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UN: Proposed US funding cuts would make UN’s work impossible

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump’s huge proposed cuts in U.S. funding for the United Nations would make it “simply impossible” for the world organization to carry out essential work to promote peace, combat poverty and provide humanitarian assistance, the U.N. spokesman said Wednesday.

Stephane Dujarric told reporters the U.N. will wait to see what the U.S. Congress does with the proposed budget, “but we will need resources to deliver on our mandates.”

Republicans who control both houses of Congress are skeptical about the administration’s math and Democrats are opposed to the blueprint.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world’s largest economy. It currently pays 25 percent of the United Nations’ $5.4 billion regular operating budget and over 28 percent of the separate $7.8 billion peacekeeping budget.

The budget that the Trump administration submitted Monday for the U.S. fiscal year starting Oct. 1 would cut funding for U.N. peacekeeping by $1.3 billion, over 50 percent. Contributions to international organizations, including the United Nations, would drop by $447 million, a 31 percent decrease. Among other cuts are total funding for the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and, as previously announced, the U.N. population agency UNFPA.

During a visit to the White House by the U.N. Security Council last month, Trump described the U.S. contributions to the United Nations as “peanuts compared to the important work.”

But the president and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, have been pushing for reform of the world body, especially its 16 far-flung peacekeeping operations.

Dujarric said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “has been very vocal on the need to reform and is engaged — and is committed and will continue to work on reform ensuring the U.N. … delivers what it is meant to deliver.”

Atul Khare, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping support, said at a news conference that peacekeeping “is effective,” pointing to nearly 70 missions that have wrapped up and “left a legacy of stability in countries spanning from El Salvador to Namibia to East Timor.”

The U.N. has already announced that three missions will soon be closing — in Ivory Coast, Liberia and Haiti.

Khare said “peacekeeping is cost effective,” saying the current $7.8 billion budget supports 16 missions, a regional center and logistics base and the deployment of over 113,000 personnel. In addition, he said, the U.N. supports 22,000 African Union peacekeepers and 595 civilians in Somalia.

Adjusting for inflation, Khare said, “the cost of U.N. peacekeeping to member states today is 17 percent lower in 2016-17 than it was in 2008-09 when measured as cost per capita of deployed uniformed personnel.”

The budget proposal says Trump wants to cap the U.S. peacekeeping contribution at 25 percent but notes that the U.N. General Assembly only revises assessment rates every three year, and the next negotiation isn’t due until 2018.

“Therefore, a 50 percent reduction in U.S. funding for U.N. peacekeeping activities would need to be achieved through reductions in overall U.N. peacekeeping budget levels or reduced U.S. contributions,” it says. “The request assumes greater burden sharing by other countries and a U.S. assessed contribution at or below the statutory cap of 25 percent.”

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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