Advocacy groups press lawmakers on supplemental

About 40 advocacy groups, including religious, human-rights, peace and relief organizations, are pressing Congress to consider additional funding in the 2007 war supplemental for relief and development in Iraq to improve security and social welfare in the war-torn country.

In a letter sent to lawmakers Tuesday, the groups urged Congress to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq through increased U.S. support for the strengthening of civil society, peace-building, humanitarian relief and economic development.
“The United States can help ease the suffering of Iraqi civilians and help to end the cycle of conflict,” the groups wrote. “Tens of thousands of Iraqis, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 U.S. service members have lost their lives.”

The organizations, which include Amnesty International, Mercy Corps, Network: a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Iraq Foundation and Refugees International, are lobbying the Hill to up funding for several areas.

The groups estimate that about $290 million would be needed to respond to the needs of some 3.7 million displaced Iraqis within and beyond the country’s borders; $100 million is necessary to restore full funding of the Community Action Program and the so-called Marla Fund.

$100 million more in supplemental funding is necessary to continue ongoing USAID programs such as the Iraq Civil Society and Independent Media Program. At least $10 million of this funding, the groups argue, should be granted on a competitive basis, in order to encourage the participation of more U.S. and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in efforts to provide technical assistance, training, oversight and support for Iraqi NGOs and organizations.

“Stimulating local economies and tackling soaring unemployment can do far more to stem violence than military operations  and at a fraction of the cost,” the organizations wrote. “For an estimated $100 million, we can support the reactivation of 143 state-owned factories and facilitate the employment of more than 150,000 Iraqis.”