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.

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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

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)

Top UN climate official resigning

APNewsBreak: Top UN climate official resigning

 

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Feb 18, 9:03 AM (ET)

By ARTHUR MAX

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AMSTERDAM (AP) – Top U.N. climate change official Yvo de Boer told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was resigning after nearly four years, a period when governments struggled without success to agree on a new global warming deal.

His departure takes effect July 1, five months before 193 nations are due to reconvene in Mexico for another attempt to reach a binding worldwide accord on controlling greenhouse gases. De Boer’s resignation adds to the uncertainty that a full treaty can be finalized there.

De Boer is known to be deeply disappointed with the outcome of the last summit in Copenhagen, which drew 120 world leaders but failed to reach more than a vague promise by several countries to limit carbon emissions – and even that deal fell short of consensus.

But he denied to the AP that his decision to quit was a result of frustration with Copenhagen.

“Copenhagen wasn’t what I had hoped it would be,” he acknowledged, but the summit nonetheless prompted governments to submit plans and targets for reigning in the emissions primarily blamed for global warming. “I think that’s a pretty solid foundation for the global response that many are looking for,” he said.

De Boer told the AP he believes talks “are on track.”

He recommended the next talks take a different tack. Rather than convene several negotiating sessions involving nearly 200 countries, Mexico, which is chairing the negotiations throughout this year, should prepare the November conference to work in smaller groups to lay the groundwork of a deal.

The Mexicans should “engage more intensively early in the process, so that you don’t only rely on formal meetings but through bilateral contacts and frequent meetings in a smaller setting and an earlier understanding of how the process can be advanced,” he told AP.

“At the moment, it tends to be very much a stop-and-start affair with everything concentrated in the formal negotiations, where I think a much more continuous engagement by (Mexico) is needed.”

The partial agreement reached in Copenhagen, brokered by Obama, “was very significant,” he said. But he acknowledged frustration that the deal was merely “noted” rather than formally adopted by all countries.

“We were about an inch away from a formal agreement. It was basically in our grasp, but it didn’t happen,” he said. “So that was a pity.”

The media-savvy former Dutch civil servant and climate negotiator was widely credited with raising the profile of climate issues through his frequent press encounters and his backstage lobbying of world leaders.

But his constant travel and frenetic diplomacy failed to bridge the suspicions and distrust between developing and industrial countries that barred the way to a final agreement at the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.

People who know de Boer say he was more disheartened by the snail-paced negotiations than he was ready to admit.

“I saw him at the airport after Copenhagen,” said Jake Schmidt, a climate expert for the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council. “He was tired, worn out.” The summit “clearly took a toll on him.”

Schmidt, speaking from Washington, said the Dutch diplomat was “very effective in pushing the envelope” and winning attention for climate change. “He’s done a powerful job … in getting the world to focus on this.”

During de Boer’s tenure, climate talks rose “to a standing item on the agenda of political leaders,” said Oxfam International, a nonprofit group that monitors the talks and advises delegations. World leaders “could learn much from de Boer’s perseverance as well as his uncompromising commitment to do what’s necessary – not just what’s easy.”

The German Green Party said de Boer’s departure presented a chance for a strategic reorientation of his U.N. office.

“The failure of the Copenhagen climate conference was due partly to bad preparation and organization,” the Greens’ climate change specialist Hermann Ott said in a statement. “Now a credible and experienced successor has to be found to make sure the international process to combat climate change continues without delay.”

De Boer, 55, was appointed in 2006 to shepherd through an agreement to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required industrial countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions an average 5 percent.

He said the high point of his efforts was the agreement by developing countries, reached at the 2007 conference in Bali, Indonesia, to join in efforts to contain global warming in return for financial and technical help from the wealthy nations.

The Bali meeting was so intense that during its final meeting, when he was accused of mishandling negotiating arrangements, de Boer walked off the podium in tears. He came back later to an ovation from the thousands of delegates.

His assertiveness sometimes led to accusations that he was overstepping the bounds of a neutral U.N. facilitator.

“They are absolutely right. I did that because I felt the process needed that extra push,” he told the AP.

When he was hired, he said, he told U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, “If you want someone to sit in Bonn and keep his mouth shut then I’m not the right person for the job.”

Yet De Boer habitually put a positive spin on events. Though he occasionally chastised governments, he did it in diplomatic tones. At times when his aides were describing him as “furious” – especially with the administration of George W. Bush – de Boer kept his public comments so modulated that it sounded like praise.

De Boer said he will be a consultant on climate and sustainability issues for KPMG, a global accounting firm, and will be associated with several universities.

“I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business,” he said in a statement released later Thursday. “Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming. This calls for new partnerships with the business sector and I now have the chance to help make this happen,” he said.

De Boer, who comes from a diplomatic family, was born in Vienna and traveled the world before attending a British boarding school. He studied social work at university in The Hague, and one of his early jobs was as a parole officer. He worked for the United Nations in Canada and Kenya, then joined the Dutch housing ministry. He has been involved in climate change issues since 1994, and three years later became the chief climate delegate for the Netherlands.

Associated Press Writer Verena Schmitt contributed to this report from Berlin.

Uncoupling the U.S. from the UN

Uncoupling the U.S. from the UN

By Edward Bernard Glick

Over the past sixty years, the political architecture and political mathematics of the United Nations have changed drastically. Not only has the number of Security Council non-permanent members been increased from 6 to 10, but the pivotal position in the General Assembly once held by Latin America is now held by Third-world countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They have hijacked the United Nations and transformed it into one of the most anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic organizations on the planet.
They are also determined to make the UN the substitute for sovereignty and the surrogate for a sovereign state’s decision-making institutions. Except when their own interests are at stake, they preach that the Security Council is the Government of the Earth and the General Assembly is the Parliament of Mankind.
America can keep the Security Council at bay because it has a veto there. But in the veto-free General Assembly, America, which pays 20 percent of the United Nations’ regular budget and about a third of its peacekeeping budget, has only four options: Either it abstains on a resolution, or it supports one it doesn’t like, or it introduces one it does like, or it waters it down to utter ineffectiveness in order to get the two-thirds vote required to pass a resolution in a General Assembly that is unrecognizably different from the one the UN’s founders envisaged in San Francisco in 1945. 
The situation is now so bad that it forced John Bolton, when he was the United States ambassador to the United Nations, to remark: “Many people want me to be the UN’s ambassador to the U.S. That is not my job. I am the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and my primary duty is to advance U.S. foreign policy.”
States, like individuals, can be inert. They remain tied to policies and processes long after they have ceased serving their intended purposes. One example is America’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: Only God knows why the United States still belongs to NATO. NATO is a Cold War-generated anachronism whose only purpose was to deter Soviet aggression in Western Europe. Soviet Russia is gone, but the Europeans still want America to help them whenever they get into trouble. However, they have neither the means nor the will to help America when it gets into trouble.  
Another example of how inertia triumphs over intelligence is America’s membership in the United Nations. Although the United States was one of the organization’s founding members, it should separate itself from that body. And while it is doing that, it ought to encourage the United Nations to move its headquarters from New York City to a place more congenial to its orientation. Perhaps United Nations headquarters should be in the middle of Khartoum or in a suburb of Pyongyang.
Whatever usefulness the UN had in its early years has been dissipated by its indecency and irresponsibility in later years. A case in point is its incessant denunciations of Israel, to which it gave birth and legitimacy when it adopted the Palestine partition resolution in November 1947. Palestine and Israel aside, really important events, such as America’s recognition of Communist China, the ending of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and the defusing of the Cuban missile crisis, were settled not by the United Nations but by diplomats operating outside the world organization.
To those who would argue that America’s jettisoning the United Nations would mean its return to pre-Second World War isolationism, one should note that in the age of the computer, the internet, and the high-speed airplane, America can defend its vital political and socioeconomic interests in old-fashioned ways: ambassadorial diplomacy, summit meetings, bilateral and multilateral treaties, trade talks, and cultural and scientific exchanges.”
In short, when a more pro-American administration comes to power again in Washington, one of its first moves, after ending the current recession and so-called jobless recovery, must be starting the legal and administrative process of extracting the United States from the United Nations, and the United Nations from the United States.
Surely, when they put their heads together, the city, state, and federal governments will find a better use for the UN’s expensive and untaxed property along New York’s famed East River. 
Edward Bernard Glick is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Temple University

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