Right now 800 million people — more than the entire population of the European continent — remain in extreme poverty.
Though it’s hard to imagine, the situation could be far worse today if it were not for American foreign assistance which has helped make the seemingly impossible possible all over the world in recent decades. Thanks to US aid, the number of people living in extreme poverty has in fact halved since 1990.
Which is why when the White House proposed that the international affairs budget be cut by 32% in May of this year, 170,000 people took action in outraged response across the country. These activists spoke up to ensure that their members of Congress know that foreign aid protects the lives of those it goes to and those at home — putting the total up to over 450,000 activists who spoke up against cuts to US foreign aid this year alone.
And last week it was clear that these voices had been heard, when the House of Representatives presented their Appropriations bill which proposed cutting the topline for international affairs by much less than 32%, at 17.2%.
This new proposal maintains and across some issues even increases funding levels for all the programs that Global Citizen directly campaigns on. Funding for clean water and sanitation, nutrition, maternal and child health was proposed to remain at 2017 levels, while an increase was recommended for our partners at the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and Global Partnership for Education.
These results were in no small part thanks to the tireless campaigning of our partners — across the sector there have been well over 300 meetings with congressional offices to support foreign aid.
We at Global Citizen have done our part, too, doing what we do best to drive change: collaboration and movement building. We connected with local partners working on the ground in our identified priority states of Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. And helped encourage over hundreds of members of Congress to put their signature on letters which called on the Appropriations Committee to support increased funding for foreign assistance programs.
Global Citizen also submitted forms to 23 Congressional offices on recommendations for programmatic funding levels for foreign aid in 2018. Our movement did this in response to a request from Congress — Congressional offices collect these forms from advocacy groups that they trust and ultimately these forms help to guide the requests and recommendations that the individual member of Congress supporters.
And of course the result would not have been achieved without the support of all of you — thank you to thousands of Global Citizens for taking action to demand the protection of foreign aid in the last few months alone.
This all serves as proof that speaking up really does make a difference.
Which is why we cannot stop now. The job is very far from done. Even though the latest budget proposal is far less devastating than it could have been, a 17.2% cut will still slash vital funding, risking millions of lives and threatening the security of the globe.
It cuts financial support from a variety of crucial organizations. Such as International debt relief — that helps to pull countries out of economic instability that poses a threat far beyond their borders. And the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) — which works to ensure a number of essential objectives for an equal world from universal access to quality education to democracy for all.
A host of women’s health initiatives will also be hindered due to the budget’s cap on family planning at $461 million. This is very concerning news when even prior to this cap, 300,000 girls and women die each year due to pregnancy and child-related causes.
We have time to stop this budget coming into effect. The Senate Appropriations Committee now need to draft their funding proposals for the fiscal year 2018. After this is completed by the Senate, the official budget will be set in what is called an “Omnibus”— in which the House and Senate numbers are reconciled. Which is why over the next couple of months you will see us ramping up our advocacy efforts and working with the Senate to ensure international affairs receive the fiscal support they need.
For example, on Wednesday of this week Global Citizen is joining partners at the UN World Food Programme, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, Bread for the World and USAID to host an event in Congress which will call for continued investments in the programs that were authorized by the legislation. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) will also be in attendance.
We need your collective voice now more than ever to ensure that the US maintains its leadership as the single biggest contributor to foreign aid. With your support, we can convince US lawmakers that now is not the time to stop the progress US foreign assistance has achieved.
Progress which has ensured 18 million children receive vital assistance to improve their nutrition and has reduced stunted growth by nearly 40% in eight countries under the Feed the Future program. Progress which has saved the lives of 12 million people thanks to President George W. Bush’s signature global health initiative PEPFAR. And progress that has leveraged over $52 billion in investments to generate nearly 30,000 Megawatts of electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, transforming lives across the continent.
All of these initiatives do not simply improve the lives of those they directly touch, but also the lives of every single one of us in our increasingly connected and globalized world. Speak up now to protect not only the world’s most vulnerable but every single global citizen on the planet, through the creation of a safer, more stable world.