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US withdraws from UN Human Rights Council

The Trump administration has announced the US' withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, accused the body of harboring a "cesspool of political bias". She cited the council's inclusion of members with a record of human rights violations, as well as chronic bias against Israel, as the chief reasons for US withdrawal.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein voiced dismay at the decision, and emphasized the need for US engagement in combating human rights violations. Haley nonetheless stated that the move was "not a retreat from our [the US'] human rights commitments". 

News article - RTE News

Global United States

US Secretary of State testifies before Congress that State Department and USAID budgets should not increase

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has appeared before both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to testify that he would support sufficient funding both the State Department and USAID, but "not a dollar more". He also indicated the Trump Administration's support for the new US development finance institution that has been introduced in both chambers.  

Hearing website - HFAC

Hearing website - SFRC

United States

US to provide US$8 million to Ebola outbreak in DRC

The US has now pledged US$8 million to help address the nascent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  USAID announced a US$1 million contribution, which was followed several days later by an announcement from US Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, that the US would contribute an additional US$7 million. The US has also contributed 2,000 personal protective equipment kits and sent two mobile labs to the outbreak area. US staff stationed to the DRC have also been deployed.

News article - The Huffington Post

Bill to create development finance institution advances in legislation process

The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) voted to advance H.R. 5105, known as the "BUILD Act", on May 9, 2018. The bill will create a new development finance institution, which will provide more authority and flexibility for US development finance.  The full Committee first approved a substitute amendment offered by Chairman Ed Royce and then approved the legislation by voice vote. On May 10, 2018, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Senate companion bill, S. 2463.  Both of these bills have bipartisan support.

Committee website - HFAC

Committee website - SFRC

News article - Devex

United States

US President Donald Trump sends US$15.4 billion rescission package to Congress

President Trump has sent a US$15.4 billion dollar rescission request to Congress, asking Congress to rescind funds it previously allocated and signed into law. Included in this request was US$334 million in proposed reductions from three accounts in the International Affairs Budget, including US$52 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and US$252 million in emergency Ebola response funding from International Disaster Assistance (IDA). This represents a smaller cut to foreign assistance than had previously been expected.

Congress has 45 days to approve these rescissions, which apply only to unspent funds appropriated to domestic programs from years prior to fiscal year 2018. If no action is taken, the White House proposal will expire. 

News article - CBS news

Press release - The White House

News article - Vox

United States

Top biodefense expert loses post in White House reshuffle

In a reshuffle of the US National Security Council (NSC) at the White House, Timothy Ziemer abruptly left his post the same day an Ebola outbreak was announced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Ziemer was the top US official responsible for leading the US response to any deadly pandemic. He is not being replaced, and the global health security team he oversaw was disbanded under a reorganization by new national security adviser John Bolton.

Experts expressed concern that the US already is under-prepared for the increased risk of a pandemic or bioterriosm attack, and this latest development leaves the US without global health security leadership.     

News article - The Washington Post

United States

Mike Pompeo is sworn in as next US Secretary of State

Following a narrow endorsement by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the full Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as the next US Secretary of State as the successor to Rex Tillerson.  After his swearing in, Pompeo left almost immediately for a NATO meeting and other visits to the Middle East. The State Department also announced some new political hires to the understaffed department.  

News report - The New York Times

Blog - Brookings Institute

United States

USAID Administrator defends US President's proposed cuts to US foreign assistance

USAID Administrator Mark Green appeared before both the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOP) (April 24 and 26, 2018, respectively). He was asked repeatedly about the proposed 30% cuts to US foreign assistance in the President's fiscal year 2019 budget, with members of both chambers expressing significant opposition. Questions were also raised about USAID's internal reorganization and Green's plans for transitioning countries off of US assistance.  Testimony and the full hearings are available on the respective websites.

Website - Senate SFOP

Website - House SFOP 

United States

InterAction releases "Choose to Invest" tool on US International Affairs budget

InterAction launched its annual educational tool on the US foreign assistance budget, "Choose to Invest".  The document sets forth InterAction's account-by-account recommendations in the International Affairs budget and rejects US President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2019 budget, which proposes a 30% cut in US foreign assistance.  The report also calls for overall funding to be no less than US$59.1 billion for fiscal year 2019.  

Report - InterAction

United States

US State Department releases annual human rights report

The US State Department released its "2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" on April 20, 2018.  This annual report was released with remarks by Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and is the first to be published under President Trump.  The most significant change is the deletion of a section labeled “reproductive rights” that had previously discussed access to contraception, abortion, and maternal mortality rates for every country.  This report now includes a section called “coercion in population control,” discussing involuntary or “unethical” sterilization for each country.

Remarks and report - State Department

News report - Washington Post

Global United States