By Bryan Ardouny
AAA News Blog
June 15, 2015
Last week, the US House Appropriations Committee adopted the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, which covers US assistance to Armenia and the region. As we reported last week, funding for South Caucasus countries was not specifically delineated. However, there are several points in the Committee’s Report that matter to Armenian Americans, particularly Armenians and other Christians at-risk in Syria and the greater Middle East. While our focus is now turned to the Senate, below are key excerpts from the House Committee Report:
House Appropriations Committee Report Excerpts:
– The Committee recommendation strongly supports Jordan by providing not less than $1,000,000,000 to meet ongoing economic and security needs and to address the extraordinary strain Jordan faces from unrest in the region, including by hosting more than 700,000 Syrian refugees.
– The Committee notes that foreign assistance helps to advance foreign policy and national security objectives and that such support also reflects the values, generosity, and goodwill of the American people. The Committee understands that disease, hunger, poverty, and displacement of vulnerable people around the world can threaten and destabilize countries and governments and thereby undermine the national security of the United States.
To address crises around the world resulting from large-scale displacement and instability, the Committee recommendation maintains the extraordinary level of funding provided for disaster and refugee assistance in fiscal year 2015. The Committee notes that, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers, and displaced people now exceeds 50 million people, the highest level in the post-World War II era. As the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year and the security and humanitarian situation grows more complex in the surrounding region, the Committee remains concerned about the increasing burden and resulting instability in the communities that host refugees and displaced persons.
In addition to funds provided under International Disaster Assistance, Migration and Refugee Assistance, and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, the Committee recommendation provides $100,000,000 under title VIII for Economic Support Fund to increase assistance to host communities with large refugee populations. The Committee expects needs in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon to be prioritized.
– The Committee recommendation includes $2,092,611,000 for Migration and Refugee Assistance. When combined with additional funds for Migration and Refugee Assistance provided under title VIII, the amount recommended is the same as the fiscal year 2015 enacted level.
– Minority communities — Conflict and instability in the Middle East and Africa intensify the challenges facing minority communities, including Christian populations. The Committee urges the Secretary of State to ensure that eligible individuals and families from such communities are not overlooked in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and resettlement services.
– Syrian refugees —The Committee remains concerned about the plight of refugees from Syria and the burden they face as well as the strain on host communities. The Committee urges the Department of State to continue to do the following: (1) help host countries expand their national systems to accommodate refugee needs; (2) assist host country capacity to deliver basic services to their own citizens; (3) strengthen the ability of local governments to respond to the refugee influx; and (4) ensure that refugees have freedom of movement and meaningful access to economic opportunity.
– The Committee recommendation includes an additional $810,000,000 for International Disaster Assistance. The full amount is designated pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and will support humanitarian operations in response to conflict-induced displacement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey.
– The Committee recommendation includes an additional $20,000,000 for International Disaster Assistance. The full amount is designated pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and will support rapid response programs to prevent and mitigate the destabilizing effects of conflict, including in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Middle East and North Africa.
– In addition to funds provided under International Disaster Assistance, Migration and Refugee Assistance, and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance, the Committee recommendation provides $100,000,000 under this heading to increase assistance to host communities with large refugee populations with priority given to Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. These funds are intended to support an integrated humanitarian and development approach to meet the requirements of refugees and host communities and to help mitigate increased tensions between such communities and refugees.
– Turkey — The Committee supports strengthening Turkey’s commitment to democratic principles, due process, and the rule of law through the continued engagement with civil society groups. The Committee encourages the Secretary of State to further dialogue with Turkey to incorporate the importance of media freedom, separation of powers, human rights, and the rule of law into ongoing discussions
– The Committee recommendation includes an additional $966,389,000 for Migration and Refugee Assistance. The full amount is designated pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 and will support humanitarian operations in response to conflict-induced displacement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and Turkey.
– Iraq —The Committee supports the request for Iraq to enhance the country’s security and defeat ISIL. The Committee expects the Secretary of State to ensure that assistance provided under this heading is appropriately distributed to security forces with a national security mission in Iraq, including the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Committee recommendation includes language in section 7041© of this Act, making assistance available for Iraq to promote governance, security, and internal and regional stability, including in Kurdistan and other areas impacted by conflict and among Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority communities. The Committee also expects funds made available in this title to enhance the security of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority populations, including Christians, that have been adversely affected by the conflict.
House Appropriations Committee Bill Excerpts:
Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act shall not apply to—
(1) activities to support democracy or assistance under title V of the FREEDOM Support Act 24 and section 1424 of Public Law 104–201 or non-proliferation assistance;
(2) any assistance provided by the Trade and Development Agency under section 661 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2421);
(3) any activity carried out by a member of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service while acting within his or her official capacity;
(4) any insurance, reinsurance, guarantee, or other assistance provided by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation under title IV of chapter 2 of part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 11 U.S.C. 2191 et seq.);
(5) any financing provided under the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945; or
(6) humanitarian assistance.
Bryan Ardouny is the Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly of America.