By voice vote, on March 20, the House International Relations Committee approved a $1.05 billion four-year foreign aid package (H.R. 3994) for Afghanistan. The bill is sponsored by Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Lantos (D-CA). Rep. Hyde said, “This legislation will abet the Administration in developing a strategic approach to the assistance needs of Afghanistan.”
Acting Ranking Member Gary Ackerman (D-NY) called the measure a “bipartisan bill,” and noted that “throughout the bill the importance of the role of women is emphasized.” Democrats requested that a number of provisions specific to Afghan women be included in the bill.
H.R. 3994 would make several policy declarations with respect to Afghanistan, including one that the “United States and the international community should support efforts that advance the development of democratic civil authorities and institutions in Afghanistan and the establishment of a new broad-based, multi-ethnic, gender-sensitive, and fully representative government in Afghanistan.”
Under purposes of assistance, the bill states that there should be a “particular emphasis on meeting the educational, health, and sustenance needs of women and children to better enable their full participation in Afghan society.”
Additionally, the measure would set forth five principles of assistance. One of those principles pertains to the role of women and states that “assistance should increase the participation of women at the national, regional, and local levels in Afghanistan.” H.R. 3994 would encourage the involvement of women in the decision-making process and support for programs to expand economic and educational opportunities, as well as health programs, for women and girls.
The legislation would provide humanitarian assistance for a number of services, including preventive health care and maternal and child health services. Aid also would be provided for repatriation and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, counternarcotics efforts, reestablishment of food security and the agriculture sector, and reconstruction of the basic infrastructure.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment, which was approved by unanimous consent, that would allow additional resources to be provided for the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs to “carry out its responsibilities for legal advocacy, education, vocational training, and women’s health programs.” Stating that she was offering the amendment on behalf of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, Rep. Lee said, “As girls begin school this week, I believe this would be a fitting action.”
World Peace Resolution
The committee also approved, by unanimous consent and without debate, a resolution (H. Con. Res. 290) that would express the sense of the Congress that women throughout the world should join together for a week of workshops, forums, and other events to speak up for world peace. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).