairs budget since the end of World War II.
The proposed cuts include a 41 percent cut to Development Assistance, which includes funding for bi-lateral U.S. agriculture and food security assistance as well as other critical programs for children and adults struggling to overcome poverty.
In the midst of a looming global food crisis, the cuts would eliminate U.S. funding for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multilateral mechanism to address the under-funding of country and regional agriculture and food security strategic investment plans already being developed by countries.
In a letter delivered to key House leaders and appropriators, CWS Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer John L. McCullough said, "The minimal savings that would result from the proposed 45 percent cut in Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) or the proposed 67 percent cut in International Disaster Assistance (IDA) are not worth the loss of life, human suffering, and the destabilizing impact of discontinuing programs that provide emergency health, safe shelter and clean water for millions of survivors of conflicts, human rights abuses and natural disasters worldwide."
McCullough added that the "unprecedented and dangerous cuts will not appreciably help solve U.S. fiscal problems," and points out that humanitarian and poverty-focused foreign assistance make up less than half of 1 percent of the federal budget.
They would, however, "be a devastating blow for millions of children and adults struggling to overcome hunger and poverty and to recover and rebuild from crises around the world," according to McCullough.
CWS urged the House to oppose the cuts and to appropriate funding for foreign assistance at the levels President Obama has requested for FY2011.
McCullough wrote to House leaders that "investing in foreign assistance now shows compassionate global leadership."
As a relief, development and refugee assistance agency working in some of the world`s poorest and most conflict-riddled countries, CWS claims that proposed draconian Congressional cuts to foreign assistance would "harm American long-term interests by reducing support for programs that promote a more secure and stable world."
In a continuing Congressional atmosphere of near-feral partisan rancor, McCullough reminded lawmakers that foreign assistance has been a bi-partisan commitment in Congress and of both Republican and Democratic presidents.
"Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both stated that the security of the American people is closely bound up with global human security," said McCullough.
CWS also voiced alarm over proposed gutting of international climate adaptation funding. McCullough said, "Cuts to bilateral and multilateral programs for clean technology, disaster risk reduction and adaptation funding for communities suffering the consequences of climate change will cost us much more in the future when the U.S. may be required to respond to once-preventable disasters that threaten the stability of already-vulnerable countries."
Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Global Health Laurie Garrett said today in a CFR Expert Roundup, "Because cuts in overseas programs have a negligible impact on U.S. voting patterns, they are politically painless. But the impact on the ground in poor and war-ravaged parts of the world is profound." *
On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that foreign affairs budget cuts being proposed by members of Congress would be "devastating" to U.S. national security interests.
From New York today, CWS Deputy Director and Head of Programs Maurice A. Bloem noted that "The U.S. needs to continue programs that are working." He cited the fact that, in part because of U.S. investments in global food and nutrition security to date, the number of children worldwide who are hungry or who have died due to malnutrition has been steadily decreasing in recent years.
"The world`s children - tomorrow`s generation - don`t need to lose ground. We need to continue making progress towards eradicating hunger and poverty.
"The proposed cuts do not reflect the global leadership of the United States," he said, adding that countries that look to the U.S. might follow our negative lead and drop their commitments to foreign assistance as well.
Church World Service is a faith-based humanitarian agency whose advocacy on behalf of the world`s poorest communities also represents the concerns of the agency`s 37 U.S. member Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox communions.
* Council on Foreign Relations, Expert Roundup, The U.S. Budget`s Tightrope Act, February 15, 2011, http://www.cfr.org/us-strategy-and-politics/us-budgets-tightrope-act/p24118