Trump budget cuts would hit UN, international agencies hard

Trump budget cuts would hit UN, international agencies hard

WASHINGTON — The United Nations and dozens of its affiliated agencies are facing deep funding cuts and possibly an end to U.S. contributions, as the Trump administration seeks to slash billions of dollars from diplomacy and development assistance in next year’s budget.

Peacekeeping missions and international organizations that rely heavily on American financial contributions are reined in significantly in the White House’s proposal to reduce funding for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development by roughly 31 per cent in the next fiscal year. That’s in addition to dramatic cuts in U.S.-led health, development and climate change initiatives that will require other donors to fill the gaps.

Thursday’s proposal doesn’t spell out all details of the cuts. But it gives clues about which agencies and organizations will be affected, prompting a wide array of human rights groups, aid workers and lawmakers from both parties to voice objections.

Francois Delattre, the U.N. ambassador from U.S. ally France, was among the most outspoken, lamenting “America’s retreat and unilateralism.”

Even some Republicans, traditionally enthusiastic about less federal spending, balked. House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said he was “very concerned that deep cuts to our diplomacy will hurt efforts to combat terrorism, distribute critical humanitarian aid and promote opportunities for American workers.”

But President Donald Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said the U.N. “spends more money than it should,” burdening the U.S. more than other countries. She said she was working with the U.N. to reform the organization and “restore trust and value.”

At the top of the cutting block: U.N. climate change programs designed to help poorer countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama administration had sought nearly $1 billion for its Global Climate Change Initiative. Under Trump’s blueprint, that money is gone.

Foreign aid is being shrunk, too. Asked how much, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said simply: “A lot.”

Shielded is $3.1 billion in aid to Israel, which officials described as the only carve-out. Money to Jordan, Egypt and other countries is still being evaluated, they said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the agency was “redefining priorities.”

“One of those is how we better defend national security,” he said.

The administration says the budget “seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, are duplicative or are not well-managed.” To do this, it says less U.N. funding sets the expectation “that these organizations rein in costs” and that other countries spend more.

America’s contribution to U.N. peacekeeping costs would be capped at 25 per cent. It currently pays 28.5 per cent. Based on that amount, then-President Barack Obama’s last budget sought $2.4 billion on U.N. blue helmet missions around the world. Cutting 3.5 per cent from that total could hasten drastic changes or even the end of several missions that are winding down, such as those in Liberia, South Sudan and Haiti.

For the U.N.’s general budget, the Obama administration had sought more than $1 billion to pay dues this year.

That included payments for U.N. organizations for health, atomic energy, civil aviation, labour, telecommunications, weather and intellectual property. The U.S. also has voluntarily funded other U.N. programs, such as children’s fund UNICEF and the World Food Program, by billions of dollars.

The future level of U.S. funding for all these agencies is unclear.

Matthew Lee And Josh Lederman, The Associated Press

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