The U.S. will be “taking names”
Ending Business as Usual at the United Nations
Jan 28, 2017 By Joseph A. Klein
Bureaucrats and diplomats at the United Nations are scrambling to adjust to the new Trump administration. One thing seems certain. The Obama days of wine and roses for the UN are over. The new U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told reporters on Friday, upon entering UN headquarters for the first time in her new role, “you are going to see a change in the way we do business.” She added that the Trump administration “is prepared and ready to go in – to have me go in, look at the UN, and everything that’s working, we’re going to make it better; everything that’s not working, we’re going to try and fix; and anything that seems to be obsolete and not necessary, we’re going to do away with.” For anyone whom might doubt that the Trump administration means business, Ambassador Haley made it clear that the administration would be “taking names” of “those who don’t have our back.”
The United States currently pays 22 % of the UN’s regular budget and about 28.5% of its peacekeeping budget. Together, they add up to over $3 billion annually. It has been estimated that the U.S.’s assessment for funding of the UN’s regular budget is more than that of 176 other UN member states combined. The 56 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are estimated to have constituted approximately 8.6% of global production in 2015. However, they only paid 5.6% of the UN’s regular budget and 2.4% of the UN’s peacekeeping budget.
The United States is bearing an unfair burden in the funding of the United Nations
The United States is bearing an unfair burden in the funding of the United Nations. Yet the U.S. has only one vote out of 193 member states in the General Assembly when it comes to approval of the final budget for which it pays the lion’s share. In addition, the U.S. has contributed billions of dollars more in voluntary donations to various UN agencies, programs and flash humanitarian appeals.
Clearly, as Ambassador Haley said, “this is a time of fresh eyes, new strength, new vision.” The UN is way overdue for a major overhaul, including significant cuts in its bloated budgets and more equitable sharing of mandatory assessments so that all member states have some real skin in the game.
We can start with a thorough and transparent audit of all UN departments, agencies, programs and operations. But there are some items that the Trump administration should put on the chopping block for cutting U.S. contributions right away.
For example, the United States is presently contributing more than $340 million a year to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Since UNRWA’s establishment in 1948, the U.S. has spent approximately $5 billion propping up what was supposed to be an agency for temporary relief until the original refugees leaving Israel after it declared its independence could be resettled in neighboring countries. Today, while the U.S. throws more good money after bad, UNRWA hires terrorists, teaches hate against Jews in the schools it runs, and perpetuates a permanent refugee status for millions of Palestinian descendants whom UNRWA would still consider refugees even after an independent Palestinian state is established within which they can live. Continued U.S. funding of UNRWA should be put on the chopping block for major cutting, if not elimination altogether.
Trump administration should also reverse the Obama administration’s decision to join and fund the dysfunctional UN Human Rights Council
The Trump administration should also reverse the Obama administration’s decision to join and fund the dysfunctional UN Human Rights Council. This travesty counts some of the world’s worst human rights abusers as its members, while it spends much of its time and resources hounding Israel. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has called for the blacklisting of Israeli businesses by the UN and has personally accused President Trump, while he was running for president, as “dangerous from an international point of view.” The 2016-2017 estimated budget for the Human Rights Council alone is over $43 million. The overall 2016-2017 estimated budget for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is nearly $198 million. These amounts are ripe for cutting. Reducing the U.S.’s share of payments towards this overall budget by just 5% would save American taxpayers over $2 million.
Starting in 2020, the more “developed” countries, including the United States, are supposed to contribute collectively $100 billion a year to a UN Climate Fund. Using the same calculation in reaching the U.S. annual assessment for the UN’s regular budget, the U.S. could be paying about $22 billion a year into this unaccountable UN fund. As one of his last acts as president, Barack Obama pledged half a billion dollars to the UN climate fund as sort of a down payment. The Trump administration should follow through with its campaign promise to “cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs.” It can start by cancelling Obama’s pledge and making it clear that the U.S. has no intention of contributing the many billions of dollars the UN will be looking for from the United States starting three years from now.
The UN’s peacekeeping operations need a thorough review
The UN’s peacekeeping operations need a thorough review. As Ambassador Haley said during her confirmation hearings, “It’s been devastating to see the exploitation, the fraud, abuse that’s happening,” referring to the fact that peacekeeping troops sexually abused the very people they were sent to protect and have been getting away with it.”We have to acknowledge that some countries are contributing troops because they’re making money off of them. So if they are not willing to make sure that they are punishing the violators, then we actually need to pull that country’s troops out, because they’re harming the peace process.”
The General Assembly approved $7.86 billion for 15 peacekeeping operations for the 2016/2017 fiscal period. The U.S. is paying 28.57% of that budget, nearly three times as much as the second highest paying country, China, and more than seven times the amount that Russia is paying. The U.S. assessments have kept creeping up, with waivers of previous caps set by Congress. Enforcing a previously set cap of 25%.would save U.S. taxpayers many millions of dollars.
These are just some examples of the low hanging fruit. Virtually nothing the U.S. pays for at the UN should be off the table for re-examination with “fresh eyes.” It is time to end business as usual at the United Nations, even if some sacred cows are sacrificed in the process.