Yekatit 12 hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2012/Pudlowski

The Trump Administration Seeks Massive Cuts to the World Health Organization and UN Peacekeeping. Also, the Total Elimination of Funding for UNICEF

The budget request released this week by the White House recommends large cuts to US payments to several United Nations entities. This includes a 53% cut to the World Health Organization, which is at the front line of responding to two major global emergencies: the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak and the ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In fact, on the very same day that the Trump administration released its 2020 budget request that slashed its contributions to the WHO by more than half, the WHO dispatched a team of health officials to China, lead by a renowned Canadian public health emergency specialist, Dr. Bruce Aylward.

Even as the WHO is dispatching staff to China, helping prevent the spread of the virus to other countries and regions of the world, and providing a central clearing house for scientific information about the virus, the Trump administration is seeking onerous cuts.

In addition to the proposed cuts to the World Health Organization, the budget seeks drastic reductions to several UN Peacekeeping Missions.

This includes large UN blue helmet deployments to Mali, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These proposed cuts come despite frequent statements of praise and support from other parts of the Trump administration.

Indeed, just five days before the White House sought a $157 million cut to the UN Mission in South Sudan, the US Ambassador to the UN was expressing her support for that very mission.

Other peacekeeping missions are also targeted for big cuts, including a cut of $127 million.
for the UN Mission in the DRC, which is helping to contain the world’s second largest ever ebola outbreak. Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Mali, in which blue helmets are on the frontline of a conflict against violent extremist and jihadist groups, is slated for a $155 million cut.

The White House wants to completely eliminate funding for UNICEF.

The United States is one of the top funders of UNICEF, the UN agency that supports some of the most vulnerable children in the world. As in previous years, the White House budget request seeks to eliminate the entire account that serves as the funding vehicle for US payments to UNICEF and other UN agencies like the UN Development Program, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women and the UN Population Fund, which supports motherhood and maternal health, among other things. This account is called the International Organizations and Programs, and the White House budget request allocated precisely zero dollars for it.

In year’s past, Congress has ignored this request. Last year, the account received $390.5 million from Congress — an increase from the prior year despite the Trump administration’s effort to eliminate it.

Fortunately for children who depend on UNICEF for their vaccines and basic nutrition, the millions of people protected by UN Peacekeepers in conflict zones, and the 7.8 billion people on planet earth who depend on international cooperation to contain the fast spreading coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Constitution does not permit the White House to dictate funding levels. Ultimately, appropriations are the remit of Congress, which has demonstrated a far more sophisticated understanding of the value of multi-lateral cooperation in confronting global challenges.