Magazine article The Christian Century

Recast Foreign Aid, Church Leaders Plead

Magazine article The Christian Century

Recast Foreign Aid, Church Leaders Plead

Article excerpt

In an open letter to Congress April 21, church leaders urged Congress to reform U. S. foreign-aid policy and programs to ensure that foreign aid promotes peace, alleviates poverty, protects the environment and advances human rights. "Our nation has a unique opportunity to make aid a more effective tool to achieve human and national development that will contribute to peace," said the letter, signed by Protestant, Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders. Only days earlier, another letter was sent to Secretary of State Warren Christopher that called for "comprehensive and timely reform of the policy guidelines governing U. S. foreign assistance." The letter dated April 11 was signed by leaders of several nongovernmental organizations.

Currently, foreign aid is governed by a 1961 law that reflects outdated cold-war security interests, said Cheryl Morden of the Washington Office on Development Policy of Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief. Congress is considering a foreign-aid reform bill that would significantly reshape aid policy. However, lawmakers could postpone voting on such reform, which some observers fear would destroy whatever momentum it has gathered to this point.

The religious leaders encouraged Congress not to view aid as "a way to promote global economic advantage for the U. S.," but rather to "encourage trade and investment that promotes greater economic equity and environmental integrity." They asked that the U. S. enforce its own laws that establish linkage between foreign-aid grants and a country's human rights record. They also questioned the heavy concentration of foreign aid in only a few countries. More aid should be channeled, the signers said, to development needs in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and some Middle East countries

Much of the foreign aid that has provided military equipment to Egypt and Israel in years past should be shifted to programs designed to create economic opportunities for "poor people in poor countries," the church leaders asserted. …

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