'Impossible' for UN to do its job with Trump budget cuts

Reduced US funding would hit world body's peacekeeping ops, aid programmes

UN peacekeeping operations such as this one in the Central African Republic face being curtailed if US funding to the UN is reduced.
UN peacekeeping operations such as this one in the Central African Republic face being curtailed if US funding to the UN is reduced. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS • The United Nations has said that the Trump administration's proposed budget cuts would "simply make it impossible" for the global organisation to maintain essential operations.

The statement, by a UN spokesman, added to the growing criticism of a budget submission for fiscal year 2018 that would reduce funding of the US State Department by roughly a third and cut foreign assistance by about 29 per cent.

The spending proposal, which was released on Tuesday, would reduce US financial support for the UN, including for its peacekeeping operations and international aid programmes. The US is the UN's biggest single donor.

"The figures presented would simply make it impossible for the UN to continue all of its essential work advancing peace, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance," Mr Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in response to queries about the budget proposal.

Republicans and Democrats have criticised the proposed budget's cuts to foreign assistance, saying such reductions would undercut national security and send the wrong message about US generosity even as humanitarian crises are escalating in the Middle East and Africa.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Mrs Nikki Haley, has said the US wants the UN to use American taxpayer money more efficiently.

  • 22% What the US contributes to the United Nations' core operating budget of US$5.4 billion.

    28% Share of the UN's peacekeeping budget paid by the US. This is to be cut to 25 per cent under the Trump administration's proposal.

But she has also expressed opposition to what she has called a slash-and-burn approach to budget reductions and has suggested that final allocations will not be as austere as what has been proposed.

"I was a governor, I had to do an executive budget," Mrs Haley said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal during a visit to the Middle East this week.

"What an executive budget is, is the start of a conversation."

Mr Dujarric acknowledged that the "budgetary process in the US is complex and lengthy and it needs to be completed".

He also said: "We are indeed very grateful for the support the United States has given to the United Nations over the years as the organisation's largest financial contributor."

The US contributes 22 per cent of the UN's core operating budget of US$5.4 billion (S$7.5 billion). That share is set by an international agreement and is based on the size of the US economy.

The US has also been a leading provider of aid to UN organisations that rely on voluntary contributions.

Twenty-eight per cent of the UN peacekeeping budget of nearly US$8 billion has been paid by the US. The Trump administration's budget proposal would reduce the US portion to about 25 per cent.

Last month, the US administration cut funding to the UN Population Fund, which provides reproductive health and birth control services in more than 150 countries.

Mr Guterres had criticised the US move, saying that the funding cut of US$32.5 million could be devastating for the health of women and girls worldwide.

Mr Guterres, who took over from Mr Ban Ki Moon five months ago, has vowed to trim the UN bureaucracy and make the world body more effective in its responses to world crises.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Impossible' for UN to do its job with Trump budget cuts. Subscribe