Archive for the ‘UN funding’ category

How to Defund the U.N.

December 27, 2017

How to Defund the U.N., Gatestone InstituteJohn R. Bolton, December 27, 2017

(Back in June of 1950, when North Korea with Stalin’s help and encouragement invaded South Korea, The UN General Secretary telephoned President Truman to say that he regarded the North Korean invasion an assault on the UN. Fortunately, Russia was boycotting the UN to protest its refusal to seat China. Various UN members provided troops to support the UN Command. It was a very different UN back then, the likes of which we are unlikely ever to see again. — DM)

Turtle Bay has been impervious to reform largely because most U.N. budgets are financed through effectively mandatory contributions. Under this system, calculated by a “capacity to pay” formula, each U.N. member is assigned a fixed percentage of each agency’s budget to contribute. The highest assessment is 22%, paid by the U.S. This far exceeds other major economies, whose contribution levels are based on prevailing exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity. China’s assessment is just under 8%.

Why does the U.S. tolerate this? It is either consistently outvoted when setting the budgets that determine contributions or has joined the “consensus” to avoid the appearance of losing. Yet dodging embarrassing votes means acquiescing to increasingly high expenditures.

The U.S. should reject this international taxation regime and move instead to voluntary contributions. This means paying only for what the country wants — and expecting to get what it pays for. Agencies failing to deliver will see their budgets cut, modestly or substantially. Perhaps America will depart some organizations entirely. This is a performance incentive the current assessment-taxation system simply does not provide.

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As an assistant secretary of state in the George H.W. Bush administration, I worked vigorously to repeal a hateful United Nations General Assembly resolution equating Zionism with racism. Foreign diplomats frequently told me the effort was unnecessary. My Soviet counterpart, for example, said Resolution 3379 was only a piece of paper gathering dust on a shelf. Why stir up old controversies years after its 1975 adoption?

We ignored the foreign objections and persisted because that abominable resolution cast a stain of illegitimacy and anti-Semitism on the U.N. It paid off. On Dec. 16, 1991, the General Assembly rescinded the offensive language.

Now, a quarter-century later, the U.N. has come close to repeating Resolution 3379’s original sin. Last week the U.N. showed its true colors with a 128-9 vote condemning President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

This seemingly lopsided outcome obscured a significant victory and major opportunity for the president. Thirty-five countries abstained, and 21 didn’t vote at all. Days earlier the Security Council had endorsed similar language, 14-1, defeated only by the U.S. veto. The margin narrowed significantly once Mr. Trump threatened to penalize countries that voted against the U.S. This demonstrated once again that America is heard much more clearly at the U.N. when it puts its money where its mouth is. (In related news, Guatemala announced Sunday it will move its embassy to Jerusalem, a good example for others.)

While imposing financial repercussions on individual governments is entirely legitimate, the White House should also reconsider how Washington funds the U.N. more broadly. Should the U.S. forthrightly withdraw from some U.N. bodies (as we have from UNESCO and as Israel announced its intention to do on Friday)? Should others be partially or totally defunded? What should the government do with surplus money if it does withhold funds?

Despite decades of U.N. “reform” efforts, little or nothing in its culture or effectiveness has changed. Instead, despite providing the body with a disproportionate share of its funding, the U.S. is subjected to autos-da-fé on a regular basis. The only consolation, at least to date, is that this global virtue-signaling has not yet included burning the U.S. ambassador at the stake.

Turtle Bay has been impervious to reform largely because most U.N. budgets are financed through effectively mandatory contributions. Under this system, calculated by a “capacity to pay” formula, each U.N. member is assigned a fixed percentage of each agency’s budget to contribute. The highest assessment is 22%, paid by the U.S. This far exceeds other major economies, whose contribution levels are based on prevailing exchange rates rather than purchasing power parity. China’s assessment is just under 8%.

Why does the U.S. tolerate this? It is either consistently outvoted when setting the budgets that determine contributions or has joined the “consensus” to avoid the appearance of losing. Yet dodging embarrassing votes means acquiescing to increasingly high expenditures.

The U.S. should reject this international taxation regime and move instead to voluntary contributions. This means paying only for what the country wants — and expecting to get what it pays for. Agencies failing to deliver will see their budgets cut, modestly or substantially. Perhaps America will depart some organizations entirely. This is a performance incentive the current assessment-taxation system simply does not provide.

Start with the U.N. Human Rights Council. Though notorious for its anti-Israel bias, the organization has never hesitated to abuse America. How many know that earlier this year the U.N. dispatched a special rapporteur to investigate poverty in the U.S.? American taxpayers effectively paid a progressive professor to lecture them about how evil their country is.

The U.N.’s five regional economic and social councils, which have no concrete accomplishments, don’t deserve American funding either. If nations believe these regional organizations are worthwhile — a distinctly dubious proposition — they are entirely free to fund them. Why America is assessed to support them is incomprehensible.

Next come vast swaths of U.N. bureaucracy. Most of these budgets could be slashed with little or no real-world impact. Start with the Office for Disarmament Affairs. The U.N. Development Program is another example. Significant savings could be realized by reducing other U.N. offices that are little more than self-licking ice cream cones, including many dealing with “Palestinian” questions. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) could be consolidated into the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many U.N. specialized and technical agencies do important work, adhere to their mandates and abjure international politics. A few examples: the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. They shouldn’t be shuttered, but they also deserve closer scrutiny.

Some will argue incorrectly that unilaterally moving to voluntary contributions violates the U.N. Charter. In construing treaties, like contracts, parties are absolved from performance when others violate their commitments. Defenders of the assessed-contribution model would doubtless not enjoy estimating how often the charter has been violated since 1945.

If the U.S. moved first, Japan and some European Union countries might well follow America’s lead. Elites love the U.N., but they would have a tough time explaining to voters why they are not insisting their contributions be used effectively, as America has. Apart from risking the loss of a meaningless General Assembly vote — the Security Council vote and veto being written into the Charter itself — the U.S. has nothing substantial to lose.

Thus could Mr. Trump revolutionize the U.N. system. The swamp in Turtle Bay might be drained much more quickly than the one in Washington.

Pictured: John Bolton, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, addresses the UN Security Council on October 14, 2006 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad”.

This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

Trump Admin, Congress Seek to Slash U.N. Funding in Wake of New Anti-Israel Action

March 3, 2017

Trump Admin, Congress Seek to Slash U.N. Funding in Wake of New Anti-Israel Action, Washington Free Beacon, March 2, 2017

“In a region where the use of civilians, including children, as human shields is routine, singling out Israel for condemnation is, in a word, ridiculous,” the White House official said. “If the United Nations’ Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has nothing better to do with the United States taxpayer dollars that fund it than engage in a vendetta against our ally Israel, perhaps we should rethink that support.”

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The White House and Congress are considering slashing U.S. funding to the United Nations in light of its most recent effort to declare the Jewish state’s fighting forces a chief violator of children’s rights, according to multiple conversations with U.S. officials.

The U.N. is working to add the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, to a list of entities such as terror groups that are responsible for inhumane acts against children.

The move would be just the latest anti-Israel salvo by the U.N., which caused controversy late last year when, with the backing of the Obama administration, it moved to condemn Israel for building homes for Jewish people in Jerusalem.

The latest action against Israel would add the IDF to the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflicts, which would designate the Jewish state’s fighting forces as one of the worst offenders of children’s human rights in the world. Other groups and entities on the list include terrorist entities and forces that kill children en masse.

The move has prompted outrage in the White House and on Capitol Hill, where multiple U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon that they will no longer stand by as the U.N. singles out Israel for criticism. The effort to counter what they described as the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias is likely to include cutting a large portion of U.S. funding to the organization.

One senior White House official familiar with the Trump administration’s thinking on the matter told the Free Beacon that the president and his senior-most advisers are sick of seeing Israel treated as a pariah by the U.N.

“The Israeli Defense Forces are among the most humane, professional armed forces on the planet,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on record. “Israel has been aggressively refining its protocols to minimize civilian casualties—so much so that after the 2014 conflict in Gaza the United States sent a delegation to study their best practices.”

The White House official signaled that the Trump administration would pursue a vastly different approach to the U.N. than its predecessor.

The Obama administration came under criticism from the pro-Israel community on numerous occasions for failing to defend Israel adequately in the face of international criticism. This culminated in a flurry of anger late last year when the Obama administration, in one of its final official acts, permitted the U.N. to officially chastise Israel in a break with decades of U.S. policy.

“In a region where the use of civilians, including children, as human shields is routine, singling out Israel for condemnation is, in a word, ridiculous,” the White House official said. “If the United Nations’ Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has nothing better to do with the United States taxpayer dollars that fund it than engage in a vendetta against our ally Israel, perhaps we should rethink that support.”

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a vocal defender of Israel, expressed disappointment in the U.N.’s latest action. He told the Free Beacon that Congress is prepared to reduce U.S. financial support for the U.N., which comprises a significant share of the organization’s operational budget.

“The United States Congress is already taking a serious look at United Nations funding levels in light of a number of recent actions unfairly targeting Israel,” Roskam said. “Classifying the IDF, one of the most professional and responsible military forces in the world, alongside terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram is an absurdity.”

“If the U.N. goes through with this,” Roskam said, “the calls for reduced funding will grow even louder.”

Other sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter said that the effort to single out the IDF is part of a broader strategy by anti-Israel organizations to mainstream hatred of the Jewish state in Turtle Bay.

“It’s a scam,” said one senior congressional adviser who is working with multiple offices on Capitol Hill to reform the U.N. “The U.N. wants excuses for its anti-Israel diplomacy, so it facilitates anti-Israel NGOs. Then those NGOs circle back and call on the U.N. to take anti-Israel actions, which provides the excuse that the U.N. wanted. It’s time for Congress to put a stop to this stupid game.”

US funding of UN disproportionate

February 2, 2017

US funding of UN disproportionate, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, February 2, 2017

This may come as a shock: It’s possible a committee of officials from the Defense, State and Justice departments, as well as the National Security Council, will conduct a review of the disproportionate funding the United States provides to the United Nations and come to the conclusion that American taxpayers should spend less on an organization that is inefficient, corrupt and inimical to American interests.

Nikki Haley, the newly confirmed U.S. ambassador to the U.N., hinted at this radical departure from tradition when she said on Jan. 18 that while she would oppose “slash and burn cuts” to the U.N., she did want to ensure that the U.S. “gets what it pays for.”

One week later, The New York Times reported that it had “obtained” (in other words, someone in the government had leaked) copies of a “draft” executive order (in other words, an unapproved working document) that would “clear the way to drastically reduce the United States’ role in the United Nations and other international organizations.”

A serious question: Is the Times correct to assert that paying less would mean playing a reduced role? The U.S. gets one vote on the Security Council, just as Russia and China do. The U.S. gets one vote in the General Assembly, just as Iran and Venezuela do. How much money it forks over won’t change that.

The Times warned that such cuts “could severely curtail the work of United Nations agencies, which rely on billions of dollars in annual United States contributions for missions that include caring for refugees.”

A second serious question: Are there no other nations that could pick up the slack when it comes to funding efforts to care for refugees? No European nations, no members of the Arab League or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation?

The British Guardian jumped into the controversy, reporting that “U.S. allies have reacted with a mix of alarm and skepticism.” An unnamed “senior European diplomat” said: “It would potentially be brutal.” No one should be so cynical as to think that unnamed senior European diplomats would throw such terms around lightly.

Should the president sign the draft order, funding could be terminated to any international agency that contributes to systematic violations of human rights, is controlled by a state that sponsors terrorism, supports activities that circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran or North Korea, gives full membership to the Palestinian Authority, or funds abortions.

Third serious question: Based on the results of the last election, why should such organizations and activities continue to be funded by Washington?

The U.N. was founded, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, by statesmen with the best of intentions. Its charter sought to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

A fourth serious question: Can anyone seriously argue that the U.N. is achieving these goals?

Among the recently elected members of the U.N. Human Rights Council are China, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The U.N. has never taken any serious action against genocide, as occurred in Cambodia, Rwanda, the Balkans, Sudan and Syria, nor against states that support terrorism, including Iran. Demonizing and delegitimizing Israel appears to be its main occupation.

Since the 1990s, there have been serious allegations of U.N. peacekeepers sexually abusing women and girls in the Central African Republic, Bosnia, Liberia, Cambodia, and other countries. Studies have identified U.N. peacekeepers as the source of the cholera outbreak that killed more than 8,000 people in Haiti a few years ago.

Reports of mismanagement, corruption and fraud throughout the organization have been numerous. Calls for reform and transparency have been unavailing. Does this really sound like a good investment for ordinary taxpayers?

Which raises a fifth serious question: How much are we paying? According to estimates by Heritage Foundation scholar Brett D. Schaefer, the U.S. shells out “approximately $8 billion a year in mandatory payments and voluntary contributions to the United Nations and its affiliated organizations.” That’s more than is contributed to the U.N. by 183 of the U.N.’s 193 members combined.

There’s also this: Under U.N. rules, the 129 member states that contribute less than 1.3% can pass budgets over the objections of the U.S. and other nations that contribute much more.

Schaefer writes: “This explains why so many member states are blase about increases in the U.N. budget. The financial impact on them is miniscule and undermines incentives for them to fulfill their oversight role.”

It is telling that not one of the articles I’ve read in the major media lamenting the possibility of cuts by the U.S. to the U.N. bothers to mention how much the U.N. spends or how much the U.S. pays.

A piece in the Times does note that the U.S. provides the lion’s share of the funding for U.N. peacekeeping operations, adding: “At least one of these, the operation in southern Lebanon, directly serves Israeli interests by protecting the country’s northern border, though the draft order characterizes the funding cuts as serving Israeli interests.”

A not quite serious question: Has the Times laid off its fact-checkers? It’s no secret that the UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon have become protectors of Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded terrorist group that rules the area. Following the 2006 war they were given a mission: to ensure that Hezbollah did not re-arm. How did that work out? Under the very noses of those peacekeepers, Hezbollah has installed more than 100,000 missiles in homes, schools, hospitals and mosques, all pointing at Israel.