I want to share with you a piece we've developed for Accord members as they show support on Capitol Hill for poverty focused development assistance. We've shared this with about 30 offices and I want to make sure you've seen it.
As members of the Accord Network, we ask you to support robust poverty-focused development assistance programs.
Accord Network is a consortium of over 90 Christ-centered relief and development organizations working in--or supporting efforts to--the developing world.
Faith-based organizations (FBOs) leverage billions of dollars to help the poorest of the poor around the world. For our organizations, the call to help the poor can come from the Bible, John 15, when Christ commands us to “Love each other as I have loved you.”
The commitment of Americans to helping people in the developing world is substantial. While not all private foreign assistance comes from FBOs, in 2013 more foreign assistance came from private sources ($31 billion) than came from the U.S. government ($27 billion). The total budget of Accord Network members is $4.3 billion.
Much of American foreign assistance (public and private) can be categorized by the term “Poverty- Focused Development Assistance.” PFDA covers activities such as education, health programs, water and sanitation, sustainable agriculture, and other programs that generally reduce poverty and provide broad-based economic development.
The current U.S. government PFDA budget is less than one half of one percent of the federal budget.1 Though most of our members do not receive USG funding, the Accord Network strongly supports a robust, federally-funded, American PFDA program. There are many reasons for this:
Mission: the missions of FBOs and official foreign assistance are broadly in accord – to help the poorest of the poor. While the intentionality of the programs can be different, with FBOs motivated by religious belief and sacrifice and the U.S. Government acting on national interests and values, the objectives are generally identical.
Security: official American programs and institutions in both the diplomatic and development areas often provide enhanced security and stability in a developing country which allows for greater access and success of FBO efforts. In many developing nations, a reduction in official development assistance can lead to a breakdown in civil society as vulnerable populations, already very needy, face even greater deprivation.
Dignity: Official U.S. Government development assistance programs contribute to human dignity by providing technical assistance training programs and assisting those individuals who cannot currently care for themselves or their families. As churches and faith-based organizations are meeting a call to help the poor, any effort to improve the human condition is salutary.
Efficiency: while official assistance programs are imperfect, the investment in American diplomacy and development as prophylactic measures are vastly cheaper and much less likely to result in the loss of life than military solutions. FBOs see a decrease in the U.S. Government’s International Affairs Budget as making military intervention more likely since the United States may be required to solve or help solve a humanitarian catastrophe.
Access: there are “closing spaces” around the world in which aid agencies and FBOs can operate – more and more governments are prohibiting assistance to their own citizens. In several cases, U.S. faith-based organizations have been asked to leave. This negative trend is appropriately addressed by official U.S. Government diplomatic and development resources, as a typical FBO has little ability to push back against host government hostility.5 Often, FBO appeals to host government officials are not acknowledged, while requests for meetings or dialogue from U.S. diplomats are much more difficult to deny.
Leadership: American leadership, which is manifest in both diplomatic and development programs, is a tangible benefit to FBOs in developing nations. American FBOs particularly benefit from the respect shown to the American presence in a developing country. If American diplomatic and development programs suffer a significant reduction in resources, host countries notice immediately and this diminution in leadership results in a more difficult environment for American FBOs to operate.
Advocacy: there is a trend toward nationalism across the globe, and particularly in South Asia. This rising nationalism, which is related to the “closing spaces” trend, often leads
to restrictions on aid organizations, including American FBOs; not just activities, but on perceived motivations. In other words, an organization motivated by Christian charity can be persecuted for its intentions, ignoring its impact. FBOs have limited ability to fight back against sovereign governments alone. We rely on official American resources to defend our organizations as we work side-by-side with US government programs to defend our work with the world’s most marginalizaed populations.
In summary, we believe strongly that poverty-focused development assistance helps the poor, reflects America’s leadership and values, and bolsters the reach and effectiveness of our organizations. We ask that you support and defend a robust, diplomatic, and poverty-focused development assistance portfolio.