In his recently released 2013 budget proposal, President Obama has increased funds for foreign aid to the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, but the 1.2 percent rise over 2012 figures is still less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget.
The total amount proposed for foreign aid is $51.6 billion.
Money for international organizations to “support cooperation and security” included maintaining assessed dues to the United Nations general budget as well as to the UN peacekeeping budget. (The US is the largest donor of all UN member countries in both categories.) Among other UN agencies, the budget has allotted $39 million for the UN Population Fund, which supports family planning services and midwifery programs and fights against the practice of female genital cutting and child brides.
In addition, the budget allots $79 million for US contributions to Unesco, even though payments to the agency were cut after it admitted Palestine as a member in 2011. Lobbying is under way in Congress to reinstate Unesco financing despite laws banning money to any UN entity that recognizes Palestine as a nation.
US spending for international organizations and peacekeeping in 2013 are estimated at $3.7 billion, up from $3.3 billion estimated for this year.
In the administration’s proposed budget over all, more than $800 million is set aside for countries “in transition” in the Middle East and North Africa, and $7.4 billion is meant for easing the shifts from military to civilian presences in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. But military aid to countries in Latin America will decrease, and other aid to Eastern Europe will drop. A new counterterrorism bureau is also in the budget, and investments in climate change will cover such initiatives as the development of clean energy and the reduction of greenhouse gases.
The budget will continue to support programs to fight child and maternal deaths and infectious diseases as well as to finance antiretroviral drug treatment for HIV prevention through a $7.9 billion fund for global health initiatives. The administration will also maintain its $4 billion, three-year pledge to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and continue to finance the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, known as Gavi.
Additional money to fight hunger and poverty will go toward helping to prevent related political instability, like the famine in the Horn of Africa in 2011, with $4 billion marked for food aid, including relief for internally displaced people, refugees and victims of armed conflict and natural disasters.
In the House of Representatives, where spending on international programs is often criticized, Rep. John Boehner, the House speaker, said that the Unesco request would be considered when the House conducts hearings on the 2013 budget. Moreover, the controversial United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act of 2011 had yet to be voted on in the House. The act mainly proposes to shift the structure of the UN’s regular budget from an assessed basis to a voluntary one.