Entries in Foreign Aid (8)


UK Suspending Aid to Rwanda Amid UN Concerns

Ingram Publishing(LONDON) -- Britain is blocking monetary aid to Rwanda after nearly 20 years as one of the African country's largest foreign donors.

The decision to withhold a $33.7 million aid package came after the United Nations raised concerns that the Rwandan government was providing support to a rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"I have decided not to release the next payment of budget support to Rwanda," said U.K. International Development Secretary Justine Greening, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Greening said the decision to stop the payment, due next month, was because Rwanda had breached partnership agreements conditional to the funds.

"The government has already set out its concerns over credible and compelling reports of Rwandan involvement with M23 in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Greening said, according to a Financial Times report. "This evidence constitutes a breach of the partnership prinicples set out in the memorandum of understanding and, as a result, I have decided not to release the next payment of budget support to Rwanda."

The Rwandan government maintains it is not involved with the M23 or any conflict in the Congo, and called the U.K.'s funding freeze "highly regrettable," the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the Journal's report, this is the second time in a year that the U.K. has suspended Rwandan aid amid the U.N. accusations.

The European Union continues to provide earmarked funds, but has no plans to send any new aid.  In July, the U.S. suspended $200,000 in military funding, a portion of a $160 million package promised for long-term development in Rwanda, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Now Accepting Foreign Aid to Assist Earthquake Victims

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that it needs outside help to assist the victims of two powerful earthquakes that struck the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan last weekend.

More than 300 people were killed and between 3,000 and 5,000 others were injured.  The affected region is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran's largest minority populations.

Initially, Tehran said that foreign assistance wasn't welcomed and that its Red Crescent relief agency could handle the job alone. But apparently, the government changed its stance, with Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi announcing his government will take contributions from other countries.

Earlier in the week, the Obama administration declared that American citizens can make donations without fear of breaking the law since sanctions imposed on Iran make it illegal for businesses and other entities to deal directly with Tehran.

One of the other problems facing Iran is taking care of the 16,000 people left homeless by the quakes, which damaged at least 180 villages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Protests Bin Laden Informant’s Conviction; Threatens to Cut Pakistan Aid

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON ) -- Two Senate committees Thursday took the first legislative steps to cut aid to Pakistan after that country’s conviction of Dr. Shakil Afridi, who aided American intelligence in its mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

The Pakistani doctor was convicted of high treason in his home country and sentenced to 33 years in prison plus a fine, Pakistani officials said Wednesday.

Afridi ran a vaccination program on behalf of the CIA near the al Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in an attempt to collect DNA from bin Laden’s relatives and verify that America’s most-wanted terrorist was indeed in the compound.

On May 2, 2011, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs raided the compound and killed bin Laden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee cut Pakistan’s assistance by the symbolic amount of $33 million -- $1 million for each year of Afridi’s sentence.

“It is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at best, but it is outrageous in itself. And if this is cooperation, I would hate like heck to see opposition,” said the committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “It goes beyond schizophrenic to have them suggest that, somehow, it was wrongdoing going after Osama bin Laden when they have publicly stated that they were opposed to Osama bin Laden -- and you can’t have it both ways. And basically, this amendment says that we take this seriously.”

The committee approved the amendment, offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., by a unanimous 30-0 vote. The funds would continue to be withheld until Afridi gets released from prison and cleared of all charges relating to his assistance in locating bin Laden.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she is “baffled” how Afridi can be labeled as a traitor.

“I don’t know which side of this war Pakistan is on,” Feinstein said. “If this is how Pakistan is going to treat a friend and hero like Dr. Afridi, I don’t know about these funds.”

The amendment, within the FY13 “State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations” bill, will now be sent to the full Senate for full consideration before final passage.

In addition, the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed its anger over the conviction during the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013 Thursday. Within the defense budget there is a restriction of military assistance to Pakistan unless the supply routes are opened.

“To somehow allege that under any country’s law that this doctor violated any law is, of course, just beyond ludicrous; it’s outrageous,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters. “This is a human being.”

The full Senate is expected to consider this bill in June for final passage.

McCain said beyond just Senate action, senators would like “to have the administration weigh in on this,” as there is a general sense of “frustration” on Capitol Hill over the conviction.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bill Gates Pushes Continuing Foreign Aid Despite Budget Crisis

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Despite economic crisis rippling around the world, Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates is pushing countries to continue foreign aid efforts to poor and developing nations, saying that every dollar of aid "makes a huge difference."

Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, traveled to Capitol Hill last week to make his case to members of Congress, who are grappling with major budget cuts while debating greater investments to spur job creation.

"They do have a tough constraint," Gates told This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour after his meetings in Washington. "And so the question of should these monies that help the poorest, that enhance national security, should they be cut more than other things? Should they be cut equally? Or should they be preserved?"

"I'm reminding them that every dollar makes a huge difference," Gates added.

Gates will present a plan at the G-20 Summit next week in France calling on the wealthiest countries to continue their aid efforts, despite austerity measures being taken around the world.

"If we really look at how the world's improved in the past few decades, it's very impressive how we've reduced poverty, reduced malnutrition, reduced the under-five death rate," Gates said. "And we need to take lessons, the generosity, the innovation, and carry that forward despite the fact we have this economic crisis."

Gates said that despite general opposition to foreign aid, Americans have remained "very generous" on efforts to supply AIDS drugs and malaria bed nets to out-risk nations overseas.

"They're very excited that the U.S. has been the leader in both of those areas," Gates said. "And they're pretty surprised when they find out that it's less than one percent of the federal budget going to aid very broadly, where these high-impact health programs are just a portion of that."

Gates said current foreign aid promises are at risk as focus turns to budget cuts and making greater investments and "nation-building" at home.

"There's a question, as you do that, the U.S. lead role in helping the very poorest, get them vaccines and those things, should you do your nation-building by causing more of those people to die or should you maintain at least at the level you promised," Gates said. "And that's really at risk right now."

Gates dismissed the idea of class warfare overtaking the United States, saying efforts to increase the amount of taxes the richest Americans pay are worth debating.

"I just can't imagine these millionaires and billionaires going down and barriciding (sic) the streets because they're going to have to pay four or five percent more in taxes," Gates said. "There certainly is a case to be made that taxes should be more progressive…That's being debated by various people."

Gates did not commit support to President Obama's proposed "Buffett Rule," named after billionaire investor and Gates friend Warren Buffett, which would raise taxes on the wealthiest one percent.

He did say he supports the principle of raising taxes on the wealthy, even if it is not enough to solve deficit problems.

"I'm not an expert on how we should do taxes. Clearly, you can't raise the taxes we need just by going after that one percent," Gates said. "Yes, I'm generally in favor of the idea that the rich should pay somewhat more. But to really deal with the deficit gap we're talking about, that alone just numerically is not going to be enough."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US offers $900,000 in Emergency Flood Aid to North Korea

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department said Thursday that it is offering to send $900,000 of flood relief assistance to North Korea.

The aid would include plastic sheeting, tents and other supplies to provide housing relief to North Korean areas affected by severe flooding this summer.

The offer is rare, though similar aid was provided last September.  It could be seen as a potential olive branch offer to the rogue nation.

The U.S. is using the "New York channel" at its UN mission to offer the aid to North Korea, which would be distributed through NGOs.   Details still remain to be worked out.

"We have offered to North Korea $900,000 in flood assistance. We are working now, using the New York channel, to ensure that if we go forward with that, that the assistance that we render meets the concrete needs of the North Korean people and will be used properly” said spokesperson Victoria Nuland at Thursday’s State Department briefing.

But the U.S. won’t be offering food relief as part of this package, which is part of another request being considered separately by the U.S. There have been reports that North Korea is once again suffering bad harvests.

Nuland explained the flood relief was easier to deal with: "We have a relatively restricted area of North Korea affected by the floods. They are in need of certain kinds of nonperishable humanitarian supplies that aren't particularly useful to anybody else but flood victims. So it is, one could argue, a less complex problem to solve."  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton Warns US May Lose Arab Spring Opportunity If Budgets Are Cut

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tuesday that the U.S. risks losing out on the chance to reshape the Middle East amid the Arab Spring uprisings if suggested cuts to foreign aid budgets are enacted.
“We have an opportunity right now in the Middle East and North Africa that I'm not sure we're going to be able to meet because we don't have the resources to invest,” Clinton said during a downhill-style question-and-answer session alongside Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the National Defense University.
She specifically cited the needs in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where uprisings have or threaten to overturn longstanding dictatorships. Clinton made a comparison to the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe that ushered in the peaceful post-war decades.
Clinton’s remarks were her latest in warning against budget cuts to foreign aid, which she argues provides a worthy return on investment by saving lives abroad, making the United States safer and creating economic opportunities for American businesses.
Already, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has approved amendments to next year’s proposed budget that would slash funding to the United Nations and other international organizations.

Clinton on Tuesday said Americans are misinformed that foreign aid is the source of the country’s budget woes.
“If you go out to the American public and you say, 'What’s the easiest thing to cut in the American budget?'  It’s always foreign aid,” she said, adding that most Americans think foreign aid accounts for 15-20 percent of the budget but are OK with 10 percent.
The actual figure is about one percent of the budget.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Committee Votes to Reinstate Global Gag Rule, Slash Foreign Aid Budget

US House Committee on Foreign Affairs(WASHINGTON) -- The House Foreign Affairs Committee is haggling over the 2012 State Department and foreign ops authorization bill this week. Earlier Thursday it voted to reinstate and broaden the global gag rule, which bans federal funding for international non-government organizations (NGO) that discuss abortion overseas.
The committee voted down an amendment by Democratic Ranking Member Howard Berman that would remove language in the bill that would ban funding for groups that counsel women on family planning options, including abortion.
The gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, has had a controversial seesaw history. After it was announced by President Reagan, it was overturned by President Clinton, only to be reinstated by President Bush. President Obama again canceled it in 2009.
Like much of the markup, this vote was largely down party lines, shooting down Berman’s proposal 25-17. According to groups that follow the issue, this language would actually strengthen the policy by barring not only family planning assistance to local health care providers but also all funding for those groups, including for HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, child survival and education.
Wednesday, the committee voted to slash funding to a number of programs, including placing more restrictions on aid to Pakistan, cutting contributions to the United Nations by 25 percent and to other international organizations by even more. Overall, Republicans looked to cut about $6.4 billion from the overall $51 billion request.
Republicans also voted to axe all $48 million in funding for the Organization of American States.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


USAID Administrator: GOP Bill Could Kill 70,000 Kids

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least 70,000 children around the world could die if funding for global health programs is cut under the Republican budget proposal, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah warned Congress Thursday.

"What I worry about is that with the H.R. 1 budget [the proposed spending bill], if that becomes a baseline reality for fiscal year '12, that would be very problematic for some of our most important programs," Administrator Shah testified before the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee.

"We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 would lead to 70,000 kids dying," he said.

Shah said that 30,000 of those deaths would come if malaria control programs have to be scaled back, 24,000 would die from lack of support for immunizations, and another 16,000 would die at birth.

Shah's comments come as the Obama administration is fighting Congressional Republicans over how to fund the government this year. The impasse has led to the threat of a government shutdown.

Republicans have proposed significant cuts to the international affairs budget, 19 percent below 2010 enacted base levels, as part of an effort to reduce deficit spending.

"I believe there are ways to find the efficiencies we're all seeking, through being more businesslike in how we do our work, reining in contract partners and doing better program oversight. There's a way to do this that does not have to cost lives," Shah testified.

In her testimony before Congress last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the cuts, which would also hamper expanded efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, "would be devastating for our national security."

According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which lobbies to increase funding for international affairs, the Republican budget proposal would cut funding for global health programs by 11 percent, including a reduction in money for the Global fund for HIV/AIDS by 43 percent. The group says that would mean five million children would not receive malaria treatments and about 43,000 would not receive tuberculosis treatments.

The proposed budget would also decrease food aid programs by 30 percent and slash U.S. funding for disaster relief by 41 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio