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Screens showing results are seen during an United Nations General Assembly emergency special session to vote on a non-binding resolution condemning recent decisions about the status of Jerusalem at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, on Dec 21. The General Assembly voted overwhelming to denounce President’s Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and called on countries not to move their embassies to the city. EPA-EFE

NEW YORK: After the recent announcement by US President Donald Trump declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the plan to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the US administration is now moving to drastically slash US contributions to the United Nations budget and make the world body more efficient, keeping US interests uppermost in mind.

The UN budget is now in the “sharp focus” of the US administration, as one UN official told Bernama on the condition of anonymity.

Washington’s resolve became clear when the US permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Nikki Haley, issued a statement, copy of which was sent to this correspondent, that the US had succeeded in achieving cuts exceeding US$285 million in negotiations culminating in an agreement that would peg the UN budget for 2018-19 to US$5.4 billion.

“We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” Haley said, hinting that in future negotiations “you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency while protecting our interests.”

Money will, in fact, be the key to achieving US objectives at the world body. This was made clear when Haley took over office as US ambassador in early 2017 and had put the world body on notice by saying that there would be a “change in the way we do business”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has himself acknowledged that some parts of the organisation must become more efficient.

Haley’s remarks about the UN also resonate well with Trump’s supporters, many of whom see the world body as a mere “social club” which is there, generally, to vent anti-American rhetoric and take decisions inimical to US interests.

Readers commenting on news reports in various US media outlets have applauded Haley’s announcement about the US$285 million cut in the UN budget.

Indeed, some have even urged the Trump administration to stop paying its contributions to the UN because of its growing anti-American sentiments.

Nevertheless, American scholars and other experts have been cautioning the US administration that such coercive tactics could harm US long-term interests. The world will not simply comply with or bow down to America because of the latter’s financial clout.

Thanks to its sheer economic power and the yardsticks applied to determine its contributions, as defined under the UN Charter, Washington provides for the largest contribution of some 22 per cent of the UN budget.

The US paid some US$1.2 billion of the US$5.4 billion UN operating budget for the last fiscal 2016-2017. Furthermore, the US also provides the largest share of 28.5 per cent to a separate UN peacekeeping budget of US$6.8 billion for 2017-2018.

Noting that the “inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known,” Haley described the cuts achieved in the UN budget as a “big step in the right direction”.

The US is furthermore seeking a US$250 million cut to the UN budget for 2018-19, on top of US$200 million in savings already proposed by UN Secretary-General Guterres.

Haley did not stop at that and administered a stern reminder to the UN: “While we are pleased with the results of this year’s budget negotiations, you can be sure we’ll continue to look at ways to increase the UN’s efficiency‎ while protecting our interests,” she said.-- BERNAMA

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