Catholic Relief Services has pledged $150 million toward programs that combat hunger and advance agriculture and nutrition over the next three years.
The CRS pledge is part of more than $1 billion promised by members of InterAction, the alliance of U.S.-based international humanitarian organizations, a pledge that was announced last week in New York at a symposium sponsored by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
CRS president Carolyn Woo appeared on a panel — Partnering with Civil Society – which was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. The event was hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, and moderated by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof.
Among CRS’ many programs in Malawi is one Kristof recently wrote about, the Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) project that works with eight partners to help communities build resilience to recurrent drought. Supported by USAID’s Food for Peace program, WALA is a five-year development program that benefits more than 166,600 families.
“Civil society organizations are crucial to our success in both the public and the private sector,” Secretary Clinton said announcing the pledge. “They have longstanding relationships in communities and valuable technical expertise, and they work every single day on their commitment to try to make the world a better place for all of us.”
Asked by Kristof what faith-based organizations like CRS add to the aid process, Dr. Woo noted that all CRS work is with local partners, including 165 Caritas organizations throughout the world.
“There are local agencies working with the church that have been there forever, for 150 years, for 100 years,” she said. “This gives us a network of partners who are local, who are trusted, who are enduring, who are not going to leave. They will have to live with the success, or with the lack of success, wherever we do work.”
CRS’ $150 million pledge — $50 million in each of the next three years — is from money raised from private donors. Including public and other donors, CRS food security funding will be close to $1 billion over that time.
“The most exciting thing about our commitment is the fact that it will be leveraged, with USAID money, with private donors, with local agencies in the countries where we work,” Dr. Woo said. “So it is not just the amount, it is what the amount means in the whole system, how that will allow it to work in a way that will help so many people.”