Trump Administration Reportedly Seeks Massive Cuts to U.S. Funding of UN

State Department staffers have been tasked with finding cuts in excess of 50 percent to American funding of UN programs, Foreign Policy reports. UNRWA may be spared, diplomat says.

U.S. President Donald Trump, center, speaks while James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, right, and Rex Tillerson, U.S. secretary of State, listen during a meeting with members of the Cabinet at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S, on Monday, March 13, 2017.
Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg

The Trump administration is seeking huge cuts to U.S. funding of the United Nations, Foreign Policy reported Monday, saying that State Department staffers have been tasked with finding cuts in excess of 50 percent to American funding of UN programs. 

The U.S. gives $10 billion annually to the UN, accounting for about 20 percent of its budget.

One diplomat told Foreign Policy that UNRWA, the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, may be spared from the cuts. Despite Israeli criticism of the agency for its alleged pro-Palestinian bias, Israel sees it as promoting stability, the diplomat said, adding that it also relieves Israel of the obligation to care for some Palestinians. 

On Thursday, the White House is set to release its proposal for the 2018 budget, which is expected to include up to 37 percent to the budgets of the State Department and USAID, as well as other foreign assistance programs, including the UN. 

The report, citing three sources, said it was still unclear whether the cuts to the UN budget would be enacted in 2018, or will be phased in over the next three years.

According to an official close to the administration, U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson has been "given flexibility" to decide on how to distribute the cuts, Foreign Policy reported. 

The report said that the UN programs set to be most affected are peacekeeping missions, UNICEF and the UN Development Program, all of which are funded through the State Department's Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

Richard Gown, a UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Foreign Policy that the cuts to UN humanitarian agencies would mean "the breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it," as other big donors would struggle to make up for the U.S. contributions.