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US issues veiled threat to withdraw aid to SA

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Dr Ali Bacher, chairman of Right To Care, one of the biggest non-profit organisations in South Africa dealing with HIV/Aids, said that if the US pulls its aid funding to South Africa, “it could be have serious negative consequences for our necessary and excellent health programmes in South Africa and Africa”.
by NICOLA MILTZ | May 03, 2018

The US has threatened to reconsider funding countries that most vote against it in the United Nations. South Africa is on the top 10 list of those countries.

Clearly, the South African government’s bias against Israel could cost it millions of dollars in crucial funding if it continues to challenge the US in UN resolutions concerning the Jewish State.

South Africa’s position on this list of nations emerged in a recently released report titled Voting Practices in the United Nations in 2017.

Opposing the US in its December 2017 vote to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel may prove to have dire consequences for South Africa. This was clear in the response by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, to the report.

The US provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to South Africa through its US Agency for International Development (USAID) programme. It provides vital funding for South African health services, particularly when it comes to HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, as well as critical funding for basic education. USAID also assists small and medium enterprises.

In 2016, USAID’s total foreign assistance to South Africa amounted to $459.7 million (R5.8 million).

Bacher, who has been chairman of Right To Care since 2008, says: “Our main focus is on HIV/Aids. We are big players in South Africa and in Africa. Our budget this year is R1.5 billion and most of our funding comes from the US – specifically, from USAID and the Global Fund.”

The US said it would reconsider its funding allocation to favour countries that are more in alignment with its decisions.

When Haley started her term as US ambassador to the UN in January last year, she warned that she would be “taking names” of countries that do not have “our back”. The newly released annual US State Department report on voting records at the world body has told her exactly who is in America’s corner – and who is not.

The report found that UN member states only voted with America 31% of the time last year on resolutions at the UN General Assembly. This was down 10% from the previous year, said Haley last week, adding that it was not an “acceptable return” on the US’s investment and suggested that this could factor into aid decisions.

Haley emphasised that US taxpayers pay for 22% of the UN budget – more, she said, than the next three highest donor nations combined. Haley noted that the US cares more about “being right than popular, and we are once again standing up for our interests and values”.

However, she said: “When we arrived at the UN last year, we said we would be taking names, and this list of voting records speaks for itself. President Trump wants to ensure that our foreign assistance dollars – the most generous in the world – always serve American interests, and we look forward to helping him see that the American people are no longer taken for granted.”

Cynthia Harvey, spokesperson for the US Embassy in South Africa, reiterated to the SA Jewish Report that “Ambassador Haley reminded UN member states that their voting records would be a factor in US decisions on where it will spend its foreign assistance. Voting records will be an important element – but not the sole element – considered, as future decisions are made about foreign assistance.”

Harvey also affirmed: “As the president said in his State of the Union Address, the US must “ensure that American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests”.

According to Harvey, the Voting Practices report is a legislatively required summary of how often other countries’ votes align with the US in the UN General Assembly.

That alignment is referred to as voting coincidence. In 2017, 93 resolutions required a vote in the UN General Assembly, and voting coincidence with the US on those resolutions amounted to 31%.

Voting coincidence varies from year to year, from highs such as 54% in 2016 to lows such as 25% in 2003, she said.

“The US has reported these coincidence rates for more than 40 years due to enduring concern about the lack of support it receives in the General Assembly. This administration has brought fresh attention to it,” she added.

The 10 countries with the highest voting coincidence with the US were Israel, Micronesia, Canada, Marshall Islands, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Palau, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

The 10 countries with the lowest voting coincidence with the US were Zimbabwe, Burundi, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Bolivia and South Africa.

In January, the US held back $65 million (R820 million) that had been destined for the UN relief agency for Palestinians, two weeks after President Donald Trump threatened to withhold their future payments.

State Department officials insisted that the decision was not taken to pressure Palestinian leaders, but because the US wants other countries to help pay for and reform the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The State Department said $60 million (R757 million) of what had been a planned $125 million (R1.6 million) package would go through to keep the agency running, but the rest would be withheld for the time being.

“This is not aimed at punishing anyone,” US government spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in January. “The US government, and the Trump administration, believe that there should be more so-called burden-sharing to go around,” she said.

“We would like other countries – in fact, other countries that criticise the US for what they believe to be our position vis-a-vis the Palestinians – to step forward.”

The decision to withhold funds to the Palestinians followed a tweet sent by Trump on January 2, at the time when the $125 million (R1.6 billion) contribution was due to be paid.

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS [sic] a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump wrote.

“They don't even want to negotiate a long-overdue peace treaty with Israel,” he protested, adding: “Why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

Whether or not the US government withdraws aid to South Africa, this may be a wake-up call for the government to reconsider its Middle East position in encouraging peace initiatives.

1 Comment

  1. 1 David B 04 May
    It is a great pity that Ali would be on the wrong end of this decision , if made--  but I can only agree that if a country , who ever it is ,votes against the USA consitently  -- why in hell should they benefit from USA money ( charity and gifts) how much does Russia give ? how much do the Arab States give to 'non Muslim charities ? None and none again --  why should we be surprised ?
      In principle why give money to unappreciative recipients ????

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