October 5, 2018

In a further blow to gender equality, new reporting from Foreign Policy indicates the White House is working strategically to withhold and restrict funding for United Nations organizations that protect women’s rights and human rights. The International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) condemns the US’ attempt to impose its regressive agenda on women globally by penalizing United Nations agencies advancing the human rights of women, girls, and other marginalized groups.

“These attacks on UN funding are not the first of their kind. They are part of a coordinated strategy that demonstrates a complete disregard for women’s health, human rights, and ultimately, their lives,” said Shannon Kowalski, advocacy and policy director at IWHC. “The Trump administration’s efforts to cut funding for the UN were rejected by Congress. Now, the administration is resorting to unprecedented tactics to subvert Congress’ will and reduce investments in critical UN organizations that work to realize gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

Particularly alarming is the Trump administration’s reported intention to impose the Global Gag Rule on funding to UN Women, the agency dedicated to women’s empowerment and gender equality. The administration’s version of the Global Gag Rule—the most extreme in history—forbids any foreign nongovernmental organization (NGO) receiving US global health funds from providing abortion services, information, or referrals, or advocating to expand access to safe abortion, even with their own, non-US funding. However, the Global Gag Rule only applies to NGOs, and explicitly excludes the United Nations and other multilateral organizations. One year after its implementation, and with a domestic iteration under consideration, the Trump administration’s Global Gag Rule is causing profound structural shifts that threaten the health of millions, particularly vulnerable women and girls, a 2018 report by IWHC shows.

While all UN funding has come under scrutiny in the administration, women’s rights, and human rights more broadly, have come under repeated attack. To this end, the administration has also sought to undermine the UN human rights system by withdrawing from the Human Rights Council and announcing plans to cut more than $25 million in US funding to the Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Trump-Pence administration has already withheld funding from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest international provider of contraception, family planning, and other reproductive health services.

With these tactics the US is reneging on global commitments to gender equality and women’s health, and weakening progress on the Sustainable Development Goals—a bold set of targets aimed at ending poverty and reducing inequality and injustice by 2030, including ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Photo: The White House