Trump officials to offer clarity on UN relief funding next week

Trump officials to offer clarity on UN relief funding next week
© Getty Images

The Trump administration is seeking to provide more clarity in the coming days on a plan to shift some U.S. humanitarian aid funding away from certain United Nations relief programs, a U.S. official tells The Hill.

Officials say the move to shift some aid funding away from U.N. programs is intended to provide more assistance to persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East, though details have been scarce about the proposal.

Vice President Pence unveiled the plan at a religious dinner in Washington on Wednesday, where he excoriated the U.N. for failing to adequately help Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vice president said that President Trump had moved to redirect U.S. funds to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), faith-based groups and private organizations.

“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," he said at In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East.

Pence added that Trump had "ordered the State Department to stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations."

Some officials have pointed to former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' MORE's declaration last year that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has committed genocide against Christians, Shiite Muslims and Yazidis, as well as shrinking Christian communities in Iraq and Syria, to highlight the need to provide funding to groups that can provide assistance more efficiently.

"It’s horrible that people of any particular faith would be forced out of their communities as a result of terrorism," Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said at a press briefing on Thursday.

"So I think one of the ways I want to handle this is to efficiently be able to get the money to different NGOs and groups that the U.S. Government feels can best help them."

Pence and Trump discussed the matter before the vice president announced the initiative Wednesday night, according to a White House official.
 
Nauert said the move has been discussed within the administration for a while.
 
"This is not a new concept. This is something that people have been talking about within the administration for quite some time," she said.

Pence's announcement provided few details on how much money the U.S. could shift away from the U.N. and which U.N. programs could see cuts. It also left unclear whether the changes will affect only humanitarian efforts in the Middle East, which Pence addressed specifically, or if other regions will be included.

The Trump administration is not weighing whether to pull all funding from U.N. humanitarian agencies, but rather those relief efforts deemed "ineffective." Nauert said Thursday that the U.N. programs would continue to get some money from the U.S., but that the U.S. would seek other avenues for relief funding.

There are four main U.N. relief agencies: the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, the World Food Program (WFP) and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Taken together, these four agencies receive about $4.5 billion in funding from various sources in the U.S. government, according to the latest data from those groups.

There are plans to conduct an analysis to determine how appropriated funds can be better used to address persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. That analysis will be carried out by the State Department, USAID and the White House Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

A State Department spokesperson did not confirm on Saturday when clarification on the initiative's implementation is expected, but said that the U.S. would continue to work with "proven U.N. partners" as well as NGOs and faith-based groups.

The spokesperson also said that U.S. government would still seek to provide assistance to people regardless of religion or ethnicity, and noted that programming decisions are "made based on disaster assessments and in coordination with host governments, host communities, and relief organizations on the ground, as well as the affected populations."

The White House did not return The Hill's requests for comment.