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Ivanka Trump’s New Women’s Initiative Relies on Agency Whose Budget the President Tried to Cut

February 7, 2019, 1:05 PM UTC

In the first two years of his presidency, President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda has meant he’s pushed to reduce funds for foreign assistance. His administration has advocated repeatedly for cuts to the amount of money sent abroad, twice attempting to slash the budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID by a third. And there’s still talk of redirecting money from foreign aid to a southern border wall.

Yet on Thursday, the White House is revealing a new women’s empowerment program that aims to improve economic security for 50 million women around the world by 2025, drawing on funds from USAID, the agency whose budget Trump has targeted.

The champion of the program is Ivanka Trump, senior adviser and first daughter. The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative will take the form of a $50 million fund within USAID, and will partner with private companies including UPS (UPS) and Walmart (WMT), the New York Times reports.

Ivanka Trump has argued that the new program is not a departure from the administration’s past stances on foreign aid. “We’re proud of our legacy of being a generous nation, looking to uplift others around the world. But we want to do so in a fiscally responsible way,” she told the AP. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, she presented female empowerment as a matter of national security.

“Research suggests that the more women are excluded from full participation in a country’s economy, the likelier it is that the country will be involved in conflict and respond to a threat with immediate violence,” she wrote “When women are free to thrive, they bring national stability, as well as more jobs and economic growth. Expanding women’s economic participation has the potential to boost global economic output by an additional $12 trillion by 2025.”

President Trump teased the program in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. “As part of our commitment to improving opportunity for women everywhere, this Thursday we are launching the first ever Government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries,” he said.

Since she joined the administration two years ago, Ivanka Trump has focused on women’s economic issues, leading an effort to launch a World Bank fund to help drive women’s entrepreneurship and advocating for the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, which bolsters efforts by USAID.

USAID said in its 2018 fiscal report that it has built “more than 1,600 partnerships with the private sector that involve more than 3,500 unique organizations” over the past 15 years, raising $16 billion in public and private funds not from the U.S. government.

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative launch on Thursday will include a roundtable discussion and presidential signing ceremony, Time reports. Attendees are to include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, officials from USAID and UNICEF, elected officials and business leaders, as well as women who are the beneficiaries of this type of aid.