By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The European Union foreign policy chief urged the United States on Tuesday to keep funding U.N. agencies that deal with issues such as food aid, refugees and children, describing their work as sometimes more important to peace and security than defense spending.
U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed an unspecified reduction in funding for the United Nations and its agencies, as well as enforcement of a 25 percent cap on U.S. funding for peacekeeping operations.
"Let me be very clear, and speak directly to our American friends. It is essential for us that we all keep investing in these U.N. agencies. They are as important to global peace and security as defense spending – or even more," EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini told the U.N. Security Council.
She cited the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, the World Food Progamme, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR and UNRWA, which works with Palestinian refugees, and said that funding these agencies was a contribution "to our own common security." She said EU contributions amounted to half the agencies' total budgets.
The U.N. agencies are funding by governments voluntarily and the United States is a top contributor to many of them.
Washington also pays 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core U.N. budget and 28.5 percent of the $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. These assessed contributions are agreed by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.
Trump complained last month that the United States shoulders an unfair burden of the cost of the United Nations, but said if the world body reforms how it operates, the investment would be worth it.
Mogherini also pushed Washington to stay committed to a global agreement to combat climate change, a deal that Trump has threatened to quit. He has promised to announce a decision by the end of May.
"Climate change is real, and is already impacting on our security environment. Everything is linked. So we continue to hope that the United States will find a way to remain committed to the Paris Agreement," Mogherini said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)