Having pulled out of UNHRC, Bolton says US will now cut its funding
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Having pulled out of UNHRC, Bolton says US will now cut its funding

In latest blow to United Nations bodies, Trump’s national security adviser says administration will ‘de-fund’ council accused of anti-Israel bias and office of UN rights chief

A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)
A picture taken on June 18, 2018, in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)

GENEVA, Switzerland — US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Thursday that the United States will cut funding for the UN Human Right Council and for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in the administration’s latest blow against the United Nations.

“We are going to de-fund the Human Rights Council,” Bolton said in an interview with the Associated Press, while warning that other UN agencies could also be up for cuts in US funding.

The Trump administration pulled out of the 47-member body in June, accusing it of anti-Israel bias and of allowing countries with poor human rights records to be among its members.

The move announced by Bolton would mean the Human Rights Council will lose one of its largest donors.

Bolton, a frequent critic of the United Nations, served as US ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush’s administration.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton gives a press conference after a meeting with his Russian counterpart at the US mission in Geneva on August 23, 2018. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Bolton rejected claims by some UN officials who insist the council gets its funding through the regular UN budget — meaning that its operating expenses can’t be specifically targeted.

The United States pays about 22 percent of the UN budget — its largest single donor — as part of what’s known as an “assessment” based on economic weight and other factors.

“We’ll calculate 22 percent of the Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner’s budget, and our remittances to the UN for this budget year will be less 22 percent of those costs — and we’ll say specifically that’s what we’re doing,” Bolton said. “We expect that impact to occur on the Human Rights Council.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein speaks during the opening of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council on June 18, 2018 in Geneva. (AFP PHOTO / ALAIN GROSCLAUDE)

In June, the US announced its decision to leave the council, condemning the “hypocrisy” of its members and its “unrelenting bias” against Israel.

The Geneva-based body was established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide, but its pronouncements and reports have often infuriated the US — in particular, the council’s relentless focus on Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

Israel is the only country that has a dedicated agenda item at council meetings, one defended in particular by the Arab bloc of countries.

Israel, which isn’t a member of the council, welcomed the US decision at the time, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the UN Human Rights Council a “biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization.”

“Instead of dealing with regimes that systematically violate human rights, the UNHRC obsessively focuses on Israel, the one genuine democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said.

The US exit was the first time in the council’s history that a member state quit voluntarily, while Libya was kicked out seven years ago.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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