In a strong assertion of support for Tibet, the US Congress has advanced legislation that provides millions of dollars for Tibet programs. The funding is provided in the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010. The House of Representatives passed it version of the bill on July 9 by a vote on 318-106; the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version on the same day.

“These bills highlight the United States Congress’ belief that the Tibetan culture and identity continues to face challenges on the Tibetan plateau and its appreciation of the effort being made by Tibetans in exile to preserve them,” said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet. “Congress also offers a new investment in helping Tibetan refugees sustain their unique identity by revitalizing half century-old settlements in South Asia.”

Programs funded in the bills include: grants to non-governmental organizations to support sustainable development and cultural traditions on the Tibetan plateau ($7.5 million in the Senate bill, $7.3 million in the House bill); humanitarian assistance for Tibetan refugees ($2.5 million in the House bill, provided but not earmarked in the Senate bill); $2.3 million new funding to modernize Tibetan refugee settlements in India and Nepal through organic agriculture and workforce development, designed to improve the sustainability and vitality of the long-standing settlement communities (House bill); $1.4 million for Tibetan exchange and scholarship programs; and $250,000 for democracy assistance. The bills also fund the office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the State Department, and provide full funding for Tibetan broadcasting by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

“The leaders of the two Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittees, Chairpersons Rep. Nita Lowey and Sen. Patrick Leahy and Ranking Members Rep. Kay Granger and Sen. Judd Gregg, and other members of the subcommittees should be commended for their steadfast support of these programs that nurture hope as Tibetans work for a resolution for Tibet,” said Todd Stein.

Once the full Senate approves the bill, expected in the coming weeks, its version would then need to be reconciled with the House-passed bill.