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US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund

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(BBC) The US says it is withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries.

The state department says the agency supports or participates in a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.

But the UNFPA says this is an “erroneous claim”, and that its work does not break any US laws.

In total $32.5m (£26m) in funds will be withdrawn for the 2017 financial year.

This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.

The UNFPA, like other UN agencies, is funded by governments voluntarily.

In 2015, it received $979m in donations, with the US being its fourth-largest donor.

‘Erroneous claim’

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump reinstated a ban on US funding of any international organisation that provided any kind of abortion service or advice.

The state department referred to the presidential directive from January and a provision called the Kemp-Kasten Amendment in its statement on Monday.

“This determination was made based on the fact that China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies,” the state department said.

The UNFPA calls those claims “erroneous” and says that “all of its work promotes the rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination”.

It says its programmes have saved the lives of tens of thousands of women. Its works include:

  • Helping women and young people to access sexual and reproductive services, including family planning
  • Preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions
  • Supporting maternal health
  • Programmes in the world’s “most fragile” countries, including Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia

The UN Population Fund has often been the target of conservative Republican administrations, the BBC’s Nada Tawfik in New York reports. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush withheld funding for the same reason.

The money that had been allocated to the UNFPA for the fiscal year 2017 will be “transferred and reprogrammed to the Global Health Programs account,” the state department said.

The account will be used by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities in developing countries, it added.

Note: The UNFPA has been providing assistance to Guyana prior to the 2002-2006 Programme Cycle specifically working in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association. In August 2003, the UNFPA English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean Office established a Liaison Office in Guyana.

UNFPA has designed its programme to support the Government of Guyana based on the National Development Strategy (NDS), the “Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper” (PRSP), the ICPD POA, MDGs and the UNDAF. It also supported the national plan on the “Low Carbon Development Strategy” which will be the overarching policy document for national development.

The Guyana Branch Office works in all three mandated areas of UNFPA. These are Sexual and Reproductive Health, Population & Development and Gender. UNFPA’s programme of support is implemented through a number of Governmental and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) targeting a cross section of the population.

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