Italy’s populist government said this week that it is considering cutting funding to the United Nations after the new U.N. human rights chief blasted the government for its crackdown on mass migration.
Former Chilean Socialist President Michelle Bachelet was appointed as High Commissioner for Human Rights last month, and has wasted no time in continuing her predecessor’s attacks on the populist and nationalist wave sweeping through Europe.
In her maiden speech at the controversial Human Rights Council on Monday, Bachelet criticized Italy’s populist government’s policy of denying entry to NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean to its ports.
“This kind of political posturing and other recent developments have devastating consequences for many already vulnerable people,” she said.
Italy's coalition government of the populist Five-Star Movement and the nationalist League has taken a hard stance on migration, and has stood by its policy in turning away boats of migrants crossing from North Africa, despite strong criticism from the E.U.
In her opening statement, Bachelet said her office would be dispatching teams to both Italy and to Austria -- where a right-wing, anti-migration government formed in December.
“We also intend to send staff to Italy, to assess the reported sharp increase in acts of violence and racism against migrants, persons of African descent and Roma,” she said in her opening statement.
Her remarks sparked a fierce response from League leader and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who said that Italy may slash funding to the U.N.
"The U.N. is an organization that costs billions of euros, to which Italy gives over 100 million every year in contributions and we will weigh with our allies on the usefulness of continuing to give these 100 million euros to fund waste, embezzlement, theft for a body that wants to give lessons to Italians and that also has countries that engage in torture and (still have) the death penalty," he said, according to ANSA.
If I were the U.N." Salvini continued, "I would have half a world to send inspectors to before Italy. Go look for racism elsewhere, not in Italy."
The Italian Foreign Ministry released a statement, calling Bachelet's remarks "inappropriate, ungrounded and unfair."
"Thanks to our decisive contribution, we have recorded a 52% percent reduction in the number of people drowned in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017. This is a result we are proud of," the statement said.
"And we are also proud that our efforts – humanitarian, political, diplomatic, financial and material – have produced an 80 percent reduction in the arrival of migrants on the coasts of Italy, and therefore of Europe, over the last 12 months," it said.
Salvini’s skeptical stance on U.N. funding comes amid a push by the U.S. to trim its obligations to the world body. The Trump administration has hailed cuts to the U.S. contribution to the budget, and has also cut funding to the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency.
Last month, National Security Advisor John Bolton told The Associated Press that the U.S. intends to cut funding to Bachelet’s office as well as the Human Rights Council.
In June, the U.S. announced its departure from the Human Rights Council, with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley describing it as a “cesspool of political bias.”