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cuts to USAID
Recently, the Trump administration, in collaboration with congressional leadership on Capitol Hill, has hammered out a deal to prevent a government shutdown while effectively gutting the State Department and agencies like USAID of their funding. This move not only signals a sidelining of diplomacy but marks one of the biggest budget cuts to USAID and the State Department since the early 1990s.

The effects of the budget cuts to USAID are undoubtedly going to hinder diplomatic agencies in eliminating poverty around the globe and increasing diplomatic relations with the countries that depend on us the most. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the State Department’s main tool for dispensing aid to foreign countries and strengthening diplomatic relations.

USAID currently operates in roughly 100 countries, fighting the spread of poverty and disease while working to improve economic conditions worldwide. The proposed budget cuts to USAID weigh in at approximately $9 billion, a staggering defeat to those working toward the end of poverty worldwide.

The President’s proposed budget cuts to USAID amount to nearly one-third of its total budget, in what seems to be a strategic move away from diplomacy and toward military strengthening. Regardless of the President’s agenda, this move away from soft power and diplomacy has been condemned by many members of the military.

A total of 151 retired senior military commanders, including former chiefs of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command, have warned that a reduction of this magnitude could have detrimental effects around the globe. As threats to the United States’ national security continue to grow, it is a risk to decrease diplomatic ties at such a pivotal moment.

Many civilians and government employees agree with the opinions of their military leaders. Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios said, when facing the 1999 budget cuts to foreign aid, that it is likely budget cuts could have detrimental effects toward the technical expertise of USAID and could mark the beginning of a disaster in the long-term.

As well as the statement above, Natsios describes budget cuts toward foreign aid and agencies such as USAID as an “evisceration of the most important tool of American influence in the developing world.” Other staffers from USAID warn of the spread of disease in the United States rising as foreign aid spending is cut. Outbreaks such as the Ebola outbreak may become much larger and harder to contain with a lack of funding to agencies such as USAID. These concerns are still relevant and even more serious today.

Agencies such as USAID are pivotal in diplomatic relations and national security. By providing funds, resources, goods and trade to other countries, the U.S. invests in itself as well as others. By providing healthcare to those in need, USAID prevents the spread of communicable diseases, prevents premature death and builds a market for low-cost medical technologies.

By providing food and farming technologies, the U.S. prevents world hunger and promotes market trading of produce and other consumable goods. By providing foreign aid, the country also helps form more efficiently-run governments and promotes democracy wherever possible. All of these efforts also prevent bigger catastrophes around the globe, such as mass migrations, food shortages and natural disasters.

At the end of March, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill for FY18 that will keep the government open through September 30, 2018. When it comes to funding for development and diplomacy, the omnibus overwhelmingly rejects the deep and disproportionate cuts proposed by the Administration in FY18 – highlighting the strong bipartisan support in Congress for these critical programs. Still, there is more work to be done to protect funding for the foreign aid budget in FY19 and beyond. 

 

Email Congress in Support of the International Affairs Budget

– Dalton Westfall

Photo: Flickr

  • Education in Spain

Education in Spain is a broad and extended topic. Although the federal form of government in the country resides in Madrid, and is lead by the prime minister Mariano Rajoy, the country is divided within 17 autonomous regions that have smaller forms of government within each one. This leads to some schools in Spain teaching Spanish in the particular dialect from each region, such as in Catalonia, the Basque country, Galicia and more.

The Spanish schooling system is divided within three categories: public schools, private schools and state-funded private schools. Regardless of public schools being completely funded by the state, thus free of charge for the students who attend such schools, class materials, books and sometimes uniforms still need to be paid with citizens’ own money.

Sunken within the 2008 economic crisis, the European country of Spain has just now started to recover its economy and generate interest, breaking the loop that has positioned the country at the second highest unemployment rate within the European Union, Greece taking the first place. The sector that has been most affected by the economic crisis of the past several years has been public education in Spain. This issue has been a notoriously increasing one since the economic crisis started, due to extreme budget cuts on the public schooling system within the European country.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy declared José Ignacio Wert as the minister for education in the year of 2011, and from then to 2015, when Wert was substituted by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, education was greatly affected. From the year 2012 to 2013, public schools’ teaching systems declined when sharp cuts forced the government to leave up to 25,000 teachers unemployed. Public universities’ tuition fees increased by 66 percent, taking Spanish citizens out on the street to protest the dreadful management that increased the numbers of people who could not afford education for their families.

The main consequence regarding these issues has been the increase of school dropouts, which stood at an alarming rate of 25 percent in 2014, the highest school dropout rate in the European Union. However, there is good news. Even with high levels of poverty, education in Spain was ranked as having the 12th lowest inequality gap for students of all the countries in Europe.

Spanish residents fight for a better schooling system and education in Spain everyday. The lack of teachers, economic resources and the increase of students per class have lead to a series of educational strikes in order to make the Spanish government understand and respond to the gravity of the issue.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Trump's HIV Foreign Aid CutsIn May 2017, President Donald Trump unveiled his “skinny budget” plan that would be implemented in the upcoming fiscal year. President Trump’s plan is particularly worrisome for foreign countries that are plagued by HIV, as the plan cuts $1 billion from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPAR) program.

It has been estimated that President Trump’s HIV foreign aid cuts would result in nine million life years lost in South Africa and Ivory Coast, which are two countries that have a predominant problem with the spread of HIV. Specifically, according to humanitarian writer Sebastien Malo, “South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV worldwide, with 19 percent of its adult population carrying the virus in 2015.”

The U.S. Department of State reported that HIV-infected patients who currently receive antiretroviral therapy funded by U.S. foreign aid would not stop getting treatments. On the other hand, however, it is estimated that 1.8 million people would die from HIV in South Africa and Ivory Coast within 10 years due to President Trump’s HIV foreign aid cuts.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, if the Trump administration continues to cut funding for HIV-related programs and research, HIV could transform into a pandemic and affect the world. Jacqueline Alemany, White House reporter, indicated that the foreign aid cuts are due to the Trump administration’s partiality toward defense and military spending.

Thus, a small reduction of $1 billion from the current $6 billion PEPFAR program would potentially cause catastrophic effects around the world. Furthermore, adding to South Africa’s estimated seven million HIV-infected people, Ivory Coast is home to approximately 460,000 HIV-infected people. All in all, as Malo questions, “would the relatively small savings realized by currently proposed budget reductions be worth these large humanitarian costs?”

Now, the U.S. government is left to determine whether or not the budget cuts are worth the potential humanitarian crisis caused by an enormous loss of life and the spread of HIV.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

sequestrian-budget-cuts-global-health-programs
“Sequestration”, the popular buzzword going around Washington, is the term for a series of automatic spending cuts that went into effect after Congress and the White House failed to agree on a budget for the 2013 fiscal year. While much of the conversation about sequestration has highlighted Washington gridlock and the heated and partisan nature of the negotiation process, the $85 billion dollars in sequestration cuts has caused a number of organizations to worry that the cuts could negatively impact global health programs.

Using figures from a March 1 report by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the group amFar, (The American Foundation for AIDS Research) estimates that the required 5% cuts to discretionary government spending would have the following negative impact on global health programs:

  • HIV/AIDS treatment for 162,200 people will not be available, potentially leading to 37,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 72,800 more children becoming orphans.
  • Funding for food, education, and livelihood assistance will not be available for 225,000 children.
  • 1.16 million fewer insecticide-treated mosquito nets will be procured, leading to over 3,000 deaths due to malaria; 1.9 million fewer people will receive treatment.
  • 35,300 fewer people with tuberculosis (TB) will receive treatment, leading to 4,200 more deaths due to TB; 190 fewer people with multidrug-resistant TB will receive treatment.

In addition, amFar estimates that sequestration cuts in contributions to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization will mean 789,500 fewer pentavalent vaccines for children, resulting in 8,400 more deaths from preventable diseases. The group also states that required sequestration cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria would mean:

  • 1.5 million fewer insecticide-treated mosquito nets will be available, leading to 4,000 deaths from malaria.
  • 54,000 fewer TB patients will receive treatment, leading to more than 6,400 TB deaths.
  • An additional 59,800 people will not be treated for HIV/AIDS.

Another group, The Global Health Technologies Coalition, notes that organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), all of which fund research and development on projects like HIV/AIDS, and malaria and meningitis vaccinations, will have budgets slashed by significant amounts because of the required sequestration cuts. The result will be an interruption in research projects, including late-stage projects for vaccines that could help millions of people. They argue that such an interruption is not merely an inconvenience, but a potential health risk.

Both groups also argue that while sequestration cuts could negatively impact global health programs in these ways, they would have very little positive impact on the US deficit or debt reduction because spending on global health programs amounts to only .01% of the US Gross Domestic Product.

– Délice Williams

Source: National Journal,amFar,Global Health Technologies Coalition
Photo: University of Washington

Sequestration

Se·ques·tra·tion (n) /ˌsēkwiˈstrāSHən/: a four-syllable word that hasn’t been part of average American vocabulary for long. Now the term is ubiquitous, even blamed for a vast number of completely unrelated problems. High gas prices? Must be sequestration. Long wait time on a business license? Probably the sequester. Got a flat tire? That darned sequester is to blame.

So what is sequestration? Etymologically speaking, the verb “sequester” itself derives from the Latin sequester which meant “trustee” or “mediator.” It has links to the root sequi (“to follow”), but by early 16th century the word “sequester” meant “to seize by authority, confiscate.” Today “sequester” also carries a similar meaning to “isolate” or “withdraw.” In budget contexts, sequestration implies withholding funds normally disbursed.

For the United States government, the Sequester was a massive set of budget cuts enacted by The Budget Control Act of 2011. This Act contained provisions that if the United States Congress could not formulate and pass a federal budget by a certain date, these massive budget cuts would occur across most departments and agencies (about 50/50 between defense and domestic spending). Other countries have proposed and enacted similarly drastic spending cuts to balance their budgets, but have typically called those measures “austerity policies.”

Congress’s threat of sequestration was supposed to incentivize compromise on reducing deficit in the federal budget. After all, those who support a large defense budget would hopefully work harder to come up with a budget to keep this funding intact; those who support high amounts of domestic spending would fight tooth and nail to pass a budget to avoid those cuts.

Multiple attempts to compromise were made on both sides of the aisle, but in the end Congress was unable to agree, and the government plunged over what many called “the fiscal cliff.” Many saw this as the point of no return for Congressional compromise — or, rather, the lack thereof; others winced at the blunt nature of the cuts but expressed support for the step towards a balanced federal budget. For invaluable foreign aid programs, however, the sudden budget cuts threaten to hurt many more people than just Americans.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: CNN,Online Etymology Dictionary,USA.gov
Photo: Esibytes

Why Military Leaders Oppose Foreign Aid Cuts
The link between the alleviation of global poverty and the assurance of national security is one that has been promoted by high-ranking military officials for decades. According to the United States Global Leadership Committee, 84% of military officials say that strengthening development and diplomacy efforts should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.

This is because they recognize the connection between the grievances that spawn from those in abject poverty and the propensity toward terrorism. They can see that investing in human welfare in developing nations has the capacity to ensure freedom from violent extremist groups.

On March 13, 2013, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) released the Senate’s Budget Resolution for the fiscal year of 2014. In this resolution, a 9.6% (about $4 billion) increase in U.S. foreign assistance was proposed. In response, two senators proposed amendments that would reduce this figure significantly. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) proposed to cut aid to Egypt as well as to suspend funding to the United Nations while any member nation legally allows forced involuntary abortions.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), however, proposed very drastic cuts to foreign assistance as a whole. His amendment to the resolution included a 33% cut- about $15 billion. When this failed in the Senate, he proposed an aid freeze at $5 billion.

Approximately a week later, Paul received a letter from USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council expressing its disapproval of the proposed amendments. In it, they implore the senator to acknowledge that cutting funding for development and diplomacy programs would do little to salvage the nation’s fiscal problems. After all, foreign assistance only comprises 1% of the federal budget.

Admiral James M. Loy and General Michael W. Hagee, the chief authors of the letter, argue that in order for the United States to be successful in their efforts abroad, they “must balance strategically all three aspects of national power and international influence- defense, diplomacy, and development.” These are the Pentagon’s official “3D’s” for protecting the United States.

The letter makes it clear that their perspectives are much more useful in discerning the importance of development and diplomacy programs. As officers in the United States military, they have had the first-hand experience in the regions that need foreign assistance the most.  They also urge the senator to look past the monetary value of these programs and instead consider the cost in human lives.

Military leaders oppose foreign aid cuts because they have seen that the Department of Defense cannot handle the world’s issues single-handedly. A multi-level approach, both militarily and non-militarily, is necessary to ensure national security. Additionally, they see military intervention as a last-resort solution to an existing problem. Diplomacy and development, however, can fix the problems before they even begin.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: United States Global Leadership Committee
Photo: IBT

$500 Million 'Rescue Mission' Initiative LaunchedWith cuts to foreign aid looming and some already in place, humanitarian organizations are going to become even more important in the fight against global poverty. Evangelical organization World Vision launched a $500 million ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative to help 10 million children living in poverty.  The ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative will focus on clean water, access to health care, and child protection.

Under the budget cuts that went into effect as of January 1, 2013, non-profits are predicting that there will be 1.1 million fewer mosquito nets distributed, 300,000 fewer people with access to clean water, and 2 million people with reduced or zero access to food aid.  This is cause for serious concern as we look at being less than 1,000 from the end date for the Millenium Development Goals (MDG).

World Vision launched the $500 million ‘rescue mission’ dubbed “For Every Child” which seeks to raise $500 million by 2015.  It is the farthest-reaching endeavor World Vision has ever taken on.  The initiative will focus on clean water, fighting communicable diseases, providing small loans to families, and protecting children from human trafficking.

When the government cuts budgets, it can be difficult for non-profit organizations to get the start-up capital they need to start new ventures. This campaign is important to continue the life-saving work World Vision is already doing around the world.  It will hopefully fill the gap from government funds and continue to promote the MDGs as we near the final stretch.  We have halved poverty in the last decade and it is very possible to continue the downward trend, but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

While the needs are great and the costs seem high, the alternative to pushing forward is not an option. As Richard Sterns, Executive Director of World Vision put it, “We’ve taken a hard look at the needs that exist today. They are great, but we refuse to believe that poverty is too big, too expensive, or too difficult to overcome-because for the millions of children living in poverty, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Christian Post

More US Aid to Jordan to Help With Syrian Refugees

The Civil War in Syria has driven thousands of people out of the country and into Jordan. This has resulted in major problems in Jordan as they try to figure out what to do with all of the Syrian refugees. Recently, President Barack Obama made a public announcement offering $200 million in U.S. aid to help with the Syrian refugees in Jordan.

This pledge from Barack Obama for foreign aid money comes at an interesting time as it follows the extensive budget cuts recently put in place by the United States Congress. However, President Obama seems adamant on offering aid money to Jordan for basic services to help place and educate displaced Syrians, saying he will work with Congress to find a way to give $200 million extra dollars in U.S. aid. According to  Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whom Obama met with on Friday, March 22, more than 460,000 Syrians have fled their country in search of refuge within the Jordanian borders. This number is estimated to double in the upcoming months if the turmoil in Syria continues.

Putting these numbers into perspective: 460,000 people make up approximately a tenth of the Jordanian population. Doubling the number of Syrian refugees causes an almost 25% increase in the number of people in Jordan.

This increase in people will have serious effects on the economic situation in Jordan. Some economists predict a nearly 30% unemployment rate by the end of the year as more and more Syrians pour into the county. These many refugees are also predicted to cost over $1 billion. Yet, King Abdullah pledges to not turn away any refugees, asking “how are you going to turn back women, children or the wounded?”

The Obama administration seems committed to helping end the fighting in Syria, pushing for the current Syrian president Assad to step down. Yet, Obama absolutely refuses to provide U.S. military assistance for the Syrian opposition movement, saying that interference may discredit the message the Syrian rebels are advocating or may lead to even larger security issues. Financial support in Jordan to take care of the many Syrian refugees seems to be a substitute solution for showing its support for bringing peace to Syria without getting directly involved in the civil war.

Obama pledging the extra aid money is only half of the equation. Congress must now scrape together this money, which may be a difficult task, as evident from the inability for Congress to come to an agreement over budget cuts.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: CNN, Wall Street Journal
Photo: UPI