In a vote of confidence in the thousands of Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs working on the ground to build peace, just before the Christmas break Congress voted to increase funding for people-to-people grassroots reconciliation and coexistence activities in the region. The FY2010 budget for "Reconciliation Programs" in the Middle East will be $10 million, 10% more than in 2009.
|Congress Increases ALLMEP-Proposed Peacebuilding Funds by 10%|
|news - on the Hill|
|Wednesday, 30 December 2009 19:40|
The $10 million is contained in the "Reconciliation Programs" language in the State Department and Foreign Operations section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. Law 111-117), signed into law on December 16. In all, the bill provides $26 million for grassroots conflict resolution efforts all around the world. The $10 million for the Middle East was a compromise between the $11 million allocated by the House and the $9 million provided by the Senate.
The worldwide grant program has been around since 2004, when it started with just $8 million. Since then, every year the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) has organized support to increase the global funding and also proposed that Congress allocate a critical amount for the many dozens of projects working on peace in the Middle East. In just six years, the overall program's budget has more than tripled, and in 2008 Congress adopted the ALLMEP proposal to dedicate a stream of funding for the Middle East.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) manages the Middle East funds through its Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation. NGOs apply directly to USAID for grants. In 2008, the agency awarded 8 grants totaling $9 million. Several were multi-year grants, an important feature long urged by ALLMEP and its members to give projects the resources not only to start but to grow, as well.
USAID recently posted descriptions of most of the 2008 grants on its web site (see "current programs"). ALLMEP members who received 2008 grants included The Abraham Fund Initiatives, Friends of the Earth Middle East, All for Peace Radio, Just Vision, and Search for Common Ground.
This reconciliation funding in Congress has long been championed in the House by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the chair of the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the funding, and in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Dozens of House and Senate members have signed bi-partisan letters in support of these funds over the years.
The legislative language for the funding reads,
RECONCILIATION PROGRAMS. SEC. 7065. Of the funds appropriated by title III of this Act under the headings ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’ and ‘‘Development Assistance’’, $26,000,000 shall be made available to support people to people reconciliation programs which bring together individuals of different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds from areas of civil strife and war, of which $10,000,000 shall be made available for such programs in the Middle East: Provided, That the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development shall consult with the Committees on Appropriations, prior to the initial obligation of funds, on the most effective uses of such funds.