Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Congress and the Millennium Dev Goals

This summary is from Bread for the World. It says both the House and the Senate have completed their versions for the bill for poverty-focused development assistance. Both versions fall short of our promised committments for development assistance (although the House versions comes closest with a $1.9 billion increase). A conference committee will be formed to reconcile the 2 versions of the bill and this is our last opportunity to influence Congress to live up to meeting the Millennium Development Goals by approving a $2 billion increase. Please read on to see how your voice can be heard.
Senate Approves Development Assistance for 2008

The Senate passed its 2008 State Department/foreign operations spending bill on September 6. The bill includes $14.21 billion in poverty-focused development assistance, an increase of $1.35 billion over fiscal year 2007.

In the spending bill passed by the House this summer, lawmakers allocated an additional $1.9 billion for poverty-focused development assistance – about $550 million more than the increase in the Senate version.

Bread for the World supports an increase of at least $2 billion for poverty-focused development assistance for fiscal year 2008 so that the United States can honor its promises to developing countries. Our country has pledged to do its part to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); we have also committed to doubling aid to Africa between 2005 and 2010.

The House and Senate versions of the spending bill contain similar funding levels for most poverty-focused development assistance programs. Bread for the World is particularly concerned about two accounts funded at higher levels by the House than by the Senate: Development Assistance and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Both are focused on long-term anti-poverty initiatives, which are vital to ending hunger in poor countries.

The Senate approved just $1.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) – a cut in funding from last year and well under half of the administration's request. Such a low allocation jeopardizes the MCA's ability to fund compacts with countries that are already well along in the process of developing their plans, such as Tanzania and Burkina Faso. Sixteen senators signed on to a "Dear Colleague" letter highlighting the harm an MCA funding cut would do. The letter was sponsored by Sens. Dodd (D-CT), Feingold (D-WI), Sununu (R-NH) and Coleman (R-MN).

Congressional leadership has not yet completed the task of appointing members of the conference committee for this bill. The conferees are charged with negotiating a final bill, taking into account House and Senate versions. Thus, they are the ones working directly on any improvements to the bill, including increased development assistance funding. But every member of Congress can influence the outcome by urging colleagues who are conferees to make this funding available.

International Action
Contact your senators and representatives as final decisions are being made on international affairs spending for FY2008. Urge them to do everything in their power to ensure that Congress meets our country’s commitments to hungry and poor people around the world by approving a $2 billion increase in poverty-focused development assistance.

Points to make:
-Our country is not on track to keep the promises we have made to the world's poorest people. The United States should be providing significantly more resources for poverty-focused development assistance -- programs that reduce hunger, poverty and disease in the world's poorest countries.
-Long-term development, such as programs in the Development Assistance account and the Millennium Challenge Account, deserve increased attention so people can pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty.
-There is too much at stake for hundreds of millions of hungry people around the world for the United States not to keep its commitments.
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121

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