Monitor Nacional
Cutting the US budget for international aid: not good for the world, but neither for the United States
Visión global | Andrea Moreno
27 de marzo de 2017 - 10:26 am
Using the excuse of strengthen the national security, the Trump administration asked the Congress to cut the budget of the State Department

After the Second World War, the concept of International Cooperation was born. The abhorrent consequences hit all the nations within Europe: a significant part of its population, especially the men, lost their lives, most of the infrastructure was gone, and more. Therefore, there was an urgent need of joining forces in order to overcome this situation. Nevertheless, due to the status of each European country, the aid from an external actor was needed and this was the moment when the spotlight turned to United States.

The United States was the pioneer of the concept of international aid with all its projects, plans and even the system that it implemented within Europe. Some of those were the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine and the Bretton Woods system, which includes the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is important to highlight that in the time of the Cold War, the international cooperation was more about gaining influence within some strategic nations than just helping others to achieve development.

However, there also was an important global action towards the cooperation and development, and which was led by the United States: the creation of the United Nations. This international organization has the aim of protecting the Human Rights, the eradication of social problems like poverty and achieve world peace and development. The way of how the UN is financed is through the quota of every member. This quota is fixed in terms of the nation’s GDP and population. Following this financial structure, the US is the biggest donator. Just to give an example of the significant role that this country holds to the date, the last year, the United States donated around the 25% of the total annual budget for the UN’s operations.

Unfortunately, the International Cooperation system is now in real jeopardy due to the recent comments of the current President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. In the past few days, Trump argued that one of his priorities is not proving aid for other nations in order to support their development, but increasing the budget of the Department of Defense. Since the beginning of his presidential race, with his slogan “Make America Great Again”, Trump made it clear that he would act in favor of the US and not for the wellbeing of other nations.

Using the excuse of strengthen the national security, the Trump administration asked the Congress to cut the budget of the State Department. The most affected agencies and departments are going to be the USAID with a reduction of 28%, agriculture and labor departments with 20% and health with 16%. But also, with this budget proposal, Trump pretends to cut off nearly 40% of the budget destinated to the UN and other international cooperation programs. The main goal of this new budget is to invest more in the Defense department, raising 10% its official budget, in order to “protect” the national security.

So, imagine how harmful will be for the UN to lose its biggest donor. However, not just the internal financials of the United Nations would be affected by this 40% reduction which Trump proposed in January, but also other international organizations that do not complete all the requirements and standards that the US government established. One of the arguments that Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador for the United States, used as an excuse is that the US funding body was disproportionated and that this funding grows annually for them, and not for the other UN members. The US government said that the budget for internal management of the UN which is 22% and around 29% of other peacekeeping operation costs are not proportionate. Moreover, this condition, they argued, affects US national security because the money donated voluntary to the UN prevents them to invest in security programs such as counterterrorism, and just to give one example.

Having said so, what can be the possible outcomes of cutting the international aid by the US? There are four areas which we must be worried about: democracy, gender equality, social and economic development, health and climate change. If we decided the most urgent topic, I would probably say that the climate change and the latent possibility of an environmental crisis is the one that must be addressed immediately.

One of most controversial statements of Trump during his race was the one where he made it clear that the climate change, for him, does not exist and therefore, he wouldn’t contemplated it in his political agenda. Almost five months later, we can see that Trump keep his promise about leaving the climate change out the agenda and quitting all the efforts to try to mitigate it.

In this famous budget, Trump also proposed the ending of programs which aimed to lowered domestic greenhouse emissions, the cut of all scientific missions to study the phenomena and also, will undermine all diplomatic efforts to slow climate change. I want to highlight the significance of this actions in the current world context. Most of the people know that one the most damaging consequences of the rise in the world’s temperature by 2ºC is the rising in the sea levels. However, the outcomes of that disasters are a little bit underestimated. The most frightful consequence is the large number of the climate refugees that could be around of 200 million people. A lot of islands would disappear, and a rapid international action towards the relocation of those climate refugees would be needed.

So, taking in consideration the decisions of the US government about cutting off the aid and the scenario of just one of the most important social problems that the world is going to face for the following years, two things can be concluded. The first is that without of the commitment of the US to mitigate the climate change, the process that lead us to an environmental crisis is going to be more fast that it was thought to be. A president who does not believe in the climate change and a population that is characterized to be an extreme consumer are two factors that can trigger the bomb and make the climate change’s symptoms appear sooner than expected. Unfortunately, this lack of interest by the US may also affect the decision-making process of the international community towards the action plan to solve the possible climate refugee crisis.

However, not only the world must be worried about this decision of reducing the international aid in order to increase the public investment in Defense, but the US itself. Zazil Romero, who is a former public policy adviser for UNICEF Mission in Kosovo, said that two things are likely to happen and which can affect the entire country. First, the United States would lose its credibility within the international community. Second, the effects of this reduction would not be seen immediately, but in 15 or more years. “Moreover, by cutting off the aid, the US is putting itself in danger” she argued. She said that the American people once suffered the consequences of cutting the budget of the department and national agencies in order to invest it in Defense. Romero highlighted the case of Federal Emergency Management Agency after 9/11. The US government reduced the budget of this agency because the money was needed in the Middle East in order to fight the Evil Axis. In 2005, just four years later, the deadly hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Everybody was so focused on the War of Terror, that they did not see how vulnerable was the US after the reduction of the FEMA’s budget.

In brief, the new budget proposal that Trump presented would be more harmful than beneficial for the national security. As Bill Gates said, all the cuts that the US government are doing to the foreign aid make America less safe. Major efforts toward the mitigation of virus spreads such as the one done during the Ebola crisis were done by the US. However, in an indirect way, the US was protecting its population from those viruses. So, if Trump continues with quitting those efforts, he is going to make its nation more vulnerable and fragile.

The current and the future scenario is not looking good for all the development goals established by the UN and neither for all the projects that a lot of NGO’s are carrying on right now. Unfortunately, I believe that there is not a country ready to replace the US within the field of international cooperation. And all this can be the trigger for other social problems and the strengthen of the ones we are facing right now. This is the moment when all the international community needs to join forces and fight against this individual decision, because if they do not do anything, all the efforts and advances done so far would be meaningless.

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