President Trump’s administration has told the State Department to cut more than 50 percent of U.S. funding to United Nations programs, Foreign Policy reported.
The push for the drastic reductions comes as the White House is scheduled to release its 2018 topline budget proposal Thursday, which is expected to include a 37 percent cut to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets.
It’s not clear if Trump’s budget plan, from the Office of Management and Budget, would reflect the full extent of Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.N.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has suggested phasing in the major reductions over the coming three years.
One official close the administration told Foreign Policy that Tillerson has flexibility about how best to implement the reduction.
The U.S. spends roughly $10 billion annually on the U.N., and the cuts could have the greatest impact on peacekeeping, the U.N. development program and UNICEF, which are funded by State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
The fate of other popular programs, like the World Food Programme and U.N. refugee operations, are less clear. The World Food Programme’s funding comes from the Department of Agriculture.
The magazine said it confirmed the potential cuts with three sources; one said the administration is considering cutting humanitarian aid programs by 36 percent.
Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the alterations would spark “chaos” if true.
“[It would] leave a gaping hole that other big donors would struggle to fill,” he told FP, pointing to how the U.S. provided $1.5 billion of the U.N. refugee agency’s $4 billion budget last year.
“Multiply that across other humanitarian agencies like the World Food Programme and you are basically talking about the breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it.”
Foreign Policy added U.S. diplomats warned key U.N. members to “expect a big financial restraint” on American spending at the U.N. during a March 9 meeting in New York City.
“There are rumors of big cuts to the State Department budget, but again, on our side, no figures,” one diplomat purportedly told donors from Europe, Japan and South Korea.
Administration officials said last month that Trump’s budget would contain $54 billion in domestic non-discretionary spending cuts to pay for an equal increase in defense spending.
Trump has repeatedly vowed to strengthen the military before the release of the 2018 budget, which is the first such proposal of his presidency.