US Senators Urge Funding for UNFPA as Republicans Hold Purse Strings

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Feb. 6, 2015 – A group of US senators is urging President Obama to continue funding the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) as the threat of Republican-controlled legislatures pulling funds for the agency looms.

The Republican Party won significant gains in the house and senate in the midterm elections and US funding for UN climate and population programs are under threat. Under President George W. Bush, the US withheld funds for the UNFPA claiming in part that the agency supported Chinese government programs which include forced abortions and coercive sterilizations.

The 22 senators, including Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Kirsten Gillibrand, in a Jan. 27 letter, wrote that “U.S. funding for UNFPA supports a range of global activities including the provision of voluntary family planning information, education and services, training and deployment of skilled birth attendants and midwives, and work to help end the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and child marriage.”

We are disappointed that despite UNFPA’s critical work around the world, a number of misperceptions about the organization persist,” the letter added.

On its website, the UNFPA says it “does not promote abortion as a family planning method.”

The US has contributed some $30 million annually to the agency under the Obama administration. From 2001-2008, a total of $244 million in Congressionally approved funding was blocked by the Executive Branch.

The UNFPA receives some $450 million yearly with Sweden ($66M), Norway ($59M), the Netherlands ($49M) and Denmark ($44M) the top donors.

Since the Helms amendment to the foreign aid package in 1973, US foreign aid is prohibited from being used to pay for abortion as a method of family planning “or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

The senators conclude their letter by saying, “support for UNFPA is cost-effective, saves lives and supports our broader diplomatic, development and national security priorities.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Republicans Likely to Nix Funding for UN Climate Agencies After Midterms

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Nov. 4, 2014 – The $12 million that the United States Senate has allocated to UN climate agencies is expected to be among the first casualties if Republican take control of the chamber following Tuesday’s midterm elections.

The current Senate bill on funding for state and foreign operations includes $11,700,000 for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The bill was approved by a current Democrat-controlled sub-committee in June but has yet to be put to a full vote.

However, the House version of the bill passed by a Republican-controlled sub-committee, also in June, states that “none of the funds in this Act may be made available for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change/United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

While the sum involved is miniscule compared to the overall $48 billion budget approved by both sub-committees, it represents a combined one-third of the $7 million IPCC and $26 million UNFCC budgets.

The pulling of this funding will be a big blow to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of next year’s climate talks in Paris. Ban has made climate change his signature issue and is hoping that a global pact can be agreed before he steps down in 2016.

A Republican-controlled Senate will also scupper what slim chances there already were that the US would ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) will also likely get nixed by a Republican-controlled Senate. The House bill denies any funding to the agency while the Senate version allocates $37.5 million to the UNFPA – the agency which promotes family planning and reproductive health. Under President George W. Bush, all funding for the agency was withheld. President Obama restored this funding after his election.

UNRWA, the agency that supports Palestinian refugees, could also see its funds cut under a Republican Senate. The US is the largest single donor to the agency.

In a further blow to the US relationship with the UN, under a Republican-controlled Senate, Rand Paul, who last year proposed an amendment calling for the US to stop providing funds to the United Nations, would take over as chair of the subcommittee responsible for oversight of the United States participation in the United Nations system.

Among the new batch of Republican senators is Joni Ernst from Iowa who has stated that the UN wants to take Iowan farmers off their land and move them into cities.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz