Refugees International (RI) is alarmed by the devastating cuts proposed by President Trump’s more detailed FY18 budget request to Congress. When President Trump submitted the FY18 “skinny budget” earlier this year, the proposed 28 percent cuts to the international affairs budget sent shock waves through the humanitarian community. This more detailed budget now proposes more severe 32 percent cuts to those accounts.
This administration proposal is not about better aid accountability or reaching vulnerable populations more effectively. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be a discussion around reform and how our foreign assistance can be more efficient. But that’s not what is happening. Rather, the administration’s proposal questions the very roles of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Simply put, this budget would cripple humanitarian response at a time when the global community is facing crises unparalleled in modern times.
The needs of victims of persecution and conflict drive everything Refugees International does, and from Iraq to Somalia to Syria, RI has met with those impacted by humanitarian crises to bear witness. RI has also spoken to humanitarians, government leaders, and the donor community to assess overall humanitarian responses, and we know how crucial it is for the United States to continue to lead humanitarian responses.
We have seen how U.S. funding has supported local communities, provided flexible funding for emergencies, and delivered essential food assistance. We have also seen that such assistance is even more critical due to the increasing impacts of climate change on food production, especially in poor countries with populations which rely on rain-fed agriculture to survive.
The leadership of the United States isn’t just about U.S. monetary contributions. By contributing to smart strategies and tailored policies, the United States maintains its voice in each response. But that leadership often also brings other donors to the table, an essential point that must be made in this stretched humanitarian funding environment.
The international affairs budget has broad bipartisan support, as was reflected by the results of the FY17 omnibus legislation. Members of Congress know the importance of “smart power” and the essential role the State Department and USAID play.
At a time when the world is facing the largest displacement crisis since World War II and with several parts of the world experiencing or threatened by famine, now is not the time for the United States to stand down from its essential role in responding to the urgent needs of the over 65 million people displaced worldwide.
Refugees International will fight these proposed cuts every step of the way.