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Congress Passes $9 Million in 2009 Middle East Reconciliation Programs Funding
news - on the Hill
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 03:28

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- (March 11, 2009)  President Barack Obama privately signed into law today the "Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009," which continues $9 million in funding for Middle East reconciliation programs into 2009. 

The signing came one day after the Senate passed the bill, which combines in one massive piece of legislation the budgets for many federal agencies through the rest of 2009.  The bill passed the House in late February.

President Obama Signs Stimulus Bill in Denver
President Obama signing the Stimulus bill in Denver last month.

The reconciliation programs funding is directed toward a grant program managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  The 2009 spending language provides for $25 million for "reconciliation programs which bring together and facilitate interaction between individuals of different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds from areas of civil conflict and war" all around the world.  $9 million of these funds are to be spent in the Middle East. 

The language marks an important continuation of a relatively new program proposed by the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) and initiated by Congress in 2008.  The funds are managed by the USAID Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (CMM) through a competitive grant process.  Winners of the 2008 process have just recently been notified by USAID, which expects to release a list of 2008 grantees shortly.  The overall worldwide reconciliation programs grants have been available since 2004.

According to ALLMEP, the Middle East represents the most active conflict area in the world for these types of civil society reconciliation efforts.  There are more than sixty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the ALLMEP coalition alone.  While Middle East programs had historically submitted ten times as many applications for grant funding as projects in other regions around the world, Middle East programs saw less  and less of the funding coming out of CMM.  In FY2007, the Middle East groups were not even eligible to apply for grants.  As a result, ALLMEP proposed a separate stream of funding strictly focused on the Middle East.  Congress adopted that proposal in 2008.

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