Toronto - In a move critics see as a retreat from the United Nations, the Trump administration is preparing to cut funding to UN projects by 50-60 percent.
Toronto – In a move critics see as a retreat from the United Nations, the Trump administration is preparing to cut funding to UN projects by 50-60 percent.
According to a report on the Foreign Policy website, if approved, the cuts would amount to billions of dollars in aid to UN projects such as vaccinations for children, peacekeeping missions and nuclear monitoring programs. US officials are confirming that State Department employees have been asked to look for areas where deep, unprecedented cuts can be made. This comes on the eve of the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal.
The State Department budget is expected to see a 37 percent cut, which would include cuts to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). For now, it is unclear if the proposed cuts, once approved, would be implemented all at once or spread out over the course of three years, as indicated by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
On March 9 in New York, a closed-door meeting was held by US diplomats to warn key UN officials of the upcoming cuts. UN members were told to prepare for “a big financial constraint.” Programs they were warned would receive the largest cuts included UNICEF and the UN Development Programme. Sources close to the White House have stated that humanitarian aid cuts could reach 36 percent.
UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Gowen, declared that such cuts would result in worldwide “chaos.” As an example, he cited the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Of its total budget of $4 billion, the United States supplies $1.5 billion. In Gowen’s opinion, if this funding disappears it would “leave a gaping hole that other big donors would struggle to fill. Multiply that across other humanitarian agencies, like the World Food Programme, and you are basically talking about the breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it.”
According to the same source, it is widely believed the Trump administration plans to use these deep cuts to finance the $54 billion increase it wants to implement to its military and defense spending.
The proposed cuts appear to fly in the face of repeated warnings on the part of United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to avoid “slash-and-burn cuts.” Still, there is light possibly looming at the end of this budgetary tunnel. Senate Majority leader, itch McConnell, has publicly stated his belief that the Trump budget is “probably not” going to pass.
That claim, however, doesn’t seem to be allaying fears. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which currently supplies aid to Palestinian refugees is thought by critics to be a vulnerable target because of its unpopularity with Israel. Still other experts feel that it may escape cuts based solely on the thought that it is promoting stability in the region.
With recent announcements regarding impending epic famine hitting several regions of the world at once, Bathsheba Crocker, former assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs during the Obama administration, is deeply concerned a US retreat from its humanitarian responsibilities could exacerbate an already dangerous situation. “We have UN warnings of famine in four countries. It is only the UN agencies that have the scope and ability to get in and address these challenges.”