Bread for the World’s 2008 Offering of Letters is pushing for more and better poverty-focused development assistance – funding for programs that give poor countries the skills and opportunities to break the cycle of poverty permanently. These include long-term investments in education, agriculture, nutrition, health and clean water.
More and better poverty-focused development assistance is critical in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs are a set of 8 achievable objectives adopted by the nations of the world in 2000 to improve the quality of life of hundreds of millions of poor people around the world. All nations promised to fulfill these goals by 2015.
The U.S. has agreed to do its part. In the past few years, the U.S. Congress has increased federal funding for poverty-focused assistance by about $1 billion a year, and other countries have followed suit by increasing their aid as well. Now, more kids are in school, and many fewer children are dying every day from preventable, hunger-related diseases. For the first time, villages in Africa and Latin America have new wells and access to clean water. Now, there is hope for hundreds of thousands of Africans and Asians living with AIDS because they have received life-saving medication.
Bread for the World members played an important role in convincing Congress to approve the increases for these effective, hope-giving, poverty-reducing programs. But our work is not over. The increases we’ve won in poverty-focused assistance have made a difference, but we are not yet on track to fulfill our promises. 2015 looms ever closer. There are still too many people who live in extreme poverty, too many people who go to bed hungry every night, too many children not in school, too many children dying from preventable causes.
The ’08 Offering of Letters is pushing for:
1) Congress to increase its funding for poverty-fighting efforts by at least $5 billion a year, starting this coming year.
2) Funding should be aimed at programs that most directly address the root causes of poverty and hunger. The programs should encourage the participation of citizens from the targeted communities in crafting programs and setting priorities.
3) Congress should improve U.S. assistance to ensure the maximum benefit reaches those in greatest need.
A first step would be to pass the Global Poverty Act (S.2433), now in Congress. The Global Poverty Act would:
1) Make the first MDG (to cut in half the number of people who are hungry and the number of people living on less than $1 a day) an official part of U.S. policy.
2) Require a coordinated strategy to achieve this goal through U.S. aid, debt relief, and trade policies. The strategy would emphasize cooperation with other countries, international institutions, faith-based groups, and the private sector.
2008 is a critical year. To achieve the MDGs we have to step up the pace, 2015 is just around the corner.