THREATENING WITH THE CHECKBOOK
US hinders work of the population fund. Neo-conservatives dictate policy of the world organization
By Thalif Deen, New York (IPS)
[This article published in: Junge Welt, 1/20/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://jungewelt.de/2006/01-20/007.php. ]
Four years ago US president George W. Bush and his administration tried to hinder the work of the UN population fund (UNFPA) through massive cuts in contributions. At the same time the support of the rest of the international community grows fro the UN organization engaged worldwide for family planning, modern birth control and AIDS-prevention.
Washington's efforts to exert financial pressure on the United Nations are not new. In 1984 the US cancelled its membership in the UN organization for education, science and culture (UNESCO). The US criticized the administration of the institution with headquarters in Paris and rejected its plans for creating a new international information agency. For UNESCO, the US withdrawal meant the loss of a quarter of its annual budget of $180 million. Nevertheless UNESCO survived the financial devastation. In 2003 the US returned. Washington justified its return saying it could live with the new UNESCO administration.
In December 2005 the Bush administration threatened to withhold its approval of the UN budget for 2006 and 2007 if the UN members did not agree with the administrative reforms inspired by the US. According to its proposal, the UN General Secretary as a kind of chairman of the board should lead the world organization like an American corporation. At the last minute, the UN committee approved a compromise proposal brought by the US after the large majority of UNB members rejected parts of the proposed reforms. Instead of the traditional two-year UN budget, $950 million was approved for the first half of 2006 under the stipulation that there would be progress with the reforms.
The US government seems less ready for compromise regarding the UN population fund. In 2002 it paid $34 million less, in 2003 it was $25 million and in 2004 and 2005 it was $34 million less respectively. Washington justifies its partial boycott with the unjust reproach that the fund supported abortions in China. Neo-conservative circles and rightwing Christian fundamentalists on whom the Bush administration depends are behind this charge.
UNFPA rejects the charges energetically and repeatedly. "We do not support abortions anywhere, not even in China," a UNFPA spokesperson protested. "In China, we concentrate our work of family planning, improved obstetrics and preventing and treating HIV/AIDS and other diseases transmitted in sexual intercourse." Several independent groups sent to China including one from the US State Department said they had no evidence of the support or participation of UNFPA in Chinese programs for forced abortions.
The population fund criticized by Washington is financially better off, the UNFPA director Thoraya Ahmed Obald said a few days ago at a press conference. 178 donors are financing the fund established in 1969, more than ever before. The previous record was 2004 with 166 givers.
LONG LIST OF DONORS
With $350 million, UNFPA in 2005 set an all-time high in funds. In 2004, UNFPA had $322 million. The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Great Britain, Japan and Denmark lead the donor list, Obald reported. African countries have also paid into the fund