French president's ex-partner to run for U.N. development agency post

France's Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Segolene Royal visits the International Agricultural Show in Paris, France February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said on Friday that she was running to lead the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), at a time when the U.N. could see an abrupt cut in crucial United States funding.

Royal, the former partner of Socialist President Francois Hollande and mother of his four children, has been a heavyweight in French politics for more than 30 years.

"It's a way of continuing to be useful for the planet in the future, but also to fight against poverty," she told France 24 television in an interview.

Royal was caught up in a controversy in December after eulogizing Cuba's Fidel Castro at his funeral and ignoring his human rights record.

The current UNDP president Helen Clark, a former New Zealand prime minister, will stand down on April 19.

U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a 28 percent budget cut for diplomacy and foreign aid, which includes an unspecified reduction in financial support for the United Nations and its agencies, as well as the enforcement of a 25 percent cap on U.S. funding for peacekeeping operations.

U.N. agencies such as the UNDP, the children's agency UNICEF, and the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), are funded by governments voluntarily.

In 2016, the United States was the top contributor to the UNDP's core budget, with an $83 million donation.

Royal is the second minister in France's outgoing government to aim for a top U.N. post. Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay is among nine candidates seeking the top job at Paris-based UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural agency.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and John Irish; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)