Congress Vs. The UN -- Round Two
The madness continues….
Last week, I wrote a blog post decrying the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s (HFAC) shabby treatment of the United Nations as it passed, along party lines, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act. This week brings another, even deeper congressional blow to the U.S. relationship with the UN, with the passage of the House appropriations bill to fund the State Department, which was approved by subcommittee this morning.
Some key things the bill does (or fails to do):
- Deeply underfunds the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) account, which pays our dues to the UN, NATO, and other international organizations, and the Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account, which funds UN peacekeeping missions around the globe. HFAC had already drawn the battle lines by crafting a bill which authorized deep cuts, but the appropriations bill underfunds CIO and CIPA even more deeply than the Foreign Relations Authorization Act required. CIO, for which the President had requested $1.619 billion, was given $1.34 billion instead. CIPA, which needed to be funded at minimum of $2.145 billion in order to keep the United States from falling behind on our UN dues once again, received only $1.69 billion.
- Provides no funding for the Human Rights Council (HRC).
- Cuts the Global Environment Facility and eliminates funding for the Clean Technology Fund and the Strategic Climate Fund.
- Prohibits funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstates the “Mexico City” policy prohibiting U.S. assistance to foreign NGOs that promote or perform abortions.
In other words, deep cuts or complete lack of funding for the UN pretty much across the board.
As I watch this sorry spectacle unfold, I cannot help but wonder at the illogic of the House’s actions. Yes, every day we open our newspapers to read more about the debt ceiling debate, the harsh economic climate, and the need to make difficult choices and potentially spending cuts in many areas. But to try to fix our country’s deficit dilemma by underfunding the UN is, in my boss Don Kraus’s words, “like cutting my daughter’s allowance to pay down our mortgage.” The entire international affairs budget amounts to approximately 1 percent of our country’s federal spending. Within this, funding for the UN represents an even tinier sliver of the pie.
Does Congress really think that putting the U.S. back into debt on our UN dues after we had finally paid up in full, making us look like a deadbeat to the international community, and reducing our ability to lead at the world body is an acceptable trade off for saving a tiny percentage of federal funds--which pay off many times down the line as an investment in our international security and foreign policy goals?
Not only that, but working with the UN actually saves America money as well. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a U.N. peacekeeping mission— in which other countries provide troops — is eight times less expensive than a comparable U.S. mission.
I also wonder if the House members voting in favor of this bill understand the concept of catching more flies with honey. When the U.S. engages with the UN, paying our dues on time and in full, we increase our ability to promote the kind of policies we want, promote our values, and support our allies. When we pull away from the UN by failing to fund it, we lose our clout and our ability to lead and make a difference in the key world institution. How on earth does that help America? The U.S. needs to lead at the UN, not walk away.
The good news to emerge from today’s markup is that several members of the subcommittee did speak out against the madness. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), ranking member of the panel, remarked, “It is deeply troubling that this bill fails to maintain our longstanding tradition of a more bipartisan proposal. Many of the cuts as well as the problematic policy riders would hurt America’s standing on the international stage; impede our ability to save lives and help build healthy, stable societies; diminish our economic prospects; and undermine our national security interests.” Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA), ranking member of the full Appropriations committee, stated “there is a national security dimension to reductions of this magnitude at a time when the world is not getting any less dangerous and when U.S. diplomatic efforts are more important than ever.” Amen.
The full House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on August 3rd. Any final version would have to pass the Senate. I urge the members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate to carefully consider the value of America’s relationship with the U.N. before passing legislation that will cause so much harm in exchange for so little financial savings. The madness should stop at the water’s edge.
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) published an outstanding op-ed in The Hill newspaper today, urging support for robust UN funding and explaining why it is so important. You can read it here at http://thehill.com/opinion/op-ed/173709-our-modest-un-contribution-has-yielded-a-strong-return.
About the author
Deputy Director of Government Relations
- Arms Control (22)
- Become a Member (3)
- Become a Member (1)
- Capitol Hill (164)
- CGS Political Action Committee (PAC) (17)
- Chapters (4)
- Civilian Protection (133)
- Climate Change (94)
- Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (2)
- Congressional Report Card (7)
- Current Campaigns (8)
- Election News & Analysis (101)
- Fellows (2)
- Gender Based Violence (26)
- Genocide Prevention (113)
- Get Involved (68)
- Home (12)
- Human Rights (223)
- Human Rights Council (31)
- International Criminal Court (167)
- International Criminal Justice (51)
- Law & Justice (211)
- Law of the Sea Treaty (55)
- Nuclear Disarmament (81)
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (2)
- Other (33)
- PAC: 2010 Election Endorsements (3)
- Partners for Global Change (2)
- Peacekeeping (104)
- Prevent War (181)
- Rights of the Child Treaty (10)
- Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) (19)
- Support Us (14)
- Take Action (24)
- Tax Deductible Giving (2)
- UN Funding (71)
- UN Reform & Revitalization (43)
- United Nations (321)
- usaforicc.org (1)
- WFI (5)
- Women's Rights Treaty (CEDAW) (47)