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House budget cuts 'short-sighted,' endanger lives of poor

February 19, 2011

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Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer today responded to the House of Representatives FY11 Continuing Resolution for the federal budget, and its potential impact on international affairs funding. The bill, which will fund the government through September 30, 2011, calls for a 19 percent decrease in core international affairs spending levels from FY 2010. Mr. Keny-Guyer responded as follows:

“We are deeply disappointed in the House’s cuts to the FY 2011 budget, which endanger the lives of millions of impoverished people around the world, and do nothing to make aid smarter or more effective. The decreases in spending would significantly erode the US’s ability respond to global disasters, provide food for families in need, and fill the urgent needs of refugees fleeing conflict or instability.

“The budget deals a powerful blow to America’s global leadership and moral conscience. These cuts run counter to the basic American belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to lead a happy, peaceful, productive life, and the US should do its part to make those opportunities possible. In addition, these cuts would allow crises and poverty to erode global stability, which is directly counter to US strategic interests.

“If these budget numbers were enacted into law and the equivalent of the 2010 Haiti earthquake happened the next day, the United States would be largely absent from the response. These cuts mean that critical support for hundreds of thousands of desperate, displaced families in Darfur could disappear. The cuts to food aid mean that the millions affected by a worsening drought in the Horn of Africa could be deprived of life-saving food rations.

“We realize it is a difficult budget year, and fiscal responsibility requires tough decisions. Mercy Corps is a firm supporter of efforts to make aid more efficient and effective. Just this year, we implemented ground-breaking USAID food aid programs in Niger and Haiti that allow people to buy food locally or regionally rather than shipping it from the United States. That saves US taxpayers money, it gets food to hungry people faster, and it reinforces local markets. These pilot programs – along with agriculture initiative to help people feed themselves – represent better, smarter ways of providing aid.

“In contrast, the short-sighted cuts in the House’s FY 2011 budget won’t make aid more accountable or efficient. The Obama Administration has many strong ideas for reform of overseas assistance - infusing aid with innovation, scaling up programs that work, and capitalizing on efficiencies. Congress should enable the Administration to carry this vision forward.

“Mercy Corps urges the US Senate to appropriate robust budgets for the humanitarian and development accounts in the FY 2011 budget, bearing in mind the unthinkable human impact that budget cuts could have. If the US truly wants a more prosperous, just and secure world, we cannot allow these cuts to stand.”

In the coming weeks, the US Senate will negotiate and vote on its own version of the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution. The House and Senate must present a reconciled version of the budget to President Obama.