Global Solutions to Global Problems
Meeting U.S. Commitments to International Organizations
In an age where the challenges of deadly conflict and mass atrocities, global warming, pandemic disease, and weapons proliferation transcend borders, the world needs to work cooperatively. Despite its flaws, the United Nations remains the only place where all countries of the world can come together to seek solutions to shared global problems.
- What is the United Nations and why is the U.N. a bargain for U.S. and global security?
- The United States and the U.N. Peacekeeping Missions
- What is the role of Congress?
- Take FCNL's United Nations quiz
What is the United Nations?
The United Nations is an international organization dedicated to pursuing peace and security and promoting human rights. The U.N.'s member states, as well as a wide range of affiliated organizations, are central to global efforts to solve problems that challenge the world. The U.N. regional organizations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the African Union (AU), also work collaboratively to try to prevent violent conflict and stabilize countries at risk.
How much does the U.N. cost?The regular budget of the U.N. is nearly $1.9 billion per year. This amount encompasses U.N. activities, staff and basic infrastructure. Peacekeeping operations have a separate budget. All U.N. member states are obligated by the U.N. Charter - an international treaty - to pay a portion of the budget. Each member's contribution is calculated on the basis of its share of the world economy. The budget is initially proposed to the General Assembly by the Secretary-General after careful scrutiny of requests from individual U.N. departments.
After an analysis process by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions and the Committee for Program and Coordination, the recommendations are reviewed by all member states and then sent to the General Assembly for final review and approval. Since 1988, the budget has been approved by consensus - a practice that gives countries the leverage to restrain increases.
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Why is the UN a bargain for U.S. and global security?
As a world leader, the United States has a responsibility to engage more fully with and support the U.N. and other international organizations dedicated to promoting peace and security. FCNL views the United Nations as an ally and partner in the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict. Further, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.N. peacekeeping is eight times cheaper than fielding a comparative U.S. force to help stabilize and international crisis. What a bargain! The U.S. only pays a fraction of the cost of such peacekeeping missions.
The United States is the second largest contributor to the U.N. contributing 22% of the regular U.N. budget and 27% percent of the peacekeeping budget. (The European Union contributes 27% of the regular U.N. budget) For a closer analysis of the U.S. contributions to the United Nations, see this analysis by the Better World Campaign, one of FCNL's colleague organizations.
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The United States and the U.N. Peacekeeping Missions
United Nations Peacekeeping Missions help countries torn by conflict create the conditions for lasting peace. They are comprised of civilian, police and military personnel.
In addition to maintaining peace and security, peacekeepers are increasingly involved with assisting in political processes, reforming judicial systems, as well as supporting the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. There are currently 16 Peacekeeping missions around the world.
The United States' contributions primarily support the U.N. missions in Haiti and Liberia. As the leading financial contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions, the U.S. provides 27% of the operation costs. Japan, the U.K., Germany and France are also top financial contributors, while the top contributors to police, U.N. military experts and troops are Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
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What is the role of Congress?
U.S. contributions to international organizations are made primarily through two accounts in the annual State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.
The Contributions for International Organizations (CIO) account represents all the funds that the U.S contributes to international organizations including the U.N., the World Food Program, NATO, and 45 other important multilateral organizations. The Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) is the money that the U.S. contributes to U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Congress and the Finances
For many years the U.S. failed to pay its annual dues to the United Nations on time and in full, undermining the U.N.'s ability to budget for critical diplomatic and peacekeeping activities. It also seriously damaged the reputation and influence of the U.S. in the international community.
U.S. membership contributions to the U.N. budget comprise 22% of the U.N.'s regular budget. The primary criterion applied by member states through the General Assembly to decide the membership contribution, is a country's capacity to pay. This is based on estimates of their gross national product (GNP) and a number of adjustments, including for external debt and low per capita incomes.
Congress allocates the U.S. contributions to the United Nations in the Contributions for International Organizations (CIO) account in the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The U.S. Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) are allocated in a separate account.
In the final FY2011 budget, Contributions to International Organizations was $1.6 billion and Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities was $1.9 billion, a 20% cut from 2010 levels that could put the U.S. back into arrears. In FY2012, the Contributions to International Organizations were $1.55 billion and the Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities were $1.92 billion. Both the funding levels for U.N. peacekeeping and the UN regular budget basically matched the President's request, which is remarkable considering the difficult budgetary climate and the anti-U.N. views of the House in the 112th Congress.
Unfortunately, the U.S. could still go into arrears at the U.N. due to exchange rate losses between the dollar and euro, because the Administration's initial peacekeeping request was short of assessed needs.
What should Congress do next?
In this year's appropriations process, Congress should pay U.S. dues to the United Nations in full and on time.
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The Image above was taken by markyturner and published on Flickr.com Creative Commons. The logo is the U.N. logo for the Secretary General website. The image of the Peacekeepers is part of the United Nations Flickr.com Creative Commons stream.