Oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged to donate a combined $100 million to an Ivanka Trump cause.
The middle eastern nations are set to contribute to a World Bank fund for women entrepreneurs, which was the brainchild of Ivanka Trump.
The announcement was made by World Bank President Jim Young Kim during a visit to Saudi Arabia by U.S. President Donald Trump; his wife, Melania; daughter, Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. “We thought it was a fantastic idea,” Kim said. “But we had no idea how quickly this would build. This is really a stunning achievement. I’ve never seen anything come together so quickly, and I really have to say that Ivanka’s leadership has been tremendous.”
Kim added that the donation will help to jump start a $1-billion women’s empowerment fund that the World Bank will announce in July.
According to a statement from the UAE’s U.S. ambassador, Yousef Al Otaiba, the promised funding reflects “our commitment to empowering women in our region and builds on the progress we have made in our country, where women play a role in every segment of society.”
Tricky Trump alliance
The pledged donation elicits some judgment, recalling President Trump’s constant criticism of the Clinton Foundation – during his presidential campaign – for accepting donations from repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia.
Back in June of last year, USA Today quoted a Facebook post from the president saying: “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays. Hillary must return all money from such countries!”
Additionally, in one of the run-off debates, then-Republican nominee Trump addressed his counterpart, Hillary Clinton, saying: “Saudi Arabia giving $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people that push gays off business – off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money.”
The World Bank fund, which provides technical help and investment funding for women business owners, differs from the Clinton Foundation in some significant ways. While Ivanka Trump proposed the idea along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she is not involved with its operation.
Norm Eisen, former ethics official for the Obama Administration and a regular critic of the Trump family’s conflicts of interest, noted in an email to NPR, “In my view, foreign government donations to a fund run by a reputable international organization like the World Bank for a good cause are generally acceptable.”
But Eisen added that the donations need to be strictly vetted and must be transparent. “Based on what we know, there’s no reason to believe that those two things did not happen. That said, the hypocrisy is concerning, and the general miasma of corruption that surrounds all things Trump suggests some extra scrutiny here.”
Former ethics adviser to the George W. Bush administration, Richard Painter, said: “I don’t see this fund as a big problem if she does not solicit [donations] and it is entirely World Bank-run.” He further stated, “But, the Saudis could try letting women drive cars too. That would be good for entrepreneurship.”
During the visit to the middle east, Ivanka Trump managed to engage with a group of elite Saudi women at the Tuwaiq Palace in Riyadh. “There’s still a lot of work to be done” to empower women in both Saudi Arabia and the United States, she said.
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