Morning Bell: Should America Carry the U.N.?

Morning Bell: Should America Carry the U.N.?

Posted By Ericka Andersen On October 28, 2011 @ 9:46 am In American Leadership | 5 Comments

The 39-story United Nations headquarters stands on the banks of the East River in Manhattan. But now the U.N. is planning the construction of a new building next door, with a price tag pegged at $400 million — and it could soar even higher [1]. And since U.S. taxpayers pay 22 percent of the U.N. budget, the costs for that new building will come right out of your pocket, leading to a very serious question: Just how far should the United States go in supporting the U.N. and international organizations like it?

The issue of a new building in New York isn’t the only U.N. story to make the headlines this year. Take the issue of Palestine, which over the summer formally requested U.N. membership. If Palestine were to succeed in its unilateral efforts, it would be detrimental to U.S. interests in the region, isolate Israel, and deal a major setback to Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. And all of that would come at the hands of an international organization over which the United States can exert strong influence but cannot control.  If Palestine is granted member status at the U.N., American interests–along with those of its allies–will be seriously harmed, requiring an even greater vigilance and financial commitment to maintain leverage for U.S. priorities.  Again, the question is posed: When does our commitment to an international organization become a problem?

In the latest installment of Heritage’s “Understanding America” series, Brett Schaefer addresses America’s role as a member of international organizations. He explains that conflicting interests will nearly always hinder forward movement on issues of peace, security, and human rights — but that doesn’t negate the benefit of having a platform for achieving U.S. interests. Schaefer further explains the risks [2] of participation in these bodies:

Supporting international organizations is not without consequence. It is a burden, albeit sometimes a burden worth bearing. But refusing to recognize the limitations of international organizations and their potential to cause harm does a disservice to the American people.

Joining with friendly nations for a mutual benefit or avenue to problem solving can prove to be valuable for the United States, but America’s leaders must never sacrifice the greater American interest for the sake of compromise. When does our commitment to an international organization become a problem? That’s a question U.S. leaders must continually ask themselves. Schaefer [2] explains how the United States must seek to strike that balance:

If the United States is not to undermine its interests, it must abandon its default position of supporting and engaging with international organizations regardless of their performance. Instead, the U.S. must assess honestly whether each organization works, whether its mission is focused and attainable and not dependent on “good faith” that does not exist, and whether it advances U.S. interests.

International organizations are a tool to attain a goal, not an end in themselves. They are one way for the U.S. to defend its interests and to seek to address problems in concert with other nations. But they are not the only option, and their strengths and weaknesses should be clearly understood.

America played a key role in the founding of the U.N., so our stake in its success is important. But there are always risks in working with other nations — and each international organization relies at least in part on the good faith of those involved. However, each country’s own priorities come first, which is why American leadership must be eternally vigilant in assessing the record and actions of participating countries.

That is true when it comes to issues such as America’s financial commitment to the U.N., particularly as the organization considers constructing a costly new complex in Manhattan. And that vigilance is even more imperative on issues of international security and the promotion of ideals at odds with America’s interests abroad, as is the case with Palestine’s bid for recognition in the U.N.

In a 1985 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, President Ronald Reagan addressed the U.N.’s role head on–and the need for America to remain vigilant, noting, “The vision of the U.N. Charter–to spare succeeding generations this scourge of war–remains real. It still stirs our soul and warms our hearts, but it also demands of us a realism that is rock hard, clear-eyed, steady, and sure–a realism that understands the nations of the United Nations are not united.” Those words hold true today and should guide America’s understanding of its commitment to international organizations but also the realities and limitations of its engagement.

Republicans Advance Bill Targeting US Funding for UN: ‘What Are We Paying For?’

Republicans Advance Bill Targeting US Funding for UN: ‘What Are We Paying For?’

By

Patrick Goodenough

October 14, 2011

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Washington in March 2009. (UN Photo by Eskinder Debebe)

(CNSNews.com)

– A U.S. House committee Thursday approved a bill linking U.S. contributions to the United Nations to significant financial and other reforms, one day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned she would recommend that President Obama veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

Deeply divided along party lines, the House Foreign Relations Committee voted 23-15 for the U.N. Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act (H.R. 2829), whose most radical provision aims to force the U.N. to change its funding mechanism from the current system of “assessed” contributions to voluntary ones.

Proponents say this would allow the U.S. – and other member states – to fund only those activities and agencies it regards as being efficiently managed, and in the national interest.

In order to compel the U.N. to make the shift, the legislation would withhold 50 percent of the U.S. assessed contributions to the regular budget (which does not include peacekeeping) if the U.N. has not moved at least 80 percent of the budget to voluntary funding within two years.

American taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget and 27 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget in “assessed” dues. In addition the U.S. provides billions of dollars in voluntary contributions for various U.N. agencies. In FY 2010 the total U.S. contribution was $7.69 billion.

Conservatives critical of the U.N. have long advocated the U.S. using its leverage, as the biggest funder by far, to push the world body to reform – and to weaken efforts by hostile member-states to use the U.N. to harm American interests.

The bill’s author, committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), told Thursday’s markup hearing that the U.N. budget continues to climb.

“What are we paying for?” she asked, then cited repressive regimes’ membership on the Human Rights Council, a continuing anti-Israel bias, the elevation of member states like North Korea and Iran to leadership positions in various bodies, and corruption scandals.

“Why do we bear the financial burden for this?” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “Every year, scores of member countries that contribute almost nothing to the U.N. vote together to pass the budget. Then they pass the costs on to big donors like the U.S., which is assessed a whopping 22 percent.

“In contrast, China pays just three percent. We need a game-changer.”

The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Howard Berman, said the “real agenda” behind the bill was to end U.S. participation in the U.N. and to “deal a fatal financial blow to the world body.”

He argued that there was no evidence to support the notion that withholding dues can leverage meaningful change.

“Previous attempts at withholding did not lead to any significant and lasting reforms – they only succeeded in weakening our diplomatic standing and influence, and undermining efforts to promote transparency, fiscal responsibility and good management practices in the U.N. system,” Berman told the committee.

‘A dangerous retreat’

If the bill does pass in the House – where it has 125 co-sponsors, all Republican – its passage through the Democrat-controlled Senate would be an uphill battle. Even if it did make it through the Senate, its chances of making it into law are slim.

In a letter to Ros-Lehtinen on Wednesday, Clinton expressed strong opposition to the measure, saying if it reached the president, she would recommend a veto.

Citing U.N. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, she argued that international engagement through the U.N. comes at a fraction of the cost of acting alone.

“This bill also represents a dangerous retreat from the longstanding, bipartisan focus of the United States on constructive engagement within the United Nations to galvanize collective action to tackle urgent security problems,” she wrote

House GOP targets the U.N.

House GOP
targets the U.N.

By: Tim Mak
August 30, 2011 06:08
AM EDT
House Republicans are planning to introduce legislation Tuesday that will
force major changes at the United Nations, an organization that the bill’s author has
called a “stew of corruption, mismanagement and negligence.”

The bill, by Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, would require the UN adopt a voluntary
budget model, in which countries selectively choose which UN agencies to
fund.

The bill is expected to be introduced on Tuesday, and will also end funding
for Palestinian refugees and limit the use of U.S. funds only to projects
directly outlined by Congress.

An aide familiar with the legislation told
Bloomberg News
that shifting the UN budget to a voluntary system would
encourage competition for funds and better performance from UN agencies.

Ros-Lehtinen’s leverage for change at the U.N. is the large amount of the
international body’s budget that the American taxpayer has traditionally been
responsible for. The United States pays 22 percent of the UN’s regular
operations budget, and is assessed 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget. U.S.
payments totaled $3.35 billion in 2010, of which $2.67 billion was spent on
peacekeeping operations worldwide.

This Republican vision on foreign affairs stands in stark contrast to that of
President Obama’s, which has focused recently on multilateralism and
international consensus.

But Republicans are not the only ones concerned about growing spending at the
United Nations. Speaking on behalf of the United States, senior U.S. diplomat
Joseph Torsella recently objected to a nearly 3 percent cost of living raise to
the approximately 5,000 UN employees in New York City, saying that “a raise is
inappropriate this time of global fiscal austerity, when member state
governments everywhere are implementing drastic austerity
measures.”

© 2011 POLITICO LLC

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PLANS CAMPAIGN TO ‘STRENGTHEN’ UN…

Susan
Rice kicks off U.N. series

By: Mike Allen and Jake
Sherman

February 11, 2011 09:27 AM EST

Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, will
argue in a major address Friday evening that the U.S. should “strengthen” — not
“starve” — the world body.

The address is the first in a series of
speeches — to continue this spring – making the case to the American people
about why the U.N. matters to national security, and how it is being
improved.
House Republicans failed this week in trying to get $180
million in overpaid dues back from the United Nations. The effort was widely
panned by New Yorkers in Congress as damaging to security.
The ambassador will be speaking to the World Affairs Council of Oregon, in
Portland.
“The U.N. provides a real return on our tax dollars by
bringing 192 countries together to share the cost of providing stability, vital
aid, and hope in the world’s most broken places,” Rice says in prepared
remarks.
“Because of the U.N., the world doesn’t look to America to
solve every problem alone. … We’re far better off working to strengthen the U.N.
than trying to starve it—and then having to choose between filling the void
ourselves, or leaving real threats untended

Defund the United Nations

Defund the United Nations

December 22nd, 2010

Neil Stevens, RedState.com

The United States of America keeps the United Nations afloat. In 2009 we were assessed 22% of the budget of the UN, and paid out slightly under 24% of what was collected, thanks to the Tax Equalization Fund system. So in practice we paid about a quarter of the UN budget. Without us, the UN has to do some serious belt tightening.

So if we’re going to keep alive the UN as we know it, spending $598,292,101 in a direct assessment and surely more in other expenses, we’d best make sure we’re getting our money’s worth. The Obama deficit has gone through the roof and we simply cannot afford frivolous luxuries anymore. If the UN is not achieving its mission, it’s time we stopped paying for it.

This month I believe the UN has finally crossed the threshold of uselessness, and it’s time we defund it….

Read more.

Enough Already — Just Move the UN to Iran

Enough Already — Just Move the UN to Iran

The UN’s Economic and Social Council has just elected Iran to a seat on the UN’s women’s rights commission. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ship the entire UN, lock, stock and seating arrangements, to Iran?

U.N. health organization praises U.S. health reforms you know it’s bad when the totalitarian UN likes it

U.N. health organization praises U.S. health reforms

3:40pm EDT

By Matthew Bigg

ATLANTA (Reuters) – The head of the U.N. World Health Organization on Wednesday praised U.S. healthcare reforms signed by President Barack Obama this week as a breakthrough, stepping into a sharp domestic political debate.

“The people in this country and their leaders are courageous. That (healthcare reform) is an unprecedented achievement,” WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.

She was speaking to reporters after a lecture in which she argued that unrestricted market forces were limited as a means of redressing imbalances in global health care.

The reforms of the $2.5 trillion healthcare sector passed by Congress after months of heated debate will extend health insurance to 32 million Americans who currently have none.

It will also bar insurers from refusing coverage to people with preexisting medical conditions, expand the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor and impose new taxes on the wealthy.

Conservatives and other critics argue that it will send the U.S. budget deficit soaring and slow economic recovery, but also that it represents unwarranted federal intrusion into the freedom of individuals to make healthcare choices.

Chan has made clear her view that governments and global organizations such as WHO should make a case for market regulation to deliver more equitable health benefits.

“Market forces, all by themselves, will not solve social problems. That is why public health needs to be concerned,” said Chan in a lecture at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The hardest thing … is persuading world leaders or ministers … that health concerns can, in some instances, be more important than economic interests. Economic growth is not, after all, the be-all, end-all, cure-all,” said Chan, whose organization is based in Geneva.

She cited pharmaceutical companies which she said would not by themselves conduct costly research to deliver cheap drugs to combat preventable diseases that largely affect the poor.

(Editing by Tom Brown and David Storey)