UN: Nine former US ambassadors to the UN warned congress in a letter on Tuesday that slashing funding for the world body would weaken Washington’s global influence by ceding “the agenda to countries that can be hostile to our interests.”
The ambassadors – Andrew Young, Donald McHenry, Thomas Pickering, Edward Perkins, Madeleine Albright, Bill Richardson, John Negroponte, Susan Rice and Samantha Power – served under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
“Cutting funding to the UN … will only damage US national security and our position in the world,” Albright told reporters. “Other powers, most prominently China and Russia, will do everything they can to fill the leadership gap.”
The letter urged congress to avoid drastically cutting UN funding and to give current US ambassador Nikki Haley and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres time and space to reform the world body to make it more efficient, effective and responsive.
The US is the biggest UN contributor, paying 22% of the $5.4 billion core budget and 28.5% of the $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. These assessed contributions are agreed by the 193-member UN General Assembly.
Trump said the US share of those budgets was “unfair” and has proposed an unspecified reduction in funding for the UN and its agencies, as well as enforcement of a 25% cap on US funding for peacekeeping operations.
Some UN diplomats have also voiced concern about who could fill a US cash void.
“There is an argument to be made about the US inadvertently creating a ‘China first’ policy, rather than ‘US first’ policy if they walk away and leave space,” said a senior UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump told UN Security Council ambassadors on Monday – over lunch at the White House – that if the world body reforms how it operates, then the US investment would be worth it.
“If we do a great job, I care much less about the budget because you’re talking about peanuts compared to the important work you’re doing,” Trump told the 15 council envoys.
UN Secretary-General Guterres met briefly with Trump at the White House on Friday for the first time since both took office earlier this year.
The state department said this month it was ending funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN agency focussed on family planning as well as maternal and child health in more than 150 countries. Guterres warned that the cut could have “devastating effects.”