WASHINGTON, DC - March 7 - In a letter delivered to Congress today, the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) joins with Refugees International, Mercy Corps and more than 30 other national organizations in urging Congress to address the 2007 U.S. funding gap for Iraq-related relief and development. The list of signatories represents a broad range of organizations, mandates, and constituencies, including more than 16 faith communities.
The letter explains: “What brings us together is the shared conviction that the U.S. can and should do more to rebuild and stabilize Iraq through increased U.S. support for civil society, peacebuilding, humanitarian relief, and responsible economic development.”
The letter was initiated by the Iraq Peace and Development Working Group (IPDWG), a newly-formed NGO working group advocating policy improvements to reduce human suffering and conflict in Iraq. The letter’s recommendations reflect broad consensus among national advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, and operational humanitarian agencies involved in life-saving relief efforts in Iraq and the Gulf region.
With Congressional appropriators preparing to “mark up” the President’s $93 billion emergency supplemental request, the letter asks lawmakers to replenish critically short funds needed to save lives – both American and Iraqi. The letter states: “Through effective relief and development, the U.S. can help improve the social welfare and security of the Iraqi people. Moreover, economic progress that creates meaningful jobs and opportunities for the people of Iraq can play a pivotal role in ending the conflict.”
The letter quotes top U.S. military commander in Iraq General David Petraeus who recently testified that success in Iraq depends on progress in the Iraqi political and economic arenas.
The organizations recommend additional U.S. funding for relief and development efforts in Iraq that represents only a fraction of the president's supplemental request. Making the difference between life and death for many Iraqis, such funds would help millions of displaced Iraqis, compensate thousands harmed in the conflict, restore jobs for more than 150,000 Iraqis, and support ongoing USAID programs that have demonstrated measures of success in Iraq.
EPIC Executive Director Erik Gustafson explains: “We know what works to stabilize and rebuild communities in Iraq. Congress and the Bush administration need to work together to expand proven strategies of peacebuilding, humanitarian relief and development. Helping to genuinely improve the social welfare of all Iraqis will save lives and hasten an end to the war.”
Spokespersons available for comment:
Erik Gustafson, EPIC Executive Director and 1991 Gulf War veteran
Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International USA
Emily Gish, Program Officer for the Middle East, Mercy Corps
Dawn Calabia, Senior Adviser, Refugees International