The Good News You Didn’t Hear About
Lost in the media frenzy over budget negotiations, congressional investigations and military operations was a bill that contained several pieces of good news.
The State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill – the annual measure that supports diplomacy and development around the globe – was approved by the House Appropriations Committee with new provisions that advance FCNL’s legislative agenda.
Before the vote, FCNL had sent a letter to all subcommittee members urging them to fund a more peaceful, sustainable, and compassionate foreign policy. Specifically, we asked them to prioritize funding and policy support for peacebuilding, international environmental programs, and refugee protection. This letter complemented FCNL’s regular lobbying activities, which involved direct outreach to congressional offices with line-by-line funding and policy requests, as well as the calls, emails, letters, and congressional office visits by FCNL’s grassroots network.
For the first time ever, the House bill provides funding for the Complex Crises Fund, recommending $30 million for Fiscal Year 2020, the same as the current level. Combined with major increases for international peacekeeping contributions, the bill provides a total of $4.1 billion for FCNL’s priority peacebuilding accounts – a 23 percent increase over last year.
Funding for important international climate and environmental accounts we have worked hard to support, like the Adaptation and Renewable Energy programs, was maintained or increased. The bill provides $140 million for the Global Environment Facility and $10.5 million for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – both of which are important ways we meet our commitments to the international community. Notably, the bill allows a contribution to the Green Climate Fund and prohibits the use of funds to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
The committee also approved robust funding for refugee and humanitarian assistance, providing $3.5 billion to help families fleeing life-threatening situations find temporary protection within countries where they are displaced and $4.4 billion for life-saving aid to people displaced by disaster, conflict, and war. According to its accompanying report, the legislation also “restores humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinians as part of a broader policy objective to keep the goal of a two-state solution viable by providing resources through international organizations to address human needs in the West Bank and Gaza.” We were especially pleased by the committee’s rejection of the President’s proposal to combine overseas refugee operations with other kinds of relief and development programs, which would have further undercut refugee protection and resettlement.
Overall, the $56 billion bill increases spending on diplomacy and development by $2 billion over last year’s total, and by nearly $14 billion over the president’s request. Yet even with these increases, the United States will spend far less than a dime on peaceful approaches to the world for every dollar it lavishes on the Pentagon. We will continue to press for a more ethical and effective approach to national security as the spending bill advances to the House floor in mid-June, and as the Senate crafts its own version over the summer.