Biden administration requests increased funding for foreign assistance and diplomacy

The Biden administration released Friday the President’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget request allocates $58.5 billion for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.

President Joe Biden And Vice President Kamala Harris walk from the Rose Garden of the White House to the Oval Office Friday, March 12, 2021, following their remarks celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden And Vice President Kamala Harris walk from the Rose Garden of the White House to the Oval Office Friday, March 12, 2021, following their remarks celebrating the passage of the American Rescue Plan. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The requested $58.5 billion for the State Department and USAID in Fiscal year 2022 would be an increase of $5.5 billion or 10 percent from Fiscal Year 2021.

The use of funds for foreign assistance, development, and diplomacy will all be areas of interest as the President’s proposal is reviewed amid promises that his administration will establish the United States as a democratic “force for good” in the world.

While every politician and leader uses rhetoric to convey their beliefs and positions, a great deal more can be understood about where somebody stands and what their priorities are by looking at their budget and where all the money is going.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken introduces President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris to State Department employees, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everet 
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken introduces President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice President Kamala D. Harris to State Department employees, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 4, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everet

“These resources will position us to advance the administration’s foreign policy agenda on behalf of the American people. It also reflects the importance the Administration places on U.S. global leadership and the fact that diplomacy and development are vital tools for advancing U.S. interests,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken of the budget request in a statement Friday.

Amongst its most prominent provisions, the budget request is intended to expand resources to prepare for future health crises, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, respond to climate change, and establish the United States’ role in working collaboratively to promote peace, security, democracy, and human rights around the globe.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement released Friday that the “President’s Budget Request is a reflection of the critical importance of development and humanitarian assistance in advancing US interests around the world.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS 
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

Humanitarian needs around the world are at a historical high as the COVID-19 pandemic, effects of climate change, and other developments have combined to exacerbate already existing humanitarian crises in many cases.

According to the Department of State, the budget request provides over $10 billion in humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable people abroad, including refugees, conflict victims, and other displaced persons. It also supports the admission of up to 125,000 new refugees.

As many fear that authoritarianism has made advancements around the world over the past year under the influence of nations such as China and Russia, the administration’s budget request is intended to provide funding for revitalizing and promoting democratic values around the globe.  It is intended to enable the United States to lead in elevating the importance of democracy, human rights, and supporting marginalized people groups in the face of authoritarianism and corruption.

The Biden administration requested $2.5 billion across all government agencies for international climate programs, such as the Green Climate Fund, in order to respond to the mounting crisis which he has underscored as a priority and top concern in his presidential agenda.

Notably, the budget request is also aimed at re-establishing the United States’ role in international organizations after the previous administration was highly critical of such institutions.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

The budget request provides for nearly $2 billion to aid with UN peacekeeping missions. The proposal also includes funds to support the World Health Organization, the UN Population Fund, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

While statements from the State Department and USAID both specifically mention funds that are to be appropriated for resolving crises and advancing U.S. interests in key regions such as Latin America and the Middle East, there are countless people affected by various crises all around the world.

For instance, there are countless people across the continent of Africa that require humanitarian assistance due to factors such as COVID-19, regional famine, ongoing conflicts, and human rights abuses.

In Ethiopia’s Tigray region alone, it is estimated that over 5 million people are in need of assistance. Throughout the Sahel, conflicts between insurgent groups and security forces threaten regional stability and food security. Across the continent, authoritarianism and human rights violations continue to be a serious ongoing issue.

While the Biden Administration’s budget request has been supported by many, it is not without its critics, and many have come out in opposition of specific provisions.

While the request appropriates a large sum of funds for humanitarian and diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts and crises via USAID and the State Department, the Washington D.C.-based organization Win Without War is highly critical of the funds that it sets aside for funding the Pentagon. The administration’s request would provide over $750 trillion for Pentagon spending which is not a substantial difference from last year’s budget.

The President’s entire budget proposal would raise total spending to $6 trillion for fiscal year 2022– a price tag that many critics are wearisome of given growing national concerns about budget deficits and rising rates of inflation.

The fiscal year 2022 begins October 1, 2021 and runs through September 31, 2022.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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