External Affairs

UN Chief Meets Trump Amidst Fund-Cut Threats

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at Financing for Peace: Innovations to Tackle Fragility session during the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at Financing for Peace: Innovations to Tackle Fragility session during the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, US, April 21, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

United Nations: UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres met with US President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday for the first time since both took office earlier this year and amid the US push to cut funding to the world body and its agencies.

Guterres met with Trump‘s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, and then “had an opportunity to meet with President Trump,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“The secretary-general and the president agreed to meet again in the near future,” Dujarric told reporters at the United Nations.

“In his meetings at the White House, the secretary-general felt he had an interesting and constructive discussion on cooperation between the United States and the United Nations,” he said.

UN Security Council ambassadors are due to meet Trump in Washington on Monday, diplomats said. The US is president of the 15-member council for April.

Trump has proposed a 28% budget cut for diplomacy and foreign aid, which includes an unspecified reduction in financial support for the UN and its agencies, as well as enforcement of a 25% cap on US funding for peacekeeping operations.

The United States is the biggest contributor to the UN, paying 22% of the $5.4 billion core budget and 28.5% of the $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. These are assessed contributions agreed by the UN General Assembly.

The US currently owes the UN $896 million for its core budget, UN officials said. The United States is also reviewing peacekeeping missions as their mandates come up for renewal in a bid to cut costs.

UN agencies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the children’s agency UNICEF, and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), are funded by governments voluntarily.

The state department said this month it was ending funding for UNFPA, the international body’s agency focused on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries. Guterres warned that the cut could have “devastating effects” on vulnerable women and girls.

In 2016, the United States was the top contributor to the UNDP’s core budget, with an $83 million donation; the leading donor to UNICEF’s core budget in 2015 with $132 million; and the fourth-largest donor to the UNFPA, giving $75 million in core budget and earmarked contributions.

(Reuters)