US Policymakers Look for Ways to Cut United Nations Funding

Members of Congress met this week to discuss cutting some US funding of the United Nations until it undertakes “sweeping” reform measures to prevent corruption and allow for voluntary funding.

The US is the single largest donor to the UN, covering nearly a quarter of the organization’s annual operating budget, which does not include the additional funds that the US provides for peacekeeping operations. US lawmakers are pressing for broad spending cuts as they seek to reduce the US budget deficit.

US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, pushed for “reform first and payment later,” and minced no words over her displeasure with the controversial UN Human Rights Council.

“I’d like to make sure that we once and for all kill all U.S. funding for that beast,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Ros-Lehtinen’s proposed reform would allow the US to choose UN projects and activities that are in line with American interests and would foster greater transparency as “each UN office, activity, program, and sub-program, country by country and function by function, must be justified on its own merits.”

Indeed, corruption scandals continue to plague the UN. Currently, the UN’s chief investigator is now under investigation for retaliating against whistle-blowers.

In the wake of a staggering federal deficit, other US policymakers are taking a hard look at US funding of the UN. On the first day of session in the House, Rep. Cliff Stearns introduced a measure calling on Congress to deny the use of federal funds for the “design, renovation, construction, or rental of any headquarters for the United Nations in any location in the United States” unless President Obama “transmits to Congress a certification that the United Nations has adopted internationally recognized best practices in contracting and procurement.”

Another bill introduced this month by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) calls for a 10% reduction in voluntary contributions.

US lawmakers have withheld funding from the UN in the past. In the 1990s, then-head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, succeeded in blocking all UN funding for an extended period of time.

By Samantha Singson

Although UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon publicly stated that he is confident in keeping the funding status quo, some media reports suggest Ban was anxious to meet with congressional leaders to make his case for their continued full support of the UN.

Concerned Women for America’s Wendy Wright told the Friday Fax, “UN officials have lived well off the backs of US taxpayers.” Voicing her support for Ros-Lehtinen’s reform measures, Wright said, “It’s time for transparency and accountability and the end to waste fraud and abuse at the UN.”

UN dues must be financed through annual congressionally approved spending plans and are subject to approval by both the House and Senate. Ros-Lehtinen promised that this week’s meeting is just the first in a series of consultations the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold on UN funding.

This article was first published in the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) publication FridayFax on January 27, 2011.

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