A Trump presidency may threaten UN funding, climate deal

By Amy Lieberman 09 November 2016

The United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo by: Omar Bárcena / CC BY-NC

The United Nations will look to Donald Trump to continue to lead the United States as an “essential actor across the international agenda,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, as some international development groups and experts spoke out about the disruptive implications of the Republican presidential nominee’s shock election win.

“The United Nations will count on the new administration to strengthen the bonds of international cooperation as we strive together to uphold shared ideals, combat climate change, advance human rights, promote mutual understanding and implement the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ban Ki-moon said in prepared remarks at U.N. headquarters Wednesday morning.

Ban also congratulated Trump and thanked former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, for her “commitment to peace, advancement of women and well-being of children.”

But Ban’s appeal may fall on deaf ears with a new Trump administration. While Trump has not laid out a detailed policy plan on the United Nations, he has offered his perspective on how “we get nothing out of the United Nations” and its financial support to the institution is “disproportionate” and not worthwhile.  

Trump victory plunges climate conference into uncertainty

The unexpected election of Donald Trump as U.S. president added an unwelcome element of uncertainty into climate negotiations that were only finally starting to yield concrete global progress.

Trump has also pledged to withdraw U.S. support from the Paris climate change agreement, a deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit dangerously high global temperatures that went into effect this month. First steps from his transition team reportedly will involve canceling billions of dollars from U.N. climate change programs.

One big question is whether Trump will moderate his position on climate change, said Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert who has written on what a Trump administration could mean for the U.N.

“If [he] insists that he will pull out of the Paris Treaty and cut all climate-related funding to the U.N., China, the EU and others will view his arrival at the U.N. with disdain,” Gowan wrote to Devex in an email.

Trump’s success will also likely throw Secretary-General-elect António Guterres’ transition planning for a loop, Gowan suggested.

Overall financial support to the U.N. by the U.S. could have ripple effects across different agencies.

The U.S. contributed 22 percent to the U.N.’s 2016-2017 core budget and more than 28 percent to the 2016-2017 peacekeeping budget, marking the maximum contribution any country is allowed to give, according to General Assembly rules. Japan and then Germany follow as the next largest donors.

The U.S. is also a top donor to major U.N. organizations, including the U.N. Refugee Agency — giving about $1.5 billion there this year — as well as the World Food Programme and the United Nations Development Programme. These two organizations have consistently looked to the U.S. as their prime government supporters, with $1.48 billion in funding and $83 million, respectively, this past year.

Other agencies, such as U.N. Women and the United Nations Environment Programme, are somewhat less dependent on the U.S. for their core contributions, but still count the U.S. as a top 10 donor.

Trump win sends shockwaves through development world

The election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president is sure to send shockwaves throughout the global development community as worries rise about his aid policy and stated position on climate change.

Some international human rights NGOs immediately moved to warn the incoming American president over statements and policy positions promoted during his campaign. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Trump Wednesday to repudiate divisive rhetoric that has characterized his election bid, especially when it comes to targeting vulnerable groups such as Muslims, women, the disabled and Latino immigrants.

Amnesty warned that such rhetoric must not be allowed to translate into actual policy. “The United States has witnessed disturbing and, at times, poisonous rhetoric from President-elect Trump and others. This rhetoric cannot and must not become government policy. The xenophobic, sexist and other hateful remarks made by Trump have no place in government. President-elect Trump must publicly commit to upholding the human rights of all without discrimination,” Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, stated “It is difficult to press other countries to respect human rights when your own government is sometimes ignoring them.”

Previously, U.N. officials, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein, have spoken out against Trump, saying he would be “dangerous from an international point of view."

Stay tuned to Devex for more news and analysis of what the Trump administration will mean for global development. Read more coverage here and subscribe to our daily newswire.

About the author

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Amy Liebermanamylieberman

Amy Lieberman is a reporter for Devex, based out of New York, where she covers global development around the city and out of the United Nations. She has previously worked as a freelancer, reporting on the environment, social justice issues, immigration and development. Her coverage has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Slate and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She received her M.A. in politics and government from Columbia Journalism School in 2014.


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