The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. Photo by: Thomas and Melody Banneck / CC BY-NC-ND

As Congress moves into budget and appropriations season for fiscal 2016, advocates have the opportunity to encourage policymakers to continue U.S. leadership in helping people in the world’s poorest places to become independent and build sustainable futures for themselves and their families.

This week marks the launch of InterAction’s Choose to Invest in Development and Humanitarian Relief FY 2016. In a letter sent to Congress Tuesday — as lawmakers begin writing the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill — 168 organizations endorsed InterAction’s funding recommendations.

Choose to Invest FY 2016 is a rich resource for those who support building the foundation for education, health, and economic opportunity so that every person, regardless of where they are born, has the chance to reach their full potential. Specific recommendations are made across more than 35 international development and humanitarian response programs.

Diving deeper into Choose to Invest opens a window into the largest policy issues facing the international development community today, such as backsliding on democracy programs, scaling up the signature food security program Feed the Future, responding to the largest number of high level emergencies in decades, and reforming the delivery of food aid to increase efficiency and reach more people in need.

● As the need for more democracy rights and governance programming has increased, U.S. resources to support such programs have declined. In fiscal 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama requested $2.98 billion and Congress appropriated $2.85 billion for democracy programs, but actual spending was only $2.087 billion — 27 percent less than Congress desired. To address backsliding on democracy programming, InterAction recommends $3.153 billion for DRG programming, including $546 million within the Development Assistance account and $1.868 billion within the Economic Support Fund for DRG programs. In addition, we recommend $150 million each for the National Endowment for Democracy and the Democracy Fund.

The world faces an unprecedented number of emergencies, from Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Ukraine, to the Ebola-affected countries in 2015. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that the number of forcibly displaced people is the highest since the post-World War II era: 51.2 million people, including 16.7 million refugees. To respond to this record number of people in need InterAction recommends:

● $2.5 billion in funding for international disaster assistance, which is used by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to respond quickly and effectively to millions of people in need of assistance due to conflict and other complex humanitarian crises. At least $1.7 billion is needed for core OFDA operations and no less than $800 million for emergency food security programs.

● $3.3 billion for migration and refugee assistance, in combination with IDA, which will allow the U.S. to respond to the Syria crisis, which has resulted in 7.6 million internally displaced persons and more than 3 million refugees in neighboring countries, and has necessitated the largest humanitarian funding appeal ($8.4 billion) ever requested.

● $1.75 billion for Food for Peace Title II programs, which would allow the U.S. to reach over 47 million people with lifesaving food aid. This increase is needed because the reach of FFP has declined dramatically due to largely rising commodity and transportation costs and a half-billion dollar decline in FFP funding.

We also look forward to working with Congress to further build momentum for food aid reform, which was initiated in the president’s fiscal 2014 and 2015 proposals and continued through the fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill and farm bill. The best way forward is to increase flexibility to use the right tool, or mix of tools, for any given crisis — including cash and food vouchers, local regional procurement, and U.S. agriculture commodities — balanced appropriately between emergency and nonemergency programs.

As the world considers how to finance the new sustainable development goals later this year, advocates can use Choose to Invest 2016 to make the case that the U.S. must continue to lead in helping people in the world’s poorest places become independent and stand on their own two feet. Let’s join forces in partnerships like the commitments made by InterAction members and private companies to create an unprecedented pool of assets for Feed the Future to leverage and meet its goals. All people of the world deserve to live in dignity and reach their full potential.

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About the author

  • Mark lotwis

    Mark Lotwis

    Mark Lotwis is the vice president of policy and government relations at InterAction, where he helps shape important policy decisions on humanitarian, relief and long-term development issues. Prior to InterAction, Lotwis served as senior director of campaign advocacy at the Save Darfur Coalition. He also worked as executive director of 21st century Democrats, as a partner of two leading media consulting firms and as chief of staff to U.S. Representative Ted Strickland.