The U.S. Congress should fully fund the administration's $47.8 billion request for base international affairs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. This request represents a 6% reduction from FY 12 funding levels and a 14% reduction from the FY 13 request, reflecting the difficult budget environment that lawmakers currently face. The foreign affairs budget, which represents less than 1% of the annual U.S. budget, provides an invaluable set of tools for advancing U.S. foreign policy interests. The relatively modest investments that fall under the international affairs budget bear great returns, as the American government helps develop stable, democratic partners that cooperate on trade, security, immigration, and economic issues. Amid weariness among the American people with military engagement overseas, diplomacy is an inherently less costly means of advancing interests.
In repressive countries, the smallest amount of U.S. assistance can bring hope and provide a lifeline to those who face imprisonment, torture, or even death for speaking out in support of freedom, while helping to engender the next generation of potential leaders. Recent developments in the Middle East, Russia, Burma and elsewhere show the importance of robust, strategic, and flexible funding for the United States to respond effectively to quickly changing situations on the ground and continue to play a leadership role in the international community.
The budget plans produced by the House and Senate for FY 14 differ greatly from one another and from the President's request. The House Republican budget resolution would fund international affairs at $38.7 billion for FY 14, 20% less than the President's request, and a staggering 29% less than the FY 12 actual numbers. Cuts of that magnitude would have a devastating effect on the ability of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their diplomatic work and assistance programs. While it is important at present for every federal agency to eliminate redundancies, streamline operations, and reevaluate priorities, such sweeping cuts to an already miniscule budget would do great and needless harm. The Senate budget resolution proposes $45.6 billion in base international affairs funding.
Funding for Democracy and Human Rights represents 9% of the total request for foreign assistance for FY 14, less than 1/10th of 1% of the total U.S. budget. The administration's proposal will support important initiatives that protect and promote democracy, rule of law, and human rights, including:
Flexible funding to support democratic change in the Middle East through a Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund.
Increased funding for priority regions, including Asia and Africa.
Robust funding for priority countries and territories including Afghanistan, Mexico, South Sudan, the West Bank and Gaza, and Burma.
Increases in some areas are balanced by decreases in others, including:
The elimination of the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia Account (AEECA) and decreases in the Europe and Eurasia region overall.
Large decreases in democracy funding for Iraq and Pakistan.
Regional and country-level decreases in the Western Hemisphere and in South and Central Asia.
While the administration understandably has had to make difficult tradeoffs to reach budget goals, there are some areas where decreased funding would be harmful to achieving U.S. strategic policy goals and Congress can provide additional support:
Congress should fund the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and USAID's Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at the FY 12 levels. These two bureaus provide leadership within their agencies on democracy and human rights policy and require adequate resources to continue doing so.
Congress should allow the administration to meet the United States' assessed obligations to the United Nations for FY14. Moreover, Congress should reinstate funding for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which supports many cultural, social, and educational programs in line with the U.S.'s own values.
The administration must work with Congress to identify innovative ways to support civil society in countries with difficult operating environments, including Russia, Bolivia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
Robust funding for international affairs in FY 14 will give America's diplomats the tools they need to advance U.S. interests abroad and maintain the United States' role as a global leader. Such funding alone is not enough, however. The administration must match a strong budget with clear policy decisions and a consistently forceful message, communicated both publicly and privately, that democracy and human rights are of the utmost importance to the United States.
This report summarizes the most notable requests, changes, and new developments within the administration's democracy and human rights budget for FY14. It also offers policy recommendations and suggestions for budget adjustments to better align funding allocations with U.S. interests.
Civil society is increasingly coming under assault around the world, as authoritarian governments grow more bold and sophisticated in stifling independent groups that monitor elections, expose corruption, or otherwise give citizens a voice in how they are governed. In response, senior U.S. officials have reaffirmed their support for universal rights, including freedom of association, while mid-level officials have criticized specific abuses against civil society. However, only modest U.S. government efforts have dealt systematically with the global nature of the crackdown on civil society. This weak U.S. response to the crackdown hurts U.S. interests and undermines U.S. credibility abroad. The U.S. government needs to respond to the threats against civil society more forcefully.
To curb the global crackdown, the United States needs to systematically oppose efforts by authoritarian governments to control civic space, take vigorous political and diplomatic measures to support civil society organizations that come under threat, and get around government restrictions designed to isolate local organizations from the international community. Effective U.S. policy to defend civil society needs to respond comprehensively to the global nature of the crackdown and, at the same time, turn the tide in key countries where repression of civil society has significant regional repercussions. While bipartisan collaboration is critical to make such policy effective, a strong U.S. response to the global crackdown on civil society must begin in the White House.
Kazakhstan has travelled a long and sometimes difficult road in the years since independence in 1991. From being largely isolated from the world outside the Soviet Union, globalization has taken hold at an increasingly fast pace. Today, numerous international flights bring in still larger numbers of visitors -- be they businessmen, tourists or locals returning from studies or work abroad. The internet age is slowly reaching even the most outlying parts of the country, bringing with it new impulses and perspectives to a young population that grew up after the Soviet era.
While the ongoing integration of Central Asia into the global scene involves rapid change on many levels, certain areas are still left behind. It is not unusual for the population to be without electricity and gas during severe winter frosts. Bureaucracy too, retains much of its post-Soviet legacy, as do the attitudes of some government officials and key decision-makers. National economic indicators are not always consistent with the reality of those struggling to get by in the cities and villages dotting Central Asia's vast landscape.
As the economic leader of the Central Asian region and the country most strongly tuned in to the global diplomatic and business communities, Kazakhstan carries a particular responsibility to respect, and indeed to promote, human rights and democratic principles.
However, while working along an ambitious program for planned future achievements both on the domestic and international arena, Kazakhstan has seen several major steps backwards in the area of human rights over the past two years.
Following the tragic events in Zhanaozen in December 2011, when at least 16 strikers were shot and killed by government forces, authorities cracked down on selected opposition leaders such as Vladimir Kozlov of the Alga political party, sentencing him to seven-and-a-half years' imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the strikes. Soon after, the offices of Alga were closed down by authorities, followed by charges of extremism against independent and opposition media outlets, many of which were closed down by court order.
As a result, Kazakhstan is currently economically strong, but suffering a bleak media scene, a lack of real political pluralism and a widespread disillusionment as to Kazakhstan's commitment to human rights.
The following report summarizes some of our current concerns with regards to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion or belief. It also brings the perspective of one of Kazakhstan's most respected writers on current affairs, Sergey Duvanov, in a special article for the 2013 Human Dimensions Implementation Meeting in Warszaw. Other texts were prepared by Ivar Dale (NHC) and Viktoria Tyuleneva (FH).