World

US Withdraws Funding for UN Population Fund

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, speaking at the London Summit on Family Planning. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the executive director of UNFPA, speaking at the London Summit on Family Planning. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

UN: The US Department of State said on Monday it was ending US funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the international body’s agency focussed on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries.

In a letter to US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, the state department said it was dropping the funding because the UNFPA, “supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation.”

The cut marks US President Donald Trump’s first move to curtail funding for the UN and is likely to raise further questions about how deep those cuts will eventually go throughout the organisation, where the US is the top donor.

It comes after Trump in January reinstated the so-called Mexico City Policy that withholds US funding for international organisations that perform abortions or provide information about abortion.

Known by critics as the “global gag” rule, Trump broadened its scope to include all global health assistance in his January 23 executive order that withholds at least half a billion dollars in US funds. A lack of clarity around the rule, however, has left aid groups scrambling and both Republican and Democratic US lawmakers seeking clarity.

In a statement on its website, UNFPA said it regrets the US decision to end funding, which it said is based on an “erroneous claim” that the agency supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.

UNFPA said its mission is “to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

“The support we received over the years from the government and people of the US has saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable deaths and disabilities, and especially now in the rapidly developing global humanitarian crises,” the statement said.

The cut follows Trump’s proposed 28% budget reduction for diplomacy and foreign aid, including an unspecified reduction in financial support for the UN and its agencies, announced last month.

UN agencies such as the UNFPA are funded by governments voluntarily. The US was the fourth-largest voluntary donor to UNFPA in 2015, giving $75 million in core budget and earmarked contributions.

UN officials have warned that abrupt funding cuts could trigger more global instability and argued that dollars for diplomacy are more effective than military spending in combating terrorism.