President Biden’s Foreign Assistance Budget Request Recommits U.S. to Global Stage

Leading global Jewish human rights organization welcomes increased international funding and calls for policy changes

Background

The Biden administration unveiled its Fiscal Year 2022 budget request to Congress, which includes $58.4 billion in funding for the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development, including foreign assistance programs, a welcome increase from the last budget request of the previous administration. In response to this release, Rori Kramer, director of U.S. Advocacy at American Jewish World Service (AJWS) issued the following statement:

Statement of Rori Kramer, Director of U.S. Advocacy for American Jewish World Service (AJWS)

“As an organization that provides financial support and partnership to more than 500 grassroots human rights organizations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, we praise the Biden-Harris administration for taking steps to center human rights in U.S. policymaking and expressing a genuine commitment to international cooperation through its Fiscal Year 2022 (FY2022) budget request. We are deeply gratified that the proposed increase to foreign assistance would encourage more robust diplomacy and international cooperation, support human rights defenders globally, promote the rule of law in countries around the world, tackle the urgent climate crisis, combat corruption and impunity and fight for the rights of marginalized groups.

“We are pleased that the Biden administration is committed to increasing funds in the federal budget for combatting the deeply concerning rise in authoritarianism and upholding democratic norms around the world. While no government can offer the panacea to any of these global problems, governments like the United States have both the ability and the responsibility to provide increased resources and programs aimed at supporting international institutions, human rights defenders and organizations working to advance democracy and the rule of law. This budget request is a start at bringing us closer to that goal by supporting courageous human rights defenders and civil society organizations that fight for the rights of those most vulnerable in our world, including women and girls, LGBTQI+ people, Indigenous communities, ethnic and religious minorities, and dissidents, among others.

“We are pleased to see a lifting of some domestic abortion restrictions, such as the Hyde Amendment, in this budget proposal, illustrating the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights to this administration. But we are deeply disappointed that this budget still includes the Helms Amendment, a harmful provision that has restricted U.S. foreign assistance money from being used to provide life-saving health care, such as abortion services. We look forward to working with the administration and with Congress to permanently repeal this dangerous provision in law.

“We are calling on Congress to ensure additional, urgently-needed funding for important global health programs—including robust and equitable COVID-19 relief, international family planning and reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. We are insisting that Congress prioritize advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, which have been under assault in recent years. We also urge Congress to increase its investments in global LGBTQI+ rights programs, which for far too long have been allocated the smallest human rights budgets at both the State Department and USAID, despite the need to fund LGBTQI+ rights abroad. We call on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to include $30 million for both the State Department’s Global Equality Fund and USAID’s Protection of LGBTQI+ Persons in the FY2022 appropriations bill.

“We know that funding alone cannot secure human rights for people around the world—foreign assistance policies must also be in line with internationally recognized human rights principles, including access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Congress must act now to permanently repeal the global gag rule, which for decades has restricted access to abortion services, undermined global health systems and put the lives of individuals at great risk for the sole purpose of ideological political gain, as well as the Helms Amendment.

“As a Jewish organization committed to promoting the rights of people around the world, we commend the Biden-Harris administration for recognizing the urgency of this moment and the importance of robust foreign assistance funding. With the COVID-19 pandemic devastating communities around the world and authoritarianism on the rise, U.S. support for the most vulnerable populations is critical to building a more just world. We urge Congress to prioritize the human rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, Indigenous communities, ethnic and religious minorities, and other marginalized groups through the budget and appropriations process.”

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Madeline Cohen at mcohen@ajws.org during AJWS office hours from 9 am to 5 pm eastern time, Monday through Thursday. If you are on an urgent deadline on a Friday, over a weekend or during evening hours, please write Stuart Schear at sschear@ajws.org.