The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services launched Catholics Confront Global Poverty in February 2009 to motivate Catholics in the United States to shape U.S. foreign policy through prayer, education and advocacy based on their faith and their concern for poor and vulnerable people worldwide.
Building on the foundation of the previous Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty, Catholics Confront Global Poverty is inspired by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 World Day of Peace Message, Fight Poverty to Build Peace, in which he declares:
“Effective means to redress the marginalization of the world’s poor through globalization will only be found if people everywhere feel personally outraged by the injustices in the world and by the concomitant violations of human rights.”
Initially, Catholics Confront Global Poverty (CCGP) focused on seven key policy issues: U.S. international assistance, peace, debt relief, trade, natural resource extraction, migration, and global climate change. CCGP’s current focus targets those issues that (1) have the most far-reaching impacts on our brothers and sisters living in poverty overseas, (2) the greatest relevance in the U.S. public policymaking debate and (3) the strongest connections to Church teaching and policy recommendations. USCCB and CRS will continue to follow other issues closely and elevate them through CCGP when the opportunity arises.
Poverty-focused international assistance
Thanks in part to your advocacy efforts, poverty-focused international assistance has been protected during these last several years of fiscal crisis and budget cuts. Through March 2013, funding for lifesaving assistance will remain steady safeguarding poor and vulnerable people from devastating cuts to the programs that save their lives, improve their well-being and helps lift them out of poverty.
Your continued push for resolution of a decades-long conflict led to the creation of South Sudan, the world’s newest nation in 2011. Thanks in part to you raising your voice the United States took on a significant leadership role in ensuring an initial peaceful transition and ongoing engagement in the region. Of course, challenges remain.
Major progress has been made to reduce the debt owed by the poorest countries, allowing them to make critical investments in health care, education, water and other basic services necessary to improve the lives of their people. After many years of sustained advocacy by you and many others around the world, the wealthiest nations and the international financial institutions over which they hold significant influence, have made major strides in canceling poor country debt. While some work remains such as ensuring that the U.S. continues to fund existing initiatives for debt cancellation through poverty-focused international assistance, there is much to celebrate. Your voice made a difference you made an impact on the lives of poor and vulnerable people worldwide.
Positive changes were made to Colombian law concerning human rights, land reform and labor organizations as preconditions to the passage by the U.S. Congress of the U.S./Colombia Free Trade Agreement in 2011, thanks in part to your advocacy efforts. While the situation in Colombia concerning human and labor rights, indigenous peoples, small-scale farming, violence, and the environment remain tenuous, there is some hope that these areas of concern will continue to improve , especially in light of the initiation of peace talks supported by the Church.
Natural resource extraction
Thanks in part to you raising your voice, light is finally shining on the horrific violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Legal provisions adopted by the U.S. in 2010 were designed to curb the violence funded by mining and mineral trade in the Congo. These laws will require companies to report on the sources of their minerals and to publish what they pay to governments for the extraction of natural resources. This will better allow civil society groups to hold their governments accountable for using this revenue for the common good.
The regulations to implement this important change were delayed for many months, but thanks in part to your sustained advocacy, the rules were finally published in 2012. What effect implementation of these rules will have on the long-suffering people of the DRC remains to be seen, but this is a major step forward in our quest to make the extraction of natural resources more transparent, accountable and beneficial to all people.
You pushed hard for comprehensive immigration reform and we made progress but unfortunately, in the end, did not materialize. On the local level, many of you were involved in important efforts to protect the lives and dignity of immigrants in your states and communities. We remain hopeful that federal policymakers will find the political will to address this long-standing concern and that the reasons why many people are forced to migrate will be addressed, including long-term development strategies for poor and rural communities in other countries. Please visit the Justice for Immigrants campaign for more information about how you can get involved in your community.
Global climate change
Thanks to your advocacy you put issues of global climate change on the map and discussions were held on a global scale to come to agreement on how the United States and others will handle this critical issue. We remain hopeful that policymakers will find the political will to address this issue and in particular, ensure that poor and vulnerable communities receive the assistance required to overcome the devastating effects of climate change on their communities, e.g. droughts and floods. We also remain hopeful that our communities can reap many benefits from the great work that many of you are doing on the local level to help your communities become better stewards of creation. Please visit CCGP partner, Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, for more information about what you can do in your community to support this important issue.