Statement on the United States Decision to Again Withhold Critical Funding for UNFPA, amid Global Pandemic

01 July 2020

UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, notes with regret the determination by the United States of America to withhold funds from UNFPA for the fourth consecutive year.

The announcement is especially devastating amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as no humanitarian exemption has been made to the ban on funding.

COVID-19 is disrupting UNFPA’s ability to supply and safely deliver lifesaving health care. UNFPA, in partnership with other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, works every day to provide access to critical health care and deliver essential supplies to countries who depend on it for help.

Movement restrictions are creating significant challenges to women’s access to voluntary family planning, prenatal and antenatal care, safe childbirth delivery services, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Global “lockdowns” also have affected access to vital services for women and girls affected by gender-based violence, as well as programming to end the harmful practices of child marriage and female genital mutilation.

Recently UNFPA and partners, including the Johns Hopkins University, quantified the projected impact of the pandemic on women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by any crisis.

As previously noted, UNFPA has not seen justification for the serious claims posed against its work. UNFPA does not perform, promote or fund abortion. UNFPA accords the highest priority to universal access to voluntary family planning, which indeed prevents abortion. UNFPA opposes any coercive practices such as forced sterilization and coerced abortions, and the agency continues to speak out against instances of such human rights abuses. Furthermore, UNFPA does not promote changes to the legal status of abortion in countries.

UNFPA remains keen to maintain an open dialogue with the U.S. Government, including through its Executive Board, of which the USA is a member. UNFPA regrets that the USA once again was unable to visit its Country Office in the People’s Republic of China prior to the renewal of this decision. UNFPA reiterates its invitation, having had the opportunity to welcome past delegations under various past U.S. administrations, noting that none have found UNFPA in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. 

UNFPA further notes that the USA has not indicated what, if anything, changed in its work in China to trigger a negative determination under the Kemp-Kasten Amendment. UNFPA, along with many other UN agencies and NGOs, has a presence in China at the invitation of the Government.

This unfortunate repeat determination will have the effect of impeding UNFPA’s crucial work to protect the health and lives of hundreds of millions of women and girls around the globe, including in humanitarian settings and in countries impacted by COVID-19. Therefore, UNFPA respectfully hopes that the USA will reconsider its position.

In April 2020, UNFPA delivered 18,000 face masks to the municipal government of New York City to support their response to COVID-19. This was in addition to 250,000 masks provided by the United Nations to New York City in the month of March.

UNFPA expresses its condolences to all who have suffered losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and reiterates its support to frontline health care workers all around the world.

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