Global perspective Human stories

UN Population Fund expresses regret at US decision not to grant funding

UN Population Fund expresses regret at US decision not to grant funding

The head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today said a decision by United States President George W. Bush not to grant the agency $34 million that had been appropriated by Congress will cost thousands of women and children their lives.

"The denial of these funds will, unfortunately, significantly affect millions of women and children worldwide for whom the life-saving services provided by the UNFPA will have to be discontinued," UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Obaid said at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York. "Women and children will die because of this decision."

According to UNFPA, the Bush Administration, in withholding funds, accepted allegations that the agency gives tacit support to China's one-child policy just by working in the country. "UNFPA has not, does not and will not ever condone or support coercive activities of any kind, anywhere," Ms. Obaid said in response. She stressed that the agency "remains steadfast as a leading voice for human rights" and for the principles enshrined in various international documents that condemn all forms of coercion.

Ms. Obaid emphasized that the Fund's programme in China strictly observed the highest standards of human rights and that the participation of women and children was voluntary. She also cited a US fact-finding report that found no evidence that UNFPA had supported or participated in coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China. Addressed to Secretary of State Colin Powell, that report recommended that US funding be released to UNFPA.

For his part, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said UNFPA did very essential work, "and we have made it clear that it does not go around encouraging abortions." Rather, the agency gives good advice to women on reproductive health and does valuable work around the world, including in China, he said when asked to comment on the issue this morning by CNN.

If the $34 million was cut, the UN would "try and see if other donors will step up and make up the difference, because the work we are doing is absolutely essential and we do not want women, particularly poor women around the world, to suffer," Mr. Annan said.

According to the agency, the $34 million would have allowed UNFPA to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths.

The United States is the only country ever to deny funding to the agency for non-budgetary reasons, UNFPA said.

The world's largest multilateral source of population assistance, with programmes in some 140 countries, UNFPA has provided approximately $5.6 billion to developing countries to meet reproductive health needs and support sustainable development since its inception in 1969.