U.S. Funding for United Nations May Be Next on Trump's List

By Patrick Goodenough | January 26, 2017 | 4:18am EST
Flags of member states fly in front of the United Nations headquarters building in New York City. (U.N. Photo by J.C. McIlwaine, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations and affiliated agencies, bankrolled by U.S. taxpayers to the tune of $7-$8 billion a year, looks set to be next in President Trump’s crosshairs, as he seeks to rein in an organization whose actions, his ambassador to the world body has charged, are “often at odds with American national interests.”

Draft executive orders seen by the New York Times indicate that the administration could reduce funding for U.N. agencies that:

--grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority or PLO;

--fund abortion;

--“is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism” or is blamed for persecuting marginalized groups or other systematic rights violations;

--circumvent sanctions against Iran or North Korea.

American taxpayers account for 22 percent of the regular budget of the U.N. – $610.8 million this year – plus almost 29 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget. The U.S. provides billions of dollars more each year in “voluntary contributions” to agencies across the U.N. system.

The second-biggest contributor to the regular budget is Japan, at 9.6 percent, followed by China at 7.9 percent and Germany 6.3. The U.S. alone contributes more than the vast majority of member-states combined.

“We are a generous nation, but we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution,” Nikki Haley, Trump’s now-confirmed ambassador to the U.N., said during her Senate nomination hearing last week. “Are we getting what we pay for?”

The U.N. is a target-rich environment for the new administration.


The U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has already been defunded – in line with U.S. laws passed in 1990 and 1994 – since it voted in 2011 to become the first U.N. agency to admit “the state of Palestine.”

But at least one other U.N. agency that admitted “Palestine” was spared the funding cut last year: The Obama administration argued that it was not obliged to defund the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, on the grounds it is “a treaty,” not an international organization. Congressional critics were outraged.

Short of full admission, numerous other U.N. bodies – including the General Assembly itself – treat the P.A. self-rule administration as a de facto state.


The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has long faced conservative opposition – and defunding under the last Republican administration – over its programs in China. The agency denies that its work in the country supports Beijing’s population limitation programs and coercive measures such as forced abortion and sterilization.

UNFPA claims not to “promote abortion as a method of family planning,” but it is a key partner of two of the world’s largest abortion providers, Marie Stopes International (MSI) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Last year, UNFPA bestowed its annual U.N. population award to the director of IPPF’s Western Hemisphere region.

Other U.N. agencies that partner with IPPF and/or MSI include UNAIDS, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Then-U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York in 2013. Iran has held numerous leadership positions at the U.N.  (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

State-sponsors of terror

Iran, one of three currently-designated state-sponsors of terrorism, has been elected to numerous leadership or influential positions in U.N. agencies in recent years.

It is currently vice-chair of the General Assembly’s “political and decolonization” committee; serving a three-year term on the executive board of U.N. Women; has been a member of UNICEF’s executive board since 2013; is vice-chair of the bureau of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; a member of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; a member of the executive council of the U.N. World Tourism Organization; and a member of the executive committee of UNHCR.

Iran has also had a seat, since 2011, on the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a body dealing with gender equality and the advancement of women. (When Iran was re-elected for a second four-year in 2014 the Obama administration did not object when the opportunity was given – but then voiced “outrage” afterwards.)

Sudan, another U.S.-designated state-sponsor of terror, is a member of the executive board of the World Food Program and a member of the Commission for Social Development.

Recent years have seen the Khartoum regime – whose president is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide charges – elected as vice president of the U.N.’s influential Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), serve as a member of the bureau of the General Assembly legal committee, on the executive board of UNICEF, and a member of the U.N.’s NGO Committee, Committee on Information and Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Syria, the third state-sponsor of terrorism, has in recent years been an executive board member of the U.N.’s “special committee on decolonization,” and a member of a UNESCO committee dealing with human rights.

Persecutors and human rights violators

The number of U.N. organizations in which countries with poor records on human rights and religious freedoms play leading or influential roles are too numerous to list, but include the Security Council itself (Russia, China) and the Human Rights Council, one in four of whose current members are rights-abusing autocracies.

China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba hold leadership or influential positions across a range of agencies in the U.N. system.

Iran, North Korea sanctions

Iran and North Korea both allegedly received sensitive dual-use technology from the U.N.’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Iran has benefited from tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) despite sanctions over its nuclear activities.

(The U.S. is not a member of UNIDO, having pulled out in 1996 amid criticism over its purpose and effectiveness. A number of other Western countries have also withdrawn.)

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