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Reform Jewish Movement Welcomes President Bush's Commitment of Additional Foreign Aid

Plan focuses on increased funding for humanitarian and development assistance

Pelavin: "We applaud President Bush's decision to increase this urgently needed funding, and urge him to follow through on his commitment to address these issues by quickly directing the necessary funds to the areas in which they are so desperately needed."

Contact: Alexis Rice or Erin Glazer 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2002 - Yesterday at the Inter-American Development Bank, President Bush announced a commitment to increase U.S. foreign assistance by $5 billion over three years starting with the Fiscal Year 2004 budget. The announcement was coupled with the introduction of a "New Compact for Development," which laid out the Administration's plan to deliver this assistance more effectively. President Bush was joined by the musician Bono, who has championed greater development assistance and debt reduction in recent years. Yesterday's speech came as a prelude to the President's visit to the International Development Conference next week in Monterrey, Mexico. In response, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:


    We applaud President Bush's plan to increase efforts to address the crippling effects of poverty and disease around the world. We welcome the President's commitment of additional foreign assistance for critical humanitarian and development programs.

    While the $5 billion increase in foreign assistance promised by President Bush is a significant step in the right direction, much more remains to be accomplished. The President's plan calls for additional funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, but these would not be made available until 2004. With ten people infected with HIV every minute, we must act immediately to address this escalating crisis. The Global Fund is a well-designed program that deserves at least $1 to 2 billion per year from the United States starting now, not in several years.

    Furthermore, President Bush presented no plan to lift the burden of old debts from countries struggling with AIDS and other crises. Of the 24 countries that have received so-called "debt relief," 18 still pay out more in debt service than they spend on health care. The President proposed providing funds to countries that agree to carry out economic policy changes acceptable to the IMF and the World Bank. However, if the economic "reforms" required of these countries make clean water or health services less affordable, then the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria will only be magnified.

    Jewish tradition teaches us that the highest form of tzedakah (righteousness) is to enable a person to earn his or her own livelihood. Development assistance through foreign aid plays a vital role in the lives of those in the developing world by increasing the ability of families to be self-sufficient, granting them the freedom to create a better, safer, and healthier environment for themselves and their children. We applaud President Bush's decision to increase this urgently needed funding, and urge him to follow through on his commitment to address these issues by quickly directing the necessary funds to the areas in which they are so desperately needed.

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    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .



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