A new proposal emanating from the United States Congress titled “Investing in 21st Century Diplomacy” aims to increase the International Affairs Budget by $12 billion in 2022. The proposal, which Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy recently created along with Reps. Ami Bera and David Cicilline, primarily targets a trio of crucial issues that the congressional leaders have singled out for funding.
Pandemic Preparedness and Global Health
One of those issues stems from the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Near the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, a study found that over two-thirds of health centers and clinics in Nepal and Bangladesh did not have any face masks. Additionally, countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) scored poorly on reviews of preparedness to protect healthcare workers with a noted lack of sustainable response plans cited among other factors in the results.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economies of developing countries particularly hard. In fact, a United Nations Development Programme study found that over a billion people may end up in extreme poverty by 2030 due to the effects of the pandemic. The United Nations did a study to determine the estimate, indicating that the economy lost $100 billion in investments in March and April 2020. This was due to a substantial flood of money pouring out of developing countries.
In light of the lessons learned from the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and its toll on developing nations, the aforementioned congressional leaders have crafted a portion of their proposal to address that lack of worldwide resources dedicated to fighting future pandemics. This takes the form of an over $6 billion increase in global health programs and an over $2 billion increase in funds reserved for global health security among other measures. Furthermore, the proposal lists $500 million of funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a partnership designed to develop vaccines to prevent future pandemics that the United States did not invest in during the 2019 fiscal year.
Competing with China’s Global Influence
While global assistance like this has undergone debate in the United States, China has become a world leader in foreign aid. China’s lending of $104 billion to developing countries rivals that of the World Bank that is lending $106 billion. The implementation of those funds has led to concerns that China is creating, “unsustainable debt burdens” for some low-income countries. Other countries are criticizing China’s growing influence as an attempt to strengthen the nation’s control over the ideologies within developing countries that have accepting significant aid. This has prompted concerns about the promotion of authoritarian governmental models and the censorship of opposing ideologies there.
The Investing in the 21st Century Diplomacy proposal will increase funding to the Global Engagement Center by $85 million. The Global Engagement Center addresses propaganda-related issues. Likewise, the proposed increase to the International Affairs Budget includes funding aimed at combating corruption in developing nations as well. Furthermore, the proposal of creating a boost in the International Affairs Budget includes a doubling of the investment cap set on the Development Finance Corporation, a government organization mainly dedicated to assisting low-and-middle-income countries with development projects. The proposal details this as a step to provide different sources for foreign nations to receive investments. This is in response to the significantly larger size of the Chinese equivalent to the DFC, the China Development Bank.
The proposal also includes funding earmarked for other organizations committed to helping developing countries, specifically in regard to green initiatives. One of the foremost components of that funding is a recommitment to the Green Climate Fund. This will be in the form of $3 billion. The fund will help find and implement green solutions in developing countries.
The United States Congress has not prioritized green solutions and recovery efforts related to COVID-19. In a report, the U.N. Environment Programme and Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project expressed that “only 18% of announced recovery spending can be considered green.”
The proposed increase in funds to the International Affairs Budget addresses a number of important, pressing issues facing the world today. Hopefully, through the International Affairs Budget, these issues will reduce.
– Brett Grega
Photo: Wikimedia Commons