At the end of May the Senate passed a bill to provide emergency aid for
Jordan, Burma, and food security – urgent humanitarian needs that our
government needs to address.
The Senate funded the assistance by proposing to cut the budget of the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which invests in long-term poverty reduction, by 1/3. The U.S. has already promised MCC funding to several very poor countries, including the African nation of Burkina Faso, scheduled to sign a compact with the MCC in July. Since the news, the NGO community has been advocating hard against the proposed cuts.
Last week the proposed cuts were reduced from $525 million to $58 million by a conference of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate approved the bill last night and it is now up to the President to approve.
This month, I had the privilege of traveling to Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. 80% of the population is rural, subsistence farmers. The women I met in Burkina Faso rely on small vegetable plots to feed their families and send their children to school. The MCC’s programs would help women have access to land, help girls go to school, and improve rural roads – key strategies for reducing poverty and increasing food security. I also met with government officials who told me that the country has already spent $5 million of its own budget and has undergone years of preparation, consultation, and reform in order to qualify for MCC assistance. Pulling funding at this point sends
a signal that America is not a reliable partner. While responding to emergencies is vital, cutting long-term development funding to pay for it puts people at greater risk for poverty and food insecurity, the very problems we are trying to solve. (Listen to NPR’s Morning Edition on the cuts)
What has this experience taught us? Two things. First, there is no doubt that we need to reform our Foreign Assistance policies to invest in long-term poverty reduction, ensure that women’s needs are included, and prevent situations like these from happening. Second, with the right advocacy, activists and NGOs like the ONE Campaign have the power to
make reform happen.
- Nora O’Connell, Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs,
Women Thrive Worldwide