Congress Should Fully Fund International Affairs Budget | Freedom House

Congress Should Fully Fund International Affairs Budget

Washington


Photo Credit: U.S. Census Bureau / CC BY 2.0


In its latest budget request, the Obama administration continues its pivot towards the East Asia and Pacific region with increased funding, proposes decreased funding for Latin America and Eurasia, and continues a policy of uneven support for democratic transitions in the Middle East.

Freedom House welcomes President Obama’s $40.3 billion request for international affairs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, the same amount as allocated in FY 2014, as outlined in his congressional budget justification released March 4. Preserving this support is a strategic priority in the face of the severe budget cuts called for by some in Washington.

“The Administration has recognized that funding for America’s diplomats and assistance programs is a key tool for achieving American policy objectives and protecting American interests around the world,” said Sarah Trister, senior advocacy manager at Freedom House. “Congress should likewise recognize that these investments are vital and fully fund the international affairs budget in FY15.”

Details about specific programmatic requests will become clear when the Administration releases a detailed budget in coming weeks.

“When the full details of this budget are available, we hope to see a focus on assisting civil society in transitioning countries, protecting human rights and democratic values throughout our assistance programs, and the support of free expression and access to information,” said Trister. “Congress should ensure there are adequate funds to support democracy and human rights not only in key countries such as Ukraine, Venezuela, Egypt, Russia, Syria, and China, but also use the budget to show support for universal values as fundamental part of its foreign policy worldwide."

Some notable details from the President’s Congressional Budget Justification for the State Department and Foreign Operations include:

  • The Administration’s request continues to allocate $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt, despite the military coup against a democratically elected president last July and little progress towards a democratic transition.

Increases

  • 13 percent increase in payments for International Organizations including the United Nations
  • 40 percent increase in the Contributions to International Peacekeeping Accounts
  • 4.5 percent increase in Development Assistance (DA), to $2.6 billion
  • 10.6 percent increase in Economic Support Funds (ESF), to $3.4 billion
  • 25 percent increase in DA and ESF funds for the East Asia and Pacific Region (compared to FY2013)
  • $225 million for the creation of a “MENA Initiatives” program, housed within the Near East Bureau at State.
  • $155 million for assistance to Syrian opposition groups
  • $30 million in Economic Support Funds in Tunisia

Decreases

  • 23 percent decrease in funding for the National Endowment for Democracy, to $103 million
  •  17 percent decrease in development assistance for Egypt (compared to FY 2013).
  • Elimination of democracy-specific bilateral assistance to Bahrain
  • 10 percent decrease in DA and ESF funding for the Western Hemisphere
  • 14 percent decrease in DA and ESF funding for Europe and Eurasia
  • Elimination of assistance for Ecuador
  • Small decrease in ESF assistance for Venezuela (compared to FY2013)

Freedom House will provide additional updates as the details are released.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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