Friday, June 10, 2005

Why Withholding UN Dues Makes No Sense

Suzanne Nossel over at Democracy Arsenal has posted this excellent analysis about why the US House of Representatives' current move (voted out of the International Relations Committee Wednesday) to condition or withhold US dues to the UN will be counter-productive. It includes a lot of detail about the US dues crisis of the late 1990s and how then-US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke used what we lawyers like to call "creative problem solving" to reach compromise with the Hill and the United Nations. Kofi Annan has put a pretty full panoply of reforms on the table for this September. And the bill, as Nossel notes, repeats many of the already sound reform proposals being discussed in New York. Her take:

The problem with the newly approved legislation is that it requires withholding of 50% of U.S. assessed dues to the UN unless the requested reforms are implemented. But the breadth and depth of the reforms are such that its almost impossible to imagine that all will be quickly or completely agreed. The result is that after a four year truce with the UN over finances, the U.S. will once again start accumulating substantial new arrears.

This is a bad mistake, and one that the Bush Administration rightly insists must be corrected. The U.S. can be effective in negotiating reform without holding the UN to ransom. John Bolton proved that when he got the organization to rescind its Zionism is Racism resolution in 1991. He prides himself on having accomplished this through aggressive diplomacy, not by withholding U.S. dues. The implementation of the 2000
Brahimi recommendations involving far-reaching reforms to UN peacekeeping was likewise accomplished without the threat of withholding U.S. dues.

Let's hope the administration prevails on this one. And for those keeping count, annual dues of the US to the general budget of the UN are in the neighborhood of $450 million (compare that with, say, the almost $300 billion the US has spent so far in Iraq).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure the posted comment really sets forth a good argument for withholding UN dues. Let's face it, the UN is in severe disrepair, and at the very least, a dues-denying attention-getter is in order. The American taxpayer has little to show for dragging a recalcitrant UN to reality--on Iraq, on Bosnia-Kosovo, on international development (rejecting the Washington Consensus reforms and clinging to NIEO solutions) and the affiliated IAEA on Iran and WMD, just to name a few. There is more than a little truth that the UN bureaucracy, living an expense-account lifestyle and isolated from the realities of most of the populations they represent, are unhinged from workable solutions. Of course, the liberalism in us all means we desperately want the UN to work, but in a multi-culti world, the very idea of secular law and order disconnected from tribal politics or religious zealotry exists only in the Western mind and its associated internationalized elites.

6/11/2005 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally agree with Peggy, but her logic is extremely flawed. As for "keeping count" comparing the UN's $450 million to the $300 billion spent in Iraq means what exactly? Implies what exactly? Supports what argument? People spend $400 million on stupid ringtones a year around the world, but so what? People spend about that much on chewing gum, too. And comparing that amount to what's been spent in Iraq is utterly meaningless - except for those with axes to grind.
The HR can, frankly, do what it wants here in responding, ostensibly, to the will of the people. The president's opinion to the contrary, and wisdom or lack thereof aside are both immaterial.

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