Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights Reviews FY 2012 Proposed Budget

Caryn Freeman 6:05PM EST
A very strong case was made today in a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights for proposals to the FY 2012 budget. Witnesses from the Department of State, USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation testified in regard to progress made in the region the viability of their programs and their respective initiatives in Africa. Healthcare, narcotics, human trafficking, support for democracy, governance and the strengthening of democratic institutions in Africa were among the key issues discussed. Healthcare programs with respect to HIV/AIDS which continues to plague Africa were critical issues for the committee and witnesses. Twenty-two million Africans are living with HIV/AIDS, with women and children continuing to suffer disproportionately. The overall poverty and social statistics are sobering as well. Income in Africa averages around three hundred and forth four dollars per year.

 With tough cuts on the table for many programs and foreign aid targeted by organizations like the Tea Party, the Department of State stressed that Africans will lose confidence in democracy and free market global initiatives if we abandon these programs and the U.S. must continue to help them meet those needs. The Department of State representative for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson made it clear that “we might not see eye to eye with Africans on every issue but most governments have been cooperative, and the preferred approach is to work through African security forces rather than to rely on costly U.S. intervention. The economic outlook for Africa has improved significantly as a result of U.S. aid to Africa and has helped grow Africa’s GDP by fifty-four percent from 2000-2008. The World Bank estimates that expected international capital flow to Africa will be higher than anywhere else in the world. This growth in the African economy and increased international investment combined with U.S. strategy not militarize their policies in Africa reduces the cost of aid to Africa and is less than one percent of the overall budget. “When Africans take control of their own security this buy-in will lead to more durable sustainable solutions,” said, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Southern Sudan is a prime example of the  strengthening of democratic institutions. Southern Sudan will become independent on July 9, 2011. Liberia and Sierra Lione being the exception which will require our engagement to sustain political stability.

Human and narcotics trafficking was also examined by the subcommittee. Chairman of the Subcommittee Chris Smith (R-NJ) took on the issue directly and when he asked the Department of State witness "how well the Department interfaced w the g- tip office and is combating modern day slavery getting better or worse?” “The issue of trafficking in persons is a major priority. We believe that our interventions have increased the awareness of the African government," Carson replied "we have emphasized that confronting human trafficking must be a priority and confronting trafficking directly has energized many countries to take steps to confront the challenges that other African nations face.”  This new level of awareness has increased the number of investigations and prosecutions. South Africa last year in preparation for the World Cup appointed special law enforcement officers to deal with child protection and the prosecution of individuals involved in trafficking dramatically increased as well.  “African nations are beginning to acknowledge the problem and work against trafficking by passing laws, investigating cases,  jailing and prosecuting individuals involved,” Carson said.