African Ambassadors to the United Nations Call on Bush Administration to Restore UNFPA Funding
U.N. ambassadors from more than 50 African nations recently wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking him to restore the $34 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund that the Bush administration recently decided to permanently withhold, Reuters reports. The ambassadors told Powell that Africa "needed UNFPA programs" in order to fight HIV/AIDS (Reuters, 8/8). The $34 million in UNFPA funding was originally appropriated in a $15.4 billion fiscal year 2002 foreign operations bill that was approved by Congress and signed by President Bush in January. Bush cited allegations that UNFPA "tacitly perpetuates a 'one-child' policy in China that has led to abortions and sterilizations against women's will." The alleged forced abortions and sterilizations would violate the 1984 Kemp-Kasten amendment, which prohibits federal funding for programs that support "coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization." The administration in May sent a team of investigators from the State Department to China to determine whether UNFPA funding was linked to forced abortions and sterilizations in the nation. The investigators last month issued a report concluding that UNFPA "did not knowingly support coercive abortions" in China. The Bush administration, however, stated that "even a seemingly innocent" United Nations contribution, such as computer equipment, to China could be used to help enforce the country's one-child policy and therefore decided to permanently withhold the UNFPA funding. The $34 million will instead be diverted to maternal and child health programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 7/23). To make up for the loss of the U.S. funding, the European Union on July 24 donated approximately $32 million to international family planning programs.
Ambassadors Say Africa Disproportionately Affected
In the letter, the African ambassadors said they did not understand why the United States took an action "that so disproportionately affects" Africa. They added that are "particularly disturbed" by the impact that the withdrawal might have on efforts to promote family planning and prevent HIV/AIDS. "The least developed countries, 34 of which are in Africa, receive the bulk of UNFPA's funding and will be the most affected" by the loss of the U.S. money, the letter stated. UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said that the fund has provided approximately $5.6 billion in assistance to developing nations since 1969 (Reuters, 8/8).