Over the course of the next five months, the members of the United States Congress will make a decision that will affect millions — maybe billions — of people in need around the world.
They will determine next year’s budget.
Last month, President Donald Trump proposed a budget for 2018 that would decimate US foreign aid spending, cutting it by a third from what it was in previous years. The US only spends 1% of its budget on foreign aid right now, a number that is small but has effects that are mighty.
If Congress greenlights Trump’s proposed 32% cut to foreign aid, humanitarian programs that deliver health care, education, jobs, food, and clean water to people around the world, bringing with them stability and potential for economic growth, will be devastated.
US foreign aid is allocated through the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which partner with global organizations on everything from health to gender equality and education for vulnerable populations around the world. This aid paramount to achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals by 2030.
The funding has also helped bring education to more than 5,000 children in Mali since 2015, after conflict in the region limited access to schools.
For a deeper interactive look at the impact US foreign aid has made in the past few years, explore this global impact map.
While critics may argue that the US shouldn’t spend money helping other countries while there are still problems here at home, data shows that foreign aid actually makes the entire world, richer, safer, and healthier, including the US.
Right now, the proposed cuts to the foreign aid budget are simply suggestions for Congress. Not everyone is onboard: 43 US Senators asked Congress to support the foreign aid budget in April. But, in order to #StoptheCuts and ensure they do not become a reality, we must all take action.
Here are five ways you can help stop foreign aid budget cuts.
1. Call Congress
This is the first and most important step. Pick up the phone, call your Congressperson, and tell her or him that you do not support the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts to foreign aid. Urge your representative to support foreign aid and oppose the proposed budget cuts.
If you’re not sure how much convincing it will take for your Congressperson to support foreign aid in the 2018 budget, this interactive tool will tell you where your legislator stands on supporting global development.
And don’t stop calling. For more inspiration, check out Global Citizen’s parody video of Adele’s “Hello,” which encourages global citizens to keep calling Congress, and read these 10 tips for calling Congress. Also, it doesn’t hurt to remember that legislators do listen, and calling to share your position on certain issues can influence their decision-making.
2. Learn Why a Full 1% of the US Budget Should Go Toward Foreign Aid
Ketcia Orilius, 37, a community health worker in Robin, Haiti, stops to talk to community members as she delivers health services. Ketcia will walk to patients’ houses, making 10 to 12 home visits each day. Her focus is on women and children, and her duties include administering vaccines, immunizations, check-ups and pre-natal and post-natal care. She also serves as an educator, teaching mothers about nutrition and family planning. Ketcia found her way to this work through a USAID program.
What makes a phone call awkward? Not knowing your subject matter. For a smooth call to Congress, learn about why US foreign aid matters.
Here are four articles to to add to your summer reading list to better understand why US foreign aid matters:
In addition to the above list, the Washington Post assembled a comprehensive breakdown of which foreign aid funds go where, which you can check out here.
In addition, there are plenty of touching anecdotes to supplement into your reading list on the impact and diversity of foreign aid programs from USAID. For example, in Morocco, two sisters are breaking barriers training to be auto mechanics with support from USAID. They shared their story in a photo essay here.
3. Raise Awareness
Spread knowledge and awareness about why the US should not cut the foreign aid budget. Leaders like Bill Gates and George W. Bush, along with 100 faith leaders, and 120 military leaders, have already stepped up to show their support for foreign aid, and six senators recently wrote a letter saying that cuts would be “shortsighted, counterproductive, and even dangerous.”
If you encounter family or friends who argue that the US spends too much on foreign aid, use the above arguments to help challenge their perspective. The US only spends about half of what other countries spend on foreign aid in terms of percentage of income.
Share your support for foreign aid through social media and word of mouth, and especially by contacting your legislators.
4. Support Organizations Who Receive US Foreign Aid
In 2014, 76% of the world received some form of economic assistance from the US. This aid bolsters diplomatic relationships, improves health, education, gender equality, and peace across the planet. If this aid is taken away in the 2018 budget, foreign assistance to programs that support education and clean water would be cut by more than 50%. The world is already struggling to meet the needs of the 65 million children who are out of school due to conflict. Support for these global issues are truly more important than ever.
There are hundreds of organizations, issue areas, and programs that US foreign aid helps support around the world, partial lists of which can be found here. Whether it’s actually donating to the organization or sharing your support via social media, every form of support counts.
5. Stay Positive, Don’t Get Discouraged
Some experts estimate that the budget process in Congress could be delayed until December (months past Sept. 30, when the 2017 budget runs out). Stay positive. Long and hard deliberations from Congress could be good for the outcome of preserving foreign aid. You can keep calling your representatives the entire time and encourage them to #StopTheCuts.
And remember, Trump’s budget ideas are just a proposal. Congress holds the purse strings for US tax dollars, and you can hold them accountable for their decisions in the next election.