US strikes deal with UN agency on funding for minority groups in Iraq

US strikes deal with UN agency on funding for minority groups in Iraq
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The Trump administration has reached a deal with the United Nations's (U.N.) international development agency to provide more funding for ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said Monday that $55 million of a $75 million tranche of aid money to the U.N. Development Program's Funding Facility for Stabilization will go to addressing minority groups in areas of northern Iraq retaken from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

The deal came more than two months after Vice President Pence announced that the U.S. would stop funding "ineffective" U.N. relief programs in Iraq and provide more assistance directly through USAID and "faith-based groups."

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The U.S. pledged $150 million to the Iraqi stabilization fund in July. USAID officials have said that that money would be broken up into two portions of $75 million, with the second slice of funding being contingent on the U.N. Development Program making improvements in the stabilization fund's accountability and transparency. 

USAID also said on Monday that it is moving forward with a broad agency announcement, a mechanism that allows the agency to solicit proposals from outside groups on how to best facilitate the return of ethnic and religious minorities to their homes in areas of Iraq deemed liberated from ISIS control.

In an October speech at the In Defense of Christians annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East, Pence decried what he said was U.N. agencies' collective failure to effectively assist religious minorities — particularly Christians — in Iraq. 

"Those days are over," he said at the time. "Our fellow Christians and all who are persecuted in the Middle East should not have to rely on multinational institutions when America can help them directly."